By Lawrence Vos (@NFLFanInEngland) and Tim Monk (@Tim_MonkF10Y)
Week 9 sees the final of 4 London games, the battle for the #1 seed in the AFC potentially be decided even at this early stage and the #2 overall pick in the 2019 NFL drat look to go beat up on #1.
Here are your other storylines as we start our journey on the back 9 of the NFL season.
Half-time League Leaders
Ok not every team has played 8 games yet, so the statistical leaders at the end of Week 8 are slightly misleading, but for arguments sake lets take a look at those top of the pops right now:
- Leading passer: Jared Goff (Rams) – 2,367
- Leading rusher: Dalvin Cook (Vikings) 823
- Leading receiver: Michael Thomas (Saints) – 873
- Leading sackers: Myles Garrett (Browns) and Shaquil Barrett (Buccaneers) – 10
- Leading interceptor: Devin Mc Courty (Patriots) – 5Leading tackler: Blake Martinez (Packers) – 83
Cook always had the potential to be in this place but has suffered through injuries. There is no guarantee he lasts all 16 games, and London bound Leonard Fournette is breathing heavily down Cook’s neck for the rushing title.
Goff will not end up as the NFL’s 2019 passing leader, a title that will likely go to the Packers Aaron Rodgers. Michael Thomas doesn’t care if its Drew Brees or Teddy Bridgewater he will end up with the receiving crown.
Myles Garrett looks like he has the staying power to take the sack title, but lookout for the sibling rivalry of the Bosa brothers (both currently on 7 sacks) attempting to snatch the silverware.
Is this the week the Dolphins tank empties?
The Miami Dolphins looked like world beaters on Monday night….for a quarter of football against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Ryan Fitzmagic was en fuego as the winless Dolphins took a 14-0 lead. Then like the rest of the 2019 it slowly and painfully unfurled and at the final whistle it was loss number 7 from 7 games played.
This weekend the Dolphins host the equally anaemic New York Jets, who have only one 2019 win to their name. Only fans of car crashes or ‘Fins or Jets will be tuned into this game as it unfolds, but the twist that could be revealed is a win for Miami.
The Dolphins may have churned their roster like a dairy farmer at the start of the season, and they did send RB Kenyan Drake to the Cardinals in the last week, but they did not put their two best players in the shop window last week only to make no sales, unlike the Jets who now have a rather dejected S Jamal Adams and RB Le’Veon Bell wondering what the hell they are doing in their splendid looking green helmets.
Patriots v Ravens is THE marquee matchup
When such a ginormous matchup is anticipated the end result often is far more anticlimactic than the feeling of excitement held before the opening kickoff. Theoretically the New England Patriots defense will bewilder Baltimore Ravens QB Lamar Jackson and force three to four turnovers by the third quarter.
The problem with theory is it can be proven otherwise and the Ravens have the tools to make the Patriots look human. If you keep Tom Brady off the field it helps, and Baltimore’s running game has that ability, along with L-Jax and his rubber legs.
This marquee matchup will come down to Lamar Jackson’s ability to somehow pass the ball when needed, he can’t have a 50% completion rate and expect a victory. We all know what Tom Brady can do, and his dinking and dunking to Julian Edelman and James White is predictable.
What we don’t quite know is what Coach Harbaugh has in store with the Ravens offence and the legs of Lamar Jackson. The biggest game of the season, and the biggest upset.
Problem is if the Ravens and Patriots meet in the playoffs, Sith Lord Belichick will be ready for revenge.
Minshew Mania comes to the capital
The phrase ‘Bortles Mania’ never took off in the five seasons he spent in Jacksonville, and like a bad penny Blake Bortles once again travelled to Wembley Stadium last week, then as the backup QB on the Los Angeles Rams roster.
The Jaguars are continuing to develop their UK and European fanbase and their game against the Houston Texans will be their seventh consecutive year playing in London. This time the Jaguars are bringing two magnificent moustaches for the price of one. Owner Shahid Khan and rookie QB Gardner Minshew III are hirsute heroes in Florida and they will be wanting to bring some of their magic with them on their trip over the pond.
I for one hope the crowd embraces the facial hair trend and there are thousands of fans walking down Wembley Way on Sunday afternoon boasting an upper lip caterpillar and a bandana or sweatband. If I lived in London I would have already been down to my local joke shop supplier for a few crates of novelty ‘taches.
Expect this game to be dominated by RBs Leonard Fournette (Jaguars) and Carlos Hyde (Texans) but Minshew Mania simply cannot be contained.
Can the 9ers get to 9 wins?
The 49ers thumping win against the Panthers last week saw them taste 7-0 for the first time since the 90s. The travel to Glendale, Arizona where #2 overall Nick Bosa will look to continue his ascent to the Defensive Rookie of the Year award (or maybe more!) by beating up on the current favourite for the Offensive equivalent award.
The pleasing thing for their fans though, is the versatility of the team which allows them to win in a multitude of ways.
On offence, the team has three running backs with between 309 and 446 rushing yards and five wide receivers with between 88 and 187 receiving yards.
With reliable frequency, Jimmy Garoppolo will find tight end George Kittle several times per game, and Kittle will reward that faith with monster yardage after the catch. Beyond that, it is a total guessing game from week to week as to whom San Francisco might turn for big plays.
Their dominance has seen them outscore their opponents 111-23 in their last 4 games which also illustrates their dominance on defence to the tune of possibly even breaking the ’91 Eagles record of yards allowed.
Just beware though, as it’s a potential trap game on Thursday Night Football. Dare I say, a Kliffhanger?
You have the ingredients of a short week, away trip and an opponent with nothing to lose with a QB that Shanahan and Saleh have not faced yet in the NFL.
Put that into a witches cauldron and a devilish potion can take down the strongest of teams.
Who the hell is Brandon Allen?
When Joe Flacco decided to throw his offensive coordinator under the bus during a shocking post-game press conference he may have been suffering from mental pain, but physically he looked fine.
Fast forward 48 hours and Flacco is now out for 5-6 weeks with a herniated disc. This could end Flacco’s season and more extremely it could end his NFL career. Not exactly the way you want to leave the NFL, having won a Super Bowl ring with the Baltimore Ravens.
In Flacco’s place is one of those unknown backup QBs in the form of Brandon Allen. Allen has lingered in the NFL since 2016 when he was drafted in the sixth round by the Jacksonville Jaguars. He was then with the Rams in 2017 to 2018, as an inactive backup and practice squad fodder, before being picked up by the Broncos this September. The former Akansas Razorbacks QB started two pre-season games for the Rams this year, two wins but zero touchdowns.
Nobody has a scooby doo how Allen will perform as he has not ever take a regular season NFL snap. One sensible piece of advice, win or loss agains the Cleveland Browns, is that Allen keeps his opinion to himself in the post game presser.
Running all day long
Buffalo and Washington get it on this Sunday and if the weather is similar to that in the New Era stadium last week, it will all be about the run games.
The Bills and Redskins can call upon some Hall of Fame level rushers to try and help their teams get the win.
With Gore and Peterson, Sunday’s game features the No. 4 and No. 6 all-time rushers, respectively.
The 2 future Hall of Famers currently combine for 28,871 yards over 29 seasons and collectively have 17 1,000yard rushing campaigns.
Individually, 36 year old Frank Gore checks in 4th position in the all time leaderboard with 15,170 rushing yards, while Peterson, 2 years his junior, sits at sixth all time with 13,701.
Long gone are the league wide workhorse backs, but these guys can still deliver the hard hits and the workload should they be called upon.
Trade deadline fallout
The rumour mill was working overtime on Tuesday as Jamaal Adams and pretty much all of his Jets teammates, Trent Williams et. al were being floated around as trade bait. Unfortunately for the rumour mill, it is now out of business due to the lack of decent output.
The fallout though is always the interest part of it for those that perhaps didn’t get what they wanted from the trade deadline.
We know by now that different players react differently to the same situation. Adams, was not a fan and said that he “didn’t take it lightly” that the Jets were more than happy to float his name on the trading block. A penny for LeVeon Bell’s thoughts too.
How some of them react will be interesting to watch as the aforementioned Trent Williams apparently can’t find a helmet that doesn’t leave him in pain.
I wonder if it’s the logo that’s the problem…?