Welcome in to the Week 12 TV preview. There has been a bit of a reshuffle in the deck with the Ravens struggling to cope with their Covid-19 outbreak.
That being said, we still have some crackers for us to view on Sky Sports this weekend, with every win now becoming more important as we head towards the playoffs (unless you are a Jets, Jags or Cowboys fan).
Titans @ Colts – 6.00pm
It feels a tiny bit like déjà vu here as this is a rematch from just two weeks ago. Why do the schedulers create the schedules like this? Anyway, the two teams can probably just refer to their pre-game prep from Week 10 to prepare for this one.
Both teams will be fighting tooth and nail in this one as both teams are 7-3 and in the thick of the playoff race.
The Colts took the win on TNF in Week 10 in Nashville with a good all-round performance, stretching away in the second half with the aid of a special teams TD with the final score 34-17.
Michael Pittman JR achieved his first 100-yard receiving game, following it up last week with a highlight reel TD reception with plenty of YAC. Nyheim Hines had two TDs in the game two weeks ago but Jonathan Taylor looked as if he is starting to go through the gears with his performance against the Packers last Sunday. There will be a mixture of the two once more with a light sprinkling of Jordan Wilkins, which has been the case for the last couple of weeks.
Philip Rivers has played the Titans 10 times in his career and has thrown a passing TD in every one of them, averaging 271 yards through the air, and has just 4 INTs against the Titans defence.
I don’t really see much objection coming from the Titans defence once more as they are ranked 27th coming into this one in terms of yardage allowed through the air. They aren’t much better defending the run (19th) and rank 26th in total defence on DVOA.
The Titans are a hard to team to gauge. Arthur Smith has done a grand job in making the Titans a feared team to play. Their OT win against the Ravens could be huge come Wild Card playoff berth adjudication and when you see they also have wins against the Bills but then a loss against the Bengals, it kind of sums this team up.
The gameplan will be to try and replicate the run game from Week 10’s match-up, where Henry was able to notch over 100 yards on the ground, not something many teams do to the Colts defence this season.
They’ll want to get Ryan Tannehill passing a bit more than the 147 passing yards he had and that means to try and get AJ Brown more involved (he was held to just one catch in that game). He since had a nice game against the Ravens including a strong effort to find the end zone.
If they fail to strike up the connection, he may pivot to Corey Davis, who has seen a mini-resurgence. He has at least at least five receptions in five of his last six games, with 2 TDs and two 100-yard receiving games.
Both teams will want to improve on their third down completions from the corresponding fixture, combining for 7-of-22 on that particular down.
Writer’s Pick – Tim Monk (@Tim_MonkF10Y)
The Colts, at home, should take the spoils and the 3-point spread is probably worth taking, especially after their morale-boosting win over a top NFC team. The Titans just won’t be able to stop the Colts in my opinion and the only thing that can is the Colts themselves (Philip Rivers and/or penalties). The total points line of 51 looks about right and I have no lean either way.
If the Colts win, you have to feel that is the division won with the sweep against the Titans. The Titans would be nervously looking at the pack clustered in and around them to see how the path lies from here on out, and whether it extends in to January.
If the Titans win, they have a somewhat favourable schedule to round out the season with games against the Jaguars, Lions and Texans. They should get to 11, maybe even 12 wins, which will be music to the ears of Titans fans, hoping their team can break the current four-season streak of finishing 9-7. While the Colts also face the Jags and the Texans (twice), you’d have to think it’s advantage Titans.
Chiefs @ Buccaneers – 9.25pm
Our Sunday evening TV game this week really whets the appetite, with two of the league’s best in Tom Brady and Patrick Mahomes facing off for the fourth time. Has the old GOAT still got it, or is the hand of time passing the baton to the young pretender?
The Buccaneers, lying second in the NFC South behind New Orleans on 7-4 (as one of two teams yet to have their bye week), have struggled in front of a national audience, losing by a point to the Bears (Week 5), scraping past the Giants 25-23 (Week 8) and getting destroyed 38-3 by the Saints earlier this month.
In last week’s 27-24 defeat to the LA Rams, Bruce Arians’ outfit weren’t on their game either, with Brady’s two turnovers illustrating the pressure Aaron Donald, Jalen Ramsey et al put him under. The veteran QB (216 yards, 2 TDs, 2 INTs) just looked off all night and when LA settled for a field goal, giving Brady two-and-a-half minutes to go 81 yards and win the game, he threw an interception. Game over.
Not vintage TB12, I’m afraid, but his second score of the game – and 566th of an unrivalled career – takes him back above Drew Brees as the NFL’s all-time leader in touchdown passes. Top spot has alternated between the two for a while now but with Brees out with broken ribs, Brady may yet build up an unassailable lead.
The Brady Bunch (Mike Evans, Chris Godwin and Antonio Brown) were held to a combined 159 yards receiving last time out but, credit where it’s due, the sight of the 6’5″, highly inked Evans dragging cornerbacks Troy Hill and Darious Williams over the line with him for a 9-yard score was epic. And while we’re talking players going Beast Mode, also watch out for Rob Gronkowski this week: Gronk has four receiving TDs in the last five games and the Chiefs found the Raiders’ Darren Waller a handful last weekend.
The Bucs’ running game was non-existent (18 rushes for 42 yards), with Ronald Jones nowhere near adding to his five 100-yard games this season. However, KC’s run defence is only ranked 26th (133.5 yards per game allowed) so that could be their Achilles heel. Tampa need to get the ground game going, letting Jones and Leonard Fournette eat up the yards – and the clock – while Mahomes twiddles his thumbs on the sidelines.
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As for the visitors, the Chiefs are riding a five-game winning streak and sitting proudly on top of the AFC West at 9-1. Even though their record doesn’t quite match the unbeaten Steelers, they’re still No.1 in many power rankings, having lost just one in 18.
HC Andy Reid’s offence is steered, almost effortlessly at times, by Patrick Mahomes. He is probably the front-runner in the MVP race now, and he wrote the final headline in the exciting 35-31 win in Las Vegas late on Sunday night. Le’Veon Bell rushed for his first KC touchdown, Clyde Edwards-Helaire added two more and Tyreek Hill (102 yards, 1 TD) also had another solid game but (if you’ll excuse the mixed metaphors) when the chips were down, Mahomes stepped up and answered the call.
After Derek Carr connected with Jason Witten to put Vegas ahead with just 1:43 left, Mahomes did that “hold my beer” thing, driving KC 75 yards down the field with six completions from seven plays. And you don’t need to have read the script in advance to know he found his tight end, the irrepressible Travis Kelce (eight catches, 127 yards), wide open in the end zone, finally breaking the Raiders’ resistance. Tom Brady, take note: this is how you do it.
By the end, Mahomes was 34-for-45 for 348 yards, two TDs and only his second interception of the year, compared to 27 TDs. But it was close, so kudos to LV for that. Nonetheless, the win cancels out Kansas’s only defeat this season back in Week 5. That’s why the Chiefs dominate the NFC West: they don’t lose divisional games. In fact, they haven’t lost more than one a season in six years.
The Chiefs’ D has allowed 31 points in their last two games so they aren’t infallible, but with Mahomes pulling the strings, they’ll just score 35, or 40, or 45… They’re on a mission to win back-to-back Super Bowls, and have Pittsburgh – and that No.1 seed, the only bye available this year – in their sights.
Writer’s Pick – Sean Tyler (@SeanTylerUK)
With both teams in the playoff hunt, this game could be a preview of the season finale. I’m not convinced, however, because the one thing we can be sure of is that we can’t be sure of Tampa; they’re just too inconsistent. They slapped 77 points on the Panthers over two games and posted 38 against the Chargers and the Packers, so they can put teams to the sword. What’s more, their defence has 14 takeaways (second in the NFL), 32 sacks (third) and their run stopping leads the league in terms of yards per carry (3.2) and yards per game (73).
Yet their abject loss to the Saints just shows how far the pendulum can swing the other way, especially (like this game) when they’re coming off a short week. They couldn’t stop Jared Goff last Monday so, without a full week off, who knows what might Mahomes might do to them.
With home advantage – whatever that means these days – the Buccaneers might well rise to the occasion but the bookies have them as 3-point dogs, and who am I to argue? Give Mahomes under two minutes to score it and the Chiefs might even win by a TD. Chiefs 30-23 Buccaneers.
SNF: Bears @ Packers – 1.20am
This series, which goes back 99 years, reaches its 201st encounter on Sunday night. A series that the Packers lead by just four games (99 wins, 95 losses and 6 ties).
Don’t expect fireworks: neither team has scored 30 on each other since 2017. We all remember to forget the opening game of last season, billed as the 100th anniversary showcase, between two bitter division rivals. The game finished 10-3 (to the Packers) in one of the worst ways to have a 100th birthday party. A socially distanced Zoom call to an old people’s home would have yielded ten times more excitement for sure.
The Bears, who shocked everyone with a 5-1 start are now, as former MLB Mike Singletary said, “who we thought we were”, lingering outside the playoffs and in danger of slipping into a losing season. High-priced free agent (and Super Bowl winner) Nick Foles has kept his job for most of the season and, while remaining competitive in most games, has failed to display any real fourth-quarter magic.
For Green Bay, the team has a healthy dose of superstars (Aaron Rodgers, Davante Adams and Aaron Jones) but for reasons unknown, they have shown infuriating inconsistency, and are somewhat fortunate to have a 7-3 record heading into Week 12.
After going up 28-14 against the Colts last week, the offence suffered from a second-half collective batch of narcolepsy, only waking up to kick a field goal at the death to send the game into overtime. It was somewhat fitting that Marquise Valdez-Scantling fumbled away the Packers’ possession in overtime that led to a Colts winning field goal shortly after.
The Colts defence stiffened up after a sloppy second half. The Bears defence, by comparison, are up there with the Colts and Rams as a terrific unit, led by their talismanic edge rusher Khalil Mack. While the Bears are on a four-game skid, the last three losses have been by 7 or under, and no team has scored more than 26 points all year.
Aaron Rodgers and the Packers are scoring just under 31 points a game and the Bears D is allowing just under 20, so something has to break if the Packers are serious about chasing the number one seed in the NFC. Once a fortress, the Packers have already taken a home loss this month, after Dalvin Cook ran all over the Cheeseheads (163 yards, 3 TDs).
If only the Bears had a quality run game, they would likely be 6-4 or even 7-3. Second year RB David Montgomery has been a frustrating watch: in nine games, he has one rushing TD and his 3.6 yards a carry (45th in NFL) is underwhelming to say the least. It gets worse when you look at the backfield supporting cast as a virtual primary school panto will contain a higher proliferation of protagonists. Cordarrelle Patterson, the WR and stud returner, is the team’s second leading rusher with 118 yards.
Green Bay’s running game is led by Aaron Jones, who has already missed time this season. Mercifully, the Packers have one of the best number two backs in the league and he does not get the respect he deserves. Jaamal Williams has over 100 touches and over 500 yards of offence. Rookie AJ Dillon, it seems, is being introduced very gently.
Writer’s Pick – Lawrence Vos (@F10YRetro)
The old adage goes that Aaron Rodgers does not tend to have two bad games in a row. The fact of the matter is that he had one bad half last week, so if we extrapolate that to the first half of this game, then 60 minutes of poor play would have occurred.
The Bears are managing to hang around in games because of Nick Foles and his relative calmness in big situations. They do not have the running game to wear teams out and sustain 12 play drives. The likes of Jimmy Graham are being relied upon as veteran leaders, even though they are past their physical peak. Look to the Bears to capitalise on any sloppy play by the Packers’ offensive line.
The Packers are a better team on paper, but this is a rivalry that goes back 100 years. So, pride will be at stake and the Bears will elevate their play for this nationally televised game.
Still, I see a Packers win, 29-20, with three TD tosses from number 12.
MNF – Seahawks @ Eagles – 1.15am
This Monday night sees the clash of the birds as the Seattle Seahawks travel East to the Lincoln Financial Field to take on the seriously misfiring Philadelphia Eagles. Seattle was able to halt a losing streak last week with an impressive win over divisional rivals Arizona. However, the story in Philadelphia is quite the opposite. The Eagles are on a four-game losing streak and should no longer be atop the East by the time MNF comes around. By the way, it is absolutely insane that they even lead the division at all; they only have three wins. THREE!!!
Looking at Seattle first, Russell Wilson got back to his old ways last week. He looked poised in the pocket and was able to come up with his signature big plays just when Seattle needed them. He threw two TDs and 197 yards – which would have been a lot more had DK Metcalf not had a big completion pulled back for a questionable O-line holding call in the first quarter. Speaking of the passing game, Metcalf and Lockett continue to dominate downfield, both with 862 and 748 receiving yards and 9 and 8 TDs respectively. If Wilson can connect with these two, Seattle will certainly run up the scoreboard.
On the other side of the ball, the Seahawks’ defence has not been the most spectacular. Seattle has very much been operating with the belief that Wilson will be able to lead the offence down the field to score more points every time and thus defensively giving up scores isn’t a problem. They are currently allowing 434.9 YPG (32nd in NFL) and giving up 28.7 points per game (29th). This is where Philadelphia may stand a chance: if they can score and do it early, they then just have to try and contain Wilson and co.
However, that won’t be easy, Seattle’s run defence is one of the best in the league, averaging only 91.2 yards per game (4th) and only 3.6 YPC (also 4th). With Wentz struggling when he is being asked to throw the ball, it might be a tough ask for the Eagles to move the ball on the ground facing the rush defence of Seattle.
The problems in Philadelphia are mounting up in every which way you look. Their franchise QB, who is locked in on a new contract worth north of $130m until at least 2023, looks an absolute shadow of himself. The MVP-calibre talisman of the 2017 season is lost. His accuracy is off, he’s holding onto the ball too long, he’s missing reads and he very much looks like he doesn’t trust his receivers. HC Doug Pederson needs to do something to stem the flood and try to turn this ship around because it is sinking, fast.
For what it is worth, I don’t think benching Wentz is the answer… yet. Jalen Hurts is a rookie, let’s not forget. Wentz has been a terrific QB in the past, he just needs to rediscover that form. He has a very sobering 14/14 TD-INT ratio so far in 2020. He’s also been sacked 40 times, which is astonishing. However, if he can link up with some of his trusted guys early, get the ball out to the likes of Rodgers, Goedert and Fulgham, and if Doug can scheme him to get out of the pocket more often and let him play his game, the Eagles could build momentum.
Jim Schwartz doesn’t exactly have an easy job this week either, having to contain one of the best in the game in Russell Wilson. However, the Eagles’ passing defence has actually been surprisingly productive in 2020, allowing only 209.3 YPG (6th) mainly due to the dominant play of CB Darius Slay. They also have a ferocious pass-rush that has 34 sacks on the season (2nd) adding another three against Cleveland last week, and 76 QB hits (3rd). If the Eagles can pressure Wilson and get to him, they might be able to force turnovers or prevent Seattle from getting those first downs. However that is the issue, Wilson is just so elusive…
Writer’s Pick – Ste Tough (@SteTough)
A lot of games are decided up-front, in the trenches but I don’t think that’s the case for this one. I expect a lot of passing yards and a lot of passing TDs. If Seattle can get their run going as well as allowing Wilson to throw the ball, this could be a whitewash. In recent years, Seattle has had Philadelphia’s number (Seahawks have won six straight since 2008) and I think that streak will definitely continue. Seattle 30-13 Philadelphia
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