The 8-3 Green Bay Packers will play host to the 7-3 Los Angeles Rams at Lambeau Field on Sunday evening in a key matchup that will have huge implications on the NFC playoff picture.
Green Bay are one week removed from a heartbreaking division loss to the Vikings, whilst LA are coming back from a much-needed bye week, having been pounded by the 49ers a week previous. Let’s take a look at some of the key talking points ahead of Sunday’s affair.
Rodgers vs Stafford again, but different
The Rams made headlines in mid-January when news broke out that they had made a blockbuster trade with the Detroit Lions involving two former #1 overall picks. LA had realised that Jared Goff wasn’t it, so decided to ship him to Detroit in exchange for Matthew Stafford and a few high draft picks. Stafford has been up there among the league’s elite over the years but was surrounded by the pool of dysfunction that was the Lions so never got a fair shot at a championship. That’s not the case in LA. While he’s not really in the MVP conversation, Stafford has continued his good play for his new team and has lead them to a 7-3 record and the current #5 seed in the NFC.
He’ll face a familiar foe in Aaron Rodgers this week, the quarterback of his former division rival Green Bay Packers. The pair have faced off 16 times over the years, with Rodgers leading the head-to-head series with a 12-4 record. This time however they’re on a more even playing field. Looking at the numbers this season, both over 10 games, the two are operating about the same. Stafford has thrown for 3014 yards, 24 TD’s, and 8 INT’s, whilst the reigning MVP has put up 2571 yards for 21 TD’s and 4 INT’s. What that tells you is that the Rams QB has tried to push the ball further downfield than Rodgers this season, which is also shown when looking at his yards per attempt (8.3) compared to Rodgers’ 7.8 effort. On the contrary, he’s thrown two more turnover-worthy plays than the Green Bay QB with 13, compared to 11. It’ll be interesting to see who’ll come out on top when the pair meet again on Sunday.
Who are the 2021 Rams?
There aren’t many teams in the NFL that are more polarising than the Los Angeles Rams. They started off hot, winning 7 of their first 8 before being beaten rather convincingly by a Derrick Henry-less Titans team and yet again falling to Kyle Shanahan’s 49ers. In that time they also lost key receiver Robert Woods to IR. Suddenly the acquisition of Odell Beckham Jr. is looking like a pretty good bit of a business, while at first it just didn’t seem necessary. The offense seems to struggle to play from behind, which doesn’t make sense as they’ve got a QB with plenty of comeback victories, a great pass-blocking offensive line, (best team pass blocking grade on PFF, 82.3), and one of the better receivers in the league. Hopefully the bye week has fixed those issues, the Packers are difficult to fight back when trailing.
On the defensive side of the ball, the Rams unit are PFF’s #1 ranked defense, I’d expect that’s because Aaron Donald and Jalen Ramsey are both the highest graded players at their position. When you look at the numbers though, it’s really just above average. They rank 12th in yards allowed per game (346.9), 15th against the pass, and 10th against the run. YAC allowed is always an interesting one, the Rams have allowed the 9th most yards after catch this season. That being said, the reasoning behind that number will be that teams are afraid to test Jalen Ramsey. LA have faced the second fewest average depth of target this season, meaning teams are preferring to throw short passes against the unit. I don’t blame them either, you don’t want to hold on to the ball for too long when Aaron Donald and Von Miller aren after you.
Green Bay coming off of a heartbreaking loss
Green Bay suffered a heartbreaking loss to their division rival Minnesota Vikings in a thrilling shootout. Mistakes and penalties cost the Packers this game. There was a point in the second quarter where they could have minimised their deficit to only 3 points, but unfortunately Mason Crosby missed yet another field goal, turning the ball over to Minnesota. Cousins lead his team down the field, before throwing a pass straight at Darnell Savage for a pick. It actually turned out that the interception didn’t count as Kirk was drilled to the ground by Kingsley Keke, a play that was ruled roughing the passer. The Vikings were moved closer to the end zone, which enabled Cousins to find Justin Jefferson to make it a 14 point game. The Packers managed to recover from a two score deficit to take the lead at 24-23 midway through the fourth quarter. Rodgers found a wide open Davantae Adams in the end zone on what looked like a busted coverage on Minnesota’s part.
As you know that wasn’t it, the last few minutes of this game were electric. A perfect jump ball thrown under pressure by Cousins found Jefferson in the end zone again with just over two minutes to spare, putting the Vikings 31-24 up after a 2 point conversion. Green Bay responded instantly, with Rodgers hitting Marquez Valdes-Scantling in stride for a TD on the very next play. That levelled the game at 31-31. Savage had another game-changing play called back, after another interception was called back as the catch wasn’t completed. That incomplete pass gave Minnesota life, and enabled them to march down the field and run down the clock. Greg Joseph converted the game winning field goal with just two seconds to spare. The Packers will be kicking themselves as the game was there’s to win. Unfortunately luck just wasn’t on their side and they scored too quickly in the 4th.
The Packers look to have been handed a bit of a luck this week though, as both Rashan Gary and Aaron Jones should be back after missing last weekend’s affair. Both are key parts to their respective units and will be good to have back. Somehow the Rams are favoured by 2 in this game, I don’t get it. These teams are about as good as as each other, and it’s in Green Bay. I know who I’m picking.
Sunday will see the return of two of the league’s most influential and talented quarterbacks. Russell Wilson of the Seattle Seahawks, and the Green Bay Packers Aaron Rodgers’ are back after both had missed time due to injury and covid, respectively.
Both of these teams are always relevant come December and January when the playoff picture starts to take shape, but so far they are in different places. Green Bay are up there among the league’s best sides at 7-2, whilst Seattle has some work to do at 3-5.
Aaron Rodgers is good to go, after causing covid chaos
We had to wait until Saturday to find out if Green Bay’s franchise QB Aaron Rodgers was able to play or not, after he tested positive for covid last week. Rodgers missed their trip to Kansas City last Sunday, after testing positive on November 3rd, meaning that the earliest he could possibly return to the team was Saturday, when the 10 day isolation period was up. He then had to go through a physical evaluation and then also not have any symptoms in order to play. That process was due to him not being vaccinated. The 37-year-old has caused a stir in The States this week, as he lead many to believe that he was jabbed after stating he was ‘immunized’ in the offseason
You’d assume that would have meant that Rodgers had received a vaccine against covid, but instead, he sought homeopathic treatment to raise his antibody levels against it. His reasoning was fair enough, as it turned out he was allergic to an ingredient in the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines and was wary of the Johnson and Johnson one due to reports of others having adverse reactions.
What many are frustrated with is the fact he asked the league to be given vaccination status and be treated like someone who’s had the jab. Rodgers had been following some protocols for vaccinated players and staff, such as not wearing a mask in press conferences, unlike the other un-vaxxed personnel, almost as if he was better than everyone else.
Seattle get Russ back just in time to save the Hawks’ year
The Seahawks welcomed back their franchise quarterback Russell Wilson this week, just in time for a crucial NFC playoff seeding implicated matchup. Former Jets and Giants QB Geno Smith stepped in midway through their Thursday night game at home to the Rams in Week 5, after Wilson’s middle finger was fractured on an Aaron Donald hit. Smith started the following three games and did a pretty decent job, keeping the team competitive. They lost the first two (@ Pittsburgh, vs New Orleans) by 3 points, before demolishing Jacksonville 31-7 at Lumen field. Last Sunday was the teams’ bye week, meaning they head into the Week 10 affair at 3-5.
Coming into the weekend they looked to be getting healthier as starting RB Chris Carson was designated to return to practice on Wednesday, with the view of removing him from the injured reserve list. He went down with another neck injury in Week 4 and hasn’t played since. The fifth-year back will not suit up this week however, as head coach Pete Carroll wants to make sure he’s 100% healthy.
Doing my research this week I’ve noticed a few interesting numbers regarding the Seattle defense. We all know that the Seahawks D gives up a tonne of yardage, but surprisingly the unit is tied for 8th in points scoring, only allowing 22.1 points per game. A big factor for that is how good they are on third down. Ken Norton Jr’s unit are 6th in that category only allowing the opponent to convert 34% of the time.
A look at the Packers season so far
Green Bay’s huge loss to the Saints seems like it was years ago when in reality it’s been ten weeks. That shows just how far the team has come. The Packers had won seven straight before Sunday’s game without Rodgers, in which former 1st round pick Jordan Love made his first career start. The ex-Utah State Aggie showed flashes of good pocket presence, and knew when to use his legs for the most part, but struggled to move the ball downfield. Which can happen in your first start. He targeted Davantae Adams 14 times, but the two only connected 6 of those targets for 42 yards. Their offensive line was handed good news this week too, although David Bakhtiari is doubtful to play this week, he should be back in the not too distant future after being activated from the PUP list.
On the defensive side of the ball, things are looking pretty good, Rashan Gary and DeVondre Campbell have emerged as key pieces when you’d least expect. Green Bay are finally getting the production they expected out of the former Michigan Wolverine when using the twelfth overall pick on him in 2019. Gary’s been a bright spark in the absence of Zadarius Smith. Campbell on the other hand had hit a rough patch in his career last season, posting his worse PFF grade of 49.0 in his first and only year in Atlanta. Fast forward to 2021 though and he’s their number 1 graded LBer in the entire league (at 85.1). What a turnaround.
This is a pretty easy one to call in my opinion. Green Bay hasn’t lost to Seattle at Lambeau Field since 1999 (6 of those in the regular season, 3 in the postseason) and I don’t expect that to change. The Packers are favoured by 3.5 points, and I’d take that if I was you. It’ll be close, but I see the Packers winning by a TD or so.
This is a brand new article series where I will move from division to division, giving you my takes on how the four teams may attack the NFL Draft.
I’ll talk about what I think each team’s draft strategy might be, team needs, players who I think fill those needs at the relative value and a perfect prospect fit for each.
I’m going to kick the series off with the NCF North, I will drop four teams each Saturday for you guys to enjoy! Let’s get to it!
The defeated NFC conference finalists are heading into 2021 in pretty good shape! They have a superstar QB who whilst is aging, shows absolutely no signs of slowing down – At age 37, Aaron Rogers just came off a season where he set career highs in completion percentage (70.7%) and touchdowns (48) as well his second highest QB rating on a season (121.5). Outside of Rodgers the Packers have arguably the best left tackle in football, a top 5 wide receiver, a top 5 corner and a pass rushing duo who can get after opposing quarterbacks.
So what do they need?
The one unit where things aren’t settled in on the offensive line – Rick Wagner was recently released by the team and Corey Linsley and Lane Taylor are free agents to be, meaning the Packers need to replace a left guard, a center and a right tackle.
Outside of the line, Aaron Jones and Jamaal Williams are also set to hit the open market, so a running back may be needed to support A.J Dillon, whom they drafted last year.
Kevin King is also out of contract and probably won’t be invited back after his NFC Championship game performance, so a cornerback to play opposite Jaire Alexander is on the cards too.
Outside of the players they are potentially losing to free agency, another receiver, some help on the defensive line and maybe a tight end, could make up the rest of the shopping list.
Even more good news for the Packers is that they look like they are going to be awarded with three compensatory picks for the 2021 draft after losing Blake Martinez, Kyler Fackrell and Bryan Bulaga last year. So ten picks total gives Green Bay the potential to package a trade deal or two on draft weekend, which should allow them to move around the board.
Picks available (Round) (all compensatory picks are projected, not confirmed):
As mentioned above, the Packers probably won’t need to make 10 selections, so they could use some of those day three picks to make little jumps to get guys they really want. Why make seven selections on day three of draft weekend when you can package a pick or two to get guys who you think can be real difference makers earlier in the draft? After all, Rodgers isn’t going to be around forever
Early Draft Business
As I mentioned on this week’s podcast, in our two round mock draft I was picking for Green Bay and I took Teven Jenkins, the right tackle out of Oklahoma State and followed that up in the second round with Tyson Campbell, the cornerback from Georgia.
I feel like both of these picks filled an immediate need with players who can be starters from day 1 in the NFL. If you haven’t listened to that podcast, go back and listen to it!
The Packers may also look at the interior of the line, perhaps with their third round pick they may look at a versatile offensive linemen – Two that immediately spring to mind are two guys who stood out at the Senior Bowl; David Moore of Grambling State and Quinn Meinerz of Wisconsin-Whitewater (DIII). Both of these guys played a lower level of college football, especially Meinerz, but both also looked like they could play at the level of their peers whilst in Mobile.
Pick 29 feels like it’s going to be a great spot to pick up one of the offensive tackles; outside of Jenkins, Michigan’s Jalen Mayfield would also be a good fit at right tackle or they could opt for one of the draft’s top interior linemen – Wyatt Davis of Ohio State, Oklahoma’s Creed Humphrey or Alabama’s Landon Dickerson will be available. I personally like Dickerson a touch more than Davis and Humphrey but his injuries scare me a little bit – Dickerson has suffered 4 season ending injuries in college but he’s also got a great anchor and loves to finish by putting a defensive lineman into the turf.
Any late round gems that could take their fancy?
Green Bay’s wide receiver room is like the land of the giants outside of Devante Adams! Equanimeous St. Brown, Allan Lazard and Marquez Valdes-Scantling are all over 6”4 and as much as the NFL is trending towards big slot receivers, Aaron Rodgers doesn’t seem to fully trust St. Brown or MVS. So I feel giving them a slot receiver like UNC’s Dazz Newsome could offer some real diversity to the receivers room. Newsome is also a great blocker so he could be very useful in the run game, if the Packers do want to take some of the load off Aaron Rodgers.
Perfect prospect fit?
I am going to steal this one off my colleague from the college team, Liam Lodge – Liam mentioned Quinn Meinerz going to Green Bay would be a perfect prospect fit in last week’s podcast.
It’s a great fit in terms of need, he’s a high ceiling, versatile linemen and keeps him in the state of Wisconsin. Sometimes the stars just align perfectly.
just the three games left, a lot harder to make millions with the opportunities lessened to find the value.
As usual, we did our podcast previewing the games and gave you the betting, and fantasy breakdowns.
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Dont forget to visit our resident tipster Adam Walford’s page at tdtips.com where he gives you an in-depth look at both games and his best bets. (Twitter: @TouchdownTips)
Buccaneers +3.5 @ Packers (52.5)
Should be cold, possibly a sprinkle of snow in Lambeau but thankfully, little wind. That’s all we can ask for in a championship game.
Both title games are repeats of week 6 matchups, freaky! Packers fans will be hoping history doesn’t repeat itself as despite going up by 10 points, they got spanked 38-10 after Rodgers committed 2 of his 5 interceptions in this game. Davante Adams was still shaking off injury in that one and since being back to a clean bill of health, has been electric, causing even jalen Ramsey to have fits.
Can Todd Bowles and this young secondary continue to keep Adams quiet? I am not so sure, but his anytime TD price is too skinny for me and he hasn’t found pay dirt against the Bucs in his career.
Allen Lazard is a tiny bit of value, scoring last week, his anytime touchdown scorer odds of 23/10 are pretty good.
Leonard Fournette has found a hot streak in the back end of the season, scoring in 4 of his last 5, but the fact Ronald Jones was missing for the majority of that stretch is no coincidence and he could eat into that to make it at least a split backfield and you are at the mercy of how often Bruce Arians wants to run the ball. One of them should find the endzone at least so to get 7/4 (Fournette) and 5/2 (Jones) on both as a single, whichever one does, you will be in profit. The saving grace for Fournette is that he has seen a spike in receiving work the last two games with 5 and 4 receptions including a TD.
Green Bay’s pass defence is pretty good and with Antonio Brown being ruled out for this one does provide a bit of value for whoever replaces him in the slot. Cameron Brate (4/1) has been peppered to in this post season, but it was fellow TE Rob Gronkowski (5/2) who scored when these two last met. Tyler Johnson (6/1) made a highlight reel catch and does see his fair share in the endzone and we also will probably see a customary target or two for Scotty Miller (9/2).
Whilst Aaron Jones has all of the ability to score in this one, i don’t like the even money/slight odds on odds against a stingy rush defence.
Both QBs should be well protected meaning the veteran and Hall of Fame QBs in waiting should be able to pick apart the coverages on the opposing defences. I dont have a lean on the total points line, but i always have a rule in close games that if you are giving me the hook at 3.5, give me the points. Packers probably win, but Tampa should cover.
Tampa Bay +3.5 (10/11) – 1pt Leonard Fournette Anytime TD Scorer (7/4) – 1pt Ronald Jones Anytime TD Scorer (5/2) – 1pt Allen Lazard Anytime TD Scorer (23/10) – 1pt Tyler Johnson Anytime TD Scorer (6/1) – 0.5pts
Bills +3 @ Chiefs (54.5)
Give me all of the Bills on the handicap. All of it. And then some.
Patrick Mahomes has turf toe which isn’t easy to overcome. On top of that the Bills, despite not being the most convincing in the playoffs have been by FAR the hotter team over the past few months.
A “hail murray” away from being undefeated since all the way back in mid OCTOBER, even the Chiefs win in week 6 was mainly a result of Covid 19 disrupting the game (was played on a Tuesday night, when it should have been the that game week’s Thursday Night game).
The only thing that bugs me with Buffalo is a lack of true running game. It’s not who they are and i guess at this point, you have to be pretty good to be here so maybe it will work out for them again and maybe Devin Singletary, who has been less than efficient or productive in recent times , along with Josh Allen being the main runner is enough to capitalise on the Chiefs susceptible run defence.
The Chiefs Cornerbacks have struggled with injuries this week too which means Stefon Diggs will look to continue his red hot form which saw him as an All Pro and sit atop of the receiving leaderboards for yards and receptions. KC struggle from WR in the slot too for what it’s worth, Diggs on a crosser to the house?
He’ll need the supporting cast to step up and play their roles though, with Cole Beasley and Gabriel Davis being held catchless last week.
With Mahomes not being 100%, I would probably lean under the total, as much as we are all praying for a 39-40 matchup. It could be more like Buffalo’s win vs the Ravens last week, rather than 44-34 type game we saw vs Seattle in the regular season.
No Sammy Watkins for KC, not that it really matters and no Lev Bell for them either, not that it really matters. Possible bit of value at the RB position for KC in terms of Anytime TD scorers with Bell definitely out, with Darrell Williams, who carried the ball well in last week’s win, is 2/1 anytime. Clyde Edwards-Helaire (11/8) is expected to go in this one but has missed the past month due to a leg injury, who knows how game ready he will be, I’ll leave him at the shorter of the 2. Williams is evens at Bet 365, but 2/1 in some places. Mecole Hardman is always a decent price to score and the same applies here with him at 3/1. he’s played over 60% of the snaps the last 3 games and with plays designed especially for him and also mainly the return guy, you can do a lot worse with 3/1 shots.
Hopefully we see close to the potential this matchup has on the field.
Good luck with all your bets. We will be back for the Super Bowl and will come at you with more markets and bets than you can shake a stick at, we’ll have some guests joining us and the return of the £100 challenge and probably a giveaway!
Xmas football is here! Just 2 weeks left of the regular season before we separate the men from the boys. Yet another feast of action provided by SkySports this weekend including a Christmas Day game and 3 on Boxing day. So get your mince pies in your hands as you peruse through the games. Use the handy menu below to choose your game!
Merry Christmas to everyone and hope that it is as good as it can be considering the year we have had, but thankfully the NFL is here to keep us company if you can’t be with those that you intended to be with.
You have to wonder how much stuffing has been knocked out of the Vikings after their loss against divisional rivals Chicago. They have conceded an average of 28 points over the last few games and take on a Saints team on a 2 game losing streak but should have a as healthy as can be Drew Brees under center.
Personally, I feel that Drew Brees came back too early but considering the position the Saints are in, I can understand why. currently the #2 seed, chasing the Packers and had Kansas coming to town, totally get why they brought back the future hall of famer, even if it was a bit hastily.
He’ll have a better time of it against the Vikings but it isn’t a fixture thay’ve had too much success in, with Minneosta leading the all time series 23-12 and winning 3 of the last 4 (who can forget the Minneapolis Miracle).
Brees will have to do it without Michael Thomas who landed on IR so that he can as fit as possible for the playoff and try and rekindle that partnership on the field in the post season with the Saints guaranteed to be there. The Saints (10-4) still need to win one of their two remaining games to clinch the division and the Buccaneers are making a late charge, only one game back.
Alvin Kamara has had far from a vintage year and you have to go back to week 6 since he had his last 100yard scrimmage game and the recent switch at QB and an under par Brees and missing Michael Thomas has played its part in that. That being said, he is still the leading rusher AND receiver on the team so expect similar outputs from him here against a Vikings defence that ranks 23rd against the rush and 24th against the pass in terms of yardage.
The Saints defence has come to play and is getting better as the season goes on. Their 32 points conceded against the Chiefs, which is no embarrassment at all, was the first time they conceded 30 plus since week 5. Since their week 6 bye, they have limited opposing offence to under 14 points 4/9 times and under 300 yards of total offence 5 times.
Led by leading team sacker Trey Hendrickson, who was able to be more than a nuisance for Patrick Mahomes last week, will look to add to his current 12.5 sack total on the year. Fellow Defensive end and partner in crime Cameron Jordan, whilst not having his best year has still been able to notch 6.5 sacks and are a good pass-rushing duo that Kirk Cousins will no enjoy getting to know this Xmas.
For Minnesota, despite being the 9th seed currently, are all but out of it by name being 2 games behind Arizona and also now behind Chicago in the tie-breaking ranks.
They’ll look to play spoiler here and they do have the talent on offence to score the points and star rookie WR, who earned a pro Bowl nod (for what it’s worth) this week, will continue to add to his 1182 yards and 7 Touchdown dances this season. A perfect compliment to Jefferson is Adam Thielen who has gotten the Touchdowns and redzone looks, if not the yardage and has 13 TDs and just a few ticks under 800 receiving yards this season.
This team is a run first offence though as Dalvin Cook, also a Pro Bowler for 2020, will look to find the endzone against a Saints defence giving up the fewest amount of rushing scores. that being said, he did find the endzone against Chicago who are also a top 5 stingy team when it comes to scores on the ground. Cook has mustered 8 games with over 100 rushing yards this season and has scored in all but 3 games.
For Minnesota to have any chance, they’ll have to be clean in the turnovers battle, a metric that Saints rank 6th (+6 turnover differential) compared to the Vikings lowly 23rd (-5).
Writer’s Pick: Tim Monk (@Tim_MonkF10Y)
I can’t see anything but a Saints victory here against a Vikings team that only has pride to play for now. That being said, if Brees is no better than he was last week, they could struggle but considering how dominant the defence has become since their bye (Kansas game aside), they could bail the offence out anyway. Saints should cover the 7 points that the bookies have handicapped them and I feel the total points line of 51 is too high.
Brady and the Bucs struggled to get going in the first half against the Falcons, but they got out of jail because they were playing the Falcons.
They remain a game back from the Saints who are far from guaranteed win either of their remaining games in the division but they also sit level with the Rams at 9-5 and they’ll at least want that #5 seed which is a trip to play the NFC East winner, so essentially a bye in the Wildcard round in January. As the Rams are facing the Seahawks, a win for the Bucs in this one likely lifts them into that 5th spot regardless of the NFC West battle result.
So how good has Tom Brady been this year? Well stat wise, it’s in keeping with most of his years. Consistent, if not spectacular. A win in either of his last 2 games will continue his streak of double digit wins in the regular season, with 2002 the ONLY season he won less than 10 games as a starter and that includes a 11-1 season (due to suspension) in 2016. It’s fair to say the Belichick vs Brady debate clearly is a battle that Brady has won this year. You can still tell that he has the fire in his belly after his riposte to Tony Dungy on Twitter when he ranked him as his 6th hardest QB to play against.
It helps when you have players like Mike Evans, Anotnio Brown and Chris Godwin catching balls for you. Evans, who paces the Bucs with just 779 receiving yards, epitomises what Brady has done this year, which is spread the love around. 5 receivers have over 30 receptions and all have over 300 yards and there are 10 different players that have caught a receiving touchdown off the future Hall of Famer.
Leonard Fournette, with 2 TDs last week will continue in place of Ronald Jones, who will continue on IR but this is a pass first offence who rank in the top quarter of most passing metrics including yardage, Touchdowns and points.
They face a Lions team that are 1-5 at home and a defence which rank in the bottom 5 in most metrics in either passing, rushing or total defence including a league worst 31.1 pts per game given up so should be able to do what they want, when they want.
Whilst there are points giving up on defence, on offence, they are able to score too so signs point to a potentially high scoring game. Matthew Stafford doesn’t seem as though he’ll miss this game despite having multiple injuries including a back injury, a consequence of trying to carry this team for years.
The same can’t be said for Golladay who clearly has some serious hip issues that have kept him out for the majority of the season. Marvin Jones has rolled back the years somewhat over the past few weeks, with 2 TDs and 276 yards in his last 3 games. Like he did in New England, Mo Sanu has made a decently positive impact in his first few weeks for the Lions and will look to continue his part in the last 2 weeks.
The team’s main target hog who fumbled last week, TJ Hockenson, will look to get back on track and add to his 6 TDs on the season, which has seen him earn a Pro Bowl nod (though Evan Engram did also, so whether we can use Pro Bowl as an achievement is very much debatable).
Stafford an Co. take on a Bucs defence that has seemed to have been more frivolous in recent weeks, allowing at least 4 scores (TD/FG) in 6 of it’s last 7 games (would have been 7/7 if not for Dan Bailey) and have been picked apart through the air all season giving up an average of 255 yards.
Writer’s Pick: Tim Monk (@Tim_MonkF10Y)
Hard to see anything other than an away day victory for the Bucs on “Bucsing Day” (sorry). The 9.5pt handicap line indicates a tough day for the Lions, which would be in keeping with their defensive performances throughout this season. I’d probably fancy the Bucs to win by double digits.
The Bucs defence has gotten into the Xmas giving spirit too though and the total points line of 54 appeals on taking the over.
It’s Christmas, and on Boxing Day we get served up two tasty match-ups to enjoy after everyone has eaten approximately 781kg of turkey & stuffing. The evening game sees a depleted San Francisco team, hobbling to the end of the season at this point, visit State Farm Stadium to play the Cardinals. Is this now a home game for San Francisco? As they’re temporarily playing out of State Farm? Should they not choose a neutral venue? Sod it, send them both to Wembley. Not much going on there right now…
Okay, okay, London is a long way from the West coast. I get it. If this had been the reverse game it would have been very interesting, especially seeing as Arizona is currently allowing some fans into the games. Not much of a home game for SF? Focusing on the game, San Francisco comes into this one beaten down and hurting from their extensive injury list this campaign. Jimmy G is still on IR and according to reports isn’t expected to return again this season. Fans have to be wondering if he can be relied on moving forward from here. Since tearing his ACL after 3 games of the 2018 season, he will now have missed 23 games from a possible 45 (assuming he doesn’t start again in 2020). Could he have played his last game in a 49ers uniform? The bad news doesn’t end there either, with Nick Mullens also headed to IR after elbow surgery this week. The end of the season can’t come soon enough for Kyle Shanahan.
However, defensively San Francisco might actually be able to put up a bit of a fight. They currently have the 5th-best ranked defence in the NFL in total yards allowed, they are also 4th in the NFL when it comes to passing yards allowed (2,938). The 49ers secondary is looking good and if they can pressure Murray into quick first and second read throws, they might be able to create some turnovers and hand their offence a short starting field position, which will certainly help given the boat load of injuries they have on that side of the ball. They will have to rely on their secondary as their pass-rush just isn’t getting it done. With Ezekiel Ansah and Dee Ford both on IR, San Francisco aren’t getting the sacks to try and pressure opposing offences. They only have 25 sacks this season, which is almost half that of the league leaders (Pittsburgh – 47).
Arizona come into this game on the back of the game of the week versus Philadelphia. A shoot-out between the two ex-Ohio State QBs ended in a narrow victory for Kyler Murray. He threw over 400 yards in the process with 3 scores, but had some real ‘interesting’ moments. The interception throw straight into the arms of Eagles safety Marcus Epps was puzzling to say the least. Murray obviously still has plenty time to improve, he’s only in his sophomore season in the league and with one more win will lead Arizona to their first winning season since 2015. He’s also on the brink of a milestone; he needs a further 363 passing yards to reach 4,000, and 259 rushing yards to reach 1,000 on the season respectively. One would imagine he will fall short of the rushing total, but its a monumental effort – note that no QB has ever done that before, showing how difficult it is to achieve.
Kyler’s youthfulness was bailed out a couple of times from some truly incredibly catches by his receivers. The DeAndre Hopkins catch pictured above was eventually the game-winning score, and just a truly mesmerising display of athleticism. He ended up one handing that catch down to the ground. Veteran receiver Larry Fitzgerald also caught a wonderful low pass at the back of the end zone, making it 255 games in a row that he has caught a pass. A absolutely mesmerising statistic – he’s only missed 8 games in 16 seasons in the league.
On the ground Arizona should be a dominant force too. They are 4th in the league in rushing yards – averaging 147.8 per game with 4.8 yards per attempt average (T-7th). Murray’s elusiveness will prove tricky for the 49ers defensive line and pass rushers, if he can get out of the pocket and run the ball on either designed runs or RPOs, Arizona could have some success but they shouldn’t expect a walk in the park against the 7th ranked rush defence in the league (104.4 yards per game).
On the face of things, this Arizona defence should have an easier time of things if Garoppolo isn’t playing and CJ Beathard gets the start. San Francisco are also still without star RB Raheem Mostert, not making their attack on the ground much more formidable than the one in the air. However, there is no such thing as an easy game in the NFL and just 4 weeks ago the 49ers pulled off an upset win against the Los Angeles Rams. Haason Reddick and co should be licking their lips with a chance to get to the top of the sacks table. Arizona has 43 on the season, only 4 away from the league leaders. If he can have another 5-sack game like he did in week 14, I can’t imagine SF will be leaving (or staying in) Arizona with the W.
Writer’s Pick (Steve Tough – @SteTough)
Despite some real hearty performances from San Francisco this season in the face of absolutely horrible injury luck, I just don’t think they have enough to overcome Arizona. Kyler Murray is coming off a 400+ yard passing game and will be looking to add to that total. DeAndre Hopkins also leads the league in receiving yards with 1,324 and will be looking to take that crown for the first time in his career. It will be interesting to see if the San Francisco defence can enjoy the same success that Philadelphia did against Arizona, if they can, this game could be closer than most anticipate it will.
The Las Vegas Raiders will hope that quarterback Derek Carr can return for Sunday to face the Miami Dolphins, as the Silver and Black look to pursue very narrow play-off dreams entering Week 16.
Carr, who left the defeat to the LA Chargers with a suspected groin injury last week, has split time in practice with Marcus Mariota, who looked ultra-capable when he came in to cover for Carr in Week 15, despite the over-time loss to Justin Herbert.
The loss marked a fourth crushing defeat from the last five games, the only win coming in that last gasp deep-ball win over the New York Jets, a run that has seen them slip from play-off consideration to holding on for dear life at 7-7.
A win over the Dolphins who sit at 9-5 would at least give them a shot going into Week 17 should other results go their way, but the miserable season collapse has paid way to them deciding their own destiny for 2020/21.
Josh Jacobs ran for 76 yards and a touchdown last Saturday which looked impressive when partnered with the 88 yards from Mariota but averaging just 2.9 yards a carry and without a 100-yard rushing game in four attempts is a worrying trend for the young starlet.
The offence will be aided should Carr return, especially with tight-end Darren Waller continuing to play at an exceptional level as the second best tight-end in the league behind the incomparable Travis Kelce.
The former-receiver notched 150 yards and a magnificent looking deep score as he approaches the 1000 yard mark with two remaining games to go on the season.
Defensively, the Raiders may also be boosted by the return of safety, Jonathan Abrams who has practiced all week, and they might need the help as they continue to shift big yards against all most everybody they face.
Corner Trayvon Muller had a particularly tough outing against the Chargers, as they gave up 314 yards through the air to rookie Herbert and now rank 7th worst in passing yards allowed on the year and 6.0 yards per play on the season, which is 5th most and in competition with some of the worst defences in the league.
On the other side of that scale however is the Miami Dolphins constricting defensive unit who held the New England Patriots to just 12 points in a victory over their division rivals in Week 15.
The group was also coming off the back of a game in which they picked off Patrick Mahomes on three occasions, as the high-paid cornerback combination of Xavien Howard and Byron Jones prove their value to this defence first set up that Brian Flores has built.
The group has been under pressure to perform throughout the year, as rookie quarterback Tua Tagovailoa attempts to find his feet in the NFL before they potentially reach the play-offs for the first time since Adam Gase.
The Alabama-alumni has shown glimpses of what made him the fifth overall pick last year, and why the Dolphins replaced Ryan Fitzpatrick with the young-gun half-way through the year as the leftie has done well to continue building rapports with Mike Gesicki and Devante Parker in particular.
Gesicki has become a good safety valve for the young QB, and now has over 600 receiving yards on the season as he looks to further his numbers against a team who has shifted 700 yards against tight-ends in their 14 games this season.
The Week 16 matchup with the Raiders will prove a further test for Tua with the opportunity to kick the Raiders out of contention for that 7th and final play-off spot providing he gets the Florida team a big win on the road in Las Vegas.
Writer’s Pick – Alex Lewis (@alexlewis226)
Overall, the Carr news only makes a small difference to what I think will happen when these two teams face up on Saturday. The Raiders have struggled a bunch in all four of their recent losses and they cant seem to stop anybody with any consistency on defence.
Miami however can stop just about anyone and even made the Chiefs sweat for the entire game which is a far more effective offensive unit than the Raiders, and I expect them to grind out a low-scoring, but important win to keep themselves in the driving seat of that final play-off spot.
With major play-off implications at stake, these two postseason-bound teams may have similar records but they are on quite different trajectories. The visitors are fresh off a 27-20 victory over divisional rivals the Texans, their third win in a row, while the Steelers suffered an unexpected 27-17 loss to AFC North foes the Bengals – their third defeat in succession.
If we use a New Year Eve’s fireworks display as our analogy, the 10-4 Colts are a Catherine Wheel, spinning away nicely at an even tempo. These steady Eddies have been slugging it out with the Titans (also 10-4) in the AFC South and it’s all still up for grabs, although they lag behind on a tiebreaker. In stark contrast, the 11-3 Steelers are a Skyrocket. Everyone went “oooh” and “aaah” as they raced out to an 11-0 record, only to explode in a big, noisy and colourful way. The ashes are now drifting back to earth.
With a chance to wrap up the AFC North, the wobbly Steelers had a Monday night match-up on primetime at Cincinnati: talk about the perfect get-right scenario. The pundits queued up to predict an easy win for the 14-point favourites. Everything that transpired thereafter felt like it belonged to the alternative universe from His Dark Materials: close to the one we know but not quite the same. The Bengals D was fierce; Ryan Finley was competent; Ben Roethlisberger was poor; Diontae Johnson wasn’t Mr Butter Fingers; there were three first-half turnovers in favour of Cincy. All very odd indeed. The 10-point upset, in front of a national TV audience, saw the Bengals snap a five-game losing streak and an 11-game run of defeats against their nemesis.
Pittsburgh’s offence has been held to under 20 points for four consecutive games now and was restricted to a measly 244 total yards by Cincinnati. Big Ben clearly wasn’t at his best (throwing 4-of-10 for -5 passing yards in the first quarter), even though he became the seventh player to pass for more than 60,000 yards. His 62.4 QB rating set a new low for the season.
The pressure is growing on the ailing Steelers’ QB and his WR corps because the team owns the league’s second-worst rushing attack. With the banged-up James Conner once again missing, they’ve gained an average of 51 yards on the ground during the three-game losing streak. If it weren’t for Benny Snell’s 84 yards and a rushing TD on Monday, Pittsburgh would have posted a net total of 2 yards rushing.
Their once-invincible defence is still the second-best in the league but it has been weakened by a number of key injuries of late, not least to linebacker Bud Dupree and on Monday, to fullback Derek Watt. At least his brother, TJ, continues to excel. His league-leading 13 sacks make him a Defensive Player of the Year contender but he can’t do it all by himself.
You could argue that, like Pittsburgh, Indy’s defence (ranked 7th in the NFL) has been the backbone of the team for much of the campaign. Their mainstays stepped up again to complete the season sweep over Houston, with Darius Leonard forcing the game-deciding fumble, rushing up and punching the ball out of Keke Coutee’s hands as he headed for the end zone with just 23 seconds on the clock. And one of the trades of the year, DeForest Buckner, sacked Deshaun Watson three times, despite operating on one good leg.
The revitalised unit has allowed the fifth-fewest rushing yards in the league – not great news for the Steelers’ weak running game. Indy’s D have also forced the third most turnovers in the league so Diontae Johnson’s handling needs to be error-free in this game.
Another similarity between these teams is that they both have a veteran quarterback plucked from the 2004 Draft class. Unlike Big Ben’s current funk, Indianapolis winning four of the last five is down in no small part to Philip Rivers, who could be back to his best (11 TDs to 2 INTs in that spell). His 419 career TDs leave him needing just two more to pass Dan Marino and go fifth in the all-time list, a milestone he could esily reach in this game. The team ranks ninth in overall offence, with major contributions from the league’s RB10, the second-round rookie Jonathan Taylor (842 yards, 7 TDs). Top wideout TY Hilton is also quietly effective but his 675 yards only just scrape him into the NFL’s top 40.
The Colts have not committed a turnover in their last three but it’s also noting that they relied on a last-minute fumble for the second time in three weeks to grab the W against Houston. This doesn’t shout Super Bowl contender from the rooftops but nonetheless, Indy just keep on clearing one hurdle at a time and moving on to the next.
Writer’s Pick – Sean Tyler (@Sean TylerUK)
A month ago, the Steelers looked locked in as AFC North champions elect and a bye in the Wild Card round was within their grasp. Now, it’s all starting to slip through their fingers. Their postseason place is in the bank but their current form probably makes them the team others want to face. Having lost twice in recent weeks to teams below .500, the AFC’s No.3 seed needs to end the slump – and fast – if they’re to stay ahead of the Browns and Ravens.
Yet the Colts are no pushovers. They have enough going for them on both sides of the ball to bloody the collective Pittsburgh nose for a fourth straight week. But playing at Heinz Field, could the Steelers bounce back after a short week and stun Indy? Of course they could and in fact, the Steelers are slight favourites at the time of writing. But I sense another upset brewing here. Unlike their hosts, the Colts look solid at the moment so I’m expecting them to take care of business, leaving the Steelers with more questions than answers once again.
Without trying to launch straight into hyperbole, this is probably the most important game of the weekend, with the result all but determining who wins the highly competitive NFC West.
A week ago, we all would have assumed that these teams would be sitting level coming into this game. But, thanks to the historic loss to The Worst Team in Football, the 9-5 Rams unexpectedly find themselves a game behind the 10-4 Seahawks, making this a must-win contest. The Arizona Cardinals are just one game behind LA so it’s all pretty tight. So close, in fact, that a win gives Seattle the title, as well as a shot at the top seed and home-field advantage in the play-offs; a defeat would put them behind the Rams on a tiebreaker, as they lost their Week 10 match-up.
Coming off the back of two straight wins, Seattle clinched a play-off spot with a 20-15 victory in Washington, although they did have to hang on a bit at the end after building a 20-3 lead. QB Russell Wilson finished with a season-low 121 passing yards, 1 TD and 1 INT – not exactly up to the standards he set in the first half of the season. He’s now dropped to 7th in the league for passing yardage but he’s still second only to Aaron Rodgers for TDs thrown (37), more than a quarter of which have landed in the arms of DK Metcalf (1,223 yards, 10 TDs).
The rushing game looked solid last week too, with Wilson’s 52 rushing yards complementing the tally accrued by RB1 Chris Carson (63 yards on 15 attempts) and his backfield compadre Carlos Hyde (an impressive 55 yards and a TD on just two carries).
While their offence (ranked 9th in the league) hasn’t been able to maintain its blistering start to the campaign, ‘Hawks quarterback Russell Wilson has been sacked a worrying 41 times so this is where the game could be won or lost. Seattle’s wobbly defence (ranked a lowly 26th) is actually playing a bit better of late, with DE Carlos Dunlap joining from Cincinnati a few weeks ago, and Jamal Adams bossing things in an improved secondary. They definitely stepped it up last week in the nation’s capital, with four sacks and seven QB hits on Dwayne Haskins, and their pass rush has delivered at least two sacks in the last eight games, including three on Jared Goff in Week 10.
Coming into this one with a totally different vibe, the Rams’ 23-20 home defeat to the winless New York Jets saw them become only the fifth team in 42 years to lose when favoured by at least 17 points by the bookies. At least they didn’t have any fans in their shiny new stadium to share their views on proceedings.
Jared Goff led the fight-back as they cut the deficit to just three points with over six minutes left on the clock. But then LA went 4-and-out on their next possession, thanks to errors and penalties, and never got the ball back. Goff finished with 209 yards with 2 TDs and 1 INT. Whether his inconsistencies will affect his ability to connect with wideouts Cooper Kupp and Robert Woods, both hovering around 20th in the league with more than 800 receiving yards apiece, only time will tell.
The match-up on the ground will be less appealing for Los Angeles. Seattle have allowed the third-fewest rushing yards per game (94.6), which will pose a challenge for the league’s ninth-best rushing attack, led by rookie Cam Akers and Darrell Henderson, two men with more than 500 yards to their names.
Despite Sam Darnold finding some success on Sunday, the Rams secondary plays at an elite level and is the primary reason for the team giving up the fewest passing yards per game (192.0) in the NFL. It was particularly impressive back in Week 10, when they held DK Metcalf to just two receptions and 28 yards. In short, the main difference between these two outfits is the relative strength of their defences. Aaron Donald and co. have mustered 44 sacks and twice as many QB hits in 14 games, making the Rams D the NFL’s top unit.
Writer’s Pick – Sean Tyler (@SeanTylerUK)
The Rams are Seattle’s bogey side, having won five of the last six clashes while averaging more than 31 points per game. This current iteration of the Seahawks’ defence is not the strongest, yet they are currently the -1.5 favourites, despite only posting 16 points against the Rams six weeks ago.
Maybe that demoralising defeat to the Jets is a factor. It could suck the Rams down into a pit of despair or alternatively, it might serve as the kick up the posterior they need to bounce back in the final two regular-season games against their two closest rivals, the Seahawks and the Cardinals. If they can win out, the Rams will be crowned NFC West champions, but that’s a big if.
Those Seattle shootouts from earlier in the year – back when they scored at least 34 points in six of their first eight games – are now distant memories. Maybe Russ is done cooking now and has moved on to the washing-up? His 13 INTs put him behind only Carson Wentz, yet then again, Jared Goff has been intercepted a dozen times himself.
With two takeaway-prone QBs not at their best on show, I’m expecting an attritional, low-scoring affair. When they met in Week 12, the Rams won 23-16 and I think we’ll be in the same ballpark again. However, I’m going to plump for Wilson to step it up and lead the Seahawks to a home win and a division title.
The Tennessee Titans will look to knock off their second successive NFC North team in the space of a week when the travel to Lambeau Field to face the Green Bay Packers on Sunday Night Football.
The Titans had a huge day last week in every possible way when they beat the Detroit Lions into the ground 46-24, as they pursue an AFC South title of their own behind the legs of not just Derrick Henry, but quarterback Ryan Tannehill.
Tannehill put together potentially his finest game of the season in Week 15 as threw for 273 yards and three touchdowns, and also put two score on the board with his feet.
A huge 75-yard touchdown to Corey Davis and a generally wide open passing game showed the signs of the Derrick Henry affect, as defences struggle to stop both the freight train of a running back and the athletic receiving corps of Davis, AJ Brown and Jonnu Smith.
There was the customary 147 yards and a touchdown for the unstoppable Henry, who went over the 100 yard mark for the 10th time this season, and included a rather brutal, highlight reel stiff-arm – again.
The game puts him just 341 yards off of 2K as he continues his most successful season so far in his bright career – 1679 yards and 15 touchdowns in 14 games for this Titans team.
Defensively, there continues to be some concerns heading off to the playoffs, as the Lions scored 24 points and moved the ball freely for 430 yards of total offence, which pushed the Titans to 6th worst in yards allowed on the year and 11th worst in points allowed.
Coming up against Aaron Rodgers will further put this defence to the test, as the unit attempts to prove itself against a high powered group that it could potentially end up facing in the playoffs.
Speaking of Rodgers, the Packers will be looking to secure themselves the number one seed in the NFC this weekend in a season that has seen some of the best of their star QB in several years under Matt LeFleur.
The 37-year-old has completed a massive 69.6% of his passes and has done so for 3828 yards in just 14 games and all whilst providing an almost unbelievable 40-4 touchdown to interception ratio.
On Monday it was announced that he had been voted to the ninth Pro-Bowl of his career, which came as little surprise to anybody, as the Packers had a league-high seven players voted in.
While the scoreboard went their way last time out in a win over the Panthers, concern was high over a second-half performance where the offence produced just a single second half field goal after an electric start.
Rodgers referred to the drop off as leaving a “sour taste” in his mouth, a feeling that will only be doubled by knowing that they face far stiffer opponents this week in the Titans and their overpowered offence.
The danger is clear to LeFleur however, the young head-coach describing stopping the Titans as a “tremendous challenge” on Monday, as he tries to gauge the line between slowing down the Henry train and leaving the back end open to that play-action passing game of Tannehill.
The Packers defence has been much improved this year, ranking near the middle of the pack in most categories, and have given up fewer rushing yards on the season, 1541, than Derrick Henry has managed by himself.
Most teams are not the Titans however and the D-line of Green Bay will have their work thoroughly cut out for them if they want to prevent Tennessee from running the ball against them with ease.
Writer’s Pick – Alex Lewis (@alexlewis226)
Overall I don’t know if I can see anything other than a Packers win this Sunday. Despite the issues that the offence had in the second half, I don’t think its too much too worry about, especially since the Panthers defence has played well above its station on several occasions this season.
Rodgers will be buoyed by the opportunity to rack up the number one seed at home, and I expect him to show it against a defence who has struggled to hold down fast paced and meticulous offensive units like the Packers.
The king is dead, long live the new king. After a quarter of a century wait the Buffalo Bills (11-3) can finally lay claim to the AFC East for the first time since 1995. Back then the Bills limped into the postseason with a 10-6 record. They did smash the Dolphins in the Wild Card game, but went on to lose in the Divisional round to the Steelers (who went on to lose to the Cowboys in the Super Bowl).
2020 also marks the first time the New England Patriots (6-8) have not punched a ticket into the playoffs, continuing the ‘non Brady’ streak of no postseason action. The last time the Pats failed to get into the business end of the season was 2008 when Matt Cassel led New England to an 11-5 record, pipped to the division by the Miami Dolphins who also finished 11-5 but won the points margin in the two head to head games.
Both teams met earlier in the season, with Buffalo escaping the clutches of Cam Newton’s oak tree legs with a later Tyler Bass (pictured above) field goal. This time, with one team already eliminated, it’s time for the Sith Lord to unwrap Jared Stidham. The 4th round pick in the 2019 draft has already seen the field four times this season, and has ever thrown a couple of touchdowns, replacing a woeful Bryan Hoyer to get a garbage time score, and then a little cameo in the Pats 45-0 steamrolling of the Chargers.
Stidham needs to be rolled out for the last two weeks of the season. With no expectations this is an ideal opportunity for Pats OC Josh McDaniels to see if he has somebody to work with in 2021.
New England have been wholeheartedly underwhelming all season, and at one point they were 2-5, so to still be mathematically alive before Week 15 was pretty remarkable. The Cam Newton experiment has been a failure. Yes he runs, and is a redzone td monster, but through the air #1 has been atrocious. 5 passing touchdowns in 13 games is not going to get you far. This has obviously had a huge knock-on effect regarding the WR production. No Julian Edelman for most of the season, and what has been left is the weakest unit in the league. What makes the Pats offense a laughing stock is the TE production. Ryan Izzo has managed 13 catches for under 200 yards and 0 scores.
When we turn to the Bills it is the complete opposite. The team have tied the NFL record for the most different players to catch a TD – a remarkable 13. Josh Allen has been wowing fans all season, and is full value for his 11 wins in 14 games. Allen is a Pro Bowler for the first time, albeit on the second team behind Patrick Mahomes in the AFC. The dual threat is one of a small handful of franchise studs to still be in the running for the 2020 NFL MVP award, going up against Mahomes and Aaron Rodgers to decide the winner.
Leading the Bills in catches is Stefon Diggs (pictured above), a 2020 Pro Bowl starter, who has 111 catches already and over 1,300 yards. Team mate Cole ‘slot machine’ Beasley needs just 50 to reach 1,000, which would mark the first time he has reached 1K in his 9 year career.
The only real weakness the Bills have is a rather pedestrian running game. The combination of Devin Singletary and Zack Moss do not scare anyone, and was it not for the rushing threat posed by Josh Allen this would be one of the worst rushing units in the league.
Buffalo’s defense has been fantastic all year long. LB Tremaine Edmonds and CB Tre’Davious White are all deserving Pro Bowl selections, and even KR Andre Roberts has been recognised for his special teams qualities.
Unsurprisingly the Patriots have zero offensive players on the Pro Bowl team, and only Stephon Gilmore the CB made the Defensive squad, more by reputation and name recognition than actuations game play. The Patriots do value special teams very highly and were rewarded with Pro Bowl nods to the punter Jake Bailey (pictured above – who had a lot of work experience in 2020) and evergreen gunner Matthew Slater.
Writer’s Pick – Lawrence Vos (@F10YRetro)
With that highly significant Steelers loss to the Bengals on MNF in Week 14, the Bills have shimmied up the playoff pole to the #2 seed with just two regular season weeks left. Having sniffed that rarified air the Bills will not take anything for granted, and will be striving to win out against AFC East division rivals the Pats and then the Miami Dolphins.
Josh Allen can hoist up an NFL MVP trophy just like his fellow 2018 first round draft class buddy Lamar Jackson, and sweeping the Patriots would make the accolade that bit sweeter.
For the Bills D there is limited game film on Jared Stidham, including 0 starts or truly meaningful snaps, so the surprise element will favour the Patriots. This does not mean they will translate this into a victory. The empire has crumbled in New England, and it’s time for Pats fans to look to the future now and not the present.
Josh Allen to have another big game, and Buffalo to put immense pressure on the Steelers who are melting faster than a snowman in a naan bread oven (inspired by watching Eddie Hall trying to eat the world’s largest naan bread!!). Look to 21 year old Bills WR Gabriel Davis to add to his impressive 6 td total in this contest.
Welcome to the Week 13 TV preview. There could potentially be a bumper offering of games this week with Monday seeing a double header and Tuesday getting a game also. As it stands today, it’s just the regular four slated games but we will preview all six potential TV games to make sure you are covered.
Sunday 6pm / Cleveland Browns @ Tennessee Titans
The Titans will look to follow up on their emphatic victory over AFC South rivals the Indianapolis Colts by beating the equally impressive Cleveland Browns in the early game of Week 13.
They grabbed their revenge on Phillip Rivers with a 45-26 victory to move themselves onto 8-3 on the season and remind everyone with play-off and Super Bowl aspirations that they are a serious contender as the season moves into the last quarter of regular season football.
The magnificent Derrick Henry maintained his spectacular form with a third straight game with over 100 rushing yards, notching 178 and three touchdowns against a good Colts defence that looked unable to even slow King Henry, let alone stop him.
As tends to be the way with most teams, Henry’s raw dominance left the door not just open for Ryan Tannehill but nearly off its hinges, as he threw for 221 yards and touchdown on 13 completions and an extra score with his legs.
The game plan will be identical for this week’s match-up with the Browns too, as the Titans look to draw in the Cleveland linebackers with some play-action and try to get the ball in their hands of their playmakers on the outside: the explosive AJ Brown and the improving Corey Davis.
Defensively, the Titans played far better against the run last week, holding the Colts to just 56 yards on the ground. This was a large improvement on the 115 yards-per-game they have averaged so far and a crucial factor in stopping a Browns team that will undoubtedly be looking to get going behind Nick Chubb.
The job of stopping the Browns will be made harder with the news that multi-faceted DT Jeffrey Simmons did not practice all week and so looks a doubt for Sunday, but hope is growing that cornerback Adoree Jackson could start his first game of the year having been activated off IR nearly three weeks ago.
As for the Browns, they look like they’ll once again be without their own young corner with Denzel Ward still struggling with his injury, but crucially there is no injury to their bell-cow Chubb, who is going to play the figurehead of any potential Browns victory once again. The former Georgia Bulldog is on his own personal tier this season, with 384 rushing yards in his last three games, as he has helped drag the Browns to an impressive 8-3 record in the AFC North.
Calls for MVP consideration have been heard in the distance as Chubb has allowed Baker Mayfield to take things at his own speed, without an interception in five games but also without a passing score in three of those. His connection with Jarvis Landry has looked to be improving too in recent weeks; Landry is now over 600 yards receiving on the season as Stefanski’s run-heavy scheme awards some nice light coverage in the passing game.
Defensively, the Browns will likely have Myles Garrett for the match-up with the Titans as they will try and become one of the first teams in 2020 to find out how to slow down the freight train that is Henry in the Titans backfield.
Writer’s Pick – Alex Lewis (@alexlewis226)
Overall, this game has the potential to end up looking like a play-off game in style. They are both run-heavy teams looking to grind away at the will of the opposing defence, to set up some easy play-actions and bootlegs for their steady QBs.
The Titans will miss DT Simmons for sure and I think that probably closes the gap between these two teams but I sense that in the cold temperatures that the teams can expect on Sunday, the unstoppable force of King Henry grinds the Titans past a tricky Browns outfit. I’m taking the Titans over the Browns by 21-13.
Sunday 9:05pm / Los Angeles Rams @ Arizona Cardinals
It feels like every NFC West match-up is a crucial one this season and this one is no different.
After a somewhat shock defeat at home against the 49ers last week, the Rams have some making up to do with Seattle taking full advantage. The Rams are now 1-2 in the division with both losses coming against the 49ers. However, their sole victory was against Seattle so if they can keep pace with the Seahawks in terms of notches in the win column as they head into their Week 16 clash, then no harm done.
They travel to Glendale, Arizona, for this one to take on a Cardinals team that kind of threw the win away against New England. They were there for the taking but a missed Zane Gonzalez field goal with under two minutes remaining sealed their fate. The offence and Kyler Murray couldn’t get much going in that game in Foxborough so you’d have to feel Sean McVay and co. will be breaking down that film, especially in the red zone were Arizona looked awfully ineffective.
You get the feeling that this game is essentially a knockout game for the Cardinals, who sit at 6-5 (2-1 divisional) after three losses in their last four games. That could have been four straight losses if it wasn’t for the Nuk Hopkins end-zone miracle catch against the Bills. They are two games off the pace in the division (split with Seattle 1-1) but also way off the pace in terms of conference records in the tiebreakers. A loss here, coupled with a win for the Rams and Seahawks, means that it could be back to the drawing board.
Their last two games have seen their offensive output plummet from the lofty heights seen prior to their game with Seattle and that’s mainly down to the wear and tear of their QB. Kyler has been troubled by a shoulder injury over the past few weeks and did not look comfortable after taking a hit or two in New England last week. But some are also pointing fingers at Kliff’s play–calling for long parts of that game being too conservative. The Cardinals and Kliff Kingsbury will be hoping that any bruises or wounds have healed sufficiently so that Murray can play his normal game and help the offence continue to produce as one of the top offences in the league (currently second ranked in terms of yards per game).
One way the Cardinals will want to try and impose themselves in on the defensive side on the ball, trying to exert pressure on Jared Goff.
Goff has not looked great when faced with pressure, ever. What Sean McVay is still able to achieve with this team in spite of Goff and his liabilities goes underappreciated. That being said, it was their coaching staff and front office that decide to give him the contract they did, effectively handcuffing their ceiling under McVay.
You have to feel the Super Bowl run in 2018 season was a case of all the stars aligning for Goff behind a great line. With the recent loss of Andrew Whitworth and a bit of shuffling around, you can see that Goff is not great when there is no trust in that he’ll be protected. This is also reflected in the play-calling, with constant jet sweeps and misdirections going to skills players like Robert Woods and Brandin Cooks when he was a Ram.
It took the Rams defence to make a play last week before the offence was able to get anything going and I think McVay knows that they have to be near perfect in all phases of the game to come out with any kind of win here.
The game plan from San Francisco last week, in being hard hitting and establishing the run, is something the Cardinals could try and replicate with their 1-2 punch of the often-underwhelming Kenyan Drake and Chase Edmonds (not forgetting Murray too!). If they can get anywhere near what Mostert and the rest of the 49ers produced last week, they’ll have a chance to stay balanced and win the game. If they abandon the run and try and ask Kyler to win through the air, it could be an issue.
It will be fascinating to see if Ramsey will try to neutralise Nuk Hopkins, who is 33 yards of the 1,000-yard mark.
Writer’s Pick – Tim Monk (@Tim_MonkF10Y)
If the Cardinals win this game, you can bet your bottom dollar, Haason Reddick and co. get to Goff on multiple occasions. If they can’t get home and the Rams handle the pass rush, you have to feel Sean McVay will find a way to smash and grab the win, effectively making it a shootout for the division.
In a really tough game to call and with a lot on the line, the spread of Rams (-3) is probably about right, but I’d probably take the Cardinals with the points and total points to go over the 48 projected by the bookies (little confidence though, considering how these offences performed last week and can have the ability to fall flat).
Monday 1:25am (SNF) / Denver Broncos @ Kansas City Chiefs
Going into the final five weeks of the regular season, the Broncos have to face the nigh-on impossible task of taking on the reigning Super Bowl champs, the Kansas City Chiefs. Usually in these previews, parallels between teams become apparent. That being said, the Broncos and Chiefs had polar opposite Week 12 match-ups.
For the home team, it was an electric performance in which the tandem of Pat Mahomes and Tyreek Hill sought to break every record manageable. In typical KC fashion, one which is still so captivating while also so unsurprising, Mahomes threw for 446 yards, gaining 3 TDs and a passer rating of 124.7 along the way. The opposite can be said of practice squad WR Kendall Hinton for the Broncos who completed one pass out of nine attempts and was picked off twice.
Again, in not so surprising fashion, Hill had himself a game. On 15 targets, Hill went for 269 yards and 3 TDs, only failing to connect with his star QB twice all game. Considering some were predicting a reasonably tough match-up for Hill and the rest of the KC offence, with the Bucs being placed in the top 10 in most defensive categories, the outcome was anything but. The same cannot be said for the Broncos. While little more can be expected when a team loses all their QB options, the Broncos only managed 3 points and 13 total passing yards.
I don’t think it can be overstated just how different the form of these two team’s previous showing were.
On the bright side for the travelling Broncos, their pass defence was good against the Taysom Hill-led Saints. Overall, the game was difficult to watch for fans of Denver, but the bright spot was how they limited Hill. Despite the blow-out scoreline, the Broncos limited Hill to 5 yards per attempt and a passer rating of sub-50. It is practically impossible to imagine the same outcome this weekend, but if they stand any chance of keeping this divisional tie in contention, the Broncos secondary have to maintain the top-10 calibre they showed the previous week and across the season.
Another upside for the Broncos is the fact that they will have a QB this week instead of relying on a Hinton, who has developed his own little cult following. However, the Broncos, with or without a QB, have struggled offensively in the air and rank dead last in yards per game and passer rating. As if often the short-lived debate with the Chiefs, their rush defence looks like the only kink in the armour until you remember that rushing isn’t a viable option when down three or four scores. While the pairing of Melvin Gordon and Philip Lindsay has seen the Broncos ranking middle of the pack in most rushing statistics, coupled with KC ranking towards the bottom of most rush defence metrics, I really can’t see this making an impact against Mahomes, now favourite to become this season’s MVP.
Writer’s Pick – Richard O’Brien (@Richard_obs)
Typically, I try to find the parallels between the two teams. I try to find areas the underdogs can exploit. I try to highlight any key storylines heading into the game.
For this matchup, not so much. There are very few parallels, serious weaknesses or storylines aside from the fact that Mahomes and the rest of the Chiefs are really, really good at football. That being said, I’m predicting a 35-13 win for the Chiefs taking them to a 11-1 record.
Monday 10pm / Washington Football Team @ Pittsburgh Steelers
Anyone who witnessed the reserve offence of the Baltimore Ravens hanging in there against the Pittsburgh Steelers on Wednesday (2 Dec) will have left with a feeling that the six-time Super Bowl champions are frankly mortal.
Their 11-0 record is impressive and heading into Week 13, they remain the only team without an ‘L’ in their record, but that was an unimpressive display. Commentators tried to flatter Big Ben Roethlisberger after the game, but he was the first to say he was unhappy about his own performance. Not so much the stupendous amount of completions in an offence that was ‘1,000 paper cuts’ as opposed to ‘ferocious axe swings’, but more botched 4th down attempts, lack of points and failure to put away a team that was missing the 2019 MVP, his favourite target (Mark Andrews) and key defenders.
Next up to try and pop the balloon of perfection is the Washington Football Team, who may boast a miserable 4-7 record, yet they are joint top of the NFC (L)East and on a two-game winning streak.
The walking miracle that is Washington QB Alex Smith is providing veteran leadership and giving the team the most dangerous thought in the world: hope. With the Giants losing Daniel Jones for a week or two, and the Cowboys and Eagles wetting the bed on a regular basis, there is a faint spark that seems to be producing a tiny whiff of smoke in the nation’s capital.
Talk of the Rookie of the Year is taking place, and is being dominated by Joe Burrow, Justin Herbert and Justin Jefferson, with nobody giving any well deserved love to Washington’s RB Antonio Gibson. Gibson has amassed 11 touchdowns to date, easily the top for any first-year player, and the number is remarkably the third best total for all NFL running backs. His three touchdowns against the Cowboys on Thanksgiving thrust Gibson into the spotlight for the first time this season, and he looked comfortable under the bright lights.
The jury is still out on fellow Washington rookie DE/edge Chase Young. He has realised that the big boys league is not going to be a breeze, and has had a mixture of performances to date. 4.5 sacks and 2 forced fumbles in 10 games is not quite the impact the Football Team expected when they grabbed him at #2. He trails grizzled vet Ryan Kerrigan (5.5) and squad leader Montez Sweat (6) in sacks.
Washington’s defence has kept the team alive and, along with Gibson, two Football Team skill players have stuck out among the grey mulch. WR Terry McLaurin is a diamond among a load of broken bottles, and running back JD McKissic, second leading rusher, has racked up 46 catches (a career best).
Looking to stop this unexpected bunch of merry men is the league’s best defence. The 2020 version of the Steel Curtain is beyond impressive, with edge TJ Watt continuing to add credibility to his audition for the Defensive Player of the Year. The Steelers did suffer a huge blow on Wednesday when LB Bud Dupree was injured with a probable ACL. His eight sacks will be sorely missed going into the final phase of the regular season. Having lost Devin Bush earlier in the season, it will be time for second-year LB Robert Spillane (#41 – pictured) to elevate his game once again.
This game on paper is not even close, with the Steelers owning a seven-game advantage over Washington. Pittsburgh’s defensive front four will look to feast on a Washington offensive line that is susceptible to committing penalties at key moments. The black and gold bring the pressure, but they also drop back to confuse QBs, as evidenced by TJ Watt trailing the Ravens speedster WR Hollywood Brown on Wednesday.
Writer’s Pick – Lawrence Vos (@F10YRetro)
All the signs are pointing at a Steelers win here; in fact, the last time Washington beat Pittsburgh was all the way back in 1991. Somewhat ironically, 29 years ago, that win put Washington at 11-0 and dropped the Steelers to 4-7, an exact mirror image of the team’s current records.
There have been accusations the Steelers have had a bit of a passive schedule, and the same could be said of the Football Team, as all their wins have come against team with losing records. The Steelers will need to up their game to remain unbeaten, but something tells me Big Ben will be playing mad enough to put up another big performance. Washington 16 – 29 Pittsburgh
Tuesday 1.15am (MNF) / Buffalo Bills @ San Francisco 49ers
The Bills and 49ers returned to action after bye weeks last weekend against Los Angeles-based opposition. They both nearly threw it all away in the second half but, in the end, emerged victorious.
The Niners crossed California to play the Rams, who were coming off impressive wins over the Seahawks and Bucs. San Fran stayed strong to win 23-20, despite being 5-point underdogs. The season sweep of LA was secured with two Robbie Gould FGs: one to level the score and another that sealed the deal as time expired. The result breaks a three-game losing streak and just about keeps the Niners (5-6) in the play-off picture.
Meanwhile, the Bills (8-3) hosted the Chargers in a battle of two in-form QBs, Josh Allen and Justin Herbert. Allen threw for a touchdown and ran in another as they built up an 18-point lead, only to try and blow it with three consecutive turnovers in the fourth quarter. Joey Bosa also put Allen on his derriere three times, allowing the Bolts back into the game but the AFC East leaders did enough to hold them off. The 27-17 victory leaves Sean McDermott as one of only five current Head Coaches never to lose after a bye.
Let’s start by turning the microscope on poor ol’ San Francisco, who have had their roster absolutely decimated by injuries and COVID-related absences. Starters on both sides of the ball have been on and off the treatment table all season long, giving very little opportunity for continuity. By mid-November, 21 of their 27 crocked players were on Injured Reserve, yet they keep on keeping on… so respect to Kyle Shanahan and Robert Saleh for making their offensive and defensive units viable against all odds.
With five games to go, Frisco are at last getting a bit healthier, with Raheem Mostert and Jeff Wilson (86 combined rushing yards and a TD for Mostert), Richard Sherman (seven tackles and a pick) and Deebo Samuel (11 passes for 133 yards) all returning to the fray to great effect last Sunday.
But their main dilemma is still whether Jimmy Garoppolo, who has now missed three weeks with a high ankle sprain, will make it back this season, let alone if he’ll be retained after that. Less than a year ago, he was contesting the season finale; now, if he makes the field at all, he’ll be auditioning for his own job.
Even though he finished with no TDs and an interception against the Rams, Nick Mullens has proved he can (just about) lead the team in Jimmy G’s place. That said, his 6 TD/7 INT ratio doesn’t inspire much confidence in the aerial attack so, if the 49ers are to secure a home (from home) win, the ground game of Mostert and Wilson needs to click again, especially as Buffalo allow almost 130 rushing yards per game.
Turning our attention to the visitors, third-year QB Josh Allen has been one of 2020’s success stories. For a while, his name was being uttered alongside Mahomes and Wilson in the MVP discussion and, even though he’s fallen a little behind now, he’s still seventh in the NFL in passing yards and needs just 61 more to surpass last year’s 3,089. His 29 total TDs leaves him just five short of Jim Kelly’s single-season franchise record and his completion rate (68.8%), average yards per completion (7.8), passing rate (102.3), sacks taken (22) and fumbles (2) are all heading towards new personal bests.
Success in upstate New York this year has also been built on WR Stefon Diggs. The former Viking is now only 55 shy of a 1,000-yard season, 6th in the league, and while four TDs is a little disappointing, he does stretch the field. This allows slot receiver Cole Beasley to contribute more – not least, like last Sunday, by throwing the occasional trick-play TD.
The Bills have needed to sort out their run game for a while, with Devin Singletary’s 483 yards (27th) and 1 rushing TD not exactly setting the league on fire. In fact, his own QB (six rushing TDs) has two more than the rest of the team put together. But last week, McDermott finally turned to the ground game, with Singletary logging 82 yards on 11 carries and rookie Zack Moss going for 59 yards from nine. Allen himself added 32 yards and a score.
Holding LA to just three points on the drives that resulted from their three turnovers, last week’s defiant fourth-quarter stand shows that the Buffalo D can do the business too; they also sacked Herbert three times and Tre’Davious White snagged an interception. Although not a particular strength in 2020, if the Bills’ defence can stay solid, they’ll be tough to beat all the way to January and beyond.
Writer’s Pick – Sean Tyler (@SeanTylerUK)
The Bills look all but play-off bound already while the 49ers’ future is much murkier. They may end up above .500 but that’s no guarantee of anything, especially in the hyper-competitive NFC West. Yet this one’s a tricky one to call, not least because Buffalo are 0-4 on MNF since 2015 and also because the contest will be held at State Farm Stadium, home of the Arizona Cardinals. COVID-19 protocols in Santa Clara have forced the 49ers out of Levi’s Stadium for the rest of the season but it may not be such a bad thing: they’re 1-4 there this year.
With the Niners currently ranked 10th in the NFC and a game shy of the final Wild Card spot, they need to keep their foot firmly on the gas to keep those slim postseason dreams alive. And yet they still have several key players still missing – cornerbacks Jamar Taylor and Ken Webster were injured last week, and I haven’t even mentioned long-term absentee George Kittle. Also considering that Mullens isn’t exactly rewriting the QB textbook, plus last week’s reliance on their kicker and their recent ‘eviction’, I can’t help feeling that there’s too much conspiring against the Niners. Put me down for the Bills adding another W to their tally. Bills 28-24 49ers
Wednesday 1.05am (At Time Of Post Not Confirmed As TV Game) / Dallas Cowboys @ Baltimore Ravens
For a game that prior to the COVID shenanigans should have already been in the books, the Cowboys have a further delay to travel to Baltimore to face the Ravens.
After their Thanksgiving Day performance, it seems like they need a lot longer than the 12 days that they have been given. Despite the game being close going into the 4th quarter, the Washington Football Team routed the Cowboys, embarrassing Jerry in his home on prime time while we sat and ate turkey. Antonio Gibson ran right through the heart of the Dallas defence on his way to a Thanksgiving Day hat-trick, which hasn’t been seen since Randy Moss did it to the Cowboys way back when.
The Cowboys currently sit with the fourth overall pick in the 2021 draft, but also are only still one game (and probable tie-breakers) from the division lead. The NFC East continues to be a historically bad one and it’s a catch-22 for all the teams in it. Do you try and win games and get to the play-offs, get embarrassed there but consequently moving your draft pick by about half of the board? Or do you just play out your games knowing that Penei Sewell could be yours (especially in Dallas’ case) in that top 3-5 range in the draft?
The Cowboys actually have a shot at winning this game and it all hinges on the Baltimore QB situation. Lamar Jackson is currently on the COVID list but if he clears protocols, he could be suiting up. It’s likely that if available, Jackson will play in the game despite having no practices or training over the past week or so. He can clear the protocol as early as Sunday, thus giving him a day of practice if all things go well. If he doesn’t go, however, the door is wide open for Dallas.
Back-up RGIII pulled a hamstring and was replaced by third-stringer Trace McSorely against the Steelers. RGIII, unless his hamstring pull is only minor, would be unlikely to play and would be questionable at best.
On the Dallas side, their offensive line took two huge hits from Thanksgiving with All-Pro Zack Martin missing multiple weeks, and he was joined by Cam Erving on the treatment table early on in that match–up too. That has usually spelled the end for the Cowboys in recent seasons but the pass rush of this depleted Baltimore team could be the equaliser they need.
Ezekiel Elliot has just not got anything going this year and added yet another fumble to his tally for 2020. Tony Pollard may get a bit more time to shine and has looked good in spots.
The wide receiver trio of Amari Cooper, Michael Gallup and rookie CeeDee Lamb are only going to be as good as their O-line protecting Dalton. It’ll be a lot of short stuff, the old “dink and dunk” relying on yards after catch, which is not something this offence predicates itself on.
For Baltimore, they must win to keep tabs in the Wild Card race as they sit on 6-5; Las Vegas on the outside looking in as they are on a three-game losing streak. They have three easier games to finish off the season but Week 14’s clash against the Browns is huge.
It’ll be a heavy dose of run game again with hopefully the returns of Mark Ingram and JK Dobbins. They’d also like to welcome back Mark Andrews to give them more weapons in the passing game as I think we have seen enough of Luke Willson for this season.
Writer’s Pick – Tim Monk (@Tim_MonkF10Y)
Until we get nearer to game time, we won’t know the chances of either team but the more players that return for Baltimore, the more likely they are to win the game.
The current line (Friday evening ) is begging you to take the Cowboys at +7.5. I would just stay away from this game altogether but if you are sharp on your Twitter feeds and hear news about availability either way, it’s a line that can be taken advantage of.
Like Wednesday night, when there is so much disruption to the team and travelling, it usually dictates the game to be a sloppy, low scoring affair, so the Under 45 probably looks the way to go in terms of total points.
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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.
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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Chances are if you are reading this, you have an antepost ticket on a team to win the Vince Lombardi Trophy. With Covid starting to sink it’s claws into the season, you’ll be forgiven for thinking whether you’ll be getting your stakes refunded (more so hoping if you are a Cowboys fan).
However we have reached the quarter pole after a little stumble there in week 4 with the possibility of further treacherous paths ahead in week 5 (thanks Tennessee).
With that in mind, lets take a look at how the Super Bowl 55 outright market has morphed itself over the first 4 weeks. Sports Betting Dime has been tracking and averaging each team’s Super Bowl odds since the end of last season, which we’ve converted and rounded to the numbers listed below.
Green Bay Packers
Pre-Season: 33/1 Now: 10/1
Cheeseheads will certainly be cheering “Go Pack Go” as they have arguably been one of the best teams thus far in 2020.
After what was considered a swing and a miss in April during the draft, the Packers, even with decimation at the Wide Receiver, have stormed to a 4-0 start and stomping all over anyone that has crossed their path.
QB Aaron Rodgers has finally embarked on his “F-You” tour that most have been waiting for (at least it’s one tour we’ll get to see this year). He’s depended on a variety of supporting cast through those first four weeks and made Valdes-Scantling and new flavour of the week TE Robert Tonyan a name that has been heavily sought after in fantasy football.
They’ve posted scores of 30+ points in each of those first 4 games and been in control of all of the games thus far, which has included potentially tricky trips to New Orleans and Minnesota. Whether the lack of crowds has helped that (i’ll say most definitely judging by the focus the hard count is getting) or it’s just a case of Rodgers upping his game I’ll leave for you to all debate but they get the early bye this year and will be putting their feet up in week 5 and will look to welcome back star WR Davante Adams in week 5 against the Bucs. Apart from that trip to Tampa in week 6 and a trip to the west coast to face their demons at Levi’s stadium to face the 49ers in week 9, the rest of the schedule looks pretty plain sailing from here on out.
At this point, I will be shocked if they aren’t in the running for the NFC’s 1st round bye come week 17 (remember only the #1 seed gets the bye this year!).
If they continue to play as they have done coming out of the bye week, 10/1 could still possibly be value but kudos to those people that have tickets with 33/1 on them.
Pre-Season: 20/1 Now: 8/1
Perennial Playoff participants the Seattle Seahawks always appear on our TV screens in january and have done for 8 of the last 10 years. However in recent years, they have never reallllly been peoples ideas of Super Bowl Contenders. Yes, they won it all back in 2013, but they’ve been most people candidates to go out to just stronger teams and since the Legion of Boom left Century Link Field, not many people have given them much more respect than that. Does it have to do with Russell Wilson’s MVP credentials that have gone without gratitude? Is it that they never had any flashy players on offence? Who knows, but one thing is for sure in 2020, this team and Mr Unlimited has a different air about them.
Another team that has stormed to 4-0 in the early portion of the season, Seattle have seen their talisman storm to the front of people’s minds and the MVP betting (surely he’ll get a vote this year!).
They trail only the Packers in points scored thus far and like the Pack, they have put up 30+ points in each of their first 4 games.
A win on SNF against the Patriots put them on our radars and yes they could have quite easily lost that game as Cam Newton was at the 1 yard line in the dying moments (where have we heard that before, Marshawn?) but the Seahawks have gone about and handled their business with little fuss and a lotta Russ.
Can they continue this streak? You’d expect them to pummel a poor Vikings team before taking a week 6 bye and coming out of the other side, they face 4 huge games with 3 against divisional opponents in what is considered the toughest division in the league this year and the impressive Buffalo Bills (see below) sandwiched in there. We’ll know from those 4 games what the Seahawks are made of and what their crednetials are this year and we’ll go a long way to answering whether they are the Seahawks of 2013 or the Seahwaks of the last few years making an exit sometime in January.
As things stand, I would like to see a Packers/Seahawks reunion in the playoffs.
Pre-Season: 28/1 Now: 16/1
Those of you that fancied a Patriots demise this year maybe have enticed you to have a tickle on Buffalo for the AFC and most certainly the division, but the Bills have probably been the most impressive team from the AFC side of the draw.
Whilst nearly pulling off an Atlanta Falcons impression against the Rams, The Bills have continuously lit up the scoreboard. Some will argue they’ve not really faced much stiff competition yet, but ladies and gentleman, i welcome you to the AFC East.
Their next two battles (Covid dependant) will be against the 2 teams that faced off in the AFC title game last year so we’ll know from those two games where the Bills stand.
Josh Allen has arguably been one of the best players this year at the QB position and is starting to win people’s appreciation from the sidelines and on the sofas (12/1 for MVP in from 50s).
The addition of Stefon Diggs from Minnesota has helped Allen no end and the Bills Mafia will be hoping they get to continue to blooming chemistry for the rest of the year and into 2021. The change on defence hasn’t really hindered them too much and are still a stout run D but have been susceptible against the pass, causing them to concede 28 to Fitzmagic, 32 to Goff and 23 to Derek Carr.
For them to be really taken seriously, they’ll need to tighten that up in their next two games. The rest of their schedule has bumpy moments with matchups against the Cardinals and Seahawks before the bye, they tackle the 49ers and Steelers shortly after. If they make it to the post season, they’ll have to banish the ghosts of playoffs past that saw them exit in spectacular fashion against the Texans last year.
At the odds though, if you are an Allen believer, they are still pretty tempting especially when you consider the division is there for the taking with Cam Newton out for another week or 2.
(Still with a chance)
San Francisco 49ers
Pre-Season 9/1 Now: 28/1
I’m not going to put teams that were never really in with a shot (insert Dallas joke here) so we’ll stick with some teams that some will still feel all is not lost.
The bridesmaids from last season have been…how do we put this nicely…f****d by injuries.
Nick Bosa, Deebo Samuel, Raheem Mostert, George Kittle, Dee Ford, Jimmy Garoppolo are just a snapshot of players missing that were integral to their Super Bowl run last year (ok, maybe not Garoppolo. PSYCHE!) and through 4 weeks they sit with a 2-2 record after their SNF defeat to the Eagles.
They’ll grit their teeth at their two week stay at MetLife for the rest of the season and maybe even longer if they fail to make the playoffs. Super Bowl hangover? some will point to it and if they were in another division not named the NFC West, their task would be that little bit easier.
Even so, the hits keep on coming for Kyle Shanahan and co with matchups @Patriots, @Seahawks and @Saints couple with homes ties against the Packers and the Rams on the horizon and all before their week 11 bye.
It doesn’t get much easier after that so it looks like a long way back for the 49ers taking into account that they’ll have to see this season out with such a plethora of players on the treatment table.
Pre-Season 12/1 Now: 33/1
Oh how it pains me to put the Cowboys here and how much joy it gives anti-Cowboys fans.
Mike McCarthy has not given the Cowboys the oomph to help the team quickly forget about Mr Clappy Jason Garrett.
The Cowboys are essentially a watermelon away from an 0-4 start. Yes they’ve faced tough matchups @ the Rams and @ the Seahawks but the home loss against the Browns highlighted to every team that the defence is absolutely turgid and you can see them live at your local Carpet Right in the door mat section (other stores are available).
The offence has been under insurmountable amounts of pressure and the miscues they’ve endured due to a patchy offensive line has helped dig those holes even deeper that they have found themselves in.
To their credit, they have made huge deficits disappear like a top draw trick from Paul Daniels and they were an Aldon Smith tackle on OBJ for 10-15 yards away from snatching a defeat in similar style against the Browns to that of the Falcons.
To further make the case as a possible value bet, they play in a division where there are 3 wins collectively between the 4 teams out of a possible 16 so with the way the post season is set up, 1 of these teams HAS to play at least one game in January, so you are hoping the Cowboys have ironed out these issues and get a few players back healthy on both sides of the ball, namely O lineman Joe Looney and star LB Leighton Vander Esch.
For the neutrals, Cowboys games will be great watching from here on out regardless so there is that going for them and Dak Prescott is still a tempting price for most pass yards (11/4 with Unibet/888). They have given up the most points in the NFL this year and have conceded 38+ points for the 2nd time in franchise history, with the other instance being their inaugural season in 1960, ending with a 0-11-1 record. At least they are guaranteed to better that after 1 notch in the win column.
Unfortunately, guys, I don’t think Mike McCarthy and Mike Nolan are the answer. They won’t be getting a round of applause anyway, though the Giants come to town in week 5 (Jason Garrett joke). Further afield, they’ll feel like they have winnable games before their bye as they face a stumbling Arizona before travelling to Washington and Philadelphia. win those three games or even the last two, they’ll be in OK shape to win the lethargic NFC Least. Get in the playoffs and it’s anyone’s ball game (can you tell I am a Dallas fan trying to convince myself we still have a chance?)
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Every season there is one position valued above all others, a position that’s scrutinized and picked apart more than any other…the quarterback.
With the position being so varied between teams, players styles and schemes I think it would be interesting to take a look at the top 10 signal callers in the league, break them down and see who is going to be exciting to watch going into the 2020 season.
Ryan Tannehill, Tennessee Titans
I know off the bat I’m going to get flack for this. I know it. Not only was the former number 8 overall pick a complete bust in Miami, he was also injury prone. Every season he played the full 16 games he threw double digit interceptions and struggled to help the Dolphins get anywhere.
So what changed in Tennessee?
Better coaching? More motivation? Better culture? Regardless of what changed at the Titans, it worked. In the 12 games he took the field (only started 10) he put up 2,742 passing yards, 22 touchdowns and 6 interceptions. He had 4 less touchdowns than Aaron Rodgers and Patrick Mahomes while only starting 10 games!
Behind a dynamic hardnosed offence that includes man mountain Derrick Henry and dynamic Wide Receivers like AJ Brown, Cory Davis and Adam Humphries this offence has all the power it needs to take them deep into the playoffs again. Possibly even a Superbowl appearance.
This isn’t just me jumping onto a player who had a hot season, this is me telling you that the Titans are dangerous and can beat any team they face off against this year. Good luck stopping them.
Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers
You might be asking why I have a future all of famer this far down this list. Well it’s not only his lack of weapons but actually his recent productivity.
Last year Rodgers posted a respectable 4,002 passing yards, 26 touchdowns and 4 interceptions. Couple that with the fact that not only is he missing weapons he’s not getting any younger. The Packers realized this and that’s why they brought in Jordan Love.
Now my personal opinions on Rodgers aside he is in fact a future first ballot Hall of Famer and an all time great. But I think we see him start to wind his career down now. With little to no offensive weapons to help him move the ball I don’t see Rodgers living up to any of the hype we see around him and the Packers every year.
Sure he’s one of the best…but he can’t win games alone anymore.
Jimmy Garoppolo, San Francisco 49er’s
Now many people might call Patriots bias due to who drafted Jimmy Garoppolo and his history with the Patriots but if you’re familiar with my work then you know that I know what I’m talking about (I’m pretty good at this whole football lark).
The 49er’s are 19-5 with Jimmy G under center since he suited up in red and gold and 3-10 without him…now you tell me he’s not a difference maker. People love to hate on Jimmy G but watching him play is sensational, his release is one of the fastest in the league, he can make throws downfield, he makes fast reads and isn’t afraid to take a hit.
Last year Jimmy racked up 3,978 passing yards for 27 touchdowns and 13 interceptions. Oh no he’s terrible despite having a stat line almost identical to Patrick Mahomes, Deshaun Watson and Aaron Rodgers. With just a few more interceptions. Yeah tell me he’s bad again.
Despite coming up short in the Superbowl I think it would be foolish to not expect this even stronger 49er’s team to not tear it up next year and make another run at the Superbowl behind this super-powered offense.
Deshaun Watson, Houston Texans
After Deandre Hopkins was traded to the Arizona Cardinals in the off-season there was rumors that Deshaun Watson was looking from a way to escape Bill O’Brian too and the Patriots got mentioned…to say I was excited was an understatement.
Watson is unquestionably one of the most exciting signal callers in the league he’s a great athlete with a really accurate arm and despite his O-Line failing to keep him upright most of the time he still manages to make plays and as long as he’s on the field the Texans are still in the game. Watson has taken the Texans to playoffs for 2 of his 3 seasons, the exception being his rookie year.
Last year he had a great season but unfortunately fell to the eventual Superbowl champions the Kansas City Chiefs. He went into the playoffs with 3,852 passing yards, 26 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. He also tallied 413 ground yards taking 7 touchdowns in with his feet.
Despite losing Hopkins, Watson still has a strong defense and competent offensive pieces to aid him going into the 2020 season which will be crucial in helping the Texans to their 3 playoffs berth in as many years.
Hopefully Watson wears a visor this year so he doesn’t nearly lose an eye while escaping the pocket.
Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints
When it was reported that Drew Brees has already signed a TV deal ahead of the 2020 season I think that was almost a confirmation that this was his last 2 years as a player.
Despite playing at a high level his whole career an MVP award has always alluded this man, not that he hasn’t deserved it. The future hall of famer has one last shot at the MVP and he’s in a great position to do it with the team around him.
With a pro-bowl supporting cast including players like Alvin Kamara, Micheal Thomas and Taysom Hill it’s not hard to picture this Saints team making it back to the playoffs. Last season Brees unfortunately missed 5 games due to a thumb injury he picked up in week 2 against the rams. After back up Teddy Bridgewater came in and went 5-0 in his absence Brees returned and managed to finish with 2,079 passing yards, 27 Touchdowns and 4 interceptions.
Despite struggling against the Vikings in the playoffs in the past 3 years Brees has all the tools to finally make it to the big game and despite Tom Brady, Russell Wilson and Jimmy G all being in the NFC it’s not smart money to bet against this man.
Russell Wilson, Seattle Seahawks
Now if I had to pick one quarterback to extend a play as long as possible until someone gets open, I’d pick Russell Wilson.
For pretty much his whole career Wilson had played behind one of the worst O-Lines in history, no matter what he’s tried to make plays and subsequently pulled off some of the most jaw dropping plays in NFL history.
A true leader of men Wilson would earn a place on this list for almost every year he’s been in the NFL. Last season the Seahawks signal caller threw for 4,110 yards, 31 touchdowns and 5 interceptions taking the Seahawks to the playoffs for the 7th time in Wilson’s 8 year tenure with the Seahawks.
It seems a this point a guarantee that Wilson and the Seahawks will see post season action, with stiff competition now in the NFC how far can Wilson take his men?
Time will tell, but with this man as a signal caller the Seahawks won’t go down without a fight.
Tom Brady, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Tom Brady will be 43 years old when the NFL season kicks off this year. 43. Just let that sink in for a moment.
So after one of his worst seasons in 2019 Brady decided to leave for pastures new in Tampa Bay. Whether it was him butting heads with Bill Belichick or him feeling under appreciated by the team he spent the last 20 years of his life leading, Brady left the Patriots. He’s walked into a great situation in Tampa. Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, OJ Howards, JF3 and oh…Rob Gronkowski are just a few reasons why Tampa Bay is looking to be the best team in the NFC this year.
At 43 Brady will 100% slow down, it’s just nature but if that Tampa Bay pocket gives him 2-3 seconds every snap then no doubt they’re dangerous. Now last year on a team plagued with injuries, young players making mistakes and an O-Line made out of paper Brady managed to throw for 4,057 yards, 24 touchdowns and 8 interceptions. Pretty good considering.
So now put him on a team with Gronk who’s in the conversation for best tight end ever, Mike Evans a rough and ready wide receiver who can out muscle anyone covering and high points balls like a man twice his size, Chris Godwin who can take the top off a secondary and might be one of the fastest guys in the league and the little mentioned JF3 a Taysom Hill type player with 4.19 speed and agility to match. SCARY.
I think if this Tampa Bay team doesn’t make the playoffs it will be the biggest shock the league has ever seen. They’re almost a lock for the Superbowl and Brady vs Mahomes would be one of the most fun matchups ever. This Tampa Bay team is going to be fun to watch with the GOAT at the helm.
Josh Allen, Buffalo Bills
If it wasn’t for Lamar Jackson winning the MVP then Josh Allen would’ve been number 2 instead of here. Josh Allen is my favorite quarterback in the league and that’s coming from a Patriots fan. He’s got a bazooka for an arm, he’s athletic and he’s tough.
Josh Allen has come into a long snakebitten franchise and completely changed the energy. In his Rookie season he played in 12 games throwing for 2,074 yards for 10 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. He also added a further 631 rushing yards and 8 rushing touchdowns. Oh and he hurdled over Anthony Barr against the Vikings. That was pretty great.
In his sophomore season he really improved starting in all 16 games putting up 3,089 passing yards, 20 touchdowns and 9 interceptions while adding 510 rushing yards and 10 touchdowns.
Between his huge frame and cannon arm he really does look like a movie quarterback in every sense of the word. He came into the league with so much potential and only last year did he scratch the surface in terms of what he’s really capable of. The Bills unfortunately dropped out of the playoffs early another one and done situation.
Look for them to make a deep run this year taking on the likes of the Ravens, Titans and Chiefs along the way. If they can beat a team like the Chiefs in the playoffs I’d say they’d be a safe bet to win the big game come February.
Lamar Jackson, Baltimore Ravens
Honestly the number 2 on this list was hotly contested for a whole host of reasons but reigning MVP Lamar Jackson just edged it.
Showing massive improvements in his passing game during his sophomore season Jackson was one of the most electric playmakers in the league. With a mix of great throws and ridiculous speed and agility on the ground Jackson was a true duel threat.
The year he was drafted I was on record saying he might be one of the best quarterbacks we’ve seen in a long time and 100% the best quarterback in his class. Not only did he stick to his guns when teams wanted him to work out as receiver he showed true improvement in his passing game taking his completion percentage from 58.2% in his rookie season to 66.1% in his sophomore year.
In his first season as a starter (starting all 16 games) he put up 3,127 passing yards, 36 touchdowns and 6 interceptions plus his staggering 1,206 rushing yards and 7 rushing touchdowns there’s a reason why he won MVP. While he does look like he struggles in the playoffs it clear that Jackson is a true duel threat and more than a handful for any NFL defense.
Expect the Ravens to appear in the playoffs again this year as they finally try as Lamar finally tries to break the one and done showings of his first 2 years.
He is on the cover of Madden though…but then again Patrick Mahomes may have ended the Madden curse for good
Patrick Mahomes, Kansas City Chiefs
Former MVP and reigning Superbowl champion, Patrick Mahomes might be the best quarterback in the league right now.
The former 2017 first round pick sat his full rookie season, which is something I actually recommend for most quarterbacks coming into the league.
Fresh from blinding stat lines at Texas Tech one of which was throwing for 734 yards in a game (819 combined yards) against Oklahoma. It was clear Mahomes had talent and the Chiefs coaching staff realized sitting him behind a veteran like Alex Smith was a great idea.
It paid off.
In his first season as a starter Mahomes threw for 5,097 yards, 50 touchdowns and 12 interceptions on the road to an MVP award and AFC championship game. In his first year as a starter…that’s crazy. His stats saw a slight drop in 2019 where he threw for 4,031 yards, 26 touchdowns and 5 interceptions. He did go on to win the Superbowl though so I’m sure he’s not too upset.
Mahomes looks to be the best quarterback in the league for years to come, he’s got a cannon for an arm, great feet and awareness which allow him to extend plays and he understands football. If you could pick the best quarterback in the league at this exact moment, it’s Mahomes.
I can’t wait to see how the rest of his career plays out. Honestly I feel like it’s a given that the Chiefs at least appear in the AFC Championship game behind one of the best offences the NFL has ever seen, appearing to have broke the Madden curse with a Superbowl win and Superbowl MVP award to boot.
With the news coming out about the Cleveland Browns reportedly turning down the Seattle Seahawks offering up Russell Wilson for the first round pick they used to draft Baker Mayfield, I thought it would be a great idea to look back at other proposed trades that would’ve shaken up the NFL landscape.
How many of these do you remember? If there are any you think are missing, please hit us up over on Twitter @Full10Yards!
Aaron Rodgers to the Oakland Raiders
Back in 2007, Aaron Rodgers was still backing up Brett Farve in Green Bay when the Raiders put Hall of Fame wide receiver Randy Moss on the trade block. Aaron Rodgers for Randy Moss would’ve been a hell of a trade. The reason this trade didn’t go through?
Green Bay wanted a first round pick and Moss for Aaron Rodgers. Moss ended up landing in New England and not only setting multiple records with Tom Brady but going 16-0 in THAT regular season.
Rumours surfacing once again about Aaron Rodgers and whether or not he will start and finish his career at Lambeau Field. Are the Raiders FINALLY gonna get to see A Rod?
Ben Roethlisberger to the Oakland Raiders/St. Louis Rams.
Now this one might be surprising to anyone who doesn’t keep up with the off field stories of the Pittsburgh Steelers. Ben Roethlisberger is far from the perfect teammate; he consistently airs team dirty laundry on his radio show, he thinks he’s the GM and not just a player and struggles to get on with most of his star players.
This isn’t just hearsay though, it’s well documented and this is why I think there’s weight behind this trade. In 2010 it was reported that the Steelers organization was fed up with Big Ben and his behavior that was causing trouble inside the organization and were looking at offers.
The Steelers approached Oakland and offered them Ben and the number 18 pick for the number 8 pick. Oakland said no. They also approached the St. Louis Rams and offered to trade Ben for Sam Bradford who had just completed his rookie year…the Rams said no, and that was that. Big Ben stayed in Pittsburgh and continued to annoy and alienate teammates.
Dan Marino to the Oakland Raiders
(I mean seriously? I promise this is the last Oakland one…or is it?)
In 1989, the Miami Dolphins had a very average 8-8 season leading them to another year of missing the playoffs. This wasn’t something Don Shula was happy with so they he thought the best course of action would be to change the signal caller, who was legendary quarterback…Dan Marino.
Shula managed to secure a verbal agreement with Raiders Al Davis but last minute the deal fell through, why? Shula got cold feet and upped the asking price for Marino. Twice. The price was too steep, even for Davis. Miami and Marino still never managed to win a Super Bowl.
It’s one of the one things Marino would be remembered for the one of the best quarterbacks to never win a Lombardi.
Eli Manning to the Jacksonville Jaguars
Going into the 2017/2018 season the Jags were really not happy with their Quarterback situation Blake Bortles wasn’t really cutting it.
The Jaguars needed a solution so they looked north to New York and set their sights on Eli Manning. The 2 time Super Bowl champion had been playing to put it lightly…terrible, but the Jags liked Manning for his Super Bowl experience and his former coach Tom Coughlin was running the Jacksonville front office.
Why didn’t this happen? Blake had a decent season which killed the interest in the trade from the Jags end. Shame Bortles went back to his usual self next season and the “Sacksonville” era was over before it even got started.
Odell Beckham Jr. to The Los Angeles Rams.
A couple of years before he got shipped out to Cleveland for a 1st round pick and Jabrill Peppers the Rams showed serious interest in Odell Beckham Jr.
What did the New York Football Giants want for the spectacular wide receiver? They asked the Rams for two 1st round picks and the Rams only wanted to give them one.
That’s a high price but the Browns eventually paid a similar price giving the Giants a 1st round pick and a 1st round player in Peppers. OBJ has yet to shine in Cleveland would the same thing have happened in LA?
Antonio Brown to the Buffalo Bills
Okay, so this did/didn’t happen but everyone (kinda) remembers where they were when this went down. It was reported that the Steelers had agreed to send AB to the Bills
Twitter did it’s thing once it turned out that this wasn’t going to go through. Antonio Brown ended up being traded to the Oakland Raiders (why always Oakland?) but even then, he didn’t see the field in a Raiders Jersey, being “set free” to eventually wind up in New England for a game before unceremoniously leaving the league and trying to return ever since.