Time for another installment of the Season In Review Series. This time, we turn our attention to last year’s Super Bowl participants, the LA Rams.
The Super Bowl hangover is still as bad as the Madden curse!
ENTERING THE SEASON
Coming into the 2019 season the Rams were looking to bounce back from their Super Bowl disappointment and go one step better to earn the franchises 2nd championship.
HC Sean McVay returned most of the same players and staff, adding veterans like Eric Weddle and Clay Matthews to an impressive roster.
With Cooper Kupp returning after a serious injury ended his 2018 season prematurely and standout RB Todd Gurley with his own injury question marks, the pressure would be on Jared Goff to live up to his massive $134 million contract. At least on the other side of the ball, DC Wade Phillips would have the luxury of calling on all-world defensive linemen Aaron Donald to set the tone.
DURING THE SEASON
The Rams were consistent only in their inconsistency during the 2019 season, managing to go from a 28-12 beatdown of the Seattle Seahawks in week 14, to a 44-21 shellacking at the hands of the Dallas Cowboys in week 15 that all but ended their postseason hopes.
While the 2019 season was ultimately disappointing there were still some highlights for the Rams faithful, including a week 2 win against the New Orleans Saints in a Conference Championship rematch from the previous season.
Offensively however, McVay’s Rams took a step back from 32.9 PPG in 2018 to only 24.6 in 2019. Quarterback Jared Goff endured his troubles throughout, while he did finish 3 rd in passing yards for the year he was only 22 nd in QB passer rating for the year, coupled with the line struggling to open holes in the running game it led to a offence that was strangely stagnant at times. While receivers Cooper Kupp and Robert Woods both had impressive seasons, Todd Gurley was unable to repeat his league leading 2018 form, seemingly limited by injuries.
The defence was led as always by the incomparable Aaron Donald as he continued his line wrecking ways, while he didn’t manage to repeat his 20.5 sacks from 2018, he was still a force, demanding double teams almost every week. The Rams paid a steep price to acquire help for the secondary, trading 2 first round picks and a fourth round pick to the Jaguars for star corner Jalen Ramsey, sending previous trade acquisition Marcus Peters to the Ravens to make room. Cory Littleton was a playmaker at inside linebacker, recording 134 tackles, 3.5 sacks and 2 interceptions. Unfortunately however, the defence as a whole remained middle of the pack, giving up 22.8 PPG ranking 17th in the league.
The Rams have a lot of question marks going forward, with shortages both in cap space and high draft picks for the 2020 season. With pieces like LB Cory Littleton, LT Andrew Whitworth and DE’s Michael Brockers and Dante Fowler among others entering free agency, and only $19.5 million of cap space, GM Les Snead has plenty of work to do this offseason before the Rams move into their brand new $5 billion home at SoFi Stadium.
The Rams are also undergoing major changes to their coaching staff, with the coordinators leaving from all 3 phases. Brandon Staley and Kevin O’Connell are expected to be named as coordinators as Sean McVay reshapes his staff. The NFC West is a highly competitive division and while the Rams have enough talent to compete with any team, they’ll need Jared Goff to take a step forward for them to win the big one.
Buffalo travel to Heinz Field in Sunday Night football in a battle of the 5th and 6th seeds. A win for either team will go a long way in ensuring that they experience some of the coveted January football they crave. Two stout defences in the NFL could lead to a tight, tense tussle in the trenches which will delight the purists.
Pittsburgh will hoping their recent record against the Bills continues, winning 9 or the last 10. They welcome back JuJu Smith-Schuster and RB James Connor into the mix just at the right time which, coupled with homefield advantage, could swing it in the Steelers’ favour.
LAR-st chance saloon.
The Rams kept their playoff hope alive with the defeat of Seattle on Monday Night Football in week 14. They now travel to AT&T stadium to face a Cowboys team that have lost 4 of the last 5 games and not pulled up plants, let alone trees.
The Rams are on the outside looking in with regards to the playoff race being 1 game behind the 6th seeded Vikings. Whilst a divisional win is all but out of the equation, whilst Goff and McVay have a sniff at some postseason action, they’ll be all in to try and get the win against America’s team.
Some teams thrive when their backs against the wall, just ask the Packers fans when Rodgers ran the table to win it all. Can the Rams repeat history?
One of the biggest games of the weekend sees the first meeting in 3 weeks between the Titans and the Texans.
With both teams at 8-5, the loser of this match could see themselves outside the playoff seedings. The loser will get a chance to make amends in the week 17 clash but by then, it could be too late.
The pressure is firmly on the Texans after their shock defeat last week at home against Drew Lock and the Denver Broncos. Can they bounce back on the road against Ryan Tannehill, 5-1 as the Titans starter this season and who has the highest passer rating amongst all QBs since he took snaps under center?
Injuries, injuries and more injuries
Week 14 in the NFL was quite a brutal one for injuries. On offence, WRs Alshon Jeffrey, Marvin Jones, Mike Evans are just a few names that have bitten the dust for the 2019 season. On defence, just go and pay a visit to the 49ers treatment room where you’ll find the trainers working double overtime to try and get the likes of Richard Sherman and co trying their hardest to get back on to the field.
In the NFL, it’s never a question of “are they healthy?” it’s always “how hurt are you?” and players usually hold off even on surgeries until the season has finished and it has to be commended that the players that step on to the field go through injections and the pain barrier in order to try and help their team win.
Those that can get on to the football field provide fantasy owners with their own headaches on how active and fit they actually are especially as the fantasy playoffs start in the majority of leagues this weekend.
goodbye to the WEST COAST black hole
As the Oakland Raiders bid farewell to their West Coast home on Sunday, before moving lock, stock and plenty of smoking barrels to Sin City in 2020, there will be tears shed by the single most crazy bunch of fans in the NFL.
The ‘Black Hole’, situated in Section 105 of the RingCentral Coliseum in Oakland, is full of some of the league’s most dedicated fans, including Gorilla Rilla and Violator.
Mathematically still in with a playoff shot at 6-7 the Silver and Black will be playing with a lot of additional emotion as they host the Jacksonville Jaguars.
A win to move to .500 is not going to be enough to rescue an unmemorable season, but playing for the last time in Oakland after two extensive stints (1966-1981 and 1995-2019) will likely see grown gorillas and men with foam spikes coming out of their replica shoulder pads brought to tears.
mahomes is the key against lock
It’s that time in the season when divisional games become heightened and every point counts, even if teams are out of the playoff race.
This matchup between the Broncos (5-8) and the Chiefs (9-4) is their 119th clash, which has been won by K.C. the last eight times they have played.
For Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes it is an opportunity to come out of a personal mini-slump. He may have led his team to three consecutive wins, but he has thrown exactly one touchdown pass in each of those contests.
It feels weird to write but the Chiefs defense is hotter than the offense. With home field advantage in the playoffs slipping away for Andy Reid the key to this game is to pick the Lock.
Wel-camcorders to the jungle
If you are the current Super Bowl champion, and on a two-game losing streak at the business end of the regular season, you need to resort to something new and innovative to rally the troops.
What have the New England Patriots allegedly done? Bought in a former Army veteran to ignite the locker room? Has the entire team got involved in a community project to build a house for children in care? Nope they have been accused of spying on the 1-11 Bengals.
The Bengals are in the driving seat for the #1 draft pick in 2020, so it’s unlikely they will be in any hurry to deliberately cause an upset.
The Patriots don’t need to allegedly resort to these tactics, they just need to do a few simple things, get three new wide-receivers, and three new tight-ends and teach them how to run the right routes, catch balls and help move the chains.
Now this has been said watch the Patriots win another Super Bowl.
BREES Hopes for super spark
Just over a decade ago Drew Brees led the New Orleans Saints to their only Super Bowl appearance and their only victory, beating the Peyton Manning led Indianapolis Colts 31-17 (Super Bowl XLIV).
The Saints and Colts have only met twice since that historic encounter, including a 55, yes 55 point win for New Orleans in 2011. They now face each other in a MNF game with a win or go home pressure for the Colts.
For Indy they are another of these AFC mathematically alive teams at 6-7, facing a Saints team that wants to get past the Packers (both teams are 10-3) in the NFC playoff seeding.
The Colts have won one in their last six, so if you have a few spare shillings then bet big against them as Brees will look to replicate his 5 TD performance from their 2011 encounter.
LEt’s try this again for the 200th time
The NFL hoped their 100th season would have started with a big bang and plenty of fireworks, instead the Green Bay Packers and the Chicago Bears served up an opening night 10-3 snooze fest.
Both teams now get to try again to show that they are capable of identifying that 20 yard long space either side of the field that normally leads to scoring opportunities if you get there.
What makes this Bears v Packers game so special is that it is their 200th time suiting up against each other. The teams first contest was way back in 1921 back when the Bears we called the Staleys.
With Mitch Trubisky on a hot streak and Aaron Rodgers wanting to preserve the NFC #2 seed you can safely say this game will eclipse 13 points. Let’s all go for a 7-7 tie !!!
The business end of the season is here and the games get more important as the weeks go by. That is even the case for Bengals, Dolphins and Redskins fans as they are on the edge of their seats hoping their teams continue to lose so they don’t have to stay up as long come draft night.
For (pretty much) everyone else, your teams will still be vying for January football and we have some great matchups including Dallas, New England, Green Bay, San Francisco, Baltimore and the LA Rams. So let’s see what’s on the menu for week 12.
AFC South Battle
Thursday Night Football sees one of the games that hold the
The Colts and Texans get it on in Houston in the first game of
week 12 and the Colts must win otherwise the Texans will have a game lead in
the division but also the tiebreaker, thus essentially giving them a 2 game
lead with just 6 games remaining.
The Colts will be hoping that star wideout T.Y. Hilton can
check in to the game after missing the past few weeks with a calf problem
whilst the Texans will be hoping the epitome of boom or bust Will Fuller can return
from a hamstring niggle.
Expect both teams to leave it all out on the field and let’s
all hope that Quenton Nelson gets a legitimate touchdown this week!
The Hippy Hippy Shakes
Dak and his pre match warmup routine head over to Gillette
Stadium in Foxboro for a tasty match in the late window (why are there only 2
games on the late slate btw?!?)
Many are trying to nudge Dak into the MVP conversation
considering how he has overcome the average defence, inconsistent run game and Jason
Garrett captaining the ship.
The Cowboys are in focus over the next 5 weeks, either being
in primetime or on America’s game of the week so we’ll get a real good look at
his credentials to take the end of season award.
His toughest matchup to date awaits him though and will be
fascinating what weapon Bill Belichick tries to take away from the no.1 ranked
offence in the league. It will also be fascinating to see if Garrett and Kellen
Moore try to utilize Dak’s legs a bit more in this one.
Dallas need the win to stay 1 ahead of the Eagles, whilst
the Patriots need the win to cling on to the coveted #1 seed in the AFC.
We don’t need to go back in to detail about what happened on
TNF last week. That being said, it will be intriguing to see the Browns response
to the adversity.
Freddy Kitchens, Baker Mayfield and the Browns have endured
a lot of criticism this season for a varying reasons, and rightly so, but that
can all dissipate if they can make a run (with a favourable schedule) at the playoffs
which starts this week at home to the maybe tanking Dolphins.
Can Baker put a marker down and take the situation by the
scruff of the neck and become the leader that the Browns need him to be, or
will the Browns continue to be plagued by their continuing allegiance to
Do the 49ers Pack a punch?
Whenever you think of this matchup in recent times, you
think of the playoff game between these two in 2012 where Colin Kaepernick
ripped the Packers to shreds and the Fox commentators got rather excited about
No Kaepernick in this game, despite his efforts, but there
is the small matter of the #1 seed potentially up for grabs in this one on
Sunday Night Football.
Jimmy Garoppolo, fresh off his career day last week vs the
Cardinals, travels to Wisconsin to face Aaron Rodgers and the Packers fresh off
their bye week in one of the games of the week. If the Garoppolo and the 49ers
are able to take the W here, it will answer a lot of critics that they still have
chomping at their ankles, despite their record.
A loss coupled with a Seahawks win however, could actually
see the 49ers drop to the #5 seed. Fine margins, high stakes, all reasons we
love late season football.
battle of the birds
Talking of the Seahawks, in another fascinating battle on Sunday, the Eagles host the Seattle who are coming off a bye in the battle of the birds. Whilst there are many birds in the NFL, these two predators will be looking for easy prey on the football field.
Carson Wentz has not been able to show his MVP capabilities much this season, but this matchup poses a chance to get the better of a beatable defence that ranks bottom 5 against the pass in terms of yardage and a defensive line that averages only 1.5 sacks and 3 Quarterback hurries per game.
On the other side, the masterful Russell Wilson was eclipsed by Lamar Jackson in his bye week with regards to MVP consideration, maybe he’ll came and remind everyone not to forget about old Russ.
This game like another few this week, has implications for both divisions and the wildcard race so there is a lot on the line here for both teams.
Late Slate isn’t great, mate
What is up with the scheduling this year?
This Sunday sees just 2 games in the late window. Unfortunately
this isn’t the first time that the Sunday scheduling has seen the entertainment
become very front heavy.
For those in the UK that do not have Sky Sports, the late
window sees us being treated to an absolute classic between…the Titans and
The Eagles/Seahawks game was flex out of Primetime to the
early games. Why?
Seattle are a mainstay in the late slate for the majority of
their home games being on the west coast, so what’s changed?
The one saving grace is that you’ll still be able to watch
the majority of the Patriots/Cowboys game on RedZone because there’ll be no highlights
to show in the Titans game in the late slate, so there is that I suppose. Scott
Hanson will be working hard to find the content filler, that’s for sure.
The Lamar Jackson hype train steam rolls into the Los
Angeles Coliseum on Monday Night Football.
Massive game for obvious reasons, but it can’t be
understated how much more it means for the Rams. Loss here coupled with a possible
SF and/or Seattle wins, could see them be cut too far adrift from the others in
the wildcard race.
Just 10 months removed from the biggest game of them all,
the Rams may even not have the chance of trying to get there once again, with
questions being asked of McVay and his team. Funny how the NFL landscape
changes so quickly.
It’s just about the half way point in the NFL regular season. Depending on your outlook on such things, that’s good or bad.
In this series of articles, we take a look back over those 8 glorious weeks of pigskin action and also project how the 2nd half of the season will play out.
Kansas City Chiefs 5-3
Oakland Raiders 3-4
LA Chargers 3-5
Denver Broncos 2-6
Midseason Grade: B
How has it gone so far?
The offensive juggernaut picked up where they left off. Patrick Mahomes has spread the ball around with ease despite missing Tyreek Hill for most of the 1st half of the season. A trade on the eve of the season for LeSean McCoy had solidified the backfield and Travis Kelce remains the league’s best tight end.
However the achilies heel is once again the defence. In particular it has been the Chiefs inability to defend the run. Only the winless Bengals have given up more yards on the ground and teams have found a formula to beat the Chiefs.
Having tasted defeat in 3 of the past 4 contests the Chiefs will be anxious to get Mahomes back from injury to allow the offence the greatest opportunity to make up for the defensive deficiencies.
Rest of Season Outlook:
The Chiefs are comfortable within the division and the 3 losses they have tasted were against quality opponents. They take care of business in the games that you would expect them to do so. They will not be concerned with regular season record however as they will be concentrating on what they want to achieve in January.
Fixing the run defence will have to be a top priority as the ground game becomes more of a factor as we get towards playoff time. The offence will continue to cause problems for anyone and outside of games with the Vikings and Patriots, the Chiefs will be big favourites in the other contests they have left to play.
Regular Season Record Prediction – 11-5 – Division Winners
How has it gone so far?
The team of hard knocks has very quickly moved on from Antonio Brown to post some decent performances in the first half of the season.
Losses to the Chiefs, Vikings, Packers and Texans are nothing to be ashamed of. Derek Carr has been very accurate, completing over 72% of his passes as he has found himself 2 new best friends. Darren Waller has been a revelation at tight end, he leads the team with 46 receptions,over twice the amount of the next leading receiver.
Josh Jacobs is arguably one of the leading candidates for offensive rookie of the year honours with 620 rushing yards from the 7 games played.
Rest of Season Outlook:
Winnable looking games against the Jets, Bengals and Chargers provide plenty of optimism for the Raiders in the second half of the season.
The impending move to Vegas should hopefully mean plenty of motivation to give the fans over in the Bay area a good send off.
Look out for the continued development of the 2 young playmakers mentioned as the Raiders may have stumbled across a nice young core to develop with.
Regular Season Record Prediction: 7-9
How has it gone so far?
In the conversation for the most underwhelming team of the 2020 season, the Chargers have fallen off massively from where they were last year. The offensive line has been a problem throughout and what feels like the standard injury curse has once again struck. Melvin Gordon backed himself in a contract hold out in a move that appears to have backfired having been outperformed by Austin Ekeler during the campaign.
Mike Williams found the endzone on 10 occasions last campaign but has yet to find pay dirt this time around. In fact Keenan Allen and Hunter Henry are the only 2 skill positions outside of the running backs that have scored a touchdown for the Bolts so far.
Rest of Season Outlook:
Looking for consistency, the Chargers need to stop beating themselves. 2 games against the Chiefs along with difficult looking matchups against the Vikings and Packers make the road ahead look difficult. WIth 5 divisional games still ahead though, with a heavy fair wind the Chargers aren’t quite out of things just yet.
Getting Michael Badgeley back on the field will help also as even if the Chargers get into winning positions the find a way to lose.
Regular Season Record Prediction:7-9
Midseason Grade: D
How has it gone so far?
As you would expect a Joe Flacco led offence to look, a little pedestrian. Ranked just 28th in points scored at just 15.6 per game the defence is keeping the Broncos competitive. That unit ranks 8th in terms of points against so its clear to see where the issues are in Mile High. An 0-4 start has been followed by a 2-2 stretch for a team struggling to establish an identity.
Philip Lindsay is still the most valuable offensive piece but despite his superior production he is stuck in a timeshare with Royce Freeman. Von Miller is having a relatively quiet season with only 4 sacks so far on the campaign.
Rest of Season Outlook:
After criticizing the defensiveness of offensive play calling Joe Flacco has miraculously picked up an injury so Brandon Allen is in at QB. The schedule does not look kind with Vikings, Texans and Chiefs all still to come. The Broncos would have been hoping for more of a boost from Vic Fangio than they have received and this has a feeling of a 1 and done season.
Development of the young wide receiving core will be crucial as the Broncos will hope that Drew Lock will be able to take over this offence in the non to distant future.
Regular Season Record Prediction: 3-13
San Francisco 49ers – 7-0
Seattle Seahawks – 6-2
Los Angeles Rams – 5-3
Arizona Cardinals – 3-4-1
Midseason Grade: A
How has it gone so far?
Without doubt the surprise package of the season, the 49ers are not so much dark horses, but sparkly rainbow unicorns, with the only undefeated record in the NFC. How are they racking up the W’s?
A perfect blend of creative and consistent running and a tough tackling defense led by rookie Nick Bosa and wily veteran CB Richard Sherman. Jimmy Garoppolo has been upright all season and only sacked 11 times. He needs to cut down interceptions (7) but at a nearly 70% completion rate Garoppolo is just fine. The strong running game is led by a three-headed monster of Matt Breida, Tevin Coleman and Raheem Mostert who have combined for over 1000 ground yards already and 10 combined touchdowns.
The receiving unit has been a big letdown, with the exception of All-Pro TE George Kittle, so a mid-season trade for Emmanuel Sanders from Denver was a welcome boost.
Rest of Season Outlook:
The remaining part of the 49ers schedule is much harder than the first half. Two matchups against the Seahawks, plus the Ravens, Saints and Packers. The 49ers will not go 16-0 regardless of however hard they run or tackle.
The two Seahawks games will define the season, and will provide the difference between a division win and a wild-card. Emmanuel Sanders will need to strike up immediate rapport with Jimmy G, as ridiculously his nine touchdown passes this season have gone to nine different team-mates. The return of versatile FB Kyle Juszczyk in the final third of the season will be a big boost.
Regular season record prediction: – 12-4 (and a wild card)
Midseason Grade: B+
How has it gone so far?
The Seahawks have not been convincing in 2019, winning their six games by a combined 32 points, including two one point wins. Regardless Russell Wilson is having a spectacular season, 2,127 yards, 17 touchdowns and just the one int in 8 full games.
Elsewhere the offence has been performing admirably, RB Chris Carson is on track for 1,200-1,300 yards and the mix of veteran WR Tyler Lockett and rookie WR DK Metcalf is providing a winning combination.
LBs Bobby Wagner and K.J Wright continue to play at a Pro-Bowl level and the addition of DE Jadeveon Clowney may not have yielded gaudy sack totals, but he leads the team in tackles for loss and forced fumbles.
Rest of Season Outlook:
The Seahawks have the 49ers clearly in their line of sight, and the two games they face against each other will be box office television both times. It’s all NFC games for Seattle for the rest of the season and six more wins is a realistic target. Seattle and San Francisco should have safely punched their ticket to the post-season by Week 16, so the Seahawks hosting the 49ers in Week 17 will likely determine who wins the division.
CenturyLink Field is no longer a fortress for the Seahawks, but they will use the wet-weather to squeak a W17 win and with it a division title.
Regular season record prediction: – 12-4 (and a division win)
Midseason Grade: B-
How has it gone so far?
It’s been a bit of a rollercoaster for the Rams so far, starting with a three game win streak, followed by a three game crash, before crushing two awful teams.
In the space of three weeks (2-4) L.A. put a beat down on the Saints, scraped past the Browns and then leaked 55 against Tampa. Jared Goff is on pace for 5,000 yards and WR Cooper Kupp is looking like an All-Pro. Kupp’s 220 yard outing at Wembley will take a long time to forget.
Todd Gurley has flattered to deceive, his 7 touchdowns hiding a rather unimpressive season so far. LBs Dante Fowler and Clay Matthews are on pace for double digit sacks. The biggest impact on defense is CB Jalen Ramsey who was traded in from the Jaguars in October. Ramsey is currently undefeated as a Rams star.
Rest of Season Outlook:
The Super Bowl hangover is for real.
A tough run of games against Seattle, Dallas and San Francisco are sandwiched between two contests against the Cardinals. There have been five receiving yardage leaders on the team in eight games, and Todd Gurley has not had a single 100 yard rushing game this year.
Two home MNF games (Chicago and Seattle) will put the Rams in the spotlight, but they are not going to make the playoffs because their offensive line is their weak link, that will cost them dearly in the Winter months.
Regular season record prediction: 9-7
Midseason Grade: C+
How has it gone so far?
Three wins and a tie in half a season is above expectation for a Cardinals team expected to be near the foot of the conference whilst they let rookie QB Kyler Murray settle in to the team.
The three wins were against weak opponents by a combined 10 points. Murray has shown improvement from his first four games, but he has been let down by a poor running game, which now has former Dolphins RB Kenyan Drake moving to Arizona from Miami.
The immortal WR Larry Fitzgerald is still churning away, and with an upsurge in targets could get another 1,000 season under his belt. David Johnson is still underperforming and he has more touchdowns catching than he does rushing.
Rest of Season Outlook:
There are not a lot of winnable games left for the Cardinals in the second half of the season, ending in two tough road-trips to Seattle and L.A. Kyler Murray is going to see better days as the Cardinals move into a new era.
The youth movement will soon takeover throughout the roster, with WRs Christian Kirk, KeeSean Johnson and Andy Isabella making competition healthy of offense. Arizona still need help on the defense and offensive line, but another impactful draft could see them competitive as early as 2020.
One small shoutout to LB Terrell Suggs, coming up to his 38th birthday, as he is still performing at a high level – five sacks, four forced fumbles and 9.5 tackles for loss. Oh and he can act too if you have seen Ballers.
I’m worried for the Rams. Behind in the NFC West, injuries piling up and an offensive scheme that seems to have been found out.
The activity and negotiating that has been conducted this
week just adds to the worries;
First, they traded away Marcus Peters to the Ravens and then
very shortly after, gave up 2 1st round picks and a 4th
rounder for star CB Jalen Ramsey, who comes over from the Jags (I hope his back
will be ok on the flight).
Considering there are a few needs on this team, it’s quite
surprising that they’ve mortgaged their future for a CB. Fellow CB Aqib Talib
is on IR and their options are awfully thin at the position, but there are
glaring needs at offensive line and linebacker, which now will not be replenished
high in the next 2 years NFL drafts.
Add to that, their top 5 paid players now account for $108m
of the salary cap, even free agency signings will be hard to come by.
There is a lot of talent on this Rams team, but I am a firm
believer in that you should always build from the inside out. Sort the lines
out first and then everything follows. The Rams have taken a massive gamble, I’m
not sure it’ll pay off.
NFC Easton Primetime
Big game in prime time between the nose diving Cowboys and
With both teams 3-3, the winner takes a big step to a
division title and the loser seriously having the prospect of no January
football. Plenty of positives and negatives to talk through with both teams,
plenty of injuries both side of the ball and plenty of questions being asked of
these teams right now.
Can Dallas’ offensive line hold up against a decent Eagles
pass rush or can Dak and his weapons exploit the gaping holes in the Eagles
secondary? Will the Dallas defence be able to get some pressure and pin down
escape artist Carson Wentz and will Doug Pederson outsmart Jason Garrett? Whilst
the answer to the last question is a bit easier than the others, it should be a
great game on Sunday Night Football.
AFC Wildcard eliminator
Not a game that will be watched by many people outside their
respective fanbases (do the Chargers have one?), but the game between Los
Angeles Chargers and Tennessee Titans could be a loser goes home in terms of
Both teams are 2-4, struggling to get any offence going and
are not impressing anyone in the league. With the loser going to drop to 2-5,
you have to assume that the losing team does
not have any way back from the defeat to play football in January.
Even if they do find their way back, they could be ousted by
the head to head tie breaker. All to play for in this one in Nashville.
Talking of the above game, Ryan Tannehill has been named the starter for Tennessee.
Whether or not this was to try something different and try
something to invigorate the team to get that win we don’t know for sure. It can
be argued (and some people do) that Tannehill is an improvement on Mariota and
this was a long time coming.
Tannehill was serviceable enough in Miami under center
through his 6 year career there (when healthy) despite having only 1 winning
season and an overall losing record. When playing full seasons, he hits around
the 4000 passing yard mark with 25ish TDs and 12INTs.
Comparing that to Mariota, Tennessee fans shouldn’t be too
disillusioned with the fact that it is infact, potentially an upgrade on what
they’ve had since he was selected at no.2 overall in 2015.
to get a few wins
Dan Quinn needs a win…and fast.
Problem is their next 4 fixtures don’t give me any
enthusiasm that they’ll find one.
Home games vs the Ramsey Rams (Julio not loving that!) and
the Seahawks before their bye are not teams you want visiting to try and get that
all important win. If Atlanta get embarrassed to the same tunes that are
currently bellowing from the record player, Dan Quinn wont even make it to the
Saints game in week 10.
On defence, they’ve conceded the 2nd most points,
7th worst in yardage given up, worst on 3rd down conversion
% allowed along with a bottom 3 in turnovers created. Yes, they’ve had injuries
of similar ilk to last season but unfortunately, that’s only going to get you
excused for a period of time.
With Quinn being a defensive minded HC, the writing is on the wall for him.
K.C. and the not very sun-shining backfield
Four weeks in and we were all drooling over the Kansas City Chiefs and their MVP quarterback Patrick Mahomes. Everything Mahomes was passing to was turning into on-field gold. This was an offense buzzing through the NFL like a lumberjack’s chainsaw.
Two weeks later and two losses later the Chiefs are looking mortal, and the chainsaw is now a handsaw that is looking a little bit rusty. Mahomes is looking out of sorts but he is being hindered by a running game that is blunt. Zero hundred yard rushing performances and some shocking lead performances.
Three out of six games has seen the Chiefs leading rusher go under 50 yards, and since Week 1 the top output has been 62 yards by Darrel Williams. Kansas City will be trying desperately to get some traction with the ground game tonight against the Denver Broncos. LeSean McCoy has a healthy 5.4 yard per carry average which may surprise some, but the hottest RB in last season’s playoffs Damien Williams has been a non-factor so far in four games, with a longest run of just 6 yards on 32 carries.
If the Chiefs want to get back on track offensively they need to get back to basics and get control of the time of possession. A loss to the surging Broncos will be a big blow to those ambitions to do one better than last season and reach the Super Bowl.
Pats perfect possibility?
The dominance of the New England Patriots has going on for that long that it no longer registers as anything remarkable. 6-0 is not seen as anything special, it is expected, it’s normal.
Thing is it’s not normal it’s a feat, it’s an achievement and it is certainly worth talking about. Tom Brady is for once not hogging the headlines as the Patriots defense is dominating the coverage in the papers and dominating the coverage on the field. The defense is producing stats that are mind-boggling. Allowing 8 points a game, 234.7 yards, 161 in the air and 73.7 on the ground. They travel to the Big Apple on Monday night to face a Jets team with one win, albeit one they achieved in the last week.
This does not look like the hardest task for the Patriots, who will be looking to go 16-0 in the regular season before repeating as Super bowl champions. Weeks 9 and 11 – travelling to Baltimore and Philadelphia will be a clearer indication if this is another fine vintage or not.
One little crumb of comfort and one thing that must cause Bill Belichick to lose 5 minutes from his probable 3 hour daily sleep routine was that Frank Gore and his 36 year old legs ran for over 100 yards for the Bills in their Week 4 loss to the Pats. In other words feed LeVeon Bell the ball early and often.
It’s the first of 4 London games this weekend as part of the International Series, so let’s take a trip down memory lane at 5 memorable moments in the history of the game played this side of the pond.
5. Allen Hurns TD vs Buffalo
Despite 4 punts in the opening 5 drives, this game came alive shortly after as Buffalo and Jacksonville traded blows. In what was supposed to be an easier assignment than other years at “home”, the Jags raced out to a 27-3 lead. Then 28 unanswered points from Buffalo, led by EJ Manuel saw the Bills take the lead inside of 5 minutes left in the game.
Blake Bortles then escapes the pressure, rolls to his left and throws a pinpoint 31 yard bomb in to the front corner of the endzone where Allen Hurns managed to dive, touch his elbow/shoulder in bounds on the slide for one of the best touchdowns seen at Wembley stadium.
4. The tied game/Missed field goal
Washington and Cincinatti produced a decent matchup in this International Series game but it was a game full of turnovers and missed field goals.
Kirk Cousins threw for 458 yards (might take him a whole season to accomplish that this year!) in a game that was nip and tuck all game.
In overtime, Kirk Cousins drove 67 yards to the Bengals 16 yards line for Dustin Hopkins to miss the 34 yard field goal, leading to the first ever tie in London.
3. Matt Prater field goal
The Detroit Lions found themselves 21-0 down at half time in this one despite being the favourites. They were still 21-10 down going in to the 4th quarter.
Deep in the 4th, the Lions managed to score a touchdown but FAIL the 2pt conversion, leaving the score at 21-19 to the Falcons. The Falcons were unable to run the clock down and left 1:38 on the clock after pinning the Lions down inside their own 10.
Matthew Stafford drove the Lions down immediately, with big plays to Golden Tate and Theo Riddick. After a Stafford spike, there was :04 left in the game. Matt Prater steps up and misses from 43 yards. However, due to a delay of game penalty, Prater got another shot 5 yards further back. Of course, he nails it straight through and the comeback is complete.
2. Titans Tried for 2
In a strange game between the Titans and the Chargers, the trend for going for two at the death may have started here.
Down for the majority of the game, the Titans thought they found the endzone on 3rd and goal on a Mariota scramble but was overruled. On 4th and goal, they go to Luke Stocker on the run fake with 35 seconds left on the clock.
Mike Vrabel and co decided to get out with the win by trying to go for a two point conversion.
Mariota’s pass to Tajae Sharp was incomplete, but due to defensive holding, they get another go from the 1 yard line. Give it to Derrick Henry. No, don’t be silly. They try another play deep in the tomfoolery playbook to Taywan Taylor but Adrian Phillips was able to tip the pass, giving the Chargers the win.
1. Landon Calling
Couldn’t get through the article without a pun (and it’s a beauty to be fair!) but here is one for the defensive guys!
In a cold Autumn evening in Twickenham, there was a red hot play on the defensive side of the ball.
In what was a pretty poor game overall, the one highlight was with the Giants 10-3 behind, Landon Collins picking off Case Keenum at the 45 yards line and literally going through the whole Rams team into the endzone.
This helped the Giants facilitate a 17-10 win at the home of Rugby and is regarded by many as the single greatest play in London to date.
Week 2 is already here folks. Time flies when you are having fun!
Hope everyone enjoyed their stay at overreaction town, now it’s time to depart for context city, where hopefully you’ll be able to see some indicators as to what was the real deal and what were outliers from last week.
Here are 10 things we are looking forward to this week in the NFL:
The Panthers QB will be looking to rectify a performance from week 1 that was classic Cam. Some good plays but also a few errant and shocking high passes.
66% completion rate is about where Cam has been with Norv Turner pulling the strings but if it wasn’t for Christian McCaffrey, these numbers would not be great at all. You could argue that this is now the offence the Panthers will employ going forward.
As per next gen stats, Cam only attempted 1 pass over 20 yards in the week 1 game vs the Rams which agrees with the narrative that the offence is going to show similar results this season. Yes he attempted around 40 passes, but if they are averaging on 5 yards in the air, is it really a proper NFL throw?
The players they have in McCaffrey, DJ Moore and Curtis Samuel suit the style they are trying to enforce on other teams but I think this merely could be covering over some cracks. Is this the play style because of Cam’s shoulder or is this a coincidence?
The problem is, every team needs a vertical threat; if it becomes too predictable and similar to the chart above, Christian McCaffrey may struggle to be as efficient as he has been thus far because teams will just load the box and ask Cam throw longer passes. Below is DJ Moore’s routes run vs the Rams, not even an indication that there was an interest in throwing deep. Unfortunately, i dont have Curtis Samuel or Greg Olsen’s routes run because i feel these would probably be a bit more vertically orientated.
Back to Cam though, the reason I say all this is and that it is something we are intrigued in seeing in week 2 is that we still probably require further confirmation that Cam’s shoulder is #fine and that his play is not restricted by the multiples surgeries endured over recent years. We’d all love to see him at least attempt a few more deeper passes right?
What wont help is a short week this early on in the season so all eyes will be on Cam in Thursday Night Football as we try to ascertain whether or not everything is ok with #1.
Da do Ron Run Run da do Ron Run
Arguably the single most disappointing rookie performance by anyone drafted in the top two rounds of last year’s draft was Tampa Bay’s Ronald Jones II, who recorded 44 yards at 1.9 a pop in the whole season. Already Jones has almost doubled his performance with 75 yards on the ground in Week 1 (at 5.8 a carry) along with an 18-yard catch. If Jones keeps up this rate of rushing he can end up with 1,200 yards of ground and pound.
The Buccaneers face the Panthers in Week 2, a team that gave up over 150 yards rushing and two scores to the Rams combo of Gurley and Brown. Jones may not be listed as the starter but if his contributions remain positive then he will take carries away from Peyton Barber. Buccs fans will likely be in for another season of mediocrity but they could have bit of a dusty gem that is starting to sparkle in the Florida sunshine.
Don’t You Forget About Me!
It’s easy to forget that Sammy Watkins came off the draft board earlier in 2014 than both Mike Evans and OBJ. The former Clemson star has often been out performed when compared to his peers in the same draft class, but maybe, just maybe 2019 will be different. Watkins exploded out of the gate on Sunday with a 9 catch, 198 yard, 3 touchdown performance. Showing plenty of breakaway speed to pile up yards after the catch, he was the best friend of Pat Mahomes to open up the season. With the news that Tyreek Hill will miss 4-6 weeks through injury, Watkins is in a prime position to remind everyone of the talent he possesses for a red hot Chiefs offence that will surely have too much for the Raiders. Let’s see if his week 1 performance wasn’t just another tease of his brilliance and he can find some consistency.
Hype Train Derailed?
Freddie Kitchens wanted to know how his team would handle adversity, He gets his wish in week 2. Humbled by the Titans in a week 1 blow out, the eyes of the nation will be looking for a response on Monday Night Football. The talent in the skill positions offensively appears to be in place but can the Browns find a way to keep Baker Mayfield upright? He was harassed all throughout the opener as the obvious preseason concern was exposed by Cameron Wake and co. One storyline that has slipped under the radar in this one, is the fact that the Jets DC is now Gregg Williams who was actually the man in charge of the Browns during their renaissance in the 2nd half of last year. He will be out to inflict more misery on his former employers after not securing the job permanently. With the Rams ahead on the week 3 schedule could we already be talking about a must win game for the off seasons most talked about franchise?
Time to call a Gardner
After winning a Super Bowl by coming off the bench in the regular season, the irony is not lost in Jacksonville, as the Jaguars starting quarterback Nick Foles is now the one injured whilst his backup is now in the spotlight. The big difference here is the guy in the spotlight is the 2019 version of Nick ‘who the hell is that’ Mullens.
Gardner Minshew bounced around three colleges in four years of eligibility, starting at tiny Northwest Mississippi Community College (who gave us Damon ‘Snacks’ Harrison) and ending up at Washington State, helping them to 11 wins in 2018. The Jaguars drafted Minshew in the sixth round of this year’s draft, and we all know what happened to a certain gentleman who got drafted in the sixth round. Minshew’s surprise debut was special, 88% completion rate, two tds and almost 300 yards in the air.
Minshew will be an underdog against the Texans, but we have seen they are vulnerable in the air (Brees torched them for 370 yards in Week 1) so this suddenly becomes a fascinating contest where we get to see if the grass is greener when you use a Gardner.
I’m arriving on a Jet plane
The Antonio Brown saga has taken a turn this week that is beyond any form of joke, but keeping this strictly on the field the Jets are now part of this extrapolated storyline after the Patriots traded Demaryius Thomas to the Big Apple, the green ones of course.
Thomas comes into the Jets just as the incredibly unlucky Quincy Enunwa is put on season-ending I/R with a recurrence of a neck injury that cost him the 2017 season. Thomas is four years older than Enunwa and is more prone to dropping the ball, but the important factor of chemistry will be eased by the fact Demaryius was coached by Jets head coach Adam Gase when he was receivers coach and offensive coordinator in Denver from 2010-2014. Sam Darnold and Enunwa had worked on exclusive routes together and now it will be a case or re-establishing part of the offensive game-plan.
The Jets face the Burst Bubble Browns in Week 2 and they match-up well against Cleveland. It might only be Week 2 but the loser here goes 0-2 and starts facing a lot more scrutiny. Worth staying up for in the unsavoury hours of Tuesday morning to see how this one plays out.
Best Of A Bad Bunch?
They say that defence wins championships, the Broncos will be hoping that statement rings true based on the state of their quarterback room. Joe Flacco looked as advertised in week 1, not the worst quarterback in the league but immobile (always) and inaccurate (at times).
Vic Fangio, the former Bears DC who will surely have a perfect game plan to get the best of the Bears at home whilst also trying to confuse Trubisky with disguised coverages, I expect a turnover feast.
Both sides need to bounce back from opening week defeats and maybe for one of the few times this year, Denver will get superior quarterback play.
Talking of Chicago, many folk in Illinois including Matt Nagy, were not happy with the way the Bears performed on opening night.
“3 points is ridiculous” said the Bears HC after the game and he’s right. You do not win games scoring 3 points.
How will he, Trubisky and the Bears team rebound?
It gets even spicier once you realise that they travel to Denver, an already difficult away destination to get a W from. Why is it spicy? They not only travel to a hard and hostile environment, but they also travel to play a team whose HC is Vic Fangio, a guy who will know a hell of a lot about the team after being their DC last year.
Other storylines include how will the Chicago backfield work in the rotation? Will they lean to their defence once again to try and get a win on the road?
More importantly, are Chicago in trouble??
As for Mitch Trubisky, you want to give young guys time and we shouldn’t forget he only started 13 games in college but the fact is he still looks like a rookie in year 3. Several of his passes give opponents chances for picks, particularly when he throws across his body to the left.
Lot’s of intrigue in this one, just like a cabaret (Chicago reference).
DOING THE BARE MIN-IMUM
Staying in the NFC North, a tasty game for the eyeballs at Lambeau.
This game is another one of those that the fully guaranteed Vikings QB Kirk Cousins has to try and get the monkey off his back in the sense that he can’t do it when it matters.
Only attempted 10 passes in week 1, so his arm is going to be sore and you would expect him to throw more in this one.
Packers squeaked a win at Soldier field on opening night whilst the Vikings could not have been more dominant vs a fancied Falcons team.
A win for a the Cheeseheads here wouldn’t mean at the very worst, split records against their divisional rivals, something Minnesota probably need to avoid to have a chance at winning the division or perhaps even a wildcard spot.
The same fixture last year ended in controversial tie with 2 missed Field Goals both at the end of the game and 2 in OT, multitude of bad referee calls on hits. It had everything. The final spice in the melting pot.
If Minnesota get the win here, it’ll be another “really unique” thing for Cousins this season.
Remember, dont do the wave!
Every angle has been covered about the notorious non PI call from last year’s championship game (wonder if Paddy Power will do a special on whether a PI call will be reviewed).
Luckily for the Rams, this isn’t back at the scene of the crime but judging by LA’s fanbase, there will be a lot of Saints fans in the stands with referee uniforms on.
Can emotions stay in check for the Saints? Can Goff and company put the saga to rest? And will there be any more incidents as bad as that one back in late January?
Both of these teams met in a classic in the regular season too and this one should be no different. Two high powered offences with great players and playcallers. One for the everyone to sit down and enjoy on the late slate of games. Both will no doubt be expecting to make the post season and likely write in another log of this recently fierce rivalry.