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TNF Preview: Brutal Bucs visit Flighty Philly

It’s an intriguing fixture for this week’s Thursday Night Football match-up, as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, fresh off a smothering of state rivals, the Miami Dolphins, visit Lincoln Financial Field to take on the Philadelphia Eagles. 

Tom Brady passed for over 400 yards and five touchdowns in the win last weekend, as the Bucs took advantage of Miami’s defence to post a weekend-high 45 points, including two scores to old friend, Antonio Brown.

Their hosts, the Eagles, didn’t produce quite such a performance against the Carolina Panthers, but with a late winning touchdown run from quarterback, Jalen Hurts, and an eventual victory over a strong NFC team in the Panthers, there seems to be a bit more confidence dripping from the team heading into Week 6.

Thumbing through the playbook

For many people, the focus for Thursday’s game will be, as usual, Tom Brady. 

Not only did number 12 produce an incredible performance against the Dolphins, as the team recovered from a pair of rusty weeks that included a loss to the LA Rams and a narrow but overly hard-fought win against the Patriots, but he really looked back to his absolute best.

The stat line speaks for itself, 411 yards, five passing touchdowns, as well as a 74% completion percentage, as he controlled, organised and directed his receivers and backs all over the field all day long.

It could have been Brady at 25 or Brady at 35, his spreading of the ball at both short and long depth of throw was that of a man far younger than his age, and his cold calculated methods are at risk of completely dicing the Eagles defence all night long.

The only concern will be a reported thumb injury that although bravely, he has said will not affect him come Thursday, he did wear a glove on the throwing hand during practice on Monday and didn’t throw a pass – so clearly, not all is 100%. 

Keys are the keys

If the Eagles are intending to get anything out of the Buccaneers when they come to town, they will need to get big evenings out of their key players on both sides of the ball.

On offence, eyes will remain on first-round rookie receiver DaVonta Smith, who despite managing just 314 yards and a touchdown on paper, has continued to improve through the season and had a score taken off the board last week against the Panthers for a poorly ran rub route by Greg Ward Jr. 

Smith has gone for 199 yards in his last two games, as well as a clutch two-point conversion last time out and has shown signs that his relationship with QB Jalen Hurts is continuing to grow – a crucial factor in both their and the team’s success. 

On defence, last year’s marquee signing, Darius Slay, came up with a pair of huge interceptions against the Panthers and produced some of the play that had made him such a coveted asset in free agency a year ago.

“Big Play” Slay had earnt a great reputation for the impressive, and while Sunday certainly showed that, he still isn’t able to cover the huge stable of Bucs receivers, so his job of locking up just one could be a challenge that is eventually futile.


Despite a big win for the Eagles on the weekend, I am still not sure whether I can see anything other than a Buccaneers win when they come to town this Thursday night.

Everything that Philadelphia is decent at doing on both sides of the ball, Tampa Bay seems to have the answer to; a great corner against three great receivers, a powerful defensive line vs a stout offensive line, a good running quarterback vs a stingy run defence – wherever the Eagles look there is issues.

And while Brady’s thumb will be a focus point, and this game probably won’t be quite as easy as the Bucs found it against the Dolphins in Week 5, they are likely to still end up sat at 4-2 come Friday morning.

Tampa Bay 31, Philadelphia 17

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TNF Preview: Bucs homecoming a bash too big for Dak’s return

The Dallas Cowboys have the daunting task of kicking off the season Thursday night when they face off with the Superbowl Champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers down in Florida.

Rookie Micah Parsons has flashed a bunch in pre-season, and it will be exciting to see whether he can actually translate some of that busy nature into a full pace game with starting level opponents – but, it can’t be much worse than Jaylon Smith. Sorry, Jaylon. The rest of the defence also has some questions, when does it not?, but particularly upfront and at corner there will continue to be some uncertainty until someone steps up and really shows they can stand up against the might of a Bruce Arians offence.

Dak’s back

On the other side of the ball, there a far fewer questions – Dak Prescott is back, CeeDee Lamb is ready to explode in his sophomore year and many are expecting Zeke Elliot to return to his bone-crushing best. In pre-season videos he has looked leaner and sharper than we have come to see in recent years, and with a receiving core like the one he will be lining up alongside, the attention of the defence will surely be elsewhere for the first time in his professional career. The offensive line however is a bit of a worry. Guard Zach Martin is already out of the game with covid and his backup was deemed a close contact.

Tampa’s looking to run it back

Flip to their Florida opponents and you have a team who couldn’t have much more confidence heading into the season.

Coming off the back of a sensational Super Bowl victory, with the greatest quarterback of all time under centre – little could seemingly derail what has quickly become a freight train of an NFC contender. The roster from top to bottom is studded with gems of players in different stages of their primes and all at least with another deep play-off run in the locker. In the same way he managed in New England, the aura of Brady’s excellence and willingness to work has got this team full of big names playing their part in a harmony that many teams could only dream of. Come on! He has Antonio Brown playing fourth fiddle at receiver! Who ever thought that would happen?

Keep an eye out for Tristan Wirfs as well at right tackle as he faces up against one of the more potentially underrated pass-rushers in the league in DeMarcus Lawrence. (He isn’t paid like he is underrated, but it’s been so long since we saw the best of Lawrence that some may have forgotten just what the peak can be for that player.)

Defensively, the Bucs enter the season far more prepared than the Dallas set-up. Defensive tackles Vita Vea and Ndamukong Suh will destabilise and push around offensive lines all year, leaving one of the most talented line-backer groups to roam with almost total impunity from side line to side line. 


As a Cowboys fan writing this preview, it’s hard with the rosters, coaching staff and performances last season to do anything other than select the Cowboys to win this game… Mike McCarthy has shown me and all other Cowboys fans all that we need, to believe in this team, and with money being put to good use all over the roster, this is finally the year that Americas Team can challenge once more.

Now onto the real prediction!

The Cowboys have a decent schedule once this Bucs game is out of the way, and can definitely improve on last year’s performance, but I don’t think they start off with anything other than a loss at Raymond James Stadium. Brady will throw for a bunch of yards and expect a double touchdown performance from Antonio Brown now that I have gone and described him as the fourth-choice receiver. 

Cowboys 10, Buccaneers 28

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Super Bowl Takeaways


If your rookie safety costs you 15 yards for an unnecessary personal foul late on in a Super Bowl for taunting, you could be forgiven for being a little irked. But when Antoine Winfield Jr. drew a penalty for flashing the peace sign right in Tyreek Hill’s face, it merely cost Tampa Bay field position rather than points on the board.

It was a calculated act of revenge for being disrespected earlier in the season and, though condoned by commentators at the time, you have to feel for the Bucs’ defensive back. And given the timing, context and delivery of the reaction, it was almost worthy of respect in itself.

Matthew Emmons – USA TODAY Sports

When Tampa’s defence stopped Kansas City on a fourth down with around four minutes left to play, with Winfield breaking up a long pass aimed at Hill, he gave the Chiefs wideout a taste of his own medicine before the flags fluttered in. It was direct payback for Hill’s trademark celebration: flashing the deuces at his flailing markers as he runs off into the end zone.

The Cheetah did exactly that against Winfield in Week 12, on a 75-yard touchdown when the Chiefs beat the Buccaneers 27-24. Hill (who racked up a monstrous 269 yards and 3 TDs that day) also performed a backwards somersault into the end zone with Winfield trailing in his wake, winding the Bucs’ defender up even more. Revenge was always going to be sweet and, having kept Hill pretty quiet all night, getting it four minutes from lifting the Lombardi Trophy couldn’t have been better timing.

“The taunting, it was something I just had to do,” Winfield explained afterwards. “When we played them earlier, Hill went off on us. He back-flipped in front of my face and gave me the peace sign. So, it was only right that I gave him the peace sign right back to him at this moment. It felt amazing to be able to do that. I’m not even gonna lie.”

I think that if you dish it out, as Hill often does, you have to be able to take it back. And with Winfield Jr. finishing the game with six tackles, one interception, two pass breakups and a Super Bowl LV ring, the fine he’ll get for incurring the penalty will be the last thing on his mind.


Did you ever see that film Space Cowboys? A rag-tag bunch of aging and retired test pilots – played by Clint Eastwood, Tommy Lee Jones, James Garner and Donald Sutherland – are plucked out of obscurity to form an unlikely team that save the day by sorting out a defunct Soviet satellite. (No, I don’t blame you…)

Anyway, that’s how the Super Bowl felt, with Rob Gronkowski, Antonio Brown and Leonard Fournette all lured to Tampa Bay by the chance to play alongside our handsome lead actor and the oldest of the crew, 43-year-old Tom Brady. He may be getting on a bit but he can still show young whippersnappers like Patrick Mahomes a thing or two, reminding everyone that they can’t put him out to grass quite yet.

Then there’s his best mate, who he coaxed out of retirement. A lot of the talk before the game was about what damage KC tight end Travis Kelce might do, coming off the back of a historically prolific season but in the end, it was all about the TE on the other team, Rob Gronkowski. Gronk only moved to Florida for the weather and to be with his buddy, but he stole the show on Sunday night after a solid if not spectacular season, following a year away. His two-touchdown performance highlighted exactly why Brady wanted a reunion.

Ashley Landis – AP Photo

Another of our gang of four, Antonio Brown, bounced from pillar to post following his departure from Pittsburgh. Clearly battling a number of issues, the troubled wide receiver played just one game for the Patriots last season. He was Brady’s housemate in New England and they teamed up again in Tampa mid-season after an eight-game suspension for violating the NFL’s personal conduct policy (one of several misdemeanours that threatened to end his career prematurely). To see him score a TD on the biggest stage was not something I’d expected to see. Bringing him in was a massive gamble and many thought he didn’t deserve a second shot, let alone a third or fourth, but his moment of redemption, thrown his way by Captain Brady, was the perfect end to that particular story.

Our final crew member is Leonard Fournette, who scored with a 27-yard rumble in the third quarter. Like Brown, Fournette (135 total yards on Sunday) was another reject, having been waived by the Jaguars last summer. But in Florida, the former first-round pick looks rejuvenated, as he transformed from being a backup to Ronald Jones into ‘Playoff Lenny’, notching four post-season touchdowns.

A year ago, most of us wouldn’t have put money on seeing this bunch of misfits on the field again, let alone scoring four TDs between them in a Super Bowl and outshining Tyreek Hill, Travis Kelce and Clyde Edwards-Helaire in the process. It seems like head astronaut Brady had a big hand in bringing all three in from the cold and his bunch of Space Cowboys have paid back that trust in spades.


The history books will always say that the Kansas City Chiefs lost Super Bowl LV. They will always also state the Chiefs were held without a touchdown for the first time since November 2017. It was the first time since September 2019 that Patrick Mahomes didn’t throw a touchdown pass, when playing in the game. Strange really then that one of my biggest takeaways was just how well Patrick Mahomes played on the biggest stage of them all.

Mahomes was pressured on a ridiculous 52% of his total drop backs on Sunday. To nobody’s surprise, that is a Super Bowl record. More often than not, the Bucs managed to do this while just rushing four. It meant that they were able to double Tyreek Hill out of the game and blanket Travis Kelce, who is the normal relief in the short to intermediate range for the QB to go to. Mahomes amassed a ludicrous 497 yards scrambling before throwing in an attempt to do anything to keep the Chiefs in the game.

He took hit after hit and kept on getting back up. Mahomes has the ability to make the impossible look routine. The one throw in particular where he ended up launching the ball towards the end zone while literally flying through the air left my viewing jaw on the floor. Anyone that knows anything about quarterback mechanics will tell you how important setting your feet is as part of the process. The spiral that Mahomes threw from literally no base was nothing short of spectacular. There were several other examples of him making something out of nothing and despite playing on a toe that requires surgery, he also added 33 yards rushing including picking up some first downs.

Image result for patrick mahomes
Kevin Cox – Getty

Despite all of the challenges Mahomes kept on going. He actually managed to only get sacked three times. He took some vicious hits, one in particular where three Bucs converged from all angles. All of this when it seemed fairly obvious to the fan at home that the Chiefs were never getting back into this contest. Yes, I know he is paid a fortune and he should be the leader of this team. Yes, I know he sometimes gets too much praise for the simple things that he does. The torch may not have been officially passed from Tom Brady on Sunday night, but I think it’s pretty safe to say that if it needed confirmation, we found our heir apparent in Patrick Mahomes.


In all truth, there aren’t many Kansas City Chiefs players whose performance in Super Bowl LV can be categorised as one of their better nights in the NFL. However, for a receiving corps that have been widely regarded as the best in the league, it was a particularly dark evening in Florida.

The run-up to Sunday’s big game was littered with conversation about how the Tampa Bay Buccaneers defence was going to cover the track team that the Chiefs presented at wide receiver, tight end and running back, with the general consensus being that they wouldn’t be able to. Yet as the world saw, a number of drops, slips and mistakes perforated any hope for Chiefs fans and bettors alike that they could take over a game like they did back in Week 12 where Tyreek Hill alone ended up with 269 yards and three scores.

At first glance from Sunday’s rematch, the yardage for the key characters all looks normal (133 for Kelce, 73 for Tyreek) yet in one crucial category, they all scored a perfect zero – touchdowns. Patrick Mahomes did his best to give his guys some chances, but for one reason or another, none of them came through, including a pair of excruciating drops in the end zone by Damien Williams and Tyreek Hill. Hill’s opportunity with five minutes remaining in the first quarter was difficult enough in double coverage that the loss will hardly fall on that moment, but in a season where the Chiefs offence has seemed utterly unstoppable at times, the instant did provide some rather accurate foreshadowing if nothing else.

Image result for CHIEFS DROP
Patrick Smith – Getty

In the second quarter, it was Kelce’s turn to drop one, butter-fingering a 20-yard bullet from Mahomes on 3rd-and-8 to give the ball back once again to the Bucs with Tom Brady in full swing. The always-dependable Kelce was hardly to blame for the loss with the previously mentioned 133 yards, but as Hill’s drop had been before him, the slips and misses of the hyper-consistent Kelce were just another one of those things in an ultimately disappointing evening for the Chiefs.

With the Bucs staying attached to the Cover-2 that served them so well throughout, and the Chiefs unable to run them out of it into the fourth quarter, Mahomes produced a pass for the ages. Chased down by Shaq Barrett, who was superb throughout, Mahomes was tripped and threw a pass as he fell through the air into quadruple coverage. Running back Williams allowed it to hit his hands before it fell harmlessly to the floor on a crucial 4th-and-9. While his drop will be considered the most egregious in preventing a potential Mahomes comeback, Williams’ mistake was in fact just the final nail in an error-prone coffin that had been in production since the first quarter.


When you fund a Super Bowl half-time show for approximately $28m, I don’t think it speaks well when everyone is turning it into memes.

The Weeknd joined a stellar list of performers to provide a spectacle at the biggest game in sports. However, there was a particular segment that was more than relatable to all of those watching it.

The segment performed under the stage in what seems to be a golden passageway/maze seems to have got everyone thinking creatively and relating it to their everyday lives and even the Super Bowl itself. Below is a selection of memes that caught our eye:

The social media world is very quick to jump on every opportunity to get clicks/likes and follows. I wonder what percentage tried to meme this particular aspect of the performance?

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Who are the Tampa Bay Buccaneers?

By Alex Lewis (@alexlewis226)

This article breaks down the Buccaneers, for a full match preview, click here.

As we approach Super Bowl 55 at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa Bay, the media fanfare and score speculation is well and truly underway as we prepare ourselves for the first (and potentially not last) Super Bowl match-up between Patrick Mahomes and Tom Brady. By achieving a birth in the final two of the most disrupted, challenging NFL season for many years in itself is a serious achievement – but with the Bucs still waiting for their first Super Bowl in nearly 20 years, the team would almost certainly say they aren’t done yet after an 11-5 year.

For the Bucs, who look to become the first ever team to win a Super Bowl in their home stadium on Sunday, their big money experiment looks to be nearly job done following the off-season acquisition of Tom Brady.  The move was a shock to many at the time, all apart from second-year head-coach, Bruce Arians who called his shot with Brady before the move was anywhere near done as he tried to replace a quarter-back in Jameis Winston that had thrown for 5000 yards and 30 touchdowns in his offensive scheme. 

Bruce Arians: After protests, we cannot go back to silence on racism – The  Athletic
Will Vragovic – Getty

Arians, who spent five years as the head-coach of the Arizona Cardinals between 2013-2017 before taking a two year sabbatical from the sport, is fiery in every imaginable way – with the media, players, and the referees and who’s style of coaching can come across as not exactly player friendly. And that direct communication doesn’t change for anyone, not even the legendary Brady, who Arians called out in September for not “playing very well” before number 12 predictably went on to dominate the remainder of the regular season by throwing for over 4600 yards with a touchdown-interception ratio of 40-12. 

Arians is a likeable character in the NFL, considered one of the best head-coaches who is still without a Super Bowl and there are many a neutral who would enjoy seeing an underdog victory on Sunday. The Kangal hat-wearing offensive genius coached for almost 40 years between the NFL and college before he was awarded his first head-coaching role – his own struggles to get a job put down to his up-front media style and flowing opinions, although like Eric Bienemy is finding at the moment, that often gets reported in TV speak as “not interviewing well”. 

The Zoom based media for this year’s game experienced how much Arians has remembered his struggles yesterday, when he was asked about the lack of head-coaching chances given to Offensive Co-ordinator Byron Leftwich who has performed near miracles with Jameis Winston in 2019 and Brady in 2020 in quickly adapting them to Arians pass heavy, risk-likely scheme. 

“I was very, very pissed that Byron didn’t at least get an interview this year,” Arians said. 

“For the job that he’s done . . . I think I get way too much credit and so does Tom Brady for the job that Byron has done. Hopefully next year people will see that he took Jameis Winston and broke every single record here, scoring and passing, and now Tom has broken both. He’s done a fantastic job, he’s everything supposedly what people are looking for.”

He’s not wrong either. 

Like Todd Bowles on the defensive side of co-ordination; the two coaches have helped to totally revolutionise this Bucs team from a squad that played little defence last year to one of the better units in the league in 2020. While Leftwich has been the key to getting Brady to quickly pick up the scheme and put it into good practice, Bowles has combined a crew of veterans and draft picks to create an exciting unit with rising names up and down the roster.

Bowles himself is looking for another head-coaching role in the future following a three year spell as head-coach of the New York Jets between 2015-2018 and which as Adam Gase has since proven, is anything but easy with some of the supposed disfunction that’s going on behind the scenes.  

Todd Bowles is the Key to Victory in the NFC Championship
Icon Sportswire via Getty

So then, with an impressive pair of co-ordinators who have helped drive the team to top ten rankings on both the offense and defence, ranking 5th in takeaways and defensive yards given up per play, with 25 and 5.1 respectively, who are the players making the difference on the field? And who should you be looking out for come Sunday night?

Key Players – Offence

Wide-receiver Mike Evans should be one name that’s right at the top of your list of interest to watch, especially given that number 13 caught two touchdowns in the matchup vs the Chiefs back in November.  Since Arians took over as head-coach in 2019, and with Winston as his quarter-back last year, Evans has caught 147 receptions, with 118 of those being good enough for a first down, the highest conversation rate in the league over that time at 80.2%. Aside from Evans ridiculous dependency when he is targeted, the receivers play style has made him a superb weapon for Brady who looks to Evans to physically beat any of the defensive-backs who try to stop him. Evans, who doesn’t play with the speed of Henry Ruggs or Scotty Miller, has tremendous strength in his routes, and uses his 6ft5 frame to high-point the ball as well as anyone in the red-zone.

On first glances, its hard to see anyone on the Chiefs roster who physically matches up with Evans, and certainly there doesn’t seem to be anyone who can go man-to-man with the dominant receiver who is currently on the longest stretch of 1000 yard receiving seasons to start a career in NFL history with 7. 

Buccaneers: Mike Evans can silence doubters in Super Bowl 55
Chris Graythen – Getty

Also to look out for on the offensive side of Tampa Bay football, aside from the obvious answer of the most successful quarterback in NFL history, is his right tackle, rookie Tristan Wirfs. Since being picked 13th overall in this year’s draft from Iowa State, Wirfs has become easily one of the best tackles in the entire league, allowing just a single sack on 769 pass-block snaps this year, which is ridiculous for anyone – especially a rookie. The performance, which earned him the highest PFF rating of any rookie at 80.2, including Justin Jefferson and Justin Herbert, will be all important on Sunday when he comes up against the ferocious pass rushing combination of Chris Jones and Frank Clark. While Wirfs is likely to see more of Clark off the left-edge, the Chiefs ability to run stunts and other pass-rush schemes is likely to see Wirfs go up against just about anybody on the line in an attempt to keep Brady upright. 

Key Players – Defence

When Todd Bowles’ unit gets on the field, make sure to keep an eye out for linebacker LaVonte David. His is a name has that been overlooked this season thanks to the unbelievable presence of middle-linebacker Devin White. White may take some of the spotlight but LaVonte David himself is widely considered one of the best linebackers in the game. Hustling on every play to get to the ball, dependable in coverage and by all accounts a brilliant leader. Since being drafted back in 2012, David has been a stalwart through the ups and downs on the Bucs franchise, committing just 9 penalties in over 9200 total snaps as he gets set to face up with one of the league’s most threatening offensive weapons in Travis Kelce. Its likely that David will be matched up with Kelce for a large percentage of the snaps on Sunday, and with Kelce managing a 145.7 passer rating when he is targeted so far in the post season, things might come down to who wins that big match up. 

The other big defensive player to watch for will be edge-rusher Shaquil Barrett who announced his return to 2019 form with a bang in the Conference Championship as he sacked Aaron Rodgers a total of three times. The former Bronco almost broke the season sack record in 2019 when he recorded a total of 19.5 sacks, leading to some suggestion that he might beat the record this year. Yet despite only managing 8 sacks in this year’s regular season, there is potential that with the news that both Chiefs tackles will be out for the all-important game, Barrett has a serious chance to dominate what could be a surprisingly defensive Super Bowl LV. 

Bucs Star Was Stunned By The Packers' Field Goal Decision
Dylan Buell – Getty

All in all, on both sides of the ball, it’s hard to predict exactly how this game is going to go, with so many possible outcomes between two teams that have played exceptional football for much of this year. And while this game is likely to be decided by one of the two star quarterbacks on the field, Bucs fans might just want to keep an eye out for their all important defence, which has a chance to stifle Mahomes when he least expects it.  

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Betting: Championship Sunday

By Tim Monk (@Tim_MonkF10Y)

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.

Please subscribe to our channel to get notification on when we go live every week and we have some fun stuff planned for Super Bowl week!

Best Bets

Dont forget to visit our resident tipster Adam Walford’s page at 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.

Buffalo +3 (10/11) – 5pts
Under 54.5pts (10/11) – 2pts
Darrell Williams Anytime TD Scorer (2/1) – 1pt
Mecole Hardman Anytime TD Scorer (3/1) – 1pt

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!

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Full10Yards TV Preview – Week 13

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.

Derrick  Henry
Matt Dunham – AP

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.

49ers Rams Football
Associated Press

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. 

Could Patrick Mahomes Make More Money By Taking Less Money from the Chiefs?
Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

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.

CBS Sports

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.

Steve Helber – AP

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.

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Jed Jacobsohn – Associated Press

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.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is GettyImages.jpg
Getty Images

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.

Baltimore Ravens quarterbacks Robert Griffin III (3) and Trace McSorley come out to warm up before an NFL football game against the Pittsburgh Steelers, Wednesday, Dec. 2, 2020, in Pittsburgh. (AP Photo/Don Wright)
Don Wright – Associated Press

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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Full10Yards TV Preview

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.

Thursday Night Preview: Colts V Titans! - Gridiron Hub
AJ Mast – AP

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.

Titans-Raiders preview: Derrick Henry poses huge problem
Bobby Ellis – Getty

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.

Jason Behnken – AP Photo

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.

Kirby Lee – USA TODAY Sports

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).

Jonathan Daniel – Getty Images

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.

Arizona Cardinals at Seattle Seahawks 11/19/2020
Elaine Thompson – AP

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.

Philadelphia Eagles coach Doug Pederson and quarterback Carson Wentz
Matthew Emmons – USA TODAY Sports

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.

Fantasy Football Projections: Miles Sanders eclipes 1,610 total yards
Julio Cortez – AP

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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NFL Deep Dive – Mid-Season Special / NFC

By Ste Tough (@SteTough)

As we reach the halfway point in the NFL season, let’s have a look at the state of play of all 32 franchises. Who is getting top marks and who has the dreaded “Must try harder” remarks? We’ve already been through the AFC, so let’s turn our attention to the NFC…

(Note: written after Packers vs 49ers on 5 November)

NFC East

Dallas Cowboys (2-6)

Half-Term Report

The Cowboys have been one of the biggest disappointments in 2020. With a new Head Coach, a good draft and their star QB back (albeit on the franchise tag), most picked the Cowboys to win the NFC East. How that has all unravelled! While Dak’s injury was a real gut-punch, Mike McCarthy just doesn’t look like he has what it takes to drag this team into the post-season. Their defence looks a mess, conceding 266 points through eight games (the worst in the NFL) and their offence hasn’t been much better (even taking the Dak injury into account). Key players like Zeke have not been contributing as McCarthy would have liked, especially for someone who loves the run game as much as he does.

Star Pupil or Detention Specialist

Dak Prescott – I know, I know, he’s injured now and out for the season, but you just have to tip your cap to the fifth year QB for the season he was having. Until he went down with that horrible ankle injury in Week 5 against New York, he had more than 1,800 yards with 9 TDs and a 75.4 QBR. Had he kept that up, he would have thrown for over 5,900 yards and 29 TDs… It is now a case of ‘what could have been’ for Dallas fans. Has Dak played his last game in a Cowboys jersey?

Expectations for the Second Half of the Season

Dallas is the worst team in the NFL right now. Yes – in the entire NFL. Philadelphia put the game on a plate for them last week and they had absolutely nothing on offence to be able to go and get it. If a team can’t score points, it won’t win games: it’s that simple. If Andy Dalton can come back from concussion and COVID-19 protocols and get some semblance of fluidity with the talented Dallas WR room, then they could pick up a couple more wins this campaign, sealing a final record of around 4-12. But I think a bigger question looms for Jerry Jones. Is Mike McCarthy really the man to lead ‘America’s Team’ going forward?

Philadelphia Eagles (3-4-1)

Half-Term Report

I’m not really too sure what is happening in Philadelphia right now, although old curses still remain. They have been rocked by injury. On the offensive line alone, they are missing four starters (Brandon Brooks, Isaac Seumalo, Lane Johnson and Andre Dillard) as well as TE Zach Ertz and WRs DeSean Jackson and Alshon Jeffery. Their offence and defence seem incapable of playing well in the same game and their franchise QB is having a really difficult season, leading the league in interceptions and turnovers. With wins coming against the Cowboys and Giants, Philly fans are hardly filled with confidence that this team can go far. However, the defence has shown signs of promise with 28 sacks (equal 2nd) and the shutdown play of star CB pickup Darius Slay.

Star Pupil or Detention Specialist

Brandon Graham – The 2010 first-round pick defensive end is having his best season in the NFL, at 32 years old. It cannot be understated how good Graham has been so far. He has seven sacks and is on course to get into double figures for the first time in his career. He also has nine tackles for loss and 11 QB hits. He’s playing at a very high level this season and I would expect the Philly veteran to make the Pro Bowl on this trajectory. Another honourable mention goes to Travis Fulgham, the former Detroit Lions sixth rounder. He has 435 receiving yards since he came into the team in Week 4 and leads the entire NFL since then.

Expectations for the Second Half of the Season

The Birds should win the NFC East but they have to improve if they want to go any further than that. Carson Wentz is having a really down season and needs to play better than he has been. They also need to get healthy, and with a bye week this week, that should help with the likes of Miles Sanders, Lane Johnson and Alshon Jeffery expected to return for the Week 10 game with the Giants. Their schedule is tough and many are expecting that they won’t get more than 6 or 7 wins in total – which amazingly should be enough for them to host a playoff game! Doug Pederson needs to give more playing time to his young break-out players. With guys like Jeffery, Jackson and Peters unlikely to be in the City of Brotherly Love next season, I’d like to see more of the likes of Fulgham, Jalon Reagor and Jordan Mailata.

Chris Szagola – AP

Washington Football Team (2-5)

Half-Term Report

Aside from their impressive Week 1 comeback win against Philadelphia, Washington have been a bit of a dumpster fire this season. New Head Coach Ron Rivera is having a tough first season, much like his NFC East counterparts. However, his decision to drop young QB Dwayne Haskins not just to the bench, but to third choice – behind a QB who hasn’t played a snap in almost two years – is a puzzling one. With their only other win against a depleted Dallas side, Washington looks destined for another losing season. However, it isn’t all doom and gloom. There have been some signs of life from their D-line, who have 22 sacks on the season (sixth in NFL).

Star Pupil or Detention Specialist

Montez Sweat – One of very few stand-out players this far for Washington, Sweat has five sacks this season and looks to be improving all the time. The 2019 first-rounder terrorised Baker Mayfield in Week 3 with a sack and three QB hits and did the same in Week 7 against Dallas with a couple of sacks and three QB hits. Washington’s pass rush has been a major positive for Defensive Coordinator Jack Del Rio, and Sweat has been a key component of that.

Expectations for the Second Half of the Season

The Washington Football Team have the benefit of being in the 2020 NFC East – the worst division in the NFL (perhaps ever). What this means is that amassing even six or seven wins could be enough to clinch the division and with it, a play-off berth. While Philadelphia leads at the moment, the NFC East hasn’t had a repeat winner since 2004. Washington’s schedule is also very kind; they have games left against the Giants, Lions, Bengals, Cowboys, Panthers and Eagles, all of which could be considered winnable. If Washington can put a run together and get some momentum going, I would not be surprised if they take the NFC East title this season.

New York Giants (1-7)

Half-Term Report

The Giants, like divisional rivals Washington and Dallas, have a new coaching staff this season and just like those other two teams, they’re struggling. HC Joe Judge has a solitary win against Washington in Week 6 and, aside from that, has struggled to get his team going. New York has only scored 145 points in eight games, which is 31st in the league. However, one positive has been the production from their defence, one with limited pieces. They have allowed only 199 points (14th in NFL) so considering the Giants are 1-7, Defensive Coordinator Patrick Graham deserves a ton of credit for that. Losing star RB Saquon Barkley to an ACL injury in Week 2 has obviously been a huge blow and their run game has suffered dramatically since.

Star Pupil or Detention Specialist

James Bradberry – The big name free agency pick-up for GM Dave Gettleman continues to look like a shrewd investment. Bradberry has started all eight games and all 533 defensive snaps in those games. He has three INTs, 12 pass break-ups and a forced fumble, making Bradberry one of the few bright sparks in an otherwise grim Giants team.

Expectations for the Second Half of the Season

Questions continue to be raised at the QB position, like ‘Is Daniel Jones the guy when the 2021 draft class looks so strong?’ As he continues to struggle, the microscope will be put over Jones and HC Joe Judge. The Giants still need to play each divisional rival once as well as the Bengals. Then they have four games against teams with winning records (Seahawks, Cardinals, Browns and Ravens). It looks likely that the Giants may not win again this season. With another high draft pick looming, the main question must surely be whether Dave Gettleman is the guy they still want to be overseeing that pick?

Al Bello – Getty Images

NFC North

Chicago Bears (5-3)

Half-Term Report

Chicago have raised a few eyebrows so far in 2020. It took HC Matt Nagy just three weeks to realise that the Mitch Trubisky experiment was over. However, Chicago have put together impressive wins this season against Detroit, Tampa Bay and that incredible comeback against Atlanta in Week 3. They also took New Orleans to overtime and only narrowly missed out on the win last week. Their QB situation still doesn’t look solid. Nick Foles has had periods where he has struggled but Chicago has managed to grind out wins when it mattered and have certainly put themselves in the conversation for the NFC North title, especially with Green Bay stuttering. Not many would have expected them to be 5-3 by the halfway stage, but here we are!

Star Pupil or Detention Specialist

Allen Robinson – Where else is there to go here other than the stand-out WR? The wideout has been the go-to man for Foles and Trubisky, amassing 631 yards through eight games. His average YPC is 12.6 and he has 3 TDs. That incredible TD catch against the Saints in Week 8 highlights how crucial he is to the success of Chicago. Expect Foles to continue going to him to drive this Bears offence.

Ashlee Rezin Garcia – Sun-Times

Expectations for the Second Half of the Season

The theme of the second half of the season for Chicago is divisional. They still have to play five divisional games (two each against the Packers and Vikings, and one against the Lions). Divisions can be won and lost against your rivals (see NFC East) and if Chicago can go even 3-2 in those games, they will put themselves in a strong position, even for one of the Wild Card spots now that seven teams per conference make the playoffs this year. However, doubts will remain as long as there is a question mark hanging over the QB position.

Detroit Lions (3-4)

Half-Term Report

Detroit has had a somewhat underwhelming first half of the 2020 season. Aside from that eyebrow-raising Week 3 victory over the Cardinals, their only other wins this season have come against teams they would be ‘expected’ to beat (the Falcons and Jaguars). Head Coach Matt Patricia’s overall record since he came in is 12-25-1 and some fans in Detroit have understandably had enough. Their defence has really struggled, with 206 points against through seven games which is 26th in the NFL. They’ve also conceded 35+ points on three separate occasions so far this campaign.

Star Pupil or Detention Specialist

Marvin Jones Jr – The veteran wide receiver was expected to help carry the Detroit offence this season but he only has 265 yards from 22 receptions. Aside from his stand-out game against Arizona, Jones has been largely disappointing with only 3 TDs from 37 targets through seven games. He needs to improve down the stretch.

Expectations for the Second Half of the Season

The chances of Detroit tasting the postseason in 2020 are slim-to-none. Even though they have five of their remaining nine games against teams with losing records, they’d still have to win another two or three outside of those divisional games to be in with a shout. I’m just not sure the Lions have it in them. Some big questions could be asked in Detroit again this off-season if they fail to play in January yet again.

Green Bay Packers (6-2)

Half-Term Report

The Packers started this season on fire, racing out to an impressive 4-0 record and looking unstoppable, with Rodgers back to his best and several young playmakers around him. Their offence scored a mammoth 122 points in their first three games and by their Week 5 bye, they had amassed over 150 points on offence. However, their losses have looked ugly, only managing 10 points and 22 points in losses to Tampa Bay and Minnesota respectively. The defence is beginning to show some holes and Matt LaFleur needs to get them back on track if they are to clinch that coveted single play-off bye spot in the NFC.

Green Bay Packers vs. Minnesota Vikings game recap: Everything we know
Dan Powers – Appleton Post-Crescent / USA TODAY

Star Pupil or Detention Specialist

Za’Darius Smith – It would be easy to mention Aaron Rodgers here (2,253 yards, 24 TDs, 2 INTs, 86.9 QBR), but I’m not going to go with him. I’m going to pick their stand-out Pro-Bowl OLB Za’Darius Smith, who has seven sacks, eight tackles for loss and 13 QB hits. He’s also forced and recovered a crucial midfield fumble in their Week 3 victory in New Orleans and another on Week 9 TNF against San Francisco. Look for him to kick on in the coming weeks.

Expectations for the Second Half of the Season

After their shock loss to poor divisional rivals Minnesota in Week 7, the NFC North isn’t as wrapped up as Green Bay may have hoped. The 5-3 Bears are breathing down their necks and it could go down to the wire. This week, they had a tough road trip to San Francisco (but won comfortably, due in part to the Niners’ injury woes) but they now have four match-ups against teams with losing records and they still have to play Chicago twice. The Packers should win at least another five or six games. If they can get to 10 or 11 wins, that should be enough to take the NFC North, but the NFC overall? We’ll have to wait and see.

Minnesota Vikings (2-5)

Half-Term Report

Minnesota has been one of the most disappointing teams so far in 2020. I don’t think many would have predicted them starting their season 1-5 until they managed an impressive win in Lambeau at divisional rivals Green Bay in Week 8. Their schedule hasn’t been too kind, with match-ups against Seattle, Indianapolis and Tennessee so far. However they also suffered a humiliating loss in Week 6 to Atlanta. The loss of go-to WR Stefon Diggs has clearly had an impact in Minnesota.

Star Pupil or Detention Specialist

Kirk Cousins – The 32-year-old gunslinger has struggled this campaign, and his 12 TD to 10 INT ratio hasn’t helped the Vikings’ offence. He’s been sacked 15 times and has a measly QBR of 52.9, which is 26th in the league. Cousins’ contract APY is $33m so he needs to be playing far better than he is. An honourable mention here goe to Dalvin Cook who has rushed for 652 yards and 10 rushing TDs, as well as one receiving TD from 127 receiving yards.

Expectations for the Second Half of the Season

The good news for the Vikings is their second-half schedule is kind. With matches against Dallas, Carolina and Jacksonville as well as two games against fellow NFC North strugglers Detroit still to play, Minnesota has a clear path back to .500. However, they also face tough match-ups against the likes of New Orleans, Tampa Bay and Chicago twice. Their season could very quickly unravel if they suffer further ‘unexpected’ defeats. Of course, there is no such thing as an ‘easy’ game in the NFL but for a team that has finished with a winning record in four out of the last five seasons, a sub .500 season would be quite the setback.

NFC South

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (6-2)

Half-Term Report

Tom Brady packed his bags this offseason and shipped out of Boston. The result? A Tampa Bay team that looks like a real Super Bowl contender. With experienced HC Bruce Arians at the reins, the Bucs are really challenging New Orleans for the NFC South title this season. Brady has picked up where he left off in New England: he’s thrown for 2,189 yards (fourth in NFL) and 20 TDs (third). They also have eight rushing TDs (two from Brady) and have scored 247 points (second). Defensively, they have been dominant too, with 28 sacks (T-2nd) and holding teams to an average of 300 yards per game (third). Tampa Bay did have a surprise loss against Chicago in Week 5 and it will be interesting to see if that was just a blip, or if they also have similar struggles as the season goes on.

Star Pupil or Detention Specialist

Jason Pierre-Paul – I didn’t want to talk about Brady here, everyone knows he’s been great. Instead, the veteran LB has been superb for the Buccaneers so far this season. Alongside Devin White, JPP contributes to one of the most fearsome LB groups in the NFL, with 6.5 sacks, four tackles for loss and three forced fumbles to date. He really aids the Bucs rush defence, having allowed only 563 rushing yards (2nd in NFL) in the first half of this season.

Expectations for the Second Half of the Season

I expect the Buccaneers to continue to dominate and put themselves in the conversation for the NFC Championship game. Next week, they face the return of Drew Brees and New Orleans after that hotly contested Week 1 match-up. They also have interesting games at home to the Rams and Chiefs before their bye in Week 13. Then they end with Minnesota, Atlanta (twice) and Detroit – you’d imagine they finish 4-0 after their bye. Many predicted Tampa Bay to be the first team to ever play a Super Bowl in their home stadium; no team has ever done it before but the Bucs could well be the first in 2020.

Atlanta Falcons (2-6)

Half-Term Report

The 2020 Atlanta Falcons are somewhat of an enigma. A Super Bowl team just four years ago, they now look a shadow of that, giving up points and throwing away games. After their Week 3 loss to Chicago, they became first team in NFL history to have back-to-back games in which they blew a 15+ point fourth-quarter lead and lost. They fired their HC of five years, Dan Quinn, after starting the season 0-5 and since doing so, they’ve gone 2-1. Matt Ryan is, incredibly, second in the NFL for passing yards per game with 292.4 so it isn’t Atlanta’s offence that is struggling this season.

Star Pupil or Detention Specialist

Atlanta Defence – Atlanta’s defence has been so poor as a unit that it was impossible to single out one or two players. They are allowing 331.4 passing yards per game (31st in NFL) and have allowed 224 points through eight games (29th in NFL). Dante Fowler Jr. was given a monster three-year, $45m contract in Atlanta and so far has posted a lacklustre two sacks and six QB hits. Since 2016, their defence has been getting progressively worse and this year, HC Dan Quinn finally paid the price.

Expectations for the Second Half of the Season

Atlanta reside in a division with two teams who already have six and five wins respectively so they won’t be tasting the off-season this year. After parting ways with their HC and GM, they need to decide who is going to take the franchise in its next direction – in the front office and coaching positions especially – as it looks like they may have another top 5 draft pick in 2021. The rest of this season looks difficult with games against New Orleans, Las Vegas, LA Chargers, Kansas City and Tampa Bay (twice) following their Week 10 bye. All of those teams will look to this game and place it in their prospective ‘W’ column. It’s hard to disagree.

Atlanta Falcons v Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Brian Blanco – Getty Images

Carolina Panthers (3-5)

Half-Term Report

The Panthers are putting together a very respectable campaign considering all of the transition they went through during the off-season. Rookie HC Matt Rhule turned some heads when he was hired but so far, he appears to be doing a great job transforming the culture in Carolina. Since their 2015 Super Bowl appearance, they seem to have been suffering from that hangover and have only been to the playoffs once (2017) where they suffered a Wild Card loss to New Orleans. This season, they’ve had an impressive win against Arizona in Week 4 and were actually sitting at 3-2 after Week 5. However, consecutive losses against Chicago, New Orleans and Atlanta have dragged them to 3-5.

Star Pupil or Detention Specialist

Robby Anderson – Anderson has been such a good free-agent signing for Carolina. They had been desperate for a star WR to compliment second-year wideout DJ Moore. Anderson is providing OC Joe Brady with another speedy weapon in this exciting Carolina passing game. He’s proving to be good value for his two-year, $20m contract. Anderson could afford to improve his contributions with more TDs but so far, he’s doing a terrific job of helping Teddy Bridgewater spread the ball around the field – especially with franchise poster-boy, Christian McCaffrey, still out injured.

Expectations for the Second Half of the Season

The remaining eight games for Carolina are a mixed bag. On the one hand, they face teams with losing records (Detroit, Minnesota, Denver and Washington) but they also need to play tough games against teams doing very well (Kansas City, Tampa Bay, Green Bay and New Orleans), all of whom could be vying for the NFC title come January. They’ll welcome Christian McCaffrey back either this week or next, a very welcome return from IR after being out since Week 2. I think Matt Rhule would be happy with 7-9 or 8-8 this season, knowing that it is a foundation year to start the rebuild. But with questions at QB looming, Carolina needs to decide what to do with Bridgewater too.

New Orleans Saints (5-2)

Half-Term Report

Drew Brees and his chase for that second Super Bowl ring seems like the never-ending love story; if anyone in the league deserves another, it’s him. Brees has had a Super Bowl-calibre team for the last few seasons, and they’ve faltered in the play-offs every time. This time around, he’s signed a fresh two-year deal in what is surely his final dash to grasp the Vince Lombardi once again. The Saints stuttered at first, with back-to-back losses to the Raiders and the Packers, but since then have won out and now sit at 5-2. What is possibly more impressive is that they’ve done it all without star WR Michael Thomas due to an ankle injury. Once he comes back, I would only expect they’d get even better. They are averaging 29.4 points-per-game (7th in NFL) on offence and allowing an average of 28.1 points-per-game (23rd in NFL) – every Saints game seems to be a shootout! It’s worth noting that their rush defence is one of the best around – only allowing an average of 90.6 yards per game (3rd in NFL).

Star Pupil or Detention Specialist

Alvin Kamara – Sometimes you run out of superlatives to describe players, and Kamara is one of those players. In mid-September, the Saints and Kamara agreed on a five-year, $75m contract extension keeping him with the franchise until 2025. He is looking very good on that investment so far. He is one of the best ‘dual-threat’ RBs in the league. He has posted 431 yards rushing but perhaps more impressively, he has 556 yards receiving, adding up to almost 1,000 all-purpose yards through seven games. Kamara leads the Saints in broken tackles (nine) and TDs (seven), making him absolutely crucial to their success.

Expectations for the Second Half of the Season

The Saints just seem to find ways to get it done in the regular season. Even without Thomas, when Brees normally struggles, they have five wins. They should have Thomas back for Week 10 at the latest and that will only add to their offensive weapons. Their remaining schedule is relatively kind. Aside from tough games against the Buccaneers and Chiefs, they should stand a good chance of winning their remaining games. I would fully expect the Saints to be in the play-offs, as they usually are. However, with some of the quality around the NFC, they may find it difficult to make it to the top of the conference and book their slot at Raymond James Stadium in February 2021.

NFL: Carolina Panthers at New Orleans Saints
Derick E. Hingle – USA TODAY Sports

NFC West

Arizona Cardinals (5-2)

Half-Term Report

After admitting their shortfalls at QB and going back into the draft and selecting Kyler Murray #1 overall in 2019, the Cardinals are beginning to look like a young, up-and-coming team that has everything together. Off-season addition DeAndre Hopkins has given HC Kliff Kingsbury yet another offensive weapon and allows the Cardinals to be more aggressive and spread the ball around the field. So far, they are keeping up with the leading pack at 5-2 and have had a couple of impressive wins against divisional rivals (49ers and Seahawks). However, they’ve also had a couple of underwhelming losses against Detroit and Carolina that have kept their feet firmly on the ground. They lead the league in average offensive yards per game with 419.1 and are second in the league in rushing yards per game with 160.7.

Star Pupil or Detention Specialist

DeAndre Hopkins – It’s difficult to pick anyone else than the league leader in receiving yards. When Hopkins became available from Houston in the off-season, Kliff Kingsbury must have been straight on the phone to GM Steve Keim and packing David Johnson’s bags himself. Hopkins has been one of the best receivers in the league for several seasons. This time around, he has 704 receiving yards (first in NFL) and is one of only two WRs in the league averaging more than 100 yards per game (along with Green Bay’s Devante Adams). Hopkins has continued his impressive production in Arizona and just carried straight on from where he left off with the Texans.

Expectations for the Second Half of the Season

The Cardinals are in the most competitive division in the league. Any of the four teams could still realistically win the NFC West (although the 49ers’ injury woes are seeing them fall away). However, outside of their remaining divisional games, the schedule is tricky. Miami have one of the best defences in the league and Buffalo being led by Josh Allen have been impressing so far in 2020. They should win games against the Patriots, Giants and Eagles but they will have to do well in their divisional match-ups. It’s also worth noting they are 2-0 in their divisional games so far. If they keep that up, the NFC West could be heading to Arizona for only the second time since 2009.

Los Angeles Rams (5-3)

Half-Term Report

The story of the Los Angeles Rams so far in 2020 is defence, defence, defence. They lead the league in average yards allowed per game with 291.9 and are holding teams to an average 19.0 points (T-3rd), holding five of their eight opponents this season to under 20 points. They also have 25 sacks on the season (fourth in NFL). DC Brandon Staley has done a terrific job with the defence. Their offence hasn’t been quite as productive but Jared Goff has been spreading the ball around with five different pass-catchers having more than 220 yards and at least one TD so far. Their five wins have come against teams you’d probably expect them to beat (the entire NFC East, plus Chicago) and their losses have all been relatively close. Los Angeles have been a bit too ‘predictable’ so far.

Star Pupil or Detention Specialist

Aaron Donald – I know, it’s a bit boring to talk about the six-time Pro Bowler, two-time Defensive Player of the year, 2014 Defensive Rookie of the Year and current sack leader in the NFL… but it is a testament to just how dominant he is and how crucial he is to the success of the Rams. He is equal first for sacks with nine so far in 2020, including four in a single game against Washington. He also has 15 QB hits and 11 tackles for loss. Since he entered the league in 2014, he leads the league in sacks with 81. I think Donald’s most incredible statistic is that in his 6.5 years in the NFL, he has only missed two of 104 games. He keeps himself so healthy, which is even more impressive given the position he plays.

Expectations for the Second Half of the Season

The second half of the Rams’ season is where things start to get a bit tricky. They still have five divisional games remaining as they have only played at San Francisco (a 24-16 loss) so far. They have a bye in Week 9 then, after a tough home game against Seattle, they travel to Tampa Bay for the prime-time MNF slot in Week 11. The only remaining games on LA’s schedule you would expect them to win are at Foxborough in Week 14 and at the Jets in Week 15. That said, with the dominance of their defence so far, LA should remain competitive. I’m just not convinced they can get any more than another three or four wins. Wild Card weekend could be beckoning for Sean McVay.

Arizona Cardinals v Los Angeles Rams
Sean M. Haffey – Getty Images

Seattle Seahawks (6-1)

Half-Term Report

The Seattle Seahawks are the best team in the NFL right now, with their dominant offence brushing teams aside. They are third in yards per game (289.0) although Dallas is top and I expect them to drop off now Dak is injured. They are leading the league with 34.3 points per game, which is wild – and a full 2.7 points above their closest competitor (Green Bay). What has perhaps been most impressive about Seattle’s offence has been their ability to adapt without a consistent, healthy running back. Chris Carson only has 323 yards rushing and 3 TDs so far, but HC Pete Carroll has let Russell Wilson take the reins on offence and spread the ball around. DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett look like they’re going to have career seasons – both have seven TDs – with Wilson under centre. Defensively, the ‘Hawks have been the polar opposite. They are deal last in average yards per game allowed with 460.0, and 23rd in average points per game allowed (28.4). Pete Carroll’s approach seems to be just get the ball back in Russell Wilson’s hands as quickly as possible, no matter how, and let him work his magic…

Star Pupil or Detention Specialist

Russell Wilson – Who else is there other than the current league MVP favourite? Let’s look at his 2020 stats. Total passing TDs: 26 (1st in NFL); average YDS/G: 307.3 (3rd in NFL); passer rating: 120.7 (1st in NFL); completion percentage: 71.5% (3rd in NFL). On top of those numbers, he also has 260 rushing yards, making him the ultimate dual-threat QB. Wilson has been nothing short of incredible in 2020 and I fully expect his dominance to continue right the way to the NFC Championship game and perhaps even Super Bowl LV.

Alika Jenner – Getty Images

Expectations for the Second Half of the Season

Seattle should continue its early season dominance as long as it can keep its stars healthy. The breakout of DK Metcalf has been a welcome addition to the WR room and gives Wilson another reliable asset down the field. They still have four divisional games to play (including two against the Rams) but then should pick up at least four wins from their remaining five (Bills, Eagles, Giants, Jets and Washington). Their only loss so far came in overtime. I can see this Seattle team going 13-3 and clinching that first round play-off bye.

San Francisco 49ers (4-5)

Half-Term Report

No team in the NFL has had worse luck with injuries than the San Francisco 49ers. For their Week 9 TNF game against Green Bay, San Fran had almost $80m worth of contract cap hit on Injured Reserve, including QB Jimmy Garoppolo, CB Richard Sherman, DT Solomon Thomas, DE Nick Bosa, DE Dee Ford, TE George Kittle and RB Raheem Mostert. With such substantial injury problems, it is actually incredible that the 49ers have accrued four wins this season. Aaron Rodgers and the Packers put them to the sword on TNF but they still managed 17 points and 337 total yards. Aside from their loss to Philadelphia in Week 4, the other losses probably would have been expected, especially given their injuries. They’re very middle of the road when you look at statistics – 225 points for (18th in NFL) and 207 points against (10th) – but they have just struggled to convert that into wins.

Star Pupil or Detention Specialist

Brandon Aiyuk – The rookie WR out of Arizona State is having an impressive year after being asked to contribute much more than expected after injuries to key 49ers WRs. While his stats don’t light up the page (seven games, 371 yards, 4 TDs and a modest 66.7 catch percentage), he has been an important factor. He’ll be an important piece in San Francisco in the coming seasons and offers Kyle Shanahan a young, cheap option at WR , a position they have struggled to add depth at in recent years. There was also his atheltic hurdling of Eagles safety Marcus Epps in Week 4… it was beyond belief.

Expectations for Second Half of the Season

It feels unlikely that the 49ers will improve much further this season with number of players they currently have out. Jimmy G and George Kittle are both expected to be missing until at least Week 14 and without them, San Francisco will struggle to pick up Ws. They face a tough road game to New Orleans in Week 10 and then they have their bye, perhaps a chance to get a couple more players back from injury. However, the schedule doesn’t get any easier, with games against the LA Rams, Buffalo, Arizona and Seattle. I think this season might just have to be a write-off for Kyle Shanahan, especially given the competition in their NFC West division. They can regroup, get healthy in the off-season and go again in 2021.

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Tuesday Takeaways – NFL 2020 Week 7

Another tasty week of action has come to pass, but what are the takeaways from week 7 in the NFL? The Full10Yards crew serve up their thoughts below!

The rich get richer

Is there a hotter offence in the NFL right now than the Tampa Bay Buccaneers?

After a couple of weeks of acclimatisation to his new surroundings, it was to be expected that Tom Brady would have the Bucs in playoff and divisional contention. Rob Gronkowski has shaken off his retirement dust. Leonard Fournette and Ronald Jones are playing with chips on their shoulders. Scotty Miller is turning into Julian Edelman 2.0, and Chris Godwin and Mike Evans are as dangerous as ever.

NFL: Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Las Vegas Raiders
98.5 SportsHub

It almost feels as though adding Antonio Brown into the mix is unfair. Yes, he hasn’t played in a while himself, and yes, there are off-field dramas but IF he can get it all together, can anyone stop this Tampa juggernaut?

Invisible shooter earns his ‘Dime’ bonus

NFL security teams are desperately reviewing tape of the Thursday Night Football match between the New York Giants and the Philadelphia Eagles to find evidence of a crime, after an invisible shooter was on target with his invisible bullet in front of a global television audience (well, anyone who wasn’t watching the Trump/Biden televised debate that is).

Fans react to Giants' Daniel Jones tripping himself after 80-yard run |  Yardbarker
Bill Streicher – USA TODAY Sports

The victim, Daniel ‘Danny Dimes’ Jones, the Giants QB, was on his way to a spectacular 88-yard rushing touchdown when the invisible assassin struck. Jones, having already ran almost 70 yards, with the nearest Eagles defenders in the next state, was cruelly struck down as an invisible slug penetrating his right thigh. Danny Dimes stumbled forwards and was subsequently tackled at the 6-yard line, denied a spectacular touchdown.

In an age where we have a global pandemic to worry about, surely the NFL should have better security protocols in place to stop the infiltration of an invisible assassin into a near-empty stadium?

Short QBs are tall in stature

Wowzer. Anyone who has watched the SNF football game between the Seattle Seahawks and the Arizona Cardinals saw first hand two of the best starting quarterbacks duke it out in a battle for the ages.

Both signal callers lit up the scoreboard and the stats sheet.

The Shadow League

While Russell Wilson and Kyler Murray may be the shortest starting QBs (both are under 5ft 11in), their stature in the game is that of the Jolly Green Giant. I am so sorry to use such a corny analogy. The Cardinals managed to get the W at home and present the Seahawks with their first loss of 2020, thanks in large part to a crucial overtime pick by rookie first round LB Isiah Simmons, who has been eased into his first season. Arizona kicker Zane Gonzales managed to get redemption for his first missed attempt earlier in the 5th period, but it was the intestinal fortitude of Kyler Murray, and his lightning feet and rocket arm, that did most of the damage. The Cardinals did not have the lead for over 69 minutes of this game but still came away with an impressive victory.

A special shout out to one of the losers of this game. Poor old DK Metcalf.

Firstly, he is man-marked by Patrick Peterson all game and is used as a decoy. Secondly, he makes the winning touchdown in overtime, only for it to be called back because fellow WR David Moore is caught holding. And thirdly, he delivers on one of the best hustle plays of this century, tracking down Cardinals safety Budda Baker who picked off a Wilson pass and was headed for a pick-six. Metcalf turned on the jets and became an instant defender, catching Baker before he reached the end zone, in a heroic display of teamwork.

The Cardinals, with goal to go, were held to a field goal, but it was all in vain as Kyler Murray worked his twinkle-toed magic in overtime to gain the win.

I thought Texas was famous for its football?

I don’t know what colour Texas will swing on Election Day next week, but one thing is for certain: it sure isn’t green…

There are seven game weeks now in the bag for the 2020 NFL season and the two teams from the Lone Star State have three wins from a combined 14 games.

I’m sure you’re going to tell me that things like ‘tough schedule’ and ‘new coaching staff’ and ‘injuries’ have all played a part and of course, they’ve all had an impact. But look at San Francisco. They pretty much had to put a couple of fridge-freezers out there on the D-line in Week 4, and they’re still 4-3.

Dallas first. They’re just not it. Most had them as NFC contenders in the off-season and some even had them as Super Bowl winners (I’m not really sure how they figured that, given they haven’t won the NFC since 1995). They had a good draft and looked like a good bet for the NFC East too. But somehow, in the worst division in the history of the NFL, they look the exact opposite of the best of the worst. They have the 31st worst points differential, only in front of the 0-7 Jets. They let too many starters walk and now they’re paying the price.

Cowboys should be ashamed by how they reacted to Andy Dalton's injury
Patrick Semansky – AP

Dak going down with a freak injury was obviously a low point, but when Andy Dalton took a nasty late hit against the Football Team last week, none of the Cowboys were up and in the face of the offender, Jon Bostic. An insight into that locker room. No-one is fighting. No-one seems pumped up. Does anyone care? They go to Philadelphia next week for their biggest rivalry game of the season. Usually it’s the biggest event on the calendar. It has the coveted Sunday Night Football slot. Mike McCarthy needs to do something, or they’re gonna get blown out.

Houston next. What is going on? Every week, they seem to provide more questions than answers. They finally parted ways with Bill O’Brien after starting the season 0-4. The spark many hoped that would provide was short-lived and now here they are, staring 1-6 in the face and the prospect of another disappointing season.

They spent $22m a season to pay Lamery Tunsil and give young stud Deshaun Watson more protection, yet he’s been sacked a sixth-highest 22 times so far this season. They traded for David Johnson and he continues to struggle, putting up only 42 yards on the ground against the Packers as well as losing a fumble. They also brought Brandin Cooks to Houston and he has struggled to contribute, with only 2 TDs to his name so far.

Rodgers throws 4 TDs as Packers beat Texans 35-20 | WJMN -
Sam Craft – AP

They were 21-0 down at half-time against Green Bay on Sunday evening and looked completely devoid of confidence. They look like they lack identity. With leaders like JJ Watt and Randall Cobb in the dressing room, you’d think they would be able to rally to some better performances. While they have played Kansas City, Baltimore, Pittsburgh and Green Bay so far, their bye week could not come at a better time to give them a chance to regroup.

Their schedule gets a bit easier from here, but I think it’s fairly comfortable to suggest the Texans won’t be going to the play-offs this year.

Still not cooking on Gase

Adam Gase said last week that “all options are on the table”. Last Sunday, Adam Gase’s decided to surrender play-calling duties to OC Dowell Loggains.

NFL Week 8 Coach Hot Seat Rankings 2020: Adam Gase clearly at the top, Matt  Patricia making strides -
Ron Chenoy

While things didn’t improve all that much, there seemed to be a bit more energy and spirit within the camp. The defence limited the stuttering Bills offence to six FGs, shades of Denver and Brandon McManus last week! The Jets still had an awful second half on offence, but the Bills still allowed the Jets to have a shot at the win late on in this one.

However, the Jets continued to be grounded for the time being, and are now 0-7 for the first time since 1996. Maybe Gase needs to give up more than the play-calling duties for Gang Green to change their fortunes for the better.

Fully charged

Justin Herbert continues to make a name for himself, adding another good performance against the Jaguars to his already decent start to his NFL career. He completed 27-of-43 for a career-high 347 yards and three TDs, and led the team in rushing (nine carries for 66 yards) and slung the ball around to eight different targets. This meant that the Chargers broke a four-game losing streak, which may seem surprising considering how well Herbert has played under centre since coming in.

AFC West report after Week 7: Justin Herbert with big time performance in  win for Chargers | Raiders Wire
Robert Hanashiro – USA TODAY Sports

It remains to be seen if Herbert can keep this up throughout the rest of the season and into next year, considering that there have been many before that have flashed talent in their rookie season, only to hit a wall and fade away.

One thing he has going for him though is if you type in “Justin” into Google, he is the second name to appear on the list in between Bieber and Timberlake. That’ll be music to his ears.

Old stomping grounds

Jimmy Garoppolo and Teddy Bridgewater visited their old digs this past Sunday with mixed fortunes.

‘Jimmy G’ walked in to New England and came out with a convincing victory against his previous employers in Bill Belichick, Robert Kraft and Co. Jimmy Garoppolo completed 20-of-25 passes for 277 yards and had a few short fields positions to work with as Cam and the Patriots capitulated. There would have been few people with bigger smiles come late Sunday night.

Jimmy Garoppolo Sends a Stern Message to Bill Belichick About Trading Him  Away
Boston Globe via Getty Images

Teddy Bridgewater was not as fortunate to come away with the win as he revisited New Orleans.

The Panthers lost 27-24 but Bridgewater completed 23-of-28 for 254 yards, two touchdowns and a 128.3 passer rating, spreading the ball around and improvising when necessary to keep drives alive. The Panthers under Rhule and Bridgewater are probably performing above expectations at this point and while they aren’t quite contenders yet, they are certainly not scrubs that are pushovers.

They’ll play oon Thursday night against the Falcons in a game where they will probably be favourites, something you wouldn’t have thought going into the season, and that’s without run CMC.

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NFL Droughts

By Richard O’Brien (@richard_obs)

In the wake of Liverpool winning their first Premier League since it’s conception and 30 years, 58 days since their last league title, sporting droughts have been a hot topic as of late.

Whether you are looking to forget Liverpool’s title or a fan looking for some optimism in what seems like the dark age of your favourite franchise, we’ll take a look at the longest droughts which are set to be broken in the upcoming season.

The Cleveland Browns

19 Year Playoff Drought

Let’s get the obvious one out of the way, the Cleveland Browns.

As is reminiscent with the aforementioned Liverpool side, the Browns found themselves turn from a historic franchise winning a combined 4 NFL championships under the likes of legendary Jim Brown and co, to frequently finding themselves as the butt of the joke for verging on the past two decades.

As every NFL fan knows all too well, the drought of the Browns has been characterised not only by its length, but the extraordinary and spectacular failings of the team.

Baker Mayfield and post-hype Browns: Why big improvement should be ...
Mark J. Rebilas 

Whether that be the winless season or last season in which the Browns were hyped up by many to be Superbowl contenders, only to put themselves out of playoff contention by winning only 2 games in the first half of the season.

Whilst the Ohio based organisation does have a reasonably difficult schedule, being in a tough division and having to play at Dallas and Tennessee, now seems as good a time as any to make their first playoff appearance since the 2002 AFC Wildcard game.

The Dallas Cowboys

26 Year Championship Drought

Replacing the Browns as the most hyped up team heading into the new season, the Cowboys’ fans look to be rewarded for their wait with an NFL championship come February.

Although there are still question marks over the contract dispute between the organisation and their franchise quarterback Dak Prescott, everything else appears to be in order for America’s team to reclaim their perch. Much to the relief of Dallas fans worldwide, Jason Garrett has left the helm after a decade in the role of Head Coach. Garrett was replaced in the offseason by Mike McCarthy who coincidentally won his only Superbowl ring with the Green Bay Packers the same season that Garrett took over the role as Head Coach of Dallas.

Aside from coaching, although this was often the focal point of Dallas’ fans frustrations over recent years, the initial eye test is that the organisation has drafted well securing Ceedee Lamb as the heir apparent to Michael Irvin to join an already stellar offense.

Although I’m still sceptical about the Cowboys chances to win it all, primarily because of the hype and lingering taste of the failure to meet expectations in the past, the aspirations are certainly still there from many.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers

14 Year Playoff Drought

Likewise, the Bucs have been an exciting and intriguing prospect for many fans heading into the 2020 season. The Buccaneers previous season was as much reminiscent of a roller coaster as any regular season can be.

From defensive highs like franchise record and league leading sacks from Shaq Barrett’s 19.5 sacks to the lows ranking 29th in overall defense. And of course, the offense. The rollercoaster effect was usually the cause of former first overall pick Jameis Winston who threw for over 5,000 yards and over 30 touchdowns, a feat many Hall of Fame QBs failed to achieve, but also threw 30 interceptions and set the record for 7 interceptions returned for touchdowns.

NFL: Tom Brady gets fresh start, Bruce Arians vies for legacy
Carmen Mandato / Getty

However, there were signs of life under new head coach Bruce Arians and with the high profile additions of former Patriots duo Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski, the Bucs look set to make their first playoff appearance since 2007.

Whilst some of the more optimistic fans have pointed to experienced, serial winners in Brady, Gronk and Arians as evidence of a possible title, whether that be divisional or a Superbowl ring, playoffs are certainly within reaching distance.

Buffalo Bills

26 Year Divisional Title Drought

On the face of it, the New England Patriots’ stranglehold on the AFC East appears to be over. Although the Patriots are still making attempts to hold their title as the top dogs in the division, with the addition of Quarterback Cam Newton to a 1 year deal, the Bills are looking to claim their first divisional title since 1995.

The Bills ended the 1995 regular season with a record of 10 wins and 6 losses, a record they will be looking to match at the very least in the upcoming season. The team’s defense ranked 3rd overall in 2019, and whilst the 2019 pro bowler and interception leader Tre’Davious White grabs the spotlight, the Bills have consistent quality throughout their defense.

Jordan Poyer: Buffalo Bills' defense is 'the best I've ever been on'
Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Where the team has looked to improve the most this offseason is the other side of the ball, by adding wide receiver Stefon Diggs this past offseason in a trade with the Minnesota Vikings which cost them their 2020 1st round pick among some other deal sweeteners.

The signs of the Patriots dynasty finally meeting its death, whilst historically have been greatly exaggerated, seem as comprehensive as they will ever be. Now, the position is there for the Bills to take the mantle as the top team in the AFC East for the first time in 25 years.

For me, the only question that remains is whether Josh Allen will continue improving and making the necessary leap required heading into his third season to make the Bills the new beast from the East.