By David McDonnell
It’s Week 6 and the match-up we’ve all been waiting for.
Patrick Mahomes versus Josh Allen.
Bills @ Chiefs
This game has been marked in the calendar since the season fixtures were released. The two best quarterbacks in the NFL, scratch that, the two best players in the NFL will go head-to-head on Sunday. So have your hot-dogs ready, because I can’t see how this game can disappoint.
When these two went toe-to-toe last January, we had a play-off game for the ages. With the match finished in a whirlwind tie, the toss of a coin gave Mahomes the ball first in overtime and that was all she wrote. Shots of a distraught Josh Allen not getting an opportunity to answer back resulted in a change of post-season rules.
There are differing opinions about which of the two is the best. I am on record for having Mahommes at the top of my list and I haven’t seen anything to change my mind so far this season. I’m sure Josh Allen reckons that if he can take down his opponent in front of a packed out Arrowhead Stadium, then figuratively the mantle will surely pass to him.
What makes this contest especially mouth-watering is the protagonists are both in a rich vein of form and have a record of 3-1. With both teams very likely to make the post-season, this is also an early battle for post-season home advantage later in the season.
Mahomes’ best performance of the season came two weeks ago when he dismantled a very talented and experienced Bucs defence in Tampa Bay. What most impressed me about his game that night was that he managed to share the ball between all his receiving options. He was at his lethal best both inside and outside the pocket and pulled out spectacular plays on the fly. He was figuratively on fire that night.
Last Monday, he led the Chiefs to victory after trailing the Las Vegas Raiders by 17 points. It turned into a shoot-out and four red-zone touchdowns passes to Travis Kelce made the difference. Kelce’s record-breaking Monday Night Football performance came with only 25 yards accounted for on the night, which shows that Mahommes is finding another way of getting his team down the field. Kansas don’t have a strong running attack but Clyde Edwards-Helaire is at his most dangerous when available for quick passes out the back field and running outside the hashes.
Kansas had their struggles against the Raiders, who were on top for most of the game and Las Vegas had success running the ball and particularly with deep balls over the top against the Chiefs defence, with Derek Carr finding Devante Adams for two touchdowns.
It is the latter than Buffalo will more likely try to exploit. Last Sunday Josh Allen had two bombs caught by Gabe Davis as he put the Pittsburgh Steelers to the sword. The first was a 98-yard play on his first drive of the game. I expect he will also try to put the Chiefs defensive-backs under pressure from the off.
The previous week against the Ravens saw Allen play in my opinion his best half of football of the season, when he took the game by the scruff of the neck and pulled his team from behind to a valiant win on the road. In that second half, he was majestic using his feet to get out of trouble and to pick up first downs. He also used his cannon of an arm to find his receivers outside the numbers in the second half.
The Bills don’t haven’t shown much in their running game so far but the rookie running-back James Cook did get his first TD of his career against the Steelers last week and we have seen enough of Devin Singletary to know what a good player he can be on his day. There are rumours that Buffalo are considering a trade with the Carolina Panthers for Christian McCaffery to push all their chips in the middle of the table to win the Superbowl this year. The more I think about that scenario, the more sense it makes for both teams and the player himself.
So who is going to win this game and why?
I can’t see either quarterback being stopped from moving the chains on a regular basis and I expect both teams to clock up a few touchdowns.
It may come down to the defence that can get the opposing quarterback off the field on even a couple of third downs that could make the difference. Right now, Buffalo has the better defence and with Tre’Davious White almost ready to return to the fold, he will be a great addition to the Buffalo secondary. I have been impressed with the form of Chris Jones on the Kansas D-line and also with the consistent performances of Nick Bolton at line-backer.
Ultimately, it will come down to two men and in my heart of hearts, I believe that Patrick Mahomes is the better quarterback and will win the day for the men in red.
Cowboys v Eagles
The late match on Sunday night is a contest between the Great Pretenders so far this season with an NFC East match-up that always has a bit of bite. The Eagles fans don’t really like anyone but they save their deepest bile for when the Cowboys come to town and it is safe to say the feeling is mutual.
At the moment, both of these teams are looking like serious contenders for the NFC.
I haven’t been overly surprised with how Philadelphia has fared this season. I was impressed with their rushing attack last season and even there, they managed to add more depth in the draft. For me, it is the best O-Line in football at this moment in time.
Their defence is the area of the team that has most improved since last year. The moves made by Howie Roseman in the off-season are paying dividends, especially with the signings of pass-rusher Hassan Reddick and corner-back James Bradbury. They also added first round pick Jordan Davis, who was one of my favourite players coming out this year from the National Champions Georgia Bulldog defence and they re-signed Fletcher Cox for another season.
The offence also improved two with the acquisition of AJ Brown to form a formidable double-team with Devonta Smith on the outside. All this has allowed Jalen Hurts to step up his game and I believe he has. He is a dual-threat quarterback, who is very dangerous outside the pocket with his legs and throwing on the run. He has been great to watch this year and has the gait of a man who he is comfortable with what he has been asked to do and in his position as leader. He does take more contact than you would like your quarterback to take, especially this early in the season.
All-in-all, it makes this Eagles team very balanced side that can beat you a number of ways. The only time they have struggled was containing Kyler Murray in the second half last week. I think it will take a good team to beat this side in Philly.
The surprise package for me so far this season are the Dallas Cowboys. They were a play-off team last January but I thought they lost key players in the off-season in Amari Cooper, Randy Gregory and Cedric Wilson and I expected some regression. If anything they look stronger.
Losing their starting QB, Dak Prescott, to injury in the first game of the season has been a blessing in disguise. They have had to find a way of winning and they have, as their defence has stepped up even more so than they did last season. Micah Parsons has been the best defensive player in the league and Dan Quinn has schemed-up ways of getting to every quarterback they have faced
With Dak missing, it has also forced them to run the ball more with Zeke and Tony Pollard forming an effective running-back committee, while Cooper Rush has managed games effectively and not turned over the ball. With Dak on the mend, he might start this game but the Cowboys will more likely stick with a winning formula for another week.
Whichever quarterback starts, I still believe the home team Eagles will get the job done late on Sunday night. I like how they are using Hurts in run option plays and using play action. They also have the run game to negate the Cowboys pass rush. For me they are the best team in the division and all their victories so far have looked routine. I expect the Eagles to win a roughly-fought contest.
Ravens @ Giants
The New York Giants have also been a surprise so far and they are getting a significant bounce from their new head coach Bran Daboll. Daniel Jones is coming off the best win of his career against the Packers in London and Sequon Barkley is in the prime of his career. However, I feel this fairy-tale can’t go on much longer as they are lacking the talent throughout their roster to win consistently in the NFL and I believe they will soon be found out.
Their offensive line is better but still not an elite unit and their receiving core has been awful so far despite their wins. I expect the wheels to come off this weekend when they host the Ravens. The Baltimore franchise has looked better than their 3-2 record suggests and they sit atop of a very competitive AFC North.
I was impressed once again with Lamar in last Sunday’s win against the Bengals and once again he delivered, finding Mark Andrews and Devin Duvernay when he most needed a first down. I think the less physical punishment Lamar takes in the regular season, the more likely he will be better conditioned to be at his most electric and dangerous best in the post-season. I expect a Ravens win here and the Giants to start heading towards the middle of the pack.