By David McDonnell
Somewhat surprisingly, there are three NFL games tonight.
WIth the college football regular season finished, Saturday night is a great night to watch NFL matches as we sail into the business end of the year. In the NFC, the Eagles and the 49ers have already secured playoff berths, and tonight both the Vikings and the Bills can add their names to the postseason football list.
Dolphins v Bills
The late game sees the Dolphins play the Bills with a 1.15 kickoff.
Miami currently sit sixth in the AFC playoff positions with a record of 8-4 but should they lose tonight, then they could be joined by the Chargers, Jets and Patriots on 8-4 by the end of the weekend.
The Dolphins are stuttering of late and have lost on their last two outings against the 49ers and the Chargers. Last time out they were competitive against the Bolts with their defence competing well for most of the contest. It kept them in the game. Christain WIlikns was their standout player especially in the opening half.
Where they struggled mightily was on offence, outside of Tyreek Hill. Their run game was very poor with Raheem Mostert their leading rusher with only 37 yards on 11 carries. The passing game wasn’t much better with Tua Tagovailoa clearly playing through injury. All he could muster was 145 yards, most of which went on one deep play to Hill for a touchdown.
It is hard to be overly critical of a quarterback when they are not 100% healthy but the lack of a running threat is hindering their play-action game, which allows their receivers time to get down the field for big yardage.
This week they came up against a Bills defence that played very well last time out. They limited the Jets rushing attack to 76 yards and hit Mike White so hard and so often, he is out this weekend with a rib injury.
Josh Allen is back to ballin out every week and he is taking very little care with his body as he is steaming into tackles regularly to pick up first downs. I think his play has become a bit predictable recently and in the fourth quarter he is almost always opting to back himself to run with ball in hand to extend drives. I believe it is only a matter of when he is going to get hit and pick up a significant injury. I hope i’m wrong because he is brilliant to watch and i want to see him mixing it with Mahimes, Burrow and Jackson in the play-offs.
For tonight, I can’t see past a Buffalo victory and with it a guaranteed postseason appearance. Maybe then Allen will protect himself a bit more in the last three games in order to be fresh for the games that truly matter in their quest for a Superbowl.
The other games tonight see the Vikings v Colts and the Ravens v Browns.
Of the two, I am more interested to see the AFC North divisional matchup. It will be the third start for Deshaun Watson under centre for Cleveland, but his first in a national broadcast. So far he has looked rusty but I haven’t had an opportunity to see him in a full game so that will be of interest to me.
It’s a pity Lamar Jackson is still out.
His replacement Tyler Huntley had to leave the field last week with a concussion and didn’t return but he is expected to start tonight with Anthony Brown waiting in the wings. Without Lamar the Ravens lack bite making Baltimore very predictable. They will try to run over the Browns and although Cleveland have little to nothing to play for, a divisional win is always a nice way to keep your supporters onside heading into the offseason.
I think this Ravens defence is one of the best in the league and I expect this to be a low scoring affair. This is a toss of the coin for me, but without Lamar I think the Browns take this one.
In the 6pm kickoff, I expect the Vikings to score enough to beat the Colts who have been dismal in pass protection this season. Minnesota will be playing post season football but I remain unconvinced by the Vikings all season and I’m not changing my tune now.