NFC Championship Preview: 49ers @ Eagles

By Conor Perrett 

The time has come for the NFL Conference Championship games, and in less than 24 hours we will know which two teams will meet in the Superbowl. 

The first game on the schedule is in the NFC as the No. 1 and 2 seeds meet. The Eagles and 49ers have been the two most impressive teams on this side of the bracket, but they’ve both got here with different styles. 

Now only one of these teams can represent the NFC in the main event in two weeks. 

No. 1 Philadelphia Eagles

Philadelphia has been the best team in the league for the majority of the season, with them being special on both sides of the ball. 

On offence, Jalen Hurts was in the MVP conversation before his injury, while their defence may just be the second best in the league to the team they will be facing at 8.00 pm tonight (GMT). 

What this game might be influenced by is the health of these players. 

Towards the end of the year injuries were starting to add up and it was getting a bit worrying after Hurts and left-tackle Lane Johnson both went down. They’ve had a few weeks to rest, but we don’t really know where Philly stands currently. 

The Eagles dispatched of the Giants easily last week with a highly- impressive performance, but it was against a team they had beaten twice already and the weakest remaining team in the playoffs.

What we do know is this team will look to come out the blocks fast and if they can play anywhere near to how they were in the first half of the season, Philadelphia may well find themselves in the Super Bowl.

Matchup to keep an eye on – Stopping the 49ers’ run game: If there has been one weakness to the Eagles all year it’s been their run defence. Their defensive-line is stacked with talent, but stopping interior runs has been a problem. It just so happens that this is the Niners strength, with them taking a focus to the run game. While on paper Philly has more talent on that side of the trenches, stopping the run and forcing Brock Purdy to throw into a tough secondary will be the game plan for this Eagles’ defence.

No. 2 San Francisco 49ers 

Kyle Shanahan has come from a family famous for its NFL coaching and it’s led to him being one of the best offensive play-callers in the league. 

Alongside General Manager John Lynch, they have built a team in San Francisco that is strong of both sides of the ball. But on the offence side where Shanahan specialises, his style has allowed for them to get this far despite starting a quarterback that was taken last at pick 262 in the NFL Draft just nine months ago.

Brock Purdy stepped into this offence when previous starters Trey Lance and Jimmy G went down with injuries and hasn’t looked back since. With an array of weapons that includes Deebo Samuel, George Kittle, Christian McCaffrey and many more, the Niners play-action focused playing style makes them a tough team to stop. 

Last week against the Cowboys we saw this team take on a top defence and still come through unscathed. Now, they will have to do it again, but they won’t have the luxury of facing an inconsistent offence this time round.

Matchup to keep an eye on – 49ers’D-Line vs Philly’s O-Line: Both of these positioned groups are regarded as their best respected positional groups in the league. San Fran has talent all over the line including potential DPOY Nick Bosa, while the Eagles have two players in Jason Kelce and Lane Johnson who may just be the two best offensive linemen in the league. This battle in the trenches will be a brawl all night long in the run and passing game, and the winner may just determine the outcome of the game.

Hurts’ mobility is what makes his offence so electric and if the 49ers’ feisty defensive-line can pressure him, it could be a recipe to success.

Previous Matchups

2021 Season:

Week 2 – 49ers @ Eagles, 17-11 49ers Win

These two teams last met during Week 2 of last season, in the exact same destination of the Conference Championship. Despite this, both teams looked a lot different with this being the start of a three-game losing streak for Philadelphia. They were in their first year under head-coach Nick Sirianni, while the Niners had Jimmy Garoppolo as the starting QB.

NFC Championship Game Prediction

As you can see I have laid out why both of these teams have gotten this far and why this matchup is so close.

The Eagles have been the most dominant team all year long, while on the other hand the Niners are the hottest team down the stretch. With the game being in Philadelphia I think the crowd will play a part with its noise and is a reason why the Eagles are considered 2.5 points favourites.

I feel this game could be a bit like the Niners and Cowboys game last week with it being a battle of the defences and fairly low scoring. Both teams have very few weaknesses, but if I had to look at where something could be taken advantage of, it’s Philly’s run defence. I fear this may be the game where Purdy will look like the seventh-round rookie he is, but the Niners run the ball so well.

In the end I’m going to back the Niners who I predicted to win the Super Bowl, but Philly will take this to over-time where it will be a classic of a game. 

49ers 21-18 Eagles

Playoffs: Bengals @ Bills

By Conor Perrett

To kickstart Sunday’s action of playoff football, the Bills and Bengals will square off after their Week 17 game was cancelled due to Damar Hamlin’s cardiac arrest on the field. 

This rematch is highly anticipated as two of the best quarterbacks in the league, Josh Allen and Joe Burrow, prepare for their heavyweight clash.

Buffalo Bills (13-3)

Power Rankings – 2nd

The Bills were meant to have a walk in the park last week against the Dolphins, but turnovers made life a little harder for them than expected. On paper, there may be no other team that has the stars to match up with Buffalo, yet still they sometimes are the ones holding themselves back.

I think the perfect way to describe the Bills is like a knockout heavyweight boxer. Think of Mike Tyson, they are all swing with no jab. Instead of running the ball or taking their time to get down the field, Allen is always looking for the big shot to get the score. It works for them the majority of time, but there can be times when the big hits aren’t landing.

For example, Buffalo’s 27 turnovers in the regular season were the third most in the NFL and four more than any team still standing. While Allen’s 14 interceptions were tied for the third most in the league. When facing a team like the Bengals who live off turnovers, it may be the smarter approach to fight sensibly and wait for the right opening.

Cincinnati Bengals (12-4)

Power Rankings – 3rd

The Bengals are winners of 13 of their last 15 games and had a 7-3 lead in the first quarter when these two teams originally met. With the second-longest winning streak in the league, QB Burrow has been hot down the stretch, as this offence seems to be peaking at the right time.

These players have gotten through the AFC to make the Superbowl before, but they’ve never had to face up against Buffalo. Their offence and defence may be able to match up with the Bills, but it will always be seen as a little less explosive or have a few less playmakers. 

What they can hold to their advantage though is the turnover battle.

This Bengals’ defence always seems to come up with a turnover to impact a game, and in the playoff season that can be the make or break for a game. We saw it last week against the Ravens with a 99-yard fumble return TD, and they did it last year as well. In every AFC playoff game last season, Cincinnati got an interception on the final defensive play and even in defeat, the Bengals created two turnovers in the Super Bowl.

Against a sometime turnover machine in Josh Allen, the Bengals may be able to use that to their advantage.


When I previewed this game back in Week 17, I slightly leaned with the Bills.

While we only got to see half a quarter, the Bengals looked great at the start of that game and moved the ball with ease in their one drive. The difference this round is they will be in Buffalo and there could be a chance of snow.

Like when two great teams meet it can feel like a coin toss. The Bills matchup better on paper, but Burrow has a sense of confidence and swagger that can be hard to doubt.

I love the matchup the Bengals’ have on defence, with the Bills giving it away three times in each of their last three games, while Cincinnati have 11 takeaways in their past four games.

The one thing that worries and gives me doubts about the Bengals is their beaten up offensive line. They were already missing right-tackle La’el Collins, and will now be down at the other tackle spot and guard as well, with Jonah Williams and Alex Cappa being ruled out.

The offensive-line has always been an issue and it getting weaker doesn’t bode well. Part of me feels this Bengals team can do it though and sadly I see the Bills fairy tail story ending this evening.

Bengals 23-20 Bills

Playoff Preview: Giants v Eagles 

By David McDonnell

I’ll keep this preview short and get straight into it. 

The best of the action in this game will be between the Giants defensive front against the Eagles O-Line and whoever wins this contest over the 60 minutes will be in the NFC Championship game next week. 

That’s how I see it and for me, it’s advantage Philly. 

Throughout the season, the Eagles offensive line have bullied most of the teams they have come up against. It has been the bedrock of their success and they have found it relatively easy to clock up yardage on the ground all season. Routinely they have taken a lead in the opening half and closed it out in the second half of matches.  

At the end of the season we had right-tackle Lane Johnson, guard Landon Dickerson and centre Jason Kelce picked on our All-Pro team.

This dominant line has helped the run game and given quarterback Jalen Hurts the time and space to dictate the Eagles offence and also opened up play-action to hit deep shots down the field. That Hurts is very dangerous with ball in hand adds another layer to what has become a very difficult team to play against as they can change how they decide to attack based on their opposition.

The strength of the Giants defence is their D-line, led by Dexter Lawrence and assisted in the middle by Leonard Williams and Jihad Ward. Although Lane Johnson is named to start for the Eagles, he will not be operating at 100% by any means and it will be interesting if the Giants can get some change out of impressive rookie Kayvon Thibodeaux attacking from the left side. 

Another interesting thing to watch out for is how healthy Hurts looks at QB as two weeks ago against the same opposition, it was clear he was minding an injured shoulder and only ran for 13 yards. If Hurts is not operating at 100% either, then the Eagles could be vulnerable to an upset. 

I know I am projecting here but I can’t see this Giants team, even coming off their best performance of the season in last week’s win against the Vikings in Minnesota, stopping this Eagles side. 

Last week was in my opinion Daniel Jones’ best game of his career for the New York franchise and this will certainly give them hope, but my gut feeling is their limited receiving core led by Darius Slayton and Isaiah Hodgins will find themselves outmatched by cornerbacks Darius Slay and James Bradberry. On the contrary, I expect the Eagles pair of AJ Brown and Devonta Smith will expose the Giants defensive backs. 

So much of the Giants success this season has come from the rushing talents of Sequon Barkley but tonight I believe it is more likely in my opinion that the Eagles defence will wear down the Giants rushing attack rather than the other way around. 

The Eagles have a terrific rotating cast on their defensive line with starters Fletcher Cox, Javon Hargrave and Josh Sweat, backed up with the talents of rookie behemoth Jordan Davis and veterans Ndamukong Suh, Linval Joseph and Robert Quinn. 

I’ll put my hands up, I can’t see the Giants beating the Eagles tonight. I haven’t seen many teams being able to compete upfront with that Eagles O-line yet this season and I suspect only the 49ers have the capability to overpower them consistently for four quarters in the NFC side of the draw. 

I have been wrong many times before but I don’t believe I’ll be wrong tonight. 

Eagles to win.

Playoff Preview: Jags v Chiefs 

By David McDonnell 

Throughout the week I have seen a good few people on this side of the pond posting about how they missed one of the biggest comebacks in playoff history last weekend when Jacksonville came from 27-0 down to pip the Chargers in the early hours of Sunday morning. 

They all went to bed and with it a literal reminder of the saying ‘You Snooze, You Lose,’ especially when it comes to playoff football.

The thought had crossed my mind in that first half as it had been a game where everything that could go wrong for the Jags had gone wrong, most notably five first-half turnovers. Thankfully for those of us who resisted the call to dreamland, we were rewarded with a playoff comeback and collapse of epic proportions.

One that has already cost LAC offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi his job. 

Here we are a week later and the AFC South champions travel to Arrowhead stadium tonight to play the No. 1 seed Kansas City Chiefs at 9.30 pm (GMT). 

In my opinion, the main reason why the Jaguars won that game was their defence. In the first half they kept the score to 27 points despite putting the Bolts in great field position and most significantly kept them off the scoreboard throughout the second half. 

There is a lot of talent on this side of the ball, along with a number of positions that are likely to be upgraded in the off-season, but most encouragingly they have shown a warrior mindset on defence for a number of weeks. 

I really like the safety pairing of Andre Cisco and Rayshawn Jenkins, while Tyson Campbell is emerging as a star at corner. Their run defence is decent and allows an average of 112.1 yards per game.

But if I am being critical, and I am, the Jags are not getting enough pressure consistently on opposing quarterbacks. The team has amassed 28 sacks all season, which puts them 25th out of all 32 NFL teams. The only playoff team with less sacks, surprisingly, is the Cincinnati Bengals. 

It is true their best player on defence is outside-linebacker Josh Allen, and they possess the rookie first overall draft pick in Trevon Walker, who has flashed at times but so far this season they haven’t produced to their ability on a consistent basis. Not when the pair has the potential to be the best pass-rushing duo in the NFL. That’s how I see it, although it should also be noted that they could do with more help from the interior linemen.

Their best chance of stopping the Chiefs in my opinion is applying pressure on Patrick Mahomes. If they cannot do this, then they will be in for a long day in Kansas City irrespective of what they produce on offence.

Quarterback Trevor Lawrence has stepped up his game in a major way and has good receiving options with Christian Kirk and Zay Jones both having excellent seasons. However, they are still lacking that blue-chip wideout that most of the other contenders all possess. I would argue the same could be said for the Chiefs.

With Kansas City ranked 20th in the NFL versus tight-ends, I’d expect Evan Engram to be the key target and their best option on third downs and in the red zone. 

Another thing of note, right-tackle Jawaan Taylor got away with a number of fouls, much to the frustration of Joey Bosa, last weekend. Due to the focus on this throughout the media during the week, I suspect he’ll be pinged if or when he transgresses tonight.

Saying that I have been very impressed with the Jacksonville O-line this season and if they halt Chris Jones’s influence on proceedings, it could give them a great chance in keeping Patrick Mahomes off the field for stretches. 


There is no doubt in my mind that Mahomes is the best player in the NFL and coming off his best season to date. If he gets the time, he will dissect every team he plays against and has the ability to beat you with his legs and land a knockout punch down the field on every play. 

With a healthy and highly talented offensive line in front of him, I can’t see the Jags keeping him under 30 points and for the Jags to win, they will need to go toe-to-toe throughout the contest. I do believe the Florida side has a chance tonight as I am not convinced by the Chiefs defence this season so I can see the visitors scoring touchdowns. 

However, that might not be enough against Mahomes and this high octane offence, so I’ll opt for a home win for the Chiefs.

NFL Playoff Team MVP and Rookie Awards

By Conor Perrett

With the NFL Divisional Rounds soon upon us, only eight teams are coming round for corner for the final stretch, so let’s look at the players that have got them in contention for the Super Bowl.

In this piece we’re looking at the Most Valuable Player and Rookie of the Year for each remaining franchise. 

These players have played an important part in getting their team to compete and now stand just three wins away from lifting the Lombardi Trophy. 

Kansas City Chiefs

MVP – QB Patrick Mahomes: When it comes to MVP’s, there is no doubting that Mahomes may just be the best player on not only his team, but in the National Football League. He currently has the best odds to lift the award in three weeks time after his spectacular season, where he finished first in passing yards, passing touchdowns and QB rating. All the while commanding his offence to first in DVOA and EPA per drive.

With the way the offence runs with Mahomes at the helm and the average defence he has to deal with, there is no more important piece to this Chiefs side and it seems he won’t be going anywhere anytime soon. 

ROTY –  RB Isaiah Pacheco (7th Round): When Pacheco was selected with the 251st pick in the draft, there was probably no intention for him to make the impact he did in his rookie season. With 4.3 40-yard speed, Pacheco looked to be a return specialist that could also be a speedy piece in the backfield. 

That speedy piece has proved his worth and it was Week 1 when he started to make impacts with a rushing touchdown. It wasn’t soon after that Pacheco had beaten out the likes of Clyde Edwards-Helaire and was announced the starter by Week 7. From there, Pacheco grew into his role with 960 scrimmage yards on the season, leading NFL rookies and the most yards in NFL history from a seventh-round pick in his rookie year.

Philadelphia Eagles

MVP – CB Darius Slay / James Bradberry:  The Eagles have had a fantastic season on both sides of the ball, as it was hard to pick a standout. QB Jalen Hurts stepped up to be a franchise quarterback behind his impressive offensive line, but cornerback duo Slay and Bradberry, have shutdown opposing receivers all year to turn around Philly’s defence.

Having a lockdown corner is always important to defences, but the luxury of two is rare. In the Eagles’ case they did, with both defensive backs nabbing three interceptions on the season. Interceptions were only a small part of the story, as both corners ranked in the top-7 for passer-rating allowed and finished 1st and 2nd in NFL’s Next Gen stats for production score.

ROTY – S Reed Blankenship (UDFA): When you are as successful as Philly, it’s hard for rookies to make an immediate impact on the team. In Blankenship’s case he was the next man to step up when C.J. Gardner-Johnson went down mid-season and paved a way onto the starting defence.

Blankenship is the only rookie on this list to go undrafted, but that shouldn’t qualify how talented he is. Collecting 34 tackles, two pass breakups, and one INT, he started the season as No. 4 safety, but soon earned the right to No. 3 and got starting thanks to injuries. Gardner-Johnson soon returned but coaches still wanted the undrafted rookie on the field. Blankenship now comes into the lineup when the Eagles move into nickel, and will likely still play a key role in Philly’s playoff run. 

Buffalo Bills

MVP – QB Josh Allen: It’s no secret that Josh Allen is the engine to this high explosive offence. Allen isn’t afraid to take risks and is a reason why the Bills finished the season 2nd in offensive DVOA, as his passing touchdowns and QB rating were 2nd in the league, behind only Mahomes.

Allen brings a different style of play to the table though and is a force on the ground. At 6’4, 235 pounds, he’s a big fella to bring and loves to make contact with defenders. His erratic playstyle comes with its downside such as injuries and turnovers, but it’s the risk you take with Allen and the rewards have so far outweighed the consequences.

ROTY – RB James Cook (2nd Round): We’ve already spoken about the Bills’ offence under Allen, but the run-game has always been a weakness. The younger brother of Pro-Bowler Dalvin Cook, James exploded onto the scene in college thanks to his receiving ability out of the backfield. It got him drafted in the second round, but he was never able to be an outright starter.

Cook might have not had the season that was expected out of him, but he was far more successful on the ground. With 687 scrimmage yards, 507 of them have come on the ground at a fantastic 5.7 yards per carry. Though he shares the backfield in a committee, averaging the amount of yards he does, on limited carries is a great way to stand out from the rest.

San Francisco 49ers

MVP – RB Christian McCaffrey : The Niners look like one of the strongest teams in the playoffs right now, but their season didn’t start with great success. At the start it was a bumpy ride with a 3-4 record before a 10-game win streak to finish the year, making them the team they are today.

There are many factors on why this turnaround happened, but the trade in Week 7 for McCaffrey was a major turning point. The 49ers had weapons all over the team, but the superstar running back was the missing piece. Since landing CMC, the 49ers have scored 31 or more points in seven of 11 games with McCaffrey personally having 100+ scrimmage yards or a touchdown in every game but one. He fits like a glove in Kyle Shanahan’s offence and despite starting a seventh-round rookie at QB in Brock Purdy, McCaffrey’s presence on the field had tipped the Niners over the edge. 

ROTY – QB Brock Purdy (7th Round): That seventh-round rookie I just mentioned shouldn’t be taken as a negative and despite starting the season as the third-string QB, Purdy is the man of the hour in San Francisco right now. Being the last pick in the draft can be embarrassing when the title ‘Mr. Irrelevant’ comes into play, but Purdy has almost won it as a badge of honour.

Making his first appearance for San Fran, during their massive ‘Master vs Student’ game against Miami in Week 13, Purdy came in to replace Jimmy G mid-game and hasn’t looked back since. Brock has a sense of confidence you rarely see in a rookie QB, let alone one taken at pick 262 in the NFL Draft. His passer rating of 107.3 is the best amongst quarterbacks in the span of his first snap and he caused serious confusion on what the 49ers might do at the QB position next season,  which will have the third overall pick from 2021 Draft Trey Lance vying to start. 

Cincinnati Bengals

MVP – QB Joe Burrow: Mahomes and Allen are regarded as the best two quarterbacks in the NFL, but if there’s one man who can compete with them; it’s Joe Burrow. 

Burrow struggled to get playing time at Ohio State in college, but since his senior year at LSU, Burrow may be the most impressive and coolest quarterback out there. Shattering all the college records and then getting drafted to the Bengals, has led Burrow to this moment.

On Cincinnati’s’ run to the Super Bowl last year, Burrow showed he could get out of the AFC  and a year on it still feels the same. Finishing the season 5th in passing yards and 2nd in passing touchdowns, Burrow can conduct an offence and hit his receivers better than anybody. The confidence that surrounds him must be intimidating for opposing defences and to think he’s still on his rookie contract.

ROTY – OG Cordell Volson (4th Round): Much like the best teams in the NFL, the Bengals didn’t have too many rookies contributors on the team. Their first-round pick Dax Hill didn’t see the field too often, but left-guard Volson played in every offensive snap.

The Bengals’ offensive-line has been a problem over the years, but it gradually improved over the course of the season. For a Day 3 pick to make the contribution he has on a Super Bowl contender, should be seen as an enormous achievement, and his confidence should keep growing.

Dallas Cowboys

MVP – EDGE Micah Parsons: Parsons hit the scene when he was in contention for Defensive Player of the Year in his rookie season last year, and this past season was no different. Parsons is up for that same award again, with the versatility he brings to the linebacker and edge-rusher position. His 13.5 sacks on the season put him in 7th for that statistic, on a Cowboys’ defence that ranked 2nd in defensive DVOA.

The ability of Parsons makes him one of the most feared players on the defensive side of the ball and as he’s one of the main reasons why Dallas were able to get 12 wins on the season.

ROTY – OL Tyler Smith (1st Round): The pick of Tyler Smith back in the Draft was highly criticised as it was seen as a reach. These criticisms should get put to bed, as he’s had the best season of all the rookie offensive linemen. 

Smith was thrown straight into the action during training camp when star left-tackle Tyron Smith went down. Having spent the off-season training at guard, it caused him to have to switch to the tackle position. The transition hasn’t been perfect but better than expected. 

Smith was seen as a great run blocker which he has been and it was his pass blocking that was seen as a weakness. He’s had his ups and downs with penalties, but shutting down the likes of Trey Hendrickson early in the season was particularly impressive.

Jacksonville Jaguars

MVP – QB Trevor Lawrence: Lawrence didn’t quite have the start to his career that many expected from the ‘generational talent’, but his second half of the season was just what people hoped to see.

Lawrence struggled with interceptions but his decision-making has improved over Year 2. His completion percentage, yards-per-attempt, and TD-to-INT ratio have improved significantly, which led the Jaguars to the playoffs. In that first half to the Chargers, it wasn’t pretty with four interceptions but he didn’t let that affect him or the team. He triumphed back in the second half, making the right reads and completing passes that helped score Jacksonville a win for the ages and a place in the Divisional Rounds.

ROTY – C Luke Fortner (3rd Round): Jacksonville had many rookies thrown into the lineup and make contributions, but the third-round pick was the most valuable. Fortner went directly into the starting lineup during training camp and has played in all 17 games. He allowed just one sack all season from the centre position and has regularly received praise from head-coach Doug Pederson.

New York Giants

MVP – HC Brian Daboll: It may feel like cheating not choosing a player for this Giants team, but no person was more valuable to the organisation than the head-coach. Expectations for the season in the first year of a rebuild, was to build an identity and get a few wins. New York exceeded these and then some and now find themselves as one of the last eight remaining teams in the playoffs.

Daboll came from an offensive background and has turned round the career of Daniel Jones. In Jones’ first three seasons, it was looking like he may not have a future in the league, but Daboll has slowed things down for him at the quarterback position. It started with Daboll relying on the run-game and getting Jones to cut down on the turnovers that had haunted him up to that point in his career. It meant this offence relied on the run more, while Jones made the simple safe throws. 

When that started to work, he slowly amped Jones’ production up, letting him be more loose until in the Wild-Card round where he was the first QB in Playoff history to record 300+ passing yards, 70+ rushing yards, two touchdowns with zero interceptions. With the turn around Daboll has conducted with this team, his name is leading the way for Coach of the Year. 

ROTY – EDGE Kayvon Thibodeaux (1st Round): Thibodeaux was seen as the No. 1 prospect entering his Junior year in Oregon, but injuries and a down year found him to go fifth in the NFL Draft to the Giants.

He had a fairly slow start to the season and his stats didn’t jump out to you with four sacks, but his overall game looked good. His speed to power made him a force in the run-game with his Week 16 game vs the Commanders being a standout. Exploding in that NFC East divisional game with 12 total tackles, one sack and three tackles for loss and a touchdown, Thibodeaux finished the regular season second in total pressures among rookie edge-rushers.

NFL Playoffs Cowboys @ Buccaneers

By Conor Perrett

It’s Monday Night Football and we close out the Wild-Card round with a historic player facing up against a historic team. 

Despite finishing below .500 for the first time in his career, Tom Brady gets the chance to host a playoff game, against a hot and cold Cowboys team, in what might be his last game in a Buccaneers uniform.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (8-9)

Power Rankings – 13th

DVOA Rankings: Offence – 16th, Defence – 13th, ST – 31st: Overall – 17th 

Making the playoffs without having a winning record is not a regular occurrence, as the Buccaneers are the latest team to do so. In a weak division, Tampa Bay now has the privilege of hosting the Dallas Cowboys, who will be favourites.

The Bucs look like a shadow of the team that won the Super Bowl two years ago, with a new head coach in place. By the sounds of things Todd Bowles will remain as head-coach no matter the result of tonight’s game, but it goes without saying the decline the Buccaneers has been on. 

Specialising on the defensive side, with a banged up secondary, things have been very inconsistent on that side of the ball.

While on the offence, the big issue has been the loss of former head-coach Bruce Arians. On a whole, the offence has been poor considering they have a seven-time Super Bowl winner at QB. The offensive line hasn’t played well because of injuries, the running game is non-existent at times and the tight ends and receivers seem to have lost a step.

Matchup to keep an eye on – Explosive plays on offence

One of the main issues for the Bucs has been moving the ball downfield. Moving the chains has been difficult by their standards, as it comes much easier when they can pick up big yards on the ground or through the air. The Cowboys’ defence has been susceptible recently to deep vertical routes, so keep an eye out for Mike Evans and Chris Godwin to use their speed to get over the top. 

Dallas Cowboys (12-5)

Power Rankings – 6th

DVOA Rankings: Offence – 15th, Defence – 2nd, ST – 10th: Overall – 6th 

A lot has changed since Dallas’ Week 1 loss to the Buccaneers, but the Cowboys are still too inconsistent to be considered a major contender. They looked great when they took down the Eagles on Christmas Eve to keep the race for the top spot in the NFC East, but sloppy losses to the Jaguars and Commanders added doubt to their credentials. 

The defence has been solid throughout the season, despite picking up injuries in the secondary on the back end. Micah Parsons has earned his first All-Pro honours at the EDGE position, but has started to be schemed out of games. In the bright lights though, expect him to step up to the challenge.

Success has depended on the play of quarterback Prescott. Dak led the league in interceptions despite missing four games of play.  It’s been unlike himself to make this many mistakes, as the Cowboys need him to connect with CeeDee Lamb to be the explosive offence they know they can be.

Matchup to keep an eye on – Dallas’s run game

Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard may be one of the best one-two punch running-back combos in the league. They both work incredibly well when in rhythm and can be a nuisance to stop when running rampant. Things have slowed down a little since offensive tackle Terence Steele got sidelined with an injury, but it’s difficult to see Dallas winning this game without a big performances from either of the backs.

Previous Matchups

2022 Season:

Week 1 – Buccaneers @ Cowboys 19-3, Buccaneers win

We saw this Wild-Card matchup back in the first week of this season and to the surprise of everyone Tampa Bay blew away the Cowboys. Dallas QB Dak Prescott suffered an injury in this game that would hold him out for a month, and the Cowboys offence has significantly grown since then.

It should also be known in a personal statistic, the Dallas Cowboys have never beaten Tom Brady before.  In Brady’s 20+ year career he’s faced the Cowboys seven times, winning every one of those games.


If you asked who would win this matchup a few weeks ago, I would have leaned heavily with the Cowboys. But since then, Dallas has looked shaky at times with both their offence and defence showing weaknesses .

It’s also hard to doubt the post-season experience Tom Brady brings to the table. There’s a reason why he has won more Super Bowls than every other franchise, as he shows up in the big games when he’s needed.

The Bucs have many reasons why they could win. They game-plan well, are at home and Dallas struggle in the outdoors. The result may matter on how they attack though. If they come out pass heavy, I think Dallas will be able to slow that down. On the other hand if they commit to the run I can see them winning the game in that style.

The problem is their run game has disappeared at times, so that is what I have to go off of. I’ll side with the Cowboys because of this. 

Cowboys 20-17 Buccaneers

SNF Preview: Ravens v Bengals

By David McDonnell

On paper, this looks like a dream play-off pairing between divisional opponents and unfortunately for all involved, circumstances have taken away one of the main protagonists in Baltimore’s superstar quarterback Lamar Jackson. 

Jackson’s knee injury has ruled him out for the last six weeks, and for a Ravens offence that is built around his talents, in particular his threat of running with the ball in hand from the QB position, this is a seismic blow. 

That his replacement, Tyler Huntley, is also carrying a shoulder injury adds to their misfortune, and we could see Anthony Brown under centre at some stage during this playoff contest.

This puts the Cincinnati defence in a much advantageous position going into a knockout fixture and I expect the Ravens to spend as much time running the ball as they can and try and work some openings off play-action. By sticking with a run-first game plan, they will hope to keep Burrow longer on the sideline and wear the Bengals defence down. 

The Bengals also have their injury problems, as they are down two of their starting offensive linemen with Alex Cappa ruled out through injury and La’el Collins placed on injured reserve. 

This gives the Ravens a fighting chance, as statistically they have the second best defence in the NFL, since they traded for All-Pro linebacker Roquan Smith from the Chicago Bears during the season. The Baltimore defence is littered with stars but for their best chance of winning this game, they will need to win the upfront collisions and not give Cincinnati QB Joe Burrow any time to dissect their defence.

This puts a lot of pressure on veterans Calais Campbell and Jason Pierre Paul to make this happen. How the Cincinnati offence, and in particular their offensive line hold up against the Ravens, should tell us a lot about their Super Bowl credentials going forward. 

These teams are well acquainted with each other from the AFC North and even more so as the Bengals beat the Ravens only a week ago. The Bengals offence versus this Ravens defence is where the tastiest action will be.

I suspect that Joe Burrow and his receiving core will manage about 25-30 points and that should be enough for victory against a Baltimore side that has offered little in the passing game in the last half of the season even before Lamar went down. 

They are likely to try and find tight-end Mark Andrews on key third downs and they also have the option of Sammy Watkins over the top, but ultimately in my opinion,  they don’t have enough receivers who routinely get separation to cause the Bengals too many problems.

In contrast, the Bengals have an array of passing options with two young wideout studs in Ja’Marr Chase and Tee Higgins. The pair are ably supported by Tyler Boyd and Trenton Irwin and Burrow also likes to dump passes out the back field to running backs Joe Mixon and Samaje Perine. This helps in stretching out the field by creating space for the offence, while also tiring out their opposing linebackers, who must track and tackle the runners across the field.

The Ravens must not give Burrow any time to dissect their defence, if they want to win this game. This is easier said than done and I can’t see them being able to manage it for four quarters. 

For me even if Baltimore had Lamar, the Cincinnati have that extra gear to use if the game is close. It will be rough and tumble in the first two quarters but I expect the Bengals to pull away in the second half. 

Ravens 17-27 Bengals 

NFL Playoff Preview: Dolphins @ Bills

By Conor Perrett

With the NFL playoffs underway, Sunday’s Wild-Card matchups kicks off with two divisional opponents, whose games this year were exhilarating. 

The Dolphins and Bills are no strangers with each other, but one important thing will be missing in this matchup:  Tua Tagovailoa. The Miami QB is set to miss the game with a concussion leading Buffalo entering the game as -13.5 point favourites in the bookies. 

This is the largest point spread in playoff history. 

Buffalo Bills (13-3)

Playoff Power Rankings – 2nd

DVOA Rankings: Offence – 2nd, Defence – 4th, ST – 1st: Overall – 1st

The Bills enter the playoffs having won seven consecutive games and ranking second in both points scored and allowed this season. They are viewed as one of the most complete teams in the league, with star quarterback Josh Allen once again having a dominant season.

Allen finished the regular season with a total of 5,045 passing and rushing yards and 42 touchdowns. The offence can go toe-to-toe with anyone but some sloppy interceptions does not make this team perfect. With 14 interceptions on the year, Allen’s play style is always going to be reckless but it has especially been a problem in the red-zone. 

Nevertheless, Miami have only intercepted eight passes all season, with only the Giants causing less among the 14 playoff teams. Buffalo’s run game has also started to get some spotlight with backs Devin Singletary and James Cook sounding out the run game and completing the offence. 

Matchup to keep an eye on – Bills’ run defence.

It’s no secret Miami will look to run the ball when they’re down to their third-string QB, Spencer Thompson. They’ve also had a lot of success doing it in their previous two matchups this season as well and will need it more than ever for this game. If Buffalo is able to shut it down, it could be a long night for the Dolphins.

Miami Dolphins (9-8)

Power Rankings – 14th

DVOA Rankings: Offence – 7th, Defence – 15th, ST – 28th: Overall – 8th 

Miami entered this game as the biggest underdogs in the Wild-Card round, mostly due to their injuries on offence but also one win in their last six games. The season had its ups and downs but at points this Dolphins team looked like one of the best in the year.

The offence was a force through the month of October and November, with Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle speed being too much for opposing defences. They were then buyers at the trade deadline as deals for Bradley Chubb and Jeff Wilson came to fruition. 

Then the month of December hit with a tough run of games and the third concussion of the season for Tua and their form started to fall apart. The Dolphins also managed to scrape their way into the playoffs with a 9-6 win against the Jets on the last day of the regular season, but it seems it only delayed their end to the season by a week.  

Matchup to keep an eye on – Blitzing against Josh Allen

One of Miami’s identities on defence is rushing the passer with an extra man. 

The Dolphins send at least five pass rushers on 36.4 percent of their pass-rushing opportunities, the third highest rate in the NFL this season. It just so happens through advanced metrics, Allen has had some of the least success against the blitz this year. This could be the way to slow Allen down, but they must be careful or he could make Miami pay with his arm or legs.

Previous Matchups

2022 Season:

Week 3 – Bills @ Dolphins – 19-21, Dolphins Win

Week 15 –  Dolphins @ Bills, 29-32, Bills Win

Being in the same division, both these teams played twice this year and their games were electric. In Week 3 we saw a close event that saw Buffalo dominate the time of possession. Miami fought hard in the fourth quarter though and scored a touchdown to take the lead and a 4th down stop on their two-yard line closed out the game.

Their next matchup in Week 15 was a snowstorm, where Allen and Tagovailoa dualed it out. After trading touchdowns all game, Buffalo got the ball last and in a scramble to clear the snow, kicker Tyler Bass was good on his 25 yard field goal in a walk-off win. 


Missing their starting quarterback in Tua and running back in Raheem Mostert, while being on the road in Buffalo, nothing is in Miami’s favour.

Starting seventh-round rookie Skyler Thompson at QB, he made some appearances during the season but when faced with an elite defence, he’s looked like a seventh-round rookie. The Bills just so happen to have an elite defence and will be aggressive in their approach to cause panic.

This could open up a few shots for speedy receivers Hill and Waddle, as Mike McDaniel will surely have some things up his sleeve. But to keep that up for four quarters with the talent differential on display feels like an huge up-hill battle for Miami.

Dolphins 10-31 Bills

Sunday’s NFL Playoff Fixtures

B David McDonnell

I certainly thought about going to bed approaching half-time as the Chargers led 27-0 against a Jacksonville Jaguars team who could not put a foot right with their QB Trevor Laurence throwing four interceptions.

But the football Gods rewarded the faithful as the Jags came back and won with a walk-off kick at the death from Riley Patterson to win a game that will be remembered in Duval County forever.

So what’s on the Gridiron menu tonight?


Dolphins @ Bills at 6pm 

Giants @ Vikings at 9.30 

Ravens @ Bengals at 1.15am on Sunday Night Football

Let’s hope the drama is as tasty as the desert we enjoyed last night.

The Play-offs Start Tonight

By David McDonnell 

Tonight, the football gets ramped up as we start the much anticipated playoffs. 

It’s knockout football, ladies and gentleman, from here until we get to the Superbowl in Glendale, Arizona in the middle of February. 

At 9.30 pm, we have a grudge match as the San Francisco 49ers come up against divisional rival Seattle Seahawks on the NFC side of the draw.

On the AFC side of Super Wildcard Weekend, I expect a very exciting game between two emerging superstar quarterbacks when Justin Herbert and his Chargers travel to Jacksonville to take on the Trevor Laurence led Jaguars at 1.30am GMT.

Seahawks v 49ers

The Niners are strong favourites having won their last 10 games in a row. Right now they look like the best team in football in many areas but there is still one big question mark over rookie sensation Brock Purdy, at quarterback after the two previous incumbents got put on injured reserve during the season. More on him in a bit. 

The Niners’ defence, banged up throughout the season, are fitter and healthier now than they have been all year.  Currently, San Francisco has the best defence in football, with All-Pro players at all three levels. They boast the NFL sack leader in Nick Bosa, who continuously wins at the line of scrimmage and looks to me as a shoe-in for Defensive Player of the Year. 

On the offensive side of the ball, the 49ers have in my opinion one of the top three O-lines in football, which helps with their zone running attack. They also possess an array of weapons that allows head coach Kyle Shanahan to scheme up attacks in a  variety of ways. It makes the Niners very difficult to stop as they can attack your defence in a multitude of ways. 

For example: Christian McCaffery is a top class running-back who is terrific catching the ball out the back field, while Deebo Samuel is a top wide receiver who is also used as a lethal threat rushing the ball. They have other receiving options with tight-end George Kittle, who has scored seven touchdowns in his last four games. One trait they all have in common is that they all make yardage after the catch with their athleticism. 

Add in receiving duo Jauen Jennings and Brandon Aiyuk who have made big plays on third downs all season and Pro Bowl selected full-back Kyle Juszczyk, and you have an offence with options. 

So, there is a lot of expectation in San Fran to get the the Superbowl this year and a lot of pressure on their rookie quarterback Brock Purdy who was Mr. Irrelevant in last year’s draft, after he was the last and 262nd player selected.  

Tonight he Purdy will become the lowest-ranked QB to ever start a play-off game. 

So far he has answered all the doubts and then some. In the games he has played, he has scored 13 touchdowns and thrown four interceptions. He has shown himself to be very calm in the pocket when there is a defensive tackle bearing down on him and also in the face of a lot of media attention and public scrutiny. So far he has been unruffled, but can Seattle turn up the pressure on his young shoulders?

The Seahawks are 6.5 point underdogs but they have a chance. They have two rookie tackles in Charles Cross and Abraham Lucas, who have impressed this year but they will have their hands full tonight. They also have a good corp of defensive backs but where they have struggled at times on defence is getting after the opposition quarterback. 

They have a Pro Bowl caliber QB in Geno Smith, two good receivers in Tyler Lockett and DK Metcalf and an excellent running back in rookie Kenneth Walker. However, where this team has been especially inconsistent on offence is running the ball especially in the back half of the season. Should they struggle tonight with their rushing attack, then the 49ers will have a massive advantage in the trenches. 

However, if they can establish a run game, then this contest could be closer than expected. What the Seahawks have in abundance is knowledge of San Francisco, and a serious chip on their shoulder having lost to them twice already this season.

To put my cards on the table, I expect a 49ers victory and I would be shocked if Seattle pulled off a famous win. 

Chargers v Jaguars 

Of the two playoff games tonight, I am most looking forward to this contest as we get to see two of the emerging superstars in the NFL. 

I would put Justin Herbert in my Top 5 quarterbacks in the NFL, and he has the arm talent, size, strength and know how to keep his team in the game when they are struggling. He can also make the big throws when they need him to. If anything, I would like to see Herbert use his legs more in the postseason as he has it in his locker and it was a skill he was quite adept at using at Oregon in college. 

Herbert played  through a rib injury for most of the season and his form has increased as he has gotten better, especially after the Bolts mid-season bye week. In December, the Chargers’ offence was looking electric with the return of Mike Williams and Keenan Allen, and it is unfortunate that the former will be missing for a few weeks with a fracture on his back. 

It means that the Jags will be able to pay more attention to Allen and you might see Joshua Palmer see more targets. He is a good third option but does not have the size or big-play ability that Williams brings to the table. On the upside, their offensive line is going better than it had been with a number of players back from injury but unfortunately they are still missing Rashawn Slater.

The Chargers main source of scores this season has come from Austin Ekeler and he will be involved heavily throughout the game. 

Jacksonville are soaring right now and Trevor Laurence is balling out on a week-to-week basis and he has drummed up a great relationship with all his receivers, but especially with tight-end Evan Engram and duo Zay Jones and Christian Kirk. The LAC pass rush will need to slow down Laurence to give themselves the best shot at winning this game. With Joey Bosa back in the fray, that will help in a big way.

Jacksonville have a strong offensive line, especially on the right side with Jawaan Taylor and Brandon Scherff and an excellent running back in Etienne. 

The Jaguars defence is also playing well. Josh Allen and Trevon Walker give them pass rushing options from the edge and there is a terrific partnership at safety between Andre Cisco and Rayshawn Jenkins, while Tyson Campbell has done well in pass defence.

The Jags defence came up big in the final quarter in their last game of the season against the Titans, and I think they will need to do so again, in what I expect to be a contest that goes to the wire. 

Earlier on in the week, I was pulling for the Chargers and although Williams is a big loss, I would back Herbert to somehow make it happen on the road with the form that he is in right now.