Top 25 Offensive Free Agents 

By David McDonnell

With the combine last week, all of the attention was centred around the college prospects coming out this year. 

This week is all about free agency. Teams are allowed legally to approach out of contract players today and signings can become finalised from Wednesday. 

Players, agents, general managers and teams will be under pressure to get players re-signed before they hit the open market, where they usually get more money to move to a different team who have a identified a position of need to upgrade on. 

In recent seasons, we have seen both the Chiefs and Bengals pimp up their offensive lines to protect star quarterbacks Patrick Mahomes and Joe Burrow, which has helped solidify both as Super Bowl contenders. 

However, there are way more examples of teams getting it wrong in free agency and overpaying for talent. Paying premium wages is a risk, but if you really want a player in demand it is a risk that many teams will continue to make in order to put themselves in position to reach the postseason and have a tilt at winning the Superbowl. 

So, let’s have a look at the 25 offensive players that I believe most teams will be cajoling into joining their ranks this week. 

  1. Lamar Jackson (QB) 

If I was a Ravens fan I would be starting to get a little worried. 

Reading between the lines, I expected Lamar to be looking for around $50 million a year on a long term contract. However, due to his playing style he takes a lot of physical punishment as he runs the ball into contact more than every other QB in the league. As Bill Parcells used to say: “ Big men stay big, fast guys slow down,” and although a terrific player at this point in time, it is more than likely that as Lamar loses his speed heading into his 30’s. It makes paying him guaranteed money at the back end of his contract more of a risk. 

Contract negotiations between GM Eric DeCosta and the former MVP have been trying to get a deal signed for two years and if he is not signed by Wednesday, Lamar will be a free agent. That is unlikely to happen though as Baltimore will likely stick a franchise tag on him and give themselves a few more months to work out a long term deal. 

What will be interesting will be what type of franchise tag they will likely add. If it is a restricted franchise tag then no team can enter discussions with Jackson and he will make $32.4 million next season, which is low for an NFL QB. 

However, if they were to put an unrestricted tag on Lamar, any team will be able to offer him a deal and if the Ravens don’t match it, then he can leave for two first round picks or through a negotiated deal. If this were to happen, then I could see teams such as the Falcons and the Titans being interested and willing to offer acceptable terms. 

I believe Lamar will wait to see what offer Daniel Jones will get from the Giants and the Ravens will have to trump this deal to keep the superstar QB in Baltimore. 

  1. Derek Carr (QB) 

Derek Carr is a wanted commodity, and he has taken visits with the Saints, Colts and Jets over the last few weeks. 

Carr is a good QB but is coming off a poor season, where he struggled to adapt to Josh McDaniels scheme in Las Vegas. Of his suitors, New York seems like the team best primed to make the playoffs next year but reading between the lines, it seems that they along with the Raiders are waiting to see what happens with Aaron Rodgers in Green Bay. 

The talk coming out of the Carr camp is that he will be patient and take his time over his decision, which I take to mean that he will also see what Rodgers does before making his decision. 

Should Rodgers stay in Green Bay or retire, then Carr will find the Jets more welcoming in their approach. However, the team that seems to be most vying for his services right now is in New Orleans and ultimately I believe that is where Derek Carr will be playing ball next season.

Carr is heading to the Saints on a four-year deal $150 million contract with $70 million guaranteed.

  1. Saquon Barkley (Running Back) 

There is no doubt that the star of the show for the New York Giants was their running-back last season. Saquon was absolutely sensational in helping the G-men into the playoffs, so what’s the problem?

The issue is paying a 26 year old running back the money he deserves on a long term contract. It is usually not in the best interest of most teams to splash money on running backs as they are most likely to get injured during a season due to their position. Barkley should be hoping to get similar to Christian McCaffery’s $12 million a year from the 49ers and if he doesn’t then he will hit the free agency market. 

The Giants are in a tricky position as they have yet to come to a long term deal with their quarterback Daniel Jones, who is also about to hit free agency. They can only apply the franchise tag to one. The big question is would Jones have been as successful without Saquon last season? I don’t think anybody believes he would, so if Jones’ contract is not sorted by Wednesday, then it will more likely be him. 

Should Saquon hit free agency, expect a contender like the Bills, Cowboys and Bengals all to be interested in the running back. 

  1. Daniel Jones (QB)

I don’t expect Daniel Jones to hit free agency coming off his best season for the Big Blue. He has taken huge strides in quarterback play under Brian Daboll but doubts remain about whether he will ever be good enough to bring a Superbowl to NYC. 

Jones will most likely get a long term contract with an allowance for the Giants to be able to pull the plug if things are not working out in the Big Apple after two or three years.

There is a high possibility Jones will be placed on the franchise tag, where he will be given around $32.4 million to prove that his form this season wasn’t a flash in the pan. The question here is does Brian Daboll want to be tied to this QB for a handful of years? 

  1.  Orlando Brown Jr (Tackle)

The left tackle from the Super Bowl Champion Kansas City has two Lombardi trophies to his name and wants to become the best paid tackle in football. 

It is a great time for Orlando to hit free agency after the Chiefs O-line allowed zero sacks in the Superbowl against the Eagles and he proudly wore a t-shirt emblazoned with ‘0 Sacks’ during their victory parade. 

Kansas City would like to bring him back but they won’t have the money he is expecting to make as they have to pay Patrick Mahomes the highest salary in the NFL. There is a possibility that Brown will end up being franchise tagged again for another season at £20 million. 

Although he is not among the best five left tackles in the NFL in my opinion, should he hit free agency then he will likely be the best paid. The Chicago Bears certainly have the resources to pay the big man big money on a front loaded contract as they also have their QB Justin Fields on a rookie contract. 

  1. Geno Smith (QB)

Although Geno is about to hit free agency, I don’t see it happening and I will be shocked if he is not tied down with a long term contract in Seattle.  

Last season he threw for 4,282 yards and 30 touchdowns with just 11 interceptions while leading the NFL in completion percentage. More importantly he brought the Seahawks to  the playoffs. The fairytale looks to continue and he will get a long term deal somewhere around $40m a year. 

Should he hit free agency, then all the teams engaging with Carr and Jimmy Garoppolo will be interested, but I just don’t see him going anywhere. 

  1.  Mike McGlinchey (Tackle)

I have always rated McGlinchey as a good NFL tackle and although he lines up on the right side in San Francisco, he is good enough to play on the blind side. He has performed well in a zone-running scheme employed by Kyle Shanahan in San Francisco and they have one of the top O-Lines in the NFL over the past three seasons. 

With a significant increase in the cap space, McGlinchey will likely make upwards of $18 million and the two teams with the most cap space are the Bears and Falcons. The Bears are most in need of an O-Line upgrade, while the Falcons could be losing Caleb McGary at right-tackle, and the addition of the former Notre Dame tackle could make their offensive line close to elite. It is also a position the Commanders and the Titans will be looking to strengthen this offseason. 

  1. Odell Beckham Jr (Wide Receiver)

The wide receivers made big bucks in free agency last season and there is no one that has the ability of Odell available this year. 

Coming off an ACL injury that he suffered in the Superbowl win for the Rams in 2022, he will be in demand. However, it will be a financial risk for a player coming off a major injury at the age of 30. 

For me, Beckham is too big of a risk to make elite money at this stage of his career. I could see him wanting to return to the Giants, where he is still remembered as a star and I could also see Jerry Jones wanting another top receiver for Dak Prescott to put the Cowboys offence over the top. 

If I was Beckham, I would want to go to a team with an elite QB and an offensive head coach who knows how to get him the ball. If he can prove his fitness and sharpness, would the Bills be interested in teaming him up opposite Stefon Diggs? It is very difficult to know how this will play out but it will be worth watching all the same.  

  1.  Josh Jacobs (Running Back)

Jacobs will be a free agent after coming off the best season of his career and earning All-Pro honours as the best running back in football last season. 

Jacobs also has age on his side as he is only 25, which is young for a RB with four years of NFL experience in his locker. This is the optimum time for him to come out and get paid and I expect he will go to the team that will pay him the most. As I mentioned earlier, it is difficult for running backs to make significant money in the NFL. 

Jacobs would be a running threat, an excellent blocker and overall safety blanket for Justin Fields in the Windy City and immediately improve their offence. Also the teams that put their faith in rookie QBs this year as well as those on rookie contracts, will have a bit more room to manoeuvre to bring in help in free agency. 

The Panthers could be once such a team that would appreciate a talent such as Jacobs as a bell cow back next season. If Jacobs would take less money to go to a contender, then Buffalo would be a team that could do with his ability. I wouldn’t rule out him getting a franchise tag, but he might refuse to sign it in order to force a move elsewhere. 

  1.  Tony Pollard (Running Back) 

I can’t see Pollard getting a long term deal in Dallas or anywhere else while he is recovering from a broken leg suffered against the 49er in the playoffs in January. It was an untimely blow for the running back as he was about to have been offered a long term deal from Jerry Jones.  

He will end up on a franchise tag of around $10 million a year with the hope that he will come back into contention for a starting place during the season.

  1.  Jimmy Garoppolo (QB)

Jimmy G is coming off arguably his best NFL season and he will get one of the starting QB jobs once a few of the musical chairs of the QB merry-go-round start to get filled. 

Last season, there wasn’t much interest for Garoppolo in the trade market but as a free agent he will land somewhere. I can see the Jets being an option along with the Bucs who are needing a replacement for Tom Brady. He also has played under Josh McDaniels when they were at the Patriots, so the Raiders will be an option. 

Last season, Garoppolo was the last man standing as he was recovering from a shoulder injury and this season he needs to return from a broken foot. Expect him to get signed later rather than sooner and possibly after the draft in April by a team in need of a starting QB. 

12. Dalton Schultz (Tight End) 

There is a lack of quality tight ends in the NFL and Schultz has been one of the best at catching the football in the NFL over the past few seasons. He was franchised tagged last season in Dallas and is likely to become one of the best paid at his position this time around.

He would improve most teams as a day one starter and Green Bay is a place in dire need of an upgrade at the position but with a number of tight ends coming out in the draft this year, it is difficult to see where Schultz will end up. As he is only 26 with five years of NFL experience in the bag, his next team will sign a player heading into his prime. 

13. Isaac Seumalo (Guard) 

Seumalo is coming off a terrific season where he was the right guard on the dominant Eagles O-Line this season. He started all 17 games and impressed as a run blocker and in pass protection. Whichever team signs him, will get a player in the prime of his career at his position. 

There are a lot of teams looking for help at O-Line and I wouldn’t be surprised if he ended up at the Steelers, who had difficulty running the ball last season despite having an excellent RB in Najee Harris. 

Jason Kelce is another Eagles O-linemen heading towards free agency but I feel they will not let his leadership leave the locker room. That’s why he is not on this list. 

14.  Garrett Bradbury (Centre) 

Bradbury is one of the most underrated O-Linemen coming into free agency this year and is someone who will lock down the position for the team that signs him to a contract for the foreseeable future. 

With the Vikings projected to be $20 million over the cap, they won’t be able to pay him what he will earn in the open market. He would be an excellent signing, especially for a team with a young quarterback and again the Bears, Commanders, Giants and Raiders are all looking to upgrade at the position. 

Bradbury will likely have a great choice of destination and he will be one player I will be very interested to see where he ends up. From a personal point of view, I hope it’s in Washington. 

15.  Evan Engram (Tight End)

Evan Engram struck up a good partnership with Trevor Laurence especially at the end of the season. The Jags want him back and the player expressed a desire to return to Duval County. 

However, with plenty of teams looking for an upgrade at tight-end he could follow the stability of a long term contract elsewhere but not every team looking for a tight end has a Trevor Lawrence throwing the ball. 

In my opinion, a franchise tag of 11.3 million is the likeliest outcome this off season as the Jags are a projected 18 million over the cap.

16. JuJu Smith-Schuster (Wide Receiver) 

Coming off a winning Super Bowl season, the big mouthed wide receiver has certainly shut a few of his detractors up. 

Now he will feel, it is high time he got paid on a long term deal. He was Mahomes second favourite target this season behind Travis Kelce and you could see in the second half of the Super Bowl that Mahomes would go to him on key third downs when Kelce was double teamed. 

If he wants to win more Super Bowls then he should do his best to stay in Kansas City with the current MVP but he will get more money to move elsewhere in what has become an inflated market for wide receivers.

17. Jaawan Taylor (Tackle)

The Jags would like to keep tackle Jaawan Taylor, who is coming off a much improved season from a disappointing first three years in Jacksonville. Realistically the Jags won’t be able to afford him especially as they are likely to prioritise keeping Engam.

With the Chiefs likely to lose one or both their starting tackles in free agency, there might be a position open for protecting Patrick Mahomes at right tackle. Getting well paid for protecting the best player in the game and having the possibility of winning a Superbowl every year might be an offer that Taylor won’t refuse.

If such a move doesn’t work out, there will be numerous teams vying for a right tackle and he will make a lot of money in the open market. 

18. Caleb McGary (Tackle)

Another right tackle in an eerily similar position to Jaawan Taylor is Caleb McGary. He also is coming off his best season in a contract year and the Falcons have enough cap space to keep McGary should they choose to.  

I think it’s the likeliest scenario that he returns to Atlanta. There are many teams looking to upgrade their O-Line and would pay and perhaps overpay McGary to start next season so he could end up cashing in over the next few days.   

19. Miles Sanders (Running Back) 

He is coming off an outstanding season with over 1200 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns behind that dominant Eagles offensive line. 

He is a good player but do I think he would be as successful outside of Philley? Truthfully, I don’t but I could see the Raiders going for a veteran if they are not able to re-sign Jacobs at the running back position. I also expect the Bengals to upgrade at running back if they part ways with Joe Mixon. 

20. Jacobi Myers (Wide Receiver) 

Myers was the best receiver for the Patriots last season but they have a habit of letting free agents walk rather than offering them long term deals once they are off their rookie contracts. 

He lined up primarily as a slot receiver but also has speed for the outside. He is best remembered last season for throwing a last gasp touchdown pass to the Raiders Chandler Jones in a gaffe of epic proportions. A decent route runner who is able to win contested catches, it  will be interesting to see where Myers ends up and how much he will go for in this year’s market. 

21. Jacoby Brissett (QB)

Brissett showed he was a starting calibre QB for the Browns last season and he will sign with a team in need of a QB who can compete for a starting position but is unlikely to get a long term contract at the position. 

That will most likely be behind a young rookie and possibly for a team that drafts a rookie QB in this year’s draft. I could also see a team like the Commanders or Falcons signing him as a backup to QBs entering the sophomore seasons in the NFL. The Bucs are a team who made the postseason so do not have a high enough position to draft high this year and might target Brissett on a lucrative deal where they can jump ship after one or two years. 

22. Kareem Hunt (Running back)

Kareem Hunt is a starting calibre running back who has been underused in Cleveland. Last season his conditioning was poor and he seemed slower than the dynamic player he had been in the first few years in the NFL. He is a running back that seems to enjoy contact and is the type of player who can will himself to make a first down when it is most needed. Certainly an underrated player in my book with a lot of tread left on the tyres.

23. Andrew Wylie (Tackle) 

Another Super Bowl winning tackle is hitting free agency and he will improve most of the teams in the NFL

He should have a lot of teams interested in his services with possibly the 49ers a viable option if he decides to try and go to another contender. Especially as they have two QBs on rookie deals. The Jags could also be a realistic option.    

24. Allen Lazard (Wide Receiver) 

Lazard proved his worth to Aaron Rodgers last season and he was the primary target on third downs. I would guess his time at Green Bay will be influenced by what happens with Rodgers, with him possibly following the future Hall of Fame QB to a new destination. 

Should Rodgers stay at the Packers then expect Lazard to follow suit. 

25. Rashad Penny (Running Back) 

Penny was having an excellent season in Seattle until injury took away his season. It has been a familiar fate for the athletic running back who has had trouble keeping available throughout his rookie contract. 

When he is fit he is a dynamic player and I could see him coming into a team to work in tandem with an established running back. 

Averaging 5.7 yards a carry over his career in the NFL, he could be a diamond of a signing if he can stay healthy. He will also cost less due to his injury history. I could see the Giants taking a punt on a player who could spell Saquon at times during games or the Rams who need all the help they can get at the position.

The QB and Coaching Carousel 

By David McDonnell

Welcome back to the ‘Six Points for a Touchdown’ column.

This week I am going to bang on about three quarterbacks, two of which are almost certainly heading to free agency and I’ll also give my opinion on some of the more recent coaching hires in the NFL.

So lets get to it.

Hut, Hut!!


  1. Test driving Derek Carr 

Derek Carr is taking the Saints for a test drive in New Orleans today. 

It made me chortle when it broke last night that the Las Vegas Raiders gave Carr ‘permission’ to speak to the NFC South franchise, considering in seven days they have to release him as a free agent or pay him $41 million dollars.

Even though they excluded him from football duties for the last two weeks of the regular season, it was spun by both camps that him sitting on the bench would be a distraction for the team, as if benching a player or even a quarterback at that was somehow uncommon in the NFL.

The Raiders showed him the door and they they won’t be paying him next week. Carr is out because he had an average season and was evidentiary a poor fit for Josh McDaniels’ offence. He couldn’t spin gold with Josh Jacobs excelling at running back and a host of talented receivers.

H did get the ball with regularity to Devante Adams, but it was mainly off play action, and he particular missed the talent of Hunter Renfrow in the slot and tight end Darren Waller in the red zone for large chunks of the season.

Carr will have plenty of suitors. I would also add the Bucs, who need someone to step into Tom Brady sized shoes in Tampa Bay as well as the aforementioned Saints. If Carr goes to the Saints, it leaves the Bucs in a similar pickle to where New Orleans have been since Drew Brees retired.  I can also see the Commanders and the Jets being two others with a preference for a veteran under centre.

It will be interesting, which way the Raiders will approach the quarterback position in the off season.

If they stump for a rookie QB with the seventh overall pick in the draft, it will allow the franchise to build up a roster over four or five years that has a lot of holes on both sides of the ball. Or they might pluck for one of the next two veterans on this list. 

  1. Rodgers joins the Dark Side?

The Green Bay Packers have a similar decision to make regarding Aaron Rodgers. 

Will they push their chips into the middle of the table once again with the future Hall of Famer or is this when this oft rocky marriage is parked once and for all? 

When I read that Aaron Rodgers is spending a number of nights attending a darkness retreat to figure out whether to play for the Packers, retire or to play somewhere else next season, I thought it was an obvious joke. However, it seems to be true and I think all three are viable possibilities and I would guess in that order.

I am not sure if the decision will be solely his to make.

The Packers need to make a decision this offseason on whether to pick up the fifth-year option on Jordan Love, the QB they surprisingly took in the first round in 2020. He has been a forgotten man in the NFL save for a nine-minute cameo this season against the Eagles where he found Christian Watson for an impressive touchdown.

Should Green Bay not pick up his fifth year, then it will be a public admittance of wasting a first round pick on a player without really giving him much of a chance to play. This decision could also leave the Packers entering the 2024 season without a QB.

I think it’s least likely Rodgers will play for another team but should he do so I could see him picking the Raiders and pairing up again with Davante Adams. Rodgers in a Raiders jersey would be a sight to behold.  Another AFC team that would be interested in his services are the Jets, who have his former QB coach in Nathaniel Hackett installed as offensive coordinator and more importantly, a Superbowl-ready defence. 

  1. Jimmy to make a few G’s

I have never been a huge fan of Jimmy Garoppolo, but he will get a starting job in the NFL next season and he will get well paid to do so too, after coming off arguably the best season of his career.

He has previous connections to Josh McDaniels, having played under his tutelage in New England, while two former 49ers Defensive Coordinators are head coaches in Robert Salah and DeMeco Ryans in New York and Houston respectively. Especially if Carr ends up in New Orleans, I wouldn’t be surprised if Garoppolo comes in to replace Tom Brady at the Buccaneers. 

However, if I was to call it, I think Jimmy G ends up at the Jets. 


  1. DeMeco Ryans

I believe the Texans knocked it out of the park with the hiring of DeMeco Ryans as head coach. It is a great fit for both for a number of reasons.

He is young, smart and energetic, with a boatload of NFL experience and he is coming off being the defensive coordinator for the best defence in the NFL this season with the San Francisco 49ers. 

He also knows the Texans franchise intimately, as one of their former outstanding players, where he won Defensive Rookie of the Year as a linebacker in 2006 before securing All Pro honours in 2007. 

The Texans, especially in the prime JJ Watt years, were regarded as having one of the best defences in football and it has become a part of the fabric of how the club is viewed around the world. Having a defensive emphasis at the head coaching position suits how they want to play football.

It really seemed from the outside that the Texans head coaching position looked like a poison chalice after the last two head coaches were fired after only a year in the job. I thought in particular Lovie Smith being fired a few hours after the season ended was unfair considering the Texans were highly competitive in most games this year with a relatively poor and unbalanced roster. 

The GM Nick Caserio worked in building a squad in New England with Bill Billichick so working with a coach with a penchant for defensive players is something already in his wheelhouse and it’s encouraging that Ryans has signed a six-year contract, which should hinder him being shopped after a year or two.

Additionally, there is a lot of defensive talent on the Texans roster that Caserio has brought to Houston since his arrival.

Roy Lopez is a very competitive D-Tackle, who was drafted in the fifth round in 2021, while Houston added Derek Stingley Jr and the outstanding Jalen Pitre to their defensive backs in the first two rounds as well as linebacker Christian Harris in the third round during the 2022 NFL draft.  

This is a good core of excellent young players to build a defence around. 

They will need to add talent to their D line, but with the second overall pick. I would not be surprised if they go defence if and when a team leaps ahead of them to trade for Alabama quarterback Bryce Young.  

I think this is how the draft is likely to play out as the Chicago Bears already have an impressive young QB in Justin Fields and they could acquire a king’s ransom by trading down.

Should that happen, that second overall pick could go to Young’s Alabama teammate Will Anderson, who had 207 total QB pressures during his three years playing for the Crimson Tide. For a recent comparison, the second overall pick last year Aiden Hutchinson had 128 QB pressures during his four years in Michigan.

  1.  Payton’s fits the Broncos

Sean Payton certainly looks a step in the right direction for the Broncos and I think for Russell Wilson as well. 

Denver is stuck with Wilson, coming off the worst season of his NFL career, for at least another two seasons with his salary guaranteed. Payton will suit Russ because just like Wilson, he is used to working with a smaller sized QB in Drew Brees.

Let me extrapolate this point. 

Payton likes his QBs to get the ball out quickly and Russ earlier in his career used brag about playing like a point guard in basketball. This is how Payton will want him to play with the addition of being comfortable throwing the deep shot downfield, which was certainly in Wilson’s wheelhouse in Seattle. 

Payton was great at scheming lanes for Brees to throw down the centre of the field which should help a smaller QB like Wilson. Expect young tight end Greg Dulcich’s targets to go up in this scheme next season.

Another trait of Payton is to have talented pass-catching running backs who can line up as a wide receiver. Think Darren Sproles or Alvin Kamara and he also uses a varied screen game to allow the QB to dump the ball off in the backfield. 

A worry I have about Wilson is his conditioning.

In my opinion, and I have wrote this during the season, Russ is carrying too much weight for a quarterback under six feet. He is too built up and is built like a linebacker.

This knock on effect is that he is slower to move in the pocket and he can’t get away from opposing pass rushers. When he was starting his career in Seattle, he great at extending plays by his movement and was a weapon at picking up first downs with his legs. 

An improvement in his mobility could see him return as one of the top QBs in the league, but for this to happen he needs to spend less time in the gym and more time on the track.

  1. Steve Wilks and Brian Flores

I will be rooting for Steve Wilks, who has taken over as Defensive Coordinator in San Francisco. For me, he earned the shot to be the head coach in Carolina after turning the ship around last season as interim coach. He may have to wait a year to get his just desserts on that front.

Brian Flores has a good opportunity to show the NFL what a great coach he is as well after being named DC at the Vikings. Again this seems to me a great hire but it is a much more difficult challenge to get the Minnesota defence to put fear into the opposition like he did with his former Miami Dolphins.

If he can achieve this over the next year or two, then we can expect the Vikes back in the playoffs next season and hopefully Flores will get another turn as an NFL head coach.

This week I’ll kick for one.

7. Jim Harbaugh to the Colts?

I want to see Jim Harbaugh back in the NFL.

He is another excellent coach who has been missed in the National Football League.

I can see the Colts tipping their hat to Harbaugh. He has an advantage being a former player but I also think he is the type of coach, Colts owner Jim Irsay would strive to have prowling the sideline with his explosive and combative disposition.

Harbaugh was a hell of a coach during his time with the 49ers and they mirrored his super competitive nature. He is box office entertainment at times and the NFL is a more fantastic place with him in it.

If I was an owner and needed a head coach, Jim Harbaugh would be at the top of my shortlist.

Six points for a Touchdown Column

By David McDonnell

I’m trying out a new column format this week to muse about last weekend’s AFC and NFC Championship games. 

  1. Bengals v Chiefs

The Bengals O-line got a lot of credit in the divisional round against the Bills for their ability to run the ball and I expected Cincinnati to take a similar approach last Sunday. But credit must go to the Kansas City rush defence. Even now I can’t remember Joe Mixon or Samaje Perine getting much traction with their ground game and that is simply because they didn’t.

With their run game stifled, we also found out on Sunday that down three starting linemen, the Bengals O-line couldn’t protect Burrow in the pocket against the Chiefs pass rush. I suggest that this was the reason why the three players who came in hadn’t been starting all season and this was evident from the first quarter. The Chiefs had five sacks on Burrow, which hugely influenced the game both at the start and at the end of this contest. 

With less time under centre, Burrow adjusted by getting the ball out quicker and the lack of the rushing game limited the threat of play action for Burrow to hit deep balls down the field.  

2. Chris Jones

Chris Jones beat the banged up Bengal offensive line almost on his own last night.

Credit must go to Steve Spagnuolo for putting his best linemen directly against the backups and Jones was difficult to pick up by coming at Joe Burrow from the right and left Defensive End positions on that last drive when they needed him to make a play.  

In hindsight, Cincinnati will be kicking themselves that Jones wasn’t double teamed on those passing plays, especially in that fourth quarter, and he was the difference that made the difference helping the Chiefs to the conference title.

There will be a huge amount of pressure on Chris Jones to replicate this performance in the Super Bowl and he will need to if Kansas City wants to give themselves a chance to stop this Philly attack. If the Eagles can double team him on passing downs, I don’t see anyone else on the Chiefs D-Line routinely beating a blocker and getting to Hurts on a regular basis.

3. Kansas O-Line

The Chiefs offensive line was outstanding on the night and provided Patrick Mahomes with a clean pocket throughout the game.

Kansas O-line gave Mahomes a clean pocket all night.

The only time the Bengals got a turnover was when Mahomes fumbled the ball in the third quarter, which I believe he would have recovered if his leg sprain wasn’t an issue.

Mahomes was down a number of receiving options but when he couldn’t go to Kelce, he had the time to pick out Marquez Valdes-Scantling, who stepped up in a major way when the team really needed him. 

The Bengals defence is full of top competitors and for the most part they didn’t give up many big plays to the Chiefs rushing attack although Isaiah Pacheco ran angry every time he got the ball. However, the Bengals D-Line didn’t come close to getting a sack on a limping Mahomes throughout the contest. In my opinion, this more than anything else cost them the game and adding pass-rushing talent is an area where Cincinnati should upgrade in the off-season, possibly in free agency while Burrow is still on his rookie contract.

49ers v Eagles 

4. Eagles O-Line

Pregame I was very excited by the prospect of Philly O-Line and the San Fran D-Line going toe-to-toe. The Philly front five have bullied almost all comers this season but I thought that this 49ers defence would really test this dominant Eagles run game.

In the first half, the 49ers conceded three rushing touchdowns. The Eagles O-Line especially in the red zone were supremely dominant and Miles Sanders ran in almost untouched for the first two scores. It showed every what a behemoth this offensive line has become. 

However, upon closer inspection the 49ers defence made a better fist of it as they held all three of the Eagles running backs under four yards per carry throughout the game. Two of the Philly touchdowns came from preventable field positions.

The first was Devonta Smith’s unbelievable one-handed catch that brought play inside the 10-yard line in the first quarter. If Kyle Shanahan had thrown the red flag then that catch would have been negated as he lost control bringing it to the ground. The third touchdown was when Josh Johnson fumbled the snap, which again put the Eagles in the Redzone for a touchdown before half time. 

5. Hurts Hurt

Although Jalen Hurts directed traffic, it looked to me like that shoulder injury is bothering him a lot more than he is letting on. I think you can tell from his demeanor and body language and the fact that he attempted to throw the ball less than he has all season.His only throw of note was that deep ball ‘caught’ spectacularly by Smith and I suspect he was running into traffic late in the game because it hurt him to throw the ball.

With the Chiefs having two rookies playing at corner against the Bengals and the Eagles should have a matchup advantage with the caliber of Smith and AJ Brown at wideout.

However, Hurts shoulder, just like Patrick Mahomes leg, seemed to bother him more later in game. I hope the two weeks are enough for both QBs to rest and rehab their injuries, so we will see the best of them in the Superbowl.

6. QB’s Injury

There is no way of knowing what difference Brock Purdy would have made had he stayed injury free, but the game would certainly have been more of a contest.

If you look at the injury to both Purdy and Josh Johnson, they came off similar plays where the impressive Hassan Reddick blocked down on the throwing arm of the QB.

This kind of play is being coached more in my opinion as a result of flags being thrown when a defensive player gets a proper hit on the quarterback, and I suspect we will see more of these types of injuries going forward. 

This week I’ll go for a two-point conversion:

7. Playing Politics

Being on the Non-American side of the Atlantic, I wasn’t aware that the Mayor of Cincinnati had said anything derogatory about the Chiefs until he was name dropped by Travis Kelce at the trophy presentation for the AFC Championship, where he told the politician to “know your role and shut your mouth.”

This coming from Travis Kelce whose roles include playing tight end and podcasting every week. 

So curiosity got the better of me and I looked it up.

Mayor Aftab Pureval said: “Joseph Lee Burrow, who’s 3-0 against Mahomes, has been asked by officials to take a paternity test confirming whether or not he’s his father.”

Okay as jokes go, it was poorly timed and maybe Kelce had a point.

One thing for certain is that the Chiefs players used every bit of fuel they were fed all week, including Mike Hilton telling the Chiefs fans they would see them in ‘Burrowhead.’ 

I have never seen a group of players taking a joke about the name of a stadium so personally but it goes to show that even at the highest level of sport, players will use every bit of fuel in order to get the best out of themselves. This is true even for the biggest games that you would assume requires no bulletin board motivation.  

It was also interesting that as the week went on, that there was a turning of the tide of public opinion in the bookies.  The Chiefs, having started the week as underdogs became favourites. and I believe it was because people could sense that showing a lack of respect to your opponent would come back to bite you on the ass. As it did.

8. The Kelce Family

Speaking of Travis Kelce, it is an amazing achievement that both he and his older brother Jason are playing each other in the Super Bowl. What a proud moment  for the Kelce family.

The fact that they are both two of the standout players for their respective teams and both coming off their best seasons of their careers makes the story and achievement all the more noteworthy.

I don’t believe it has ever happened before and I doubt we will see this again for a very long time. 

As I mentioned earlier, they have a weekly podcast, @newheightshow, which we often retweet on our twitter feed, @Smingfootball, and it should be worth checking out this week of all weeks as the brothers focus on the Super Bowl and entertain with tales of football and their sibling rivalry.

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.

Our Analysts NFL Playoff Predictions

By Conor Perrett, Tom Green and David McDonnell 

The NFL Playoffs are a time of chaos and upsets and with them right round the corner, here at Smashmouthing football we’ve created brackets to what we think will happen. 

Using a bracket predictor, starting with the wild-card matchups, each one of us has predicted the outcome to each game until there’s one team left to lift the Lombardi Trophy.

Please keep in mind, we are predicting the future here, which will always look terrible in retrospect unless one of us manages to get it right. 

David: “To quickly guide you through my bracket, I think the three best teams are in the AFC. What sets them apart in my book, compared to say the 49ers, is at quarterback and I can see Joe Burrow and the Bengals beating the Chiefs as they did earlier in the season.

What I like about the Bengals is the high level consistency of Burrow with an array of weapons, coupled with a competitive and smart defence. 

On the NFC side of the draw, I expect the 49ers and Eagles to make the NFC championship game and I believe the 49ers have the D-line that can stand up and stop the Eagles’ O-line, the best in football. 

Looking at Jalen Hurts last weekend, I believe his injury could be worse than Philadelphia are letting on and it was notable that he didn’t run into contact against the Giants in Week 18.

I do worry about the recent loss of two offensive linemen in Cincinnati, especially if they were to face a 49ers defence in the big show. But saying that, I’ll go with the Bengals because they are the most balanced team with a top-three QB in the league.”

Conor: “The NFL playoffs are always difficult to predict and I find that’s because of the uncertainty that happens when it gets to the month of January. For that reason I’ve gone a bit outside of the box and selected the 49ers to win the Super Bowl. 

Currently the Niners have the fourth best odds to be victorious, but I think there’s many reasons why they will overcome these odds.  

For starters San Francisco has the best defence out of everybody. There’s an old saying that goes “offence wins you games but defence wins you championships.” 

What that entails is when you get to the final stages, everyone is going to have great offences, but the ones with the better defences will stop them. There are things that worry me about this team – mainly seventh-round rookie Brock Purdy at QB – but so far he’s looked calm and collective and I trust Kyle Shanahan to put him in the right situations.

That leaves me to my last point, the 49ers have made the long journey to the Super Bowl before, but fell short. When you taste defeat at the last hurdle, it makes certain characters want that success even more. To me, San Fran has those characters all over the team and won’t stop at nothing in order to achieve them.

For the rest of my bracket, I have the Bills getting out of the stacked AFC. The three best teams in the league right now may be on that AFC side, and when they are all so closely matched it feels like a coin toss. Buffalo will need to use everything they’ve got to get past the Bengals and Chiefs, but I think they’re talented enough to do so.

To finish things off, yes I have the No. 5 seed Dallas Cowboys making the NFC Championship. Like I said, there’s always upsets and I think Dallas will surprise a few. Philly have regressed over the last month due to injuries and that will hurt them in an NFC East clash.”

Tom: “So I’ve got the Cincinnati Bengals going one step better this year, taking home the franchise’s first Lombardi Trophy with a victory over Jalen Hurts and the Philadelphia Eagles.

On the AFC side, it was a hard exercise to pick between the Buffalo Bills, Kansas City Chiefs and the aforementioned Cincinnati. Based on their regular season performances, all would be worthy Super Bowl champions, but titles aren’t won from Week 1 to 18.

It’s a likely scenario that the winner of the conference will have to beat at least one of these teams. Well in my prediction, I have Cincinnati beating both, and on the road in back-to-back weeks. Maybe it’s the confidence in which they carry themselves that has influenced my guesses, but when the lights are brightest this postseason, I think we will see Joe Burrow shine just as bright. 

The Bengals are built for playoff football and 2022 will be their year.

The NFC in itself is entirely more open to me, while I have the Philadelphia Eagles making the Super Bowl. I can’t say a one and done loss at home in the Divisional round would be a shocking turn of events.

But in my prediction I have Philly going to the dance, narrowly beating the San Francisco 49ers at home in the NFC Championship game.

I feel like we are more likely to encounter upsets on the NFC side and look out for the Giants @ Vikings being an example of this.”

Interesting side note

Interesting side note, every game of Super Wildcard Weekend is a rematch from the 2022 regular season.

49ers def. Seahawks 27-7 & 21-13 in Week 2 & 15

Jaguars def. Chargers 38-10 in Week 3

Vikings def. Giants 27-24 in Week 16

Buccaneers def. Cowboys 19-3 in Week 1

Dolphins & Bills split wins 21-9 & 32-29 in Week 3 & 15

Ravens & Bengals split wins 19-17 & 27-16 in Week 5 & 18

As you can see all of our predictions are set as we get ever closer to the Playoffs. In the end, none of us chose either No. 1 seed to be Super Bowl Champions, as it shows how competitive the league is right now. 

May the best man win in their bracket predictions, and let us know who you think is going to be the Super Bowl winner in a month’s time. 

NFL 2023 Head Coaching Candidates

By Conor Perrett 

With the regular season of the NFL season finished, it means the ominous day known as Black Monday is upon us. Before people get excited thinking there are sales on, Black Monday in the NFL world is the day after Week 18 in which we see head coaches of multiple NFL teams get fired. 

While it’s sad to see some folks go, it means new up-and-coming coaches get a look in for a job that only 32 people in the world can say they have. 

If you’re a fan of a team that might have just waved goodbye to their head-coach, don’t worry we have you covered here. One of these names below might be the new head-coach to your NFL team. 

Former Head Coaches:

Sean Payton, former New Orleans Saints head-coach, 2006-2011, 2013-2021

If you’re new to knowing the candidates for head coaching roles this year, then Sean Payton is the biggest and going to be the most fought after name on this list.

Coaching the Saints for 13 years before he ‘retired’ a year ago, Payton is one of the best coaches we’ve seen in the NFL and has a Super Bowl ring to back it up. Specialising on the offensive side of the ball, Payton was famous for his work with QB Drew Brees, which saw the Saints compete as one of the best teams in the NFL for over a decade.

Payton only retired last year, but it was known he was just looking for a break in coaching. Now he feels his days in the media are already over and he is being linked to numerous teams. Payton has 24 years of coaching experience in the NFL and will likely get the pick of teams fighting over him. 

It should be said, Payton is still retired and New Orleans holds his right as a coach. That means if a team would like to hire Payton, they would have to make a trade for him. This can obviously complicate things, but it’s a great position to be in if your name is Sean Payton. Trading for coaches is rare, so when it occurs it means such a coach will get significant power within the organisation. 

Best fits: Saints, Rams, Cardinals 

Jim Harbaugh, Michigan head-coach

Jim Harbaugh, like Payton, is a former NFL coach. Currently in control of college team Michigan Wolverines, Harbaugh has 14 years of NFL playing experience with another 21 years of coaching to go with that. In his time as a coach, Harbaugh has had spells at the NFL and college level, with his most famous stint being the head-coach of the 49ers – where he won an NFC Championship in 2012.

After his spell with the Niners, Harbaugh went to where he played his college ball, and has had mixed fortunes. The first couple of years at Michigan were slightly underwhelming, which eventually led to him having to take a pay-cut. Since, Harbaugh has turned the programme around with Michigan having a record of 25-3 in their last two seasons.

Now, this isn’t the first time Harbaugh has been linked to the NFL, when last year it seemed he was heading to the Minnesota Vikings, until things fell apart at the very end. Harbaugh then promised he wouldn’t flirt with the NFL again, but on a lesser salary, the bright lights look tempting.

If you want my opinion, I see Harbaugh keeping his word. But it should be said, anything in the NFL can happen and if the Michigan board doesn’t get their wallet out for Harbaugh with a new contract, it’s only fair he looks at different opportunities.

Best fits: Colts, Broncos, Panthers  

Offensive Candidates:

Eric Bieniemy, Kansas City Chiefs Offensive coordinator

Eric Bieniemy has been a highly tipped candidate for many years now, but he has never managed to secure a job. Being the coordinator for the best offence in recent memory should have helped him in that aspect, but Bieniemy isn’t actually the play caller. Head coach Andy Reid has always held that status, as teams seem to not know how involved the offensive coordinator is in the offence.

With three years of experience of NFL head coaching interviews, maybe this will be the year Bieniemy finally gets his shot as an NFL head coach.

Best fits: Texans, Buccaneers, Panthers

Ben Johnson, Detroit Lions Offensive coordinator

For my folks in Detroit, Ben Johnson is looked up to as a god and will want to be kept as a secret. 

Coaching tight-ends for the last two seasons in Detroit. When the Lions offence went through some change mid-season last year, Johnson was unofficially promoted to pass-game coordinator behind the scenes. The offence started to improve and he was rewarded with the title of his current position now.

Only one year on the job, he has not disappointed, creating an offence that has been styled completely around Jared Goff. Early on, Johnson made it his mission to make his QB feel as comfortable as he could in his offence and it worked out to Detroit having the No. 1 offence in EPA per drive since Week 13.

Johnson has shown the ability to scheme receivers open, build around a QB with fantastic play-calling. That has caused the Lions to finish 8-2 in their last 10 games.

He may be inexperienced in running a team and being a leader for a group of guys, but if a team is looking for the next Sean McVay or Kyle Shanahan, then Ben Johnson should be their guy.

Best fits: Panthers, Broncos, Texans

Mike Kafka, New York Giants Offensive coordinators

A former Andy Reid disciple, Kafka joined Brian Daboll in New York this season, in which he helped Daniel Jones save his career. Kafka has experience working with Patrick Mahomes as his positional coach between 2018-2021, and got to add play calling duties to his resume this season. Like Johnson, Kafka looks to be one of the next young offensive geniuses and will likely have many interviews at his feet.

Teams to watch out for should be ones that are struggling on offence and need someone with a high knowledge of the game, to give them a new identity on that side of the ball.  

Best fits: Panthers, Colts, Buccaneers   

Defensive Candidates:

DeMeco Ryan, San Francisco 49ers Defensive coordinator

Ryans is sure to be at the top of the list for a number of teams who may be looking for a new voice in their locker room. Taking over from New York Jets coach Robert Salah in San Francisco, Ryans continued to make the Niners D the best in the league. 

San Francisco has ranked first in points allowed this year, building upon a stellar 2021 season that saw them reach the NFC championship game. 

He will be much like Saleh, coaching in a player-friendly manner while being a leader to look up to. For teams that are having ‘culture’ problems in their organisation, hiring Ryans may be the best way to create a new successful identity. 

Best fits: Broncos, Cardinals, Texans

Dan Quinn, Dallas Cowboys Defensive coordinator

Quinn could fall into both categories of defensive candidates and former head-coaches.

Dan Quinn spent time in Atlanta as their former head-coach, but has resurged his career with his time in Dallas. Things looked shaky towards the end of things with the Falcons and he was quickly snapped up by the Cowboys to do something he is extremely good at.

While it looks great to coach a unit that is considered elite, ranking 2nd in defensive DVOA and 3rd in EPA per drive. Sometimes certain great coordinators aren’t meant to be head-coaches. As a coordinator Dan is as good as they come, but he did fail as his lone attempt as a head coach.

He was a highly sought after man last year in interviews and if I was a betting man, he would be one of the safest picks on this list to land a head-coaching jig this off-season.

Best fits: Broncos, Colts, Browns, 

Jonathan Gannon, Philadelphia Eagles Defensive coordinator

Gannon was a hot commodity in last season’s hiring-cycle, landing interviews with three different teams. A season of coaching the Eagles defence, which created the most turnovers in the first half of the season will only add to that hype.

He may look inexperienced at the young age of 40 and only two years of running a defence, but the Eagles have a lot of talent on defence and Gannon getting the best out of them. It is a reason why Philly are the No. 1 seed in the NFC.

Best fits: Texans, Broncos, Browns 

Green Bay hold Ace in the Pack

NFL Week 18 Sunday Preview

By David McDonnell

I hope the Seattle Seahawks lose against the LA Rams later today because I want to see another do-or-die clash when the Green Bay Packers host the Detroit Lions.

How things stand in the NFC playoff position are as follows: Only one of Green Bay, Seattle and Detroit, in that order, can progress to the postseason and two of the hopefuls, the Packers and Lions, compete against one another at Lambeau Field at 1.30 am (GMT)  later tonight.

Should  the Seahawks beat their NFC West divisional rivals, the Rams, then only Green Bay can overtake them in the seedings with a victory. However, should the Seahawks fail to win then the winner of the Lions v Packers will be playing football next weekend. 

I hope you can follow that. 


Lions v Packers 

The last time these sides met was on November 6th when the one-win Lions gave Aaron Rodgers one of his toughest days in the green and gold with a 15-9 victory. At the time no one expected that the Packers with a record of 3-6 and playing terribly would make the playoffs.

I certainly didn’t. That the Lions would be on the cusp of achieving the same feat was unthinkable at the time. I remember Dan Campbell at the after-match press conference saying he wanted to go home and drink a beer, after snapping a five game losing streak when some critics were calling for his head. 

But Dan Campbell is made of stern stuff and so is Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, who has sharpened up to look as good as he has done for much of the last decade and a half.

So where has it gone right for both sides? Let’s start with the Packers. 

The emergence of rookie Christian Watson at wide receiver has been a huge factor and he has racked up nine touchdowns since that loss to Detroit in November. With huge speed after the catch, Watson has the potential to hit a home run on every play. Green Bay have leaned heavily on their run game with Arron Jones and AJ Dillon making telling contributions and the return from injury of David Bakhtiari at left tackle has also been a significant addition in recent weeks. 

However, in the last few games the Green Bay defence has woken up and is making the telling contribution.

It starts up front where they are starting to put pressure on opposing QBs and I have been banging on all season about the talent they have across their linebackers and defensive backs. All of a sudden the Packers D are playing as a unit and competing hard and in particular Jaire Alexander at corner-back and rookie linebacker Quay Walker have stepped up. 

If the Green Bay defence continues to do excel, they could be a potential Superbowl outsider from the NFC.

Tonight, the Detroit Lions’ scorching attack stands in their way.

There is a feeling of optimism around this Detroit team that I have never felt with the Lions before and many of their standout talents are still young in NFL terms.

The strength of this team is their offence. The Lions O-line has been the bedrock of this attack and they have had huge success running the ball. The are anchored at centre by former first-round pick Frank Ragnow and bookended by tackles Taylor Decker and Penei Sewell, who were also drafted as first round talents in recent years. They have allowed their running backs to make hay.

Their best RB is D’Andre Swift who has clocked up 845 all purpose yards and eight touchdowns, while his partner in crime Jamaal Williams has accrued 994 yards and 15 touchdowns.

This team can beat you from the pocket as well and Jared Goff has had a resurgent career year by putting the ball on the money for his receivers throughout the season. In his last five games, Goff has thrown 12 touchdowns with zero interceptions. His best weapon is Amon Ra St Brown, who has become an NFL superstar this season and they have just got the 12th overall pick in the 2022 draft, Jamison Williams, back from injury in recent weeks.

The Lions will be comfortable if the game turns into a shootout. It is when they have been at their best this season. 

On defence, their best players are their youngest players with rookies Aiden Hutchinson, Kerby Joseph and Malcolm Rodriguez adding to other young talents in Jeff Okudah at corner and Derrick Barnes at linebacker. They are not the finished package on defence by nay means and they will be coming up against a better Aaron Rodgers than the one who didn’t throw a touchdown pass in November. 

This game could go either way and to be honest I am expecting a shootout. It should be fun to watch and worth staying up for. I’ll call the Packers to win in front of a packed home audience, as I feel their defence has more playmakers that could make the difference in the fourth quarter.


There is still one place to play for in the AFC after the Jaguars beat the Titans last night to win the AFC South. 

In the running are the Patriots, Dolphins, and Steelers, who play the Bills, Jets and Browns respectively. 

After a very difficult week in Buffalo, I can’t see any team beating the Bills this weekend in what should be a very emotional game after Damar Hamlin’s cardiac arrest on the field last Monday. I think it will have a galvanizing effect on the team and their supporters coupled with the fact that they are a much stronger team than the Pats at the moment. 

It should be well contested but New England lacks the firepower to cause too much damage to the Bills. I would be surprised if Bill Belichick can pull out a win given the circumstances and I don’t usually write off the old man.  

That leaves the Dolphins, with Skyler Thompson at quarterback, needing to beat the New York Jets. I wouldn’t be very confident that Miami will win but the Jets are very poor on offence right now. I am not in any way convinced by Mike White at quarterback. But with Joe Flacco starting, it will make things trickier but I expect the Dolphins to pull out a win because their need is greater. 

Should they lose, it leaves the door open for the Pittsburgh Steelers, who should be able to account for the Browns. The Steelers have been getting healthier and more experienced by the week and they are in a much stronger place than they have been all season with their D-line balling out and rookie QB Kenny Pickett looking more comfortable by the week under centre. 

Of the three hopefuls, I’d like to see the Steelers in the postseason. 

Walk-Off Wins Galore 

Week 15 Monday Review Column 

By David McDonnell

Yesterday we put another incredibly exciting weekend in the books with three walk-off wins, two of them in overtime.

Most of the rest of the games were just very close for the most part so let’s get to it and review the best of yesterday’s action. 

Walk-off wins 

The best place to start is in Las Vegas which finished in the most unpatriotic way for the Patriots. 

For anyone who was on the wrong end of the Pats playing mistake free football and grinding out wins for almost a quarter of a century, yesterday they got some payback and then some more, with what can only be described as a wonderfully unexpected epic finale. 

It was the Master versus the Apprentice as Belichick came up against his long-time offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels in what turned out to be a very entertaining contest.

The Raiders were healthier than they have been on offence all season with both Hunter Renfrow and Darren Waller in the starting line-up and it was the latter that got things going when he ghosted past the defence to catch a touchdown pass. 

In the third quarter, safety Kyle Duggar showed his offence how to score touchdowns when the veteran read Derek Carr like a book for a pick-six.

Rhamondre Stevenson had been the standout player on the Pats offence with 172 rushing and with less than four minutes left in the game, the running-back cut through the Raiders defence for a touchdown. 

It put the ball back in Derek Carr’s court and the QB didn’t disappoint and retook the lead when he found Keelan Cole in single coverage with a great throw over the top to tie the game with 32 seconds left.

It was a controversial call as one of Cole’s feet looked to have gone out of bounds, which wouldn’t have made the Pats head coach very happy. 

Worse was to come for Belichick.

Just as we prepared ourselves for the third overtime of the night, we got one of the most memorable plays of his reign in New England when Jacoby Myers made a game deciding brain fart after the clock had already reached zero. 

What a crazy NFL moment, one for the ages!!!!

Let’s take a look from another angle.

It must have been a very satisfying score for Chandler Jones, who was traded away from the Pats a number of years ago.

In fairness to Belichick, he didn’t throw Jacobi Myers under the bus in the press conference afterwards.

Cowboys v Jaguars

In the second quarter the Dallas Cowboys must have thought they were well on their way to securing their playoff position when they took a 14-0 lead but it didn’t turn out that way as this game went to overtime before it was decided. 

Trevor Laurence has just turned the corner in recent weeks and the many doubts about him delivering on his unquestionable potential are fading by the week. Ever since he got that late win against the Ravens a few weeks ago, he has been excellent and this week it was all about keeping up with the Jones. 

Laurence found his favourite target Zay Jones for three touchdown passes, the best of which was this Trev throw on the run for a 59-yard score. 

It reduced the Cowboys lead to 10 points and it was game on!!!

Dak Prescott has been inconsistent of late and threw an interception and the Cowboys were duly punished when Laurence found Marvin Jones on third down late in the third quarter to leave just three points separating the sides. 

Dak then led a drive to retake the lead when he found the very impressive Noah Brown with the minutes remaining. At the very end of regulation, Riley Patterson kicked over from 48 yards to send the game to overtime. 

The game was decided when a ball thrown by Dak was deflected and Rayshawn Jenkins capped a red letter day, where he had 18 tackles and two interceptions, with this walk-off 52-yard pick-six.

With it the Jags playoff chances are greatly renewed and they are now only one game behind the Tennessee Titans, who have lost their winning mojo. 

The best moment of the Titans v Chargers game was this heads up play by corner-back Roger McCreary, who jumped out of play and passed the ball midair to Joshua Kalu for an amazing interception. 

Justin Herbert has been balling of late and he found Mike Williams late in the game to set up a field goal, which Cameron Dicker dispatched for the win.

The result puts the Chargers in the sixth position in the AFC on 8-4, just ahead of the Miami Dolphins after beating them in their head-to-head matchup a week ago. 

The third walk off win of the night came as the Texans surprisingly brought the Kansas City Chiefs to overtime. 

With the score tied 24-24, the Texans stopped the Chiefs first drive in overtime and had the chance to drive for a game0winning field goal. However, Frank Clark punched the ball clear from Davis Mills for a fumble and on the next play Jerrick McKinnon ran in from 26 yards for the walk-off win. 

The Texans have won only one game all season but they are competing hard every week and general manager Nick Caserio has knocked their draft class out of the park and given this franchise a solid base to build on going forward. 

Lovie Smith seems to be enjoying his seat at the top table and this Texans team is heading in the right direction. 

Jets v Lions

A game that had huge playoff significance saw the Lions win the sixth game in their last seven outings, this time against the New York Jets. 

The first score of the contest was a 47-yard punt return from Kalif Raymond. 

Zach Wilson was under centre for the New York franchise and he had a good day throwing for 317 yards and two touchdowns. He routinely found Garrett Wilson and threw an excellent pass to  CJ Uzomah in the second quarter. 

Wilson did throw a costly interception in the third but he found Uzomah for a second TD that saw the Jets into a late fourth quarter lead. 

The Lions responded when Dan Campbell went for it on fourth and inches, which resulted in a play-action call that saw Brock Wright go for a 50 yard touchdown.

It gave Detroit a three-point lead and Wilson managed to put them into field goal range but Greg the Leg couldn’t force overtime with his 58-yard kick. 

Round Up

There was another late finish as the Saints won on the road against their divisional rival Falcons.

The New Orleans offence can be unpredictable with their two QBs continuing to rotate and both Andy Dalton and Taysom Hill found Juwan Johnson for touchdowns. 

It was third-round pick Desmond Ridder’s first NFL start for the Falcons but it wasn’t enough to bring home the W. Instead, it was another rookie that caught the eye on the day as running-back Tyler Allgeier averaged 8.1 yards per carry for 139 yards and a touchdown. 

Ridder did have a chance to lead a late drive with the scores 18-21 but rookie Drake London caught the ball to pick up a first down, but lost it in contact and the Saints recovered it to effectively end the game. 

The Bengals are now the top seed in the AFC North after staging a second half comeback against the Bucs.

It was an impressive win but an even more so a demoralising loss as the Buccaneers went from leading by 17 points late in the second quarter to trailing by 17 by the middle of the fourth quarter. 

A lot of it was of their own making. 

First Gio Bernard seemed surprised to be snapped the ball during a punt, then a 23 yard sack on Burrow was called off for a foul. This was followed up by fumbles by Brady and Fournette on successive drives. Inextricably, the Bucs didn’t even manage to get out of their own half for the entire third quarter. 

All these mistakes were punished on the scoreboard and the Bengals led 20–17 by the end of the third quarter. Burrow then found Chase at the start of the fourth in an all too easy turnaround.

The Steelers defence shut down Carolina’s rushing attack with Chuba Hubbard their leading rusher with a mere 10 yards. The best of the Steelers three touchdowns was this angry run from Najee Harris, who got into the endzone for the fourth game in a row. 

Bret Rypien threw 21/26 as the Broncos overcame a tame second half challenge from the Arizona Cardinals that had Trace McSorley replace the injured Colt McCoy at quarterback. 

The Eagles extended their record to 13-1 after a hard fought affair with the Bears in Chicago. 

Justin Fields almost won Touchdown of the Week for the fourth time this season, but he was judged to have stepped out of play with this amazing effort.

He did find Montgomery soon after to finish the touchdown drive. However, Jalen Hurts showed what he could do with ball in hand and ran for two touchdowns in helping the Eagles to another road win. 

All four teams in the NFC East currently occupy playoff positions after the Giants won against the Commanders that also had its share of late drama. 

Here is a link to that match report:

Watch out for our Monday Night Football preview a little later.