Our NFL Week 11 Awards

By David McDonnell

Before we embark on another set of fixtures, lets give out our Week 11 gongs.

Offensive Player of the Week: Tony Pollard (Cowboys)

Defensive Player of the Week: Maxx Crosby (Raiders)

Rookie of the Week: Jack Sanborn (Bears)

Touchdown of the Week: Cordarrelle Patterson

Smash of the Week: Deron Payne (Commanders)

Jimmy G leads Touchdown fiesta 

By David McDonnell 

Jimmy Garoppolo with his full complement of stars on offences all fit and healthy for the first time this season, served up a touchdown fiesta in Mexico against an under-performing Cardinals. 

It took until the start of the second quarter, until San Francisco got on the board when Jimmy Garoppolo found Brandon Aiyuk in the endzone for their first touchdown of the night. 

On the next 49ers drive Jimmy G then found George Kittle on another third down and the tight-end broke a tackle, before high-stepping into the endzone for a 39-yard touchdown. 

It wasn’t looking good for the Cardinals in Mexico but Colt McCoy found Greg Dortch who then torched the San Fran defenders on a big run into the redzone. The speedy wide receiver then brought play to the goal-line, where James Connor punched it in.

It left four points separating the sides and in hindsight it was as good as it got for Arizona who were playing a home fixture in Mexico. 

Deebo Samuel was having a quiet night until the start of the third quarter when he got a few upfield blocks and rushed for a 39-yard touchdown. 

The 49ers game plan was unpredictable as Kyle Shanahan used all his play-makers. At the end of the third quarter, Jimmy G read the blitz and found Aiyuk for a second touchdown. 

George Kittle also got his second of the night as the 49ers stretched their legs in the fourth. 

Arizona were falling off tackles, which is never a good look and such displays understandably put a lot of attention on head coaches. Kliff Kingsbury will be sweating coming home from Mexico and it won’t be from eating hot chilies but from the roasting his team got on prime time against a division rival.

MNF:  49ers v Cardinals

By Conor Perrett

The NFL is heading to Mexico this week! 

Monday Night Football’s NFC West battle is being played in a neutral-site matchup at Estadio Azteca in Mexico City. All eyes will be on the San Francisco 49ers and Arizona Cardinals in Week 11 with the latter especially needing a win to keep their playoff chances alive.

Arizona Cardinals (4-6)

Power Rankings – 19th 

DVOA Rankings: Offence – 28th, Defence – 21st, ST – 22nd: Overall – 29th

The big question for the Cardinals is: Will Kyler Murray take the field in Mexico? 

Murray is a game-time decision for the game so there’s the potential we might see the former No. 1 overall pick in action. Still the Cardinals proved last time they can overcome Kyler’s injury with Colt McCoy playing well last week and heading the side to victory. But beating a healthy 49ers team will be a lot tougher than the Superbowl hungover Rams!

No team has trailed more often this season than the Cardinals in terms of time of possession, number of offensive plays run while trailing and number of defensive plays while trailing. It’s hampered their offence tremendously and been a main cause for their downfall. Not getting into a rhythm and giving your defence a break is a receipt for disaster, which Kliff Kingsbury has cooked up almost every weekend this season. 

It looks like an uphill battle for the supposed home team, as the odds are stacked up against them. Missing tight-end Zach Ertz will be a loss as Deandre Hopkins and James Connors the only difference-makers on the offence. 

San Francisco 49ers (5-4)

Power Rankings – 7th

DVOA Rankings: Offence – 14th, Defence – 8th, ST – 23rd: Overall – 11th

The 49ers are healthy again with only defensive-tackle Arik Armstead missing for tonight’s Mexican NFL matchup. 

They could also move into first place in the NFC West standings with a win. With Christian McCaffrey and Deebo Samuel both available and the offence and defence complementing one another, Kyle Shanahan’s squad has a real opportunity in Week 11 to set themselves up nicely for the back stretch of the season.

It’s no secret that the 49ers have striven to build an offence that excels after the catch, with solid conservative quarterback play. It allows them to still yack up the big passing plays without putting the football at risk. It just so happens the 49ers are first in the league for YAC/reception, with Arizona’s defence having the highest YAC/reception allowed across the NFL. Consider this a major advantage to the Niners on offence.

On defence this unit has been playing elite for the majority of the year. San Fran’s defence has been formidable for the past few years, though they have been seen to slip at times. These ‘times’ show when they have faced the Cardinals, as their offence seems to cause them trouble. Even without Murray last year, Colt McCoy took this 49ers team down and may have a chance to do it again.

Previous Match-ups

2021 Season:

Week 5 – 49ers @ Cardinals, 10-17 Cardinals Win

Week 9 – Cardinals @ 49ers, 31-17 Cardinals Win

Arizona surprisingly swept the Niners in last year’s match-ups, winning comfortably in both games. Take this with a pinch of salt though, as both matches were played in the first half of the season, when the Cardinals started the season 9-0, before they inevitably went crashing downhill.

Prediction

The 49ers are a talented football team that runs the ball well and hits hard on defence. On their day it can be hard to stop them, but we have seen limitations with Jimmy Garoppolo back at starter. 

Their non-explosive offence leads to a predictable risk-free play-style that when caught from playing behind, can be an issue. Starting off fast against the Niners will be the Cardinals best way of attack, if they want the chance to get an upset in Mexico.

The Cardinals have been on and off when it comes to stopping the run though, and they face their biggest challenge against San Fran. Arizona’s defence has been one of their biggest disappointments to date. 

Resources were put into it with JJ Watt and Isiah Simmons being high profile additions that just haven’t quite hit yet. A night in the lights against San Francisco hopefully will just be the time to flash.

I’m going with the 49ers in this one. 

49ers 24-17 Cardinals

Mahomes and Herbert duel it out 

Week 11 Review column 

By David McDonnell 

With another week almost in the bag, we got a Sunday day filled with some cracking matches and late drama, as the cream of the NFL continues to rise to the top. 

One of the most compelling games and the one I am going to start with this week was the late prime-time kick-off between the Chiefs and their division rival LA Chargers, as two of the best two quarterbacks in the game Patrick Mahomes and Justin Herbert dueled it out for four entertaining quarters.

Chiefs v Chargers 

Herbert’s performances have also been trending upwards as he has been getting healthier recently and he got not one, but two major boosts before kick-off when both his top receivers Mike Williams and Keenan Allen returned to the starting line-up. This certainly helped the former Oregon Duck QB produce his best performance of the season. 

He was sizzling throughout and on his first drive, he gave Allen his first catch of the season before throwing a 50-yard bomb to Joshua Palmer, who has started to make a name for himself in the interim.

Kansas City started the contest by scoring on each drive but the Chargers defence kept getting them off the field on key third downs. The visitors had to wait until the start of the second quarter when Mahomes found his favourite target on Travis Kelce, who high-stepped into the endzone. 

A pattern was beginning to emerge with the team in possession retaking the lead and that would continue throughout. Austin Ekeler finished off a second quarter drive before Cameron Dicker kicked the home Chargers into a 13-20 half-time lead. 

The teams continued to battle it out in the trenches and it took until the first play of the fourth quarter when Mahomes found Kelce on the 10th play of another long drive and the tight-end ran in along the right side his second six-pointer to put his side in front once more. 

With the game in the balance coming down the stretch, there were two turnovers. First Allen fumbled but three minutes later his teammates bailed him out by retaking possession. 

I have been saying for a number of weeks that Herbert should use his legs to pick up first downs and he was excellent at running in college and he must have been reading my column because he started to do just this on his last drive.  He then found Keenan Allen along the right sideline, and the returning wideout did incredibly well to haul in the ball to bring the play to the 16-yard line. 

Herbert then found Palmer with a dart into the endzone as the Chargers took a late lead with 1.46 remaining.

The challenge was laid down and taken up by Mahomes and the best quarterback in football didn’t disappoint. He was electric on that final drive, picking up first downs with his arms and legs before finding Kelce, who took it into the endzone for the winning touchdown, his third of the night. 

It was a terrific contest and interestingly that victory made it 25 consecutive wins in November and December for Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs. For me, with their future Hall of Fame talents in Mahomes and Kelce is rich form, they are my Superbowl favourites. 

Preview Predictions

Cowboys v Vikings

In my preview column on Saturday, I took three swings on how three of Week 11 match-ups would turn out. So like a baseball player, let’s see what my batting-average is this week! 

Firstly I tipped Dallas, which I rarely do, because of how unconvinced I still am by the then 8-1 Vikings, despite all the acclaim that came their way last week for having the joint-best record in football. 

I understood the adulation that came their way after their superb win against Buffalo in Week 10 and it was way over the top and i felt the team would find it difficult to get their feet back on the ground after such an incredible high. Seven days later, Minnasota got demolished 40-3 at home by the Cowboys and the Super Bowl contending Vikings of last week looked just as untrustworthy as the Vikings of every other year.

Dallas were very impressive and their D-line didn’t give Kirk Cousins room to breathe. By the third quarter they had seven sacks and Kevin O’Connell took his QB out of the firing line and put in Nick Mullins, as the game was over as a contest. The Vikes need to reset quickly for a Thanksgiving home game on Thursday versus the New England Patriots. On the night, all the Cowboy stars came out to play, with Tony Pollard shining brightest with 189 yards from scrimmage and two touchdowns, with this the pick of the bunch. 

He could have had four but Zeke managed to gobble up two from close range.

My second prediction was that Buffalo would bounce back after two losses on the trot, despite having to travel in snowy conditions to play a home game in Ford Field in Detroit, against an unpredictable Browns. 

The Bills were trailing to an Amari Cooper touchdown in the second quarter when head coach Sean McDermott publicly having words with his star receiver Stefon Diggs, who was clearly upset for not having been targeted all game. With 14 seconds left in the first half, Josh Allen found Diggs unmarked at the back of the endzone for Buffalo’s first lead of the contest.  They would go on to win more comfortably than the  23-31 final scoreline suggests. 

So, two for two so far and my third hot-take was that the New York Jets would win in Foxboro for the first time in over a decade and end their highly embarrassing 13 consecutive losses against their hated division rival the New England Patriots. My belief was that their defensive front would stop the Pats rushing attack and Zach Wilson would be the man to lead them to victory. 

During the game, both defences balled out against the two sophomore QBs with the Jets. Gang Green tallying five sacks of Mac Jones, while the Patriots held Wilson to a miserly -2 yards of offence in the second half. It goes to show that missing half your offensive line and your starting running back against a Bill Belichick defence is never ideal. 

However, with the scores a lowly 3-3 in the fourth quarter, Wilson had the ball with 90 seconds remaining in the contest. Could he lead his side down the field to kick a late field goal to win the contest?

It turns out he couldn’t and when the Jets punted back to the Patriots with 13 seconds left, Marcus Jones took it to the house for an 84-yard winning touchdown. 

So my predictions fell short of a clean sweep and as Meat Loaf used to sing ‘Two Out Of Three Aint Bad.’

Lions v Giants 

A man who went three-for-three yesterday was Lions running-back Jamaal Williams. Anyone who watched Hard Knocks in pre-season will remember him from this speech. 

Well, Williams doesn’t just talk the talk and he scored a hat-trick of touchdowns from close range to become the leading touchdown scorer in the NFL this season with 12. He has found a brilliant thunder and lighting tandem with running-back DeAndre Swift, as Detroit continue their excellent run of late.

Dan Campbell’s charges are now also three-for-three from their last three matches.

This was a surprisingly large defeat for a New York Giants team that were outplayed throughout and Daniel Jones had a game to forget by throwing a pair of interceptions to rookie standouts Aiden Hutchinson and Kerby Joseph. It leaves the Giants with a record of 7-3 and they have four days until they play the 7-3 Dallas Cowboys in an NFC East prime-time Thanksgiving match-up.  

There will be pressure on both teams to win especially with the resurgent Commanders snapping at their heels in a division that has proven to be the strongest in the NFC.  Washington had a comfortable sixth win of the season away to the Texans and they led 20-0 at halftime, thanks to a pair of TDs from Kendall Fuller and Curtis Samuel.  

Ron Rivera confirmed that Taylor Heinicke would continue as starter as Carson Wentz now returns for selection and when asked what Heinicke had shown to be named ahead of  Wentz, Ron replied emphatically: “Winning!” With their defensive line really stepping it up , who knows just how good they might be when Chase Young adds his talents to the line in the coming weeks. 

Bears v Falcons 

This was another cracking contest that had a NFL record to boot when Cordarrelle Patterson ran home his ninth kick-off return of his long and varied career in sensational style.

The former wide-receiver has enjoyed the best years since he came to Atlanta but it was great to get a reminder of the threat he used to be as a specialist returner early in his career at Minnesota.

Justin Fields and Marcus Mariota went toe-to-toe all game and the sides were level many times throughout.  With three minutes to play and the scores tied at 24-24, the Falcons had possession and Mariota took his side up the field for Younghoe Koo, potentially the special teams ‘Player of the Season’, to kick the winning score. Fields had almost two minutes for a late reply but a deflected pass was intercepted to secure an Atlanta win. 

The Bears are a coming team with a lot of young talent and although highly competitive, are finding it difficult to win.  They have a great running game but also in Fields, the most sacked QB in the league so they may need to restructure their O-line to better protect their blossoming superstar.


AFC 

Another two very engaging contests in the late window were divisional match-ups in the AFC West and North. 

There was no coach in the NFL that needed a win this week more than Josh McDaniels and his players duly obliged. Russell Wilson had a decent game for Denver, completing 24 out of 31 attempts on a day when Raiders defensive-end Maxx Crosby wreaked havoc. He was dominant all game with six tackles, two sacks and even managed to block a field goal. 

The Raiders won it in style when Derek Carr found his best friend Devontae Adams, who finished with 141 receiving yards and two touchdowns including this walk-off winning score on the first drive of overtime.

In the AFC North, Joe Burrow was in top form throwing for 355 yards and four touchdowns in a game that was right in the mix until the final quarter as Cincinnati managed to put a bit of daylight between themselves and the Steelers. Tee Higgins also excelled with nine catches for 148 yards, while running back Samaje Perine finished the day with three receiving touchdowns.

If and when Ja’Marr Chase returns, this is going to be a very difficult team to stop and the Bengals are certainly emerging as a dark horse contender from the AFC.

Cincinnati are now 6-4, just one win behind the Ravens at the top of the AFC North. Lamar Jackson ran in the only touchdown in their fourth-quarter win in a punt-fest against the Panthers. 

The Rams season is petering out and they lost Matt Stafford to concussion for the second time in a matter of weeks in their loss to the Saints.

Lastly, the Philadelphia Eagles got back to winning ways to go 9-1 to now have the outright best record in the NFL. 

It looked for a long time that Jeff Saturday might remain undefeated as the Colts head coach and they led for most of the contest. In fact Indianapolis were winning by six points when Jalen Hurts got the ball back with four minutes remaining in the fourth quarter. 

The Colts almost got the Eagles off the field after stopping Hurts on a third and two but for a flag thrown down the field for a foul on Sanders and a new set of downs. The in-form quarterback made them pay and tied the game with 90 seconds remaining by running in from close range. A late Jake Elliot PAT was the winning kick as they won 17-16. 

Later tonight we have a divisional match-up between the Cardinals v the 49ers. Watch out for our MNF preview out later on today!!!

Bills Under Pressure: NFL Week 11 Preview

By David McDonnell

In Buffalo right now, snow is piling higher than a Disney Christmas film and during the week Von Miller woke up to find his car buried under about two feet of snow. 

But just as we were starting to rub our hand in anticipation of an NFL snow game, the No Fun League struck again and moved the game to a covered Ford Field in Detroit. 

I’m not a meteorologist but with heavy snow storms on the scene in November, surely we will have one snow game before the end of the season. So for now, let’s keep trucking with three selected games from the Week 11 fixtures. 

Browns v Bills

Who would have believed three weeks ago that the Buffalo Bills could be sitting third in the AFC East division, after successive losses to the Jets and the Vikings? Interestingly they are still the Superbowl favourites in the bookies but it must be concerning to Sean McDermott that they are coming out the wrong side of closely-contested matches.

After losing in unforgettable style to the Vikes last Sunday, this week they are under pressure to bounce back.

So this is my take on why the Bills are struggling of late.

On offence, they can’t run the ball successfully and this is having a number of knock on effects.  

One, Josh Allen is now passing that ball almost twice as many times as they are attempting to run the ball  and because of that they are becoming more predictable. It negates their use of play-action to get big chuck plays down the field as teams are not coming down to pack the box.The Bills did recruit Nyheim Hines from the Colts to their running-back room but so far it hasn’t had the desired effect.

Two, it has been a factor with Josh Allen throwing interceptions as he is now throwing into more congested traffic in the backfield. The two picks by Patrick Peterson last Sunday means that Allen has thrown six interceptions in the last three games and losing the turnover battle 2-4 was a major factor in contributing to their last two defeats.

Three, because they don’t have a running back excelling in the rushing attack, one thing I have noticed recently and I think teams have caught on as well is that Allen almost always runs on third and fourth down, especially late in the game. Call it a superman complex if you will, but it seems that he trusts himself more to get past the marker through his own athleticism and force of will rather than throw to his receiving corp. 

When it works as it certainly did earlier in the season, it looks spectacular and it was very much one of the reasons why he was the early MVP candidate. At the moment it is clear that although passed fit to start, he is playing banged up. In hindsight Buffalo probably should have started with Case Keenam last weekend but I understand why the coaches and players in Buffalo rolled the dice with Allen.

In my opinion, the Bills have great depth on defence but have been missing a number of starters, especially their defensive backs, who were taken to the cleaners by the Vikes. To sum up, Buffalo couldn’t stop the run and they couldn’t stop the pass. Kirk Cousins looked like Joe Montana as he threw for 357 yards with Justin Jefferson catching for 193 yards and a touchdown. All this while Dalvin Cook ran for 119 yards and another TD. 

So why are they still Superbowl favourites? 

For one thing, they haven’t been able to put their best selection of defensive backs on the field but in another week or two that is likely to be the case. Captain Tre’Davious White is not in the squad this weekend but it only seems a matter of time until he is back from a long-term injury,  while first round pick Kaiir Elam and safety Jordan Poyer are likely to feature having both missed the loss to Minnesota. 

They are also missing Tremaine Edmunds and Gregory Rousseau, both good against the run and with ability to rush the passer and their loss could be felt against one of the best offensive lines in all of football at Cleveland, who also possess the best running back in the league not named Derek Henry in Nick Chubb.  

This match-up between the Bills D-line and the Browns o-line should be worth the entrance fee alone and what makes this game more intriguing than it looks on the calendar. 

The Browns have been playing akin to Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde over the last three weeks. Their best performance of the season came against the Bengals on Monday Night Football in Week 8 and they followed this up by allowing the Miami Dolphins 480 yards from scrimmage last Sunday. 

I wonder if Deshaun Jacksion’s return to training had an effect as he undoubtedly would have taken snaps away from Jacoby Brisscett in the lead up to the game and perhaps put questions about whom the other players should look to as the leader of the offence. 

Who knows which Browns will get in Ford Field? 

Cleveland is very healthy on offence. Their plan should be to run the ball behind their impressive offensive line and try to wear down the banged up Bills. I think this would be their best chance of keeping the score tight and then try to win the game in the fourth quarter. 

Especially after losing a high-profile roller-coaster last weekend and the manner in which things unfolded, I am again giving them the benefit of the doubt to Buffalo.  I expect them to  get back to winning ways this weekend. However, should they fall to the Browns, I doubt they will still be favourites in the bookies next week.

Jets v Patriots 

This is another cracking match-up as the 6-3 Jets travel to face the Patriots in Foxboro, a venue where they haven’t been victorious since the 2010 play-offs. This is highly embarrassing for a team that has played there every year since. 

Not only that but should the formbook continue, the Jets will have lost 14 consecutive games against their most hated divisional rivals. 

I have a feeling Sunday may be the day Gang Green gets this monkey off their backs, which might sound strange considering the Patriots beat the Jets in New York only two weeks ago. 

So let me explain! 

In that recent loss, Zach Wilson was the villain on the day as he got intercepted three times, but as i mentioned recently I love the way he throws the ball and I just see enough green shoots in him to believe that he is a young player, who could blossom into an NFL superstar.

In my opinion, the recent loss to the Pats provides Wilson with lessons to improve his game and in time he could see it as a blessing in disguise. For me this is an ideal opportunity in which to show progression with his decision making and also his attention to detail, as he was punished twice  last time out with turnovers that I consider lapses in concentration.

I also want to make clear,  I am not burdening the fate of the game, solely on Wilson’s shoulders because I think he can be a good player. No, I think this Patriots team is limited on offence but have been good at running against most opposition. Where I believe this Jets team is best is in their run defence and Quinnian Williams has become a wrecking ball against the rush and also been good at

helping the D line get after the opposing QB.

It is also Mac Jones first home game, since the Pats fans cheered loudly when he was replaced by Bailey Zappe a few weeks back.  What I like about Jones is he is smart and confidently manages a game, which is what the Pats ask of him to do. But just like Wilson he has struggled for consistency in his sophomore season and he is in a tricky situation for any young player to be in with the outward discontentment from his own supporters. There are many reasons for the difficulties in the Pats passing game but I would put a lack of blue chip talent at receiver and play-calling at the top of my list as to why they are struggling in the passing game, before I would point the finger at Jones at quarterback. 

I’m going for an upset win for the Jets in New England. There I said it. 

Cowboys v Vikings 

The third game that will be good to watch is the Cowboys travelling to Minnesota to tackle the 8-1 Vikings.

The Vikes are coming off the greatest regular season win that i can remember and sometimes it can be hard to figuratively keep your feet on the ground after reaching such heights. The one thing that they have in the locker that will be a problem for the Cowboys is their pass-rush, who have excelled and if Dak plays to the level he did against Green Bay last time out, then the Boys will be in trouble. 

But I like the Cowboys for this game because their need is greatest. The Cowboys need to win to keep up their play-off hopes in a hotly contested NFC East division. They were having an excellent season and their defence should be able to do a lot better than Buffalo did last week in getting after Cousins, who is flying high now but we have seen from him so many times how inconsistent he can be week-to- week.   

For Dallas to win, Dak needs to step up and control the game on offence. With Ceedee Lamb coming off his best game of the season and Tony Pollard also going well, I think they are well-placed to take on a Minnesota team that still haven’t yet convinced me of their merits. 

King Henry cans Packers on TNF

By David McDonnell 

The Titans are fast becoming one of the dark horses in the race for the Superbowl after their seventh win in their last eight games came after a highly entertaining contest in a snowy and cold Lambeau Field.

The key to their success is being very physical on their offensive and defensive lines and the rushing talent that is Derek Henry. He is without doubt one of teh best running backs inNFl history and when he gets motoring, it opens up the play action game for a specialist like Ryan Tannehill.

The Titans QB back for the second week after missing time through injury was excellent and on the night completed 22 of 27 passes attempted for 333 yards and two touchdowns. On the first drive of the contest he gave us a hint of what lay in store when he found Dontrell Hilliard for a touchdown. 

Just as time was about to tick to zero at the end of the first quarter, in classic Aaron Rodgers fashion, the Packers quarterback took an unexpected snap, which drew a defensive flag and knowing he had a shot to nothing, threw up a contestable ball and rookie Christian Watson mossed his marker to reply with a six-pointer for the home side. A blocked PAT marked the end of the first quarter. 

The contest was hotting up and a great throw by Tannehill on third and 10 down found Austin Hooper to extend the drive. Matt LeFleur challenged the call and Tennessee had to make it from fourth and inches to pick up the first down, which they did with an interesting play call. I’m not sure Tannehill will be picking up an Oscar after this play as I don’t think anyone expected someone other than Derek Henry to get the ball.

However, in the drive on another fourth and one, the Titans gave it again to King Henry but time the Packers got the stop to cause a turnover in the football. Green Bay didn’t make the turnover pay on the scoreboard and There was no stopping Tennessee on their next drive where they leaned more in Henry and the big man smashed his way over the line to extend the lead.

Tennessee had an eight point lead after having the football for double the amount of the home side in the first half. 

In the third quarter, the Titans went 91 yards in only six plays as Henry broke through on a long run to bring the play into the redzone. The big running back then faked a run and threw a jump-shot to Hooper on a delayed run for a touchdown.

This time it was the Titans kicker to miss the added point.

Green Bay hit back with Rodgers in excellent form.  On second and goal, he found Watson again in the endzone for the rookie’s fifth touchdown in five days. Aaron Jones then converted a two-point play to leave just three points between the sides.

Two minutes later on the first play of the fourth quarter, Tannehill on play action found his tight end Hooper with a dart into the endzone to make it 27-17.

For the rest of the game, both defences started to dominate and there were no more scores.

It was a good performance by the Green Bay Packers against one of the toughest teams in the NFL. The Titans who look already destined for play-off football in January. If they can keep Henry healthy and in his current form, they will be a match for anyone going forward.

TNF: Titans v Packers 

By Conor Perrett 

With the Green Bay Packers coming off an overtime win to America’s team; Dallas Cowboys on Sunday, they now host another top team when the Tennessee Titans come to Lambeau Field for Thursday Night Football. 

Both sides are still in the playoff hunt, and both need to keep stacking up wins so read on and I’ll tell you who I think will win this exciting match-up tonight. 

Green Bay Packers (4-6)

Power Rankings: 18th

DVOA Rankings: Offence – 9th, Defence – 17th, ST – 30th: Overall – 14th

Thanks to a five-game losing streak that buried them deep in the NFC standings, it has been a difficult season for the Packers.

Aaron Rodgers has looked like a fraction of his former self and the offence has just been stuck in gear following the off-season trade of wide receiver Davante Adams. That was until last Sunday when we got our first bit of spark from them this season, when they came from behind to beat a fancied Cowboys team.

The man at centre of this renaissance was rookie second-round pick Christian Watson, who caught four passes on the day for 104 yards and three touchdowns. He is one of the new young receivers that was brought in to replace Adams, and he has had a rough start to life in the NFL being on concussion protocol and also dropping a number of catchable passes. It has left an unhappy Rodgers throwing to him, and numerous times this year the quarterback has shown his frustration on the field and on the sideline.

It’s clear Rodgers is not happy with the current situation or where the team is heading towards. Despite winning last week, his demeanor really wasn’t much different until the last drive. He tends to take his frustration out on head-coach Matt LaFleur despite a winning relationship with him over the last two years.

Having a group of young receivers isn’t ideal, but he also has Randell Cobb returning for this game. The defence hasn’t been living up to its potential. With a good second half of the season, Green Bay could find themselves in the playoffs, but that still might not cement Rodgers’ future with this team.

Tennessee Titans (6-3)

Power Rankings: 12th

DVOA Rankings: Offence – 21st, Defence – 9th, ST – 11th: Overall – 13th

The Titans are in the driving seat for the AFC South title and now that starting quarterback Ryan Tannehill is back, they have a resemblance of a passing game once again. On Sunday he threw for a pair of touchdowns on his return to the lineup in the Titans’ win over the Denver Broncos.

The King, Derrick Henry, has got himself back on track in the past month, having topped the 100 rushing yard mark in five of his last six games. He looks just as scary as he did back when he won Offensive Player of the Year in 2020, and tonight he gets to take on statistically the league’s worst run-defence this week in Green Bay.

On the other side of the ball, the Titan defence has been hotting up as well, and in their last six games they have not given up more than 20 points in four quarters. That six games stretch includes the Kansas City Chiefs who have the No. 1 scoring offence in the league and are first in offensive DVOA. They will be missing their top pass rusher Bud Dupree for this clash, but a strong and gritty Mike Vrabel team won’t let that set them back.

Prediction

This matchup will be closer than the records suggest and feels like a coin toss in my opinion. 

With the Packers being at home, they enter the game as three-point favourites in the bookies and have had the better fortune with injuries. They looked good on Sunday night and I think Rodgers will get this offence motoring again. How soon in the game will this happen is the question, as this Titans defence has been playing up near the league’s best in recent weeks.

Despite the arrows pointing towards Green Bay in some situations, I like the matchup for Tennessee. I don’t think they will be able to run the ball as effectively as people might think, with the Packers run-defence often showing up when it matters most. 

But Tennessee is a real tough outfit and won’t be fearing the cold reception when they will get at Lambeau Field. They nearly went into Kansas City two weeks ago and beat them without a serviceable passing attack and I think this time round, in another difficult place to perform, they walk out with the win.

Titans 20, Packers 17

Week 11 Power Rankings

By Conor Perrett 

With another week of the NFL season ticked off the list, our rankings look like an iPod on shuffle with only three teams remaining in their same spot from last week. We had one of the craziest games in the last four years, an upset no one saw coming and an interim head coach who’s now undefeated in his coaching career.

So without further ado, let’s welcome our newcomers to the top spot of the Smashmouthing

Football Power Rankings. 

  1. Kansas City Chiefs (7-2)

Last Week – 3rd

The Chiefs lead the league in offensive EPA per drive with a mark of 1.23. For reference, that would be the highest mark in TruMedia’s database since the 2011 New Orleans Saints. The difference in EPA per drive between the Chiefs and the No. 2 team, the Dolphins, is the same as the difference between Miami and the No. 15 team.

Despite losing Tyreek Hill this off-season, Kansas City continue to light up the league as Patrick Mahomes and Andy Reid adapt to their new cast. Kadarius Toney is the newest man to enter that bunch and his emergence on Sunday was promising. The 2021 first-round pick caught four passes for 57 yards and a touchdown, while adding two carries for 33 yards. He looks to be an exciting weapon that they happily took off the hands of the Giants.

Up next: at Los Angeles Chargers, Monday 1:20 a.m. GMT

  1. Philadelphia Eagles (8-1)

Last Week – 1st

Philadelphia’s run finally ended leaving us without an undefeated team in the league now. The turnover battle finally caught up to them on Monday Night, as crucial mistakes led to the upset loss versus the Commanders. It marked the first time this season the Eagles had trailed in the second half at any point and two costly late fumbles in the fourth quarter spoiled any chances of a comeback win.

While it’s easy to brush over uncharacteristic mistakes, this defence has really struggled to stop the run over the last two weeks. Nose tackle Jordan Davis has missed both games after being placed on IR and Philly has now given up 320 rushing yards in that time. This run defence got brushed over last week and it’s clear now it’s a problem. Today, the Eagles signed former Charger’s DT Linval Joseph to a one-year deal in a bid to address this issue. 

Up next: at Indianapolis, Sunday 6 p.m. GMT

  1. Miami Dolphins (7-3)

Last Week – 7th

The Dolphins have been on a roller-coaster across these power rankings, flying up and down the board. On our first edition they started off 2nd but fell as low as 20th at one point during Tua’s concussion injury. Now they have their QB back and boy are they back to being electric. Over the last three weeks Miami have averaged 35 points per game and most recently dropped 39 points on the Browns, who we last saw shutdown the Bengals.

The run game looks dominant, the pass game looks unstoppable, they just need to fix up that defence and we might have a new Super Bowl contender on our hands.

Up next: Bye

  1. Minnesota Vikings (7-2)

Last Week – 10th

Before we get into my weekly Vikings rant, that Justin Jefferson catch might be one of the best I’ve ever seen.  It alone could earn that title but it was ridiculous when you account for the down and distance along with the stakes. 

As for whether the Vikings are actually one of the league’s four best teams, that’s up for debate. Their play up to date didn’t warrant having the tied best record in the league, but can they be taken seriously now that they beat what many thought to be the best team in football in their own backyard? I’m still skeptical but Sunday’s late rally did them many favours. Maybe they are for real?

Up next: vs. Dallas, Sunday 9:25 p.m. GMT

  1. Buffalo Bills (6-3)

Last Week – 2nd

The NFL season is a slog, and the Bills aren’t the first team to hit a mid-season bump after looking like the best team early on. There’s plenty of reason to believe they can get to that level again. They still rank No. 1 in overall DVOA, with a 1st and 5th defensive and offensive DVOA rankings respectively. But the road ahead won’t be easy.

For starters the real problem right now is they sit third in their AFC East division. With a 0-2 record in the division, that could come back to haunt them, if they have to win three road games to make it to a Super Bowl. If anyone can do it then Josh Allen would be a good choice, but his 13 turnovers on the year would worry you.

Up next: vs. Cleveland, Sunday 6 p.m. GMT

  1. Baltimore Ravens (6-3)

Last Week – 5th

The bye week is in place to get teams healthy and so it did with Mark Andrews likely to return this Sunday. The doors have opened for Baltimore to fight for the AFC No. 1 seed now.

Up next: vs. Carolina, Sunday 6 p.m. GMT

  1. San Francisco 49ers (5-4)

Last Week – 6th

The 49ers still look good and one of my favourites out of the NFC, but Kyle Shanahan does do some weird stuff that puts questions in your mind. First, remember that trade they did for Christian McCaffery where they sent an entire draft class to earn his rights. Well he started off amazingly but this past Sunday he got out-carried by Elijah Mitchell. Next, San Fran decided to kick a field goal from the two-yard line with one minute remaining to extend the Niners lead to six points. What was that about?

Now it meant the Chargers had to score a touchdown to win, but if he was successful from the two, it would have ended the game and not allow Justin Herbert to get a chance to spoil the party. It was only one game and San Francisco won in the end, so we won’t overreact but late game management has been Shanahan’s Achilles heel in the past. 

Up next: at Arizona, Tuesday 1:15 a.m. GMT

  1. Dallas Cowboys (6-3)

Last Week – 4th

Dallas blew a 14-point fourth-quarter lead in their loss at Lambeau Field, after their defence fell apart. But Dak Prescott’s turnovers can’t keep happening if the Cowboys are going to be a serious threat in the playoffs. Despite throwing for three touchdowns, Dak did not have a good game as he finished this week ranked 31st in EPA per dropback.

Sunday was a chance to get a game behind the Eagles and have fate back in their hands. Now they’re coming off an ugly defeat and have to play Minnesota this week, who are feeling a sense of high like no other team after the way they upset the Bills in Buffalo. 

Up next: at Minnesota, Sunday 9:25 p.m. GMT 

  1. Cincinnati Bengals (5-4)

Last Week – 9th

The bye week for Cincinnati didn’t make the look of their remaining schedule any easier, but they have a nice warm up fight against Pittsburgh this week to get ready for the seven difficult weeks after that.

Up next: at Pittsburgh, Sunday 9:25 p.m. GMT

  1. Seattle Seahawks (6-4)

Last Week – 8th

Things didn’t go great for the Seahawks in Germany, but overall this team is in a rebuilding year, yet are still 6-4 with rookies all over the place. Seattle are leading the league in offensive and defensive snaps played by first-year players, according to TruMedia.

The Seahawks rookie class includes a pair of starting tackles in Charles Cross and Abraham Lucas, an ascending star corner-back, who’s tied first for interceptions in the league, Tariq Woolen and a dynamic home hitter running-back in Kenneth Walker.  

Up next: Bye

  1. New York Jets (6-3)

Last Week – 11th

Defensive star Quinnen Williams has hit the quarterback on 6.5% of his pass-rush snaps this year. To put that into context Aaron Donald, who needs no explaining, has a single season high mark of 5.1%. The Jets have themselves a player on their hands and their defence is among the elite in the NFL this season. 

Up next: at New England, Sunday 6 p.m. GMT.

  1. Tennessee Titans (6-3)

Last Week – 12th

Barring a collapse, Tennessee looks to be hosting a play-off game come January. This defence has looked strong in the last few weeks but we will get to see who they really are in their next three-game stretch. First they travel to Green Bay for Thursday Night Football, and then follow that up with the Bengals and Eagles. If the Titans want to be serious in the playoffs then they can prove it here, but if not then the door might open slightly ajar for Jacksonville or Indianapolis.

Up next: at Green Bay, Friday 1:15 a.m. GMT

  1. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (5-5)

Last Week – 16th

Tampa’s running game finally came into fruition when rookie Rachaad White ran for 105 yards on 22 carries in Munich. It’s the first time as a team they have topped 100 rushing yards since Week 1, as Tom Brady got some much deserved help.

The defence is looking better, ranking 7th in defensive DVOA as they take control of their NFC South division. The ball is in their court now as they hold a one game lead over Atlanta and only have to face two teams in their remaining seven games that rank higher than 18th in these Power Rankings.

Up next: Bye

  1. New England Patriots (5-4)

Last Week – 13th

The Patriots are the only team with a winning record that ranks in the bottom 10 of the league in offensive DVOA. It speaks to how well their defence have played this year, but also to the limitations they face with the ball in their hands. Their run game is strong but teams have caught onto that and they are packing the box to stop it. 

This theoretically should open up the passing game but right now, Mac Jones ranks 34th out of 35 qualifying quarterbacks in EPA per dropback. Whether the blame is to fall on Jones, his receivers, or Matt Patricia, whose offensive play calling is up for debate. One way or another things will have to change for a deep season for Pat’s run.

Up next: vs. New York Jets, Sunday 6 p.m. GMT

  1. New York Giants (7-2)

Last Week – 14th

Yes, the Giants have the third best record in the league, yet are 15th in these power rankings. While their play on the field creates their record, it also speaks to how good they are and you could also say they have had a bit of fortune.

In DVOA they rank 20th in overall, split between 15th on offence and 24th on defence. They’re 7-1 in one-score games, which says a lot about their mentality but is probably unsustainable and masks their overall quality. The Giants are probably going to be a playoff team, which would be an awesome accomplishment for Brian Daboll in his first year on the job. They just aren’t yet among the league’s best yet. 

Up next: vs. Detroit, Sunday 6 p.m. GMT

  1. Washington Commanders (5-5)

Last Week – 22nd

Credit to the Commanders for fully committing to their run-heavy game plan in the first half of their 32-21 win over the Eagles. It hadn’t been a strength of theirs to date, but they played on the Eagles weakness and it worked out. They ended up holding the ball for 40:24, the second most lopsided time of possession in a game this season.

There was no bigger way for Washington to cement this kind of win, as they get back to .500 on the season and can push on for the playoffs.

Up next: at Houston, Sunday 6 p.m. GMT

  1. Los Angeles Chargers (5-4)

Last Week – 15th

The Chargers can look to injuries for their failure this season so far, but they have the second easiest schedule in the league, per Football Outsiders. They’ve been poor offensively and defensively throughout the season and Sunday’s game against the Niners might have looked close, but should have been finished way before the last drive.

Before the season this Kansas City matchup looked really tasty. Let’s hope they can get Keenan Allen and Mike Williams back so we can see an exciting shootout.

Up next: vs. Kansas City, Monday 1:20 a.m. GMT

  1. Green Bay Packers (4-6)

Last Week – 26th

Christian Watson was a riser up the draft boards earlier in the year with his performances in the Senior Bowl and draft combine. He found himself land on the Packers and was instantly expected to make an impact in the Davante Adams-less wide-receiver room. 

Things didn’t start off great when he dropped a touchdown pass on his first NFL target and entered Sunday with only 88 receiving yards. But against the Cowboys he put his name on the scene with his three touchdown performance. With four catches for 107 yards and those touchdowns, it led the Packers back to a comeback win over the Cowboys and former coach Mike McCarthy.

The Packers offence in that fourth quarter was different to anything we had seen all season, but is it just an anomaly?

Up next: vs. Tennessee, Friday 1:15 a.m. GMT

  1. Arizona Cardinals (4-6)

Last Week – 23rd

Kyler Murray missed the game on Sunday due to a hamstring injury, as Colt McCoy took his place and excelled. He went 26 of 37 for 238 yards and a touchdown, as McCoy looked better than, dare I say, Murray. Colt also got rid of the ball quicker than Murray has all season, with a 2.08 second average time to throw, which caused the Rams all kinds of problems getting to him. Murray is day-to-day according to Kliff Kingsbury at the moment, but against another top defence this week, there is little reason why Colt can’t do it again.

Up next: vs. San Francisco, Tuesday 1:15 a.m. GMT

  1. Jacksonville Jaguars (3-7)

Last Week – 21st

The Jaguars opened their game against the Chefs this week with a successful onside kick! Sadly it went downhill from there. There’s no shame losing to Kansas City but this team has been playing better than their record suggests. Their first round picks Devin Lloyd and Travon Walker are looking solid, as their offence is coming together with Christian Kirk and Travis Etienne. Trevor Lawrence should continue to improve as the Jags add more talent around him, with a good foundation in place for 2023 and onwards.

Up next: Bye

  1. Cleveland Browns (3-6)

Last Week – 17th

That was not the kind of performance we were expecting out of the Browns this week. Granted they have been poor this season, but before their bye week we saw them put on an amazing performance both on offence and defence during a prime time game against the Bengals. It looked like their 31st ranked DVOA defence was about to turn things around and then they took a big defeat to the Dolphins. A playoff appearance continues to look out of reach, even when they get Desahun Watson back in two and a half weeks time.

Up next: at Buffalo, Sunday 1 p.m. GMT

  1. Detroit Lions (3-6)

Last Week – 27th

Woo-ah!!! The Detroit Lions won back-to-back games against divisional opponents for the first time in what feels like an eternity. This team showed exactly what Dan Campbell wants out of his team, with a 14-point fourth quarter comeback. 

Justin Fields continued to dominate with his legs until his old familiar Ohio State teammate, Jeff Okudah scored a pick-six. They proceeded to stop Fields again with two sacks to get the ball back on downs, as this team is starting to finish games they control. Now can Detroit continue this run and put an end to the surprising Giants on the road this week? I am optimistic they can. 

Up next: at New York Giants, Sunday 6 p.m. GMT

  1. Chicago Bears (3-7)

Last Week – 24th

The Bears went from 30th in offensive DVOA over the first six weeks of the season to 5th in offensive DVOA over the last four weeks. Sunday against Detroit was no different, with the offence catering to Justin Fields’ legs more as he looks like one of the league’s best scramblers. 

They were up two scores but when Detroit came back and forced the Bears into a potential game winning drive, Chicago fell back into their bad habits of the first six weeks. With two minutes on the clock, three timeouts remaining and only needing 50 yards to get inside field goal range, the ball was put into Field’s arm instead of using his amazing legs. It led to exactly what we had been seeing at the start of the season with no one open and allowing the pass-rush to get in his face. Not surprisingly, it ended with a gut-wrenching home defeat.

Up next: at Atlanta, Sunday 6 p.m. GMT

  1. Denver Broncos (3-6)

Last Week – 20th

Denver spent way too much to acquire Russell Wilson for the offence to still be this bad. The bye week is meant to be a time where teams review how things are going and change the things that aren’t working. Well Denver looked the same as they have every week and that’s not a good thing. There’s going to be a lot of pressure to make significant changes at the end of the season to ensure their bet on Wilson hits, which could mean first-year head coach Nathaniel Hackett being given the old heave-ho if things don’t improve dramatically.

Up next: vs. Las Vegas, Sunday 9:05 p.m. GMT

  1. Los Angeles Rams (3-6)

Last Week – 19th

All is lost for the Rams this season. They were already a long shot to make the playoffs going into Week 10, and their odds only worsened with a loss to the Cardinals. Now they’re expected to miss their best offensive player Cooper Kupp for an extended period of time, possibly four weeks. Maybe a few players including Aaron Donald in Los Angeles might be wishing they had retired after that Super Bowl win last February. 

Up next: at New Orleans, Sunday 6 p.m. GMT

  1. Atlanta Falcons (4-6)

Last Week – 18th

The season is still far from over but that loss last Thursday Night to the Panthers was ugly. Marcus Mariota is a big part of their successful rushing attack which ranks 5th in EPA per rush, but he’s not getting the ball out well and that’s not good when their best player is a pass catcher.

With Desmond Ridder waiting in the wings, his time may come sooner rather than later. It’s important to enter an off-season with a clear idea of what your team is and understanding if Ridder has a place in this league is a big question they will need to know.  If Ridder is not the answer, Atlanta may think of upgrading at that position.

Up next: vs. Chicago, Sunday 6 p.m. GMT

  1. Pittsburgh Steelers (3-6)

Last Week – 29th

Pittsburgh came out of their bye week last Sunday with a clear idea in mind of how they were going to beat the Saints. That idea was running the ball and boy were they successful, running it for 217 yards in that win. Just two months on from tearing his pectoral muscle, T.J. Watt returned to the field with the Steelers now looking on the rise. His presence allowed a season low 10 points against the Saints, and if their defensive performances can stay consistent, it will only make things easier on the other side of the ball for rookie quarterback: Kenny Pickett.

Up next: vs. Cincinnati, Sunday 9:25 p.m. GMT

  1. Carolina Panthers (3-7)

Last Week – 30th

The Panthers were a laughing stock at the beginning of the season, but their young defensive players are starting to look like stars out there. Derrick Brown is looking like the destructive nose tackle we saw from him in Auburn and Jaycee Horn currently leads all corner-back with over 200-plus snaps played in passer rating, with 23.1 yards allowed, according to PFF. Along with edge rusher Brian Burns and safety Jeremy Chinn, Carolina has the makings for a top defence. They just need to hire the right head coach for the job.

Up next: at Baltimore, Sunday 6 p.m. GMT

  1. Indianapolis Colts (4-5-1)

Last Week – 32nd

Almost as stunning as Justin Jefferson’s catch this week was Jeff Saturday winning at his first time of asking on the sideline. Okay maybe a bit of a stretch, but Indy had been a mess this season before Sunday. 

Credit to Saturday and his gameplan, as this was the first time all season the Colts had jumped out to a double-digit lead and the first time since Christmas, they were leading at halftime. It won’t get any easier as Indy faces top of the NFC Philadelphia this week, but there’s still enough time to cement a culture change inside this organisation.

Up next: vs. Philadelphia, Sunday 6 p.m. GMT

  1. New Orleans Saints (3-6)

Last Week – 25th

Andy Dalton hasn’t been the main cause to New Orleans problems so far, but he does add limitations to this offence. With the run game not working out and Dalton struggling at times, why not throw Jameis Winston out there? There may be low times with Winston at the helm but at least he will have upside with that. In a way, this team has already hit rock bottom and with nothing to lose in terms of draft picks, they might as well look at the upside Winston offers.

Up next: vs. Los Angeles Rams, Sunday 6 p.m. GMT

  1. Las Vegas Raiders (2-7)

Last Week – 28th

The Raiders season really is not going to plan and Derek Carr’s emotional post-game press conference made clear how much this season has already bottomed out. Josh McDaniels just got out-coached by a front-office personnel and they rejected the fifth-year option of Josh Jacobs before the start of the season, meaning it’s going to cost them more to keep him or they lose him entirely. 

The chances of playoffs ended a while ago for Vegas and now they have to make sure the culture doesn’t come crashing down, just like how every other Patriot head coach not named Bill Belichick has gone.

Up next: at Denver, Sunday 9:05 p.m. GMT

  1. Houston Texans (1-7-1)

Last Week – 31st

I doubt there are many loud Houston sports fans these days in Ireland and the UK with the worst record in the NFL and NBA. They might be enjoying touch days at the moment, but It looks like a talented draft to have the top draft pick.

Up next: vs. Washington, Sunday 6 p.m. GMT