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.
As the old saying goes, sometimes it’s better to leave the best till last.
It’s something I typically do when eating my dinner and thankfully the NFL follows suit in Week 17 because what a mouthwatering feast of football we have facing us later on Monday Night Football.
It features two Super Bowl contenders from the AFC with the Bills travelling to Cincinnati to play the Bengals. Combined their 23 wins on the season is the largest win total for two teams in a MNF game ever.
There is no doubt this is going to be a cracker of a game and read on as I’ll break it all down for you right now.
The Bengals are still looking to wrap up the AFC North crown and they can do so with a win against the Bills. After an ugly 2-3 start to the season, the Bengals are starting to hit their stride with a 9-1 record over the past 10 games. Starting quarterback Joe Burrow has inserted himself into the MVP discussion, by throwing at least two touchdowns in his past four starts.
This Cincinnati teams showed how capable they are in big games when they made the Super Bowl last year, but they will be looking to go one step further this year. This could likely be a potential AFC Conference Championship preview as these are two of the best in football but for that to happen they would need to knock out the Chiefs, a feat both teams have already achieved this season.
The Bengals’ offence and defence has what it takes to go head on with Buffalo and they won’t want to be slowing down just before the playoffs.
Bills quarterback Josh Allen is also in the MVP discussion, but needs to cut down on the turnovers and questionable decisions that have been creeping into his game. Buffalo are in the driver’s seat for the top spot in the AFC Playoffs, but they must win against Cincinnati on Monday and next week to keep the No. 1 seed and get a bye from competing on Wildcard Weekend and ensuring home advantage in the postseason.
A loss could see the Bills fall down to the third seed, which would potentially set up road games in Cincinnati and Kansas City on their path to the Super Bowl.
What’s going in Buffalo’s favour is their resurgence of their running game. As of late, the Bills’ rushing attack is starting to threaten posting teams’ defences, adding another weapon to the offence’s arsenal. It’s one thing to stop the passing attack of Allen and Stefon Diggs, but a ground team of Allen, James Cook and Devin Singletary adds even more fuel to the fire.
This game is going to be an excellent one and it feels like a coin toss to pick. With the Bills on a six-game winning streak and Bengals 9-1 in their last 10 games, its macho vs macho. Both teams are well-rounded with excellent offence and defences, with QB’s that are close to best in the league.
Cincinnati has home advantage, but the Bills’ defence could be a tough matchup for them. Buffalo’s defence usually runs zone-coverage for the majority of time, and that’s what can typically slow down the Bengals.
If Josh Allen can be a force on the ground it will add more problems to Cincinnati, as I’m going to lean toward the Bills in a shootout.
Josh Allen was in sensational form on Thursday Night Football as the Bills dominated this AFC East divisional clash with the Patriots.
The Patriots got off to a great start in this contest and in the first quarter Mac Jones made a good offensive read and he got the ball out to Marcus Jones who stepped inside a would-be tackle and took it to the house.
The standout rookie special-teamer is listed as a defensive back and this was his first snap on offence and he got another NFL touchdown to add to his growing collection.
It threw the gauntlet down to the Bills and Josh Allen picked it up.
After hurdling his way in a first and goal, two plays later Allen First faked a hand-off to Singletary and threw to Stefon Diggs in the endzone. It was excellent route running by Diggs who caught his 10th touchdown of the season.
On the next Bills drive, Allen scrambled to the right, brushed off a tackle and just before he ran out of road, he anticipated a throw to Gabe Davis for a second Buffalo touchdown. It was a terrific play and another highlight to add to his MVP candidacy.
Let’s look at that TD against from another nagle.
The Buffalo quarterback was on fire and showing what sensational arm talent he has. He made a 60-yard throw on the run look effortless as he found Diggs over the top by the TD and was called back for holding.
At the start of the fourth quarter Singletary punched another six pointer in after a nine minute drive to leave the Bills 23-7 up. Both teams added a field goal to round out the scoring.
Mac Jones was clearly frustrated in the fourth quarter with Matt Patricia’s play calling.
New England currently sit at the bottom of their division but the AFC East is still very much within reach for them, if they win at home tonight. Buffalo won’t be an easy test though, with them being one of the most well rounded teams in the league.
Bill Belichick’s defences have tended to struggle against running QBs and Josh Allen has 36 career rushing touchdowns, 12 more than any other quarterback since entering the league in 2018. With an injured elbow as well, Allen may look to take to his feet more, but this year’s Patriots defence is better than past seasons. The matchup on this side of the ball will be a heavyweight bout.
If New England wants to win this game, they will have to do it through Mac Jones.
The offence has been stagnant all year, but last week we finally saw the Pats passing game come to life. The Bills will not have Von Miller this week which will help, as their pressure rate with and without him drops from 39.3 percent to 26.6. Buffalo still has an elite defence but if Jones can stay clean in the pocket, there might be some openings for him to exploit.
Buffalo currently sits a game behind Miami in the division, with a seat in a Wild-Card spot. It likely isn’t what anyone within the Bills organisation hopes for, so some divisional wins will be crucial to host a playoff game. Earning a victory on Thursday night would keep Josh Allen and Co. in the mix to push themselves further up the seeds and achieve them goals.
Missing Von Miller will be a big loss for this team over the next couple of weeks, meaning others will need to step up to stop New England’s rushing attack. It’s the strongest part of their game and if they can do that, they’ll be in good shape to secure their ninth win of the season.
Week 13 – Patriots @ Bills, 14-10 Patriots Win
Week 16 – Bills @ Patriots, 33-21 Bills Win
These teams are meeting at the same time as last year where the Patriots took down the Bills in a low scoring affair. Since then both teams’ defences have only improved but you would say New England’s offence has regressed..
On a normal slate of paper the Bills have looked a far more impressive team than the Patriots this season. Despite having similar defences, with the Patriots slightly ranked higher through DVOA, the offences don’t compare with the superstars Buffalo have on that side of the ball.
Injuries have started to pile up for them though, with the trenches having some significant losses in EDGE rusher Von Miller and OT Dion Dawkins.
If the Patriots offence can show up like they did last week then this game has a chance to be real close. The problem with that, is we don’t know if such performances were a fluke or real. For that reason I can’t trust what New England has out there and will lean towards the better offence.
With a weaken O-Line, Allen may take to his feet more, something that we know this Patriots defence can struggle with. He has the far superior weapons and a blueprint on how to beat this Patriots defence might have been put out last week for them to copy.
Anyone watching the NFL could not but have been blown away by the best game of the season and perhaps the most incredible regular season win in Minnesota Vikings history.
Even now, Josh Allen and the Bills mafia must be scratching their heads wondering how they let this victory slip from their grasp but it was a win based on merit even if the circumstances which brought it are still puzzling.
The star of the show was undoubtedly Justin Jefferson, who finished with 193 receiving yards and a number of unforgettable plays during a contest likely to go down in folklore, especially if either side should go on to win the Superbowl.
Vikings v Bills
To say that the contest was decided by the smallest of margins does not come close to telling the tale, so I’ll begin midway through the third quarter and I’ll try to keep the hyperbole to a minimum.
It has been a well-contested affair up to that point and the Super Bowl favourite Bills enjoyed a 17-point lead with two first-half Deven Singletary scores. Then Dalvin Cook rattled off a wonderful 71 yard touchdown run during which he was clocked at a speed of 21.7 miles an hour. It left 10 points between the sides by the start of the fourth quarter.
Soon after Josh Allen was in the redzone looking to extend Buffalo’s lead when he threw an interception to Patrick Peterson. In hindsight this was the first of a number of game-changing plays. Kirk Cousins led the resultant drive and full-back CJ Ham punched it in but a missed PAT by Greg Joseph left four points of a margin.
By the time Cousins got the ball back there was 3.30 left on the clock. On third and long, Cousins was sacked by Von Miller and it left Minnesota with a fourth and 18.
It seemed a hopeless case.
Cousins threw down the sideline and somehow Jefferson managed to pull the ball from a defender’s arm and gain possession by the time he had reached the ground for the best and most important catch of his young and distinguished career to date.
Let’s take a closer look.
Another pass from Cousins to his favourite receiver brought the play inside five yards with just over a minute left on the clock. On third and goal, Cousins again went back to Jefferson and although he was ruled on the field to have scored a touchdown, the video referee judged that the wideout’s knee was down half a yard shy of the endzone.
On fourth and inches, and once again with the game on the line Cousins went for a QB sneak, but he was stopped short and there was a turnover on downs. The Bills players and crowd celebrated a wonderful goal-line stand and it seemed to all that the game was over.
All the Bills had to do was snap the ball and regain possession and time would run out.
However, Allen fumbled the snap into his endzone and Viking linebacker Erik Kendricks came up with the ball from on the bottom of the pile for a go ahead touchdown. This time it was the Vikings turn to celebrate a three point lead after a barely believable happenstance.
With 41 seconds still on the clock. Allen bounced back and led his team up the field to kick a field goal to bring the game into overtime. The Vikings won the coin toss and on third and long, Cousins again found Jefferson in double coverage to extend the drive which ended with a Greg Joseph field goal.
It meant Allen had three and a half minutes to win or tie the game.
On the drive he picked up 46 yards with his feed and converted two passes to Stefon Diggs to bring the play into the red zone. With a win looking on the cards, Allen was intercepted, again by Peterson, to finish the game in dramatic style.
The result drops the Bills to third in the AFC East division with problems defending the run and with their own rushing attack. The Vikings are now 8-1 and they have won their last seven games by less than one score. This week, Patrick Peterson had the honour of wearing the chains on the flight home to Minnesota.
Cowboys v Packers
The second best game of the weekend turned out to be a thriller in Lambeau Field and again it took overtime to separate the sides.
It was a fantastic contest throughout and in the end the small margins made the difference as the Packers snapped a five-game losing streak to beat the highly fancied Cowboys. It adds another chapter to a long storied rivalry between two of the NFL’s most iconic franchises.
Ceedee Lamb had statistically the best game of his career and he opened the scoring in the second quarter, but he was matched by the rookie Christian Watson, who did well tracking a ball over the top for a 37-yard touchdown.
That drive began when Dak Prescott was picked by Rudy Ford and when Ford picked him again, it led to an Aaron Jones touchdown. Dak responded with a two minute drive which ended up with Dalton Schultz leveling the scores by half time.
For Dallas, Tony Pollard had 122 yards on the day and he opened the third quarter with a touchdown and by the start of the fourth, the Cowboys led 28-14, when Ceedee Lamb got his second TD to go with 150 yards receiving on the night.
The Packers running game was very impressive throughout and they rushed for over 200 yards. It allowed Rodgers to use play action which allowed him to make bigger chuck plays down the field. With the Green Bay season on the line, Rogers caught fire finding the rookie Watson for his second and third touchdowns of the contest to send the game to overtime.
The Cowboys won the coin toss and on their drive, they turned down a field goal opportunity and went for it on fourth and two, but were stopped. Rodgers brought his team down to the 10-yard line with a lot of fist-pumping and some passes thrown in for Mason Crosby to kick the winner.
It leaves the Packers second in the NFC North on a record of 4-6. If they can perform like this every week, they would give themselves a great chance of making the NFC playoffs as a wildcard.
Lions v Bears
Another brilliant game involving teams from the NFC North ended up as a shootout between the Lions and the Bears.
Justin Fields scrambled for an impromptu score to leave the score 10-10 at the break.
Two touchdown passes to Cole Kmet saw Chicago into a 14-point lead heading into the fourth quarter. The game took on a life of its own when a D’Andre Swift touchdown was followed up soon after when Fields was picked off by his old Ohio State teammate Jeff Okudah to level the scores at 24 apiece.
Not to be outdone by his former Buckeye teammate, Fields answered back by taking off on a great run to score a sensational touchdown, and he even managed to leave Okudah in his dust. Last week Fields scored our Touchdown of the Week and is looking likely to do so again with this brilliant effort.
Very tellingly, the Bears kicker Cairo Santos missed the PAT and the Lions spent the next eight minutes driving down the field and Jamaal Williams scored his ninth touchdown of the season from close range. They had no problem adding the extra point. Fields got the ball back with just over two minutes remaining but a pair of sacks gave Detroit their first away victory in almost two years.
Jimmy Garoppolo had one of his best games for San Francisco as the 49ers edged out the LA Chargers in the late kickoff, where both defences excelled. A pair of touchdowns from one-yard out from Jimmy G and Christian McCaffery won a competitive contest 16-22.
The most interesting play of the game came at half time when linebacker Dre Greenlaw was ejected from the field for a helmet-to-helmet collision with Justin Herbert. Due to the post-Tua update to the concussion protocol, Herbert was also forced to leave the fray but returned for the second half.
After a week of being publicly bashed by everyone in football, Jeff Saturday got his reign as Colts head coach off to a winning start by beating the Raiders. He made a big call by starting Matt Ryan under centre. It paid off when Ryan found Paris Campbell for what turned out to be the winning score. A Jonathon Taylor touchdown in the third quarter was a season highlight for the under-performing running back.
Josh McDaniels and his team are floundering and for the second time in his head coaching career, not having a Bill Belichick coached defence to lean on continues to be a major stumbling block to him winning games.
Miami had their fourth win in a row by overcoming the Browns 17-39 as Tua Tagovailoa passed for 285 yards and three touchdowns. Their biggest contributor to the win was their ground attack and recent arrival Jeff Wilson ran for 119 rushing yards and a touchdown.
Speaking of the winning teams, Patrick Mahomes threw for 331 yards and four touchdowns in a 27-17 triumph against the Jacksonville Jaguars. With a record of 7-2, they currently hold the best record in the AFC.
Colt McCoy started ahead of the injured Kyler Murray and led the Cardinals to a 27-17 win over the Superbowl champion LA Rams in his 13th season in the NFL. Cooper Kupp had to leave the field with a leg injury and may miss a couple of weeks, although there is not believed to be any fracture.
The New York Giants overcame the Texans with a comfortable win. Sequon Barkley got his sixth touchdown of the season but it was Darius Slayton, who caught the eye when he converted a terrific touchdown.
Kenny Pickens led the Steelers to victory over the Saints on a day when TJ Watt returned to the lineup. It was a poor outing for Andy Dalton, who may very well find himself back on the bench going forward.
The Tennessee Titans handed the Denver Broncos a welcome back 10-17 loss after their recent visit to London. The game will be best remembered for a terrific flea-flicker touchdown by Tristan Westbrook-Ikhine on a busted coverage.
Earlier yesterday afternoon, the Bucs were victorious in an entertaining affair against the Seahawks in in Munich. Here is a link to our match report with the accompanying action: https://tinyurl.com/2s3vk4vz
Later today, we will have a preview of the Monday Night Football contest from the NFC East as the Washington Commanders try to hand the Eagles their first loss of the season.
This week we put our team to work by rating each starting quarterback from 1-32. We added up the results and below is our final tally from the scores. We also divided up the 32 starters and we gave our honest opinion on each.
We hope you enjoy!!!
1. Patrick Mahomes – No. 15 – Kansas City Chiefs – Age: 27 – Year 6
David’s take: The Kansas City Chiefs quarterback is a generational talent that keeps improving his game which is always the sign of a top professional. He has become a master of his craft and I believe he is the best player in the NFL.
This season his understanding of the game has taken a step forward to match his incredible natural ability and ingenuity. Although he doesn’t have the ridiculous speed of Tyreek Hill at his disposal, he has become better at going through his progressions, understanding what defences are throwing at him and he has become even more unpredictable under centre. Currently he is leading the NFL with 21 passing touchdowns.
I love watching him play and he is one of less than a handful of players in the league who can put any game on his back and win regardless of the opposition. He makes the Chiefs perennial Super Bowl contenders and has built up an excellent connection with slot receiver Juju Smith Schuster in recent weeks.
Mahomes and his Chiefs are the team most likely to challenge the Buffalo Bills for the AFC honours and are realistic Superbowl contenders. Fingers crossed Mahomes meets Josh Allen in the postseason, as they never fail to disappoint.
David’s take: Josh Allen has been immense this season and week-to-week is showing why is on his way to being regarded as one of the best quarterbacks ever in the NFL. He is a dual threat quarterback and what sets him apart from most of the other similarly regarded players is his arm talent throwing the ball and his size and strength when he takes off on a run.
Let’s start with the former. He has the arm strength to put the ball anywhere and fast and has the level of ability to hit a home run pass on every play. His game has improved every season since he arrived in the league and this is a mark of a top professional who has dedicated himself to the game. He is better at reading defences and knowing how to make adjustments at the line of scrimmage. When he runs with the ball, as he often does, especially on third and fourth down, he is incredibly difficult to stop as he is fast and has the power to make it through force of strength and will.
He has plenty of weapons in the passing game and has a top three defence which should be even stronger with the return of captain TreDavious White at corner-back. The Bills have an easy enough schedule facing none of the top six teams in our recent Power Rankings. The loss to the Jets last Sunday now sees them in a three-way tie in their division. The loss came from two poor decisions by Allen that resulted in turnovers. This is something he needs to clean up from his game, if the Bills are to win the Superbowl.
Conor’s take: Lamar Jackson has still been a star this year doing damage to opposing defences in the air and on the ground. Lamar has 17 touchdowns on the year for six interceptions, but it’s the work he’s been doing on the ground that’s been most impressive. Before this week Jackson was fifth in the league for rushing yards, with 553 yards currently from the quarterback position! He’s also averaging 7.4 yards per carry, which is a career high. What Lamar does on the ground is something the NFL hasn’t seen since Micheal Vick and even at that point I believe he has eclipsed Vick.
With the physical traits Jackson poses it’s only fair, he relies on them more than the usual stereotypical quarterback, leading to emphasis on the running game. Compared to his MVP season, Jackson’s passing stats are down with him only throwing for over 220 yards twice this season, but his results have not differed too much. Overall there’s been a lot of talk about Lamar’s contract situation this year, but the former MVP is proving himself to still be one of the most dangerous players at his position.
Conor’s take: Joey Cool is going along nicely in his third season in the NFL. The former first overall pick had a record breaking senior year in college that earned him that right, so when he broke-out last season it was only fair to question whether he could keep this production up every year instead of just one. Well through nine weeks, it looks like the Joey nicknames will carry on after a league high 481 passing yards the other week against the Falcons.
Since Week 1, Burrow has only thrown one interception and continues to play elite football with the third most passing yards in the league and 22 touchdowns. The big question around Burrow’s game will come in the next month, with his star receiver Ja’Marr Chase missing some game time. Burrow and Chase are among one of the most deadliest duos in the league, with them going all the way back to their time in LSU. How Burrow will do without Chase lined up will be a first for him, as he turns to Tee Higgins and Tyler Boyd to be his new man.
Tom’s take: The rise of Jalen Hurts has been one of my personal favourite stories from the first half of the 2022 NFL season. There were many skeptics entering Week 1 (including the person writing this), but Hurts has dazzled with poise and leadership far beyond his 24 years. Take a small bit of time out of your day and watch a post-game video of Hurts speaking to his teammates in the Philadelphia locker room. The confidence and belief in himself and the team around him is infectious and that confidence and belief is required to be the sole remaining undefeated team in the NFL.
We always knew Hurts to be a threat moving the ball with his legs but his impressive improvement throwing the pigskin has him winning plaudits. He is averaging 8.5 yards per attempt, 68.2% completion percentage and a 63.1 QBR, all top ten in the league, back this up. But he leads in the stat that matters most in the league, wins. Eight in a row and not looking to slow down any time soon, Hurts and the Eagles will slowly begin to cast their eyes towards January and hope to bury the demons of last year’s underwhelming wildcard performance.
Tom’s take: Geno Smith ranks at number six! And it is fully warranted, it’s been an incredible season for the former West Virginia Mountaineer. Number one in completion percentage, fourth in QBR, top five in passing touchdowns and sixth in passing yards. All while leading the Seahawks to an unlikely lead in the NFC West division.
Honestly, what Geno is doing is unparalleled in the modern age of the NFL. 2014 was the last time Smith was an opening day starter for a team, eight years passed by and it seemed that Geno would be only really remembered as the guy who got sucker punched by his own teammate and the guy who ended Eli Manning’s starting streak (screw you Ben McAdoo).
But here we are, Geno Smith is playing like a man who waited eight years for this opportunity. Putting together an eight-game stretch like this is no fluke. Geno has been on fire the entire season and made the Seahawks decision to back Pete Carroll and not Russell Wilson this off-season look like a stroke of brilliance.
This season will be remembered for many things, the comeback of Geno Smith is absolutely one of them and maybe a Comeback Player of the Year award awaits him. With the NFC as void of talent as it is, maybe the Seahawks could be a sneakily smart team to put some money on to make the Super Bowl. Write Geno off if you want, just don’t expect him to write back.
David’s take: It is hard to know what is really going on at the San Diego Chargers. On paper they have incredible players all over the roster and it is true that they have been one of the unluckiest teams with injuries this season. But it still doesn’t fully explain what has happened to one of the best and most promising quarterbacks in the league.
One thing when you study the metrics from Joe Lombardi’s offence, Herbert is taking less deep shots than every quarterback, which sounds curious when you consider that he has one of the best arms in the National Football League.
Another part of his game that is being under-utilised in my opinion is his run-threat ability. He is a big man who can really move and anyone who saw him at the Oregon Ducks can attest to that. I believe he can become a type of Josh Allen dual-threat quarterback with his size and speed. Losing most of his O-line to injury certainly has been a hindrance but rookie guard Zion Johnson has impressed.
Herbert looked more like himself after resting up during the bye week and he led his team to a late victory over the Falcons. With a record of 5-3, if they can continue to get healthier there is no reason why they shouldn’t make the play-offs.
Even with the long injury list, if the San Diego coaching staff don’t start to get the best out of Herbert in the second half of the season, questions will be asked. And a franchise with a penchant for changing head coaches have done so for less.
David’s take: All the Tua detractors have been very quiet lately as he has the highest QB rating in the NFL with 115.9. The three games the Dolphins were without him they lost and the six games he started and finished they won.
For a more rounded perspective, let’s go back even further. Since the start of last season, which adds up to 20 starts, he has thrown for 4,633 yards, including 31 touchdowns with 13 interceptions.
What I’ve always liked about Tua coming out of college is that he is accurate and has good timing with his throws. He doesn’t just fling it in there with power, he has that natural feel for putting the ball where it needs to go on time and he has always had that deep ball threat at Alabama. There are times when he throws the ball without having his legs set and in my opinion this has led to his tendency of under-throwing the ball.
For someone that lacks size and athleticism, he moves well in the pocket and I’m glad to see him delivering on the talent he showed at Alabama and putting a few naysayers back in their box. No doubt having an offensive mastermind in Mike McDaniel has been significant and playing with the two fastest wide receivers in the league also certainly helps.
The addition of Bradley Chubb will make a competitive defence close to elite that should make a team with play-off ambitions a possible post-season contender. One thing for certain, the Dolphins are back in the big time after a generation away from postseason relevance.
David’s take: David’s take: So what the hell is going on with Tom Brady. I don’t want to be too harsh on a guy who is playing elite level sport at the age of 45 but he has certainly been inconsistent with his throwing this season. So why is this and what are the repercussions?
A lot of this has to do with the offensive line, in particular the middle trio of centre and guards are not performing at the levels that Brady needs them too. The two guards from the Super Bowl win in 2021, Ali Marpett was lost to retirement and Alex Kappa decided to get paid while protecting Joe Burrow in Cincinnati. More importantly, the prickly All-Pro centre Ryan Jensen got injured on the eve of the season
They have been replaced by an experienced veteran in Shaq Mason but also Robert Hainsey and Luke Goedeke, who were drafted in the last two years and are still learning their trade. Both starting tackles Tristan Wirfs and Donovan Smith have also been playing banged up for much of the season so the dam has been leaking water all season.
Brady was always good at moving within the pocket and this season he has shown less dexterity in this regard and he has taken more punishment than he has ever had before. You would expect a guy to be slowing up as he gets older but he never had much pace to begin with.
Surprisingly, he is getting the ball out of his hands quicker, with the effect that he is taking less time to go through his reads. The knock on effect is that his receivers are getting less time to get into the position to make the catches. So when you are looking at the Bucs this season you will notice that their collective timing has often looked off in every game and there have been many occasions where Brady should have been intercepted.
Even more worrying is that they can’t run the ball which is leaving them a lot of third and long, which is giving teams more opportunities to rush the passer. So what can be done?
I wouldn’t rule Jensen coming back this season. There was very little clarity when he was put on injured reserve and if you read between the lines, that sometimes means that teams are being coy in releasing pertinent information. Also they have had injuries to their receiving core early in the season but you would expect those to have been ironed out by now. Luckily they still have a realistic play-off chance due mainly to being in a poor performing division. This is a team that needs to get their act together and fast. Vita Vea has started to dominate recently, so if the defense can become shutdown that would be a big step in the right direction.
Tom’s take: When writing this, I pondered the question, which quarterback had improved the most over the past five weeks? The answer: Justin Fields. And to be honest, it wasn’t really that close. The more I watch Fields, the more I like him.
Chicago seemingly were doing everything in their powers to hinder the development of their young signal caller by essentially placing all their eggs into future seasons. No disrespect to Darnell Mooney, but he could sit comfortably at number three on the depth for the majority of teams and behind him, yeesh. The offensive line was and still is a big ol’ mess. The first four weeks were as bad as expected, it seemed Fields was all at sea, holding the ball too long and not pulling the trigger when he had the time. To be fair though the offensive scheme wasn’t extenuating his pros, just highlighting his weaknesses.
The last five weeks have seen a trend in the right direction, highlighted by a dazzling display against the Dolphins, where he ran for 178 yards and passed for 3 TDs. Bears fans were clamouring to let Fields use his legs in designed run plays and it seems that is coming to fruition. The result, a much more productive and confident looking young quarterback who looks like he could be in fact the future of the franchise for a team and fan base that has been under-nourished at the position for so long.
Fields is currently trailing only Lamar Jackson in rushing yards by a QB this season and if that trend keeps going in the same direction, he will overtake him by the end of the season. That isn’t something that should be overlooked. The addition of Chase Claypool through a trade before the deadline is also something for Chicago fans to get excited about. Fields throws a very good deep ball and I’m excited to see how quickly these two young players can build a rapport.
David’s take: Where do I start with Aaron Rodgers? Look, he is still a top five quarterback in the league in my book. Because of his prominence, he gets too much of the credit when the Packers win and too much of the blame when they lose. This comes after arguably the worst
performance of his career where he threw three interceptions against the Lions. The previous week he played some of his best stuff against the Bills.
The contrast in his demeanor in both games is telling. In prime time against the Buffalo, gone was the frustrated persona with the disappointed body language. He was more encouraging with the younger players and maybe he was making up for throwing a few of them under the bus with a recent appearance on the Pat McAfee Show. But it seemed to work.
Last Sunday in Detroit, he had that ball of deflation look and he needs to lead his young team rather than be outwardly exasperated all the time. At this stage it is looking more performative than anything else and his teammates deserve better. It has been my forte to give Rodgers the benefit of the doubt as it’s hard to stop believing in a man, when you have seen him work miracles at the top for so long.
The truth is that the narrative of Green Bay’s season looks set and I think it’s time to count them out of any Superbowl conversations. With Rodgers about to turn 39 next month, Green Bay could likely be looking for a new QB in the next few months.
Away from the QB hype, where this team has been majorly disappointing is on defence. They have an excellent line-backing core and secondary but are not putting enough pressure on opposing quarterbacks to get them off the field. I hope they rally but that hope is based on what they have done in the past and not anything they have shown me this season.
Tom’s take: Dak was a little difficult to rank in this exercise, I mean three games are hardly enough to place him in comparison to some QB’s with half a season of tape on them. I feel that this is the reason he finds himself at number 11 and not closer to the top 5, but the fact he is still ranked this high with such little game time is credit to the player he is.
Cooper Rush was fun and kept Dallas afloat when the ship could have sank, but the Cowboys are so much more dynamic with Dak captaining the boat. He orchestrated brilliant drives, made precise throws and steered the Cowboys to an impressive 49 points against an all at sea (I don’t know why I’m adding so many nautical references to a paragraph about the “Cowboys” QB) Bears defence.
The next time we do these rankings, I fully expect Dak to be challenging the likes of Jackson, Burrow and Smith for best of the rest honours behind Mahomes and Allen.
Tom’s take: Kyler Murray is an enigma of sorts, both on and off the field. Let’s talk on the field though, we have a man who is arguably the most athletically gifted QB in the NFL not named Lamar Jackson. An intelligent runner of the ball, his escapability and penchant for the spectacular leave this particular writer in wonder how a man of his stature can perform such feats. He can break out a 100 yard rushing game as easily as some of the premier running backs can. He’s so adept at it. And yet, it feels so rare to see.
Murray has ran just 51 times in 8 games so far, comparing that to the 325 times he has attempted a pass in that span and it becomes almost lunacy. This isn’t to say that Kyler is a poor thrower, far from it, but with a Cardinals team flirting with falling into an abyss of no return in regards to playoff aspirations you would think Kliff Kingsbury and co would find a way to utilise their star quarterbacks unique abilities a little more often.
I genuinely believe that Murray is a bonafide superstar and MVP contender if he opened things up and let loose. But alas, the return of DeAndre Hopkins will probably scupper any hopes I have of seeing Kyler run more.
Tom’s take: Having a team with the second best record in all of the NFL would place most signal callers up a little higher than this spot, but name a Quarterback with seemingly as many bipolar traits to his game as Kirk Cousins.
Even crazier is that it isn’t even on a game-by-game basis, it’s quarter-by-quarter. Cousins goes from looking completely comfortable and at home whilst reeling off 10+ straight completions to open a game to refusing to release a pass that could go further than 10+ yards. Inconsistency has been a defining part of his career and 2022 is proving no different.
That being said, I think the Vikings and new head coach Kevin O’Connell must be feeling pretty content with the overall performance of their QB. Often an ostracized figure during the Mike Zimmer years, O’Connell has developed a much better relationship with Cousins and I think that has allowed for Kirk to feel more confident. He does have them at a 7-1 record, and based on the dire outputs from the rest of the NFC North this year, a division win appears a foregone conclusion at this point. People will doubt the threat of a postseason run from Minnesota and Cousins, and they would be right to do so. But perhaps Cousins can get hot in January and Minnesota’s wait for a Super Bowl will finally come to an end.
David’s take: Derek Carr is coming off two of the worst Raiders defeats of the season. They laid an egg on the scoreboard against the Saints in the Superdome which was followed up by losing a 17-point lead against the Jags last Sunday.
The Raiders are one of a number of teams that are under-performing with the talent they possess on their roster.
In recent weeks, Carr was starting to motor with Devante Adams and the Raiders have leaned heavily on Josh Jacobs for offensive production. The passing stats have come mainly off play-action and the Raiders have used play action on 33% of their drop-backs as Josh McDaniels is trying to insert the Patriot way of slowing making your way up the field to wear down the opposition defence. Is this the right approach when he has a cast that has the potential to blow teams away? I’m not so sure.
What is concerning to me is that Carr has not been finding his two favourite targets from last season. Hunter Renfrow has been severely under-utilised since his return from injury. Last season he had the highest third down completion percentage in the league and one of the best tight ends over the last few years, Darren Walller has become anonymous this season. There was significant interest in his services by Green Bay before the trade deadline closed last week.
To me, this seems to be a case of a coach trying to fit his players into his scheme rather than adjusting the scheme to fit his players. I am a fan of Carr and he has enough credit in the bank with me, if he is allowed, to take control of this offence and start winning games. With a current record of 2-6, their season is over. There needs to be serious questions asked of whether Josh McDaniels is the right man for this job.
David’s take: There is no hiding away from the fact that Russell Wilson has had a very poor season so far. He is on a team with an excellent defence and I was surprised they traded their best player in Bradley Chubb to the Dolphins last week. Wilson has a trio of quality receiving talent and he is developing an exciting partnership with rookie tight-end Greg Dulcich, who has become his favourite target.
No one has been as surprised at how poor the Broncos have been as the prime time schedulers and there have been some tough watches involving Denver this season. Still they are 3-5 and are coming off their best win and performance of the season by coming from behind to beat the Jags in London last time out.
Sometimes it is good to get away and clear the head and Wilson helped pull a game that was going the way of the Jaguars out of the fire in the second half. His best throw of the contest came when he found KJ Hamler along the right wing for a big chuck of yardage on the game-winning drive.
Looking at Wilson over the last few weeks, one thing I think is that he has become too bulked up and it is affecting his movement in the pocket. One of the big dangers when he was at the Seahawks was that if you didn’t account for him, with his quickness and speed he would gobble up any yardage that was offered to him.
This is something I have often seen with smaller-bodied players across many contact sports that they work themselves to become as strong as they can be in order to compete with bigger-bodied players. He needs to remember he is a QB and not a linebacker or running back.
Losing a half-step of pace significantly impacts his dual-threat ability and makes him more predictable and easier to play against. If he dropped some timber, perhaps a stone and a half or 20 pounds, his mobility would return and in my opinion he would find his best form quickly.
The question for now is will he be able to cook when an ultra-aggressive Tennessee Titans D-line turns up the heat in the kitchen next Sunday? He will need to as the Broncos struggled with Travis Eteinne in the run game against Jacksonville and are facing an in-form Derrick Henry, who rattled off 334 yards and four touchdowns in his last two matches.
I am convinced Russ is still a top 10 quarterback in the NFL but I think we will continue to see inconsistency in his game until he improves his competitive conditioning and spends more time on the track and less time in the gym.
Tom’s take: If the 2021 season was a Hollywood blockbuster for Matthew Stafford and the Los Angeles Rams, the 2022 season so far has been an underwhelming sequel which has flopped in box-office sales. To be honest, not many sequels live up to their predecessors, so we shouldn’t be shocked I guess.
Stafford himself hasn’t looked comfortable all year, throwing for multiple touchdowns in just one game so far (week 2 vs. the Falcons) and is tied second in interceptions. The Rams lack the depth in skill positions it did a year ago. Stafford and off-season darling Allen Robinson have yet to develop a good rapport and if it were not for Cooper Kupp, this would be the worst receiving corps in the league.
Maybe there’s more to the off-season elbow surgery Stafford had and we will see a return to the play of 2021 in the second half of the season. If not, a lot of soul-searching and a massive re-work of offensive personnel will be needed in tinsel town.
Clearly the Rams like the roster they currently have, or are certain of bringing Odell Beckham Jr. back into the fold once his injury has healed, because they didn’t make any moves before the trade deadline passed on Tuesday? We should find out soon.
Conor’s take: Tannehill’s stats don’t exactly blow you out of this world but what he continues to do is be careful with the football and produce when his name is called upon. When your running back is ‘The King’ Derrick Henry, it’s handy handing the ball off to him and then just getting to throw the ball when defences are fed up trying to tackle Henry.
It’s a job Tannehill is great at and it’s been the difference to some of their games that had the Titans on a five game winning streak before losing the the Chiefs last time out. Being at the helm for four of those five games, Tannehill has only turned the ball over once to his four touchdowns. It’s earned him the right to a 69.2 PFF grade as his team continues to win after a shaky start.
Tannehill might not be the electric quarterback that teams think they need in order to compete for championships, but he goes about his work slowly and gets the job done when it’s time to finish up.
Tom’s take: At the risk of falling flat on my face with this “hot take”, I’m going to say it anyway, Jimmy G is playing his best football since his first season in San Francisco in 2017. I know, I’ll try to calm down now.
But honestly, this version of Jimmy G is better than the one who was under centre of the 2019 NFC Champion 49ers team. That being said, you need to surround Garoppolo with highly skilled play-makers to bring the best out of him. San Francisco have done just that,
adding RB Christian McCaffrey through a trade and it is already paying dividends during last week’s drubbing of the Rams. Garoppolo produced one of the most efficient and impressive performances of his career (20-25, 2 TDs and a 81.1 QBR).
If the 49ers are to reach the playoffs again this season, they will need games like this more often from Jimmy. Who knows if this will be enough for Kyle Shanahan to decide to ditch the Trey Lance experiment and stick with Garoppolo, but I do think it’s enough to ensure he’ll be starting somewhere in 2023?
Conor’s take: Lawrence got off to a hot start this season, but the last few weeks have shown his turnover self from his rookie year. Through the last five games, Lawrence has turned the ball over six times to three passing touchdowns. Now there is no problem being a gunslinger, some of the best QBs have been like that and the Super Bowl last year both had gun-slinging quarterbacks either side. But when you’re attempting the risky big time throws, you have to be completing the easy throws and he’s been missing simple passes too much.
Lawrence was regarded as a generational talent when he came out of college and that talent is still inside of him, it just feels he needs to walk before he runs. Throughout college and high-school Lawrence was always on the best team and when you’re in that position you can afford to play like how he is now. But the reality in the NFL is different and when playing for Jacksonville you have to play to your resources around you. Trevor should be allowed to play to how he’s comfortable, but he’s not at Clemson anymore, when if you turn the ball over your defence would get it straight back. There’s consequences to his turnovers now.
Tom’s take: It was all going so well for Jared Goff and the Detroit Lions, 11 touchdown passes after four games and the number one offence in the league. Well three games later and Goff has added just a sole touchdown pass and the Lions have dropped out of the top 10 on offence. Two straight games without a touchdown, including being shut out by the Patriots in week 5 will do that I guess.
Goff hasn’t really been the major issue in this slump, but yet again he seems unable to elevate his team. Goff is a tick below an average starting quarterback, the Lions are looking likely to be picking at the pointy end of the NFL Draft in April 2023 and it would be a mistake for them to not consider taking a QB with that selection, in spite of all their defensive inabilities.
Goff has eight games left to either prove that statement to be untrue or win just enough games to take the Lions out of contention for a Bryce Young or CJ Stroud. Time will tell I guess.
Conor’s take: When Brissett filled in for Deshaun Watson, nobody expected his outcome to be running the offence to 8th in offensive DVOA. But that’s exactly what Brissett has done and his performance so far and probably earned himself another shot at a starter job next season. His performance this Halloween on Monday Night Football was his best, when he teed off on an elite Bengals defence. With 278 passing yards on the night and a passing and rushing touchdown to show, Brisseett has been efficient with the ball in his hands.
The last three weeks, he’s thrown for over 250 yards in each game and he also had an average of 79.4% completing percentage the last two weeks with zero turnovers. It would be easy to see the performances of Nick Chubb and imagine he’s carrying the Browns to their great offensive performances, but the reality is Brissett is also heavily involved and deserves praise for how things are going in Cleveland.
David’s take: When Zach Wilson came back in Week 5, he was at the helm as the Jets rattled off four wins in a four. In hindsight, that record was mainly due to an outstanding defence and an offence that was heavily run-dependent and lent on the rushing magic of rookie Breece Hall.
One thing I love about Wilson is the way he throws the ball. He just has that natural ability to ping it with a perfect spiral and he is to me undoubtedly one of the most natural throwers of a football in the league.
Where it is coming undone is consistency and there are growing pains which are to be expected for a QB in their second season. He is not the only QB who is going through a sophomore slump and you could make similar comparisons about Trevor Laurence and Mac Jones. Only Justin Fields has shown significant improvement on his rookie season and that has only been evident in the second quarter of the season.
In the three wins leading up to the week 8 loss to the Patriots, Wilson threw for 210, 110 and 121 yards, which is hardly setting the world alight. If you look at the headlines of the loss to the Patriots, you will no doubt see that he threw two unforgivable interceptions. You won’t hear too many people saying this right now but in my opinion there is a lot to be positive about Wilson’s game. But further investigation into the loss to the Patriots, I believe sheds better light on his current situation.
His three interceptions came off one technical error and two mental mistakes. His first one came as he threw while pedaling backwards and leaning back, he overthrew his intended
receiver. The second turnover came after the breakdown of in play, he was throwing the ball away and left it short of the sideline only to be intercepted by Devin McCourty. The worst one came in the fourth quarter, when again after a play had broken down he flung the ball into traffic and McCourty picked him off again.
What I like about Wilson is that he has fight in him and he brought the Jets up the field to make it a five-point game with just under two minutes left. On the day he had 355 passing yards including 115 to rookie receiver Garrett Wilson. I can just see ‘Wilson to Wilson’ becoming a common refrain. All this down his starting running back and his two best offensive lineman, Alijah Vera-Tucker and Mekhi Becton, on injured reserve.
A lot of people are quite down on Wilson but I am not one of them and I see enough green shoots to believe that with more experience, this is a young player who could blossom into an NFL superstar. Often the best way to learn is to make mistakes and to learn from them. Wilson has something about him that reminds me of Aaron Rodgers and although in a minority right now, I think he could be something special if he continues to learn his trade.
Last weekend he led the Jets to a surprise win over the Buffalo Bills. Another example of his bouncing back after the previous week.
Tom’s take: It’s been a long three years but I think it’s finally okay to start using the ‘Danny Dimes’ moniker again for Daniel Jones. The Giants have been a remarkable feel good story so far this season, reeling off an impressive six wins (including four on the bounce). Jones and the Giants have been down in a lot of games but have seemingly developed a culture where they never feel truly out of any game.
Maybe a lot of that has to do with the return to superstardom of Saquon Barkley or the hire of Brian Daboll as head coach or Wink Martindale coaching up a fiery defence. But can we give some love to the Giants quarterback as well please? The guy is playing his heart out there and is a really impressive runner when he isn’t falling over.
He isn’t going to flash on the box score, nor should he, the Giants offence rolls through Barkley, but he is giving the front office in New York a reason to be questioning their decision to not take up his fifth-year rookie option. I think we’ll see the Giants playing football come January and how he performs then will be a definitive answer in the question of if he is the future at QB for G-Men.
David’s take: Outside of Geno Smith, the resurgence of Marcus Mariota from the NFL scrapheap has been wonderful to watch and one of the feel-good stories of the season. The Falcons have built their offence around his dual-threat skill set and surrounded him with players such as Kyle Pitts and Drake London, who at 6 ‘6 and 6 ‘3 respectively, are a match-up nightmare with their size and gigantic catch radius or radii or radiuses. I give up!!!
The Falcons are awesome to watch on a weekly basis and most of their games have gone down to the wire. They score a lot of points and concede a lot of points and being competitive most weeks has allowed the impressive Young-hue Koo to often kick them to victory.
They have surpassed all expectations and who could have predicted that they would sit joint-top of the NFC South with a record of 4-6. They have given themselves a chance of making the playoffs but more importantly of being relevant in December.
Mariota has been key and he has the athleticism to adhere to a dual-threat game plan. He still struggles with his accuracy and that is unlikely to change but on a brighter note he has started to build up a better connection with Pitts in recent weeks.
The loss of Calvin Ridley in a surprising trade to Jacksonville gives Atlanta more capital to draft one of the handful of dual-threat QBs coming out next year. It is a complex trade with the Jags but it could result in a second round pick should Ridley sign a contract extension for the Jags. The Falcons have a multitude of late round picks that could be used to move up the draft board, which I believe is at the heart of that surprising move. Watching Mariota has been fun but he is not the long term answer.
David’s take: Mac Jones is under pressure mainly from within the Patriots camp and nobody expected the emergence of Bailey Zappe as a potential threat to his starter position. So far this season Mac Jones is a quarterback going through a sophomore slump and like many in the same position is struggling for form and consistency.
What I like about Jones is he is smart and can confidently manage a game, which is what the Pats ask of him to do. He is not the most athletic but he can still pick up a first down if a defence gives him too much space. He is a good decision maker and is likely to keep improving as he gets more games under his belt.
I guessed that Belichick would go with Jones last weekend but with the home crowd in Foxboro enamored with the rookie Zappe, it is a tricky time for Jones especially if he is struggling or losing at home. At the last home game, the home supporters cheered wildly when he was replaced by his understudy.
I believe there is certainly an NFL starter in Jones and like the other young quarterbacks he needs to keep learning as his career progresses. I think he suits how New England wants their offence to play and having a strong running game takes a lot of pressure off him trying to outscore teams without a blue chip pass-catcher at any position. This is something the Pats will need to remedy in the off-season. Whether they do it in free agency or in the draft will be interesting. Because the last time they went either direction, they failed miserably.
What will be most intriguing is when Bill Belichick makes a decision between the pair and if Jones was to be put on the trading block, I could see the New Orleans Saints and the Washington Commanders being two of the teams interested in his services.
David’s take: Andy Dalton is a safe pair of hands, well a safer pair of hands than Jameis Winston and that is why he is under centre for the New Orleans Saints. He is an experienced QB playing in his 12th season in the league and is adept at reading coverages and moving his team up the field. One of the reasons for his success in New Orleans is having the Swiss-army-knife talent of Taysom Hill in their back pocket and he routinely gets them over the gain-line on third down and in the red zone.
The pair together make it tricky for defensive coordinators to visualize where and when they will be attacked and with Alvin Kamara motoring again, it will open the playbook for more play-action for Dalton and run-options for Hill. This is a team laden with talent and they have the ability to dominate teams especially in the Superdome.
Their QB combo will do for now but is not going to win them a Superbowl. Without a first rounder in next year’s draft, they will probably have to trade for another veteran to be their new QB in the off-season or take a punt on a young talent falling out of the first round.
Tom’s take: Not the most physically imposing or gifted quarterback, but few in this league play with as much heart and fury as Taylor Heinicke.
Entering the league in 2015 as an undrafted free agent out of Old Dominion. Floating around back up roles, practice squads and free agency for most of his seven year career has formed Heinicke into a gritty journeyman who you know will leave everything he has on the field. You have to respect the hustle he shows.
And so far in 2022, Heinicke is 2-1, helping lead the Commanders back to a just below 500 record and still very much in NFC wildcard contention. He has a fantastic connection with Washington’s best player: Terry McLaurin and knows what to do when the game comes to crunch time.
If I was a Commanders fan, I would be quite comfortable riding the season out with Heinicke over a return to Carson Wentz once he is back from IR. And I wouldn’t doubt he fights and claws them into the postseason again this year.
Conor’s take: Kenny Pickett has looked interesting for sure in his first few starts in the NFL. Granted the stats don’t look great, with 10 turnovers through five games. But he’s shown to be a quick decision maker that trusts his wide receivers. Pittsburgh hasn’t had a losing season like this for a while, so maintaining Pickett’s confidence and making sure he’s the quarterback for the future is key for that franchise right now.
The story of Pickett’s season so far has been the turnovers I previously mentioned, with eight interceptions and two fumbles on the season. Now some of these have been misfortune with tipped passes going the wrong way, but these rookie mistakes are starting to count up with the Steelers losing two games by one possession, in which Pickett threw three interceptions. Pickett will have plenty of time before he’s shown the door and in a well-run franchise, Pittsburgh should put the pieces around him in the next few years to know if he’s the guy or not.
David’s take: Did the Carolina offence start kicking into gear with the arrival of Steve Wilks or was it when PJ Walker replaced Baker Mayfield? The truth lies somewhere in between. Walker was a huge improvement since he started and his teammates seem to be playing for him. That all came crashing down when the Bengals took a 0-35 lead into half-time last Sunday and Baker was brought back in.
Mayfield helped the Panthers score three touchdowns to add much needed credibility to the scoreline. I am not a fan of Baker and I think for a smaller quarterback he is slow to run and moves poorly in the pocket. If Baker is now back in favour I would not be surprised if he is out of favour again in a few weeks. I believe with a boatload of draft picks from the CMC trade in the 2023 draft, Carolina is likely to take a shot at one of the five college quarterbacks already circled to be drafted in the first round. I will be surprised if Baker is still starting for the Panthers next year and I don’t think he will have a starting job in the NFL.
Conor’s take: For a third-round pick quarterback, Mills exceeded expectations last season in his rookie season, but his development into this year has not been enough to warrant a starting role in 2023. Mills hasn’t put together games in which he looks awful, but his lack of good moments is enough to overlook that. His position isn’t exactly ideal with Houston having an unstable team around him, but it always felt Mills was a stopgap quarterback similar to how they have been treating their coaches. With a good QB class ahead for the draft it seems inevitable that Houston would spend a high pick on that position, leading to a potential challenge for Mills. Throwing for a reasonable 1656 yards on the season is good for 21st in the league, but his QBR of 31.6 ranks for 32nd, leaving a lot to be desired.
Conor’s take: In his NFL debut Sam Ehlinger looked quite good as he just fell short in a loss to Washington. Ehlinger was named the starter for the Colts last week, after an underwhelming start which saw former MVP Matt Ryan not live up to expectations. The sixth-round pick in last year’s draft is well known for his time in college with the University of Texas, but he made his presence known in the professional sense this weekend. Throwing for 201 yards, the Colts didn’t see the negative offensive trends they were seeing previously with Ryan.
Decades of history suggest that the 2021 sixth-round selection will not prove to be the Colts’ long-term solution, but Ehlinger looked like he belonged under centre against the Commanders. The same couldn’t be said for his second start after a blowout loss to the Patriots, where they completely shut him down. Ehlinger might have the rest of the season in the starting spot still, but if Indy continues to see play similar to his Week 9 performances then it won’t last any longer than that.
Josh Allen went into the heart of Chiefs Kingdom and came out with a dramatic win from his match-up with Patrick Mahomes.
Since their roller-coaster shootout in the AFC play-offs in January, this was long marked in the calendar. The two best players in the NFL went head-to-head once again and it didn’t disappoint. This game had the feel and energy of a January contest throughout. Every play seemed to matter and in the end, Josh Allen and his team emerged victorious.
They say you can’t be the best until you beat the best. Well, Allen won the day and to the victor, go the spoils. For now, he deserves the mantle of being recognised as the best quarterback in football.
Long live the King!
So let’s get to the action.
Bills v Chiefs
Surprisingly, to everyone but Tony Romo, who somehow called a 24-20 win at the start of his broadcast, there was no score in the first quarter as both teams got red zone stops. First Allen tossed a lateral to Isaiah McKenzie who wasn’t expecting it and it was recovered by the team in red and Mahomes’ impressive first drive finished up in the hands of Bills first-round pick, Kaiir Elam who got his second interception in two weeks.
In the second quarter, Mahomes had struck up a good partnership with Juju Smith-Schuster and on third and long, the QB used his natural instincts to buy time in the pocket and found his slot receiver, who bounced off a tackle and ran in his first touchdown for Kansas.
The Chiefs defence managed to keep Allen out when he went for it on fourth and goal and soon had him backed up outside his own end zone. On third down, he found Gabe Davis for a big play and later in the drive, when he saw Davis matched-up with rookie corner Joshua Williams, Allen took the shot for a touchdown.
On the cusp of half time and with 12 seconds remaining in the half, Mahomes managed two quick plays and Harrison Butker kicked the sides level with an effort from 62 yards to tie the scores 10-10 at the break.
In the third quarter, Allen saw Stefon Diggs matched-up one-on-one with the rookie fourth-round pick Williams and he repeated his trick by picking on the rookie and finding Diggs with an almost identical play for another TD.
By the end of the third quarter, the sides were level as Mahomes again found time in the pocket on third down to find Mecole Hardman in traffic. It set up a grandstand finish which had the feel and excitement of a play-off game. Mahomes started to find his favourite target Travis Kelce as he led his side up the field for Butker to kick them 17-20 ahead with 10 minutes remaining.
Five minutes later, a second sack of the game by future Hall-of-Famer Von Miller got the ball back for the Bills. When Devin Singletary was stopped inches short on third down, Allen used all of his six foot five inch frame on a QB sneak to extend the drive on fourth down. Allen then found Diggs on a couple of big plays to get up to the 27 yard line. Then came the play of the game, as Allen brought the action to 12 yards out. Shout out to @sean___connor for adding the accompanying track.
Phew!!! Let’s see that again from another angle.
He then finished the drive with a rocket to Dawson Knox on the left sideline for the winning score. Mahomes had 64 seconds left to recuse the day but under pressure his throw was intercepted by Taron Johnson to secure a Bills victory.
Already, this feels massive for Buffalo and could be decisive in securing home advantage in the play-offs as it gives them a one-game lead over their nearest rivals in the AFC rankings. Already, the biggest challenge may be keeping a lid on the excitement and fervor for one of the longest-suffering fan bases as they go in search of their first Superbowl victory. They are the favourites in the bookies and with good reason.
And fingers crossed we get to do this again in January.
Eagles go 6-0
Cowboys v Eagles
In the late kick-off, the Philadelphia Eagles extended their winning run to 6-0 with a morale boosting win over their NFC East rival Dallas Cowboys. By almost half-time, they threatened to run away with the contest by taking a 20-0 lead as their impressive offensive line dominated up front with second quarter touchdowns by Miles Sanders and AJ Brown. What was most interesting was how Jalen Hurts kept running the run-pass option at Micah Parsons, to keep the pass-rusher from affecting the game.
The Eagles defensive backs were just as impressive on a night where James Bradberry, Darius Slay and CJ Gardner-Johnson all had picks on the night. With Cooper Rush struggling, the Cowboys put the ball in the hands of Ezekiel Elliot to great effect and he ran well and finished with a 14-yard TD. On the first play of the fourth quarter, Rush found Jake Ferguson for another TD with only three points now separating the sides.
The Eagles got back to what they do extremely well and ran it behind their line for the pivotal drive of the game and a play-action pass to Devonta Smith from seven yards saw them into a 17-26 lead that they never relinquished. The Eagles can now rest up as they take their 6-0 unbeaten record into their bye-week.
There were two outstanding games in the early Sunday matches.
Bengals v Saints
Another team I believe will also contend for the AFC Championship are the Cincinnati Bengals, who won their match-up of the fans who shout ‘Who Dey’ against the fans who shout ‘Who Dat.’
The Bengals are a team with a strong defence and, once their new offensive line beds in, have the weapons and the quarterback to go toe-to-toe with any side across the league. It was Burrow’s first return to the Superdome and to the state of Louisiana since winning the National Championship with LSU in 2020. He entered the stadium pre-game wearing an LSU game jersey of his then and current teammate Ja’Marr Chase.
Joe Burrow showed that he can run as well as he can pass when he found a hole in the Saints defence for a touchdown as the Saints took a 14-20 point midway lead.
In the third quarter Burrow found a well-covered Chase with a great throw for a touchdown. They pair were at it again late in the fourth quarter when they linked up for a 60-yard TD as Cincinnati took their first lead in the contest with two minutes remaining.
Jaguars v Colts
Matt Ryan once again lived up to his ‘Matty Ice’ nickname of old in a fantastic late win over the Jags.
It ended up being a roller-coaster and Jacksonville’s great hope at QB, Trevor Laurence played very well throughout. He must be wondering what he must do to get his first divisional road win, as the Jags succumbed to their 14th consecutive AFC South loss away from Jacksonville.
Ryan found Paris Campbell for the first Indianapolis TD in over 110 minutes of football to see the score 14-13 at half time as the Colts continued their 2022 tradition of never having led at half-time yet this season.
The sides exchanged rushing TDs in the third quarter when Dion Jackson replied for the home side after Laurence had rushed for his second TD of the day. The Colts took the lead for the first time in the contest when Ryan found rookie tight-end Jelani Woods and this was responded to by an impressive 18-play drive by Laurence which resulted in him finding Christian Kirk in the endzone to retake the lead 27-26.
With 17 seconds left, Ryan had his side within field-goal range but on third down, he threw to rookie receiver Alec Pierce for another late win before a rapturous home support. The game was significant to Ryan in that he passed the great Dan Marino to now have the seventh most passing yards by a QB in NFL history.
New York, New York
What a time to be a fan in NYC as both sides of the football fraternity continue to surprise with unexpected wins. I keep waiting for the wheels to come off both karts but so far, they keep winning.
The Giants handed Lamar Jackson his third ever October loss in another terrific early contest on Sunday. The Ravens took a fourth quarter 20-10 lead when Jackson found Mark Andrews with a precise throw that came over the tight-end’s shoulder.
Daniel Jones then found his own tight-end Danny Bellinger for a TD before the first Giants interception of the season set the G-men up with a short field late in the game. Star-man Sequon Barkley jumped like a human torpedo into endzone for the winning score.
Sequon could have had another touchdown late in the game but chose to slide down at the one-yard line to make the Ravens burn their remaining timeouts, as time ran out at the MetLife Stadium.
It was the second week in a row that Aaron Rodgers came unstuck against teams from the Big Apple, where the Jets rookie class were again to the fore during a famous 24-10 in Lambeau Field win.
Running-back Breece Hall showed why he was the first running back off the board in this year’s draft on a day where he had 116 rushing yards and the game sealing TD in the fourth quarter.
Afterwards rookie corner Ahmed ‘Sauce’ Gardner wore a Green Bay Cheese-head hat coming off the field, which seemed to rub Allen Lezard the wrong way and he flipped it off his head. I’m sure Scott Hanson must have been bellowing ‘Cheese-sauce’ in the Redzone studio. I’d be disappointed if he wasn’t.
One of the most interesting stories of the weekend came during Steve Wilks first game as caretaker in Carolina, after his predecessor Matt Rhule became the first head-coach shown the exit door this season after the Panthers lost last Sunday.
Interesting, it was not on the field but on the sideline where the action was most intense.
In the third quarter, receiver Robbie Anderson had a heated exchange and squared-up to his receiving coach Joe Dailey. A few plays later word had got to Wilks and he sent Anderson to the locker room. Afterwards he was keen to pour cold water on the incident and kept any drama in-house for now.
This was a good game for Rams’ Allen Robinson who began to build up a rapport with Matt Stafford with five catches for 63 yards and a TD. The player who most impressed was Carolina running-back Christian McCaffery. Maybe he was auditioning for a move after hearing, like everyone else, the rumours of a potential trade to Superbowl-favourite Buffalo Bills. If that is the case, he nailed his audition clocking up 168-yards from scrimmage. After that sideline altercation, maybe he won’t be the only Panther leaving in the near future.
Tom Brady suffered his third loss in six games as Mitch Trubisky came off the bench when Kenny Pickett never returned from a head-injury assessment to lead the Steelers to a late come from behind fourth quarter victory. He found Chase Claypool in the endzone for a 20-12 lead. Brady had a chance to tie the game when Leonard Fournette scored, but he failed with a two-point conversion.
The Patriots had the home crowd booing in Cleveland, as the Pats third-string rookie QB Bailey Zappe looked the part in a dominant 38-15 win. Rhamondre Stevenson was the bell cow running-back going for 91 yards from scrimmage and two TDs. It was a notable game in the career of one Bill Belichick who tied the famed Chicago Bears coach George Halas for the most wins by a head coach in the NFL.
The Atlanta Falcons are becoming one of my favourite teams to watch and their all-action offence led by a rejuvenated Marcus Mariota did the business by taking out the 49ers in convincing fashion.
Two Brandon Aiyuk touchdowns had the visiting side level 14-14 in the second quarter when Mariota ran right on an option play and beat the linebacker to the endzone. He then linked up with the exciting tight-end Kyle Pitts for his first TD of the season to extend the lead to 14, which was never threatened.
Jimmy G reminds me of an apple crumble every time he comes under pressure. Will he get the chance to serve me a slice of humble pie? I’ll keep my fork, knife and spoon in the top press for now.
The Vikings secured their fourth win in a row with a 24-16 road win against the Dolphins. Touchdown passes by Cousins to Irv Smith and Adam Thielen had the Vikes in front but Dalvin Cook’s second-half touchdown run made the difference on a day when Mike Gesicki caught two scores for Miami.
Seattle overcame Arizona to win 9-19 and the kick-fest was interrupted by two interesting moments.
When your punter is making headlines, its usually not for the right reasons. Seattle punter Michael Dickson ends up in this column for the second week in a row when he seemed to freeze like a rabbit in the headlights inside his own endzone as the Arizona pass-rush ran at him. They knocked the ball out of his hands and recovered for a TD. It left the Cards trailing by three points entering the fourth quarter.
The best player on show all day delivered the telling score when running-back Kenneth Murray gave a little dip and juke as he ran in his second TD in a fortnight. His rookie teammate Tariq Woolen was also prominent grabbing his fourth interception in four weeks.
Six weeks in and across the league, this already looks to be one of the deepest rookie classes to come out in many a year with the youngsters of the Seahawks and the Jets routinely catching the eye.
Watch out for our AFC West Monday Night Football Broncos versus Chargers preview later today!!!
It’s Week 6 and the match-up we’ve all been waiting for.
Patrick Mahomes versus Josh Allen.
Bills @ Chiefs
This game has been marked in the calendar since the season fixtures were released. The two best quarterbacks in the NFL, scratch that, the two best players in the NFL will go head-to-head on Sunday. So have your hot-dogs ready, because I can’t see how this game can disappoint.
When these two went toe-to-toe last January, we had a play-off game for the ages. With the match finished in a whirlwind tie, the toss of a coin gave Mahomes the ball first in overtime and that was all she wrote. Shots of a distraught Josh Allen not getting an opportunity to answer back resulted in a change of post-season rules.
There are differing opinions about which of the two is the best. I am on record for having Mahommes at the top of my list and I haven’t seen anything to change my mind so far this season. I’m sure Josh Allen reckons that if he can take down his opponent in front of a packed out Arrowhead Stadium, then figuratively the mantle will surely pass to him.
What makes this contest especially mouth-watering is the protagonists are both in a rich vein of form and have a record of 3-1. With both teams very likely to make the post-season, this is also an early battle for post-season home advantage later in the season.
Mahomes’ best performance of the season came two weeks ago when he dismantled a very talented and experienced Bucs defence in Tampa Bay. What most impressed me about his game that night was that he managed to share the ball between all his receiving options. He was at his lethal best both inside and outside the pocket and pulled out spectacular plays on the fly. He was figuratively on fire that night.
Last Monday, he led the Chiefs to victory after trailing the Las Vegas Raiders by 17 points. It turned into a shoot-out and four red-zone touchdowns passes to Travis Kelce made the difference. Kelce’s record-breaking Monday Night Football performance came with only 25 yards accounted for on the night, which shows that Mahommes is finding another way of getting his team down the field. Kansas don’t have a strong running attack but Clyde Edwards-Helaire is at his most dangerous when available for quick passes out the back field and running outside the hashes.
Kansas had their struggles against the Raiders, who were on top for most of the game and Las Vegas had success running the ball and particularly with deep balls over the top against the Chiefs defence, with Derek Carr finding Devante Adams for two touchdowns.
It is the latter than Buffalo will more likely try to exploit. Last Sunday Josh Allen had two bombs caught by Gabe Davis as he put the Pittsburgh Steelers to the sword. The first was a 98-yard play on his first drive of the game. I expect he will also try to put the Chiefs defensive-backs under pressure from the off.
The previous week against the Ravens saw Allen play in my opinion his best half of football of the season, when he took the game by the scruff of the neck and pulled his team from behind to a valiant win on the road. In that second half, he was majestic using his feet to get out of trouble and to pick up first downs. He also used his cannon of an arm to find his receivers outside the numbers in the second half.
The Bills don’t haven’t shown much in their running game so far but the rookie running-back James Cook did get his first TD of his career against the Steelers last week and we have seen enough of Devin Singletary to know what a good player he can be on his day. There are rumours that Buffalo are considering a trade with the Carolina Panthers for Christian McCaffery to push all their chips in the middle of the table to win the Superbowl this year. The more I think about that scenario, the more sense it makes for both teams and the player himself.
So who is going to win this game and why?
I can’t see either quarterback being stopped from moving the chains on a regular basis and I expect both teams to clock up a few touchdowns.
It may come down to the defence that can get the opposing quarterback off the field on even a couple of third downs that could make the difference. Right now, Buffalo has the better defence and with Tre’Davious White almost ready to return to the fold, he will be a great addition to the Buffalo secondary. I have been impressed with the form of Chris Jones on the Kansas D-line and also with the consistent performances of Nick Bolton at line-backer.
Ultimately, it will come down to two men and in my heart of hearts, I believe that Patrick Mahomes is the better quarterback and will win the day for the men in red.
Cowboys v Eagles
The late match on Sunday night is a contest between the Great Pretenders so far this season with an NFC East match-up that always has a bit of bite. The Eagles fans don’t really like anyone but they save their deepest bile for when the Cowboys come to town and it is safe to say the feeling is mutual.
At the moment, both of these teams are looking like serious contenders for the NFC.
I haven’t been overly surprised with how Philadelphia has fared this season. I was impressed with their rushing attack last season and even there, they managed to add more depth in the draft. For me, it is the best O-Line in football at this moment in time.
Their defence is the area of the team that has most improved since last year. The moves made by Howie Roseman in the off-season are paying dividends, especially with the signings of pass-rusher Hassan Reddick and corner-back James Bradbury. They also added first round pick Jordan Davis, who was one of my favourite players coming out this year from the National Champions Georgia Bulldog defence and they re-signed Fletcher Cox for another season.
The offence also improved two with the acquisition of AJ Brown to form a formidable double-team with Devonta Smith on the outside. All this has allowed Jalen Hurts to step up his game and I believe he has. He is a dual-threat quarterback, who is very dangerous outside the pocket with his legs and throwing on the run. He has been great to watch this year and has the gait of a man who he is comfortable with what he has been asked to do and in his position as leader. He does take more contact than you would like your quarterback to take, especially this early in the season.
All-in-all, it makes this Eagles team very balanced side that can beat you a number of ways. The only time they have struggled was containing Kyler Murray in the second half last week. I think it will take a good team to beat this side in Philly.
The surprise package for me so far this season are the Dallas Cowboys. They were a play-off team last January but I thought they lost key players in the off-season in Amari Cooper, Randy Gregory and Cedric Wilson and I expected some regression. If anything they look stronger.
Losing their starting QB, Dak Prescott, to injury in the first game of the season has been a blessing in disguise. They have had to find a way of winning and they have, as their defence has stepped up even more so than they did last season. Micah Parsons has been the best defensive player in the league and Dan Quinn has schemed-up ways of getting to every quarterback they have faced
With Dak missing, it has also forced them to run the ball more with Zeke and Tony Pollard forming an effective running-back committee, while Cooper Rush has managed games effectively and not turned over the ball. With Dak on the mend, he might start this game but the Cowboys will more likely stick with a winning formula for another week.
Whichever quarterback starts, I still believe the home team Eagles will get the job done late on Sunday night. I like how they are using Hurts in run option plays and using play action. They also have the run game to negate the Cowboys pass rush. For me they are the best team in the division and all their victories so far have looked routine. I expect the Eagles to win a roughly-fought contest.
Ravens @ Giants
The New York Giants have also been a surprise so far and they are getting a significant bounce from their new head coach Bran Daboll. Daniel Jones is coming off the best win of his career against the Packers in London and Sequon Barkley is in the prime of his career. However, I feel this fairy-tale can’t go on much longer as they are lacking the talent throughout their roster to win consistently in the NFL and I believe they will soon be found out.
Their offensive line is better but still not an elite unit and their receiving core has been awful so far despite their wins. I expect the wheels to come off this weekend when they host the Ravens. The Baltimore franchise has looked better than their 3-2 record suggests and they sit atop of a very competitive AFC North.
I was impressed once again with Lamar in last Sunday’s win against the Bengals and once again he delivered, finding Mark Andrews and Devin Duvernay when he most needed a first down. I think the less physical punishment Lamar takes in the regular season, the more likely he will be better conditioned to be at his most electric and dangerous best in the post-season. I expect a Ravens win here and the Giants to start heading towards the middle of the pack.
Another Sunday in the books and another footballing feast for the eyes with terrific action and close encounters right across the National Football League.
With the exception of the late, late contest between the Chiefs and the Bucs, the other 14 matches all were one-score games during the fourth quarter. There was even a point during the early kick-offs where all nine matches were one-score games in the fourth quarter at the same point in time.
Where in the world would you find this level of competition in professional sport?
The answer is, of course, is nowhere but in the NFL. It is the reason why supporters of gridiron tune in week in, week out as the action continues to deliver the goods.
Let’s start with one of the most anticipated match-ups, when Josh Allen and Lamar Jackson went head-to-head.
Bills @ Ravens
By the beginning of the fourth quarter the game was tied 20-20, as this thoroughly entertaining contest was played out on soft ground and in heavy rain.
Both protagonists were to the fore.
Lamar Jackson helped the Ravens into an early lead when on his first drive, he took advantage of the short field, after an interception by Marlon Humphrey, and shuffle-passed the ball to JK Dobbins for the opening touchdown. He then found Devin Duvernay with a heads-up play for another six-pointer.
At the end of the first half, Josh Allen kicked into action and led a drive which ended when he threw to Isiah McKenzie for a touchdown with 13 seconds left to make it 10-20 at the break.
Allen was immense after half time and grabbed the game by the scruff of the neck. He finished off the opening drive by taking off on a scramble to the left sideline and stepping inside the oncoming defenders for a touchdown to level the scores.
The game remained 20-20 as Lamar fired to Devin Duvernay, who brought the play up to the one-yard line. Three plays later and the Bills defence stood firm.
Then came a surprising call by Ravens coach, John Harbaugh, who turned down the chance to take a three-point lead with the field goal and went for it on fourth down. Buffalo continued their goal-line stand as Baltimore’s 14-play drive ended with no points. Jackson’s next drive also ended in disappointment when Jordan Poyer got his second interception of the game with four minutes remaining.
Allen once again took centre stage and led his team down the field with superb quarterback play.
By the time the Bills were on the three-yard line, they had worked the clock down to three seconds remaining when Tyler Bass kicked them to victory with a field goal.
This was a terrific contest decided by small margins with great performances across both teams. It will be remembered as the biggest comeback victory of Josh Allen’s career to date as the Bills came from 3-20 down to win 23-20.
It looked at the time to be the best quarterbacking performance of the weekend, but not to be undone, Patrick Mahommes reminded everyone what a superstar he is with a sensational performance in a packed Raymond James Stadium in the late kick off.
In doing so he gained a margin of revenge for the loss in Superbowl 55 as he tore the Bucs defence to pieces.
He started the game with touchdowns on his first three drives. On the night, he was just electric with a performance littered with jaw-dropping plays. Throughout Mahommes displayed his natural ingenuity with ball-in-hand on a level that most players could only dream of.
In my opinion, Mahommes showed a growing maturity and progression with his game management by leaning on all of his receiving core, which made the Chiefs attack unpredictable throughout. Tom Brady did well to keep the score a respectable 41-31.
It also finally put to bed for me that Kansas might struggle without the Cheetah, Tyreek Hill. If they can do this to the Bucs defence, then every other defensive coordinator on their schedule better sit up and take notice.
It’s only Week 4 and already I’m finding it hard to contain myself with the prospect of these three quarterbacks, Allen, Jackson and Mahommes, duking it out for supremacy in the AFC when knockout football returns in January.
Young Guns Part 1
One of the most interesting happenings of Week 4 was the somewhat unexpected introduction to two rookie quarterbacks during two tightly-contested fixtures.
Jets @ Steelers
Pittsburgh trailed 10-6 at home to the New York Jets, after Braxton Barrios found his QB Zach Wilson with a ‘Philly-Special.’
It led Steelers coach Mike Tomlin to make a quarterback change at half time when he benched Mitch Trubisky for his first-round draft pick Kenny Pickett much to the delight of the home crowd. After three runs and a quarterback sneak to pick up the first down the crowd began chanting ‘Kenny!!!, Kenny!!!’
Pickett’s first pass down in the NFL resulted in an interception. However, the home crowd were not going to be deterred and a few plays later safety Minkah Fitzpatrick intercepted back to bring the play down near the goal line.
From there Pickett ran it in and the “Kenny, Kenny” chants erupted once again. He followed this up with another rushing TD in the fourth quarter as the Steelers turned the game around with a 10-20 lead.
With less than eight minutes left, Jets QB Zach Wilson, in his first appearance of the year, showed what a young talent he is as he led a comeback effort. He fired to Corey Davies to make it 17-20. After a late drive, he fed another rookie, running-back Breece Hall, for the winning score with only 16 seconds left.
The action wasn’t over. With four points between the teams, Pickett had one last chance for a Hail Mary and as his delivery sailed into the endzone, safety Lamarcus Joyner grabbed an interception to finish the contest.
Young Guns Part 2
Patriots @ Packers
What was expected to be a defensive spectacle ended up being a very entertaining contest, which took on a new dimension in the first quarter after Patriots back-up QB Brian Hoyer got a head injury.
It resulted in an early introduction for the Pats third-string quarterback Bailey Zappe, a fourth-round pick from Western Kentucky, to make a highly unexpected NFL debut.
It was another rookie Christian Watson who ran in his first NFL TD when he took a pop-pass from Aaron Rodgers in motion.
The Pats played physical smash-mouth football which kept Rodgers on the sideline and by the time he retook the field in the last minute of the second quarter, he had only thrown for 38 yards. Two plays later and Rodgers threw a pick-six, his second ever of his career at Lambeau Field. It left the Packers trailing 10-7 at the break.
In the second half, the teams went blow for blow. First Rodgers fired to his tight-end Robert Tonyan for a TD and the following run-heavy drive from New England ended with Zappe finding DeVante Parker on play-action for the first passing touchdown of his career.
The sides swapped scores again in the fourth quarter when a Damien Harris score was replied to when Rodgers found rookie Romeo Doubs for the 500th TD of his career. The game finished tied and in overtime Rodgers led his team down the field for Mason Crosby to kick the winner from 31 yards with four seconds left.
As unlikely as events unfolded to give Zappe his first starts, something more unlikely happened in the New York Giants victory over Chicago. Daniel Jones had to leave the field with an injury and then his replacement Tyrod Taylor also had to exit with an ankle injury.
With no other QB on the playing roster, it left star-of-the-show Saquon Barkley to go under centre as a wildcat QB and he led the Giants down the field in the fourth quarter for the insurance field goal in a 12-20 win over the Bears.
The Minnesota Vikings won an excellent contest in the early kickoff in London against a New Orleans team that showed grit and determination to stay in the contest throughout and then took a lead late in the fourth quarter.
Justin Jefferson was the star of the contest with 147 receiving yards on the day and when he rushed in from three yards, London got to see his ‘Griddy’ touchdown celebration to help the Vikings regain the lead in fourth quarter.
A missed PAT left three points between the teams.
Saints kicker Will Lutz in particular had an afternoon to remember when his 60-yard kick went between the posts to tie the game with two minutes remaining. Fast forward to the last play of the game and Lutz was in a similar position with another long-range attempt to bring the contest to overtime.,
However, this time his effort hit the post and then the crossbar for a ‘double-doink’ that secured victory for the Vikes.
If there is a more improved player in the NFL than Jalen Hurts, I haven’t seen him.
Trailing 0-14 on the road away to Jacksonville, he displayed courage and leadership to lead his team to a deserved win. The Eagles offence that is just rolling at the moment.
A coach that definitely doesn’t get the respect he is due in my opinion is Nick Siriani, who deserves credit for building the offence around Hurts in a similar way to how Baltimore has built around the talent of Lamar Jackson.
Helped by a superb offensive line they run opinion plays and play action to great effect and he schemes Hurts to where he is most dangerous: outside the pocket. It will be interesting if he meets a defence that can contain him, but so far he has hurdled all the obstacles put before him.
The Eagles are the only team to go 4-0 and with running-back Miles Sanders running impressively for 156 yards and two touchdowns on the day.
Slightly more impressively, Rashaad Penny ran for 157 yards and two touchdowns in what, so far, is the highest scoring game of the season as the Seahawks beat the Detroit Lions 48-45.
Seattle led for most of the contest but the Detroit Lions would not give up the ghost.
Tight-end TJ Hockenson had eight receptions for 179 yards and two TDs in a game where both quarterbacks Geno Smith and Jared Goff balled out for their respective sides. Jamaal Williams also continued to show that he can walk-the-walk as good as he can talk-the-talk, when he ran in for a 51-yard TD, his second score of the game.
Atlanta Falcons kicker Younghoe Koo proved his worth once again as his late effort was the difference in a tightly-fought 20-23 contest with the Cleveland Browns.
Kyler Murray got his second win of the campaign when he took down the Carolina Panthers 26-16. Murray came alive in the second half and was the best player on show. He was run close in that regard by teammate Zach Allen, who on the day batted three Baker Mayfield throws and recorded a sack and his performance drew comparisons with swat-machine JJ Watt.
In the NFC East, Cooper Rush continued to win as quarterback for the Dallas Cowboys as they beat their divisional opponents the Washington Commanders, wearing their new black uniforms for the first time.
Derek Henry looked back near his best as the Titans had a 24-17 road win against the Colts, while Austin Ekeler was to the fore scoring three touchdowns as the LA Chargers took the honours away to the Houston Texans.
Finally, Josh McDaniels got his first win as head coach of the Las Vegas Raiders in an entertaining 23-32 contest at home to the Denver Broncos. Running-back Josh Jacobs was key to the victory with 175 yards from scrimmage and a pair of touchdowns.
Another few hours to catch my breath until the week rounds off with an NFC West match-up as the San Francisco 49ers take on their neighboring rival LA Rams.
With the NFL trying something new this week with two MNF games, it does mean more writing for me.
Lucky for me that means I get to research more football, so with our first installment of Monday Night Football previews, I’ll be looking at last year’s AFC first and third seeded play-off teams.
Now, with a little hint into a series I’ll be starting next week, this Buffalo team is the team to beat in the NFL right now. It all starts with the man in the huddle Josh ‘Stallion’ Allen. After his heartbreak loss to the Chiefs last January, Allen hasn’t taken it lightly and looks to be a man on a mission to get a Super Bowl ring on his finger.
Along with the rest of the offence, we’re still finding out what their full potential can be.
Stefon Diggs is the star WR every top offence needs, last going for eight receptions for 122 yards and a TD while facing up against perennial Pro-Bowler Jalen Ramsey. Behind him there is less certainty with guys like Isaiah McKenzie, Jamison Crowder, Devin Singletary, Zack Moss and Dawson Knox all flashing in their own way. So far the offence works great as a unit, but will the supporting cast consistently contribute?
The defence are an aggressive bunch, who hunt for the ball and have no mercy while doing so. Stacked from top to bottom with talent on all three levels, they stopped the reigning Super Bowl champs last week and the defence was a good part of that. Defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier was highly recruited this past off-season for head coaching jobs and the Bills will be more than happy with his coaching on their sideline still.
As previously mentioned, this team was the AFC #1 seed heading into the playoffs last season, but a lot has changed since then, with them losing many key players, especially on the offence.
The decision to not pay AJ Brown was an eyebrow raiser, but as they look towards the future in Treylon Burks, it may take time for him to reach the heights of Brown, if he ever does.
The offensive line also went through some changes with starting guards, David Quessenberry and Rodger Saffold, moving on and lesser-known replacements being brought in.
The big name over in Tennessee is the king of running-backs Derrick Henry. The big man has many career highlights to his name but with the changing parts in offence and Henry coming off an ACL injury from last year, there are many question marks to this previous top-ranked team.
In recent years the Titans have caused problems for the Bills, and while the saying goes ‘history always repeats itself, a lot has changed.
For starters the Titans don’t quite look like the team they once were. They’re coming off a disappointing loss to the Giants last week, and with an already weakened team from the off-season, just gone they’ve also lost some players to injury. One of which was corner-back Fulton, who was looking to match-up against ‘fans trash talker’ Stefon Diggs.
With Henry struggling in his first game back from injury and the offence struggling to pass and run the ball, this Bills defence, which looks to be one of the best in football, will be too much for them.
Through the metrics of DVOA and the eyes of myself, I believe this Bills team is the No.1 team in the league right now. With a scary defence that looks unforgivable and an offence run by Josh Allen, it doesn’t matter what weapons you give him, he’ll still look like the best QB in the NFL right now.
For me I can’t look past the Bills here and I’m sure the Bills mafia tailgaters may have some sore backs from jumping tables, but it will be all worth it by the end if they reign supreme in February.