Six points for a Touchdown Column

By David McDonnell

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

  1. Bengals v Chiefs

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

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

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

2. Chris Jones

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

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

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

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

3. Kansas O-Line

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

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

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

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

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

49ers v Eagles 

4. Eagles O-Line

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

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

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

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

5. Hurts Hurt

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

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

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

6. QB’s Injury

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

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

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

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

7. Playing Politics

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

8. The Kelce Family

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

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

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

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

AFC Championship: Bengals v Chiefs 

By David McDonnell

It’s no great surprise to me that the AFC Championship game has come down once again to the Bengals versus the Chiefs.  (kickoff 11.30 pm GMT)

There are plenty of good teams in the AFC but what separates these two from the rest of the pretenders is their quarterbacks, Joe Burrow and Patrick Mahomes. Both have the ability to throw the ball accurately and consistently beat the opposition from the pocket when the pressure is greatest, which is where Josh Allen came unstuck last weekend in my opinion.

I cannot wait for this game to begin and I really can’t say with any authority which way this game will go, but I’ll give it a try all the same. 

The Bengals certainly caught the Bills defence off guard last weekend with their ability to run the ball, while down three of their starting linemen and the front office in Cincinnati deserve recognition for their forward thinking in reinforcing their O-Line with talent in addition to the number of costly acquisitions during the off-season. 

The Bills defence struggled all day trying to stop Joe Mixon and it gave Burrow the platform to dictate their offence. This worked especially well as the Bengals had gotten themselves into an early lead with two early touchdowns and they will intend for a similar approach this weekend. If this happens we could have a shootout on our hands.

However, fore-warned is fore-armed and I would expect the Chiefs defence to be ready to defend against the run and try to force the Bengals into longer third downs. Nick Bolton is a hard hitting linebacker in Kansas and it will be interesting if they can take him away from the box on early running downs by making him pick up a slot receiver or Hayden Hurst at tight-end. 

Having a plan in one thing, but the difficulty with these Bengals is that they have an array of weapons to choose from if Burrow is given time in the pocket. 

He has two outstanding receivers in Ja’Marr Chase and Tee Higgins and with it, the Bengals have a match-up advantage in both speed, height and athleticism on both sides of their attack. I expect Burrow will go to both at key stages, especially if and when the game is on the line in the fourth quarter. 

If the Chiefs can’t get pressure on Burrow in the pocket, they are unlikely to win but with an average of 3.2 sacks per game, they are certainly equipped to do so. 

With both their starting tackles, Jonah Williams and La’el Collins, in Cincinnati out, you would presume this pair of starters are better than the current incumbents at pass protection, so maybe Kansas City will be able to get pressure on Burrow on key third downs through Frank Clark, Chris Jones and George Karlaftis.

Chiefs offence v Bengals Defence

On the other side of the ball, I can see the Bengals defence operating very similarly to how they did against the Bills last week, where they had Mike Hilton playing spy to stop Josh Allen taking off on runs and picking up first downs on key plays and third downs. He was also very damaging in breaking down some of the Bills screen plays. 

Similar to Buffalo, Kansas do not have a terrific running game because they haven’t needed one as Mahomes has been majestic at quarterback all season. He has undoubtedly been the best player in the NFL this season and I hope his leg sprain injury from last week has cleared up in the seven days. 

He has the best tight end in the game in Travis Kelce at his disposal and it will be very interesting what plan Cincinnati’s defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo puts in place to stop Kelce, especially in the red zone, which should be his top priority going into this game. It was very noticeable to me that when Mahomes was carrying the injury last week, he seemed to overly indulge in getting the ball to Kelce in that second half.

Although the Kansas City QB has some excellent receiving options and a lot of speed, he does not have blue chip talents that Burrow enjoys with receivers who can win contested catches. Certainly, no one has the level of trust that he enjoys with Kelce and Cincinnati will do all they can to curb Kelce influence. Logan Wilson is a very smart linebacker and I presume this job will come under his responsibility. 

Although Mahomes doesn’t have receivers that Burrow has at his disposal, he still has a lot of talent and speed and if he is afforded time in the pocket, he will be able to dissect any defence. This could be a big game for Juju Smith-Schuster who has been quiet of late.

There will be a lot of pressure on Sam Hubbard and especially Trey Hendrickson, their best pass rusher to put Mahomes under pressure. Although the Bengals have forced a turnover in every game this season, they are coming up against an excellent O-line at Kansas City as well. 

This is a tough one to call and I expect a high scoring game that will go to the wire. It could very much be one of those where the quarterback who has the ball last, will have the chance to win the game.

If Mahomes is hindered by his injury anywhere close to how he was last week then I don’t see the Chiefs winning. 

But my gut feeling is that the Chiefs are more likely able to provide Mahomes with a cleaner pocket than the visiting Bengals and if Mahomes is operating close to or at 100% capacity, then I’ll tip the balance in favour of a Kansas City victory.

Bengals 27-30 Chiefs 

SNF Preview: Ravens v Bengals

By David McDonnell

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ravens 17-27 Bengals 

Sunday’s NFL Playoff Fixtures

B David McDonnell

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

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

So what’s on the Gridiron menu tonight?


Dolphins @ Bills at 6pm 

Giants @ Vikings at 9.30 

Ravens @ Bengals at 1.15am on Sunday Night Football

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

NFL Playoff Power Rankings

By Conor Perrett  

After 18 weeks of football, the regular season of the NFL season may be finished, but that only means the playoff field has been set. In four and a half weeks time the Lombardi Trophy will be lifted, but before then, 14 teams must be squeezed down to two.`

So with the Wild-Card round starting this weekend, let’s look at all the teams in the play-offs and rank them.

  1. Kansas City Chiefs (14-3)

The Chiefs finished another season as the No. 1 seed in the AFC and currently have an offence that is better than every other team left in the playoffs. Patrick Mahomes looks set to win another MVP award, as his 5,377 combined passing and rushing yards this season, is the most of any player in NFL history. 

It feels we have taken Mahomes for granted over the years and if he can keep this up, this superstar pairing of him and Andy Reid may have the potential to one day be mentioned in the same sentence of Tom Brady and Bill Belichick. 

Up next: Bye

  1. Buffalo Bills (13-3)

Josh Allen and the Bills will one day make a Super Bowl, but it won’t be easy given how stacked the AFC conference currently is. Despite only losing three games on the season to a combined eight points, Buffalo won’t be getting a bye, but will play at a neutral site if they meet the Chiefs in the Conference Championship.

The Bills feel like the most complete team in the league, but they will be missing a few key players particularly Von Miller. Such a loss hasn’t stopped them yet though, as Buffalo finished as DVOA’s No. 1 team in the regular season. To one up on that, on offence, defence and special teams, no other team is ranked top-10 in each phase, while the Bills on the other hand finished Top-4 in all three phases.

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

  1. Cincinnati Bengals (12-4)

The Bengals are among the league’s hottest teams entering the playoffs and it would be difficult to find a more confident player in the NFL right now than Bengals’ QB Joe Burrow. “The window is my whole career,” Burrow replied when asked about the Bengals’ championship window. He’ll need all that confidence if he wants to return to the Super Bowl.

Cincinnati’s path to Arizona may be the most difficult road, as they will have to beat a potential returning Lamar Jackson, then the Bills and possibly finish off the Chiefs again, and that is to only make the Superbowl. 

Up next: vs. Baltimore, Monday 1:15 a.m. GMT

  1. Philadelphia Eagles (14-3)

The Eagles got a much needed bye, by beating the Giants’ B team to secure the No. 1 seed in the NFC. No team feels more in need of a week to recover than Philly, as Jalen Hurts was extremely cautious in his return from an injured shoulder. For the first time in his career, Hurts went the entire game without scrambling for a run as he heals up.  

If Hurts, Lane Johnson, Josh Sweat and Avonte Maddox can regain some health over the course of the playoffs, and get back to how they were in the first half of the season, the Eagles should be considered NFC favourites with back-to-back games at home.

Up next: Bye

  1. San Francisco 49ers (13-4)

The Niners closed out the regular season on a 10-game winning streak, with only two of those games decided by six points or fewer. That alone is a fair shout for them to be the best team in the NFC, if Hurts isn’t 100%.

They also happen to have the best point differential in the league and the No 1 ranked defence by DVOA and EPA per drive. All of those statistics look great, but the only thing that could be holding them back is the fact they are starting a seventh-round rookie at quarterback. 

Brock Purdy has been awesome, filling in for Jimmy G towards the end of the season, but he’s Mr. Irrelevant for a reason. The playoffs are a different kind of game and in the crucial moments, Purdy will be put in situations he may not be familiar or comfortable with. The key is how he responds to that.

Up next: vs. Seattle, Saturday 9:30 p.m. GMT

  1. Dallas Cowboys (12-5)

Since Mike McCarthy was hired as head-coach of the Cowboys, the expectation was to win playoff games. Dallas won’t get a better shot at one when they head to Tampa on Monday night.

In the end, nothing was lost in their regular season finale loss to the Commanders, but the pressure did heat up. Dak Prescott played one of his worst games of the season and led the Cowboys’ offence to a season-low 182 yards. Before that blowout loss, the offence was red-hot, but if they have another bad day at the office, fingers will start to be pointed at individuals within the organisation.

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

  1. Los Angeles Chargers (10-7)

Head-coach Brandon Staley has the potential to be an amazing defensive genius, but the Chargers are far too inconsistent. With only one win on the season against a playoff team in Week 14 against Miami, it was by far their most impressive performance, but those kind of performances happen too little. 

The Bolts are 0-5 in every other game against a playoff contender and just played its starters deep into a meaningless game against the lowly Broncos, which they ultimately lost. They have the star-power in Justin Hebert, but it’s anyone’s guess which Chargers team will show up on the day.

Up next: at Jacksonville, Sunday 1:15 a.m. GMT

  1. Jacksonville Jaguars (9-8)

The Jaguars are 7-2 in their last nine games and their wild-card opponent is a team they have beaten already. Respectively it was all the way back in Week 3 and the Chargers were a lot more beaten up back then, but it should be noted down. Doug Pederson put on a masterclass in offensive play-calling that day and Trevor Lawrence has only gotten better since.

There will be holes in their game that Justin Herbert may take advantage of, but the confidence should be at full flow in Jacksonville. Whatever happens, the Jaguars should be delighted with their 2022 season. 

Up next: vs. Los Angeles Chargers, Sunday 1:15 a.m. GMT

  1. Baltimore Ravens (10-7)

It’s hard to rank this Baltimore team with the status of Lamar Jackson in the air. With a healthy Jackson this team could push for a top-6 spot, but we don’t know what is going on with him. There’s a presumption Jackson will return for the trip to Cincinnati, but it’s been reported that would happen for the last few weeks now. 

By weighted DVOA, the Ravens Defence is the second best in the playoffs, but without Jackson it’s hard to see any way they walk out with a win against the Bengals.  

Up next: at Cincinnati, Monday 1:15 a.m. GMT

  1. Minnesota Vikings (13-4)

The Vikings worked their dark-magic to win 11 straight one-score games, but that doesn’t make them a good team. Their defence is probably the worst defence in the playoffs, as they finished the season 29th in points allowed and 31st in yards allowed. They have Justin Jefferson who looks likely to win Offensive Player of the Year, but even then this offence is ranked 20th in offensive DVOA. 

The Vikings have already beat the Giants before in a close event back in Week 16, but that doesn’t change the fact this is probably one of the worst 13 wins and third seed team in recent memory. 

Up next: vs. New York Giants, Sunday 9:30 p.m. GMT

  1. New York Giants (9-7-1)

No one can take away the fact that the Giants have had a spectacular and surprising season. First-year head coach Brian Daboll should be in the conversation for Coach of the Year honours, and both offensive pieces Daniel Jones and Saquon Barkley have had great success in contract years. 

Yes, this team has had some luck along the way and there are probably better teams that missed out on the playoffs, but New York played good football late in games that has gotten them to this point. The only worry is how far they can go. The Giants are 2-6 against playoff teams and the only team they beat by more than eight points this season was the helpless Colts. They drew the easy straw in Minnesota, as there’s certainly a chance they can get revenge this weekend.

Up next: at Minnesota, Sunday 9:30 p.m. GMT

  1. Seattle Seahawks (9-8)

It certainly wasn’t pretty, and despite entering the week with a 16% chance to make the playoffs, the Seahawks got it done. The majority of their thanks can go towards the Lions, who had no hard feelings with Seattle who eliminated Detroit an hour before their win in Green Bay. 

Now the Seahawks set up a NFC West rivalry matchup with the Niners, that has playoff history in its roots. The two teams last met in Week 15 on a Thursday night game that was not as close as the 21-13 score indicated. Crazier things have happened in the past but Seattle must play the game of their life if they intend to get the last laugh this season with San Francisco.

Up next: at San Francisco, Saturday 9:30 p.m. GMT

  1. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (8-9)

If every one of these teams had their starting QB healthy, Tampa would then rank last on this list. Luckily that’s not the case, so they can at least rank one spot higher. In fact their QB, Tom Brady is the Bucs’ only hope of progressing any further in what might be his last game for the team.

Never count out Tom Brady, especially in the playoffs, but this is an offence that has scored more than 23 points just twice all season and a defence that is mightily inconsistent. When you then also put a head coach in charge who looks lost at times, it’s fair to think why Brady may be done with this team. 

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

  1. Miami Dolphins (9-8)

It’s a shame Tua Tagovailoa has had the concussions he has withstood this season, as a rematch against the Bills would have been electric. But for the player’s safety, it’s the right choice to sit him. 

Unfortunately without him, rookie QB Skyler Thompson can’t keep up with Mike McDaniel’s fast playing style and the defence is far too weak to win games for them. The rollercoaster of the Dolphins’ season finished on a high in the regular season, but it’s hard to see anything other than it going back down for the playoffs.

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

Next Weekend’s NFL fixtures

Here are the NFL fixtures for Wildcard Weekend Games.

All times are GMT. 


Seahawks @ 49ers at 9.30pm 

Chargers @ Jaguars at 1.15am on Saturday Night Football


Dolphins @ Bills at 6pm 

Giants @ Vikings at 9.30 

Ravens @ Bengals at 1.15am on Sunday Night Footballl


Cowboys @ Buccaneers 1.15 on Monday Night Football

Monday Night Football: Bills @ Bengals

By Conor Perrett 

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.

Cincinnati Bengals (11-4)

Power Rankings – 4th

DVOA Rankings: Offence – 5th, Defence – 14th, ST – 20th: Overall – 7th 

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.

Buffalo Bills (12-3)

Power Rankings – 2nd

DVOA Rankings: Offence – 3rd, Defence – 4th, ST – 7th; Overall – 1st

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.

Bills 30 – 27 Bengals

Week 14 Power Rankings

 By Conor Perrett

As we enter the month of December, there’s five weeks remaining in the regular season. So on a special edition of this week’s power rankings, we’ll be looking at all the team’s playoff chances down the final stretch.  

It was an impactful weekend in the NFL and as the Christmas spirit starts to grow, we now have an Eagle on top of the pear-tree. 

  1. Philadelphia Eagles (11-1)

Last Week – 2nd

Chances of Playoffs – 100%

Things looked a bit shaky for a moment in Philly, but back-to-back winning performances against the Packers and Titans takes them back to the top. Jalen Hurts has continued his case for MVP, by backing up his record-setting rushing performance last week with 380 yards passing, including three touchdowns of 29 yards or more this week. 

With playoffs already guaranteed, it’s No. 1 seed or nothing now. Their game against the Cowboys on Christmas Eve is the only thing stopping them, as they continue to be one of the most consistent teams in the league.

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

  1. Kansas City Chiefs (9-3)

Last Week – 1st

Chances of Playoffs – 100%

As long as Patrick Mahomes is healthy, the Chiefs are in the elite tier of teams in the NFL. The Bengals do seem to have the Chiefs’ number, but Mahomes is still the best quarterback in the league and at the helm of the best offence as well. 

Defensively, the Chiefs are still below average. But to be fair to them, they always have been and that’s not stopped them from being the best football team over the last five years.

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

  1. Buffalo Bills (9-3)

Last Week – 4th

Chances of Playoffs – 100%

Buffalo look good to make the postseason but they have to get healthy if they want to set themselves apart at the top again. Von Miller may be able to return if they make it to February, but with a banged up Josh Allen still, that’s their two best players on either side of the ball not 100%.

Both offence and defence are still amazing though, as they shut down the Patriots last Thursday. Linebacker Tremaine Edmunds especially made his presence known in his return from injury. Scheduled to be a pending free agent, he’s going to get a lot of money thrown at him.

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

  1. Dallas Cowboys (9-3)

Last Week – 6th

Chances of Playoffs – 100%

Per EPA per pass, Dak Prescott had his worst game in a win this season. You wouldn’t have thought the Cowboys scored 33 unanswered points in its 54-19 win against the Colts then. Dallas are in a great position now and aren’t far behind the three top teams above them. Currently they are scheduled to play some playoff games on the road and getting their revenge on the Eagles should be the main goal ahead. Who knows, maybe a certain Odell Beckham Jr can help them.

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

  1. Cincinnati Bengals (8-4)

Last Week – 7th

Chances of Playoffs – 89%

I mentioned a few weeks ago that this Bengals team has the potential to compete deep into the postseason, but a slow start and tough end of schedule might stop them.

There’s nothing they can do about that slow start now, but they are not letting a tough set of games stop them from getting to where they want to get. A gritty win against the Titans last week got followed up with another classic win against the Chiefs. They still have divisional leaders Bills, Ravens and Buccaneers to go, but they have firmly established themselves as a contender now.

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

  1. San Francisco 49ers (8-4)

Last Week – 5th

Chances of Playoffs – 98%

What a brutal Sunday for the Niners. Just as San Fran delivered one of their most impressive wins of the year and could be one of the biggest threats in the NFC, they lost their second starting quarterback for the season. 

It feels like a big blow to San Francisco’s title chances, but wilder things have happened before. The defence is still one of the league’s best and maybe there’s just enough on offence to get by with. Mr Irrelevant, Brock Purdy, got them through Miami, but there will be many more tougher games down the line.

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

  1. Miami Dolphins (8-4)

Last Week – 3rd

Chances of Playoffs – 91%

Miami’s offence looked unstoppable but when Mike McDaniel came up against his master, Kyle Shanahan, just like in the movies, the master always wins. The Niners defence created a blueprint on how to stop this Dolphins’ offence by dialing up pressure and press coverage to take away the quick plays. Now, not all teams will be able to replicate this easily, but it’s still out there on tape and Miami can’t let other teams take advantage of that.

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

  1. Minnesota Vikings (10-2)

Last Week – 9th

Chances of Playoffs – 100%

Nine of the Vikings’ 10 wins this season have been by one-score and the Vikings are proving they come up big at clutch time. Your keep finding me saying it’s unsustainable, but you would think I would have been proved right by now. To be fair to the Vikings, I haven’t, as they look likely to host a playoff game as the No 2 seed. That’s great for the meantime, but their performances don’t scream a deep postseason run and it unfortunately ranks them at the bottom of my top-eight contenders.

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

  1. Baltimore Ravens (8-4)

Last Week – 8th

Chances of Playoffs – 84%

The most important news for Baltimore right now is the health of their quarterback. Lamar Jackson left Sunday’s game in the first half and is considered week-to-week for the foreseeable future. He’s the main reason why this team was considered a title challenger and without him they aren’t. The Ravens defence, meanwhile, has been the second-best in the league over the past four weeks by DVOA. That will take pressure off them in Jackson’s absence. 

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

  1. Seattle Seahawks (7-5)

Last Week – 11th

Chances of Playoffs – 90%

A 90% playoff chance seems very high for a team that’s not leading a division and loses a tiebreaker to the Commanders and Giants but it’s what the statistics say. They are two games ahead of the pack behind them and with teams still playing each other, the fate of their post-season will be in their own hands. But their play has declined over the past month and a tough last three games will make it a hard fought battle.

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

  1. Tennessee Titans (7-5)

Last Week – 10th

Chances of Playoffs – 97%

The Titans have one of the league’s most established identities and while it’s great to be amazing at a particular thing, Sunday’s loss to the Eagles showed the downsides of what happens when it doesn’t work. When Derrick Henry is rolling it’s an incredible sight, but the Titans need a B or C plan. Rookie first-round pick Treylon Burks went down with a concussion, taking away plan B, but that’s all Tennessee has. Look at the top offences in the league and they will have four to six options that they can rely on to get them out the mud.

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

  1. Washington Commanders (7-5-1)

Last Week -13th

Chances of Playoffs – 44%

In the NFC playoff picture, the top five seeds are starting to look set in stone. That leaves two wild-card spots left and in my own unqualified opinion I see Washington as the favourite to get one of them spots. Their defence ranks 10th in DVOA and without the long awaiting return of Chase Young, they are getting by. Is Taylor Heinicke going to carry them to playoff wins against the top teams? Probably not, but they have the makings of a solid team.

Up next: Bye

  1. New York Jets (7-5)

Last Week – 12th

Chances of Playoffs – 55%

Mike White put together another good performance and while the loss to Minnesota stings, they sure do look better at the QB spot. Robert Saleh keeps insisting Zach Wilson will get another chance at some point this season, but with crucial games ahead I can’t see it happening. Head Coaches aren’t exactly known for always telling the truth and if White keeps up the good play, it isn’t a bad lie to tell to the media.

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

  1. Detroit Lions (5-7)

Last Week – 18th

Chances of Playoffs – 12%

If you’re wondering why a 5-7 Detroit team are flying up the rankings right, then them opening as 2.5 point favourite against the 10-2 Vikings should help explain that.

The Lions are playing their best football of the season right now and are 4-1 since the start of November. Most importantly they are starting to get healthy and it’s really starting to show. No team in the league has had more 30+ point games, as the offence is starting to do whatever they want to opponents. D’Andre Swift is back healthy and Amon Ra St Brown is a star. All the while they are about to put first-round pick Jameson Williams into the action.

Playoff hopes might be a longshot at 12%, but life is looking up from the discussions of a first overall pick just a month ago.

Up next: vs. Minnesota, Sunday 1 p.m. GMT

  1. New England Patriots (6-6)

Last Week – 14th

Chances of Playoffs – 29%

The Patriots offence is frustrating and Mac Jones is not looking like the problem. In an outburst on the sideline, Jones pleaded for his coaches to call more downfield passing concepts. Unfortunately, Matt Patricia has avoided calling plays that way all year and Bill Belichick doesn’t seem fond of a change of idea. 

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

  1. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (6-6)

Last Week – 16th

Chances of Playoffs – 85%

Tom Brady made his name in college for being the ‘Comeback Kid’, so it’s always fun to see him still do it at the age of 45. 

There’s a few teams that probably deserve a play-off appearance over the Bucs, but that’s how the cards fall. Now with the NFC South in the palm of their hands, Tampa can use the rest of the regular season to prepare for what figures to be a wild-card round matchup with the NFC East runner-up.

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

  1. New York Giants (7-4-1)

Last Week -19th

Chances of Playoffs – 40%

Having a team with seven wins that has a decent chance to make the playoffs might be low for down here, but it’s their performance on the field that’s put them at 17. They’ve won one game in their last five, which was against the league’s worst Texans and have the league’s best Eagles next. 

None of their seven wins this season have been by more than eight points, and they’ve only had a lead going into the fourth quarter in three of their 12 games. It’s a gritty way to play each week, but the Giants simply have no elite talent to win any other way.

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

  1. Los Angeles Chargers (6-6)

Last Week – 15th

Chances of Playoffs – 34%

The Chargers offence is in shambles right now as they gave up 13 quarterback hits to a terrible Raiders’ defensive line outside of Maxx Crosby. That’s tied for the fifth most hits given up in a game this season, with last week’s game against the Cardinals.

This team is already banged up all everywhere and Justin Herbert is the last one left standing for now. If the Chargers lose to Miami this week, their chances to make the playoffs will drop below 15 percent. If that’s the case it will be hard to imagine a situation where the coaching staff is held intact if they miss the postseason again.

Up next: vs. Miami, Sunday 1:20 a.m. GMT

  1. Cleveland Browns (5-7)

Last Week – 20th

Chances of Playoffs – 7%

Deshaun Watson finally made his big return in almost two years and it was disappointing to say the least. The play on the field was sub-par, as they secured the win thanks to the help of the defence and special teams. 

But off the field as well, everyone seems to be handling this poorly. Watson declined to answer non-football questions, as the entire organisation seems to be trying to use their ‘Men in Black gadget’ to have everyone forget what Watson did. 

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

  1. Green Bay Packers (5-8)

Last Week – 21st

Chances of Playoffs – 11%

At the start of the season Aaron Rodgers relationship with his receivers room was awkward. It was clear he didn’t trust any of the new guys while the older players in the room weren’t good enough anymore. 

As the season has gone on though, second-round pick Christian Watson has set himself apart from the rest. The rookie speedster has eight touchdowns over the last four games, with at least one in each game. In a down year by the Packers standards, Watson alone has been a much needed source of optimism for everyone involved.

Up next: Bye

  1. Las Vegas Raiders (5-7)

Last Week – 23rd

Chances of Playoffs – 8%

Sunday marked the best single game performance for the Raiders in the Josh McDaniels’ era. The defence limited Justin Herbert better than most Chargers opponents have all season, while the Derek Carr-Davante Adams combination continues to live up to the hype. A win on Thursday Night Football would take them to four-in-a-row and give them a glimmer of hope for the playoffs. It’s not been the ideal start for this new regime, but they’re finishing strong.

Up next: at Los Angeles Rams, Thursday 1:15 a.m. GMT

  1. Pittsburgh Steelers (5-7)

Last Week -25th

Chances of Playoffs – 4%

Similar to other teams around them like the Lions and Raiders, Pittsburgh is making a late push after a slow start to the season. With three wins out of their last four, the Steelers are getting together with the return of TJ Watt and the improvement of play from their rookies. 

Kenny Pickett and George Pickens will get the majority of the headlines but, full-back / tight-end, Connor Hayward caught his first career touchdown this Sunday. The new era is looking good in Pittsburgh, as Mike Tomlin continues to try and keep his .500 or above streak alive.

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

  1. Jacksonville Jaguars (4-8)

Last Week -17th

Chances of Playoffs – 4%

Jacksonville’s long-shot playoff hopes evaporated in their blowout loss to Detroit, as the team was outplayed and outcoached on all levels. It never looked like they had an answer for anything that was thrown at them, with the defence in particular being poor. The Jaguars didn’t force a punt all day with the pass-rush defence being nonexistent.

Jacksonville ranks 31st in sack rate, despite having first-round picks on the line in Travon Walker and K’Lavon Chaisson. After a hot start to the season defensively, the Jaguars now rank 29th in defensive DVOA.

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

  1. Atlanta Falcons (5-8)

Last Week -22nd

Chances of Playoffs – 7%

The Falcons have reached the point of the season where optimism has gone and fans want the young players to get a chance. Head Coach Arthur Smith hinted at the possibility of it as well, as everybody’s eyes turns to the quarterback position. Marcus Mariota has been on a rapid decline since the start of the season, with rookie quarterback Desmond Ridder waiting in the wings.

Last year’s QB Draft class didn’t blow people away, but Ridder was an interesting prospect that scouts started to love in the mid-rounds. He has the athleticism to leave the pocket, while running a successful RPO offence at his time in Cincinnati that got them to the playoffs. It feels like only a matter of time before he gets his shot.

Up next: Bye

  1. Arizona Cardinals (4-9)

Last Week – 24th

Chances of Playoffs – 2%

Rewind to the start of last season and the Cardinals were 7-0 looking like they started something new with Kliff Kingsbury and Kyler Murray. Now the process is at an all-time low and it looks like there will be new people running things next year.

Up next: vs. New England, Tuesday 1:15 a.m. GMT

  1. Carolina Panthers (4-8)

Last Week -27th

Chances of Playoffs – 5%

The Panthers have looked good under Steve Wilks and it will be interesting to see which way they look when it comes to choosing a new head coach. Wilks will obviously be an option but there’s some young exciting OC’s and DC’s that could take their fancy. 

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

  1. New Orleans Saints (4-8)

Last Week – 28th

Chances of Playoffs – 7%

In one of the most painful losses of the NFL season, the Saints went from pulling within half a game of the division lead, to bottom of the NFC South and their season being over. 

New Orleans had a 98.1% chance of winning with 3:19 left in the game according to ESPN’s win probability model, yet they let it slip from poor game management. Playoffs now look like a complete longshot for this side and to make matters worse their first-round pick is heading to Philadelphia.

Up next: Bye

  1. Indianapolis Colts (4-8-1)

Last Week – 26th

Chances of Playoffs – 0%

The Colts were outscored 33-0 in the fourth quarter of a blowout loss to the Cowboys. It now makes interim head coach Jeff Saturday 1-3 in his tenure, as it does hurt to say that we all sort of saw this coming, with his only experience of coaching being at a high school level. The Colts will now most likely enter a rebuild for next season, with owner Jim Irsay, potentially looking for a new head coach and general manager.

Up next: Bye

  1. Chicago Bears (3-10)

Last Week – 29th

Chances of Playoffs – 0%

Justin Fields took some steps forward as a passer in the loss to the Packers, throwing for 80% completion and 254 yards. But in the crucial late game situations he continued to fail, throwing two interceptions. Chicago’s losing streak now extends to six games, as I do wonder why this team was sellers at the trade deadline? The defence does not look good anymore with the loss of Roquan Smith and Robert Quinn, but hey ho, they’re in a rebuild so we’ll let it play its course.

Up next: Bye

  1. Los Angeles Rams (3-9)

Last Week – 30th

Chances of Playoffs – 0%

Despite possessing the fourth  worst record in the league, the Super Bowl Champs from last year actually haven’t been the most disappointing team to watch. Spoilers, that label goes to our next team. Injuries have been a big issue for this team, but there’s still enough talent on that roster for them to not be in this position. Being in LA though, the stars will be lining up and it seems Baker Mayfield will be the next hopeful walking through the doors of the Rams facilities.

Up next: vs. Las Vegas, Thursday 1:15 a.m. GMT

  1. Denver Broncos (3-9)

Last Week – 32nd

Chances of Playoffs – 0%

To be truthful I’ve gotten bored talking about how big of a disaster this Broncos team has been this season. Despite entering the year with one of the deepest receiving cores, a former Super Bowl winning QB and hiring a head coach that was the coordinator to last year’s MVP. This Broncos offence has only scored more than 17 points twice in their 12 games. I just feel sorry for all the defensive players at this point.

Up next: vs. Kansas City, Sunday 9:05 p.m. GMT

  1. Houston Texans (1-10-1)

Last Week – 31st

Chances of Playoffs – 0%

Yes Houston’s chances of the playoffs are at 0%, but under those statistics are a 86% chance of the No. 1 pick in next year’s draft. That’s all this team can be hopeful for now, as they already seem on the clock to decide whether to go quarterback or defence with the pick. 

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

Bengals show Superbowl credentials

By David McDonnell 

Along with the Buffalo Bills, in my opinion the Chiefs and the Bengals make up the three best teams in  the NFL.

So the best place to start this week is when Kansas City visited Cincinnati for an exciting and very informative AFC matchup. 

What puts these three AFC sides on top of my board ahead of the Eagles or the 49ers is at quarterback, and I would put Joe Burrow in the MVP conversation just behind Patrick Mahomes and Josh Allen in that order as we approach the business end of the season. 

Last night Burrow led his team to a third consecutive win over Mahomes. After a poor start to the season, the Bengals are now 8-4 and only one game behind both the Bills and the Chiefs for top seeding and home advantage in the play-offs. 

The game finished 24-27 to the home side, coincidentally the same scoreline that the Bengals  beat Chiefs in the AFC Championship early this year.

This is a much better Cincinnati side from what we saw earlier in the season and I believe they are are a stronger team from when they reached the Superbowl last season. Their main upgrade during the off-season was to their offensive line and although this unit struggled early on, they are now fulfilling their potential. 

The knock on effect is that Burrow is getting a cleaner pocket and more time to pick his passes. It has also helped develop a run game in recent weeks, which could be significant. A few weeks ago Joe Mixon got five touchdowns in one game and recently Samaje Perine has been a major contributor on offence. 

Yesterday, Perine was Burrow’s safety blanket and got 27 touches to accumulate 106 yards on the ground and another 50 in receiving yards. Perine wouldn’t be in the upper echelons of running backs either in size or speed but has good hands and is a tough runner. He has been largely successful in my opinion because his offensive line is playing well and this run game is helping extend drives and taking huge pressure off Burrow’s shoulders.

Over the last few weeks, Tee Higgins had to step up as the number one receiver in Ja’Marr Chase’s absence through injury and showed himself to be a number one receiving talent in his own right. He had the speed and a massive catch radius and Burrow often went in his direction on important third downs. He also found Higgins who trucked a defender and reached successfully for the endzone for a second quarter touchdown.

Yesterday, Chase returned to the fold and was terrific. He did not miss a beat with seven catches for 97 yards. Since he was drafted no wideout in the NFL has more plays over 50 yards and more touchdowns over 20 yards. If he is not there already, he is on his way to being the best receiver in the NFL.

It is  no surprise that the Bengals are statistically the best third-down team in the league with the passing options Burrow has.

Another reason why the Bengals are up there in the Super Bowl mix is that they have an excellent defence and the highest ranked team in the NFL at not missing tackles. This is an indicator of good coaching and I believe being able to lean on the experience of getting to a Superbowl is a huge advantage for the squad, compared to a team like the Bills, who have yet to cross that Rubicon.

The Chiefs are still my favourite for the Super Bowl. Having home advantage in the playoffs could make the difference so the next few weeks continue to be important. 

Where I think the Chiefs can improve is their run game to give Mahomes what Burrow has in Cincinnati and I believe Andy Reid is trying to do this.  Yesterday Isiah Pacheco had 66 yards on 14 carries and McKinnon had another 51 on eight. 

However, just like Allen in Buffalo, when the game is in the balance Mahomes trusts himself over everyone to make a play and he did just that at the end of the third quarter when he ‘Michael Jordan’d’ himself into the endzone for a touchdown. 

However, a fourth quarter Kelce fumble was punished when Burrow found sophomore running back Chris Evans for a touchdown. It gave the Bengals a fourth quarter lead and although Mahomes did get one chance to respond, he didn’t get a second. 

The Bengals have their fate still in their own hands to finish on top of the AFC North, as they still have to meet the Ravens again and there is the possibility of getting a bye in the playoffs when they meet Buffalo in a few weeks. 

With Lamar Jackson possibly out with an ankle injury, it could make a home play-off game in Cincinnati all the more probable. 

Yesterday, Jackson limped off in the first quarter but they managed to earn a 10-9 win against the Broncos when Caleb Huntley led a 16 play 91-yard drive and ran it in for the only TD of the contest with only 30 seconds remaining.

Dolphins v 49ers

The 49ers have been getting very healthy in recent weeks, which has helped resurrect their season. However, they were hit by a body blow after quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo was ruled out of the season after breaking his foot on the opening drive against the Dolphins. It is a wicked blow for Jimmy G as he was playing the best football of his career in recent weeks. 

Top of the QB depth chart now is Brock Purdy, who was the last player picked in the NFL Draft last April, to be given the title of Mr. Irrelevant.

Purdy has certainly now become relevant to San Francisco’s title hopes and I was impressed with how comfortable he looked on his NFL debut. He was measured in the pocket throwing 25 of 37 for 210 yards and two touchdowns. He also leaned on Cristian McCaffery, who had 146 all-purpose yards.

The 49ers defence was also in top form and in the final quarter dominated proceedings with sacks, turnovers, forced fumbles and a touchdown which added a lot of gloss to the scoreboard.

The win leaves both the 49ers and the Dolphins in the play-off hunt on records of 8-4, with San Fran reeling off five wins in a row. 

The big question is whether Jimmy G’s injury will scupper San Fran’s title aspirations and it could very well be the case. But going on what I saw last night, I would be hopeful that Purdy will do better than expected. 

Dolphins QB Tua Tagovailoa had a poor game and was unusually inaccurate, completing just 54.6% of his throws. Coincidentally, he also had to leave the field before the end with an ankle injury, despite flashing with two big plays touchdowns to Tyreek Hill and Trent Sherfield,

Washington v Giants 

Terry McLaurin continues to be the Commanders’ most important weapon and he finished the game with 105 yards and an early touchdown. The Giants have needed the rushing capabilities of Sequon Barkley all season and he doubled up with Daniel Jones for 134 yards and a touchdown. 

Trailing by seven, with less than four minutes remaining Heinicke led a 90-yard drive. First he linked up with Curtis Samuel for 25 yards and then he found rookie Jahan Dotson, who turned a catch into an impressive 28-yard touchdown with a wonderful spin to bring the game to overtime. 

The Giants had a chance to break the tie with a walk-off field goal but Graham Gano’s 58-yard effort came up short.

The results leaves the Commanders a win behind the Giants on a record of 7-5-1 after 13 games. They also lost their play-off berth to the Seahawks who have a record of 7-5 after 12 games, thus giving them a better win percentage. With Washington heading to their bye week, the teams will have the same amount of games played. 

In two weeks, it’s the Commanders versus the Giants once again and this should give the victor an advantage in head-to-head should they finish the season with the same record. 

Unless of course, it ends up in another draw.

Round Up 

The Seahawks are now the seventh seed in the NFC after a late win against the Rams in an ill-tempered affair between divisional rivals. 

Most of the beef throughout came from the matchup between DK Metcalf and Jalen Ramsey. Both players were playing well and at one stage DK waved at Ramsey to come follow him to the other side of the field where he made a catch.

It didn’t go down well on the Rams sideline and Bobby Wagner, playing against his old side, made sure to let his teammates know the importance of the game to him on the sideline. 

The Seahawks responded and Pete Carroll became part of the mosh pit as the Seahawks showed they were up for the fight.  However, former Seahawk Wagner then made a play to turnover the ball.

Cam Akers gave the LA franchise a three-point lead with three minutes to go, but Geno Smith fizzed a late pass to Metcalf who caught ahead of Ramsey for the game-deciding score and the bragging rights.

Another team in the play-off hunt are the LA Chargers but they took a loss in an entertaining matchup against the Raiders. Justin Herbert had another strong showing despite being under pressure throughout as the Raiders defence dominated the Chargers O-line for most of the contest 

Derek Carr found Devontae Adams for two sensational touchdowns including this one-handed grab. 

Adams had 177 yards on eight receptions and got a second TD from a flea-flicker. This is starting to become a signature move between Derek Carr and Adams.

It leaves the Chargers one game behind the Jets, who could not improve their 7-5 record after a loss to the Vikings. The Vikings gave up over 500 yards of offence to the Jets but managed to win the turnover battle to earn a late win. 

Deshaun Watson had a poor first day back at the office with no offensive touchdowns but the Browns still beat the Texans comfortably with a pick-six interception and a forced fumble, both returned for touchdowns and Donovan Peoples-Jones also added this effort from a punt return. 

The Packers came from behind and scored 18 unanswered points in the fourth quarter at Soldier Field to continue their dominance over the Bears 

Justin Fields was back with a bang when he scored a terrific touchdown in his first game back from injury. 

However, the man of the moment in Green Bay, rookie Christian Watson continued on his scorching form of late adding two more touchdowns to make it eight in his last four games. That Watson has eight touchdowns on just 15 receptions over the last four games is just mesmerizing.  

First Rodgers found him with this pass.

And then he added his first rushing touchdown of his NFL career inside the last two minutes for the game-winning score.

The Dallas Cowboys ended up hammering the Colts 19-54 in the late game on Sunday night.

This was a close game in the first half as Dallas led by only a score at halftime. However, in the second half the Dallas defence took over and the Cowboys helped themselves to 33 fourth-quarter points as they showed no mercy to the Colts. 

In the NFC East, Philly made light work of the Titans to go 11-1 on the season. Their best score of the contest was when Jalen Hurts found AJ Brown for a touchdown against his former team.

Lastly, the Steelers beat the Falcons 19-16 in Georgia. 

It was a big day for the Hayward family as both Connor and Cameron Hayward visited their father’s grave pre-game in Atlanta. Their father played for the Falcons for three seasons and it was fitting that Connor Heyward scored the first touchdown of his career as a Steeler against his father’s old team. 

I will post our Monday Night Football preview as the Bucs visit the Saints in the NFC South soon. 

Week 13 Power Rankings

By Conor Perrett 

With December soon upon us, things will change down the final stretch of the regular season, but there appear to be about eight real Super Bowl contenders.

The NFL is all starting to heat up with six games remaining to determine the race for playoffs, the draft order and most importantly fantasy leagues around the world. 

Let’s get into the rankings for those eight and the rest of the 32. 

  1. Kansas City Chiefs (9-2)

Last Week – 1st

Another week, and another dominant offensive performance from the Chiefs. Kansas look like they’ve reached full gear and at a good time as well. With only two teams with a winning record remaining on their schedule, they can afford to put one eye forward to the playoffs in January, to get in the best position possible for the AFC No. 1 seed.

The job isn’t finished yet and they’ll have a big test this week against the Bengals, but the bottom line is, no other team is able to consistently move the ball on offence as well as the Chiefs right now.

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

  1. Philadelphia Eagles (10-1)

Last Week – 2nd

After two Eagles-light weeks, the Philly O-line were back to performing at a top level on SNF and dropped 40 points and 363 rushing yards on the Packers. Jalen Hurts and Miles Sanders both set career highs for rushing yards in the game, while the rushing total is good for eighth-most for any team in the Super Bowl era.

The Eagles have a two-game lead over the Cowboys atop of the NFC East, but Dallas is likely to hold a tiebreaker, if it wins the rematch. Philly cant afford to slip up if they want that No. 1 seed in the NFC, so i am looking forward to the Christmas Eve matchup between the two. 

Up next: vs. Tennessee, Sunday 1 p.m. GMT

  1. Miami Dolphins (8-3)

Last Week – 3rd

Miami has a perfect 8-0 record in games started and finished by Tua Tagovailoa, but they haven’t beaten a team with a winning record since Week 3. They have one of the three best offences in the league by most measures, but they now may need to prepare for life without left tackle Terron Armstead for the rest of the regular season.

They look the business right now and we’ll find out how real they are in the next few weeks when they travel to San Francisco, LA for the Chargers and to Buffalo. The offence may be able to keep up with all of them, but there’s still work to be done on the other side of the ball.

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

  1. Buffalo Bills (7-3)

Last Week – 4th

The NFL sometimes works like a revolving door, with former All-Pro corner-back Tre’Davious White returning from injury this week, but Buffalo’s biggest defensive star Von Miller went down with an injury. Bills have a deep pass rush that won’t fold with the loss of one player, but boy is he a good one.  

Miller’s loss comes at a bad time as well, with three straight AFC East games on the horizon for Buffalo. With a division that looks the closest in football and a 0-2 record, a poor return so far in the AFC East, every game is important if they want to win the division and not try their luck on the road through the playoffs.

Up next: at New England, Friday 1:15 a.m. GMT

  1. San Francisco 49ers (7-4)

Last Week – 5th

My favourite stat of the week may be the fact the Niners’ defence haven’t allowed a point in the second half since Week 8! 

That’s a whole month of football and Defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans should start preparing for vacant head coaching jobs sooner rather than later.

The offence did take a hit this week with an MCL injury to Elijah Mitchell, sidelining him for at least four weeks. But looking at their No. 2 running back Christian McCaffrey, you would think there be fine. 

There’s a lot of great matches this week but 49ers vs Dolphins might be the one that tops it for me. The Kyle Shanahan vs Mike McDaniel, teacher-student matchup will teach us a lot and lucky for us in Ireland and the UK, its not at stupid o’clock.

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

  1. Dallas Cowboys (8-3)

Last Week – 7th

Since Dak Prescott’s return in Week 7, Dallas ranks third in EPA per offensive drive, behind only the Chiefs and Dolphins. Dallas are looking great right now and it’s not just the offence that’s playing great. In that same stretch, Micah Parsons has continued his campaign for DPOY, leading a Cowboys defence that ranks first in quarterback pressure rate and passing yards allowed per game. 

They may have to settle for a wildcard spot if Philly becomes uncatchable, but home or away this team will be a tough matchup for anyone.

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

  1. Cincinnati Bengals (7-4)

Last Week – 8th

The top of the NFL is looking more competitive as ever and that’s easy to see when the Bengals are ranked 7th. Their performance on Sunday in Tennessee, was a statement win we needed to see out of them and Joe Burrow said it himself: “This was the type of game that great teams win.”

The Bengals’ defence held Derrick Henry to 38 rushing yards on 17 carries, his second-fewest yards per attempt over the past three seasons. After a bad month on that side of the ball, they came back with a statement to stop the Titans. 

They look like Super Bowl contenders, if they can just make it through their late season gantlet of games against a host of fellow contenders. 

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

  1. Baltimore Ravens (7-4)

Last Week – 6th

After a good few weeks for this Baltimore side, they fell back to their usual fourth quarter self this Sunday, with a late defeat to the Jaguars. 

Using ESPN’S win probability model, the Ravens had at least a 70% to win in all four of their losses during the fourth quarter. As talented as Lamar Jackson is, none of it will matter if the Ravens can’t play good football and close out games in the playoffs.

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

  1. Minnesota Vikings (9-2)

Last Week – 11th

The Vikings had highs and lows on both sides of the ball during their win on Thanksgiving, leaving many questions to be answered about them still. We’ll start at the highs: The Vikings scored 33 points on Thursday against the No. 1 defence in football. New England has been dominant, especially in the pass game, as they got Zach Wilson benched. But Vikings won in that area, as Belichick had no answers to the weapons of Jefferson, Thielen and Hockenson. 

But what comes up must come down, as the Patriots have been horrible on offence yet Mac Jones looked like Tom Brady against the Vikes on Thanksgiving. Even at 9-2 the Vikings are still an unknown quantity and are opening as just three-point favourites at home against Mike White and the Jets.

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

  1. Tennessee Titans (7-4)

Last Week – 9th

The Titans are a real physically tough team but they tend to go as their defence goes because the offence just isn’t the type to get into shootouts. As seen in their 1-4 record in games where they’ve allowed 20 or more points. 

Treylon Burks has been a pleasant surprise of late with 181 receiving yards over the last two weeks, good for best in the league among rookies. But they need more weapons to be more explosive.

Overall Tennessee are a good football team that looks likely to host a playoff game. Such game will not be easy for most teams, but if they are to make a deep run into the postseason the offence will need more about it. Sadly, it’s kind of the reason why they have failed to consistently do that in past seasons as well.

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

  1. Seattle Seahawks (6-5)

Last Week – 10th

The Seahawks had reality hit them this week after a pretty disappointing team performance. In a 40-34 overtime loss to the Raiders, they were out-gained by 204 yards, as the defence showed their early-season selves.

Despite playing a Raiders defence that ranks 32nd in DVOA, Kenneth Walker was held to just 26 rushing yards on 14 carries. With two winning games up next in the Rams and Panthers, Seattle will need to be on their A-game if they hope to keep up with the rest of the teams fighting for a wild-card spot.

Up next: at Los Angeles Rams, Sunday 9:05 p.m. GMT

  1. New York Jets (7-4)

Last Week – 14th

Zach Wilson was benched this week and taking his place, Mike White showed what the Jets can really do. White completed 22 of 28 passes for 315 yards and three touchdowns in the Jets 31-10 win. By EPA per drive, it was the best offensive performance in the league during Week 12 and the Jets best offensive performance since 2020. 

How long Wilson’s benching goes on will be telling to his future in New York, but it seems for now he will continue to stay there.

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

  1. Washington Commanders (7-5)

Last Week – 15th

Washington has been quietly climbing the rankings over the last couple of months with a sneaky 6-1 record across their last seven games. The results have put them in Playoff contention along with the rest of the NFC East. With two games against division rivals Giants over the next three weeks, it will determine the fate of both teams’ seasons, but the Commanders should open as favourites.

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

  1. New England Patriots (6-5)

Last Week – 13th

Much to what we wrote about the Vikings you could reserve that and it would apply to New England. It was great to see Mac Jones set up, but the defence looked nowhere near its usual self. Despite a record over .500 in a tough conference and division nothing is certain for the Patriots. They do have an elite defence going for them, but until Jones shows some consistency they may continue to look from outside into the playoff picture.

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

  1. Los Angeles Chargers (6-5)

Last Week – 16th

After back-to-back weeks with a failed attempt at a late game-winning drive, Justin Herbert finally came through in Sunday’s 25-24 win. Scoring a 1-yard touchdown with 15 seconds remaining put them in an opportunity to tie but Brandon Staley had other ideas. Known for his aggressiveness, Staley went for a 2-point conversion and it paid off. 

With five teams fighting for three spots in the AFC wild-card spots, it will come down to the end, but one thing for sure, Staley and the Chargers can’t afford to be one of the two teams that miss out or he may be looking for another job. 

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

  1. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (5-6)

Last Week – 12th

Tampa has not had the season we expected and Sunday’s late game collapse against Cleveland has been an all too familiar sight. The good thing though is this team still leads its division and just has to take care of its divisional games if they want to host a playoff game. 

Up next: vs. New Orleans, Monday 1:15 a.m. GMT

  1. Jacksonville Jaguars (4-7)

Last Week – 19th

Trevor Lawrence finally looked like the Trevor Lawrence we knew with a game winning drive performance. 

Trailing by seven points with just over two minutes remaining, Lawrence completed 7 of 7 passes (spikes not included) for 91 yards, a touchdown and the winning two point conversion. The stats looked good and the throws were even better with three perfect dimes during the drive.

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

  1. Detroit Lions (4-7)

Last Week – 17th

Detroit went head-to-head with Buffalo for Thanksgiving but unfortunately came up short. This team is steadily improving, but are still finding ways to lose. Playoffs seem like a slim chance but with an ideal schedule down the stretch nothing is impossible in this league.

One thing for sure though, is the long-term future for the quarterback position may need to be figured out and they have the perfect opportunity to do it this off-season, with two potential top-10 picks in the draft. 

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

  1. New York Giants (7-4)

Last Week – 18th

We mentioned earlier about how competitive the NFC East has been this year, but there’s potential for it to be the best division since 2002. All four teams are in the playoffs and have at least 7 wins. They currently have a non-division record of 26-7 and if they can keep it up, the NFC East will be the best division since 2002.

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

  1. Cleveland Browns (4-7)

Last Week – 23rd

What a way for quarterback Jacoby Brissett to go out with the Browns this season. Brissett threw a touchdown to Njoku to force overtime and has led Cleveland to a top-five offence by EPA per drive. It’s been a pleasant surprise to how well he has played and if his defence could hold their own he would be in the comeback conversation with Geno Smith.

Now though, Cleveland begins a new era with Deshaun Watson, who is set to make his first start in 700 days. Coincidentally it happens to be against Houston as well. The NFL just loves scripting these storylines don’t they?

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

  1. Green Bay Packers (4-8)

Last Week – 20th

In what might become a familiar sight in the next few years, we saw a Aaron Rodgers-less Packers against the Eagles late on. Rodgers left with a rib injury but it might be a blessing in disguise to get game experience for Jordan Love.

Think of it, this season is already done for the Packers and they need to start looking towards the future. If Rodgers does retire, then Love will be your new QB, so see what you got with him in an actual game like situation. 

But if Rodgers does stay, maybe Love impresses and you can get some sort of trade value for him. Basically Love’s stock is at rock bottom, so if he impresses you either have your  future QB or some trade value at least. Better than sitting on the bench like he has done for three seasons.

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

  1. Atlanta Falcons (5-7)

Last Week – 21st

The NFC South is the prime example for why division winners shouldn’t automatically be granted a home playoff game. At 5-7, the Falcons are just a half-game behind the Bucs for the NFC South, with the Panthers and Saints only a game behind them. All teams have been below average and there’s a realistic world where one of these teams get in with seven wins, while another NFC team will miss out with perhaps nine wins.

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

  1. Las Vegas Raiders (4-7)

Last Week – 28th

Josh Jacobs has been one of the breakout stars this season and if you didn’t know him before Sunday, you will now when he totaled 303 yards from scrimmage, while playing through a calf injury. Jacobs averaged almost seven yards per carry on 33 touches with an offensive line in front of him that’s the weakest unit on their offence.

It’s great to see Jacobs break out, but the front office in Vegas will be kicking themselves after declinding his fifth-year option in the pre-season. They made the effort to extend Derek Carr, Hunter Renfrow and Darren Waller but are letting the biggest play-maker be a free agent in this upcoming off-season. Jacobs won’t mind though with the offers he will receive at least.

Up next: at Los Angeles Chargers, Sunday 9:25 p.m. GMT

  1. Arizona Cardinals (4-8)

Last Week – 22nd

Things are starting to turn ugly in Arizona and it feels like it’s only going to end one way. We have seen all the spats on the sideline between players and coaches, but now Kyler Murray came out publicly to say they lost this Sunday due to “Schematically.” 

With Marquise Brown back to pair with DeAndre Hopkins for the first time, maybe they can bring it back down the stretch, but things will have to change. Murray and Kingsbury, both got big new contracts, but cutting the head coach won’t affect their salary cap.

Up next: Bye

  1. Pittsburgh Steelers (4-7)

Last Week – 27th

Kenny Pickett has shown real improvement over the last three weeks and played the best game of his young career as a starter in the Steelers’ 24-17 win over the Colts on MNF. 

Pickett was decisive and threw accurate balls to each of his top three receivers. He’s limiting turnovers as well, as he and George Pickens look like a great rookie pair for Pittsburgh.

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

  1. Indianapolis Colts (4-7-1)

Last Week – 24th

Jeff Saturday got this team playing well in his first couple of games in charge, but his lack of experience showed towards the end against Pittsburgh. 

Rumours have started to grow on the vines of Michigan head coach and former Colt, Jim Harbaugh making the move back to the NFL for Indy. But this offence needs revamping all over and it isn’t as simple as in college where a few transfers and recruits come easy. 

Up next: at Dallas, Monday 1:20 a.m. GMT

  1. Carolina Panthers (4-8)

Last Week – 30th

Sam Darnold got the nod this week and it paid off with a win over Denver. Steve Wilks has made the most of his interim head coaching job and it’s worth debating whether he will get the job permanently. I’m sure he’ll get a go at interviewing and Carolina will conduct a wide search but it’s been a good signing to get this team back on track.

Up next: Bye

  1. New Orleans Saints (4-7)

Last Week – 25th

The Saints have been up and down this year more than one of those whack-a-mole games. Both offence and defence can look completely different each week, but if there’s been one consistency about this team it’s Chris Olave. 

The rookie receiver has been fantastic and stepped up as veterans Micheal Thomas and Alvin Kamara have underwhelmed. At the moment Olave is the brightest light at the end of the tunnel of a dark tunnel. 

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

  1. Chicago Bears (3-9)

Last Week – 26th

The Bears were a fun team a few weeks ago, but injuries have now derailed their season towards the end. First, all the running caught up with Justin Fields as his season is on hold. Now against the Jets, Chicago lost both Darnell Mooney and Eddie Jackson for the rest of the season. A lot less of a fun team to watch with those guys missing.

Up next: vs. Green Bay, Sunday 6 p.m. GMT

  1. Los Angeles Rams (3-8)

Last Week – 31st

The Rams are currently going down as the worst defending Super Bowl champions of all time, and their season could get summed up with the clip of a player running into Sean McVay this Sunday, dropping the shoulder nicely on his jaw. With all of the injuries this team has faced, the end of the season can’t come soon enough as they try to understand what the future holds for their players and head coach.

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

  1. Houston Texans (1-9-1)

Last Week – 32nd

Houston rallied back from a 30-0 start against Miami, it just so happened to be against their backups. Now the Texans have their Super Bowl this week when they take on the Browns and Watson. Expect a feisty crowd that will be going full force at Watson, as maybe the pressure will get to him and Houston can win the first bout of their trade bragging rights. 

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

  1. Denver Broncos (3-8)

Last Week – 29th

Denver deserves being ranked at the bottom here as they might be the franchise in the most crisis right now. The Russell Wilson trade is looking like the worst trade in league history, with players on his own team getting in his face and yelling. 

In a life comparison, the Broncos dumped everything to be with a supermodel, but are now slowly finding out it’s not quite the lifestyle they wanted. Nathaniel Hackett seems likely to be one-and-done, but they’re stuck with Wilson for the long haul.

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