NFL Playoffs Cowboys @ Buccaneers

By Conor Perrett

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

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

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (8-9)

Power Rankings – 13th

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

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

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

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

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

Matchup to keep an eye on – Explosive plays on offence

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

Dallas Cowboys (12-5)

Power Rankings – 6th

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

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

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

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

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

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

Previous Matchups

2022 Season:

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

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

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

Prediction

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

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

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

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

Cowboys 20-17 Buccaneers

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. 

Saturday

Seahawks @ 49ers at 9.30pm 

Chargers @ Jaguars at 1.15am on Saturday Night Football

Sunday 

Dolphins @ Bills at 6pm 

Giants @ Vikings at 9.30 

Ravens @ Bengals at 1.15am on Sunday Night Footballl

Monday 

Cowboys @ Buccaneers 1.15 on Monday Night Football

Thursday Night Football: Cowboys @ Titans

By Conor Perrett

It only feels like yesterday that I was previewing the Chiefs vs Chargers to start the season, but we are already at our last Thursday Night Football of the season. 

And to finish off football on the TNF season, we have a weird match-up with the Cowboys travelling to play the Titans. 

Both teams are heading in different directions coming to the end of the season, with Dallas already in the playoffs with a slim shot at the NFC East title, while Tennessee on the other hand are on a four-game losing streak and being forced into starting rookie QB Malik Willis.

Tennessee Titans (7-8)

Power Rankings – 21st

DVOA Rankings: Offence – 20th, Defence – 17th, ST – 26th: Overall – 24th 

In a weird twist, this game for the Titans is completely meaningless. No matter what happens tonight, it will have no change on the Titans chances of making the playoffs because in Week 18, they face off against fellow AFC South rivals the Jaguars, with the winner taking the division title and hosting a playoff game.

Sadly, head-coach Mike Vrable understands this as well and unfortunately is resting all his starters due to this reason. That basically means Tennessee will be rocking a ‘B team’ for this game as they have their eyes firmly set on Jacksonville next week.

Dallas Cowboys (11-4)

Power Rankings – 6th

DVOA Rankings: Offence – 13th, Defence – 2nd, ST – 3rd: Overall – 4th

While the Titans will be playing their backups, this game is still crucial for the Cowboys chances of pulling off a miracle to win the NFC East. On their end of things, winning out is the only way and  it’s perfect timing with an offence that is now hitting their stride.

The two-headed rushing monster of Ezekiel Elliot and Tony Pollard have been terrorising the league this season, though Pollard may be a miss for Dallas. Dak Prescott has had some turnover issues as of late, but is still putting up big numbers that has caused this offence to rank first in points per drive since their bye week.

Prediction

The Cowboys enter this game as 11-point favourites and it’s easy to see why. Even if you take away the point of Tennessee resting their starters, Dallas have been a far superior team over the last month.

Their defence was already a top-five unit in the league, while the offence is now slowly joining them. Despite potentially missing their secret superstar Tony Pollard, the Cowboys should have no problem finding the endzone and controlling the game. 

Cowboys 30-6 Titans

Walk-Off Wins Galore 

Week 15 Monday Review Column 

By David McDonnell

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

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

Walk-off wins 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Worse was to come for Belichick.

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

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

Let’s take a look from another angle.

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

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

Cowboys v Jaguars

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jets v Lions

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

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

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

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

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

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

Round Up

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

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

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

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

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

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

A lot of it was of their own making. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here is a link to that match report: https://tinyurl.com/bdxpj8er

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

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

Cowboys topple Giants in NFC East

By Tom Green

It was a winning Thanksgiving for the Cowboys as they toppled their NFC East rival New York Giants at JerryWorld. 

Both defences were on top throughout the opening two quarters and Dak Prescott threw two first-half interceptions as the New York team applied pressure. Both offences came out looking as if they’d just finished a thanksgiving meal and were sluggish.

Dak found Ceedee Lamb to set up the Cowboys who ran in an early TD.

The Cowboys came into the break with a measly seven points on the scoreboard, maybe it was a rousing Mike McCarthy halftime speech that got them going, perhaps much praised OC Kellen Moore and DC Dan Quinn cooked up some impressive adjustments to counteract a fiery Giants first half display, or just as likely maybe the Jonas Brothers half-time show got the Cowboys out of their funk.

Whatever the reason, it was a joy to watch Dak sling the ball at ease wherever and to whomever he pleased as the Cowboys ran, caught and jumped their way through a banged up and burned out New York for all of the second half. Micah Parsons had two sacks and the Dallas defence wreaked havoc on Daniel Jones in what felt like every snap.

CeeDee Lamb was a man possessed pulling out some clutch catches, highlighted by a thing of beauty one handed grab off his helmet to set up a Dak passing TD to Dalton Schultz.

One player who caught the eye on the night was Jake Ferguson who did first did this.

And then sealed off a great performance with a touchdown.

CeeDee also got in on the scoring.

And Ezekiel Elliot had his best day of the season so far with 91 yards shockingly a season high for the former Ohio State man. Tony Pollard has risen as the premier back in Dallas in 2022 but having Zeke as another option makes the Cowboys all the more dangerous.

Saquon Barkley’s average per game yardage through the first nine games was 103.4 yards. The last two games it was 35 and it will come as no surprise that both these games resulted in comfortable defeats for the Giants.

The Giants need their face of the franchise and most gifted player to return to that form if Brian Daboll and company are going to usher in the Giants first playoff berth since 2016.  Relying on the arm of Daniel Jones isn’t a recipe for winning football games and when a mean Dallas front keeps his legs in check, it leaves New York vulnerable.

The schedule doesn’t get any easier with two games against division rivals Washington and Philadelphia alongside match-ups against Minnesota and Indianapolis.

December is make or break for the 2022 New York Giants and without their star player playing at his best, it could very much end up being the latter.

While it would be foolish to overlook any opponent in the NFL, the next three weeks look quite rosy for Dallas on paper with games against the Colts, Texans and Jaguars. Their eyes must be firmly set on their Christmas Eve clash versus the Philadelphia Eagles, a game that could decide the NFC East and with it a bye in the playoffs. 

Our NFL Week 11 Awards

By David McDonnell

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

Offensive Player of the Week: Tony Pollard (Cowboys)

Defensive Player of the Week: Maxx Crosby (Raiders)

Rookie of the Week: Jack Sanborn (Bears)

Touchdown of the Week: Cordarrelle Patterson

Smash of the Week: Deron Payne (Commanders)

Mahomes and Herbert duel it out 

Week 11 Review column 

By David McDonnell 

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

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

Chiefs v Chargers 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Preview Predictions

Cowboys v Vikings

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lions v Giants 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bears v Falcons 

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

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

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

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


AFC 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bills Under Pressure: NFL Week 11 Preview

By David McDonnell

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

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

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

Browns v Bills

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So why are they still Superbowl favourites? 

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

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

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

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

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

Who knows which Browns will get in Ford Field? 

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

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

Jets v Patriots 

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

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

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

So let me explain! 

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

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

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

helping the D line get after the opposing QB.

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

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

Cowboys v Vikings 

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

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

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

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