Tonight’s Super Bowl sees the Chiefs, a team that has passed for the most yards in NFL history against the Eagles, the best team at running the ball in the NFL, so we are in for an intriguing matchup.
The Big Show kicks off at 11.30 pm (GMT) so let’s investigate how this game might go.
Eagles Offense v Chiefs Defence
This Eagles O-Line has bullied most comers throughout the season, and I thought before the NFC Championship game that they would finally meet their match against the excellent 49ers defence. That didn’t come to pass and Philly ran in four rushing touchdowns in what turned out to be another dominant display.
The Kansas defence possesses this season’s best Defensive Tackle in Chris Jones and have two linebackers in Nick Bolton and Willie Gay that are excellent against the run. The Chiefs defended very well against the rush in the AFC Championship game against the Bengals, and Cincinnati running backs Joe Mixon and Samaje Perine hardly made any impression on proceedings.
If they can stop the Eagles running the ball, then they are likely to win the game. However, that is easier said than done.
I also believe the Eagles have a matchup advantage with their wide receiving duo, AJ Brown and Devonta Smith, going against two rookie corners in the impressive Trent McDuffie and Joshua Williams. Coming off the best game of his young career against the Bengals, it is the latter Williams that I feel can be exposed by the route running of Smith and by the speed and athleticism of Brown.
The Eagles will test this out through use of play action to take shots down the field on whoever is matching up against Williams being the likely target. Kansas defensive back L’Jarius Sneed has been out recently but his return could be a massive shot in the arm for their defensive backs.
The Chiefs are also below league average defending against tight-ends this season and I expect to see the Eagles target Dallas Goedert on key third downs and in the red zone on Sunday night. He would be a decent tip to score the first touchdown at 12-1.
So it seems like the Eagles attack have all the advantages heading into this game. What can go wrong?
The big question mark I have about the Eagles offence centres around the health of Jalen Hurts.
Last time out Hurts looked to me that his shoulder injury was affecting him hugely and after that early throw for Smith’s one-handed grab against the 49ers, he didn’t make a throw of note for the rest of the game.
He was even running into traffic instead of checking down to open receivers in the last quarter of the NFC Championship game and although he has had two weeks to rest and rehab, I remain unconvinced he is anywhere as sharp as he was during the season.
If he can’t throw then it will have a major bearing on the game, as Kansas City will be able to pack the box and concentrate more on defending the run. I expect to see a lot of run option plays and RPOs in order to get Hurts to use his biggest weapon, his legs and he might very well run for over 100 yards in this game.
Hurts shoulder, just like Patrick Mahomes ankle, seemed to bother him later in the game, probably when the effect of the pain shots began to wear off. This might become more evident in the Super Bowl as there is a 50 minute half time show with Rihanna, so the pain meds might lose their effect sooner than a usual Sunday Night Football game. Something to keep an eye on.
Chiefs Offence v Eagles Defence
The Chiefs have the best quarterback in the NFL coming off his best season and arguably the best ever tight end coming off his best season, so they definitely have a chance, especially if QB Patrick Mahomes is over his sprained ankle injury which I suspect he will be.
Mahomes won the league MVP during the week and has the ability to win matches on his own if he is afforded time in the pocket to dictate play. He has improved his game this season by becoming better and finding all his receiving options, which makes the Chiefs very difficult to defend against.
However, outside of Kelce at tight-end, they don’t have a blue-chip receiver although Marquez Valdes Scantling stepped up in a massive way last time out and is the only wideout who regularly wins contested catches along the sideline.
Juju Smith Schuster missed most of the last match but will likely be passing option number three in the slot. If he is fit Juju could figure strongly especially as Kelce is likely to be double marked throughout the contest. Juju is tall for a slot receiver and Mahomes often throws his way when he needs to get the ball out quickly.
I think another player who could feature more than he has recently is running back Jerrick McKinnon. I expect the Chiefs to have difficulty running the ball against a very deep and talented Eagles defensive front so I can see Andy Reid getting Mahomes to pass the ball wide to McKinnon out the backfield in order to stretch the field.
The Eagles lost their first game this season in Week 10, when the Washington Commanders ran the ball against them 49 times. The following week, Howie Roseman brought in veteran pair Ndamukong Suh and Linval Joseph who have 13 years of NFL experience each. I expect the Eagles to be able to halt the Chiefs rushing attack and the Chiefs will answer by putting the ball in Mahomes hands even more than they usually would.
The Chiefs do have an excellent O-Line but with the Eagles able to change their front five to keep them fresh, they will eventually be able to tee off with their talented pass rushers led by Haason Reddick against Mahomes.
The MVP QB will need to produce the magic but he is certainly capable of this.
The big question in deciding who will win the SuperBowl is: Will the Chiefs defence be able to stop the Eagles rushing attack for 60 minutes?
My gut tells me no, and that is why I believe Philly has the significant advantage. In my opinion, the Chiefs would need two Chris Jones to stop this Eagles O-Line from dominating and unfortunately they only have one.
Although I won’t be cheering for the Eagles, mainly due to being a Washington fan and Patrick Mahomes being my favourite player to watch in the NFL, I do believe the Eagles will be Superbowl champions in the early hours of Sunday morning.
The SuperBowl is the biggest event in North America, and this year both No. 1 seeds from the AFC and NFC will take each other on.
This match-up is an interesting one, with the MVP Patrick Mahomes being an underdog for the first time in his 10th playoff game. We know both teams have high powered offences, but it may be a battle on defence that wins their team a new ring.
With kick-off scheduled for 11.30pm tonight (GMT) for folks in Ireland and the UK , prepare yourself for a late one as it should be a battle throughout.
No. 1 Philadelphia Eagles
Philadelphia has been the most impressive team throughout the regular season and deserve their place in the SuperBowl. On paper their roster is superior, with an array of talent all over the offence and defence.
With injuries to Jalen Hurts and Lane Johnson I thought this offence would struggle to maintain the consistency we saw previously, but it hasn’t been too much of a problem. If I wanted to nit-pick then the passing game has looked a bit weak, but with their two previous matchups basically being over after the first quarter, I can’t blame them for turning to the run game.
The run game has been the catalyst to the Eagles success, with the ability to run many options due to the athleticism they have at the QB position. Philly lacks an out-and-out No. 1 running back, but with different kinds of talent in their room, they can put themselves in the right position to succeed.
Matchup to keep an eye on – Philly’s D-Line: The Eagles’ defensive line was a force against the 49ers two weeks ago and Haason Reddick’s sack to force a fumble, and destroy Brock Purdy’s elbow, may have been what won them the game.
Philly has depth all over the line and with 70 sacks this season, that’s the third most in NFL history since the league started counting sacks in 1982.
Philly’s defensive line has wreaked havoc during the playoffs and the only time Mahomes has lost in the playoffs was when he faced a Buccaneers D-line that caused him issues.
No. 1 Kansas City Chiefs
The Chiefs are no strangers to playing in the Super Bowl these days, but like I mentioned earlier this is the first time Patrick Mahomes will be an underdog in a playoff game. Kansas has always had the luxury of being an offence that overpowers everybody but this matchup in particular will be a test.
Mahomes is the best player in football and Andy Reid may also own that title for play-calling, but with the talent that this Eagles defence have, it’s hard to see where this Chiefs’ offence will take advantage.
As for the defence, they put on a great showing in the Conference Championship that no one really saw coming. They contained Joe Burrow all night with a strong defensive line performance and when they needed to get a stop at the end, they did so. It will be a struggle to get past this Philly O-line that is the best in football, but stopping that run will be their best chance at it.
Matchup to keep an eye on – Travis Kelce vs Philly’s pass defence: Travis Kelce is one half of the Kelce brothers in this game and he may be Mahomes’ only weapon. Kelce is regarded as the best tight-end in the league and it’s thanks to his receiving ability from the position that makes him so good.
With 21 catches and three touchdowns in just the two playoff appearances so far, Kelce has dominated his matchups against the Jaguars and Bengals. But now he will face the best pass defence in the country. The Eagles have members all over the secondary, but with their best two corners Darius Slay and James Bradberry playing on the outside, they may have to get creative to stop this future hall of famer.
Week 4 – Chiefs @ Eagles, 42-30 Chiefs Win
These two last met during Week 4 of last season in a high scoring shootout game. Back then Nick Sirianni was in his first year with the team and this loss put them 1-3 for the season. A lot has changed in that year though, with general manager Howie Roseman transforming the team. The Eagles at the start of this season had been leaking points on defence, but now find themselves a year on in the Super Bowl with a top-2 defence in the league.
Super Bowl Prediction
We’ve finally got here and with this being the last prediction of the season it’s not a simple one.
Both teams have had a hell of a journey to get to this point but only one can win so let me give you my thoughts.
The Chiefs have always been strong offensively, and after seeing their defensive performance two weeks ago it makes it even tougher to not back the MVP winner.
I like how the Chiefs are looking on both sides of the trenches and Isiash Pacheco looks like an incredible weapon despite being a 7th-round pick less than a year ago. What I worry about for this team is how they will fare in the passing game.
Their wide-receivers in particular look a bit weaker than we are used to, yet saying that; this team was still comfortably the No. 1 offence in the league during the regular season. Travis Kelce is the main threat but Kansas will need another receiver to step up and cause some trouble if they want to break Philly’s defence.
While on the other side in Philadelphia, on paper everything looks in their favour. They have the better roster, been better consistently and even the more impressive wins during the playoffs. The only real knock you can make for this side is the path they have had to face to get here. Many with me included will look at the Giants and a quarter-backless 49ers’ as a walk in the park for them, with some in the national media calling it a ‘Big 12’ schedule.
Granted in the playoffs that seems the case, but during the regular season they had no easy ride. On strength of schedule they ranked 1st in ‘opponents win percentage’ and before their injuries late on that caused a speed bump, they were the best regular season team throughout.
So as you can imagine in a grand final, both teams are extremely talented in their craft. If we want to look at the superstitions surrounding the ‘white jersey conspiracy’ then the Chiefs will hold that in their favour.
I believe this game will be slightly dominated by the defences with it being on the lower side of scoring, so if you’re looking for a bet go for the under on total points scored.
As for my final prediction, I feel more confident in this Eagles roster but it’s hard to go against the best player and coach in this game. At the end of the day I could go back and forth on the winner, however I see more scenarios in which this Eagles’ defence will win the game.
I believe they will be disruptive in both trenches and while they may not be consistent on offence, will make enough plays to get themselves in scoring positions and let the defence work its magic.
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.
Throughout the week I have seen a good few people on this side of the pond posting about how they missed one of the biggest comebacks in playoff history last weekend when Jacksonville came from 27-0 down to pip the Chargers in the early hours of Sunday morning.
They all went to bed and with it a literal reminder of the saying ‘You Snooze, You Lose,’ especially when it comes to playoff football.
The thought had crossed my mind in that first half as it had been a game where everything that could go wrong for the Jags had gone wrong, most notably five first-half turnovers. Thankfully for those of us who resisted the call to dreamland, we were rewarded with a playoff comeback and collapse of epic proportions.
One that has already cost LAC offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi his job.
Here we are a week later and the AFC South champions travel to Arrowhead stadium tonight to play the No. 1 seed Kansas City Chiefs at 9.30 pm (GMT).
In my opinion, the main reason why the Jaguars won that game was their defence. In the first half they kept the score to 27 points despite putting the Bolts in great field position and most significantly kept them off the scoreboard throughout the second half.
There is a lot of talent on this side of the ball, along with a number of positions that are likely to be upgraded in the off-season, but most encouragingly they have shown a warrior mindset on defence for a number of weeks.
I really like the safety pairing of Andre Cisco and Rayshawn Jenkins, while Tyson Campbell is emerging as a star at corner. Their run defence is decent and allows an average of 112.1 yards per game.
But if I am being critical, and I am, the Jags are not getting enough pressure consistently on opposing quarterbacks. The team has amassed 28 sacks all season, which puts them 25th out of all 32 NFL teams. The only playoff team with less sacks, surprisingly, is the Cincinnati Bengals.
It is true their best player on defence is outside-linebacker Josh Allen, and they possess the rookie first overall draft pick in Trevon Walker, who has flashed at times but so far this season they haven’t produced to their ability on a consistent basis. Not when the pair has the potential to be the best pass-rushing duo in the NFL. That’s how I see it, although it should also be noted that they could do with more help from the interior linemen.
Their best chance of stopping the Chiefs in my opinion is applying pressure on Patrick Mahomes. If they cannot do this, then they will be in for a long day in Kansas City irrespective of what they produce on offence.
Quarterback Trevor Lawrence has stepped up his game in a major way and has good receiving options with Christian Kirk and Zay Jones both having excellent seasons. However, they are still lacking that blue-chip wideout that most of the other contenders all possess. I would argue the same could be said for the Chiefs.
With Kansas City ranked 20th in the NFL versus tight-ends, I’d expect Evan Engram to be the key target and their best option on third downs and in the red zone.
Another thing of note, right-tackle Jawaan Taylor got away with a number of fouls, much to the frustration of Joey Bosa, last weekend. Due to the focus on this throughout the media during the week, I suspect he’ll be pinged if or when he transgresses tonight.
Saying that I have been very impressed with the Jacksonville O-line this season and if they halt Chris Jones’s influence on proceedings, it could give them a great chance in keeping Patrick Mahomes off the field for stretches.
There is no doubt in my mind that Mahomes is the best player in the NFL and coming off his best season to date. If he gets the time, he will dissect every team he plays against and has the ability to beat you with his legs and land a knockout punch down the field on every play.
With a healthy and highly talented offensive line in front of him, I can’t see the Jags keeping him under 30 points and for the Jags to win, they will need to go toe-to-toe throughout the contest. I do believe the Florida side has a chance tonight as I am not convinced by the Chiefs defence this season so I can see the visitors scoring touchdowns.
However, that might not be enough against Mahomes and this high octane offence, so I’ll opt for a home win for the Chiefs.
This week we put our team to work by rating each starting quarterback from 1-32. We added up the results and below is our final tally from the scores. We also divided up the 32 starters and we gave our honest opinion on each.
We hope you enjoy!!!
1. Patrick Mahomes – No. 15 – Kansas City Chiefs – Age: 27 – Year 6
David’s take: The Kansas City Chiefs quarterback is a generational talent that keeps improving his game which is always the sign of a top professional. He has become a master of his craft and I believe he is the best player in the NFL.
This season his understanding of the game has taken a step forward to match his incredible natural ability and ingenuity. Although he doesn’t have the ridiculous speed of Tyreek Hill at his disposal, he has become better at going through his progressions, understanding what defences are throwing at him and he has become even more unpredictable under centre. Currently he is leading the NFL with 21 passing touchdowns.
I love watching him play and he is one of less than a handful of players in the league who can put any game on his back and win regardless of the opposition. He makes the Chiefs perennial Super Bowl contenders and has built up an excellent connection with slot receiver Juju Smith Schuster in recent weeks.
Mahomes and his Chiefs are the team most likely to challenge the Buffalo Bills for the AFC honours and are realistic Superbowl contenders. Fingers crossed Mahomes meets Josh Allen in the postseason, as they never fail to disappoint.
David’s take: Josh Allen has been immense this season and week-to-week is showing why is on his way to being regarded as one of the best quarterbacks ever in the NFL. He is a dual threat quarterback and what sets him apart from most of the other similarly regarded players is his arm talent throwing the ball and his size and strength when he takes off on a run.
Let’s start with the former. He has the arm strength to put the ball anywhere and fast and has the level of ability to hit a home run pass on every play. His game has improved every season since he arrived in the league and this is a mark of a top professional who has dedicated himself to the game. He is better at reading defences and knowing how to make adjustments at the line of scrimmage. When he runs with the ball, as he often does, especially on third and fourth down, he is incredibly difficult to stop as he is fast and has the power to make it through force of strength and will.
He has plenty of weapons in the passing game and has a top three defence which should be even stronger with the return of captain TreDavious White at corner-back. The Bills have an easy enough schedule facing none of the top six teams in our recent Power Rankings. The loss to the Jets last Sunday now sees them in a three-way tie in their division. The loss came from two poor decisions by Allen that resulted in turnovers. This is something he needs to clean up from his game, if the Bills are to win the Superbowl.
Conor’s take: Lamar Jackson has still been a star this year doing damage to opposing defences in the air and on the ground. Lamar has 17 touchdowns on the year for six interceptions, but it’s the work he’s been doing on the ground that’s been most impressive. Before this week Jackson was fifth in the league for rushing yards, with 553 yards currently from the quarterback position! He’s also averaging 7.4 yards per carry, which is a career high. What Lamar does on the ground is something the NFL hasn’t seen since Micheal Vick and even at that point I believe he has eclipsed Vick.
With the physical traits Jackson poses it’s only fair, he relies on them more than the usual stereotypical quarterback, leading to emphasis on the running game. Compared to his MVP season, Jackson’s passing stats are down with him only throwing for over 220 yards twice this season, but his results have not differed too much. Overall there’s been a lot of talk about Lamar’s contract situation this year, but the former MVP is proving himself to still be one of the most dangerous players at his position.
Conor’s take: Joey Cool is going along nicely in his third season in the NFL. The former first overall pick had a record breaking senior year in college that earned him that right, so when he broke-out last season it was only fair to question whether he could keep this production up every year instead of just one. Well through nine weeks, it looks like the Joey nicknames will carry on after a league high 481 passing yards the other week against the Falcons.
Since Week 1, Burrow has only thrown one interception and continues to play elite football with the third most passing yards in the league and 22 touchdowns. The big question around Burrow’s game will come in the next month, with his star receiver Ja’Marr Chase missing some game time. Burrow and Chase are among one of the most deadliest duos in the league, with them going all the way back to their time in LSU. How Burrow will do without Chase lined up will be a first for him, as he turns to Tee Higgins and Tyler Boyd to be his new man.
Tom’s take: The rise of Jalen Hurts has been one of my personal favourite stories from the first half of the 2022 NFL season. There were many skeptics entering Week 1 (including the person writing this), but Hurts has dazzled with poise and leadership far beyond his 24 years. Take a small bit of time out of your day and watch a post-game video of Hurts speaking to his teammates in the Philadelphia locker room. The confidence and belief in himself and the team around him is infectious and that confidence and belief is required to be the sole remaining undefeated team in the NFL.
We always knew Hurts to be a threat moving the ball with his legs but his impressive improvement throwing the pigskin has him winning plaudits. He is averaging 8.5 yards per attempt, 68.2% completion percentage and a 63.1 QBR, all top ten in the league, back this up. But he leads in the stat that matters most in the league, wins. Eight in a row and not looking to slow down any time soon, Hurts and the Eagles will slowly begin to cast their eyes towards January and hope to bury the demons of last year’s underwhelming wildcard performance.
Tom’s take: Geno Smith ranks at number six! And it is fully warranted, it’s been an incredible season for the former West Virginia Mountaineer. Number one in completion percentage, fourth in QBR, top five in passing touchdowns and sixth in passing yards. All while leading the Seahawks to an unlikely lead in the NFC West division.
Honestly, what Geno is doing is unparalleled in the modern age of the NFL. 2014 was the last time Smith was an opening day starter for a team, eight years passed by and it seemed that Geno would be only really remembered as the guy who got sucker punched by his own teammate and the guy who ended Eli Manning’s starting streak (screw you Ben McAdoo).
But here we are, Geno Smith is playing like a man who waited eight years for this opportunity. Putting together an eight-game stretch like this is no fluke. Geno has been on fire the entire season and made the Seahawks decision to back Pete Carroll and not Russell Wilson this off-season look like a stroke of brilliance.
This season will be remembered for many things, the comeback of Geno Smith is absolutely one of them and maybe a Comeback Player of the Year award awaits him. With the NFC as void of talent as it is, maybe the Seahawks could be a sneakily smart team to put some money on to make the Super Bowl. Write Geno off if you want, just don’t expect him to write back.
David’s take: It is hard to know what is really going on at the San Diego Chargers. On paper they have incredible players all over the roster and it is true that they have been one of the unluckiest teams with injuries this season. But it still doesn’t fully explain what has happened to one of the best and most promising quarterbacks in the league.
One thing when you study the metrics from Joe Lombardi’s offence, Herbert is taking less deep shots than every quarterback, which sounds curious when you consider that he has one of the best arms in the National Football League.
Another part of his game that is being under-utilised in my opinion is his run-threat ability. He is a big man who can really move and anyone who saw him at the Oregon Ducks can attest to that. I believe he can become a type of Josh Allen dual-threat quarterback with his size and speed. Losing most of his O-line to injury certainly has been a hindrance but rookie guard Zion Johnson has impressed.
Herbert looked more like himself after resting up during the bye week and he led his team to a late victory over the Falcons. With a record of 5-3, if they can continue to get healthier there is no reason why they shouldn’t make the play-offs.
Even with the long injury list, if the San Diego coaching staff don’t start to get the best out of Herbert in the second half of the season, questions will be asked. And a franchise with a penchant for changing head coaches have done so for less.
David’s take: All the Tua detractors have been very quiet lately as he has the highest QB rating in the NFL with 115.9. The three games the Dolphins were without him they lost and the six games he started and finished they won.
For a more rounded perspective, let’s go back even further. Since the start of last season, which adds up to 20 starts, he has thrown for 4,633 yards, including 31 touchdowns with 13 interceptions.
What I’ve always liked about Tua coming out of college is that he is accurate and has good timing with his throws. He doesn’t just fling it in there with power, he has that natural feel for putting the ball where it needs to go on time and he has always had that deep ball threat at Alabama. There are times when he throws the ball without having his legs set and in my opinion this has led to his tendency of under-throwing the ball.
For someone that lacks size and athleticism, he moves well in the pocket and I’m glad to see him delivering on the talent he showed at Alabama and putting a few naysayers back in their box. No doubt having an offensive mastermind in Mike McDaniel has been significant and playing with the two fastest wide receivers in the league also certainly helps.
The addition of Bradley Chubb will make a competitive defence close to elite that should make a team with play-off ambitions a possible post-season contender. One thing for certain, the Dolphins are back in the big time after a generation away from postseason relevance.
David’s take: David’s take: So what the hell is going on with Tom Brady. I don’t want to be too harsh on a guy who is playing elite level sport at the age of 45 but he has certainly been inconsistent with his throwing this season. So why is this and what are the repercussions?
A lot of this has to do with the offensive line, in particular the middle trio of centre and guards are not performing at the levels that Brady needs them too. The two guards from the Super Bowl win in 2021, Ali Marpett was lost to retirement and Alex Kappa decided to get paid while protecting Joe Burrow in Cincinnati. More importantly, the prickly All-Pro centre Ryan Jensen got injured on the eve of the season
They have been replaced by an experienced veteran in Shaq Mason but also Robert Hainsey and Luke Goedeke, who were drafted in the last two years and are still learning their trade. Both starting tackles Tristan Wirfs and Donovan Smith have also been playing banged up for much of the season so the dam has been leaking water all season.
Brady was always good at moving within the pocket and this season he has shown less dexterity in this regard and he has taken more punishment than he has ever had before. You would expect a guy to be slowing up as he gets older but he never had much pace to begin with.
Surprisingly, he is getting the ball out of his hands quicker, with the effect that he is taking less time to go through his reads. The knock on effect is that his receivers are getting less time to get into the position to make the catches. So when you are looking at the Bucs this season you will notice that their collective timing has often looked off in every game and there have been many occasions where Brady should have been intercepted.
Even more worrying is that they can’t run the ball which is leaving them a lot of third and long, which is giving teams more opportunities to rush the passer. So what can be done?
I wouldn’t rule Jensen coming back this season. There was very little clarity when he was put on injured reserve and if you read between the lines, that sometimes means that teams are being coy in releasing pertinent information. Also they have had injuries to their receiving core early in the season but you would expect those to have been ironed out by now. Luckily they still have a realistic play-off chance due mainly to being in a poor performing division. This is a team that needs to get their act together and fast. Vita Vea has started to dominate recently, so if the defense can become shutdown that would be a big step in the right direction.
Tom’s take: When writing this, I pondered the question, which quarterback had improved the most over the past five weeks? The answer: Justin Fields. And to be honest, it wasn’t really that close. The more I watch Fields, the more I like him.
Chicago seemingly were doing everything in their powers to hinder the development of their young signal caller by essentially placing all their eggs into future seasons. No disrespect to Darnell Mooney, but he could sit comfortably at number three on the depth for the majority of teams and behind him, yeesh. The offensive line was and still is a big ol’ mess. The first four weeks were as bad as expected, it seemed Fields was all at sea, holding the ball too long and not pulling the trigger when he had the time. To be fair though the offensive scheme wasn’t extenuating his pros, just highlighting his weaknesses.
The last five weeks have seen a trend in the right direction, highlighted by a dazzling display against the Dolphins, where he ran for 178 yards and passed for 3 TDs. Bears fans were clamouring to let Fields use his legs in designed run plays and it seems that is coming to fruition. The result, a much more productive and confident looking young quarterback who looks like he could be in fact the future of the franchise for a team and fan base that has been under-nourished at the position for so long.
Fields is currently trailing only Lamar Jackson in rushing yards by a QB this season and if that trend keeps going in the same direction, he will overtake him by the end of the season. That isn’t something that should be overlooked. The addition of Chase Claypool through a trade before the deadline is also something for Chicago fans to get excited about. Fields throws a very good deep ball and I’m excited to see how quickly these two young players can build a rapport.
David’s take: Where do I start with Aaron Rodgers? Look, he is still a top five quarterback in the league in my book. Because of his prominence, he gets too much of the credit when the Packers win and too much of the blame when they lose. This comes after arguably the worst
performance of his career where he threw three interceptions against the Lions. The previous week he played some of his best stuff against the Bills.
The contrast in his demeanor in both games is telling. In prime time against the Buffalo, gone was the frustrated persona with the disappointed body language. He was more encouraging with the younger players and maybe he was making up for throwing a few of them under the bus with a recent appearance on the Pat McAfee Show. But it seemed to work.
Last Sunday in Detroit, he had that ball of deflation look and he needs to lead his young team rather than be outwardly exasperated all the time. At this stage it is looking more performative than anything else and his teammates deserve better. It has been my forte to give Rodgers the benefit of the doubt as it’s hard to stop believing in a man, when you have seen him work miracles at the top for so long.
The truth is that the narrative of Green Bay’s season looks set and I think it’s time to count them out of any Superbowl conversations. With Rodgers about to turn 39 next month, Green Bay could likely be looking for a new QB in the next few months.
Away from the QB hype, where this team has been majorly disappointing is on defence. They have an excellent line-backing core and secondary but are not putting enough pressure on opposing quarterbacks to get them off the field. I hope they rally but that hope is based on what they have done in the past and not anything they have shown me this season.
Tom’s take: Dak was a little difficult to rank in this exercise, I mean three games are hardly enough to place him in comparison to some QB’s with half a season of tape on them. I feel that this is the reason he finds himself at number 11 and not closer to the top 5, but the fact he is still ranked this high with such little game time is credit to the player he is.
Cooper Rush was fun and kept Dallas afloat when the ship could have sank, but the Cowboys are so much more dynamic with Dak captaining the boat. He orchestrated brilliant drives, made precise throws and steered the Cowboys to an impressive 49 points against an all at sea (I don’t know why I’m adding so many nautical references to a paragraph about the “Cowboys” QB) Bears defence.
The next time we do these rankings, I fully expect Dak to be challenging the likes of Jackson, Burrow and Smith for best of the rest honours behind Mahomes and Allen.
Tom’s take: Kyler Murray is an enigma of sorts, both on and off the field. Let’s talk on the field though, we have a man who is arguably the most athletically gifted QB in the NFL not named Lamar Jackson. An intelligent runner of the ball, his escapability and penchant for the spectacular leave this particular writer in wonder how a man of his stature can perform such feats. He can break out a 100 yard rushing game as easily as some of the premier running backs can. He’s so adept at it. And yet, it feels so rare to see.
Murray has ran just 51 times in 8 games so far, comparing that to the 325 times he has attempted a pass in that span and it becomes almost lunacy. This isn’t to say that Kyler is a poor thrower, far from it, but with a Cardinals team flirting with falling into an abyss of no return in regards to playoff aspirations you would think Kliff Kingsbury and co would find a way to utilise their star quarterbacks unique abilities a little more often.
I genuinely believe that Murray is a bonafide superstar and MVP contender if he opened things up and let loose. But alas, the return of DeAndre Hopkins will probably scupper any hopes I have of seeing Kyler run more.
Tom’s take: Having a team with the second best record in all of the NFL would place most signal callers up a little higher than this spot, but name a Quarterback with seemingly as many bipolar traits to his game as Kirk Cousins.
Even crazier is that it isn’t even on a game-by-game basis, it’s quarter-by-quarter. Cousins goes from looking completely comfortable and at home whilst reeling off 10+ straight completions to open a game to refusing to release a pass that could go further than 10+ yards. Inconsistency has been a defining part of his career and 2022 is proving no different.
That being said, I think the Vikings and new head coach Kevin O’Connell must be feeling pretty content with the overall performance of their QB. Often an ostracized figure during the Mike Zimmer years, O’Connell has developed a much better relationship with Cousins and I think that has allowed for Kirk to feel more confident. He does have them at a 7-1 record, and based on the dire outputs from the rest of the NFC North this year, a division win appears a foregone conclusion at this point. People will doubt the threat of a postseason run from Minnesota and Cousins, and they would be right to do so. But perhaps Cousins can get hot in January and Minnesota’s wait for a Super Bowl will finally come to an end.
David’s take: Derek Carr is coming off two of the worst Raiders defeats of the season. They laid an egg on the scoreboard against the Saints in the Superdome which was followed up by losing a 17-point lead against the Jags last Sunday.
The Raiders are one of a number of teams that are under-performing with the talent they possess on their roster.
In recent weeks, Carr was starting to motor with Devante Adams and the Raiders have leaned heavily on Josh Jacobs for offensive production. The passing stats have come mainly off play-action and the Raiders have used play action on 33% of their drop-backs as Josh McDaniels is trying to insert the Patriot way of slowing making your way up the field to wear down the opposition defence. Is this the right approach when he has a cast that has the potential to blow teams away? I’m not so sure.
What is concerning to me is that Carr has not been finding his two favourite targets from last season. Hunter Renfrow has been severely under-utilised since his return from injury. Last season he had the highest third down completion percentage in the league and one of the best tight ends over the last few years, Darren Walller has become anonymous this season. There was significant interest in his services by Green Bay before the trade deadline closed last week.
To me, this seems to be a case of a coach trying to fit his players into his scheme rather than adjusting the scheme to fit his players. I am a fan of Carr and he has enough credit in the bank with me, if he is allowed, to take control of this offence and start winning games. With a current record of 2-6, their season is over. There needs to be serious questions asked of whether Josh McDaniels is the right man for this job.
David’s take: There is no hiding away from the fact that Russell Wilson has had a very poor season so far. He is on a team with an excellent defence and I was surprised they traded their best player in Bradley Chubb to the Dolphins last week. Wilson has a trio of quality receiving talent and he is developing an exciting partnership with rookie tight-end Greg Dulcich, who has become his favourite target.
No one has been as surprised at how poor the Broncos have been as the prime time schedulers and there have been some tough watches involving Denver this season. Still they are 3-5 and are coming off their best win and performance of the season by coming from behind to beat the Jags in London last time out.
Sometimes it is good to get away and clear the head and Wilson helped pull a game that was going the way of the Jaguars out of the fire in the second half. His best throw of the contest came when he found KJ Hamler along the right wing for a big chuck of yardage on the game-winning drive.
Looking at Wilson over the last few weeks, one thing I think is that he has become too bulked up and it is affecting his movement in the pocket. One of the big dangers when he was at the Seahawks was that if you didn’t account for him, with his quickness and speed he would gobble up any yardage that was offered to him.
This is something I have often seen with smaller-bodied players across many contact sports that they work themselves to become as strong as they can be in order to compete with bigger-bodied players. He needs to remember he is a QB and not a linebacker or running back.
Losing a half-step of pace significantly impacts his dual-threat ability and makes him more predictable and easier to play against. If he dropped some timber, perhaps a stone and a half or 20 pounds, his mobility would return and in my opinion he would find his best form quickly.
The question for now is will he be able to cook when an ultra-aggressive Tennessee Titans D-line turns up the heat in the kitchen next Sunday? He will need to as the Broncos struggled with Travis Eteinne in the run game against Jacksonville and are facing an in-form Derrick Henry, who rattled off 334 yards and four touchdowns in his last two matches.
I am convinced Russ is still a top 10 quarterback in the NFL but I think we will continue to see inconsistency in his game until he improves his competitive conditioning and spends more time on the track and less time in the gym.
Tom’s take: If the 2021 season was a Hollywood blockbuster for Matthew Stafford and the Los Angeles Rams, the 2022 season so far has been an underwhelming sequel which has flopped in box-office sales. To be honest, not many sequels live up to their predecessors, so we shouldn’t be shocked I guess.
Stafford himself hasn’t looked comfortable all year, throwing for multiple touchdowns in just one game so far (week 2 vs. the Falcons) and is tied second in interceptions. The Rams lack the depth in skill positions it did a year ago. Stafford and off-season darling Allen Robinson have yet to develop a good rapport and if it were not for Cooper Kupp, this would be the worst receiving corps in the league.
Maybe there’s more to the off-season elbow surgery Stafford had and we will see a return to the play of 2021 in the second half of the season. If not, a lot of soul-searching and a massive re-work of offensive personnel will be needed in tinsel town.
Clearly the Rams like the roster they currently have, or are certain of bringing Odell Beckham Jr. back into the fold once his injury has healed, because they didn’t make any moves before the trade deadline passed on Tuesday? We should find out soon.
Conor’s take: Tannehill’s stats don’t exactly blow you out of this world but what he continues to do is be careful with the football and produce when his name is called upon. When your running back is ‘The King’ Derrick Henry, it’s handy handing the ball off to him and then just getting to throw the ball when defences are fed up trying to tackle Henry.
It’s a job Tannehill is great at and it’s been the difference to some of their games that had the Titans on a five game winning streak before losing the the Chiefs last time out. Being at the helm for four of those five games, Tannehill has only turned the ball over once to his four touchdowns. It’s earned him the right to a 69.2 PFF grade as his team continues to win after a shaky start.
Tannehill might not be the electric quarterback that teams think they need in order to compete for championships, but he goes about his work slowly and gets the job done when it’s time to finish up.
Tom’s take: At the risk of falling flat on my face with this “hot take”, I’m going to say it anyway, Jimmy G is playing his best football since his first season in San Francisco in 2017. I know, I’ll try to calm down now.
But honestly, this version of Jimmy G is better than the one who was under centre of the 2019 NFC Champion 49ers team. That being said, you need to surround Garoppolo with highly skilled play-makers to bring the best out of him. San Francisco have done just that,
adding RB Christian McCaffrey through a trade and it is already paying dividends during last week’s drubbing of the Rams. Garoppolo produced one of the most efficient and impressive performances of his career (20-25, 2 TDs and a 81.1 QBR).
If the 49ers are to reach the playoffs again this season, they will need games like this more often from Jimmy. Who knows if this will be enough for Kyle Shanahan to decide to ditch the Trey Lance experiment and stick with Garoppolo, but I do think it’s enough to ensure he’ll be starting somewhere in 2023?
Conor’s take: Lawrence got off to a hot start this season, but the last few weeks have shown his turnover self from his rookie year. Through the last five games, Lawrence has turned the ball over six times to three passing touchdowns. Now there is no problem being a gunslinger, some of the best QBs have been like that and the Super Bowl last year both had gun-slinging quarterbacks either side. But when you’re attempting the risky big time throws, you have to be completing the easy throws and he’s been missing simple passes too much.
Lawrence was regarded as a generational talent when he came out of college and that talent is still inside of him, it just feels he needs to walk before he runs. Throughout college and high-school Lawrence was always on the best team and when you’re in that position you can afford to play like how he is now. But the reality in the NFL is different and when playing for Jacksonville you have to play to your resources around you. Trevor should be allowed to play to how he’s comfortable, but he’s not at Clemson anymore, when if you turn the ball over your defence would get it straight back. There’s consequences to his turnovers now.
Tom’s take: It was all going so well for Jared Goff and the Detroit Lions, 11 touchdown passes after four games and the number one offence in the league. Well three games later and Goff has added just a sole touchdown pass and the Lions have dropped out of the top 10 on offence. Two straight games without a touchdown, including being shut out by the Patriots in week 5 will do that I guess.
Goff hasn’t really been the major issue in this slump, but yet again he seems unable to elevate his team. Goff is a tick below an average starting quarterback, the Lions are looking likely to be picking at the pointy end of the NFL Draft in April 2023 and it would be a mistake for them to not consider taking a QB with that selection, in spite of all their defensive inabilities.
Goff has eight games left to either prove that statement to be untrue or win just enough games to take the Lions out of contention for a Bryce Young or CJ Stroud. Time will tell I guess.
Conor’s take: When Brissett filled in for Deshaun Watson, nobody expected his outcome to be running the offence to 8th in offensive DVOA. But that’s exactly what Brissett has done and his performance so far and probably earned himself another shot at a starter job next season. His performance this Halloween on Monday Night Football was his best, when he teed off on an elite Bengals defence. With 278 passing yards on the night and a passing and rushing touchdown to show, Brisseett has been efficient with the ball in his hands.
The last three weeks, he’s thrown for over 250 yards in each game and he also had an average of 79.4% completing percentage the last two weeks with zero turnovers. It would be easy to see the performances of Nick Chubb and imagine he’s carrying the Browns to their great offensive performances, but the reality is Brissett is also heavily involved and deserves praise for how things are going in Cleveland.
David’s take: When Zach Wilson came back in Week 5, he was at the helm as the Jets rattled off four wins in a four. In hindsight, that record was mainly due to an outstanding defence and an offence that was heavily run-dependent and lent on the rushing magic of rookie Breece Hall.
One thing I love about Wilson is the way he throws the ball. He just has that natural ability to ping it with a perfect spiral and he is to me undoubtedly one of the most natural throwers of a football in the league.
Where it is coming undone is consistency and there are growing pains which are to be expected for a QB in their second season. He is not the only QB who is going through a sophomore slump and you could make similar comparisons about Trevor Laurence and Mac Jones. Only Justin Fields has shown significant improvement on his rookie season and that has only been evident in the second quarter of the season.
In the three wins leading up to the week 8 loss to the Patriots, Wilson threw for 210, 110 and 121 yards, which is hardly setting the world alight. If you look at the headlines of the loss to the Patriots, you will no doubt see that he threw two unforgivable interceptions. You won’t hear too many people saying this right now but in my opinion there is a lot to be positive about Wilson’s game. But further investigation into the loss to the Patriots, I believe sheds better light on his current situation.
His three interceptions came off one technical error and two mental mistakes. His first one came as he threw while pedaling backwards and leaning back, he overthrew his intended
receiver. The second turnover came after the breakdown of in play, he was throwing the ball away and left it short of the sideline only to be intercepted by Devin McCourty. The worst one came in the fourth quarter, when again after a play had broken down he flung the ball into traffic and McCourty picked him off again.
What I like about Wilson is that he has fight in him and he brought the Jets up the field to make it a five-point game with just under two minutes left. On the day he had 355 passing yards including 115 to rookie receiver Garrett Wilson. I can just see ‘Wilson to Wilson’ becoming a common refrain. All this down his starting running back and his two best offensive lineman, Alijah Vera-Tucker and Mekhi Becton, on injured reserve.
A lot of people are quite down on Wilson but I am not one of them and I see enough green shoots to believe that with more experience, this is a young player who could blossom into an NFL superstar. Often the best way to learn is to make mistakes and to learn from them. Wilson has something about him that reminds me of Aaron Rodgers and although in a minority right now, I think he could be something special if he continues to learn his trade.
Last weekend he led the Jets to a surprise win over the Buffalo Bills. Another example of his bouncing back after the previous week.
Tom’s take: It’s been a long three years but I think it’s finally okay to start using the ‘Danny Dimes’ moniker again for Daniel Jones. The Giants have been a remarkable feel good story so far this season, reeling off an impressive six wins (including four on the bounce). Jones and the Giants have been down in a lot of games but have seemingly developed a culture where they never feel truly out of any game.
Maybe a lot of that has to do with the return to superstardom of Saquon Barkley or the hire of Brian Daboll as head coach or Wink Martindale coaching up a fiery defence. But can we give some love to the Giants quarterback as well please? The guy is playing his heart out there and is a really impressive runner when he isn’t falling over.
He isn’t going to flash on the box score, nor should he, the Giants offence rolls through Barkley, but he is giving the front office in New York a reason to be questioning their decision to not take up his fifth-year rookie option. I think we’ll see the Giants playing football come January and how he performs then will be a definitive answer in the question of if he is the future at QB for G-Men.
David’s take: Outside of Geno Smith, the resurgence of Marcus Mariota from the NFL scrapheap has been wonderful to watch and one of the feel-good stories of the season. The Falcons have built their offence around his dual-threat skill set and surrounded him with players such as Kyle Pitts and Drake London, who at 6 ‘6 and 6 ‘3 respectively, are a match-up nightmare with their size and gigantic catch radius or radii or radiuses. I give up!!!
The Falcons are awesome to watch on a weekly basis and most of their games have gone down to the wire. They score a lot of points and concede a lot of points and being competitive most weeks has allowed the impressive Young-hue Koo to often kick them to victory.
They have surpassed all expectations and who could have predicted that they would sit joint-top of the NFC South with a record of 4-6. They have given themselves a chance of making the playoffs but more importantly of being relevant in December.
Mariota has been key and he has the athleticism to adhere to a dual-threat game plan. He still struggles with his accuracy and that is unlikely to change but on a brighter note he has started to build up a better connection with Pitts in recent weeks.
The loss of Calvin Ridley in a surprising trade to Jacksonville gives Atlanta more capital to draft one of the handful of dual-threat QBs coming out next year. It is a complex trade with the Jags but it could result in a second round pick should Ridley sign a contract extension for the Jags. The Falcons have a multitude of late round picks that could be used to move up the draft board, which I believe is at the heart of that surprising move. Watching Mariota has been fun but he is not the long term answer.
David’s take: Mac Jones is under pressure mainly from within the Patriots camp and nobody expected the emergence of Bailey Zappe as a potential threat to his starter position. So far this season Mac Jones is a quarterback going through a sophomore slump and like many in the same position is struggling for form and consistency.
What I like about Jones is he is smart and can confidently manage a game, which is what the Pats ask of him to do. He is not the most athletic but he can still pick up a first down if a defence gives him too much space. He is a good decision maker and is likely to keep improving as he gets more games under his belt.
I guessed that Belichick would go with Jones last weekend but with the home crowd in Foxboro enamored with the rookie Zappe, it is a tricky time for Jones especially if he is struggling or losing at home. At the last home game, the home supporters cheered wildly when he was replaced by his understudy.
I believe there is certainly an NFL starter in Jones and like the other young quarterbacks he needs to keep learning as his career progresses. I think he suits how New England wants their offence to play and having a strong running game takes a lot of pressure off him trying to outscore teams without a blue chip pass-catcher at any position. This is something the Pats will need to remedy in the off-season. Whether they do it in free agency or in the draft will be interesting. Because the last time they went either direction, they failed miserably.
What will be most intriguing is when Bill Belichick makes a decision between the pair and if Jones was to be put on the trading block, I could see the New Orleans Saints and the Washington Commanders being two of the teams interested in his services.
David’s take: Andy Dalton is a safe pair of hands, well a safer pair of hands than Jameis Winston and that is why he is under centre for the New Orleans Saints. He is an experienced QB playing in his 12th season in the league and is adept at reading coverages and moving his team up the field. One of the reasons for his success in New Orleans is having the Swiss-army-knife talent of Taysom Hill in their back pocket and he routinely gets them over the gain-line on third down and in the red zone.
The pair together make it tricky for defensive coordinators to visualize where and when they will be attacked and with Alvin Kamara motoring again, it will open the playbook for more play-action for Dalton and run-options for Hill. This is a team laden with talent and they have the ability to dominate teams especially in the Superdome.
Their QB combo will do for now but is not going to win them a Superbowl. Without a first rounder in next year’s draft, they will probably have to trade for another veteran to be their new QB in the off-season or take a punt on a young talent falling out of the first round.
Tom’s take: Not the most physically imposing or gifted quarterback, but few in this league play with as much heart and fury as Taylor Heinicke.
Entering the league in 2015 as an undrafted free agent out of Old Dominion. Floating around back up roles, practice squads and free agency for most of his seven year career has formed Heinicke into a gritty journeyman who you know will leave everything he has on the field. You have to respect the hustle he shows.
And so far in 2022, Heinicke is 2-1, helping lead the Commanders back to a just below 500 record and still very much in NFC wildcard contention. He has a fantastic connection with Washington’s best player: Terry McLaurin and knows what to do when the game comes to crunch time.
If I was a Commanders fan, I would be quite comfortable riding the season out with Heinicke over a return to Carson Wentz once he is back from IR. And I wouldn’t doubt he fights and claws them into the postseason again this year.
Conor’s take: Kenny Pickett has looked interesting for sure in his first few starts in the NFL. Granted the stats don’t look great, with 10 turnovers through five games. But he’s shown to be a quick decision maker that trusts his wide receivers. Pittsburgh hasn’t had a losing season like this for a while, so maintaining Pickett’s confidence and making sure he’s the quarterback for the future is key for that franchise right now.
The story of Pickett’s season so far has been the turnovers I previously mentioned, with eight interceptions and two fumbles on the season. Now some of these have been misfortune with tipped passes going the wrong way, but these rookie mistakes are starting to count up with the Steelers losing two games by one possession, in which Pickett threw three interceptions. Pickett will have plenty of time before he’s shown the door and in a well-run franchise, Pittsburgh should put the pieces around him in the next few years to know if he’s the guy or not.
David’s take: Did the Carolina offence start kicking into gear with the arrival of Steve Wilks or was it when PJ Walker replaced Baker Mayfield? The truth lies somewhere in between. Walker was a huge improvement since he started and his teammates seem to be playing for him. That all came crashing down when the Bengals took a 0-35 lead into half-time last Sunday and Baker was brought back in.
Mayfield helped the Panthers score three touchdowns to add much needed credibility to the scoreline. I am not a fan of Baker and I think for a smaller quarterback he is slow to run and moves poorly in the pocket. If Baker is now back in favour I would not be surprised if he is out of favour again in a few weeks. I believe with a boatload of draft picks from the CMC trade in the 2023 draft, Carolina is likely to take a shot at one of the five college quarterbacks already circled to be drafted in the first round. I will be surprised if Baker is still starting for the Panthers next year and I don’t think he will have a starting job in the NFL.
Conor’s take: For a third-round pick quarterback, Mills exceeded expectations last season in his rookie season, but his development into this year has not been enough to warrant a starting role in 2023. Mills hasn’t put together games in which he looks awful, but his lack of good moments is enough to overlook that. His position isn’t exactly ideal with Houston having an unstable team around him, but it always felt Mills was a stopgap quarterback similar to how they have been treating their coaches. With a good QB class ahead for the draft it seems inevitable that Houston would spend a high pick on that position, leading to a potential challenge for Mills. Throwing for a reasonable 1656 yards on the season is good for 21st in the league, but his QBR of 31.6 ranks for 32nd, leaving a lot to be desired.
Conor’s take: In his NFL debut Sam Ehlinger looked quite good as he just fell short in a loss to Washington. Ehlinger was named the starter for the Colts last week, after an underwhelming start which saw former MVP Matt Ryan not live up to expectations. The sixth-round pick in last year’s draft is well known for his time in college with the University of Texas, but he made his presence known in the professional sense this weekend. Throwing for 201 yards, the Colts didn’t see the negative offensive trends they were seeing previously with Ryan.
Decades of history suggest that the 2021 sixth-round selection will not prove to be the Colts’ long-term solution, but Ehlinger looked like he belonged under centre against the Commanders. The same couldn’t be said for his second start after a blowout loss to the Patriots, where they completely shut him down. Ehlinger might have the rest of the season in the starting spot still, but if Indy continues to see play similar to his Week 9 performances then it won’t last any longer than that.
Josh Allen went into the heart of Chiefs Kingdom and came out with a dramatic win from his match-up with Patrick Mahomes.
Since their roller-coaster shootout in the AFC play-offs in January, this was long marked in the calendar. The two best players in the NFL went head-to-head once again and it didn’t disappoint. This game had the feel and energy of a January contest throughout. Every play seemed to matter and in the end, Josh Allen and his team emerged victorious.
They say you can’t be the best until you beat the best. Well, Allen won the day and to the victor, go the spoils. For now, he deserves the mantle of being recognised as the best quarterback in football.
Long live the King!
So let’s get to the action.
Bills v Chiefs
Surprisingly, to everyone but Tony Romo, who somehow called a 24-20 win at the start of his broadcast, there was no score in the first quarter as both teams got red zone stops. First Allen tossed a lateral to Isaiah McKenzie who wasn’t expecting it and it was recovered by the team in red and Mahomes’ impressive first drive finished up in the hands of Bills first-round pick, Kaiir Elam who got his second interception in two weeks.
In the second quarter, Mahomes had struck up a good partnership with Juju Smith-Schuster and on third and long, the QB used his natural instincts to buy time in the pocket and found his slot receiver, who bounced off a tackle and ran in his first touchdown for Kansas.
The Chiefs defence managed to keep Allen out when he went for it on fourth and goal and soon had him backed up outside his own end zone. On third down, he found Gabe Davis for a big play and later in the drive, when he saw Davis matched-up with rookie corner Joshua Williams, Allen took the shot for a touchdown.
On the cusp of half time and with 12 seconds remaining in the half, Mahomes managed two quick plays and Harrison Butker kicked the sides level with an effort from 62 yards to tie the scores 10-10 at the break.
In the third quarter, Allen saw Stefon Diggs matched-up one-on-one with the rookie fourth-round pick Williams and he repeated his trick by picking on the rookie and finding Diggs with an almost identical play for another TD.
By the end of the third quarter, the sides were level as Mahomes again found time in the pocket on third down to find Mecole Hardman in traffic. It set up a grandstand finish which had the feel and excitement of a play-off game. Mahomes started to find his favourite target Travis Kelce as he led his side up the field for Butker to kick them 17-20 ahead with 10 minutes remaining.
Five minutes later, a second sack of the game by future Hall-of-Famer Von Miller got the ball back for the Bills. When Devin Singletary was stopped inches short on third down, Allen used all of his six foot five inch frame on a QB sneak to extend the drive on fourth down. Allen then found Diggs on a couple of big plays to get up to the 27 yard line. Then came the play of the game, as Allen brought the action to 12 yards out. Shout out to @sean___connor for adding the accompanying track.
Phew!!! Let’s see that again from another angle.
He then finished the drive with a rocket to Dawson Knox on the left sideline for the winning score. Mahomes had 64 seconds left to recuse the day but under pressure his throw was intercepted by Taron Johnson to secure a Bills victory.
Already, this feels massive for Buffalo and could be decisive in securing home advantage in the play-offs as it gives them a one-game lead over their nearest rivals in the AFC rankings. Already, the biggest challenge may be keeping a lid on the excitement and fervor for one of the longest-suffering fan bases as they go in search of their first Superbowl victory. They are the favourites in the bookies and with good reason.
And fingers crossed we get to do this again in January.
Eagles go 6-0
Cowboys v Eagles
In the late kick-off, the Philadelphia Eagles extended their winning run to 6-0 with a morale boosting win over their NFC East rival Dallas Cowboys. By almost half-time, they threatened to run away with the contest by taking a 20-0 lead as their impressive offensive line dominated up front with second quarter touchdowns by Miles Sanders and AJ Brown. What was most interesting was how Jalen Hurts kept running the run-pass option at Micah Parsons, to keep the pass-rusher from affecting the game.
The Eagles defensive backs were just as impressive on a night where James Bradberry, Darius Slay and CJ Gardner-Johnson all had picks on the night. With Cooper Rush struggling, the Cowboys put the ball in the hands of Ezekiel Elliot to great effect and he ran well and finished with a 14-yard TD. On the first play of the fourth quarter, Rush found Jake Ferguson for another TD with only three points now separating the sides.
The Eagles got back to what they do extremely well and ran it behind their line for the pivotal drive of the game and a play-action pass to Devonta Smith from seven yards saw them into a 17-26 lead that they never relinquished. The Eagles can now rest up as they take their 6-0 unbeaten record into their bye-week.
There were two outstanding games in the early Sunday matches.
Bengals v Saints
Another team I believe will also contend for the AFC Championship are the Cincinnati Bengals, who won their match-up of the fans who shout ‘Who Dey’ against the fans who shout ‘Who Dat.’
The Bengals are a team with a strong defence and, once their new offensive line beds in, have the weapons and the quarterback to go toe-to-toe with any side across the league. It was Burrow’s first return to the Superdome and to the state of Louisiana since winning the National Championship with LSU in 2020. He entered the stadium pre-game wearing an LSU game jersey of his then and current teammate Ja’Marr Chase.
Joe Burrow showed that he can run as well as he can pass when he found a hole in the Saints defence for a touchdown as the Saints took a 14-20 point midway lead.
In the third quarter Burrow found a well-covered Chase with a great throw for a touchdown. They pair were at it again late in the fourth quarter when they linked up for a 60-yard TD as Cincinnati took their first lead in the contest with two minutes remaining.
Jaguars v Colts
Matt Ryan once again lived up to his ‘Matty Ice’ nickname of old in a fantastic late win over the Jags.
It ended up being a roller-coaster and Jacksonville’s great hope at QB, Trevor Laurence played very well throughout. He must be wondering what he must do to get his first divisional road win, as the Jags succumbed to their 14th consecutive AFC South loss away from Jacksonville.
Ryan found Paris Campbell for the first Indianapolis TD in over 110 minutes of football to see the score 14-13 at half time as the Colts continued their 2022 tradition of never having led at half-time yet this season.
The sides exchanged rushing TDs in the third quarter when Dion Jackson replied for the home side after Laurence had rushed for his second TD of the day. The Colts took the lead for the first time in the contest when Ryan found rookie tight-end Jelani Woods and this was responded to by an impressive 18-play drive by Laurence which resulted in him finding Christian Kirk in the endzone to retake the lead 27-26.
With 17 seconds left, Ryan had his side within field-goal range but on third down, he threw to rookie receiver Alec Pierce for another late win before a rapturous home support. The game was significant to Ryan in that he passed the great Dan Marino to now have the seventh most passing yards by a QB in NFL history.
New York, New York
What a time to be a fan in NYC as both sides of the football fraternity continue to surprise with unexpected wins. I keep waiting for the wheels to come off both karts but so far, they keep winning.
The Giants handed Lamar Jackson his third ever October loss in another terrific early contest on Sunday. The Ravens took a fourth quarter 20-10 lead when Jackson found Mark Andrews with a precise throw that came over the tight-end’s shoulder.
Daniel Jones then found his own tight-end Danny Bellinger for a TD before the first Giants interception of the season set the G-men up with a short field late in the game. Star-man Sequon Barkley jumped like a human torpedo into endzone for the winning score.
Sequon could have had another touchdown late in the game but chose to slide down at the one-yard line to make the Ravens burn their remaining timeouts, as time ran out at the MetLife Stadium.
It was the second week in a row that Aaron Rodgers came unstuck against teams from the Big Apple, where the Jets rookie class were again to the fore during a famous 24-10 in Lambeau Field win.
Running-back Breece Hall showed why he was the first running back off the board in this year’s draft on a day where he had 116 rushing yards and the game sealing TD in the fourth quarter.
Afterwards rookie corner Ahmed ‘Sauce’ Gardner wore a Green Bay Cheese-head hat coming off the field, which seemed to rub Allen Lezard the wrong way and he flipped it off his head. I’m sure Scott Hanson must have been bellowing ‘Cheese-sauce’ in the Redzone studio. I’d be disappointed if he wasn’t.
One of the most interesting stories of the weekend came during Steve Wilks first game as caretaker in Carolina, after his predecessor Matt Rhule became the first head-coach shown the exit door this season after the Panthers lost last Sunday.
Interesting, it was not on the field but on the sideline where the action was most intense.
In the third quarter, receiver Robbie Anderson had a heated exchange and squared-up to his receiving coach Joe Dailey. A few plays later word had got to Wilks and he sent Anderson to the locker room. Afterwards he was keen to pour cold water on the incident and kept any drama in-house for now.
This was a good game for Rams’ Allen Robinson who began to build up a rapport with Matt Stafford with five catches for 63 yards and a TD. The player who most impressed was Carolina running-back Christian McCaffery. Maybe he was auditioning for a move after hearing, like everyone else, the rumours of a potential trade to Superbowl-favourite Buffalo Bills. If that is the case, he nailed his audition clocking up 168-yards from scrimmage. After that sideline altercation, maybe he won’t be the only Panther leaving in the near future.
Tom Brady suffered his third loss in six games as Mitch Trubisky came off the bench when Kenny Pickett never returned from a head-injury assessment to lead the Steelers to a late come from behind fourth quarter victory. He found Chase Claypool in the endzone for a 20-12 lead. Brady had a chance to tie the game when Leonard Fournette scored, but he failed with a two-point conversion.
The Patriots had the home crowd booing in Cleveland, as the Pats third-string rookie QB Bailey Zappe looked the part in a dominant 38-15 win. Rhamondre Stevenson was the bell cow running-back going for 91 yards from scrimmage and two TDs. It was a notable game in the career of one Bill Belichick who tied the famed Chicago Bears coach George Halas for the most wins by a head coach in the NFL.
The Atlanta Falcons are becoming one of my favourite teams to watch and their all-action offence led by a rejuvenated Marcus Mariota did the business by taking out the 49ers in convincing fashion.
Two Brandon Aiyuk touchdowns had the visiting side level 14-14 in the second quarter when Mariota ran right on an option play and beat the linebacker to the endzone. He then linked up with the exciting tight-end Kyle Pitts for his first TD of the season to extend the lead to 14, which was never threatened.
Jimmy G reminds me of an apple crumble every time he comes under pressure. Will he get the chance to serve me a slice of humble pie? I’ll keep my fork, knife and spoon in the top press for now.
The Vikings secured their fourth win in a row with a 24-16 road win against the Dolphins. Touchdown passes by Cousins to Irv Smith and Adam Thielen had the Vikes in front but Dalvin Cook’s second-half touchdown run made the difference on a day when Mike Gesicki caught two scores for Miami.
Seattle overcame Arizona to win 9-19 and the kick-fest was interrupted by two interesting moments.
When your punter is making headlines, its usually not for the right reasons. Seattle punter Michael Dickson ends up in this column for the second week in a row when he seemed to freeze like a rabbit in the headlights inside his own endzone as the Arizona pass-rush ran at him. They knocked the ball out of his hands and recovered for a TD. It left the Cards trailing by three points entering the fourth quarter.
The best player on show all day delivered the telling score when running-back Kenneth Murray gave a little dip and juke as he ran in his second TD in a fortnight. His rookie teammate Tariq Woolen was also prominent grabbing his fourth interception in four weeks.
Six weeks in and across the league, this already looks to be one of the deepest rookie classes to come out in many a year with the youngsters of the Seahawks and the Jets routinely catching the eye.
Watch out for our AFC West Monday Night Football Broncos versus Chargers preview later today!!!