Green Bay hold Ace in the Pack

NFL Week 18 Sunday Preview

By David McDonnell

I hope the Seattle Seahawks lose against the LA Rams later today because I want to see another do-or-die clash when the Green Bay Packers host the Detroit Lions.

How things stand in the NFC playoff position are as follows: Only one of Green Bay, Seattle and Detroit, in that order, can progress to the postseason and two of the hopefuls, the Packers and Lions, compete against one another at Lambeau Field at 1.30 am (GMT)  later tonight.

Should  the Seahawks beat their NFC West divisional rivals, the Rams, then only Green Bay can overtake them in the seedings with a victory. However, should the Seahawks fail to win then the winner of the Lions v Packers will be playing football next weekend. 

I hope you can follow that. 


Lions v Packers 

The last time these sides met was on November 6th when the one-win Lions gave Aaron Rodgers one of his toughest days in the green and gold with a 15-9 victory. At the time no one expected that the Packers with a record of 3-6 and playing terribly would make the playoffs.

I certainly didn’t. That the Lions would be on the cusp of achieving the same feat was unthinkable at the time. I remember Dan Campbell at the after-match press conference saying he wanted to go home and drink a beer, after snapping a five game losing streak when some critics were calling for his head. 

But Dan Campbell is made of stern stuff and so is Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, who has sharpened up to look as good as he has done for much of the last decade and a half.

So where has it gone right for both sides? Let’s start with the Packers. 

The emergence of rookie Christian Watson at wide receiver has been a huge factor and he has racked up nine touchdowns since that loss to Detroit in November. With huge speed after the catch, Watson has the potential to hit a home run on every play. Green Bay have leaned heavily on their run game with Arron Jones and AJ Dillon making telling contributions and the return from injury of David Bakhtiari at left tackle has also been a significant addition in recent weeks. 

However, in the last few games the Green Bay defence has woken up and is making the telling contribution.

It starts up front where they are starting to put pressure on opposing QBs and I have been banging on all season about the talent they have across their linebackers and defensive backs. All of a sudden the Packers D are playing as a unit and competing hard and in particular Jaire Alexander at corner-back and rookie linebacker Quay Walker have stepped up. 

If the Green Bay defence continues to do excel, they could be a potential Superbowl outsider from the NFC.

Tonight, the Detroit Lions’ scorching attack stands in their way.

There is a feeling of optimism around this Detroit team that I have never felt with the Lions before and many of their standout talents are still young in NFL terms.

The strength of this team is their offence. The Lions O-line has been the bedrock of this attack and they have had huge success running the ball. The are anchored at centre by former first-round pick Frank Ragnow and bookended by tackles Taylor Decker and Penei Sewell, who were also drafted as first round talents in recent years. They have allowed their running backs to make hay.

Their best RB is D’Andre Swift who has clocked up 845 all purpose yards and eight touchdowns, while his partner in crime Jamaal Williams has accrued 994 yards and 15 touchdowns.

This team can beat you from the pocket as well and Jared Goff has had a resurgent career year by putting the ball on the money for his receivers throughout the season. In his last five games, Goff has thrown 12 touchdowns with zero interceptions. His best weapon is Amon Ra St Brown, who has become an NFL superstar this season and they have just got the 12th overall pick in the 2022 draft, Jamison Williams, back from injury in recent weeks.

The Lions will be comfortable if the game turns into a shootout. It is when they have been at their best this season. 

On defence, their best players are their youngest players with rookies Aiden Hutchinson, Kerby Joseph and Malcolm Rodriguez adding to other young talents in Jeff Okudah at corner and Derrick Barnes at linebacker. They are not the finished package on defence by nay means and they will be coming up against a better Aaron Rodgers than the one who didn’t throw a touchdown pass in November. 

This game could go either way and to be honest I am expecting a shootout. It should be fun to watch and worth staying up for. I’ll call the Packers to win in front of a packed home audience, as I feel their defence has more playmakers that could make the difference in the fourth quarter.


There is still one place to play for in the AFC after the Jaguars beat the Titans last night to win the AFC South. 

In the running are the Patriots, Dolphins, and Steelers, who play the Bills, Jets and Browns respectively. 

After a very difficult week in Buffalo, I can’t see any team beating the Bills this weekend in what should be a very emotional game after Damar Hamlin’s cardiac arrest on the field last Monday. I think it will have a galvanizing effect on the team and their supporters coupled with the fact that they are a much stronger team than the Pats at the moment. 

It should be well contested but New England lacks the firepower to cause too much damage to the Bills. I would be surprised if Bill Belichick can pull out a win given the circumstances and I don’t usually write off the old man.  

That leaves the Dolphins, with Skyler Thompson at quarterback, needing to beat the New York Jets. I wouldn’t be very confident that Miami will win but the Jets are very poor on offence right now. I am not in any way convinced by Mike White at quarterback. But with Joe Flacco starting, it will make things trickier but I expect the Dolphins to pull out a win because their need is greater. 

Should they lose, it leaves the door open for the Pittsburgh Steelers, who should be able to account for the Browns. The Steelers have been getting healthier and more experienced by the week and they are in a much stronger place than they have been all season with their D-line balling out and rookie QB Kenny Pickett looking more comfortable by the week under centre. 

Of the three hopefuls, I’d like to see the Steelers in the postseason. 

Wilson fed to the Wolves on TNF

By David McDonnell

Let the record show there was a game of football at the MetLife Stadium on Thursday night, because afterwards all the talk was about one man. 

Zach Wilson, and the kid gloves were certainly off.

First let’s get the football out of the way.

Trevor Laurence continued his winning streak and scored the only touchdown of the contest, when he led a 96-yard drive and broke the plane with a QB sneak in the second quarter. 

Other than that there wasn’t much to write home about on the field with both defences on top throughout. By the end of the third quarter, Jacksonville landed another field goal to make it 16-3 which was to be the last score of the contest. 

On the night Zay Jones or Christian Kirk had zero yards receiving yards combined but Evan Engram was excellent catching seven times for 113 yards. 

The big story of the night came on the opposite sideline. 

At half-time the Jets got booed to high heaven on their way to the locker room by their home fans after a dismal opening half. 

They were not able to run the ball with any success on first and second downs. It left Zach Wilson with long yardage on third downs with the result being the Jets punted like it was going out of fashion in wet and windy weather. 

When the Jets offence didn’t improve in the third quarter, head coach Robert Salah benched Zach Wilson for walk-on Chris Streveler at the start of the fourth quarter. 

It was the second time Wilson has been benched for an understudy in three weeks and he was starting only because his previous deputy Mike White was out with broken ribs. Streveler did well initially on his first drive but his throwing after that was wildly inaccurate. 

The benching of Wilson is significant and added a tankful of fuel for the New York and national across America to wax lyrical about Zach Wilson’s shortcomings as a player and teammate.

They soon set themselves to the task. 

On TNF on Prime,  Ryan Fitzpatrick, who is usually considered when it comes to QBs, said it signified the end of Zach Wilson at the Jets. 

 “I think unfortunately his career here is done because he has lost the guys in the locker room. They have no confidence in him. He doesn’t inspire confidence in him. They don’t believe in the kid … Just the way he plays, his passion for the game. That is what really bugs me and bugged me about today. I am not saying he is going to have a good career, but it’s gonna have to be somewhere else.”

Richard Sherman wasn’t offering Wilson much sympathy either. 

Asked if he thought it might be Wilson’s last game for the Jets, Sherman answered: “I would hope so … We’re at a time and a climate where everybody’s forgiving, everybody’s like, ‘Oh my, just give him another chance. He’s trying his best.’ This is a production business. If you don’t produce, we have to find a way. It’s unfair to the defence and these players.”

Tony Gonzales advised that the Jets shouldn’t give up on him just yet.

Here are my two cents on the situation.

I have been keeping an eye on Wilson since his return against the Steelers during the season and what I see is a QB with a golden arm who is still learning his trade.  He has been very inconsistent for a team that believes it is in win-now mode. 

The Jets are a side with a terrific defence, but are down over half their starting O-line and as well as their starting running-back sensation in Bryce Hall, who are all out for the season. on offence they still boast one excellent rookie wide receiver in Garrett Wilson. 

Zach Wilson has been tasked to make plays with a very limited offence and score enough points to win games and not turn the ball over. He has struggled against good defences, mainly with his decision making.

I see talent in Wilson but he is very inexperienced. If you look at Trevor Laurence, who has only just turned the corner in his NFL journey in the last four weeks, he spent four years with nationally televised games every week at Clemson in the SEC,  including three National Championship games. 

Aside from the poor play on the field, a lot of the flak that Wilson has gotten in recent weeks came from loaded interview questions after the recent loss to the Patriots. He was asked whether him and the offence should apologise to their defence for scoring only three points on the day? 

He answered: “No, No” and that was blown up into a big story about disrespecting his teammates. His namesake receiver Garrett Wilson called him out in the media for “not trusting his receiving room.”

His coach Robert Salah responded by dropping him for the next game and his teammates on the New York Jets defence went to the next away trip wearing shirts in support of his replacement that read: ‘Mike ‘F***in’ White.’ 

With White injured, Wilson came back in as the starter. It is one thing to bench him for the backup in White and quite another to bench him again for the next man up and it probably signals that his time is up with the Jets. 

Before the game Robert Salah talked about the need to be patient with Zach Wilson and gave an analogy about the “instant coffee” world not giving him time. Those words about being patient with the sophomore quarterback rang hollow in the wind and rain on Thursday Night Football.  

My personal read is that Salah gave in to the instant coffee generation, who were booing the offence at MetLife Stadium, and threw Wilson to the wolves, because whatever the question is, Streveler is certainly not the answer in the NFL from what I saw.  

I hope Zach Wilson can come back from a very tough night like this with most pundits writing him off and most everyone else jumping on the bandwagon.  

And I hope he does it with another team. 

Bills shut down the Rams in NFL opener

By David McDonnell

Baker was misquoted this week

The NFL season got underway earlier this morning as the Buffalo Bills overcame the current NFL champion LA Rams.

Buffalo, currently the bookies’ favourites to win the Lombardi trophy on the second Sunday in February, lived up to their billing as their quarterback Josh Allen dominated proceedings throughout the second half.

The first quarter began with Bills receiver Gabriel Davies catching a pass unopposed for the opening touchdown of the season.  Rams’ slot receiver Cooper Kupp replied with great dexterity late in the second quarter from a delivery from Matt Stafford at the back of the endzone.

With the sides tied 10-10 apiece, Buffalo came out more energised after the half-time performance by 73-year-old rock legend Ozzy Osbourne at SoFi Stadium. Bills quarterback Josh Allen threw a laser to Isaiah McKenzie, who gathered while diving into the endzone,  before running in himself for a touchdown from five yards. In the final quarter, Allen found Davies once again and Stefon Diggs with deep balls to secure a comfortable 31-10 victory for the visitors.

It is wonderful that Gridiron football is finally back!

This off-season can be accurately described as truly bonkers, with a quarterback carousel the likes of which the National Football League has never seen before. Added to this a number of franchises, feeling on the cusp of contending, have figuratively pushed the boat in free agency, which has resulted in a number of teams, particularly in the AFC, stacked with talent and with it have an expectation of making the Superbowl at State Farm Stadium in Arizona on February 12.

Las Vegas Raiders @ Los Angeles Chargers

Nowhere is this arms race more evident than in the AFC West, who boast arguably four of the top 10 QBs in the NFL. The Los Angeles Chargers host division rivals Los Vegas Raiders in one of the most anticipated match-ups of the opening weekend. 

Quarterback Justin Herbert, a potential MVP candidate, has lit up the Chargers’ offence over the last two years and the franchise added guard  Zion Johnson with their first round draft pick to line up alongside last year’s first round selection Rashawn Slater at left tackle. This should help keep their star quarterback protected.   

However, it is on defence where the Chargers added big-name talent in the off-season with Khalil Mack joining a D-line that already boasts the pass-rushing abilities of Joey Bosa, while Pro Bowl corner-back JC Jackson arrives from the New England to boost a secondary that already includes Pro Bowler Derwin James. 

They face off against the Raiders who themselves have also been prolific in the market during the off-season. The Silver and Black acquired Aaron Rodgers’ favourite receiver at Green Bay in Devontae Adams, who now lines up alongside Derek Carr, his college quarterback at California State University. Adams, one of the best receivers in the game, joins a cast of talented  pass-catchers in tight-end Darren Waller and slot receiver Hunter Renfrow. 

Las Vegas’ also added pass-rushing sack machine Chandler Jones to a defensive front that includes Maxx Crosby, which should provide the franchise with a dynamic pass rush in a division full with QB talent,  including former Superbowl and League MVP Patrick Mahommes at the Kansas City Chiefs and former Superbowl winning quarterback Russell Wilson, who was traded in a blockbuster deal to the Denver Broncos from the Seattle Seahawks. Wilson returns to his former club on Monday Night Football, but I will add more on that story in Monday’s column. 

Cleveland Browns @ Carolina Panthers

An interesting match-up this weekend sees quarterback Baker Mayfield against his former team in the Cleveland Browns. 

Mayfield, the number one overall pick in the 2019 draft, had played with a shoulder injury all last season and was discussing a new contract when his former team traded for QB Deshaun Watson in one of the most controversial trades in the history of the sport. 

Watson, who found out in the off-season that he would not be facing any criminal prosecutions in Texas after been accused on 23 counts of what has been termed “non-violent sexual assault.” The Browns traded for Watson from the Houston Texans and gave him a $230 million guaranteed contract, despite the large number of cases at that time still before the civil court, all of which have since been settled out-of-court. 

It was the story that has dominated the headlines in the sporting environs and podcasts all summer. NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said recently Watson had committed “egregious … predatory behaviour,” before hitting him with an 11 game suspension and a $5 million fine. To put this in perspective, Atlanta Falcon wide receiver Calvin Ridley was suspended by Goodell for a full season (17 games) for making online bets on NFL matches. 

The Watson trade, inevitably,  brought with it a lot of criticism and ill-will towards the Cleveland Browns organisation with a few supporters expressing confusion on whether to support the team while he plays.  This trade led to a protracted and acrimonious public split between the Browns and Mayfield, who in turn was recently traded to the Carolina Panthers, where he has since won the starting job. 

Last week it was widely misreported in the US media that Baker had been quoted as saying that he would like to ‘f***-up the Browns’ this weekend. Those words were attributed to Baker during a podcast discussion by NFL reporter Cynthia Frelund from an interview she had with the player.  Predictably, this went down like a lead balloon with many Browns fans, but as they began to turn their ire on their former quarterback, Baker stated adamantly that he didn’t utter the phrase.

As it turned out, he was proved right. The words were then correctly attributed to the interviewer Frelund, who uttered the f-bomb statement in the form of a question to the player and Mayfield held his tongue and didn’t disagree with her. The drama has added to what should be an intriguing contest with, I hope, Baker taking a measure of revenge on his former employers. 

Pittsburgh Steelers @ Cincinnati Bengals

Another fixture this Sunday sees two possible Super Bowl contenders vying against each other when the Cincinnati Bengals host their AFC North divisional rivals Pittsburgh Steelers. 

The Bengals were an Arron Donald sack in the last play of the game away from winning the Superbowl last season. They return with a much bolstered offensive-line after their prodigious quarterback Joe Burrow was sacked a league high 51 times last year. By signing right-guard Alex Kappa from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, former Patriot centre Ted Karras and Dallas Cowboys right-tackle La’el Collins to play alongside their exciting left tackle Jonah Williams, they should better protect Burrow from taking so much punishment throughout the season. 

In the battle for supremacy in what has long been established as one of the most physically demanding divisions, the Pittsburgh Steelers have a dominant defence led by the current Defensive Player of the Year in TJ Watt.  

Although they made the play-offs last season, their title credentials were questionable mainly due to poor play from their quarterback, Ben Rothesburger, who retired during the off-season. They have named Mitch Trubisky as Week 1 starting QB but it is likely that Kenny Pickett, the first quarterback off the board in this year’s draft, will come into the starting line as the season plays out.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers @ Dallas Cowboys

The late game on Sunday Night Football sees the most successful quarterback in the history of the NFL, Tom Brady take on the most supported but also the most cheered against team in America: the Dallas Cowboys. 

Both sides met in Week 1 last season with the Dak Prescott led Cowboys upsetting the then Superbowl champions.  I expect the Glazer-owned Bucs to reverse their fortunes this time around.  

Welcome to Smashmouthing Football!!!

By David McDonnell

Welcome to Smashmouthing Football!!!

This is an NFL sports column, I will be writing throughout the 2022/23 season.

I am aiming to inform and breakdown a variety of stories from the National Football League and both review and preview the match-ups each week throughout the season.

So why am i doing this?

I love the sport of American Football and my aim is to introduce the wonderful world of the NFL to a new audience across the world.

I will write a weekly preview and review column from now until the SuperBowl on various aspects of the National Football League that I deem interesting with the intention of finding a newspaper or website that will publish my weekly meanderings.

I’ll try be as entertaining as i can, so welcome to the Big Show. Strap yourself in for another roller-coaster of a season.

Hut Hut!!!