In and win for Jags and Titans tonight

By David McDonnell 

It’s been a very strange week in the NFL on the back of Damar Hamlin’s injury and most everyone who was watching on Monday Night Football would have been in some way affected by how the events surrounding his cardiac arrest played out. 

It is wonderful that he is alive with all his faculties intact and also to hear that he talked with his Bills teammates over the last 24 hours.

There has been a lot to reflect and learn from this near death experience and in my opinion, the most important is that every sporting organisation and club in every sport has immediate access to a defibrillator and have people trained and ready to put CPR into practice in an emergency.  

Such foresight saved Damar Hamlin’s life this week.  

It also brought home on Monday Night just how little importance football can seem when someone’s life hangs in the balance and I am glad that the NFL decided not to refix this game.

But let’s get back to talking football because it certainly has its place. Football is a game we love to watch, discuss and over-analyse and offers escapism from the pressures and obstacles that can be everyday life for many people.  It adds meaning to our passions and colour to our dreams. 

Titans @ Jaguars 

This is an in-and-win game for both sides tonight (kick-off: 1.15am) with the winner hosting a playoff game in seven days’ time. 

Let’s start with the Titans who had a four game lead in the division in November with a record of 7-3, before losing six games on the bounce. 

Six weeks ago, they boasted one of the most physical defensive lines in football and on offence had the best running back in football in Derek Henry and a play action specialist quarterback in Ryan Tannehill, who would throw some deep shots down the field with relative success. 

So what has happened?

Ultimately, a one-dimensional team picked up a few injuries and they have not been able to adjust. 

The injury to Tannehill has been significant as his replacement Malik Willis has not been accurate throwing the ball. The rookie Willis is a threat running with the ball and on option plays, but without the consistent threat of hurting teams with his arm, teams can pack the box more to better curb the influence of Henry. 

The Titans recruited QB Joshua Dobbs from the waiver wire three weeks ago after he was let go from the Browns once Deshaun Watson returned from suspension. Dobbs will start tonight but he is also without a top receiving talent on the roster and the general manager Jon Robinson lost his job for deciding to trade AJ Brown to the Eagles, a move that confounded most analysts during the draft last April. That AJ Brown has become everything to Philly that is missing in Tennessee, Robinson can have little complaints. 

The Titans defence has been laid low with a lot of injuries with the loss of Zach Cummingham, David Long Jr, Harold Landry and Bud Dupree all at linebacker has been significant to what had been a very tough defence to play against. 

It has left Tennessee with a banged up defence and a one dimensional offence and their hopes tonight will rest on the shoulders of Derek Henry. If he can be a dominant influence on this game, then the Titans have a chance.

The Jaguars have had an almost opposite route to get to this must-win contest. 

They were very inconsistent for most of the season but the turning point for me was in Week 12 when they beat the Ravens. In that game Trevor Laurence came of age and led an impressive two minute drill which finished with a Marvin Jones touchdown and he then found Zay Jones for the win with the two-point conversion. 

After that game winning drive, Laurence’s confidence at the QB position has been tangible and he is leading his team in much the same way he did at Clemson. Just as significant is that his teammates have rowed in behind him and this looks like the start of some memorable years to come in Jacksonville. 

Laurence isn’t short of passing options either. He has the safety blanket of his Clemson running back in Travis Eteinne on passing downs and has struck up a great relationship with Evan Engram at tight end. Earlier in the season he would routinely find Christian Kirk but most recently his favourite target has become Zay Jones. 

They have a strong offensive line, especially on the right side with Jawaan Taylor and Brandon Scherff and an excellent running back in Etienne. 

The Jaguars defence is also playing well. Josh Allen and Trevon Walker give them pass rushing options from the edge and there is a terrific partnership at safety between Andre Cisco and Rayshawn Jenkins, while Tysom Campbell has done well in pass defence.

Against the Titans I expect Jenkins and Cisco will drop down to the box, especially if Dobbs can’t get the Jags to respect the passing game. 

With the prime time audience, this is the most important game in Duval County since the Jags lost to the Patriots in the AFC Championship game in January 2018 and I am expecting Laurnece to deliver a win for the home side.

The Titans certainly have a puncher’s chance with Derek Henry but outside of that, I can’t see how they will win this contest.  

In the other Saturday Night game (9.30pm GMT), we have the Chiefs playing a divisional matchup against the Raiders. 

If the Chiefs win they will get a bye from playing wildcard weekend but it’s likely that any appearance in an AFC championship game will be played at a neutral venue after a vote by the NFL owners yesterday. 

From the Raiders point of view,  Jared Stidham has the chance to further his case to be the starting QB in Las Vegas next season, but my intuition tells me that Josh McDaniels will be bringing in a new player under centre in the off-season.  

And that player could be Tom Brady. 

Week 17 Power Rankings 

By Conor Perrett 

With just two weeks left of the regular season, the Christmas weekend of NFL football did not disappoint. We had upsets and dramatic endings to go with our Christmas dinners, leaving shuffle amongst our rankings. 

With the Eagles falling atop of their perch and newcomers entering the top-10, let’s rank them all ahead of the end of 2022.

  1. Kansas City Chiefs (12-3)

Last Week – 2nd

Now, the Chiefs regain the top spot on our rankings thanks to the misfortune of the Eagles, but this doesn’t mean I see them as Super Bowl favourites if the season ended today. Over the course of the season their offence has been so consistently good that they deserve to hold this spot. The offence can thank Patrick Mahomes for that, as he looks in pole position to win his second MVP award. 

The defence worries me for when the postseason rolls around, but right now this offence is the best in the league by almost any measure.

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

  1. Buffalo Bills (12-3)

Last Week – 3rd

The Bills turned things on in the second half against the Chicago Bear on Christmas Eve, when they went 29-3 in the second period. The rushing attack led the way with 205 rushing yards and two touchdowns on just 23 carries.

Now, in this week’s game of the week, they face the Bengals in what could have big repercussions on both teams’ playoff seeds. If Buffalo is able to top Cincinnati, it will put them in destiny’s hands to grab the No. 1 seed in the AFC. If not, then they could be looking at the 3rd seed and a rematch in Cincinnati for the divisional round.

Up next: at Cincinnati, Tuesday 1:30 a.m. GMT

  1. San Francisco 49ers (11-4)

Last Week – T4th

It sounds weird to say but Mr. Irrelevant, Brock Purdy’s 49ers are Super Bowl contenders. The Niners are undefeated in their four games with Purdy at the helm and they’ve the third-ranked scoring offence in that time. Purdy still isn’t throwing the ball downfield a lot, but he doesn’t have to. The floor of the offence is already so high with Kyle Shanahan pulling the strings and San Fran’s cast of weapons, that Purdy just needs to keep the offence on schedule and success will be had.

  1. Cincinnati Bengals (11-4)

Last Week – T4th

The Bengals nearly found themselves blowing a 22-0 halftime lead, but like a good team does, they stayed strong and found a way to win. What might be more worrying for this side is the injury to right-tackle La’el Collins just before the playoffs. Collins is set to be out for the year and force Cincinnati to backtrack to a new offensive line for the first time this season.

They will  have a warm-up playoff game with Buffalo on Monday night, to try and plan ahead for that injury. 

Up next: vs. Buffalo, Tuesday 1:30 a.m. GMT

  1. Philadelphia Eagles (13-2)

Last Week – 1st

Philly’s big drop from the top stop may seem like I’m overreacting, but it’s a collection of things that have caused it. The loss to the Cowboys should be the least of their worries, with injuries starting to stack up and the defence regressing.

The Jalen Hurts injury would worry me significantly if I was a part of the organisation and now star tackle Lane Johnson is out for at least the remainder of the regular season. The defence also didn’t have a great time against Dallas allowing a key third-and-30 conversion. Over the first two months of the season this defence was 1st in EPA per drive. But over the last two months, a drop to 12th. Not ideal for the lead up to the postseason.

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

  1. Dallas Cowboys (11-4)

Last Week – 6th

Dallas got a much needed win against their NFC East rival this week to keep the battle for the division somewhat alive. Things would need to go heavy in their favour with Philly losing out, but wilder things have happened. The offence is starting to find their groove, and are starting to look more like a complete team. 

All of these six teams here look to be in a league of their own, as I expect one of them to be lifting the Lombardi trophy once it’s all said and done. 

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

  1. Minnesota Vikings (12-3)

Last Week – 8th

Another week and another one-score victory for this Minnesota side. Their 11 one-score wins is now an NFL record for most in a season and they managed that without losing a single one of them. That stat has its pros and cons, but for now we’re let them have their celebration. 

The Vikings may have the tied-second best record in the league and are still in the mix for the No. 1 seed if the Eagles fail to win another game, but their play on the field does not warrant them to be championship contenders. I feel if they were to meet any of the teams ranked above them they wouldn’t stand a chance, but at the end of the day, they know how to win late on. 

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

  1. Baltimore Ravens (10-4)

Last Week – 10th

By defensive EPA per drive, no defence in the league has improved more since the first half of the season. They’ve jumped up a whooping 24 spots from 27th to 3rd, after the trade for Roquan Smith looks to have helped them a lot. Baltimore have only allowed more than 14 points once in the last seven games, with this defence now becoming its centrepiece. 

As Lamar Jackson returns looms, the offence will get its QB back and have the potential to be a dangerous team come the play-offs. 

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

  1. Los Angeles Chargers (9-6)

Last Week – 11th

The Chargers confirmed their playoff spot with their win on MNF against the Colts, and are playing their best football of the season when it matters most. Their team has started to get healthier as the season goes on  and they may be able to compete in a stacked AFC conference now. If LA can continue to produce on both sides of the ball to finish the season, they may have a real chance to be considered contenders.

Up next: vs. Los Angeles Rams, Sunday 9:25 p.m. GMT

  1. Jacksonville Jaguars (7-8)

Last Week – 12th

Winners of four of their last five, the Jaguars are now in the pole position in the AFC South. No matter what happens this week, the Week 18 clash between the Jaguars and Titans will determine who wins the division. Jacksonville are peaking at the right time thanks to Trevor Lawrence hitting his stride, ranking seventh in weighted DVOA.

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

  1. Miami Dolphins (8-7)

Last Week – 7th

The Dolphins opened the season winning their first three games and followed that up with a three-game losing streak. Winning five straight games after that, Miami now found themselves on a four-game losing streak. Along with this bad run, the Dolphins as an organisation find themselves in another ‘Tua concussion’ controversy. Tua self-reported concussion symptoms for a third time this season, after the Packers’ defeat and yet again Miami failed to care for their players by not removing him in-game.

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

  1. Detroit Lions (7-8)

Last Week – 9th

The Lions no longer control their destiny for the playoffs after their ‘ass kicking’ – according to Dan Campbell – from Carolina. This team is young, but it’s important to not let one horrible game waste away two months of good work. With two divisional games left, Detroit can still find themselves in the playoffs, with a potential Week 18 matchup in Green Bay, with the winner getting in.

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

  1. Green Bay Packers (7-8)

Last Week – 16th

From their end, Green Bay’s path to the playoff was simple. Win out. They got past their easier opponents in the Bears and Rams, but then found themselves looking down the barrel of three playoff contenders to finish the season. They completed part one when they got past the Dolphins on Christmas Day, as the dream stays alive. Next up the Packers have Minnesota and if they stand any chance of winning such a game, the secondary will need another strong performance similar to Miami if they want to stop Justin Jefferson.

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

  1. New York Giants (8-6-1)

Last Week – 14th

New York’s special start to the season has worn off, but they still find themselves one win away from clinching a playoff berth. Daniel Jones topped 300 passing yards for just the second time this year against Minnesota, but his play has been vastly important to expectations entering the year. Head coach Brain Daboll has put an offence around him that has been successful, but if the Giants want to take the next step, an improvement at the position may be for the best.

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

  1. New York Jets (7-8)

Last Week – 13th

If Mike White was not cleared to return, the Jets would drop much further down this list. In his small sample size, White has been the Jets best option and their only saving hope to get to the playoffs. On the other hand, second overall pick from last year’s draft Zach Wilson, looks to have played his last snap in New York, with reports of him being on the move after only two years when the off-season rolls around.

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

  1. Washington Commanders (7-7-1)

Last Week – 15th

Washington still holds the last wild-card spot in the NFC, with them potentially needing to win out to see it out. In a risky decision, Carson Wentz has been given the opportunity to see it out for the Commanders, with them facing Cleveland this week. Beat Cleveland and they might get a Cowboys team with nothing to play for in Week 18, so things are shaping up like a redemption story of sorts for Wentz. 

But if anyone watched him for the Colts last season, they will know it’s never quite that simple and it’s just as easy for Wentz to screw this up for Washington.

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

  1. New England Patriots (7-8)

Last Week – 18th

Rhamondre Stevenson fumbled the potentially game-winning drive away against the Bengals, on a play that could have been blown dead for forward progress. It’s a tough break for this New England side but their 28th ranked DVOA offence has led to that. With Mac Jones showing his frustrations on the field toward the play calling, there are already reports starting to come out of Bill O’Brien making a return to Foxboro to fill the position for next season.

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

  1. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (7-8)

Last Week – 19th

The Bucs can put an end to this four-way battle for the NFC South if they beat the Panthers this weekend. With an offence that averages 17.7 points per game which is good for 28th in the league, Tom Brady is still dragging this team through the dirt late in games. 

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

  1. Pittsburgh Steelers (7-8)

Last Week – 21st

In the first half of the season, this Steelers offence was horrible with Mitch Trubisky at the helm and rookie Kenny Pickett getting off to a chaotic start. They ranked dead last in EPA per drive, but over the last eight weeks have ranked 6th in that same statistic. With nine teams on a record of 7-8, Pittsburgh stands the worst of those teams to make the playoffs with a 1.5% chance, via Football Outsiders. The Steelers can thank their 3-7 conference record for that.

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

  1. Carolina Panthers (6-9)

Last Week – 26th

The Panthers dismantled the Lions in their 37-23 win when they rushed for 320 yards. It’s now put them in a position to win out and complete one of the more surprising playoff runs in recent memory. With this run it feels Steve Wilks has earned the opportunity to coach this team next season from a permanent basis, as he has turned this ship around. 

Up next: at Tampa Bay, Sunday 6 p.m. GMT

  1. Tennessee Titans (7-8)

Last Week – 17th

Tennessee finds themselves on a five-game losing streak and the AFC South division title fading away fast. They are without starting QB Ryan Tannehill for the rest of the season and have seen their once dominant defence fall to 19th in EPA per drive over the last eight weeks. 

Without Tannehill this team doesn’t stand a chance on turning things around in the next two weeks, with third-round rookie Malik Willis struggling. In Willis three starts to the season, he has yet to throw for more than 100 yards, with zero touchdowns, three interceptions and taken 10 sacks.

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

  1. Seattle Seahawks (7-8)

Last Week – 20th

Seattle has been a sinking ship for over a month now with one win in their last six. The Seahawks started as one of the NFL’s feel good stories but are quickly losing that title. If they go another week without a win and Washington beat the Browns, they will be eliminated from the playoff conversation. 

Up next: vs. New York Jets, Sunday 9:05 p.m. GMT

  1. New Orleans Saints (6-9)

Last Week – 25th

New Orleans has strang together some impressive wins to keep their playoff chances to a merely 4.3%. But what happens after this season is the bigger question. In salary cap and draft capital hell, this team has no future to improve. They have no answer at the QB position, with Andy Dalton a free agent and backup Jameis Winston due $15.6 million. Taysom Hill is a great versatile piece to have but playing the majority of his snaps at tight-end, his $13.9 million cap hit next season will make him the fifth-highest paid player at that position. 

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

  1. Cleveland Browns (6-9)

Last Week – 22nd

When Jacoby Brissett was at the helm of this offence, they ranked 4th in EPA per drive. Now with their $230 million dollar man Deshaun Watson, they rank 27th. For the moment, Cleveland can use the excuse of Watson not playing for a year and a half. But to be honest, we have seen no improvement in a month now. If this is to continue the Browns will soon find themselves in a deep dark hole similar to what’s happening in Denver. They say karma is a bitch.  

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

  1. Las Vegas Raiders (6-9)

Last Week – 23rd

It feels the Las Vegas Raiders are so similar yet so unlike the Minnesota Vikings. Both teams have new offensive head coaches, QB’s just outside the top-10, a star wide-receiver, running back and tight end, with a defence that’s under performing. The biggest difference that sees them on the opposite side of the rankings though, is their ability in late game situations. 

While Minnesota are 11-0 in one-score games, Vegas are 5-8. In a parallel universe out there I’m sure the Raiders find themselves in a situation the Vikings are in. 

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

  1. Los Angeles Rams (5-10)

Last Week – 29th

Baker Mayfield got the audition to receive his career in LA and is making the most of it. In his three starts he’s managed two wins and threw for 230 yards and two touchdowns in the Rams 51-14 domination on Christmas Day. If anything Mayfield has shown he can be a capable starter in this league if he has a few things in his favour, and it will likely earn him a gig at a starting position for the 2023 season.

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

  1. Atlanta Falcons (5-10)

Last Week – 27th

Rookie quarterback Desmond Ridder took some steps forward in his second career start this past weekend. He had no turnovers and completed 22 of 33 passes for 218 yards, yet Atlanta still found themselves on the losing side of things. After now being eliminated from the dismal NFC South race, the Falcons are likely to go three straight seasons with a top-10 draft pick, with Arthur Smith’s seat starting to heat up.

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

  1. Arizona Cardinals (4-11)

Last Week – 28th

The Cardinals have some major questions coming up in the next few months, with three of their biggest positions at the organisation all under the spotlight. General manager Steve Keim has taken indefinite leave from the team just when the off-season is to begin. Head Coach Kliff Kingsbury’s looks set to leave his position in two weeks time, while QB Kyler Murray will be out with a long term ACL injury . 

One of the best defensive players of this generation, JJ Watt is also to retire at the end of the season.

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

  1. Chicago Bears (3-12)

Last Week – 31st

The Bears have a human highlight reel in Justin Fields but that’s about it. Apart from a few rookie defenders that have shown flashes, they still rank dead last 32nd in defensive DVOA. The off-season may look promising with over $100 million in cap space and the second overall pick, but there’s a lot of holes that need fixing on this team. 

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

  1. Denver Broncos (4-10)

Last Week – 24th

Last week I made the bold approach to say Denver may be turning things around and how wrong I was. In the Draft Super Bowl for teams that didn’t own their own pick, LA wiped the floor with them that got Nathaniel Hackett fired. The problem may be deeper than Hackett, with a certain QB looking to be the main issue, but the Broncos feel Russell Wilson can be fixed with the right person in charge. 

Up next: at Kansas City, Sunday 6 p.m. GMT

  1. Houston Texans (2-12-1)

Last Week – 32nd

Despite having the worst record in the league and being the league’s laughing stock for the last few years, Houston has quietly put together a good last month of football. They took Dallas to the very end and forced the Chiefs to overtime, in two improved performances and got a deserved win to the Titans this week. The Texans also have a rookie on either side of the ball that could be in contention for ROTY, with Dameon Pierce and Jalen Pitre.

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

  1. Indianapolis Colts (4-10-1)

Last Week – 30th

Since Jeff Saturday took over things in Week 10 the Colts find themselves with a -58 point differential, three different starting quarterbacks and a partridge in a pear tree. Nick Foles did not improve things at the QB position, with two interceptions in the first quarter, seven sacks and a 0-10 third-down conversion rate. It was only a couple years ago this Indy team looked like a rising star and now find themselves amongst the years worst.

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

Walk-Off Wins Galore 

Week 15 Monday Review Column 

By David McDonnell

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

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

Walk-off wins 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Worse was to come for Belichick.

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

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

Let’s take a look from another angle.

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

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

Cowboys v Jaguars

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jets v Lions

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

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

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

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

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

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

Round Up

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

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

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

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

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

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

A lot of it was of their own making. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Baker Serves Up Humble Pie

By David McDonnell

This was an unbelievable ending to a quite forgettable game.

Baker Mayfield landed in Los Angeles at 7.15pm on Tuesday and 48 hours later he was playing in the middle of Sofi stadium 16-3 down on the scoreboard with his new Rams teammates heading into the fourth quarter. 

The Rams trailing by 13 midway through the second half was close to what I expected to happen but I didn’t expect what was to come later after.

The game had started impressively for the visiting Raiders. On the opening drive Carr opened with a great pass along the right touchline to Devontae Adams, who caught one handed around Jalen Ramsey for a 33-yard gain.

The Raiders gave the ball seven times to Josh Jacobs on the opening drive and it was no surprise when the running-back ran into the endzone from close range. 

At the time it looked like it would be a high scoring game but alas it turned into a defensive slugfest. With less than four minutes left to go in the fourth quarter, it remained the only touchdown as the Las Vegas Raiders led 16-3. 

The Rams had offered little on offence all night but when Cam Akers made a good catch on fourth down to extend a drive, he soon ran in from three yards out to leave six points separating the sides. 

The Rams then stopped the next Raiders drive on third and one to get the ball back on their own two yard line with 1.41 remaining. 

Baker then had to run a two-minute drill.

It looked at one stage that the drive would come to nothing when Maxx Crosby sacked him for a loss of nine yards on third down, but defensive-tackle Jerry Tillery was flagged for knocking the ball out of Mayfield’s hands, which resulted in a 15-yard penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct and a fresh set of downs. 

Baker made Tillery pay for that mistake and found Ben Skowronek, who made a big third down catch deep into Raider territory. Mayfield finished off the 98-yard drive when he found Van Jefferson for a 23-yard touchdown with 10 seconds left to tie the contest.

It left Matt Gay to kick the winning PAT.

The win snaps a six-game losing streak for the Rams and also ends the Raiders’ outside chance of making the playoffs. It was their fourth loss this season after leading by 13 or more points

Afterwards Baker was buzzing with excitement and started headbutting his teammates helmets with his head, which has become his signature move. It was a magic night for him and a chance to put some of his detractors, myself included, back in our box for a few days.

All this rutting about on the sideline, maybe Mayfield has found his herd at last.

TNF Raiders v Rams

By David McDonnell 

After getting booted out of the Carolina Panthers on Monday, Baker Mayfield is in line to play for the LA Rams against the visiting Raiders on Thursday Night Football.

With Matt Stafford ruled out after successive concussions, Sean McVay will likely check first on John Wolford who picked up a neck injury on Sunday but all indications are that we will see Mayfield on the field at SoFi stadium later tonight.

The storyline adds a bit more excitement to the occasion between two teams, one who already preparing for next season and the other with only an outside shot of playing football in January. 

Las Vegas Raiders 

Power Rankings: 21st 

DVOA Rankings: Offence:13th, Defence: 31st, SP:11th: Total: 23rd

The Raiders have been flying lately. Only a month ago people across the league were calling for Josh McDaniels’ head on a plate. Don’t take that literally but there were calls for him to be replaced as head coach of the Raiders after less then 10 games into his first season. 

At the time, the offence was stuttering, and outside of Maxx Crosby the rest of the Raiders defence looked as sturdy as a wet paper bag. However, things have changed dramatically in recent weeks and they have pulled off three successive wins with two of these victories against team with playoff ambitions: the Seahawks and the Chargers. 

So what has changed?

In my opinion, it starts with the defensive line who have started to dominate their opponents over the last few weeks. Whereas before it was only Maxx Crosby, he is now getting help from the rest of the unit in getting after the quarterback. Last Sunday Chandler Jones had his best game in Silver and Black gaining three sacks on Justin Herbert.  

Running-back Josh Jacobs has been outstanding in the rushing attack all year and it is giving Derek Carr and Devontae Adams the ability to run play action to get big chuck plays down the field. Both are delivering massive scores what seems every week. What has also been clear recently has been the success of both receivers Adams and Mack Hollins blocking to assist Jacobs and the rushing attack.   

It is terrific to see a team playing to their potential and that is what Josh McDaniels has his team doing right now. All talk of a change of head coach is no longer an issue.

According to the statistics the Raiders have less than a 10% chance of making the playoffs, but a win tonight would make it four in a row and a chance for a winning record, which would be a successful salvage operation on which to build on for next season.

Las Angles Rams

Power Rankings: 30th 

DVOA Rankings: Offence: 27th, Defence: 16th, SP:  25th, Total: 27th

The LA Rams are already preparing for the 2023 season and it is good to see that the players are not throwing in the towel.

Last weekend they gave the Seahawks a good run for their money in a heated and mean spirited game. A pass from Geno Smith to DK Metcalf at the end of the game cost them a win against their division rivals.

It is difficult to win games in the National Football League at any time but especially when you are down Aaron Donald, Matt Stafford, Cooper Kupp, three of their big stars but Bobby Wagner has taken over leadership of the defence and it is starting to perform better. 

The Rams have been deficient on the offensive side of the ball where their passing game in particular has been very poor since Kupp got injured. They have totaled 178 and 106 passing yards in their last two games respectively and a total of one receiving  touchdown. Their run game is better but still nothing to write home about. 

Prediction

Should Baker Mayfield start tonight, it’s a tough ask to come in under short notice and expect to run any offence. I wouldn’t be a big fan of Baker on a good day anyway and I think he will struggle to impact the game. 

This season he looks overweight and has been slow to move inside or outside the pocket and I think I think he will be under pressure all night and he is going to get hit often in this matchup. If the Raiders can stop the run, which I expect they will then I think they should be able to pull clear in the second half.

Derek Carr has been playing well in recent weeks and I can see a huge advantage for the Raiders at the pivotal position. It is enough for me to throw my hat on a Thursday Night Football Raiders win. 

Late NFL drama aplenty in Week 12  

By David McDonnell 

I usually start every week with a load of superlatives about just how good the NFL was the previous evening and today I am going to bang the same drum once again as the NFL served up a Sunday dinner and dessert full of sporting drama.

There is quite a lot to get through so sit back, put on your seat-belt and let me drive through the most important stories and a lot of thrilling finishes across the National Football League. 

Ravens v Jaguars

Yesterday might go down as a seminal moment in the NFL career of one William Trevor Laurence. 

The former Clemson quarterback won a National Championship in college and he came to the NFL with a well-earned reputation that saw him selected as the first overall pick of the 2021 draft.

For most of the season Laurence, like most of the quarterbacks in their sophomore season, has struggled at times for form and consistency but he looked every inch the superstar as he led an impressive winning drive against the Ravens. 

I can’t think of a more notable moment in his professional career.  

Let’s fast forward to when Jacksonville kicker Riley Patterson kicked the Jags into a one-point lead with four minutes remaining. 

Baltimore’s Lamar Jackson threw a deep ball to veteran 35 -year-old receiver Deshaun Jackson for a 62 yard completion. 

Jackson, the Lamar one, then found former Jag Josh Oliver for a go-ahead touchdown and a two-point conversion that saw the scores poised 27-20.

With two minutes to go, the ball was put in Trevor Laurence’s court and to mix up my sporting metaphors, the QB stepped up to the plate. 

With the game on the line, Laurence found Christian Kirk for 33 yards, threw for another 20 to Zay Jones and then finished off the 75-yard drive by throwing to Marvin Jones for a six-pointer. 

Instead of kicking the game into overtime, Doug Peterson decided to risk it by going for the two-point play and Trevor threw a bullet this time to Zay Jones for a go-ahead score with 10 seconds remaining. 

Cue pandemonium in the sunny Jacksonville November stadium, but the drama wasn’t over yet.

The 14 seconds left on the clock were enough for Lamar to set up a 67-yard field goal attempt for Justin Tucker, who holds the NFL record at 66 yards. His effort looked to be sailing straight between the uprights but dropped just short.

Ravens coach John Harbaugh’s face told a story as it is the fourth time this season his side have lost double digit fourth-quarter leads. 

Bengals v Titans 

It leaves the Ravens joint-top of the AFC North with the Cincinnati Bengals, who also left it late to overcome the Titans in Tennessee. 

The Titans best score came after Treylon Burks followed up a great run by Derek Henry for a second quarter touchdown. 

In the fourth Tennessee led 16-20 and Burrow, as has become his wont, led the Bengals down the field and threw for Tee Higgens to score a go-ahead touchdown.

Higgins has been stepping up in a major way since the injury to Ja’Marr Chase and when Chase returns to the lineup, possibly next weekend, this team will be very difficult to stop if Burrow is afforded too much time in the pocket. 

Chargers v Cardinals 

There was more last gasp drama as the San Diego,  I mean the LA Chargers won another entertaining match-up at the death against the Cardinals. 

This was a ding-dong battle throughout with Kyler Murray was back after injury and he found DeAndre Hopkins for the opening touchdown 

Very late in the fourth quarter the Cards led 24-17 and Herbert found Austin Ekeler for a touchdown for the Chargers to trail 23-24.

Just like in Jacksonville, the Bolts decided to go for the win and their risk was also rewarded when Herbert threw to Ger Everett with 15 seconds left in the contest. 

It secured a win that sees the LA franchise who are now 6-5 and in the play-off hunt after overcoming a poor start to the season. 

Falcons v Commanders

Another team who had a poor record early in the season but also are back in the mix are the Commanders who at 7-5, to currently sit inside the play-off positions. Interestingly, if the season was to end today all four teams in the NFC East would be playing football in January.

This was another game that went to wire as Washington, leading by six points, managed to pick Marcus Mariota on second and goal with only a minute remaining. Deron Payne deflected the pass and Kendall Fuller got his hands on the ball for his second interception in two games. 

Packers v Eagles

Those who were expecting a low scoring encounter would have been majorly disappointed, as this turned out to be a wild affair. 

After 15 mins and 6 seconds, five touchdowns had been scored as the game caught fire from the off. 

On the opening drive Hurts who was outstanding all night picked up two third downs with his legs and brought the play down to first and goal for Kenneth Gainwell to punch it in and almost immediately the Eagles defence intercepted Aaron Rodgers.  

This time it was Miles Sanders who took maximum advantage and the home side opened up a 0-13 lead inside the opening six minutes. 

It looked by that stage that it could  be a long night for Green Bay but when the lights are brightest Rodgers usually comes to play.  On the next drive the Packers hit back immediately and a Rodgers led drive finished in the endzone when AJ Dillon powered over for a six pointer from 20 yards. 

The Packers D then managed to turn the ball over on a short field by stopping Hurts on a QB sneak on both third and fourth down and Green Bay took a one point lead when Rodgers found Randell Cobb in the endzone 

Before the first quarter was over Jalen Hurts had set off on another run to the two-yard line and would end the quarter with over a 100 rushing yards. On the first play of the second quarter they had their third TD of the night. 

There were defensive turnovers from both sides which ended when Rodgers found running back Aaron Jones, who made an excellent scramble-drill adjustment and caught the ball at the back of the endzone to tie the game 20-20.

The first half scoring wasn’t finished and with 13 seconds left Hurts found Quez Watkins from 30 yards with his best throw of the night.

The game settled down after the break somewhat and AJ Brown got in on the scoring act to extend Philly’s lead to 14 points.

Aaron Rodgers then needed to leave the field with an injury and Jorden Love, remember the first round pick who has been riding the bench since he was drafted in the first round in the 2020 draft? 

Love came on and almost immediately made a splash when he connected with Christian Watson on a crossing route and the rookie took off down the left sideline for a terrific touchdown to make it a one-score game.

Both sides added field goals as a wild night in Philly ended 33-40 as the Eagles go 11-1. 

I wrote in my preview of this game that I expected the Eagles to go back to their winning formula and let their O-line lead them to another victory and that is exactly what they did. They ran the ball down the Packers’ throats all night and by the end Jalen Hurts and Miles Sanders combined for 300 rushing yards with the rest of the team adding a further 64 yards. 

Raiders v Seahawks 

Another team, well one man who had a special rushing performance was Josh Jacobs who broke the Raiders franchise record with over 300 yards from scrimmage and a pair of touchdowns. 

In contrast, rookie running back sensation Kenneth Walker led the Seahawks in rushing with only 26 yards but he did manage to punch in two touchdowns including this effort. 

This was a very exciting game as the teams went toe to toe from start to finish. In the second quarter, Derek Carr found an unmarked Mack Hollins for a score with a flea-flicker set-play that caught Seattle off guard. 

The game was a ding-dong battle and entering the fourth quarter the tie was evenly poised 27-27 a piece.

The Seahawks took a lead with five minutes remaining when Travis Homer found the end zone from 18 yards but Carr hit back. First Devante Adams managed to grab the ball despite Michael Jackson catching hold of his other hand.

A few plays later Carr found Foster Moreau in the endzone to tie the scores 34-34. Geno did have a late chance to lead a winning drive but Maxx Crosby sacked him on third down.

In overtime Crosby came up trumps again with his 10.5 sack of the season. I know it’s already week 12 but I’m calling that Crosby will break the sack record this season. Watch this space!!!  

Soon after,  it was all over when Jacobs ripped off an 86-yard walk-off touchdown to win the game for the Raiders. 

On the day Jacobs was sensational, rushing for 228 yards on 28 carries and caught 74 more. Afterwards, I think it’s fair to say that his coach Josh McDaniels was happy with his running-back’s performance.

Round Up 

Another game that had late, late drama came as the Buccaneers visited the Browns.

Tom Brady led the Bucs to a 17-10 lead but Jacoby Brissett found David Njoku to level the scores with 32 seconds left.

The game went to overtime and running-back Nick Chubb burst in from close range for a walk-off win in Cleveland. 

Mike White had a day to remember as he led the Jets to an impressive 10-31 win against the Bears, who were missing Justin Fields and had Trevor Siemien starting under centre. 

White was in sensational form and will no doubt continue in this role for the medium-term future as he had a QB rating of 149.3 and threw for 315 yards and three touchdowns. 

The most eye-catching was his throw to Garrett Wilson in the first half. 

The 49ers won their fourth game in succession and very impressively in each of the last four games, they held their opposition to zero points in the second half. 

Here they went one better and handed New Orleans their first duck egg on the scoreboard since 2001. DeMeco Ryan’s defence shut down their run game and Andy Dalton was the leading Saints rusher with 21 yards. 

The 49ers have the ability to ratchet up the intensity and have play-makers all over their roster and they are getting healthier by the week. It is no surprise to me that they are regarded as genuine Super Bowl contenders. 

The Chiefs were never in trouble against a Bryce Perkins led Rams. Of note Patrick Mahomes found Travis Kelce for his 12th  touchdown of the season. 

Tua made light work of the Texans and as the Dolphins took a 30-0 lead into half time. They even had the luxury of resting their starting QB at the break, and gave Skylar Thompson the second half. 

Sam Darnold was back in the starting lineup and led the Panthers to a win against the disappointing Broncos to give Steve Wilks the fourth win of his interim coaching tenure. 

And that’s it.

Phew.

What a night of action. My fingers are tired from tip-tapping away at the laptop but thank you for your time. All socials media help will be greatly appreciated.

Later we will post a preview for Monday Night Football, as the Steelers face the Colts.

Week 12 Power Rankings

By Conor Perrett 

It’s Thanksgiving week in the land of America. That means with Week 12 of the NFL season fast approaching with roast dinners and football on Thursday, let’s see where everybody fairs after the action from Week 11.

  1. Kansas City Chiefs (8-2)

Last Week – 1st

When the Chiefs got the ball on their own 25-yard line, down four points with 1:46 to go Sunday night, it felt inevitable that they would score the go-ahead touchdown. It’s something that we have come accustomed to for Patrick Mahomes to pull off and this time against the Chargers it only took him six plays. 

Travis Kelce’s name can go under the radar sometimes being in an offence that has Mahomes as its quarterback and Andy Reid as his head coach, but the tight-end is making a claim to be a future hall of famer. Kelce has already tied his career high with 11 receiving touchdowns and is on track to set a career high in receiving yards this season as well. 

He just passed Rob Gronkowski for fifth in receiving yards among tight ends and is only 101 yards away from Shannon Sharpe for fourth. With a good few seasons still left in the tank, God knows what records he and Mahomes can break.

Up next: vs. Los Angeles Rams, Sunday 9:25 p.m. GMT

  1. Philadelphia Eagles (9-1)

Last Week – 2nd

In Weeks 1-9, Philadelphia led the league in turnover differential with 18 turnovers forced while committing just three turnovers of their own. In their last two games, they’ve turned their own ball over six times and rank 31st in turnover differential. Their reckless play got them their first loss last week against the Commanders and nearly another in Indianapolis last Sunday, if it wasn’t for a heroic fourth quarter. 

I made a comment in Week 7’s edition of our Power Rankings that talked about whether their turnover differential is sustainable. I wrote then: “It shows Philadelphia’s dominance through the first half of the season, but is it sustainable? For the time being there is no reason not to doubt that, but things can come crashing down fast. Just ask the Cardinals of last year.“

I made that Cardinals comment at the end as a joke, but could it  be heading that way? 

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

  1. Miami Dolphins (7-3)

Last Week – 3rd

The Dolphins are coming off a bye week heading into Week 12 and could afford to take another, with a home matchup against Houston waiting for them.

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

  1. Buffalo Bills (6-3)

Last Week – 5th

The snow that hit Buffalo last week must have changed something in their mentality when Devin Singletary and James Cook combined for 172 rushing yards on 29 carries. It’s the first time in a while the run game has looked any good, especially without Allen taking the load. It was against a historically bad Browns’ run defence, but they’ll be back in their home away from home on Thanksgiving, with a tummy full of turkey when they take on the Detroit Lions. A win could take them back on top of the competitive AFC East.

Up next: at Detroit, Thursday 5:30 p.m. GMT

  1. San Francisco 49ers (6-4)

Last Week – 7th

Everything went just as expected for the Niners in Mexico after their 38-10 blowout against the Cardinals. Jimmy Garoppolo is the fourth-ranked quarterback in EPA per dropback behind just Tagovailoa, Mahomes, and Allen. George Kittle is healthy and coming off a two touchdown game. A backfield of Christian McCaffrey, Elijah Mitchell and a sprinkle of Deebo Samuel might be the most dangerous in the league. 

Combine that with the top-ranked defence in points allowed, all while Philly and Minnesota hit a dip and the 49ers have entered the conversation as serious Super Bowl contenders.

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

  1. Baltimore Ravens (6-3)

Last Week – 6th

The trade Baltimore made to get Roquan Smith is looking like a hit for this defence. He recorded seven tackles and a sack this week as the Ravens held Carolina to a sad three points. Since his acquisition Baltimore are undefeated and have not allowed an opponent to score over 20 points. His play has rubbed onto others around him as well, with Patrick Queen shining. With a favourable schedule ahead for the Ravens, everything’s coming up Millhouse!!!

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

  1. Dallas Cowboys (7-3)

Last Week – 8th

The Cowboys took no prisoners in their 40-3 win over the Vikings on Sunday. Dak Prescott completed 22 of 25 passes for 276 yards and two touchdowns in an offensive masterclass where he and running-back Tony Pollard couldn’t put a foot wrong.

It’s the kind of complete game we needed to see from Dallas after their defeat to Green Bay, with the defence getting in on the action as well. Micah Parsons added two sacks to his campaign with a pressure rate of 60 percent, the highest rate in a game this season. While corner-back Trevon Diggs allowed just two catches for 19 yards against Justin Jefferson.

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

  1. Cincinnati Bengals (6-4)

Last Week – 9th

The Bengals’ win over the Steelers on Sunday kept their playoff hopes alive, and more good news flooded in Monday with Ja’Marr Chase returning to practice. Burrow ranks fifth in EPA per dropback and getting Chase back will only add to the heights we saw from both last season.

On a two-game winning streak, the Bengals now enter their hardest stretch. With seven games left in the season, they are scheduled to face six teams currently ranked 13th or higher in these Power Rankings. Perfect timing for the Chase return if you ask me.

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

  1. Tennessee Titans (7-3)

Last Week – 12th

After starting the season 0-2 the Titans have since won seven of their last eight games, with their only loss coming in overtime at Kansas City. With the league’s No. 1 DVOA run defence and a grind-it-out style that drags opponents into the mud with them, Mike Vrabel has another case for Coach of the Year with the way things are going.

Tennessee is in a four-way tie for the second-best record in the AFC at 7-3, and we finally saw an element of a passing game on TNF when rookie Treylon Burks had seven receptions for 111 yards. That extra element on offence is a welcome sight to start putting them up there with the big dogs.

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

  1. Seattle Seahawks (6-4)

Last Week – 10th

On their bye with no game, Seattle sadly lost their top spot in the NFC West to the Niners this week. Though they still have a 84.5 percent chance of making the playoffs according to Football Outsiders.

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

  1. Minnesota Vikings (8-2)

Last Week – 4th

I’ve been on top of Minnasota’s back all year and the minute I praise them with a 4th placed ranking last week, they suffer the most lopsided loss of the NFL season to date.

This team had been riding high after that insane win in Buffalo and it seems it caught up to them. I mentioned that Minnesota had been an overachiever and it’s important for them now to not let this free-fall. With a game against New England next which will see them play another top defence, they have to get their head back on straight,  otherwise things can start to come crashing down real fast.

Up next: vs. New England, Friday 1:20 a.m. GMT

  1. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (5-5)

Last Week – 13th

There’s probably no better place to have a bye week than in Tampa, Florida. The sun, the beach, it all sounds so nice while I’m taking in 1 degree weather in Newcastle, UK.

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

  1. New England Patriots (6-4)

Last Week – 14th

Back in the Draft, Bill Belichick spent a third-round pick on a return specialist and it all paid off when Marcus Jones had a game winning 84-yard punt return.

However, there’s no denying that Mac Jones and the offence have been abysmal even in the team’s three-game win streak. Since Week 9, no offence ranks lower in offensive EPA per drive, and Jones ranks 32nd in EPA per dropback. That’s not going to cut it as they face the hardest remaining schedule in the NFL.

Up next: at Minnesota, Friday 1:20 a.m. GMT

  1. New York Jets (6-4)

Last Week – 11th

The Jets aren’t gone yet, but after Zach Wilson led them to just two offensive yards in the second half and answered “no” to a question about whether he let the defence down, New York has a big decision on their hands. For their next game, Robert Saleh refused to commit to Wilson and that’s going to lead to bigger talks about the QB in the off-season.

The Jets have the 6th ranked DVOA defence, they got weapons all over the offence, but their 2nd overall pick from last year is taking longer than expected to come good. Game It would feel rushed if the Jets were to change their plans at quarterback, but right now it feels the coaching staff don’t believe in the man and his recent comments won’t win over any of his teammates either.

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

  1. Washington Commanders (6-5)

Last Week – 16th

Ron Rivera’s decision to continue riding with Taylor Heinicke was an easy one from the outside. Washington was 2-4 before Carson Wentz was placed on injured reserve with a finger injury. The Commanders are 4-1 in games since, including a blowout win in Houston this Sunday. Heinicke, who’s been great, has not solely been responsible for that turnaround though as the defence ranks fifth in defensive EPA per drive over that span.

But when you have a defence as successful as that, not turning the ball over is simply enough to win a game. That’s exactly what Heinicke has over Wentz and the major reason why he gets to keep the job. Sure Wentz has the higher ceiling, that’s why he’s a former 2nd overall pick, but his erratic play can lead to mistakes. With a top defence now the Commanders will take less highlight plays if it means less mistakes.

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

  1. Los Angeles Chargers (5-5)

Last Week – 17th

There’s no questioning Justin Herbert’s brilliance, especially after his effort against the Chiefs, but there will be questions surrounding head coach Brandon Staley, offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi and the rest of the Los Angeles coaching staff if this team misses the playoffs again.

The good news though is Keenan Allen and Mike Williams are both back and they only have to face two more teams with a current winning record.

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

  1. Detroit Lions (4-6)

Last Week – 22nd

Three weeks ago after getting torched by Miami for a fifth straight defeat on the season and an overall record of 4-19-1 in the Dan Campbell era. A deflated Campbell stood on a press podium to say, “It’s frustrating. I know everybody’s tired of hearing it’s close, but I do know we’re close, and you just don’t know when it’s going to turn.”

At the time, frustrations were starting to grow among the Lions fan-base as this rebuild they were so hoping to work, looked to be failing like the ‘Same Old Lions.’

But it almost feels prophetic that since then, the Lions have put together a three-game win streak after dismantling the 7-2 Giants 31-18, on the road in a one sided event. With two teams with winning records left on their schedule the Playoffs might feel like a stretch, but more importantly this young team is starting to get wins under their belt and still might get a top-5 pick in the Draft due to the Stafford trade with the Rams.

Up next: vs. Buffalo, Thursday 5:30 p.m. GMT

  1. New York Giants (7-3)

Last Week – 15th

It feels harsh putting the Giants in the bottom half of the rankings when they have seven wins on the season, but it’s where they belong. That’s not taking anything away from Brain Daboll and his coaching staff. This New York side has overachieved and look amazing for a team in the first year of their rebuild, but they have a glaring weakness.

The Giants have won six of their games on one score wins, having been down by double-digits points multiple times before coming back. It’s a great talent to win close games and be perfect at the end of games, but this team functions on running the ball and when they get too far behind there’s no way back for them. That’s exactly what happened against the Lions, as a 24-6 deficit in the third quarter was too much to ask.

Up next: at Dallas, Thursday 9:30 p.m. GMT

  1. Jacksonville Jaguars (3-7)

Last Week – 20th

The Jaguars might not be overly happy after how they started the season, but what they can be happy about is how Trevor Lawrence looks significantly better this season compared to last year. He’s a top-10 quarterback in EPA per dropback, while Jacksonville has the same point differential as the 7-3 Dolphins and Titans. They just happen to be 1-6 in one score games.

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

  1. Green Bay Packers (4-7)

Last Week – 18th

With games against the Eagles, Dolphins, and Vikings to come, there’s a world where the Packers are drafting in the top-10 of the 2023 NFL draft. It hopefully will allow them to get young and press restart on their team, but will Aaron Rodgers be there? 

With four years left on his contract you would think so, but with the rumblings of retirement for years and a less than ideal season, I wouldn’t count it out. It would leave the Packers in hell, hauling in $99.7 million in dead cap.

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

  1. Atlanta Falcons (5-6)

Last Week – 26th

Cordarrelle Patterson, who scored his ninth career kickoff return touchdown Sunday against the Bears and the tough offensive line are saving the Falcons right now. This team ranks sixth in EPA per rush and focuses heavily on it. However how the run game is going will determine how they do, and they’ll be tested this week against Washington’s strong run defence. Maybe Kyle Pitts and Drake London will get more of an opportunity this week.

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

  1. Arizona Cardinals (4-7)

Last Week – 19th

That was an ugly loss in Mexico Monday night, and showed where this team is really at. San Francisco is a serious team and if Arizona wanted to make a late push for the play-offs, then being semi-competitive would have been a start. Instead they suffered a one-sided defeat and that win they got two weeks ago against the Rams, feels like one step forwards and two steps back now.

Up next: vs. Los Angeles Chargers, Sunday 9:05 p.m. GMT

  1. Cleveland Browns (3-7)

Last Week – 21st

When the Browns traded the world to acquire Deshaun Watson it kind of felt like this was going to be the most realistic scenario. Knowing he would miss three months of the season without a backup plan felt foolish and they are paying the price. To be fair, the offence has been the better of the two units, but with such a poor defence this season kind of feels like a gap year for Cleveland.

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

  1. Indianapolis Colts (4-6-1)

Last Week – 29th

Over the last two weeks since Matt Ryan has taken the reins back on the offence, the Colts passing attack ranks 19th in EPA per dropback over that span. It does beg the question to what was going on in that building at the start of the season?

In Frank Reich’s first year he looked like the real deal and it seemed he would be a head coach for a long time. But this season Indy’s offence ranked 32nd in the majority of metrics under his spell. At the time we assumed that Ryan had clearly ran out of steam in the tank, but since Jeff Saturday took interim head coach duties he’s got him looking five years younger again.

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

  1. New Orleans Saints (4-6)

Last Week – 30th

The Saints feel like a yo-yo at the minute with their performances sending them up and down our rankings. Andy Dalton has surprisingly not looked too bad in a weak offence, ranking 10th in EPA per dropback after 11 weeks. 

But Chris Olave is the real star of this offence. His 760 receiving yards on 51 catches are 10th among all players and best among rookies. Micheal Thomas, Drew Brees and Sean Payton feel like a distant memory for Saints fans and it feels they’ve replaced at least one of those.

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

  1. Chicago Bears (3-8)

Last Week – 23rd

Chicago feels like they’re having a bit of a personality crisis right now. Realistically their first year in the rebuild is going well, with three wins and being competitive in many more. But they got to figure out what their identity is on offence.

Justin Fields when using his legs looks special, like elite special. There’s a reason why he ranks fifth in rushing yards from the quarterback position, but he is still so limited as a passer. When the Bears play the kind of offence they want to with Field’s legs, they look like a top offence. 

But in the last two games with the offence on the field needing to score in the dying minutes, they kept going to Field’s arm. That’s only normal to do so with a quarterback, but this passing scheme is clearly not working so trust what you have with the run game.

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

  1. Pittsburgh Steelers (3-7)

Last Week – 27th

TJ Watt has returned to this defence, but it feels to have lit a spark among the entire team. The offence has shown a sign of new life in his return, scoring a season-high 30 points in the loss to Cincinnati. Their two best performances of the season by EPA per drive have come over the past two weeks, as it feels they’ve figured some things out with this offence.

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

  1. Las Vegas Raiders (3-7)

Last Week – 31st

The Raiders’ defence held an opponent under 20 points for the first time all season in Sunday’s overtime win in Denver. Even against an awful Broncos offence it feels like a stepping stone for this defence which has let Vegas down this year. Maxx Crosby showed us he never went away by winning Defensive Player of Week 11 in Smashmouthing Football’s award, but he’s never been the problem. Vegas has the star players you need but the lack of play-makers elsewhere has hampered them out of the playoff race already.

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

  1. Denver Broncos (3-8)

Last Week – 24th

Losing to the Raiders at home on Sunday all but secured the Broncos’ position as the league’s most disappointing team in 2022. In their pursuit of Aaron Rodgers, they ended up with Nathaniel Hackett and Russell Wilson. One of which looks broken and the other lost. I’ll leave you to decide which ones which. 

The path forward will be a rocky one after swinging and missing so badly, but something will have to change. For the next few weeks, look for Hackett’s seat to get even hotter if the Broncos don’t start showing offensive improvement late on.

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

  1. Carolina Panthers (3-8)

Last Week – 28th

So as bad as Carolina has been this year, their defence has remained promising. They have youngsters on all levels of the D and just held Lamar Jackson and company to their season low 13 points. The head coach in waiting will have a much more attractive job than it seemed a month ago, with a QB from their draft pick in May maybe making this team relevant again. 

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

  1. Los Angeles Rams (3-7)

Last Week – 25th

Yikes, who would have seen this coming? Poor play from every position on offence led to a disappointing start but after years of good injury luck, it seems to have hit them all at once. First we had offensive linemen, then Cooper Kupp required surgery. But now their Super Bowl winning QB Matthew Stafford left Sunday’s loss to be evaluated for a concussion one week after missing a game for being in the concussion protocol.

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

  1. Houston Texans (1-8-1)

Last Week – 32nd

The Texans are a game and a half clear of the teams with the next-fewest wins, and they don’t exactly look on the verge of making up that difference any time soon. It’s never too early to start talking about the draft, so allow me to greet you with some names the Texans will be choosing between. 

First, out of Alabama QB Bryce Young looks like the top prospect with fellow five star recruit, QB CJ Stroud (Ohio State) just below. But if Houston feels like skipping that position again, then look no further to Young’s teammate, EDGE Will Anderson, who looks like a young Khalil Mack.

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

Our NFL Week 11 Awards

By David McDonnell

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

Offensive Player of the Week: Tony Pollard (Cowboys)

Defensive Player of the Week: Maxx Crosby (Raiders)

Rookie of the Week: Jack Sanborn (Bears)

Touchdown of the Week: Cordarrelle Patterson

Smash of the Week: Deron Payne (Commanders)

MNF: Raiders @ Chiefs 

By Conor Perrett

Monday Night Football Preview

The Las Vegas Raiders finally got into the win column last Sunday, but things are about to get a lot more difficult this week when they travel on the road for a Monday Night divisional game at Kansas City. With the Chiefs favourites by a touchdown, Josh McDaniels and his Raiders will take on the role of underdogs as they look to upset Patrick Mahomes.

Kansas City Chiefs (3-1)

Power Rankings – 2nd https://tinyurl.com/ec2p5esm

Defense-adjusted Value Over Average are adjusted to take into account the quality of offensive opponents.

Coming off a hot performance on Sunday Night Football against Tampa Bay, this Chiefs team really showed us what it’s still.capable of. Across the whole league we’ve seen examples of quarterbacks struggling with their new weapons and surroundings. Well as the performance we saw from Patrick Mahomes last week, he reminded us of why he should still be considered as one of if not the best player in the league.

The Buccaneers’ defence came into that game ranked first in DVOA’s metrics and Andy Reid had no problems scheming up a game plan to put over 40 points on them. 

The new running back committee is working out like a treat, while the ball is being evenly spread around in the air to a whole depth of talent. Against a weaker Las Vegas defence, one can only think that Reid will keep the scoring up and if the history of this matchup has anything to say about that, then there’s a good chance.

Chiefs Injury Peport

In four games, Mahomes has 1,106 passing yards, 11 touchdown passes, two interceptions and a passer rating of 108.4.

His highlights have been even more impressive than the statistics say and if Mahomes keeps this production up, he could be making a claim to win another MVP award.

Las Vegas Raiders (1-3)

Power Rankings – 17th

https://tinyurl.com/ec2p5esm

DVOA Rankings

With a new regime and the big off-season acquisitions made, expectations for this Raiders team were set at being a contender. Through three weeks it looked like the season might have already been over for them, but signs of snapping out of an inconsistent habit in the win to Denver last week gives them promise. The record looks worse than it’s been, as the difference of a pair of two-point conversions going their way could have them at 3-1.

Getting their new stars involved is what this Raiders side has been lacking so far. Davante Adams has put a couple nice games together in his new black and silver uniform, but not at a consistent level. Renfrow is back from a concussion after missing two games, so the Chiefs won’t be able to shut off Adams and Darren Waller in double coverage. This will lead to opportunities to exploit in the passing game against a young Chiefs secondary.

Las Vegas Injury Report

Despite a less than ideal start, there’s still time for this Raiders team to turn things around. For starters the AFC West has looked far weaker than we could have thought. The Chiefs are of course the Chiefs, but the Chargers are heavily beat up and the Broncos are stinking the whole of Denver out right now. New regimes can take time and nothing ever comes easy in this league. If they can start to find more explosiveness on offence and dial up more pressure on defence, then a playoff berth won’t feel far out of their reach anymore.

Previous Match-ups

2021 Season:

Week 10 – Chiefs @ Raiders 41-14 Chiefs Win 

Week 14 – Raiders @ Chiefs 9-48 Chiefs Win

Being divisional rivals this game is always going to be a tasty one, but the Chiefs dominated and embarrassed the Raiders last year. In just two games the Chiefs put up a combined 89 points as they had a score difference of +66. Now the Raiders have a completely new coaching staff in place, giving them hope of a different outcome, but a lot will need to change if they want to turn that difference around.

Prediction

The Raiders defence has struggled so far this season, giving up more than 25 points and 357 yards per game. That is not what you want to see when Patrick Mahomes lurks for a prime-time appearance.  Mahomes tends to shine when the lights are brightest and is coming off an absolutely spectacular performance against the Bucs this past week.

This Raiders side is better than their play has suggested and it only feels like a matter of time before things start to click and this team can be taken more seriously. Maxx Crosby aside, their defensive-line has been underwhelming and a step up against a good Chiefs offensive-line could be a must, if the Raiders can pull off an upset. 

This has the potential to be a shootout if the Raiders can continue to improve upon their win last week. If their offence can get rolling again on the ground, whilst they attack through the air with their main weapons, then we could have a game on our hands. 

Backing Patrick Mahomes in prime time is always a safe bet though and with what we saw last week, combined with the history of when these two teams meet, I’m going with a Chiefs home win.

Raiders 24, Chiefs 34

A Wonderful Week 4 in Store 

By David McDonnell 

Buffalo Bills @ Baltimore Ravens 

This is a game I am really looking forward to as the two best teams on form in the NFL this season clash in Week 4. 

Interestingly what these sides have in common is that they both lost epic battles to the Miami Dolphins in the last fortnight

Although still early, this will also be a battle for a lead in the race for post-season home-field advantage as I expect, barring injury, both teams will still be playing football in January and this fixture potentially the AFC Championship match-up later in this season. 

They say a week is a long time in politics and that is certainly the case in the NFL. Tua Tagovailoa’s concussion on Thursday Night Football shows how a team’s plight can change in one play and both the Ravens and Bills chances of Superbowl success would go up in smoke if either of their quarterbacks were to pick up a significant injury. Then again, that would be true for every Superbowl contender, so let’s not dwell on such hypotheticals. 

There has been some fun in the run-up to this game. 

Bills quarterback Josh Allen began the week buttering up his opponents, while also highlighting the potential mine in the Ravens’ building. As has been widely reported, Lamar Jackson has yet to come to an agreement with the Baltimore franchise over a long-term contract extension that has been parked by both sides until the off-season. 

Allen said that Jackson “should be the highest paid player in the league” with the way he is currently playing, and this was then put to Jackson in a televised interview. 

Lamar reacts to Josh Allen statement

I’m not sure those holding the purse strings in Baltimore would have appreciated it, but the sentiments are hard to argue with. Jackson has been amazing this season. 

That he has done most of his damage on the field with his arms rather than his legs has shown the progression he has made as a quarterback and the less punishment his body takes throughout the regular season could pay dividends in the postseason, as he is the most electric QB running with the ball the game has ever seen. 

He is now in the prime of his career and is a better quarterback than when he won the league MVP in 2019. 

His opponent on Sunday, Allen is also a leading candidate for Super Bowl and MVP honours this season and the Bills are currently the bookies favourites for the title. They are not without their faults, as their secondary was exposed by Jaylen Waddle at times last weekend and surprisingly their offensive line had their hands full when Miami rushed four men throughout the second half last week and routinely got the Bills attack off the field on third down.

I expect last week’s defeat to the Dolphins to be a blessing in disguise as it gives Buffalo lessons to learn from, while also helping them get their feet back on the ground, after expectations were threatening to get out of hand in upstate New York after their impressive start to the season. 

I expect the Bills offence to get back to themselves this week against a Baltimore defence that has looked porous at times. On the back of that observation, I expect the Bills to emerge victorious on Sunday. 

Kansas City Chiefs @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers 

Arguably, the best match-up of the weekend is the late one on Sunday night when the Chiefs go head-to-head with the Buccaneers in a repeat of Super Bowl 55 in February, 2021. 

That game too was in Raymond James stadium so let’s reminisce about that old battle before this next episode. On that night Tom Brady led his then new team convincingly to the title, after the Bucs defence made bits of the Chiefs offensive line and put quarterback Patrick Mahommes under the pump all night.

This time Mahommes returns with a much stronger offensive line, an All-Star cast including Pro-Bowlers Orlando Brown Jr, Joe Thuney and Creed Humphery. This group is up there with the best in the league and sets up a battle in the trenches that will be worth the entrance fee alone.

Whichever group emerges as dominant in this key battle should be a signpost of a team with serious credentials of competing for the Superbowl in Glendale, Arizona on the second Sunday in February.

The Bucs defensive line has been outstanding this season and they are, in my opinion, the best side in football at defending against the run, led by the man-mountain that is Vita Vea and teammates Akiem Hicks and William Gholston. They also possess the pass-rushing talent of Shaq Barrett. 

What makes the Bucs defence particularly formidable is the supporting cast with linebackers Levontae David and Devin White, the latter of whom is catching the eye in every game and will likely be in the conversation as the best defensive player when the honours are handed out near the end of the season. Their secondary also is very strong and full of experience with Antonie Winfield Jr now one of the premier safeties in the game.

Last week when the need was greatest they managed to stifle Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers offence on multiple drives throughout the second half, which gave Tom Brady a chance to bring the game to overtime.  

Where the Bucs have struggled so far this season has been on offence.  

Brady has the talent in the locker room but they have been plagued with injuries and suspensions to their best starting receiving core. Chris Godwin has yet to feature through injury and Julio Jones is also doubtful for Sunday. Mike Evans, however, will be back after serving his one game suspension for his altercation with Marshon Lattimore after the whistle in Week 2. Once fully fit, they will be a frightful proposition for anyone. 

The Chiefs have also had their own struggles on offence, which only became apparent to me last week during their surprise loss against the Colts. 

Of course everyone knew they would miss the speed of Tyreek Hill but his loss has had a few knock-on effects. For one, it has narrowed the playing field somewhat for Mahomes with less options farther down the field. Also it has resulted in his favourite target Travis Kelce getting effectively double-teamed on almost every play of the game. 

It means that they will need to find a different way to win. 

It is no wonder that Mahomes is getting frustrated in the pocket as was seen with his sideline argument with offensive coordinator Eric Bienemy at halftime last week. 

This weekend, they are unlikely to get much change from their rushing attack out of a mammoth Bucs defensive line. Also the Kansas’ running game lacks the type of bruising running back that will get you that first down through force and strength of will. I am a fan of running-back Clyde Edwards-Helaire and his versatility but his quick-stepping and good hands sees him play in a ‘third-down back’ role on all three downs. In my opinion, they could do with some brute force in their running game to make them less predictable.  

It is not all doom and gloom. The arrival of Juju Smith-Schuster in the slot gives him another strong option on third down and in the endzone and certainly, when Mahommes gets time in the pocket he has the skill-set and ability to disact any defence. For me, he is the best quarterback plying his trade in the NFL.

A few days ago, it was looking like this game was going to be moved to Minnesota due to the storms in Miami. Luckily for gridiron fans across the globe, Hurricane Ian managed to bypass the stadium in Tampa Bay and we can expect it to be full on Sunday night with what promises to be an enthralling contest. 

This game is so close, many of the bookies don’t even have a favourite for this contest, which doesn’t happen often in sports.The Bucs defence swings it for me and I’ll swing for a home win. 

Minnesota Vikings v New Orleans Saints 

I’ll move quickly through the first match-up of the year in London. 

The Tottenham Hotspur Stadium looks an excellent venue for American Football and provides an atmosphere that you don’t get at Wembley as the fans are that bit closer to the action. 

The London games are historically difficult to predict, but I’m going to side with Kirk Cousins and the Minnesota Vikings in this one. They are coming off a late win against Detroit last week and Kirk Cousins should be comfortable in London. He has been over to the UK many times and he has the weapons to put on a show for a crowd that will get behind the team that can make big plays. The Vikings have a good defence and look to have one of the more balanced rosters in football. 

However, the main reason why I’m picking the Vikings is the uncertainty at quarterback for the New Orleans Saints. Just when he seemed to have turned the corners, quarterback Jameis Winston has turned back around again into a turnover machine, throwing five interceptions the last two weeks, which proved costly to the Saints in both games. 

He is doubtful coming for this game with back and ankle injuries, with Andy Dalton a safer pair of hands, waiting for his chance on the sideline. Even if Winston starts and he continues to turn the ball over, it won’t be long until we see Dalton on the field anyways. 

Additionally, their offensive line is missing the presence at left tackle of Terron Armstead, since he left for Miami Dolphins in the off-season and I think this also impacted on the productivity of  their ground game with Alvin Kamara playing banged-up through the first three weeks.

All indicators point to a Vikings win but as i said before, London games have a history of taking on a mind of their own.

New England Patriots v Green Bay Packers

Historically, this is a match-up that would usually take top-billing match-up as Aaron Rodgers and the Packer faithful welcome the Patriots to Lambeau Field.

If the opening three weeks is anything to go by, it is likely to be a borefest or let’s say, one of the purists. These are two excellent defences coming up against two sides who again are struggling on offence. 

Green Bay is still feeling the loss of wide-out Devontae Adams and Rodgers has not gelled yet with his new receiving core. There were some green shoots in the first half last week when he started to build up a repore with rookie Romeo Dobbs but in the second half in Tampa Bay, the Packers could not extend drives which nearly cost them the game. 

This week, these struggles could continue as they face the greatest defensive mind in the history of the game in Bill Belichick. He is likely to frustrate the Packer offence once again and it will be interesting if Rodgers and head-coach Matt LeFleur can game plan their way around this. 

If they can, it could be a turning point in their season as their defence has been very impressive in the opening few weeks. 

I expect the Green Bay defence to stifle what will be a Brian Hoyer led offence after Mac Jones was ruled out yesterday. The Patriots will put the ball in the hands of Rhamondre Stevenson and Damien Harris and try to wear this Packer defence down. The Pats have become very one-dimensional on offence this season since the loss of offensive guru Josh McDaniels and are badly crying out for a blue-chip playmaker on the outside. 

With Green Bay having the huge advantage at quarterback, it should be three wins in a row for the Cheeseheads but it will be the manner of their victory that will be more telling of what the season could hold in store for them. 

Denver Broncos v Las Vegas Raiders

An AFC West division match-up between two sides that have looked better on paper than they have on the field. 

Russell Wilson has yet to click with what should be a high-powered offence but he is coming off two wins in a row. Rome wasn’t built in a day and there were bound to be growing pains for a quarterback in a new scheme with new teammates. I will not overreact to my concerns over this team just yet and give the Broncos the benefit of the doubt for now. 

They face a Raiders side that is in danger of starting the season 0-4 and a loss on Sunday will see them soon to be preparing for next season. Maxx Crosby has lived up to the hype on defence but he needs a few of his teammates to step up and help him out. While on offence Derek Carr needs to start balling out and get the pigskin into the hands of the highly talented play-makers at his disposal. 

Head coach Josh McDaniels must be disappointed with their run game in particular. They are putting the ball in the hands of their running backs but their rushing attack has been limited so far leaving Carr with more third and long opportunities than he would like. It is also stifling their play-action attack. 

When the need is greatest, a team will either come together or crumble. The need is very great in Las Vegas right now. Desperation might be their biggest asset on Sunday, but I wouldn’t be anyway confident the Raiders will get the job done. It should be a good game to watch with the Broncos for me taking the win.