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. 

MNF Colts v Steelers

By Conor Perrett 

Monday Night Football is back, as Jeff Saturday gets ready for his third game in his coaching career by hosting the Pittsburgh Steelers. 

Both teams have spent the majority of the season being underwhelming, but don’t let their records put you off as they have both looked on the rise recently.

Indianapolis Colts  (4-6-1)

Power Rankings – 24th

DVOA Rankings: Offence – 32nd, Defence – 10th, ST – 28th: Overall – 29th

At first glance Indy’s DVOA rankings are pretty awful. 

There’s no getting around how poor of a start they had to the season, but in the last two weeks under a new interim coach, they’ve seen improvement. The main reasoning for their turnaround is the lack of turnovers now. During the first half of the season the offence collectively had 16 total turnovers. 

Even though it’s a small sample size, under Saturday now the ball has only been turned over once. With a lot more mistake free football being played.

Off-season acquisition Matt Ryan is back in at quarterback and running back Jonathon Taylor is back to being utilised. Last year’s rushing leader Taylor couldn’t get anything going at the start of this season but now the Colts have had over 300 rushing yards the last two games.

Whether Jeff Saturday gets the permanent job at the end of the season is still a long way off, but he has definitely turned this team around for the best. 

With the NFL recently leaning towards the young offensive genius as head coach, the appreciation for motivational leaders in the same position shouldn’t go unnoticed. Mike Vrable started the trend a few years ago having a ton of success in Tennessee winning Coach of the Year. Detroit is seeing a turnaround with Dan Campbell leading the way. So it shouldn’t be a surprise Saturday is following their lead. 

It’s very early on but the Colts look like they’re in a lot better position than they did before his appointment. 

Injury Report: 

Ruled Out:

  • DE Kwity Paye (Ankle)

Pittsburgh Steelers (3-7)

Power Rankings – 27th

DVOA Rankings: Offence – 22nd, Defence – 14th, ST – 17th: Overall – 20th

The Steelers have followed a similar trajectory to the Colts, with a poor start to the season but improvement over the last two games. Their superstar player TJ Watt returned to the defence during that time and clearly it is showing the spark he brings to the team.

The offence has seen the most improvement over that span with rookie Kenny Pickett starting to put things together. With weapons such as George Pickens, Diontae Johnson and Pat Friermuth, there’s a lot to go around. The passing game has been ignored at times as Pittsburgh ranks last in passing yards and touchdowns but the run game is starting to come together.

Najee Harris has failed to repeat his standout 2021 season, but he was quietly playing with a steel plate in his shoe through the start of the season and may just now be healed. The last two games he’s got into the endzone twice, while getting over 90 yards on the ground in both games. His yards per carry is up as well and it’s helping the offence out massively. 

Indy is a great team at stopping the run, ranking 6th in EPA per rush, so we’ll see tonight how much this offence really has improved.

Injury Report: 

Ruled OUT:

  • CB Ahkello Witherspoon (Hamstring)
  • RB Jaylen Warren (Hamstring)


These teams are very alike in their improvement over the last two weeks, but possess quarterbacks who have struggled over the whole of the season.

It comes down to which team can get pressure from their defence to make the quarterback crack and the Steelers may have both the better defence and pass rush to do that. TJ Watt’s return has been huge and adds a sense of impact to a game that very few in this league can do. 

I like the matchup for this Steelers’ D and think they could have a big impact on the way this game is won. Along with Pickett showing vast improvement scoring 30 points on a Bengals defence last week, I think the Steelers win this one on the road.

Steelers 19-17 Colts

Goodell crosses his fingers

NFL Week 7 Preview

By David McDonnell

If Roger Goodell gets out of bed on Monday morning and no-one is talking about concussion, he’ll be a happy man.

There have been a number of high profile quarterback head injuries of late, most notably when Dolphins’ Tua Tagovailoa was carted off the field live on Thursday Night Football after suffering his second concussion in five days.

The previous Sunday, Tua had stumbled after getting up off the ground with an apparent concussion, only to surprisingly pass the head injury assessment and return to the field to lead his team to victory against the Ravens. Four days later when he was swung to the ground and his helmet bounced off the turf in Cincinnati, his body went into a spasm as the viewing audience feared for the worst.

We are now three weeks later and Tua has admitted he has no memory of the incident, which brought the NFL concussion protocol front-and-centre of the national debate. 

During this time, the NFL commissioner moved swiftly and fired the doctor who had cleared Tagovailoa to return against Baltimore. He then, along with the NFL Players Association amended the rules around the concussion protocol, which now prohibits a player from returning to play if that player shows ataxia, which is a term that describes impaired coordination and balance caused by head trauma.

This affair has already had an effect across the league and we have seen quarterbacks not return to the field of play every Sunday since the incident. The media attention this story created has certainly furthered the conversation around ‘second-concussion syndrome’ and will likely change the practice in other sports as has happened in the past.

Steelers v Dolphins

Another reason why Commissioner Goodell will be wary about this prime time Sunday night fixture is that Steelers’ rookie quarterback Kenny Pickett has also been cleared to start after leaving mid-game last Sunday, also with a concussion.

Trailing at the time against the Bucs, his replacement Mitch Trubisky came on and was impressive in turning the contest in Pittsburgh’s favour. It leaves head coach Mike Tomlin with a difficult call to make and all indications are that he will start with the rookie. It might have been easier to go with the veteran this week, as Pickett had only 67 passing yards on 18 attempts before leaving the field.

The Steelers need to win this game and with a 2-4 record, a few more losses will put their season to bed and then Pickett will have a free reign as starter. Tomlin has said he doesn’t want a quarterback carousel and must feel that Pickett is his best option to lead this team to victory, especially as the Steelers are only one game away from the Bengals and Ravens who sit atop of the AFC North on records of 3-3.

The pressure is also on for Miami as they have recorded three losses in a row since Tua’s untimely departure, after starting the season 3-0 with him under centre.

With both starting tackles questionable for this game, Tua might need to get rid of the ball quickly on Sunday night but if he is afforded time in the pocket he should have a full receiving corp to choose from with Jalen Waddle, Tyreek Hill and the recently returned Cedrick Wilson providing speed in every direction. For this reason and their competitive defence, I like Miami for this game. 

Green Bay Packers @ Washington Commanders

Another team forced to change their quarterback in Week 7 are the Washington Commanders, after Carson Wentz was put on injured-reverse for at least four weeks with a hand injury. It leaves Taylor Heineke in the pivotal position and he was always game when he got the opportunity to start when Ryan Fitzpatrck got injured in the first game last season. 

Where Heineke is limited is where the Commanders want to attack, down the field with their four receivers who can all run the 40 in 4.3. Heineke is a smart decision maker but he lacks the arm strength that the top QBs in the NFL possess.  It doesn’t help that on Sunday, he will play behind a weak Commanders offensive line. 

I mentioned a few weeks ago that Washington might have found a diamond in the rough when they drafted Sam Howell in the fifth round. He impressed me in pre-season and certainly has the arm talent to throw downfield and also moves well in the pocket. What he needs to prove to his coaches is that he can throw the ball accurately as well as make good decisions consistently at an NFL level. I think it’s only a matter of when and not if, before he gets an extended start at quarterback.  

This is already a big game for the Commanders against Green Bay and a loss would effectively put a finish to their playoff hopes in the NFC East and mount pressure on Ron Rivera as head-coach. With the return of Chase Young likely within the next fortnight, he needs results to go his way to survive the next few weeks and a win against an under-performing Green Bay would be a great place to start. 

It might be a good time to play them too as the Packers are coming off London and Wisconsin losses against the resurgent New York Giants and New York Jets. 

They have two major issues at the moment. Primarily, Aaron Rodgers doesn’t seem to have built up enough trust with his new receivers. Doubs has flashed at times but on the big downs Rodgers routinely goes to find Allen Lezard and Randell Cobb, with the latter now out for an extended period after being put on injured reserve. With good timing, Sammy Watkins returns to the match-day squad and at least has the experience of delivering in bigger games and against better defensive backs than he will face on Sunday.

What has arguably been the biggest disappointment for the Packers has been their defence which looks better on paper than they are delivering on the field. They are lacking some pass rush ability but their secondary should be among the best in the business and their line-backing trio are strong with only Rashan Gary balling-out on a week-to-week basis. 

I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt to get the W on the road this weekend. 

Chiefs @ 49ers

Talk of a 2020 Superbowl rematch, between the Chiefs and the Niners, was derailed on Thursday Night after the Niners pulled off a blockbuster trade with the Carolina Panthers for Christian McCaffery.

The final piece of the puzzle?

It was a major surprise as all the noise the previous weekend was that the star running-back was on his way to Buffalo. In the trade San Francisco took quite a hefty gamble by giving up second, third, fourth and fifth round picks over the next two drafts to secure the services of a player who has spent most of the last two seasons in the treatment room trying to get healthy.

If McCaffery can stay fit, I think it’s a super signing as he will suit the zone-running scheme that head coach Kyle Shanahan runs very successfully. He will also give quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo a good passing option out the backfield. 

If you remember what Shanahan did with his running backs when he was offensive coordinator in Atlanta, this could be a key move as the 49ers figuratively push all their chips into the middle of the table to win the Superbowl this season. 

They have plenty of reasons to be optimistic with their struggles on offence looking to be clearing. The return of left tackle Trent Williams is not far away and Deebo has continued his impressive dual-threat form of last season. George Kittle has returned to fitness at tight end and Brandon Aiyuk has made a significant improvement as a wide-out option.

Last Sunday, McCaffery had 168 yards from scrimmage in his last game as a Panther and his addition to the 49er attack will leave at least two of the aforementioned four weapons in one-on-one coverage on every drive.

With what is, in my opinion, the best defence in the NFL this season, they are in a Superbowl window and Jimmy G will have little or no excuses if he doesn’t succeed.

In my opinion, this trade is a risk worth taking for general manager John Lynch and Shanahan. Worst case scenario,  McCaffery doesn’t stay healthy, the season goes to pot and it signals the end of their era in the Bay Area. 

And then it will be left to the next guy to pick up the pieces, with almost no draft picks in May.

Browns run through the Steelers on TNF

By Tom Green 

Some games mean just that little bit more. 

And certainly, the AFC North division match-ups mean that little bit more and trust me when I say that games between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Cleveland Browns, mean even a little bit more. 

Simply put, you want to beat your rivals.. 

For now the Cleveland Browns own the bragging rights over their heated rivals as well taking a 2-1  lead in the AFC North after defeating the Steelers 29-17 at FirstEnergy Stadium in Cleveland. 

The Browns were led to victory by their best player: Nick Chubb, who dominated on the ground yet again, while QB Jacoby Brissett managed this game with an experienced hand. He made the throws when he needed to, gaining first downs when it mattered most and more importantly not turning the ball over. 

First half

The Steelers had the early chance to take the lead, but a 49-yard field goal attempt from Chris Boswell was blown by the strong wind and curved right and wide of the uprights. The following drive the Browns let their best offensive player do what he does best. They handed Nick Chubb the ball before eventually opening the scoring with Jacoby Brissett hitting Amari Cooper from two yards for a 0-7 lead.

The Steelers responded on the next drive and we saw potentially Mitchell Trubisky’s best pass of the season, that will only be remembered for an audacious catch. A ridiculous stretching, falling, twisting, one-handed grab by rookie second-round pick George Pickens for 36 yards.

It led to starting running-back Najee Harris punching it in through contact to tie things up on the first play of the second quarter.

The Browns responded in what was an action packed first half and went on a 12 play, 79-yard march that led to another Brissett passing touchdown. This time he found tight-end David Njoku. Cade York’s PAT attempt bounced off the upright for another missed kick. Honestly, how many kickers have missed back-to-back PAT’s in different games before?

The Steelers then hit back with a scoring drive of their own, with Trubisky showing some hustle to get in from the one-yard line for his first rushing TD of 2022. There were no PAT troubles for Chris Boswell to put the Steelers 14-13 at the break.

Second Half  

The Browns re-took the lead with a Cade York 34-yard field-goal, after another drive in which their running combination of Chubb and Kareem Hunt led the way.

Pittsburgh’s offensive output started to become similar to that of stale bread that had been left out overnight as the Browns pass rush got some pressure on Trubisky. The Steelers went on four consecutive scoreless drives and it was at this point that the game began to be pulled out of their reach as the Browns etched up their running game. 

Another long drive led to Chubb getting a well-deserved touchdown on a one-yard dash up the inside at the goal-line.

The Steelers finally responded, courtesy of a 34-yard Boswell kick, but it was all too little, too late. They attempted an onside kick, only for George Pickens to run offside.

With time running low, Pittsburgh got the ball back with 15 seconds left on the clock and a chance for a miracle win, but no pigs were flying and no cows were jumping over the moon in Cleveland. While attempting to keep the last play alive, Najee Harris fumbled, and Denzel Ward landed on it in the endzone for a 29-17 final score. 

The Browns have created a blueprint for how they will operate until a certain someone arrives for their week 12 tilt with the Houston Texans. The outline of the plan is simple, give Nick Chubb the ball and let him do the rest. The first three weeks of the season have been nothing short of outstanding for the former Georgia Bulldog. Already on 341 yards and four touchdowns, the Browns will go as he and stablemate Kareem Hunt go. 

Brissett has had a better start to the season than I predicted. He is playing his heart out and didn’t make the same mistakes tonight that he made against the Jets on Sunday.  The Browns take the lead in the always difficult AFC North and with it the bragging rights at least until their Week 18 rematch.

This was a tough loss for the Steelers, and they are now a couple of muffed field-goals in Week 1 away from an 0-3 start. 

Here’s a Friday morning question for you. When was the last time the Steelers scored 30 or more points in a game? 

It was ten games ago, on November 21 last year, in a 41-37 loss to the LA Chargers. It gets worse if you look back further, from the start of the 2020 season onwards, the Steelers have only four games in which they scored 30 points or more. That’s four in 36 games! 

Too long has this team relied on its defence to win and keep them relevant come December.  Minus TJ Watt, that task is going to be a lot harder this season, and not one I think their current signal caller is up to. 

I simply don’t see enough in Mitch Trubisky. He was unfortunate tonight with a couple drops from his receivers. Diontae Johnson dropping an absolute dime Trubisky tossed whilst facing down Myles Garrett comes to mind. However, his unwillingness or inability to take necessary risks and push the ball down the field is failing to highlight the strongest part of Pittsburgh weapons, their young receiving core. 

We saw what George Pickens can do given the chance. We have seen in the past what Chase Claypool can do with a jump ball. Perhaps I’m being too harsh on Trubisky and should point more blame in the direction of the offensive play-callers or struggling O-Line. I can’t be the only person who doesn’t see much change from the Trubisky we saw at the heart of every Bears fan’s groans from 2017-2020. In my opinion, he simply hasn’t improved beyond being a serviceable back-up who can flash in small amounts. 

Mike Tomlin and the Steelers seem reluctant to break out their new toy in Kenny Pickett. How much longer can they wait?

Thursday Night Football Preview: Steelers @ Browns

By Conor Perrett

For this week’s Thursday Night Football, we’re back without another division rival match-up as the Steelers and Browns meet to continue their AFC rivalry. 

When it comes to the AFC North these fixtures seem to hit differently when meeting each-other. These are meaner, ruthless, more violent games that just make you want to rip the quarterback’s helmet off and hit him with it and yes, Mason Rudolph and Myles Garrett are both playing this game.

Both teams enter this contest starting the season with one win and one loss and have had their struggles on the offensive side of the ball. However, we can be sure for both sides to step it up for a nationally-televised match and there could be fireworks in cold Cleveland.

Cleveland Browns

Defense-adjusted Value Over Average takes into account the quality of offensive opponents.

The Cleveland Browns are in a weird spot to start this season. They made the decision to move on from former No. 1 pick Baker Mayfield, when they traded the house for Deshawn Watson.

On a talent basis that is an upgrade at the position, but when they made the move, knowing there would likely be a suspension hanging over his head, it begs the question on why the Browns were so quick to burn the bridge with Baker.

Now lucky for the Browns that suspension ended up only being 11 games, but it does mean journeyman Jacoby Brissett will lead the team during that span. Now Brissett is capable of showing flashes of magic at times, but his inconsistency is a prime reason for the Browns slow start on offence.

Browns Injury Report

Their doubleheader beast running-backs Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt still look as good as ever, and as they get offensive lineman Jack Conklin back from injury, there will be hope their influence grows. New receiver Amari Cooper will be looking to put another game together like he did against the Jets last Sunday where he had nine receptions for 101 yards and a touchdown. It won’t be as easy against a good Steelers’ defence.

It was easy to predict the Browns offensive struggle with the current predicament at quarterback, but it was strange to see their defence start that way as well. Granted edge-rusher Clowney is down with an ankle injury, but there are still stars at all three levels, and if there’s no obvious improvement against a Mitch Trubisky led offence, it might be time to start panicking.

Pittsburgh Steelers

Defense-adjusted Value Over Average takes into account the quality of offensive opponents.

The Pittsburgh Steelers have been consistently good in recent years. They are rarely bad, and rarely great, but they are always good. In my early days of watching football, I was always harsh on Mike Tomlin, as I saw the trio he had on offence,  Ben Roethlisberger, Antonio Brown and Le’veon Bell, and was disappointed they never put together the Super Bowl run I expected. Especially when he was facing the Patriots dynasty.

Those three men have all since left, yet they still put together the +0.500 record and playoff appearance every year. Credit to Tomlin to show that consistency, especially now when they lack the talent they once had. But it does ask the question, can they get to those heights again.

A reason for that consistency is the Steelers defence. Cameron Hayward and TJ Watt have been the pillars for years on the D-Line, and the addition of Minkah Fitzpatrick a couple of years ago only added more talent. The loss of Watt to a pectoral injury for the season is the worst news Steelers fans could have heard, but as they enter a transition period on offence, it might allow them to take a year off with less pressure or expectation to their name.

Steelers Injury Report

They look to have their running back sorted with Najee Harris, and have some nice young pieces in the receiving room. But their question marks remain upfront on the offensive line and who first round pick Kenny Pickett could end up being. 

Currently Mitch Trubisky is the man at the helm of this offence. Trubisky never lived up to his draft pick expectations, and in a way is lucky to be starting in the league again. Which leads to the question, why is Pickett riding the bench and  watching on? 

Now this could be Tomlin playing the long game, allowing his rookie QB to gain experience and be comfortable for when he finally takes the field. We’ve seen this work perfectly for Mahomes and Lamar Jackson in their rookie seasons.

This probably is the reason and we will most likely see the rookie later rather than sooner. Pickett’s ceiling was always brought into question during the draft process, and if he can’t make the step up after this year, the Steelers could be looking once again to look for Big Ben’s replacement.

Previous Match-Ups in 2021

Week 8 – Steelers @ Browns – 15-10 Steelers win

Week 17 – Browns @ Steelers – 14-26 Steelers win

The Steelers had the Browns number last year winning both matches against their division rival. But in a new season, both teams now have new quarterbacks in the huddle, so could we be in for a different outcome?


Now I’m expecting a tight affair between the two sides as on paper both sides match up fairly evenly.

We’ve spoken about the quarterback mess for both sides, and it will hamper both at attempting to establish anything in the passing game. Something that does set them apart is the running game. The Browns have been much more dominant when it comes down to the ground, and getting a healthy Jack Conklin back will further help that cause. 

This Steelers defence is their strength and I expect them to give Brissett a hard time, and not allow him to continue that chemistry he and Cooper were finding last week. I worry how their offensive-line is going to be more efficient, especially in the red-zone.

I’m taking a gamble on this Browns defence to step up and figure things out. If the Steelers side can start fast and put a touchdown or two up in the first quarter, then we could be looking at a different game to what I predict.

I stand with this defence though and expect Myles Garrett to set the tone in this prime time event, with Chubb and Hunt tagging along with both finding the endzone.

Steelers 16, Browns 17

NFL Week 2 Preview Column

By David McDonnell

Steelers @ Patriots

One of the most intriguing contests of Week 2 sees the two most successful franchises in NFL history collide when the New England Patriots host the Pittsburgh Steelers. 

Which defence will prevail?

This fixture also pits the two longest-tenured head coaches in the National Football League with the Steelers’ Mike Tomlin, in situ since 2007, continuing a remarkable record of never having a losing season, while his opponent, Bill Bellicheck has embarked on his 23rd campaign as the boss-man in New England.

What makes this game fascinating is both teams are renowned for their defence prowess and neither side set the world alight on offence during Week 1. 

Let’s start with the Pats. 

Despite a 20-7 defeat to the Miami Dolphins, their defence played well limiting an explosive Dolphins offence to one touchdown when speedster wide-out Jaylen Waddle took the ball on a slant, broke cover and took it 42 yards to the house. 

New England’s offence was dismal last week. 

It is hard to see how they will improve their plight as they have no blue-chip talents at the receiver positions. They are paying the price for spending big on offence in free agency in 2021 and failing to land a difference maker. More importantly they have lost the offensive mastermind Josh McDaniels, who took up the head coaching job with the Las Vegas Raiders. Certainly there were a few eyebrows raised when former defensive coordinator Matt Patricia took over this role for the ‘22 season. 

Another issue with the Patriots offence against the Dolphins was their second season quarterback Mac Jones took a lot of punishment as his offensive line was consistently under pressure throughout the game. A tackle from his namesake Brandon Jones saw the ball knocked free and Melvin Ingram gathered before walking into the endzone in the second quarter.  After the game, Jones reported to his medical team with a back injury but has since returned to training and will start on Sunday. 

With the much vaunted Pittsburgh defence coming to town, I expect the Patriots to go back to a traditional running game with Rhamondre Stevenson and Damien Harris figuratively and literally carrying much of the load. Look out for tight-end Hunter Henry to be targeted more than three times this Sunday, especially when the Pats get into the red zone. 

Last Sunday Pittsburgh opened their season with a win after an epic contest against the Cincinnati Bengals. Their defence wreaked havoc recording seven sacks, two forced fumbles, four interceptions and a defensive touchdown and they must be licking their lips after the Patriots’ struggles in Miami. 

Unfortunately, the Steelers travel to Foxboro without their best player, TJ Watt, after the current Defensive Player of the Year was ruled out after tearing a pectoral muscle. It is expected that the defensive-end will return later in the season. 

The Steelers offence is also likely to  struggle to get the chains moving after QB Mitch Trubisky only completed 21 of 38 passes thrown last time out. His only touchdown was to running-back Najee Harris from the one yard line. 

This game is likely going to be a one for the purists, with the Steelers winning a low scoring affair. 

New Orleans Saints @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers 

The best match-up of the weekend comes in  the NFC South when the Tampa Bay Buccaneers host divisional rivals New Orleans Saints. 

Most surprisingly the Saints go into this contest having won the last seven regular season fixtures against the Bucs, with the Tampa Bay side overturning the form guide in the playoffs on their way to the Superbowl in 2021. 

This shouldn’t have any significance as both franchises have new head coaches after promoting from within.

Saints Head Coach Denis Allen got his reign off with a come-from-behind last gasp fourth quarter victory against the Atlanta Falcons in Week 1. Trailing by 16 points in the fourth quarter, Jameis Winston led his team to victory throwing for 16/17, 213 yards and two TDs. Kicker Will Lutz managed to win the game at the death with a field goal from 51 yards to give the Falcons a metaphorical kick in the gut to open their season. 

Two things were particularly noteworthy about this victory. The first was that Winston threw no interceptions in the game. The second was the return of Michael Thomas to what looked like his 2019 form when he set a new NFL record for single-season receptions with 149 catches and earned him end of season Offensive Player of the Year honours. If Thomas can keep this sharpness up, then the Saints have the offensive power to trouble any opponent. 

New slot receiver Jarvis Landry had seven catches for 114 yards and first round pick Chris Olave caught all targets thrown his way for 41 yards as well as an important two-point conversion in that comeback win. With a supporting cast that includes running-back Alvin Kamara, the Saints look primed to make it to the postseason if Winston can remain consistent with his decision making.

The hometown Buccaneers return to Raymond James Stadium with their veteran quarterback Tom Brady lining up once again for what is expected to be his final season. 

In the Bucs opening weekend victory against the Dallas Cowboys,  Brady spread the  ball around between receivers Julio Jones, Mike Evans and Chris Godwin all seeing their share of targets. Godwin is ruled out this coming Sunday with a hamstring injury.

The Tampa Bay defence also impressed with Devin White, Vita Vea, Levontae David and Antoine Winfield Jr all impressing out the gate. I will side with the hometown Bucs to emerge victorious for their first regular season win against the Saints since 2018.   

San Francisco 49ers @ Seattle Seahawks

Geno’s Back

One of the best football rivalries of the past decade continues on Sunday when the Seahawks host 49ers. 

It is curious that Seattle sit atop of the NFC West after week one as they were widely expected to be the worst team in the division, but that is where they stand after an exciting victory last Monday against their former quarterback Russell Wilson and his Denver Broncos.

It was a close game that came down to a missed kick after Broncos Head Coach Nathaniel Hackett decided to kick from 64 yards instead of going for it ‘fourth and five.’ This was much to the surprise of most pundits after the Broncos had acquired Wilson in the off-season for exactly this type of situation.

What was most noteworthy of this victory was the return to prominence of QB Geno Smith. Before Monday’s contest, he had not been named a Week 1 starter for a team since 2014, after serving as a back-up since. Coming off the field after the best performance of his career. it was put to him about the many people who had written him off? Geno replied with aplomb: “They wrote me off, but I ain’t write back.”

The San Francisco 49ers have been perennial contenders for the past few years but lost unexpectedly to the Chicago Bears on a wet Soldier Field last Sunday. Leading in the second half, they couldn’t stem the Bears’ momentum once they got going. 

Most concerning for 49ers fans was the poor display by Trey Lance in the QB role. After giving up three first-round picks to acquire Lance in the 2021 draft, he was given the starting role at the expense of Jimmy Garropolo in the off-season. With their former quarterback of the last four seasons now sitting on the bench, it will be interesting if Head Coach Kyle Shanahan changes his mind during the season. If Lance fails to perform or secure victory away at their fiercest rivals, he will be under severe public pressure. 

I think the 49ers win this one as they have a terrific defence and with tight-end George Kittle likely to return, this will give Lance a top catching talent to target. 

Green Bay Packers @ Chicago Bears 

In Sunday’s late night contest, the Chicago Bears buzzing with excitement after last Sunday’s triumph over the 49ers will welcome their most-hated rival in the Green Bay Packers. 

In this fixture last season, Packers’ quarterback Aaron Rodgers shouted at the Soldier Field supporters “I still own you ” after extending his record to 22-5 against the Bears. This is unlikely to be forgotten and expect the home crowd to be vociferous against their nemesis from the outset. 

The Bears looked bereft of ideas in the first half of last Sunday’s contest against the 49ers but their fortunes changed after a heads-up play from QB Justin Fields saw him find the unmarked Dante Pettis in the third quarter for a touchdown.  He then threw the winner to former Packer wide-out Equanimeous St  Brown for a morale-improving win.

Green Bay started their season with a loss against the Minnesota Vikings in Week 1 with Rodgers clearly frustrated with his new cast of receivers throughout the contest. An example of this was when second-round pick Christian Watson dropped a clanger when he looked certain to race into the endzone in the first quarter. 

I would like to see a closely-fought contest and for the Bears to turn the tide in this one-sided rivalry but until it happens, I expect Rodgers to continue his historical form against the Bears and emerge victorious. 

Can I Kick It? … ‘Yes, You Can’t’

By David McDonnell

Sunday was nothing short of a visual and audio sermon of football to the Gridiron faithful. 

It was a day of celebration where any NFL doubters peeping in would surely have become converted after a host of epic encounters. After the penance of a long off-season, the football Gods were back with a BANG to light up the first NFL Sunday of the 2022 season as they delivered a variety of barely believable narratives along with some truly miraculous finishes.

They say that ‘pressure is for tyres.’ 

There may be a few NFL head coaches who will wake up with the intention of kicking the tyres on whether they should keep their place-kickers or find new ones after a number of games were decided by late shots at the posts. 

Let’s start with the best game of the weekend, where there was a match-up between two franchises with Superbowl ambitions this season. 

Steelers v Bengals

An opening day contest for the ages took place at the Paul Brown Stadium, when divisional AFC North rival Cincinnati Bengals hosted the Pittsburgh Steelers. 

The first touchdown of the evening came when Steelers’ safety Minkah Fitzpatrick intercepted from prodigious Cincinnati quarterback Joe Burrow in the first quarter to take an early 7-0 lead. The Steelers’ much-vaunted defence lived up to their billing on a day when they had five turnovers along with seven sacks as the new Bengals offensive line struggled to settle to their task of protecting Burrow, last season’s most sacked QB. 

A third quarter pass from Mitch Trubisky to Najee Harris saw the Steelers take a commanding 20-14 lead when Burrow started to shake off his constraints. 

With the ball at the 20, Burrow found Ja’Marr Chase, last season’s Offensive Rookie of the Year, who caught the ball at the endline before being pushed into touch. The Bengals rushed up to the line of scrimmage to run the next play. However, had they taken their time, it is likely they would have realised that Chase had broken the plane of the endzone for a touchdown. Since they ran the next play without challenging the call, the touchdown did not stand. 

Afterwards the NFL confirmed that the TD would have stood if the call had been challenged.The Bengals then had four attempts to get over the line, but the Steelers held them out with an impressive goal-line stand.

Burrow managed to get the Bengals back down to the Redzone with only 22 seconds on the clock. He threw again to Chase and the receiver grabbed an audacious ball out of the air but his toe brushed the sideline so once again it did not count. Two plays later with the time almost expired, Burrow found Chase for his second touchdown of the game to level the encounter.

It meant that the Bengals would win the game once their kicker Evan McPherson converted the point-after-touchdown (PAT). 

McPherson, the only kicker selected in the 2021 NFL draft had a monstrous season last year setting the NFL record for most field goals made by a rookie, as well as tying the all-time record for most field goals made in a single postseason. During the Superbowl last year, he did earn public criticism from his coaches when he was spotted enjoying Doctor Dre, Eminem and Snoop Dogg performing their half-time show from the stands when all his teammates were in the locker room. 

Maybe fate felt the need to kick him in the butt this time around as his PAT attempt was blocked by Fitzpatrick to send the game to overtime. 

With the game there for the winning in overtime, McPhearson missed a chip-shot field goal attempt to win the game again. In truth, both misses were a result of poor snaps by the Bengals special teams, who were missing their 12-season veteran Clark Harris through injury. 

Fittingly, with time running out, Steelers kicker Chris Boswell, having missed an earlier kick in overtime himself when an effort hit the post, managed to direct the ball between the uprights for a famous win for the Black and Gold. 

This victory however looks to have come at a steep price as last season’s Defensive Player of the Year, TJ Watt, left the field late with an injury. It was reported via Twitter by @MikeGiaradi that it could be a season-ending pectoral muscle injury. An MRI will confirm the diagnosis later today with Steeler Nation hoping that it may be a partial tear in the hope of seeing Watt return later in the season. 

Late Drama Continues in Browns v Panthers 

There was more kicking woe in another of the weekend’s hotly anticipated match-ups when quarterback Baker Mayfield, newly of the Carolina Panthers faced his former Cleveland Browns teammates.

And once again, it wasn’t short of drama. 

Trailing in the fourth quarter after two Kareem Hunt TDs for the Browns, Mayfield launched a late comeback bid. 

From his own 25-yard line,  Baker found Robbie Anderson with a deep ball to make it a one-score game with six minutes remaining.  Anderson, an NFL veteran who began his career with the New York Jets, interestingly changed his first name from Robby to Robbie over the summer telling ESPN’s Adam Schefter; “it’s better on paper with the ‘ie’ on the end.”

With just over a minute to go, Carolina kicker Eddy Pineiro put them into a 23-24 lead and victory looked within reach. However, Baker’s revenge was taken away from him when rookie kicker Cade York won the game for the visitors when his 58-yard effort sailed inside the posts as time expired. 

There were heroic but barely fathomable come-from-behind victories for two of the new head coaches in the NFC.

Veterans Michael Thomas and Saquon Barkley were back to their best in Week 1

Falcons v Saints, Giants v Titans, Texans v Colts, Jaguars v Commanders

New Orleans pulled a 27-26 win out of the fire when they defeated NFC South rivals Atlanta Falcons with a very late turnaround. 

In the final quarter a second touchdown by Michael Thomas, the former All-Pro wide receiver in 2019, who has been largely out injured for the past two seasons and another six pointer by rookie receiver Chris Olave saw the Saints trail 26-24. New Orleans went for a two-point conversion to win the game but their attempt was in vain. Will Lutz kicked the Saints into a late two-point lead. Falcon’s place-kicker Younghoe Koo’s effort to win the tie was blocked to secure a win for the Saints” Dennis Allen in his first game as head coach.

A more surprising comeback saw the New York Giants win their first game of the season in six years when they overcame the Tennessee Titans by 21-20. 

It was a red-letter day for running back Saquon Barkley, who put up 194 all-purpose yards, including a touchdown and a late two-point conversion. That latter came after QB Daniel Jones found Chris Myarick with a late pass. Titans place-kicker Randy Bullock had a chance to win it at the death but his kick at goal went astray. It was also Brian Dabol’s first win of his NFL head coaching career with the Giants after arriving from Buffalo. 

The Houston Texans almost pulled off the biggest surprise of the day when they led 20-3, thanks to two TDs by their newly-acquired tight-end OJ Howard. However, a late flurry of touchdowns in the fourth quarter saw the Colts tie the game 20-20. With time expiring in overtime, iconic Colts kicker Rodrigo Blankenship ensured a poor day for kickers continued when he shafted his effort to the side to leave the result as a draw.

The Colts former QB, Carson Wentz got his new reign with the Washington Commanders off to a winning start with four touchdown passes to his wide receivers. 

The Commanders first round pick, Jahan Dotson,  was the first rookie to score a TD this season when he caught from Wentz in the first quarter. With time running out and his side trailing, Wentz found him again for him to become the first rookie with two six-pointers in the NFL this season. Dotson is an interesting character, and first-round draft selection from Penn State, who continues a habit of going to bed with a ball every night, a practice he has sustained from since he was a kid, throughout school, into college and now in the National Football League. 


The Chicago Bears recorded a surprise victory over the San Francisco 49ers when Justin Fields led a comeback in a wet Soldier Field. The tide turned when Fields found Dante Pettis with an off-script play in the third quarter. Another touchdown to Equanimeous St Brown on a play-action movie saw the Bears take the lead, in a game where 49er’s QB Trey Lance struggled throughout. 

There was a third winning franchise from the NFC East when the Philadelphia Eagles overcame the Lions 38-35 in a score fest in Detroit. Other notable performances saw the Kansas City Chiefs, led by former League MVP Patrick Mahommes, score six touchdowns to brush away any doubts about their credentials since the loss of Tyreek Hill to the Dolphins in the off-season. Miami gave a lot of punishment to Patriots QB Mac Jones, while they stormed to a 7-20 victory. Another former league MVP, Lamar Jackson, showed off what he can do with his arm by throwing three deep touchdown passes to beat the Jets 24-9. 

One of the day’s top individual performers was Minnesota wide receiver Justin Jefferson, who clocked up 158 receiving yards and two touchdowns in the first half as the Vikings eased to victory over the Green Bay Packers. 

In the late match, Tom Brady did enough to beat a disappointing Dallas. The Cowboys defence was well-marshaled by Micah Parsons but their offence could not ignite throughout the contest. The only touchdown came when Brady found Mike Evans in the endzone in the fourth quarter. During the last few minutes of the game, franchise QB Dak Prescott left the field with a hand injury with owner Jerry Jones confirming that he will miss multiple weeks. 

The promoted back-up is Cooper Rush, in his second stint at Dallas, since he went undrafted in 2017. He has since made 10 appearances for the Cowboys throwing only four touchdowns in his career to date.  If the Cowboys are serious about getting their season back on track, surely they must be  considering an early season trade for 49ers back-up Jimmy Garropolo, who coincidentally knocked the Cowboys out of the playoffs last January. 

Monday Night Football Preview: Denver Broncos @ Seattle Seahawks

There was a blockbuster trade in the off-season with the Denver Broncos’ acquisition of former Superbowl-winning quarterback Russell Wilson as the leader of an offence already stacked with the receiving talents of Jerry Jeudy and Cortland Sutton. They also added Randy Gregory to bookend the pass-rushing of Bradley Chubb on the defensive line.

The Broncos should be too strong for a Seahawks side, who themselves have named veteran player Geno Smith as the Week 1 starter. In my opinion, Denver are likely to join their divisional rival Chiefs and Chargers with an opening weekend win on Monday Night Football.