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 18 Power Rankings

By Conor Perrett 

This past week’s set of games have shaped up for many anticipated fixtures for the last week of the NFL season that is sure to leave us with final day dramatics. With two spots in the playoffs still up for grabs and a No. 1 pick in the draft to sort out, It’s set up to be a cracking finish.  

  1. Kansas City Chiefs (13-3)

Last Week – 1st

With the current state of the NFL, it’s all about offence and the Chiefs are the best in the league in that department. Patrick Mahomes just became the third player in NFL history to throw for 5k passing yards in multiple seasons, and looks set to win his second MVP trophy. It’s tough to bet against Mahomes and Andy Reid but the defence will need to be better if they want another Super Bowl.

Kansas’ defence is currently 23rd in defensive DVOA and great teams in the playoffs will take advantage of that. It’s also not a great sign that the underwhelming Russell Wilson has had his best two games of the season against the Chiefs’ defence.

Up next: at. Raiders, Saturday 9:30 p.m. GMT

  1. Buffalo Bills (12-3)

Last Week – 2nd

Buffalo had a juggernaut of a game planned against the Bengals this Monday night, but it was tragically stopped after safety Damar Hamlin collapsed with 5:32 minutes left in the first quarter.

With Hamlin’s health still unknown, out of respect we won’t talk about Bill’s football and send our prayers to him.  

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

  1. San Francisco 49ers (12-4)

Last Week – 3rd

It wasn’t a perfect performance for the Niners this week, but they got the job done in the end. Before their game against the Raiders, San Fran would have been jumping at the chance of Jarrett Stidham as the new starting QB, but he showed flaws in their defence. 

Brock Purdy struggled to push the ball downfield at times, but he is yet to blow up or look flustered. With the weapons of Christian McCaffrey, George Kittle and Brandon Aiyuk, they look deadly as ever and are still in the hunt for the No. 1 seed in the NFC. All that’s needed is an Eagles’ loss to the Giants and a win for the 49ers in Arizona to secure a first-round bye.

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

  1. Cincinnati Bengals (11-4)

Last Week – 4th

Similar to the Bills, out of respect for Damar Hamlin, his wellness is more important than what happened in the first quarter of this game.

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

  1. Dallas Cowboys (12-4)

Last Week – 6th

The Cowboys find themselves in an interesting position heading into Week 18, with their playoff seed still up in the air. Currently they sit fifth and have done so for the better half of the season. If Philadelphia were to have a late season collapse and results go their way, Dallas could see themselves at either of the top two positions in the NFC.

All that you could ask of this team late in the season is to cut down on the turnovers. Dak Prescott has had some questionable turnovers as of late, but their strong defence has them first in turnover margin in the NFL and by some distance.

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

  1. Philadelphia Eagles (13-3)

Last Week – 5th

Philly were the best team in the NFL with Jalen Hurts on the field. But Hurts hasn’t played for the past two weeks, and the Eagles have dropped both games. While their Gardiner Minshew offence looked good against Dallas a week ago, it came up short against the Saints. Philadelphia’s only score came by way of a heroic effort by A.J. Brown, as they cannot afford to wait any longer for Hurts if they want to progress far in the postseason.

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

  1. Los Angeles Chargers (10-6)

Last Week – 9th

It feels a bit weird having this Chargers team this high after things looked bleak just a month ago, but they’ve carried themselves up here. Suspect contenders falling also helps, but LA have been one of the better teams in the league over the past three weeks. Their defence ranks first in defensive DVOA over that time and Justin Herbert has started to get some weapons back on offence.

Now , the Chargers look set for the No. 5 seed, setting up a game against the winner of Jaguars vs Titans on Wild-Card weekend.

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

  1. Jacksonville Jaguars (8-8)

Last Week – 10th

Similar to the Chargers, Jacksonville has been shot out of a cannon the past four weeks to climb this high. The emergence of Trevor Lawrence has been what’s got them to this point, but will their 27th DVOA ranked defence be strong enough to get them any further?

With a Saturday night clash against the Titans setting up a winner-takes-it-all matchup, the Jags will be favourites and if they can get past that, Jacksonville will be hosting a playoff game at a minimum.

Up next: vs. Titans, Sunday 1:15 a.m. GMT

  1. Detroit Lions (8-8)

Last Week – 12th

After getting absolutely dominated by the Panthers just a week ago, Detroit returned the favour to the Bears in a beatdown on Sunday. I mentioned last week that this young team can’t let all the work they have done over the past two months get undone because of one bad game, and they took that to heart.

Granted it was against the Bears, but apart from one big run, this defence contained the ‘new’ Justin Fields better than anyone else this season. Sacking him seven times on the day, Fields had just 30 net passing yards on the day, with five of Chicago’s six second half possessions being three-and-outs. When you then put that with an offence that is 5th in points per game, they are very dangerous. 

Detroit could also have an early playoff game this week when they take the trip to Lambeau field on Sunday Night. If the Rams can return the favour for Matthew Stafford and their Super Bowl by beating the Seahawks, it would mean the winner of Lions vs Packers would take the last wild card spot in the NFC.

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

  1. Green Bay Packers (8-8)

Last Week – 13th

Five weeks ago when Green Bay had a record of 4-8, it looked to be an unfamiliar lost season. But a second half of a season resurgence, that has seen them takedown playoff contenders Miami and Minnesota over the past two weeks, has got them back to what they know best. 

Entering the last week of the season, the Packers know their destiny. Win against Detroit and they are in the playoffs, while losing would mean they’re going to be watching it from the comfort of their home.

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

  1. Baltimore Ravens (10-5)

Last Week – 8th

Baltimore was one of the suspect contenders I mentioned earlier in the rankings. It feels wrong for them to be this low with the turnaround they have had on defence, but without Lamar Jackson at quarterback, it’s bad.

First half of the season the offence was carrying the defence, but during the second half, it’s been the other way round. Here’s to hoping they get a healthy Jackson back and can compete as one just in time for the playoffs.

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

  1. Minnesota Vikings (12-4)

Last Week – 7th

With a 12-4 record and the NFC North wrapped up many weeks ago, the Vikings are probably the most wanted team to face in the playoffs. Their 20th ranked, -19 point differential on the season tells the story. Let me explain; despite winning eight more games than they have lost. When adding up having many points Minnesota have won or lost by, it tallies to -19 points.

They’ve feasted on one-score games, using some sort of dark magic to come out on top every time. But when faced with a true challenge, apart from their miraculous win in Buffalo, they have been stepped on like a piece of gum on the streets of London. When you look at their three losses to fellow NFC teams they could meet in the postseason. The Eagles, Cowboys and Packers have beaten the Vikings by a combined 78 whooping points.

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

  1. New York Giants (9-6-1)

Last Week – 14th

The Giants punched themselves a ticket to the playoffs this week, when they took down the Colts 38-10 in dominant fashion. Completing this goal in the first year of their rebuild is a great accomplishment for Brain Daboll and his staff. They are turning this ship around quicker than anyone would have thought. 

Reports are also starting to come out with New York looking to extend both Daniel Jones and Saquon Barkley. Extending Jones may be a risk with this being the first season where we’ve seen adequate play from him, but Daboll seems to have a skill in turning risky QB’s into greatness.

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

  1. New England Patriots (8-8)

Last Week – 17th

The Patriot’s offence may be concerning, but if their defence continues to not only stop teams but score for them as well.  It’s been an up and down season for New England in that sense, but it can end on a high if they beat Buffalo this Sunday. A win against the Bills would guarantee the Patriots the 7th seed in the AFC and book themselves into the playoffs. However, will the NFL let this game go ahead after the trauma faced by the Bills players on Monday night?

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

  1. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (8-8)

Last Week – 18th

Once again, it looked like Tom Brady and the Buccaneers’ offence was going to keep shooting themselves in the foot early on. However, they found a mismatch with Mike Evans late on and it resulted in them winning the NFC South division. 

If we’re being honest this team doesn’t belong in the playoffs discussion, but with how the NFC works they are. Now, Tom Brady gets to host a playoff game and no matter how bad his team is, it’s hard to bet against the GOAT.

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

  1. Miami Dolphins (8-8)

Last Week – 11th

When we talk about a rollercoaster of a season, this Miami team should be the definition of that. After winning their first three games, the Dolphins followed that up with three losses. Things got back on track when they won five games straight, but now they are currently on a five game losing streak. On that run they have flown up and down our rankings and now find themselves slap bang middle. 

A playoff appearance is still viable, but they will need to beat a Jets team without their starting quarterback Tua Tagovailoa.

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

  1. Pittsburgh Steelers (8-8)

Last Week – 19th

If you’ve been reading these rankings weekly, you would have known we have been following the Steelers streak of .500 season for the past few weeks. That streak is still alive after a late win against the Ravens on Sunday. Now, if Pittsburgh wins next week and the Dolphins and Patriots lose, not only will they have a winning record, they’ll also make the playoffs after a 2-6 start.

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

  1. Seattle Seahawks (8-8)

Last Week – 22nd

Seattle’s win against the Jets this Sunday was huge and keeps their hopes of the play-offs alive. Their rushing attack averaged 5.2 yards per carry against a strong Jets defence, after many weeks of that department being underwhelming.

Despite currently sitting in the No. 7 seed, the Seahawks will need a few results to go their way to progress. A win against the Rams will be a good starter and then a Packers loss will cement their placing.

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

  1. Carolina Panthers (6-10)

Last Week – 20th

Carolina had a chance to extend their hopes for the division title to next week, but slipped up against the Buccaneers. The loss eliminated them from playoff contention, but don’t let that take away the credit interim head coach Steve Wilks deserves. The job he has done over the last 11 weeks could earn him the permanent head coach job, after turning around Carolina’s 1-4 start. However, it has emerged they are one of the teams along with the Broncos who have talked with Jim Harbaugh about the position of head coach. 

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

  1. New Orleans Saints (7-9)

Last Week – 23rd

The Saints got their most impressive win of the season when they took down the Eagles. Cowboys and 49ers fans will probably be more happy about the result, but New Orleans have started to look better after a rough start. With people in the NFL media starting to think a Sean Payton return could happen, it might mark the only good news the Saints will have this season.

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

  1. New York Jets (7-9)

Last Week – 15th

The Jets were one of the more exciting teams in the NFL early in the season, however, their inability to find consistent production at QB position has been their downfall. It led them to miss the playoffs for a 12th consecutive year. 

A healthy Jets team in 2023 with competent QB play could be dangerous, but GM Joe Douglas must be smart about this decision or he could fall into the same trap Chris Ballard did in Indianapolis.

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

  1. Tennessee Titans (7-9)

Last Week – 21st

Tennessee still has a shot to win the AFC South division after a horrible last month of football. They will be beaten up going into the game, but a win against the Jaguars will be enough to host a playoff game. Their identity has almost solely been Derrick Henry and the NFL is built on the passing game. The Titans don’t have the quality at the wide-receiver position to be like that and unfortunately they will need a retune in the off-season to fix that.

Up next: at. Jaguars, Sunday 1:15 a.m. GMT

  1. Cleveland Browns (7-9)

Last Week – 24th

Deshaun Watson only threw the ball 18 times on Sunday, but in that time, he threw three touchdowns and finally started showing why the Browns decided to hand him a lucrative guaranteed deal. 

The Browns’ defence in the recent weeks has also seen improvement. Their defence has jumped from 21st to 13th in defensive DVOA over that span, with it feeling better late than never.

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

  1. Washington Commanders (7-8-1)

Last Week – 16th

It may feel rational but the decision to start Carson Wentz this past Sunday could be a fire-able offence for head coach Ron Rivera. Just three weeks ago Washington were in pole position for one of the last two wild-card spots in the NFC and now they’ve been eliminated – Rivera didn’t even know the Commanders could have been eliminated until it was brought up during his post-game press conference.

Rivera made the decision to return Wentz to the lineup, and in a must win game he threw three interceptions to zero touchdowns. The consequences were missing out on the playoffs and just a few days later Washington dropped Wentz for the last game of the season.

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

  1. Las Vegas Raiders (6-10)

Last Week – 25th

The Las Vegas Raiders weren’t supposed to have a chance against the 49ers but they at least put up a fight. With a new look Vegas side that had Jarrett Stidham taking Derek Carr’s place at quarterback, the offence scored 34 points against a Niners defence that felt impenetrable.

But still Josh McDaniel’s side blew a 10 point lead and found a way to lose games they stand a chance of winning. Fans will look at this game as a moral victory, but with pre-season expectations of playoffs at a minimum, the Raiders season has been nothing short of a failure.

Up next: vs. Chiefs, Saturday 9:30 p.m. GMT

  1. Atlanta Falcons (6-10)

Last Week – 27th

Atlanta ended a five-game losing streak this week with a 20-19 win against the Cardinals. The Falcons are in an interesting spot with Desmond Ridder. Ridder hasn’t been disastrous, but he also shouldn’t be the reason Atlanta pulls their hat out of the QB ring for the upcoming draft. 

Going into their third season under this regime, they will need to start competing more next season. With a Tampa team that is undecided at the QB position and the Saints about to experience cap hell, the division will be wide open for them.

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

  1. Los Angeles Rams (5-11)

Last Week – 26th

After their dominating win against the Broncos on Christmas, they came back down to reality this past Sunday. They suffered a 31-10 defeat where the Chargers ran over them. On the offensive side the Rams continued to try to run the rock and actually had some success. Akers topped the 100-yard mark on 19 carries at a 6.5 yard per carry pace. 

But the Rams season was lost many weeks ago and the big decisions that will need to be taken now, is what happens with the future of their superstar players and coach after an injury riddled season.

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

  1. Denver Broncos (4-12)

Last Week – 30th

Denver have had an underwhelming season by all means this year, but their two most impressive games have come against our No. 1 ranked team in this rankings. In those two games Russell Wilson turned back the clocks and used his legs as a weapon more. It seems that is the way to get the best out of Wilson and something the next head coach of the Denver Broncos will need to consider.

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

  1. Arizona Cardinals (4-12)

Last Week – 28th

If there was a sim button for the Cardinals to skip the end of this season, they would be pressing it over and over again until it blew up. It feels the front office and head coach could be gone by this time next week with them needing to construct their roster again. Arizona does have what they think to be a franchise QB, but he will be needing another offensive-minded head coach to try and get the best out of him. What makes it harder is Kyler Murray looks set to miss the majority of his next season with his ACL injury.

Up next: at. 49ers , Sunday 6 p.m. GMT

  1. Chicago Bears (3-13)

Last Week – 29th

This Bears team right now may be the worst team on paper in the league. They can easily make an argument to have the worst offensive-line, wide-receivers and defence in the league. They do happen to have a game changing weapon in Justin Fields, but without any help it will be pointless having him. Chicago will hold a top-two pick in the draft but there doesn’t seem to be any offensive weapons viable for that pick. That may not be the end of the world though, as they can trade the pick for a king’s ransom.

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

  1. Houston Texans (2-13-1)

Last Week – 31st

While the team is likely still some way away from contending, drafting a quarterback with the top pick in the draft should inject some life into a currently lifeless franchise. Head coach Lovie Smith has done some nice things with this team, but with an unpredictable front office, there’s a realistic chance this team could be looking for their fourth head coach in four years.

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

  1. Indianapolis Colts (4-11-1)

Last Week – 32nd

No team’s futures look as dull if owner Jim Irsay is being serious when he gave a vote of confidence for head coach and general manager, Jeff Saturday and Chris Ballard. It is worth taking what owners say with a pinch of salt, but it seems he genuinely believes it. The Colts should have a top-6 pick in the upcoming draft and they must hit on that pick if they want to turn things around.

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

Thursday Night Football: Cowboys @ Titans

By Conor Perrett

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

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

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

Tennessee Titans (7-8)

Power Rankings – 21st

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

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

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

Dallas Cowboys (11-4)

Power Rankings – 6th

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

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

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


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

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

Cowboys 30-6 Titans

Week 16 Power Rankings

Week 16 Power Rankings

By Conor Perrett

What a weekend of NFL football!

It kept on getting better and better during Week 15 of the season which included the biggest comeback in league history, two comebacks of 17 points and probably the dumbest last play we’ve ever seen in the NFL.

So without further ado, let’s get ranking everyone.

  1. Philadelphia Eagles (13-1)

Last Week – 1st

Just when you think Philly will have an easy path to the No. 1 seed with Dallas’ loss, a bit of drama struck at the end with QB and MVP frontrunner, Jalen Hurts expected to miss the next two weeks with a shoulder sprain in his throwing arm. 

The Eagles should be fine in the meantime and still hold their own fate, but it’s always a worry to see your quarterback go down with an injury to his throwing shoulder. It’s the most prized possession of any QB and when issues start popping up, it shouldn’t be taken lightly. Gardener Minshew has a chance to play a hero, similar to Nick Foles back during Philadelphia’s last Super Bowl run.

Up next: at Dallas, Saturday 9:25 p.m. GMT

2. Kansas City Chiefs (11-3)

Last Week – 2nd

The Chiefs and Patrick Mahomes still own the AFC’s No. 1 seed, but it got a bit shaky when they went to overtime with the Texans. Mahomes completed 36 of 41 pass attempts, good for the best completion percentage of his career at 87.7%. He started and finished the game, yet it got to squeaky bum time by the end, against the worst team in the league.

Why was that? Their 24th ranked defensive DVOA is why!

Kansas City has never had an amazing defence, but this season has been worse than normal. They’re currently on pace to have the worst defence in the playoffs, as Mahomes and the offence tries to carry this team further.

Up next: vs. Seattle, Saturday 6 p.m. GMT

3. Buffalo Bills (11-3)

Last Week – 3rd

Whether Josh Allen is 100% or not, it will never stop him going to the lengths of superman diving over the goal line in the snow to win for his team. Allen is the second-ranked quarterback in EPA per drop-back behind just Mahomes. 

This Bills team still doesn’t quite feel like its normal self with injuries stacking up, especially on defence, but they still boast the shortest odds of winning the Super Bowl.

Up next: at Chicago, Saturday 6 p.m. GMT

Tied 4.  Cincinnati Bengals (10-4)

Last Week – 4th

We have our first tied rankings of the season, with the Bengals and 49ers being too close to split in my opinion. In all honesty this could have been a triple tie along with the Cowboys, if they didn’t throw away a late lead.

We knew just how good this Bengals team could be when we saw them get to the Super Bowl last year. Since then, their young players have progressed and are starting to look even better. They had no easy path towards the end of this season to progress to the postseason after a slow start, but they’ve stepped up to the plate and now look like a serious Super Bowl contenders. 

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

Tied 4. San Francisco 49ers (10-4)

Last Week – 5th

The Niners moved up half a spot his week, with me having them tied with Cincinnati.

If I was a betting man, part of me thinks this team could make it to the Super Bowl out of the NFC. Their defence is the best in the league with the aggression they come at offences with and they’ve done it before. There will always be question marks at the QB position, especially when the last pick of this past draft is starting, but Kyle Shanahan may be the offensive genius in the league. Not to mention San Fran are peaking at the right time and are currently on a seven-game winning streak. 

Up next: vs. Washington, Saturday 9:05 p.m. GMT

6. Dallas Cowboys (10-4)

Last Week – 6th

The recent Jalen Hurts injury news might be worse to hear from a Dallas fan than it actually is for Eagles fans. Philadelphia has maintained a two-win gap from the Cowboys for the majority of the year, but with the Cowboys collapse on Sunday to Jacksonville, that now grew to three with three games to play.

With the Eagles missing the engine to their machine and them playing each other on Christmas Eve, Dallas had a chance to cut the lead down to one and claim the top spot in the NFC. Now they are staring down the 5th seed and face many playoff games on the road, if they keep progressing to the Big Show.

Up next: vs. Philadelphia, Saturday 9:25 p.m. GMT

7. Miami Dolphins (8-6)

Last Week – 7th

“They look the business right now and we’ll find out how real they are in the next few weeks when they travel to San Francisco, LA for the Chargers and to Buffalo.” 

That quote is from my rankings three weeks ago about the Dolphins.

Back then they were ranked third and we found out how real they were, losing every one of those games. That was a really difficult set of fixtures and I still view them at the bottom of the contenders, but a blueprint on how to slow down this offence was created by San Fran, and showed the rest of the league how to do it.

The difficult run doesn’t end here, with their last three games still against teams in the playoff hunt. Two of which are divisional rivals in the AFC as well.

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

8. Minnesota Vikings (11-3)

Last Week – 9th

Just when you think the Vikings have run out of luck and can’t keep coming back with these ridiculous comebacks, they prove you wrong and one up themselves. Being down 33-0 at halftime, Minnesota triumphed back and managed to get the win in overtime. It was the biggest comeback in NFL history, as the Vikings totaled for five second-half touchdowns.

Minnesota has been involved in 10 one-score games and has managed to win all 10 of them. It does speak to volume that the Vikings have only managed to win one game by more than one score, but if that’s how they want to get to the second best record in the league, then we cant really complain.

Up next: vs. New York Giants, Saturday 6 p.m. GMT

9. Detroit Lions (7-7)

Last Week – 11th

After starting the season 1-6 and holding the worst record in the league, the Lions have restored their roar and won six games in their last seven matches. That could have very easily been seven wins out of seven if it wasn’t for a Josh Allen wonder-throw, but Detroit are in full swing right now. Since Week 11, via DVOA, they rank the Lions as the 4th best team in that span, with Dan Campbell turning things around.

Their win in New York this past Sunday wasn’t any means of a classic, with a missed field-goal to tie the game by from the Jets. But they are showing they can win in a multitude of ways. Their offence has shown to be high powered and capable of scoring 30 points in a shootout manner, while Sunday’s win showed another side of them, winning a low scoring, sluggish affair on the road.

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

10. Baltimore Ravens (9-4)

Last Week – 8th

Lamar Jackson is reportedly likely to return this week after a two-game absence from a knee injury. That’s good, because Baltimore managed just three points against the 26th-ranked DVOA Browns’ defence, with Tyler Huntley at the helm. If Jackson was healthy this team would be ranked higher, as the defence has improved over the second half of the season.

The offence does have question marks at the skill positions, with a lacklustre of talent. So keeping Jackson in the off-season will be ever so more important. 

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

11. Los Angeles Chargers (8-6)

Last Week – 13th

The Chargers’ two-game winning streak gives them a 79.3% chance to make the playoffs, per Football Outsiders. It was starting to get a bit worrying for Brandon Staley and that coaching staff and with a closing schedule that looks relatively easy, they’ve pulled off some impressive wins of late.

The most impressive turnaround is on defence. We knew this defence under Staley could be great and they have, ranking 3rd in defensive DVOA over the last two weeks.

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

12. Jacksonville Jaguars (6-8)

Last Week – 17th

Trevor Lawrence has finally hit the NFL and he’s single-handedly helping Jacksonville have a legit shot at winning the AFC South. Since Week 9, Lawrence has been the 3rd ranked QB in EPA per dropback and developing into what we saw of him in college. 

The are level with Tennessee in the AFC South and have their Week 18 rematch with the Titans in Jacksonville still to come. It seems destined that the winner gets into the playoffs.

Up next: at New York Jets, Friday 1:15 a.m. GMT

13. New York Jets (7-7)

Last Week – 12th

The Jets playoff chances dropped -15.4% in their defeat on Sunday, as the offence still struggles under Zach Wilson. Their defence is for real, keeping Detroit’s offence quiet all day apart from a sneaky 4th & 1 which caught them off guard. With how that unit is playing it would feel disrespectful for them to miss out, but there’s a reason why the QB position is the most important in football and it’s showing in New York. 

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

14. New York Giants (8-5-1)

Last Week – 19th

With their huge win in Washington, the Giants playoff chances jumped up a whopping 39.4% to 89.6%. They now hold a one-game lead over the Commanders and a 1.5-game lead on Detroit and Seattle. Their matchup this week to Minnesota could be a potentially Wild-Card preview in a few weeks time, as Brain Daboll and company have pulled off a miracle in New York’s first season under the new regime.

Up next: at Minnesota, Saturday 6 p.m. GMT

15. Washington Commanders (7-6-1)

Last Week – 10th

Washington still remains in the No. 7 seed in the NFC, but a tricky last three games could see them slip out. Their game against the Giants couldn’t have been any bigger for both teams to make it into the postseason, as it felt the loser of that game was always going to have a tough time keeping that dream alive. 

Officiating calls will always be talked about, but in a must win game to score 12 points at home, is criminal in itself.

Up next: at San Francisco, Saturday 9:05 p.m. GMT

16. Green Bay Packers (6-8)

Last Week – 20th

If Green Bay can do the unlikely thing of winning out in their last three games, it would seem very likely they then sneak into the playoffs. The only thing stopping them, is those next three opponents all rank in the top-9 of these power rankings. With Miami next, who rank 4th in offensive DVOA, the Packers are 0-3 to teams in the top-10 of that statistic.

It won’t be an easy task and maybe will be one last effort from Aaron Rodgers in Green Bay.

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

17. Tennessee Titans (7-7)

Last Week – 14th

Things are really not going well for the Titans, with them losing four games on the bounce. With Jacksonville fast approaching behind them, starting quarterback Ryan Tannehill is slated to miss the end of the season with an ankle injury. It means they will have to fall back on rookie QB Malik Willis, who underwhelmed in his previous starts early in the season. 

With a rookie QB at the helm and not scoring more than 22 points in any of the last four games, Tennessee still has everything to play for in these last three games.

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

18. New England Patriots (7-7)

Last Week – 15th

It’s probably best we don’t speak about the dumbest last play ever, I mentioned in the intro for the sake of New England fans who might have only just started getting over it.

For the few that havent seen it, just watching it will explain everything.

Up next: vs. Cincinnati, Saturday 1 p.m. GMT

19. Tampa Buccaneers (6-8)

Last Week – 18th

Despite the underwhelming record, Tampa still leads the worst division in recent memory. They have three favourable games to finish the year, but it’s all still up in the air in the NFC South. One game separates the four of them, as maybe no one won in the long term of things in the Tom Brady-Bill Belichick divorce.

Except for the Super Bowl of course.

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

20. Seattle Seahawks (7-7)

Last Week – 16th

After a promising start to the season, the playoffs might be getting out of Seattle’s reach now with one win in their last five games. With the Chiefs next and wide-receiver Tyler Lockett needing hand surgery, it was still a successful season for the side. 

Their roster looks young and promising and they might not have to draft a QB after all, with the emergence of 2022 Pro-Bowler Geno Smith. The Seahawks currently hold the third pick in the draft thanks to Denver, with them waiting to run up to the podium for a defensive beast if the situation remains.

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

21. Pittsburgh Steelers (6-8)

Last Week – 22nd

The Steelers got an important win in Carolina to try and keep Mike Tomlin’s streak of a .500 season alive. It included an impressive 21-play touchdown drive to open the second half, which lasted nearly the entire third quarter. The season may be lost in terms of competing for things, but it wasn’t all failure as they transitioned away from the Ben Roethlisberger era.

Up next: vs. Las Vegas, Sunday 1:15 a.m. GMT

22. Cleveland Browns (6-8)

Last Week – 23rd

The expectation of Deshaun Watson’s play was hard to predict with his return, but I don’t think anyone thought it was going to be this bad. With QB’s that have started three games, he ranks 39th out of 43 quarterbacks. This is a player the Browns traded three 1st-round picks for, gave $230 million and their entire dignity for. With a run defence that is still historically bad, I can probably speak for many that are smirking to see this move not pay off.

Up next: vs. New Orleans, Saturday 1 p.m. GMT

23. Las Vegas Raiders (6-8)

Last Week – 24th

Entering Week 15, the Raiders were 0-4 in games when they led by double digits at the half and it should have dropped to 0-5 if it wasn’t for the Patriots embarrassing themselves. This keeps happening because Josh McDaniels is constantly getting out-coached with second-half adjustments. He has shown no ability to learn from it, as it’s no surprise a team trying to replicate the ‘Patriots Way’ is failing.  

Up next: at Pittsburgh, Sunday 1:15 a.m. GMT

24. Denver Broncos (4-9)

Last Week – 28th

I was one of the first to be down on the Broncos after their horrific start, and I will now put my foot forward to be one of the first to say this team should be this high up. The defence has been elite all year, yet the offence has let them down every stretch of the way. But over the last two weeks I’ve seen the improvement we’ve all been crying out for which is scoring points. 

After only scoring more than 17 points twice in their first 12 games, they’ve now scored 52 points over the last two games. Now, I don’t know if this improvement will keep Nathaniel Hackett his head coaching job at the end of the season, but it’s the improvement we needed to see at least.

Up next: at Los Angeles Rams, Sunday 9:30 p.m. GMT

25. New Orleans Saints (5-9)

Last Week – 27th

Believe it or not, these next three teams we are going to talk about in the bottom quarter of the rankings, all still have a shot at making the playoffs. Why do you ask? Because they all belong to the worst division in football, the NFC South.

This segment should be dedicated towards the changes the NFL should make to the playoff structure. The NBA found themselves in a similar situation a few years back and they scrapped the idea of divisional winners hosting and playing in the playoffs. It’s worse for everyone involved. One of these four teams will be unfit to compete, the fans have to pay and watch to see their team get battered and a worthy team is sat at home missing out.

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

26. Carolina Panthers (5-9)

Last Week – 21st

To further prove my point on why the NFC South division sucks, there is a realistic world where all fours teams in the division can finish with a record of 6-11 record and one of them make the playoffs. So yes, change this immediately please!!!

Up next: vs. Detroit, Saturday 6 p.m. GMT

27. Atlanta Falcons (5-9)

Last Week – 25th

How do you ask that a four way tie of 6-11 can come into play? Lemme set it out for you.

Buccaneers: Lose to Cardinals, Panthers and Falcons.

Saints: Lose to Browns, Eagles and beat Panthers.

Panthers: Lose to Lions, beat Buccaneers and lose to Saints.

Falcons: Lose to Ravens, Cardinals and beat Buccaneers.

So really apart from some 50/50 games against each other, if the Cardinals can revive their season late on, this could all come into play.

Up next: at Baltimore, Saturday 6 p.m. GMT

28. Arizona Cardinals (4-10)

Last Week – 26th

Back to the normal chatter now. After Kyler Murray suffered a torn ACL in the previous week, there are now reports of a change coming to the front office less than a year after both general manager Steve Keim and head coach Kliff Kingsbury received extensions. The Cardinals seem destined for a top-4 pick in the draft and with a potential new regime in place, anything could be on the cards (if you pardon the pun).

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

29. Los Angeles Rams (4-10)

Last Week – 29th

Expectations came back down to reality for the Rams, after Baker Mayfield and the offence failed to capitalise on their momentum against the Packers on MNF. Now on Christmas Day, they host Denver. The game for most will be viewed as two bad teams against each other, but for the Seahawks and Lions it will be a must watch. 

Seattle and Detroit both own the rights to Denver’s’ and Los Angeles’ first-round picks, which currently stand as the 3rd and 4th picks in this upcoming draft. For the team that loses, the chances of a top-3 selection comes every closer. For the unlucky winner, a higher draft pick.

Up next: at Los Angeles Rams, Sunday 9:30 p.m. GMT

30. Indianapolis Colts (4-9-1)

Last Week – 30th

Similar to New England, what the hell were Indy thinking in that second half. How does one lose a game when they’re up by 33 points? Apparently hire a coach with no coaching experience and play him against the Minnesota Vikings. 

In all honesty the Colts were fortunate to be up by that much in the first place, with a lot of things going in their favour, but to then give up 36 points in a single half. Just scoring 30 points a game is an accomplishment for any team. In Indy’s last two fourth quarters, they have been outscored by 55 to 0. Safe to say Jeff Saturday most likely won’t be in-line for the permanent head coaching role now.

Up next: vs. Los Angeles Chargers, Tuesday 1:15 a.m. GMT

31. Chicago Bears (3-11)

Last Week – 31st

Chicago saw exactly what Justin Fields could be this past Sunday against Hurts and the Eagles. Both QB’s are very similar in playstyle, yet on one side you saw what happens when there is no talent to protect or pass to. Watching Fields, I still don’t know if he has a promising future as a passer, but if one thing is for sure, he may be one of the best quarterbacks I’ve seen when scrambling. Week in week out he has a spectacular play which leaves your jaw dropped, but until this front office puts pieces around him on offence, there won’t be much success for the Bears.

Up next: vs. Buffalo, Saturday 6 p.m. GMT

32. Houston Texans (1-12-1)

Last Week – 32nd

Though the Texans managed to take the Chiefs to overtime in Week 15, they’re still far out from doing that on a consistent basis. The two-quarterback approach with Davis Mills and Jeff Driskel is innovative, but there’s no reason to take them seriously until they’re starting one good QB rather than two bad ones.

Up next: at Tennessee, Saturday 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:

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

Week 14 Power Rankings

 By Conor Perrett

As we enter the month of December, there’s five weeks remaining in the regular season. So on a special edition of this week’s power rankings, we’ll be looking at all the team’s playoff chances down the final stretch.  

It was an impactful weekend in the NFL and as the Christmas spirit starts to grow, we now have an Eagle on top of the pear-tree. 

  1. Philadelphia Eagles (11-1)

Last Week – 2nd

Chances of Playoffs – 100%

Things looked a bit shaky for a moment in Philly, but back-to-back winning performances against the Packers and Titans takes them back to the top. Jalen Hurts has continued his case for MVP, by backing up his record-setting rushing performance last week with 380 yards passing, including three touchdowns of 29 yards or more this week. 

With playoffs already guaranteed, it’s No. 1 seed or nothing now. Their game against the Cowboys on Christmas Eve is the only thing stopping them, as they continue to be one of the most consistent teams in the league.

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

  1. Kansas City Chiefs (9-3)

Last Week – 1st

Chances of Playoffs – 100%

As long as Patrick Mahomes is healthy, the Chiefs are in the elite tier of teams in the NFL. The Bengals do seem to have the Chiefs’ number, but Mahomes is still the best quarterback in the league and at the helm of the best offence as well. 

Defensively, the Chiefs are still below average. But to be fair to them, they always have been and that’s not stopped them from being the best football team over the last five years.

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

  1. Buffalo Bills (9-3)

Last Week – 4th

Chances of Playoffs – 100%

Buffalo look good to make the postseason but they have to get healthy if they want to set themselves apart at the top again. Von Miller may be able to return if they make it to February, but with a banged up Josh Allen still, that’s their two best players on either side of the ball not 100%.

Both offence and defence are still amazing though, as they shut down the Patriots last Thursday. Linebacker Tremaine Edmunds especially made his presence known in his return from injury. Scheduled to be a pending free agent, he’s going to get a lot of money thrown at him.

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

  1. Dallas Cowboys (9-3)

Last Week – 6th

Chances of Playoffs – 100%

Per EPA per pass, Dak Prescott had his worst game in a win this season. You wouldn’t have thought the Cowboys scored 33 unanswered points in its 54-19 win against the Colts then. Dallas are in a great position now and aren’t far behind the three top teams above them. Currently they are scheduled to play some playoff games on the road and getting their revenge on the Eagles should be the main goal ahead. Who knows, maybe a certain Odell Beckham Jr can help them.

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

  1. Cincinnati Bengals (8-4)

Last Week – 7th

Chances of Playoffs – 89%

I mentioned a few weeks ago that this Bengals team has the potential to compete deep into the postseason, but a slow start and tough end of schedule might stop them.

There’s nothing they can do about that slow start now, but they are not letting a tough set of games stop them from getting to where they want to get. A gritty win against the Titans last week got followed up with another classic win against the Chiefs. They still have divisional leaders Bills, Ravens and Buccaneers to go, but they have firmly established themselves as a contender now.

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

  1. San Francisco 49ers (8-4)

Last Week – 5th

Chances of Playoffs – 98%

What a brutal Sunday for the Niners. Just as San Fran delivered one of their most impressive wins of the year and could be one of the biggest threats in the NFC, they lost their second starting quarterback for the season. 

It feels like a big blow to San Francisco’s title chances, but wilder things have happened before. The defence is still one of the league’s best and maybe there’s just enough on offence to get by with. Mr Irrelevant, Brock Purdy, got them through Miami, but there will be many more tougher games down the line.

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

  1. Miami Dolphins (8-4)

Last Week – 3rd

Chances of Playoffs – 91%

Miami’s offence looked unstoppable but when Mike McDaniel came up against his master, Kyle Shanahan, just like in the movies, the master always wins. The Niners defence created a blueprint on how to stop this Dolphins’ offence by dialing up pressure and press coverage to take away the quick plays. Now, not all teams will be able to replicate this easily, but it’s still out there on tape and Miami can’t let other teams take advantage of that.

Up next: at Los Angeles Chargers, Sunday 1:20 a.m. GMT

  1. Minnesota Vikings (10-2)

Last Week – 9th

Chances of Playoffs – 100%

Nine of the Vikings’ 10 wins this season have been by one-score and the Vikings are proving they come up big at clutch time. Your keep finding me saying it’s unsustainable, but you would think I would have been proved right by now. To be fair to the Vikings, I haven’t, as they look likely to host a playoff game as the No 2 seed. That’s great for the meantime, but their performances don’t scream a deep postseason run and it unfortunately ranks them at the bottom of my top-eight contenders.

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

  1. Baltimore Ravens (8-4)

Last Week – 8th

Chances of Playoffs – 84%

The most important news for Baltimore right now is the health of their quarterback. Lamar Jackson left Sunday’s game in the first half and is considered week-to-week for the foreseeable future. He’s the main reason why this team was considered a title challenger and without him they aren’t. The Ravens defence, meanwhile, has been the second-best in the league over the past four weeks by DVOA. That will take pressure off them in Jackson’s absence. 

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

  1. Seattle Seahawks (7-5)

Last Week – 11th

Chances of Playoffs – 90%

A 90% playoff chance seems very high for a team that’s not leading a division and loses a tiebreaker to the Commanders and Giants but it’s what the statistics say. They are two games ahead of the pack behind them and with teams still playing each other, the fate of their post-season will be in their own hands. But their play has declined over the past month and a tough last three games will make it a hard fought battle.

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

  1. Tennessee Titans (7-5)

Last Week – 10th

Chances of Playoffs – 97%

The Titans have one of the league’s most established identities and while it’s great to be amazing at a particular thing, Sunday’s loss to the Eagles showed the downsides of what happens when it doesn’t work. When Derrick Henry is rolling it’s an incredible sight, but the Titans need a B or C plan. Rookie first-round pick Treylon Burks went down with a concussion, taking away plan B, but that’s all Tennessee has. Look at the top offences in the league and they will have four to six options that they can rely on to get them out the mud.

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

  1. Washington Commanders (7-5-1)

Last Week -13th

Chances of Playoffs – 44%

In the NFC playoff picture, the top five seeds are starting to look set in stone. That leaves two wild-card spots left and in my own unqualified opinion I see Washington as the favourite to get one of them spots. Their defence ranks 10th in DVOA and without the long awaiting return of Chase Young, they are getting by. Is Taylor Heinicke going to carry them to playoff wins against the top teams? Probably not, but they have the makings of a solid team.

Up next: Bye

  1. New York Jets (7-5)

Last Week – 12th

Chances of Playoffs – 55%

Mike White put together another good performance and while the loss to Minnesota stings, they sure do look better at the QB spot. Robert Saleh keeps insisting Zach Wilson will get another chance at some point this season, but with crucial games ahead I can’t see it happening. Head Coaches aren’t exactly known for always telling the truth and if White keeps up the good play, it isn’t a bad lie to tell to the media.

Up next: at Buffalo, Sunday 1 p.m. GMT

  1. Detroit Lions (5-7)

Last Week – 18th

Chances of Playoffs – 12%

If you’re wondering why a 5-7 Detroit team are flying up the rankings right, then them opening as 2.5 point favourite against the 10-2 Vikings should help explain that.

The Lions are playing their best football of the season right now and are 4-1 since the start of November. Most importantly they are starting to get healthy and it’s really starting to show. No team in the league has had more 30+ point games, as the offence is starting to do whatever they want to opponents. D’Andre Swift is back healthy and Amon Ra St Brown is a star. All the while they are about to put first-round pick Jameson Williams into the action.

Playoff hopes might be a longshot at 12%, but life is looking up from the discussions of a first overall pick just a month ago.

Up next: vs. Minnesota, Sunday 1 p.m. GMT

  1. New England Patriots (6-6)

Last Week – 14th

Chances of Playoffs – 29%

The Patriots offence is frustrating and Mac Jones is not looking like the problem. In an outburst on the sideline, Jones pleaded for his coaches to call more downfield passing concepts. Unfortunately, Matt Patricia has avoided calling plays that way all year and Bill Belichick doesn’t seem fond of a change of idea. 

Up next: at Arizona, Monday 1:15 a.m. GMT

  1. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (6-6)

Last Week – 16th

Chances of Playoffs – 85%

Tom Brady made his name in college for being the ‘Comeback Kid’, so it’s always fun to see him still do it at the age of 45. 

There’s a few teams that probably deserve a play-off appearance over the Bucs, but that’s how the cards fall. Now with the NFC South in the palm of their hands, Tampa can use the rest of the regular season to prepare for what figures to be a wild-card round matchup with the NFC East runner-up.

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

  1. New York Giants (7-4-1)

Last Week -19th

Chances of Playoffs – 40%

Having a team with seven wins that has a decent chance to make the playoffs might be low for down here, but it’s their performance on the field that’s put them at 17. They’ve won one game in their last five, which was against the league’s worst Texans and have the league’s best Eagles next. 

None of their seven wins this season have been by more than eight points, and they’ve only had a lead going into the fourth quarter in three of their 12 games. It’s a gritty way to play each week, but the Giants simply have no elite talent to win any other way.

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

  1. Los Angeles Chargers (6-6)

Last Week – 15th

Chances of Playoffs – 34%

The Chargers offence is in shambles right now as they gave up 13 quarterback hits to a terrible Raiders’ defensive line outside of Maxx Crosby. That’s tied for the fifth most hits given up in a game this season, with last week’s game against the Cardinals.

This team is already banged up all everywhere and Justin Herbert is the last one left standing for now. If the Chargers lose to Miami this week, their chances to make the playoffs will drop below 15 percent. If that’s the case it will be hard to imagine a situation where the coaching staff is held intact if they miss the postseason again.

Up next: vs. Miami, Sunday 1:20 a.m. GMT

  1. Cleveland Browns (5-7)

Last Week – 20th

Chances of Playoffs – 7%

Deshaun Watson finally made his big return in almost two years and it was disappointing to say the least. The play on the field was sub-par, as they secured the win thanks to the help of the defence and special teams. 

But off the field as well, everyone seems to be handling this poorly. Watson declined to answer non-football questions, as the entire organisation seems to be trying to use their ‘Men in Black gadget’ to have everyone forget what Watson did. 

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

  1. Green Bay Packers (5-8)

Last Week – 21st

Chances of Playoffs – 11%

At the start of the season Aaron Rodgers relationship with his receivers room was awkward. It was clear he didn’t trust any of the new guys while the older players in the room weren’t good enough anymore. 

As the season has gone on though, second-round pick Christian Watson has set himself apart from the rest. The rookie speedster has eight touchdowns over the last four games, with at least one in each game. In a down year by the Packers standards, Watson alone has been a much needed source of optimism for everyone involved.

Up next: Bye

  1. Las Vegas Raiders (5-7)

Last Week – 23rd

Chances of Playoffs – 8%

Sunday marked the best single game performance for the Raiders in the Josh McDaniels’ era. The defence limited Justin Herbert better than most Chargers opponents have all season, while the Derek Carr-Davante Adams combination continues to live up to the hype. A win on Thursday Night Football would take them to four-in-a-row and give them a glimmer of hope for the playoffs. It’s not been the ideal start for this new regime, but they’re finishing strong.

Up next: at Los Angeles Rams, Thursday 1:15 a.m. GMT

  1. Pittsburgh Steelers (5-7)

Last Week -25th

Chances of Playoffs – 4%

Similar to other teams around them like the Lions and Raiders, Pittsburgh is making a late push after a slow start to the season. With three wins out of their last four, the Steelers are getting together with the return of TJ Watt and the improvement of play from their rookies. 

Kenny Pickett and George Pickens will get the majority of the headlines but, full-back / tight-end, Connor Hayward caught his first career touchdown this Sunday. The new era is looking good in Pittsburgh, as Mike Tomlin continues to try and keep his .500 or above streak alive.

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

  1. Jacksonville Jaguars (4-8)

Last Week -17th

Chances of Playoffs – 4%

Jacksonville’s long-shot playoff hopes evaporated in their blowout loss to Detroit, as the team was outplayed and outcoached on all levels. It never looked like they had an answer for anything that was thrown at them, with the defence in particular being poor. The Jaguars didn’t force a punt all day with the pass-rush defence being nonexistent.

Jacksonville ranks 31st in sack rate, despite having first-round picks on the line in Travon Walker and K’Lavon Chaisson. After a hot start to the season defensively, the Jaguars now rank 29th in defensive DVOA.

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

  1. Atlanta Falcons (5-8)

Last Week -22nd

Chances of Playoffs – 7%

The Falcons have reached the point of the season where optimism has gone and fans want the young players to get a chance. Head Coach Arthur Smith hinted at the possibility of it as well, as everybody’s eyes turns to the quarterback position. Marcus Mariota has been on a rapid decline since the start of the season, with rookie quarterback Desmond Ridder waiting in the wings.

Last year’s QB Draft class didn’t blow people away, but Ridder was an interesting prospect that scouts started to love in the mid-rounds. He has the athleticism to leave the pocket, while running a successful RPO offence at his time in Cincinnati that got them to the playoffs. It feels like only a matter of time before he gets his shot.

Up next: Bye

  1. Arizona Cardinals (4-9)

Last Week – 24th

Chances of Playoffs – 2%

Rewind to the start of last season and the Cardinals were 7-0 looking like they started something new with Kliff Kingsbury and Kyler Murray. Now the process is at an all-time low and it looks like there will be new people running things next year.

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

  1. Carolina Panthers (4-8)

Last Week -27th

Chances of Playoffs – 5%

The Panthers have looked good under Steve Wilks and it will be interesting to see which way they look when it comes to choosing a new head coach. Wilks will obviously be an option but there’s some young exciting OC’s and DC’s that could take their fancy. 

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

  1. New Orleans Saints (4-8)

Last Week – 28th

Chances of Playoffs – 7%

In one of the most painful losses of the NFL season, the Saints went from pulling within half a game of the division lead, to bottom of the NFC South and their season being over. 

New Orleans had a 98.1% chance of winning with 3:19 left in the game according to ESPN’s win probability model, yet they let it slip from poor game management. Playoffs now look like a complete longshot for this side and to make matters worse their first-round pick is heading to Philadelphia.

Up next: Bye

  1. Indianapolis Colts (4-8-1)

Last Week – 26th

Chances of Playoffs – 0%

The Colts were outscored 33-0 in the fourth quarter of a blowout loss to the Cowboys. It now makes interim head coach Jeff Saturday 1-3 in his tenure, as it does hurt to say that we all sort of saw this coming, with his only experience of coaching being at a high school level. The Colts will now most likely enter a rebuild for next season, with owner Jim Irsay, potentially looking for a new head coach and general manager.

Up next: Bye

  1. Chicago Bears (3-10)

Last Week – 29th

Chances of Playoffs – 0%

Justin Fields took some steps forward as a passer in the loss to the Packers, throwing for 80% completion and 254 yards. But in the crucial late game situations he continued to fail, throwing two interceptions. Chicago’s losing streak now extends to six games, as I do wonder why this team was sellers at the trade deadline? The defence does not look good anymore with the loss of Roquan Smith and Robert Quinn, but hey ho, they’re in a rebuild so we’ll let it play its course.

Up next: Bye

  1. Los Angeles Rams (3-9)

Last Week – 30th

Chances of Playoffs – 0%

Despite possessing the fourth  worst record in the league, the Super Bowl Champs from last year actually haven’t been the most disappointing team to watch. Spoilers, that label goes to our next team. Injuries have been a big issue for this team, but there’s still enough talent on that roster for them to not be in this position. Being in LA though, the stars will be lining up and it seems Baker Mayfield will be the next hopeful walking through the doors of the Rams facilities.

Up next: vs. Las Vegas, Thursday 1:15 a.m. GMT

  1. Denver Broncos (3-9)

Last Week – 32nd

Chances of Playoffs – 0%

To be truthful I’ve gotten bored talking about how big of a disaster this Broncos team has been this season. Despite entering the year with one of the deepest receiving cores, a former Super Bowl winning QB and hiring a head coach that was the coordinator to last year’s MVP. This Broncos offence has only scored more than 17 points twice in their 12 games. I just feel sorry for all the defensive players at this point.

Up next: vs. Kansas City, Sunday 9:05 p.m. GMT

  1. Houston Texans (1-10-1)

Last Week – 31st

Chances of Playoffs – 0%

Yes Houston’s chances of the playoffs are at 0%, but under those statistics are a 86% chance of the No. 1 pick in next year’s draft. That’s all this team can be hopeful for now, as they already seem on the clock to decide whether to go quarterback or defence with the pick. 

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

NFL Week 11 Preview

By David McDonnell 

Sorry it’s only a short preview this week. 

Bengals v Titans 

The most interesting match-up for me is the Bengals visiting the Titans and these are two teams that have been in great form over the last few weeks. 

Tennessee were very impressive on Thursday Night Football in Week 11 against a resurgent looking Packers in Lambeau Field, where again they leaned on Derek Henry and the threat of Derek Henry to do the damage. 

I am not the biggest fan of Ryan Tannehill but very like Kirk Cousins he is a play-action specialist and he can throw down the field accurately when he gets time and space in the pocket. Having first-round pick Treylon Burks back after injury will help in this regard and the rookie wide-out had over 100 yards receiving last time out. 

The best way to stop play action is to stop the run but that is easier said than done when you have to come up against a behemoth that is Henry. With his power, speed and acceleration, and also a hand-off akin to being hit by a baseball bat, he is an unstoppable force and as long as he stays healthy then the Titans can beat any team on their day. 

They come up against a Cincinnati defence who are clever and well-coached with excellent players across their line-up. Sam Hubbard and Trey Hendrickson are the standouts on the line but Logan Wilson as the ‘will’ linebacker has impressed me all season. 

It will be interesting to see how the Bengals defensive plays against Tannehill and the Titans. Will they pack the box to stop Henry as we have seen many teams do and leave themselves vulnerable to play action from Tannehill? Or will they mix it up and try something different? If it was me,  I would try and make Tannehill beat me from the pocket even if he is coming off an excellent display against Green Bay.  

The Bengals offence has been on fire all season led by Joe Burrow at quarterback. 

They die and ride with his performances and decision making and they haven’t skipped a beat since their superstar receiver Ja’Marr Chase was out over the last few weeks with a rib injury. 

Instead Burrow has learned more from Tee Higgens, who is coming off his best performance of the season with 148 receiving yards with an average of over 16 yards per catch against the Steelers defence. In the last two games, their running backs Joe Mixon and Samaje Perine have also combined for eight touchdowns.

With Chase listed as questionable for this game, he could be back on the field sooner than expected and the Bengals will need him as they are facing a tough schedule of games with the Chiefs, Browns, Bucs, Pats, Bills and Ravens rounding out their schedule after this game against Tennessee.

The Titans have won seven of their last eight games and have the league’s top run defence according to the metrics.  The Titans have a particularly aggressive defence that takes their lead from their head coach Mike Vrabel and the best way to stop this high-powered Bengals offence is to get to Joe Burrow. 

The Titans are averaging two and a half sacks a game and will need to improve this in my opinion to stop Joey Cool, or whatever they are calling him these days.

I’m going for a road Bengals win.

Packers v Eagles 

Another interesting game in Week 12 is the Packers visiting the Eagles in the late kickoff on Sunday night. 

We all know Aaron Rodgers loves it when the lights shine brightest and I think the Packers are a team trending in the right direction with two good performances in a row. 

They will find it tough against an excellent set of defensive backs in Philly and it will be interesting if rookie receivers Christian Watson and Romeo Doubs can get much change out of a pair of elite corner-backs in Darius Slay and James Bradberry.  

Still I think this game will be won in the trenches and coming off a loss, I expect the Eagles to go back to basics and let their O-line lead them to another victory. For this reason I suspect the Eagles will be the team singing Christmas songs in the locker room afterwards.

It is still November right? 

Just checking.  

King Henry cans Packers on TNF

By David McDonnell 

The Titans are fast becoming one of the dark horses in the race for the Superbowl after their seventh win in their last eight games came after a highly entertaining contest in a snowy and cold Lambeau Field.

The key to their success is being very physical on their offensive and defensive lines and the rushing talent that is Derek Henry. He is without doubt one of teh best running backs inNFl history and when he gets motoring, it opens up the play action game for a specialist like Ryan Tannehill.

The Titans QB back for the second week after missing time through injury was excellent and on the night completed 22 of 27 passes attempted for 333 yards and two touchdowns. On the first drive of the contest he gave us a hint of what lay in store when he found Dontrell Hilliard for a touchdown. 

Just as time was about to tick to zero at the end of the first quarter, in classic Aaron Rodgers fashion, the Packers quarterback took an unexpected snap, which drew a defensive flag and knowing he had a shot to nothing, threw up a contestable ball and rookie Christian Watson mossed his marker to reply with a six-pointer for the home side. A blocked PAT marked the end of the first quarter. 

The contest was hotting up and a great throw by Tannehill on third and 10 down found Austin Hooper to extend the drive. Matt LeFleur challenged the call and Tennessee had to make it from fourth and inches to pick up the first down, which they did with an interesting play call. I’m not sure Tannehill will be picking up an Oscar after this play as I don’t think anyone expected someone other than Derek Henry to get the ball.

However, in the drive on another fourth and one, the Titans gave it again to King Henry but time the Packers got the stop to cause a turnover in the football. Green Bay didn’t make the turnover pay on the scoreboard and There was no stopping Tennessee on their next drive where they leaned more in Henry and the big man smashed his way over the line to extend the lead.

Tennessee had an eight point lead after having the football for double the amount of the home side in the first half. 

In the third quarter, the Titans went 91 yards in only six plays as Henry broke through on a long run to bring the play into the redzone. The big running back then faked a run and threw a jump-shot to Hooper on a delayed run for a touchdown.

This time it was the Titans kicker to miss the added point.

Green Bay hit back with Rodgers in excellent form.  On second and goal, he found Watson again in the endzone for the rookie’s fifth touchdown in five days. Aaron Jones then converted a two-point play to leave just three points between the sides.

Two minutes later on the first play of the fourth quarter, Tannehill on play action found his tight end Hooper with a dart into the endzone to make it 27-17.

For the rest of the game, both defences started to dominate and there were no more scores.

It was a good performance by the Green Bay Packers against one of the toughest teams in the NFL. The Titans who look already destined for play-off football in January. If they can keep Henry healthy and in his current form, they will be a match for anyone going forward.

TNF: Titans v Packers 

By Conor Perrett 

With the Green Bay Packers coming off an overtime win to America’s team; Dallas Cowboys on Sunday, they now host another top team when the Tennessee Titans come to Lambeau Field for Thursday Night Football. 

Both sides are still in the playoff hunt, and both need to keep stacking up wins so read on and I’ll tell you who I think will win this exciting match-up tonight. 

Green Bay Packers (4-6)

Power Rankings: 18th

DVOA Rankings: Offence – 9th, Defence – 17th, ST – 30th: Overall – 14th

Thanks to a five-game losing streak that buried them deep in the NFC standings, it has been a difficult season for the Packers.

Aaron Rodgers has looked like a fraction of his former self and the offence has just been stuck in gear following the off-season trade of wide receiver Davante Adams. That was until last Sunday when we got our first bit of spark from them this season, when they came from behind to beat a fancied Cowboys team.

The man at centre of this renaissance was rookie second-round pick Christian Watson, who caught four passes on the day for 104 yards and three touchdowns. He is one of the new young receivers that was brought in to replace Adams, and he has had a rough start to life in the NFL being on concussion protocol and also dropping a number of catchable passes. It has left an unhappy Rodgers throwing to him, and numerous times this year the quarterback has shown his frustration on the field and on the sideline.

It’s clear Rodgers is not happy with the current situation or where the team is heading towards. Despite winning last week, his demeanor really wasn’t much different until the last drive. He tends to take his frustration out on head-coach Matt LaFleur despite a winning relationship with him over the last two years.

Having a group of young receivers isn’t ideal, but he also has Randell Cobb returning for this game. The defence hasn’t been living up to its potential. With a good second half of the season, Green Bay could find themselves in the playoffs, but that still might not cement Rodgers’ future with this team.

Tennessee Titans (6-3)

Power Rankings: 12th

DVOA Rankings: Offence – 21st, Defence – 9th, ST – 11th: Overall – 13th

The Titans are in the driving seat for the AFC South title and now that starting quarterback Ryan Tannehill is back, they have a resemblance of a passing game once again. On Sunday he threw for a pair of touchdowns on his return to the lineup in the Titans’ win over the Denver Broncos.

The King, Derrick Henry, has got himself back on track in the past month, having topped the 100 rushing yard mark in five of his last six games. He looks just as scary as he did back when he won Offensive Player of the Year in 2020, and tonight he gets to take on statistically the league’s worst run-defence this week in Green Bay.

On the other side of the ball, the Titan defence has been hotting up as well, and in their last six games they have not given up more than 20 points in four quarters. That six games stretch includes the Kansas City Chiefs who have the No. 1 scoring offence in the league and are first in offensive DVOA. They will be missing their top pass rusher Bud Dupree for this clash, but a strong and gritty Mike Vrabel team won’t let that set them back.


This matchup will be closer than the records suggest and feels like a coin toss in my opinion. 

With the Packers being at home, they enter the game as three-point favourites in the bookies and have had the better fortune with injuries. They looked good on Sunday night and I think Rodgers will get this offence motoring again. How soon in the game will this happen is the question, as this Titans defence has been playing up near the league’s best in recent weeks.

Despite the arrows pointing towards Green Bay in some situations, I like the matchup for Tennessee. I don’t think they will be able to run the ball as effectively as people might think, with the Packers run-defence often showing up when it matters most. 

But Tennessee is a real tough outfit and won’t be fearing the cold reception when they will get at Lambeau Field. They nearly went into Kansas City two weeks ago and beat them without a serviceable passing attack and I think this time round, in another difficult place to perform, they walk out with the win.

Titans 20, Packers 17

NFL Week 9 Preview

By David McDonnell 

I’ve decided to go a bit off-road this week and talk about teams I haven’t conversed about recently. There are only so many weeks I can bang on about the plight of the under-performing Rams or Bucs, so this weekend for my own amusement as much as anything else I’m going to focus elsewhere. 

Let’s start in the Windy City. 

Miami Dolphins @ Chicago Bears

Miami is a whirlwind of excitement and anticipation right now and it must be a joy to follow with the way they are attacking teams. And that was before the arrival of two more bodies in Florida before the close of the trade deadline on Tuesday. 

With Tua back at quarterback, the Dolphins are back motoring again with Tyreek Hill almost at 1000 yards before the midway point of the season. With the NFL regular season now 17 games, he is on pace to beat Calvin Johnson’s 2012 single-season record of 1,964 receiving yards. Even when he is double-teamed he is extremely difficult to cover. 

That Hill’s partner-in-crime Jalen Waddle has caught for almost 750 yards shows just  how explosive this offence has become and they are a threat to take it to the house on every play. 

Tagovailoa has always had good timing and accuracy with his throws. This is where the off-season additions of experienced left tackle Terron Armstead and centre Conor Williams have been key, because when afforded enough time in the pocket, Tua has the smarts to consistently pick out the right option. 

The dual threat receivers, are in my opinion the two fastest players in the league, often sees tight-end Mike Gesicke single-covered and he has become a redzone favourite of Tua.

What makes this team even more credible is their defence has been competitive all season with Javon Holland at safety playing at an All-Pro level.

Last season the Dolphins were the highest blitzing team in the league and while they still have that in their locker, what has impressed me is that they have been able to put opposing quarterbacks constantly under pressure while only rushing four. 

Playing a 3-4 base defence they have now added Bradley Chubb to book-end with the exciting pass-rusher Jalen Phillips and going forward this could be significant in getting teams off the field on third down. 

There was an interesting social media post I saw during the week that showed that the Miami Dolphins turned the three first-round picks acquired for trading down with the 49ers in the 2021 draft, who moved up to take QB Trey Lance, into Hill, Waddle and Chubb. You don’t have to be a genius to figure out who won that trade battle. 

Miami’s addition of running-back Jeff Wilson again is a clever pick-up as he knows the Mike McDaniel system having played in it at the 49ers last season and won’t need any time to adjust to the playbook.

So, are the Miami Dolphins now realistic Super Bowl contenders? I wouldn’t put them into that bracket just yet but they are certainly the best they have been in years and have the firepower to beat anyone on their day. After a generation in the AFC East doldrums, they are certainly relevant again.  

So how will the Bears try to beat them on Sunday?

Very simple. Try to keep that Dolphins offence off the field by running the ball. This is an approach that the Bears are having success at right now. 

Through the first quarter of this season Chicago were terrible on offence and it seemed that offensive coordinator Luke Getsy, who had spent the last three years as QB coach to Aaron Rodgers, was trying to fit Fields into the Green Bay offence. It didn’t work but there has been a noticeable change in their approach.

Getsy has decided to use the best performing unit on the team, their offensive line and run the ball down the opposition throats. Tevin Jenkins at right guard, in particular, is what you want in a run-blocker. He is mean and aggressive on every play and moves bodies and loves to smash into people in the run game. 

Getsy has also introduced more run-option and play action into the game plan, which allows Justin Fields to excel at what he is great at; using his legs to pick up first downs. By having such a strong running threat, the Bears are wearing the opposition down and affording Fields even more space to attack later in the second half. 

When Fields gets to plant his leg, his throwing accuracy is much improved but he is still susceptible to being inaccurate when throwing under pressure. The addition of big-bodied wide receiver Chase Claypool during the week could be the safety blanket Fields needs, which should allow him to throw for contested catches in the red zone. The addition of Claypool should also result in Darnell Mooney getting more single coverage. 

Although still relatively one dimensional things are looking up for Chicago but they are going to be a work in progress for some time to come. Still with a high performing rookie class, there is plenty to get excited about looking towards the future. 

For the present, beating Miami in Soldier Field would be a statement win of sorts but I don’t believe it will happen this weekend. 

Vikings @ Commanders 

This should be a good match-up as these are two sides whose record I would suggest is better than they are currently playing.

Minnesota has a 6-1 record and a three game lead in the NFC North. As it stands they are looking like post-season certainties but I remain unconvinced by anything I have seen from them this season. They do have a tendency to start games well but tend to fade out in the second half and they have come out the right side of a number of close encounters.

They do have talented players none more so than Justin Jefferson but he must be frustrated having not caught a receiving touchdown since the opening game of the season. Dalvin Cook at running-back has played well and on defence the signing of Za’Darius Smith from the rival Packers has been a significant addition for the Vikings and an equally telling loss for Green Bay. I have been impressed with their offensive line and they have a young unit that is performing consistently well. 

Cousins in my opinion throw a lovely deep ball but he is what I consider a play-action specialist. I would tar Ryan Tannehill with the same brush. Get the run game going, and Cousins can really hurt you from play action. When he has to stand in the pocket and pick a defence apart he struggles and I haven’t seen any noticeable improvement in his game since he left the Washington Redskins in 2018. 

Since he left there have been two changes in the name of the franchise and a revolving door at QB. 

Cousins is not fondly remembered mainly due to the instability he added to a highly unstable franchise when he wouldn’t sign a long term deal and played out two years on the franchise tag. Ultimately, it cost him a move to rejoin his former offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan at the San Francisco 49ers, who ultimately got impatient waiting for him to become a free agent that he took a punt with Jimmy Garropolo. If Cousins hadn’t played the franchise game, would he have two Superbowls in the Bay Area? I’m not so sure. 

Washington have recently turned their season around and are now 4-4 in the NFc East, the highest performing division in football. 

Since they turned to Taylor Heineke after Carson Wentz’s injury, the team is playing better particularly on defence and they have conceded an average of less than 15 points in their  last three wins. This bodes well for a unit which will add the returning Chase Young in Week 12. 

On offence the big difference with Heineke is that he can move well in the pocket and he knows how to find his two best receivers Terry McLaurin and Curtis Samuel on third downs. That has kept the Commanders on the field and allowed them to extend drives.  Heineke has proved to be a good player to have around and an ideal back-up QB who his teammates  rally behind. Where the team has struggled all season is their offence line when running the ball and they need to add more difference makers in the off-season. 

This should be a close game and I am expecting a low scoring affair. I think the home town Commanders will keep this game close and I can see them taking a fourth-quarter lead as has been their forte recently.

Titans V Chiefs 

The late game on Sunday night sees Derek Henry v the Kansas City Chiefs. 

There is no team playing more one-dimensional football in the league than the team from Tennessee and why wouldn’t you when you have the big man in top form. Last Sunday, Henry ran for 219 yards and two touchdowns as a repeat performance would certainly make things interesting. 

It will be good to see how the Chiefs D-line stand up to this physical challenge as many teams will try to keep Patrick Mahomes off the field using a run-heavy scheme in future contests. If they can hamper the juggernaut that is King Henry, it should bode well for men in red. 

What I will be looking out for is how the Titans will use rookie QB Malik Willis, who possesses extreme athletic talent. Hopefully he will be asked to dip further into the playbook as he only managed 55 passing yards and ran for only 12 yards against the Texans. That day, they didn’t need him to do much more.

It is hard to see past the Chiefs for this contest with the form of Mahomes who is playing at an MVP calibre level. Whatever time he is afforded, should be enough for him to navigate his way up the field for a few touchdowns. 

This week the Chiefs added Kadarius Toney and hands up I didn’t have a first-round grade on him coming out in 2021 mainly due to the fact that I never saw him winning contested catches for the Gators at the University of Florida. I thought he would struggle in this regard in the NFL but getting traded to play with Kansas City is a Godsend for him as Mahomes can put the ball on a postage stamp. Hopefully we will now get to see what this human joystick of a receiver can really do at the NFL level. He is expected to suit up on Sunday night.