To sit or to start? The conundrum surrounding rookie quarterbacks.

Hello world,

Coming off the back of Deshaun Watson’s first three starts for the Texans. A win versus the Bengals, a strong performance against the Patriots and a huge win against the Titans. This question has been kept low but I am still wondering, how did Bill O’Brien decide that Tom Savage should have been the starting quarterback ahead of Watson? With hindsight looks like a bad decision as the Texans were obliterated in their opening game 29-7. In O’Brian’s defence, this is a debate that if you were to interchange the names has been plaguing head coaches for years. I am going to examine a few examples that have been successful for the players, coaches and organisations involved, as well more often than not in these situations the examples that didn’t go well.

Sometimes, it doesn’t take till halftime of the opening game to change your quarterback like O’Brien did. In 1970, Steelers head coach Chuck Noll, a future Hall of Famer, played number one pick and rookie Terry Bradshaw for 8 games. Those other 6 games were played by, yes you guessed correctly. Terry Hanratty… This was a decision that caused opinions to swirl about the reliability of Noll as a coach. In his first game of his career, Bradshaw threw an interception and conceded a safety as they lost 19-7. Bradshaw was so embarrassed to be the starting quarterback when he lost. As told in one of my favourite books,

“Noll yanked him, and backup Hanratty finished up. After the game Bradshaw sat in his truck in the players’ parking lot, weeping.” – The Last Headbangers by Kevin Cook.

The amazing description of the situation by Cook, whose book beautifully analyses the NFL between 1972 and 1982, shows just how much Bradshaw wanted to succeed not only for himself but also Noll and the team. This is something rarely seen in young quarterbacks today, an example of this being Johnny Manziel who sat out the last game of the 2015 season due to a concussion, however, a video was found of him partying in Las Vegas seemingly fit and well. This lack of commitment, amongst other things is why Manziel is out of the NFL and why Bradshaw is in the Hall of Fame.

Despite what it looked like after that opening game and that 1970 season, Terry Bradshaw’s stats read as follows: 38% completion, 1410 yards, 6 touchdowns and 24 interceptions. Reading those stats is harder than watching a Jeff Fisher press conference. But with hindsight, Noll made the right decision, because the Steelers improved from being the worst team in the league with a 1-13 record the year before to a 5-9 record in 1970. Only 4 years later, the Steelers won their first of 4 Super Bowl titles in the 1970s. These four championships made the pair the most successful coach and quarterback duo till last season when Brady and Belichick won their fifth title. So, in this case, it helped the coach when deciding who to play to already have Hanratty there as the starter. It provided competition for Bradshaw to improve and a player to compare Bradshaw against for Noll.

However, this isn’t the case for every coach and rookie quarterback. Instead of having a veteran already there some quarterbacks can be thrown into the fire from the start. Now their failure can, I believe, be attributed to many things such as a lack of coaching, contract holdouts, lack of surrounding talent and lack of effort. The primary instance of a team starting a rookie quarterback and it going all down in flames is with #1 all-time draft bust: Ryan Leaf pictured here being drafted in 1998.

In 1998, he was selected number two overall by the Los Angeles Chargers formerly of San Diego. He was the epitome of a disgrace, he constantly didn’t study film, workout or practice with teammates. Reports suggest that he flew to Las Vegas the night he was drafted, partied all night and yawned all through the introductory press conference the next day. Leaf signed the largest rookie contract ever at the time. A 4 year $31.25 million with a guaranteed $11.25 million signing bonus. His stats for his rookie season were: 10 games played, 1,289 yards, 45.3% completion passes, 2 touchdowns, a staggering 15 interceptions and an anaemic QBR of 39. His go-to move was to blame his teammates for his poor play. As you can guess this did not endear him very well to his teammates or fans. This lack of friendship and vulgarity wasn’t new to Leaf; in an interview he did with the San Diego Tribune he said “There was a joke going around campus when I was at Washington State.

It went,”What’s the difference between God and Ryan Leaf?” The punchline was, “God doesn’t think he’s Ryan Leaf.”

Add this to his incomprehensible amount of arrogance, a lack of commitment, a litany of injuries, fickle temper and overall dismal play. All of this has made him the poster child of NFL bust and in my eyes the owner of the worst rookie season by a quarterback ever.

Having watched Watson for his last two games, he has made incredible strides as a quarterback. A normal rookie would be hidden behind a running game, using play-action passes to find open receivers to get him settled in the game. But Watson has been able to find and sense pressure in the pocket, he’s moving defences with his eyes and is making great intermediate throws. Not to make a direct comparison, but both Watson and O’Brien can take advice from Hall of Famer and twice Super Bowl champion John Elway who said about his rookie season “I needed that year it made me a better player rather than sitting it out”. Watson has a strong defence and cast of offensive weapons surrounding him to make his transition into an NFL starter an easier one than most. His swift rise as a quarterback makes this conundrum much easier for O’Brien to stomach especially as he realised his mistake only 30 minutes into the season. As long as Watson plays well, then all of the noise surrounding O’Brien and his decision to start Savage will disappear into the ether. If the Texans fall away then expect it to all explode again but don’t expect this to happen anytime soon. I think Watson is here to stay.

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My award predictions for the 2017 NFL season

Hello world,

The NFL season kicks off today and I’m more excited than a Browns fan seeing their team win a game. It means that normal, real and important football is within our grasp. We don’t have to wade through any more of these weak, trivial and frankly boring preseason games, but are instead let back sweetly into the world of excitement that is regular season football. So here are my predictions for NFL awards; now last season I got 1 out of 7 correct, let’s hope this year goes a bit better.

MVP – Aaron Rodgers

Last season, Aaron Rodgers had a slower start than a snail trying to ride a bike. It was a poor start that left the Packers at 4-6 which held Rodgers back from the MVP award. His last 6 games of the regular season were incredible, with 16 touchdowns and 0 interceptions. The hardest defence he will face this season is Seattle’s; last year against them he had 246 yards and 3 touchdowns, so expect them and every other defence he faces to fall by the wayside on his way to MVP. This will happen because Aaron Rodgers is the best quarterback in the NFL. Period. As well as that, the cast of players surrounding Rodgers has improved since last season, with Martellus Bennett being the main addition at tight end as well as Ty Montgomery in the backfield because you know what? The NFL needs more stars from position changes. It adds to the “Joie de vive” of the league.  I mean it’s done absolute wonders for Tyrelle Pryor, why not the same for Montgomery? Rodgers will throw over 5,000 yards and for 45 touchdowns cementing his status as one of the best ever when he collects his third MVP trophy next February.

Offensive Player of the Year – David Johnson

David Johnson last season had one of the best seasons ever by a running back till he got injured. He had 1,249 rushing yards and 879 receiving yards, a 15 game span of at least 100 yards from scrimmage which matched Hall of Famer Barry Sanders’ record from 1997. I believe that Johnson will continue this scintillating form into this season, as he looks to only get better and better on an improving Arizona team. On Arizona’s schedule, only the Giants and Texans have any form of a top 10 defence, so expect him to tear up everyone else this season. Johnson this season will push himself into the upper tier of NFL talent, becoming a household name although the Cardinals won’t make the playoffs. He will become the first back with at least 1,000 rushing yards and receiving yards in one season since Marshall Faulk in 1999 (guess what? he’s in the Hall of Fame as well). By doing this he will be propelled to the offensive player of the year this season.

Defensive Player of the Year – J.J Watt

J.J Watt is now injury free, having only played 3 games last season after having had back surgery. I see no reason why this award should be going in any other direction than back to the three-time winner. He is the best defensive player in the NFL till proven otherwise. The Texans have one of the best defensive lines in football, especially with the progression Jadeveon Clowney made without Watt last year. By combining both of them, it will result in Watt showboating through offensive lines for 18 sacks and defensive player of the year. No other player in the NFL causes offensive coordinators as many problems as Watt does. It’s not just his power, technique, speed, size but his versatility and ability to line up anywhere along the defensive line that causes them problems. He is the most destructive defensive player in the league.

Offensive Rookie of the Year – Dalvin Cook

Dalvin Cook will thrive this year, as he becomes the centre piece to a Vikings offence afraid to concede turnovers. He will set a new NFL record for the number of carries for a rookie in a season; such is the paranoia surrounding Sam Bradford with his almost innate ability to throw interceptions. He makes it look easier than tying a shoelace. Cook will show us his talent by managing to win this award despite Minnesota’s leaky offensive line. He will shine with his combination of speed and power, making it easy for Vikings fans to accept the decision to let Adrian Peterson head down to the New Orleans Saints this offseason. Cook will lead all rookie running backs in both yards and touchdowns with 1350 yards and 8 touchdowns. He will just pip Christian McCaffrey to the award, expect big things from this FSU star this season.

Defensive Rookie of the Year – Solomon Thomas

The 6ft 3in, 273lbs defensive end has performed well through training camp and into the preseason. Thomas can show off the skills he showcased during his time at Stanford on a defence that will be making a few heads turn this season. Expect Thomas to cause havoc alongside fellow rookie Reuben Foster. The defensive coordinator for the 49ers, Robert Salah has talked about his defence being “fast, physical [and] everything being about the ball.” For Thomas these are his main skills; it’s his speed and aggression that causes the most problems, the opposition simply doesn’t think a man of his stature can be so dynamic. If you need proof, I insist you go and watch the game between UNC and Stanford last season, Solomon Thomas was the best player on the field by far. Thomas will use this speed to cause mayhem at defensive end, he will land over 13 sacks and garner the defensive rookie of the year. If he wins the award, Thomas will be the first 49ers player to win the award since Patrick Willis did in 2007.

Comeback Player of the Year – Tyrain Mathieu

Now I should be placing JJ Watt here, considering he will win defensive player of the year and is coming back from surgery. But at the NFL awards, they like to spread the love with the winners so I’m predicting that Cardinals safety Tyran Mathieu will win this award. Last season he only played 10 games after sustaining a shoulder injury against the Panthers. With the Cardinals developing and drafting new players, Mathieu will go back to safety. From his preseason play, he is back to 100%, making him one of the top defensive players in the NFL, desperately giving the Cardinals defence some power and aggression. He will have 6 interceptions and 110 tackles to take the award.

Coach of the year – Bill Belichick

This is easy, he is the best coach in the league. So why not have this be the season where the voters remove their cataracts and give him the award. I will predict for him to win this award every year till he retires from coaching.

 

 

 

Rookies to watch

Hello world long time no see,

It’s been a long time since I last posted due to being in my final year of school and having exams. But mercifully just like Jeff Fisher’s tenure as Head Coach of the Rams they are over which means I can hopefully make these more regular.

Gloriously, the NFL season waits tantalisingly like a star atop a Christmas Tree less than 9 weeks away. The Free Agency period as always provides us with some surprises; whether it’s players moving teams, retiring or even returning! But teams mainly look to the NFL Draft as the best way to improve. I believe that these rookies will be the most exciting to watch in 2017. For depth, I will choose 2 rookies from each of the first 3 rounds on the draft. I hope you enjoy! 

Corey Davis WR – Tennessee Titans


One reason why Corey Davis will be an exciting player this season is because of the quality of the roster he has entered. Davis is the prime candidate to become the Titans WR1. He will be catching passes alongside Eric Decker, Rishard Matthews from Marcus Mariota, as well as blocking for Derrick Henry and DeMarco Murray. The quality of these players will only help Davis as they will allow him to settle into the offence and not be forced to carry it like Atlas and the world. 

He was taken 5th overall from Western Michigan. The 6ft 3, 209lbs wide receiver during his time as a Bronco, became the all time leader in NCAA career receiving yards. This is no mean feat; he averaged 16 yards a catch and scored 52 TDs in 4 seasons. His aggressive style but soft hands will translate well into Offensive Co-Ordinator’s Jeff Robiskie’s offence, giving Mariota the number 1 receiver he needs for the Titans to become contenders. 

Christian McCaffery RB – Carolina Panthers


Christian McCaffery was taken 8th overall by the Panthers due to his astonishing ability as a runner as well as his versitlilty across the field.  He is as versatile a player as Daniel Day Lewis is to acting. This is a player that was 2nd in the Heisman voting in 2015 and holds the NCAA record for all purpose yards with 3,864. He will be exciting as a runner because of his combination of  patience and agility; he will be difficult to stop for opposing defensive co-ordinators. McCafferry’s ability to catch passes out of the backfield, as well as return kicks and punts means that luckily for us we will be seeing this talent a lot more than usual this season.

Teez Tabor CB – Detroit Lions


I thought it was criminal for Tabor to fall to the 2nd round. This is a man with 1st round talent written all over him. The University of Florida Cornerback fell to the 53rd pick for the Detroit Lions. He will be an exciting player this season because he is an aggressive cover corner who walks a thin line between penalties and interceptions. He is a strong open field tackler; at Florida he was twice All-SEC first team. He will bring class to a Detroit secondary that apart from Darius Slay is severely lacking it, making him an exciting player to watch.

Dalvin Cook RB – Minnesota Vikings


Cook was an amazing talent at Florida State; he became their all-time leading rusher and a force to be reckoned with throughout college football. This was shown by his ranking as the best college running back in the draft by both Pro Football Focus and Sports Illustrated. However, off the field issues such as being charged for battery saw him fall into the second round. Now, don’t kid yourself Latavius Murray fans (if you exist?) but Dalvin Cook WILL be the starting running back for the Vikings. With this comes huge expectations as former MVP and Vikings legend Adrian Peterson was their last RB. But he left to join the New Orleans Saints in the offseason, so he has some big shoes to fill. But Cook has already said when talking to CBS Sports “So the only thing you can do is come in and be yourself.” With this humble attitude as well as astonishing talent, Cook will be very exciting to watch. 

Chris Wormley DE – Baltimore Ravens


Wormley was a standout Defensive End at the University of Michigan. He played 4 years, having torn his ACL as a freshman and in 2016 was named First team all-big 10 and Second Team All-American. As he had 39 tackles (9 for loss) and 6 sacks. His character and leadership were surely recognised as he was made a team captain by his fellow players. Despite being a 3rd round pick, going to Baltimore will be good for both Wormley and ourselves. As their combination of a lack of defensive talent but good coaches means we will see him a lot this season, showing us and the Ravens why he was such a star at Michigan.  

Tarrell Bashem OLB – Indianapolis Colts


Bashem was an good talent at Ohio, playing 4 years and racking up a school record 29.5 sacks. He played OLB for Ohio having been taken by the Colts. He will most likely move from a 4-3 defensive end where he played in college to a 3-4 outside linebacker. This transition will be difficult to make especially for a rookie but having veterans such as Akeem Ayers and Barkivious Minho to learn under will help him grow through the season. We will see the 2016 MAC defensive player of the year on the field this season, so expect some big things, perhaps not as many sacks but a strong defensive impact the Colts have been missing for a number of years. 

Hope you have enjoyed! Much love 💚

Super Bowl LI Preview

Hello World,

It’s Super Bowl week, Atlanta vs New England, Falcons vs Patriots, Quinn vs Belichick and Ryan vs Brady. This is the 7th Super Bowl since 2000 for Belichick and Brady, whereas it is Atlanta’s second ever with their first coming in 1998 where they were dismantled by John Elway and the Broncos. Super Bowl 50 averaged 111.9 million viewers so even more this year, even if Lady Gaga is performing at halftime. Here is my preview for THE game of the year.

The Atlanta Falcons have been an offensive superpower this season. It has been incredible to watch, they have put up over 40 points in 6 different games this season, scoring a mesmeric 540 points tied for the 2000 Rams lead by now Hall of Famer Kurt Warner. Their quarterback, Matt Ryan was 1st team All-Pro and both Offensive Player of the year as well as league MVP. He has been the best quarterback to play every game this season. He has the number one quarterback rating in the league with 83.3, he has the second most touchdowns with 38 and passing yards with 4,944 and the third highest completion percentage with 69.9%. You feel like this type of season has been a long time coming for Ryan who came into the league in 2008 taken with the 3rd overall pick from Boston College. In his first season he lead the Falcons to an 11-5 record winning offensive rookie of the year then in 2012 they got all the way to the NFC Championship game but choked away a 17 point lead against the 49ers, so see him now reach the Super Bowl is reward for not only Atlanta fans but for the neutrals as well.

Ryan has powered the most explosive offensive this season due to the shrewd free agency work of Thomas Dimitroff and Scott Pioli such as Alex Mack at centre (second team All-Pro), Mohammed Sanu and Taylor Gabriel both with 6 touchdowns each this year. As well as the explosion of both Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman the best running back duo in the league with a combined 2,482 yards from scrimmage (rushing and receiving) this year the best in the league. Now by having all of these players it has given Ryan more time and more option to spread the ball around and take the pressure off Julio Jones one of the best wide receivers in the league. He has been incredible this year with another Pro Bowl and first-team All-Pro selection, 1,452 yards and 6 touchdowns. He added another record to his collection with 300 yards receiving in ONE game. That is one game that shows everyone what an extraordinary talent he is.

Atlanta has also benefited hugely from a very successful couple of drafts with rookie players this year such as Deion Jones, Keanu Neil, Austin Hooper and DeVondre Campbell all making significant impacts on both sides of the ball. Linebacker Deion Jones was nominated for Defensive Rookie of the Year with 108 tackles and safety Keanu Neil with 106 tackles as well. Vic Beasley jr seemed like a shadow of his college self in hiss rookie campaign with only 4 sacks but into his second year he has exploded to 15.5 sacks to win the Deacon Jones award and he reached his first All-Pro and Pro Bowl selection. With Ryan’s astounding offensive season it has given Atlanta very fast and big leads in games which have forced the opposing team to completely scrap their running game and be forced to throw on the Falcons. This has allowed them to play much more deep zone coverage as they don’t have to stack the box to stop the run. This has allowed the defence to get to the ball and force turnovers, something they will need in order to beat the Patriots.

The New England Patriots started this season without their starting quarterback Tom Brady and went 3-1 with a shutout of the Texans put in there for good measure. Since Brady returned from his suspension of the first four games of the season for his part in Deflategate. Brady returned in week 5 and the Patriots have only lost one game since this is down to Brady throwing 28 touchdowns to only 2 interceptions for 3,554 yards and owning an 112.2 passer rating. He has been incredible this season especially with the injury to Tight End Rob Gronkowski in the middle of the season eliminating Brady’s only All-Pro receiver. Brady has been unstoppable this year aged 39, he has much better pocket awareness than he did about 4 years ago and his arm doesn’t seem to be wilting like Peyton Manning’s did last season. Like Manning did last year, Brady is hoping to win the Super Bowl and if he does it will put him in my eyes as the greatest quarterback of all time because he will have 5 super bowl rings compared to Montana and Bradshaw’s 4 rings. We know that this is familiar territory for Brady as this is his 7th Super Bowl so you can expect a calm man stepping out onto that field looking for his chance to become immortal in Super Bowl history.

As I mentioned earlier the Falcons have also built their success around their joy in free agency and trades, so have the Patriots with such players as Chris Hogan, Martellus Bennett and Chris Long all becoming major factors for this New England team. The Patriots have statistically the number one ranked defence in the entire league. With such players as Dont’a Hightower, Malcolm Butler and Devin McCourtey providing Belichick with the backbone of a team, with a difficult task in the Super Bowl to stop the plethora of offensive weapons that Atlanta possesses. Now they did this very well against the Steelers in the AFC Championship game, where they double teamed Antonio Brown for large proportions of the game and forced Ben Roethlisberger to let his other receivers like Eli Rogers and Cobi Hamilton try to make a play, which they couldn’t. Now obviously the Patriots were helped out by a Le’Veon Bell injury in the game which limited him to 54 yards rushing. I feel like this Falcons team has too many weapons to enforce the same strategy again so it will be interesting to see how Belichick and defensive coordinator Matt Patrica try to slow down this offensive powerhouse.

In conclusion, I believe that this will be a high-scoring affair in Hoston with each team going over 30 points. But the experience and the combination of Brady and Belichick will find a way to get a win for their 5th super bowl as a duo. Also, bear in mind, the last player to win league MVP and the Super Bowl was Kurt Warner in 1999! As well as that with the Falcons owning the number one scoring offence and the Patriots the number one scoring defence. This has happened 6 times in Super Bowl history and the top-ranked scoring defence has a 5-1 record.

Final Score: Atlanta Falcons 31 – 38 New England Patriots

 

Pro Bowl Snubs

Hello World,

With the regular season at its denouement, the Pro Bowl squads have been released for the NFC and the AFC. The Pro Bowl is voted for the best players at every position throughout the league. Now obviously they can’t have all your favourite players, so here are my best Pro Bowl snubs. 
The Pro Bowl Squads: http://www.nfl.com/news/story/0ap3000000760503/article/nfl-announces-2017-pro-bowl-rosters 
Drew Brees/Quarterback/New Orleans Saints – Brees has played out of his skin this year, he still leads the league in passing, on a Saints team that will hit only 8 wins. They haven’t appeared much on Primetime so won’t have been seen by many people. He is making the reach for 5000 yards seem easy and has 35 touchdowns his most since 2013, all with a new receiving core ( Michael Thomas & Willie Snead ) and a tough schedule for the Saints. Brees should have been a shoein for the Pro Bowl.
LeGarrette Blount/Running Back/New England Patriots – Blount has gone largely unnoticed throughout the NFL this year, with his Patriots again commanding most of the NFL Media with Brady and Gronkowski. But at the moment Blount has over 1100 yards on the ground and leads the league in rushing touchdowns with 17. He is just the sort of hard nosed, downhill, north-south runner that very few teams have and all teams want when they are in the playoffs. He’ll cause havoc for opposing teams in January proving he should have got a place in the Pro Bowl. 
Jordy Nelson/Wide Receiver/Green Bay Packers – Jordy Nelson missed the entire of last season with a torn ACL and the Packers offence was stagnant at best. He has returned this season with aplomb, being Aaron Rodgers’ favourite target. His 14 touchdowns lead all receivers in the league, whilst transforming this Green Bay’s offence into its old self with Rodgers back to getting MVP consideration, it just shows how much of a great player he is and that should have made a place in the Pro Bowl. 
Danielle Hunter/Defensive End/Minnesota Vikings – Hunter is in his second season in the NFL. But you wouldn’t know it. He has doubled his sacks so far this season with 12 sacks. He also has 51 tackles, a forced fumble and a safety. Although the Vikings have fallen off a cliff after a 5-0 start to now 7-8. Hunter’s play has been so consistent over both the run and the pass along a stellar defence line with Everson Griffin and Linvel Joseph. Showing he can stand out from the crowd with his excellent ability to crash a pocket and stuff the run, I believe he should be in the Pro Bowl. 

Sean Lee/Outside Linebacker/Dallas Cowboys – Lee has been the lifeblood of this reinvigorated Cowboys defence. Lee has had 55 total stops, the most for any linebacker in the NFL, and has only missed 11 tackles in 143 attempts with 145 to his name. He’s been the leader on the Dallas defence as their captain who sets the tone. Lee might also be in the realm of Comeback Player of the Year, as he tore his ACL and has comeback to imperious form. 

Mid Season All-Pro Team

 

Hello World,

We have made to the middle point of the season (Week 8) all too quickly. We have had some nail biting games such as Raiders vs Saints Week  1, Chargers vs Raiders Week  5 and Titans vs Colts Week 2 just to name a few. Narratives have exploded out of nowhere like Minnesota’s crushing defence, Atlanta’s explosive offence and who on earth is Ben McAdoo’s hairdresser, I cringed his haircut every time they panned to him at Wembley.  This is my All-Pro team, for the first half of the season.

QB – Matt Ryan (Atlanta Falcons)

Through all 8 games he leads the league in yards with 2,636, Quarterback Rating 115.8, and what I find astonishing he has 13 plays of 40 yards or more. He has been a revelation in his second year of Kyle Shanahan’s offence mainly down to improvement of the scheme and the main benefit being the emergence of more surrounding talent such as Mohammed Sanu, Tevin Coleman and Devonta Freeman all become dynamic receiving threats alongside all-pro Julio Jones. This gives Ryan a lot more options and not just throws up to Julio, which is making their offence and his play the best in the league.

RB – Ezekiel Elliot (Dallas Cowboys)

This rookie picked 4th overall by the Cowboys has been a revelation so far this season. Everything seems so easy for him. So far he leads the league in rushing with 799 yards and is averaging 117.2 yards per game. He is patient behind the best offensive line in the league to find the hole, but then he has the burst to explode out the other side a great example of this would be his 85 yards run against Cincinnati in week 6, he hits the secondary and just flies past them all. He has all the traits and the talent around him to keep this going for the rest of the season.

WR – AJ Green (Cincinnati Bengals)

Despite the Bengals record being 3-4-1, it hasn’t been anything to do with Green’s play. He has been torching cornerbacks from the off, with a mesmerising performance to start the season against the Jets where he had 180 yards and 1 touchdown. He has been attracting double teams since his rookie year but this season with the loss of all of Cincinnati’s other weapons e.g. Sanu, Jones, the injury to Eifert and the regression of their running game. He has been practically their only weapon on offence, which is leading to more targets, receptions and yards, giving him a place on this team.

TE – Rob Gronkowski (New England Patriots)

This season without Brady, Gronk was still the go to man in New England, and since Brady’s return in Week 5. Gronk has gone back to doing Gronk like things. He has averaged 118 yards per game and yards per catch with a giant 22 yards. He now owns the most receiving touchdowns by any Patriot in history with 69 and with the way he is playing, New England lookslike the team to be stopped in the AFC.

LT – Tyrone Smith (Dallas Cowboys)

He is the marquee player at this position. Is there anything else I need to say? He is the best at what he does. He play this season has allowed for rookie sensations Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliot to transition so well into the NFL, because of his wide open gapes for Elliot’s running and the clean pocket and lack of pressure on Prescott. He has been part of the best line in football that allows the Cowboys to sit atop of the NFC East, and in prime position to make a deep playoff run.

LG – Kelchi Osemilie (Oakland Raiders)

He like Mack has been a great free agent signing for the Raiders from the Ravens. He backs up his talk “They call me KO for a reason” with his play. This is a man who plays violent and angry on every play, this isn’t that every other Left Guard in the league doesn’t play angry. You just see it with his performances this half, for example, watch his game against the Saints Week 1 where the Raiders nearly doubled the Saints rushing because of the lanes KO was creating. This is a good sign for a promising Oakland team that need his play to stay well.

C – Alex Mack (Atlanta Falcons)

This might have been one of the crudest free agent signings of the off-season. He has provided stability and leadership for an offensive line that has been lacking that for far too long. One of the reasons behind Matt Ryan’s inclusion on this list as well would be that he’s getting a cleaner pocket for longer meaning it’s easier for him to read the coverage and make a completion. That’s all down to Mack & Co, in Georgia buying into Shanahan’s scheme. Due to this Mack is playing the best football of his career.

RG –  Richie Incognito (Buffalo Bills)

He has been a mailing for his time in Miami and the scandal surrounding it and rightly so. But since he has joined the Bills, Incognito has blossomed into one of the best guards in the league. He is a frightening presence on the Buffalo line for opposing players. He is sneakily mobile for a man of his size and stature. The Bills fired their offensive coordinator Greg Roman 2 weeks into the season and since then Anthony Lynn has established The Buffalo ground game as one of the best in the league, his coaching has lead to the resurgence of Incognito & co on the offensive line and Buffalo’s main form of attack this season. If Incognito can keep this form up he could be headed back to the Pro-Bowl.

RT – Jack Conklin (Tennesse Titans)

Here is another rookie to make the list, Conklin was picked 8th overall out of Michigan State by the Titans. So far this se\son he has lived up to thst high pick, he has beenone of the main reasons behind the rejuvinantion of Tennesse’s running game this season with DeMarco Murray and Derrick Henry. If he keeps playing the way he has then Tennesse will be rising up in O-Line credentials within the league with Conklin and Lewan at the Tackle Spots.

Here is the defensive side of the team.

DE – Cliff Avril (Seattle Seahawks)

Cliff Avril is a name, not necessarily mentioned as much outside of Seattle as he would like. I find this hard to imagine as he has been in the top 10 of defensive ends in the league for the past few seasons, so far he has 2 tackles and a crazy 7.5 sacks. He is a star lost amongst many others on Seattle’s famous ‘legion of boom’ defence but that doesn’t stop him from making his presence known.

MLB – Zach Brown (Buffalo Bills)

This has been a breakout season for Brown who at the midpoint of the season leads the lead in tackles with 82. He also has 3 forced fumbles, with injuries ravaging Buffalo before the season started with their 1st and 2nd round draft picks going down. Brown has stepped up and gone far and beyond anyone’s expectations for this season. Brown produced one of the performances of the season with a whopping 17 tackle display against the Patriots in Week 4, which saw him named AFC Defensive Player Of The Week for that. It’s performances like this that will make Brown a mainstay in the team for a long time yet.

OLB – Von Miller (Denver Broncos)

He has been an animal coming off the edge this season. He’s kept up his Super Bowl 50 performance; he owns the fastest first step in the league bar none. If you need proof of his amazing play this season just watch his dismantling of the double teams the Tampa Bay Buccaneers placed on him in week 6 as the base of his work. Miller possesses the talent and ability to win games, so often he comes up with sacks or fumbles in the 4th quarter. It doesn’t matter if it’s the first drive or the last drive Miller has been the best at his position so far.

DT – Aaron Donald (Los Angeles Rams)

Donald is a player that comes around very often. He has won defensive rookie of the year and would be up for MVP if he got more of a spotlight on him. He simply just wrecks plays, opponents and the opposing team’s offensive gameplan. At the midpoint of the season, he has 23 tackles, 3 sacks and a forced fumble. That’s down on his numbers from the year before, only because teams have realised what a threat he is and are doing everything they can to slow him down.

CB – Patrick Peterson (Arizona Cardinals)

Peterson this season hasn’t missed a beat. He’s been playing majestically with the lowest QBR rating throwing his way so far this season. I think his best performance was vs the Buccaneers when he held Mike Evans to 3 catches for 17 yards on 12 targets. Despite Arizona’s slow start to the season, he has been a great player and leader for the rest of the defence to try and copy then Arizona will be back where they want to be, deep in the playoffs.

FS – Harrison Smith (Minnesota Vikings)

Smith has been the best free safety in the league so far. No question. He is a dynamic safety who plays close to the line of scrimmage where he can affect the ball with 49 total tackles so far he is showing his worth. Albeit that Smith has failed to intercept the ball so far doesn’t mean he’s not swarming the ball, it’s just other teammates are reaping the rewards from his imposing aura in the back end on receivers.

SS – Malcolm Jenkins (Philadelphia Eagles)

For the 7 games, Jenkins has played he has been at a tremendously high level. He has 31 tackles and 1 INT for a touchdown. That great play came against the Redskins in a loss but it wasn’t for Jenkins lack of trying who had his best came with 6 tackles, a pass defended and that INT for a touchdown. If he and Fletcher Cox up front can lead this Eagles to more success expect wins to be flowing from Philadelphia.

Super Bowl 50 Preview

Hello World,

We have had a wonderful season. It has been mesmerizing, turbulent and gripping to say the least. We have had teams fall from grace and other rise up from the ashes to give their loyal fans some hope for years to come. But two teams have made it this far. The Denver Broncos and the Carolina Panthers.

Carolina Panthers

Wow! This has been a crazy season for the Panthers who have risen from above average with several issues, to being in the Super Bowl. Personally I didn’t have them very high in my Pre-Season predictions, only at 17th  This was mainly down to the fact that they had let their all-time rushing yards leader DeAngelo Williams leave in the off-season.  I didn’t attribute their position much to that because by then. Williams was fading away in the backfield and on the depth chart to Jonathan Stewart. But more to the point, their star rookie Wide Receiver Kelvin Benjamin suffered a torn ACL before the season and was lost for the year. This, in my eyes, gave the Panthers no actual, solid attacking prowess for the season. But I have been proven wrong, just as many other people have been, by Carolina’s offence emergence this season. They led the league in touchdowns and scoring! All of this with such players as Ted Ginn Jr, Devin Funchess and Jerricho Cotchery. These players contributed to one of the worst-ranked pre-season receiving cores in the league! But they, and especially Tight End Greg Olsen, have stepped up magnificently this season to put their names out to the rest of the league.

Cam Newton has been on fire this season. His 35 passing touchdowns and 10 rushing touchdowns have been the most celebrated points in the league, with Cam giving away every single football he’s scored with this season. I’d like to think it’s keeping the feel-good, laid-back aura around the team. But maybe Tom Brady should have done the same last season to keep the footballs from the officials… I agreed with many others that Cam Newton should be the league MVP, because he single-handedly led this offence all season, coming up with top notch performances and clutch throws whenever Carolina has needed them. He’s quite a polarizing player among the league and the fans mainly due to his extravagant celebrating ( dabbing has gone viral with even Hilary Clinton of all people learning how to dab ), his fickle nature with officials and media. But this season he has risen above all of that to put his name into the “elite” category of quarterbacks. His play has been wonderful along with his charisma. Both have been key to the Panthers getting to the Super Bowl because of course he has played well, but it’s his laid-back nature and ability to not let any errors from either himself or any of his teammates to stick in his mind that makes the difference. He just shakes it off and gets on with the next play; this allows his teammates to play happy and carefree, not having to worry about a mistake and in 17 out of 18 cases this season they have won so it’s obviously having a good effect.

Their defense this season has been the other element to propel them to the Super Bowl. This has been down to the combined brilliance of Star Linebacker Luke Kuechly, Defensive Tackles Kaawan Short and Star Lotulelei along with Cornerback Josh Norman, which has  brought this defense from 10th in total yards up to 6th in the league and from 13th in sacks to 6th. Having a defense this belligerent is a huge plus because in six of the past 13 Super Bowls, the winning team has been ranked between 15th and 19th offensively (2000 & 2012 Ravens, 2001 & 2003 Patriots, 2005 Steelers and 2007 Giants), and on three occasions over the same period, a #1 offense has lost to offensive units ranked 19th (2001 Patriots over Rams), 24th(2002 Buccaneers over Raiders) and 16th (2007 Giants over Patriots).

Denver Broncos 

This has been a very intriguing season for Denver who kept up with the Panthers till week 7 and then  lost surprisingly in Indianapolis to the Colts who ended up finishing 8-8. But it was versus the Vikings when Manning started a 6 game streak of finishing every game with more interceptions than touchdowns, that to the surprise of nearly any millennials, Peyton Manning, the supposed “best quarterback of his generation” in their eyes was dropped and surprisingly Osweiler came in to lead the Broncos to 6 wins and a playoff birth.  Manning came back in from a “Plantar Fasciitis” treatment which seemed to me to be quite a shifty move and a sly way to pull the wool over our eyes about his abject performance. To my astonishment, Manning, who had been so pitiful, came back in to start and has played well, not throwing an interception since his return in week 17. So their offence has relied on the run mostly from CJ Anderson with hints of Ronnie Hillman. This season they have played well enough to ease some of the pressure from either quarterback, so  versus Carolina they will have to play very well and give Manning a wider field to find his favorite targets.

To say that Denver’s defense has been suffocating would be an understatement. They are No. 1 in total defense (283.1 yards), No. 1 in pass defense (199.6), No. 1 in sacks (52), No. 3 against the run (83.6), No. 4 in scoring (18.5) and No. 3 in defensive touchdowns (5). Their defense is extremely similar to Carolina in the fact that in some positions, they have the best in the league such as Von Miller, DeMarcus Ware, Aquib Talib, Chris Harris and TJ Ward, who all apart from Ward were voted to the Pro Bowl which is incredible and Miller was voted All Pro. Watching them play the Patriots in the AFC Conference game, it was astonishing how quickly the D-Line (and it wasn’t just one or two but all of them) got off the line and instantly had pressure on Tom Brady. This might have been the poor quality of New England’s Line, but either way this is a frightening sight for Carolina and will have to rely I think on Cam Newton’s rushing ability to escape the seemingly eternal pressure from Ware and Miller.

Verdict

So in the end, I think that Denver’s defense will cement their legacy by managing a last- minute stand against Cam Newton, and give Denver their 3rd Super Bowl Victory and the ultimate send-off for Peyton and Ware. Age seems to be catching up with them so this might be their last chance to win a Super Bowl. But it will be a good game and Carolina will provide a solid performance but their quest for a super bowl will keep going on. I will be watching it all so I hope all of you enjoy it as much as I will!

Predicted score: Carolina 24 Denver 30

NFL Playoffs: Conference Championship Preview

Hello World,

Last weekend we had the Divisional round, and it certainly didn’t disappoint, with some cracking and unforgettable games. Arizona dispatched Green Bay 26-20 in OT, with Larry Fitzgerald having a game that will long be remembered – 8 catches for 176 yards – sending his Cardinals to the NFC Championship game. Here they will play Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers, who defeated the Seahawks 31-24 in a game of two halves, as the Panthers raced out to a 31 zip lead at halftime, with Seattle nearly doing the impossible in scoring 24 unanswered points. But it wasn’t enough, and Carolina advances to their first NFC Championship since 2005.  In the AFC, the Patriots calmly dispatched the Chiefs 27-20,with the game never looking like slipping out of New England’s fingers. In Denver, the Broncos’ defense came up big, forcing a fumble from Steelers’ back up running back Fitzgerald Toussaint with only 5 minutes left, to seal the game, beating the Steelers 23-1. Moving onto the AFC Championship game, they will now play the Patriots in Denver.

Sunday 

AFC Championship Game : Denver Broncos vs New England Patriots 

This might be the longest game, grinding and tumultuous for both Brady and Manning, but somehow we have arrived at the same conclusion – the AFC Championship – with both playing for what seems like ” their last opportunity ” at a Lombardi trophy. This is the 17th meeting between the two future Hall of Fame quarterbacks and mostly likely the last one as Manning is 39 years old and his play has rapidly declined this season.

Both teams this season have had their problems, but we will start with New England, who have been – at about every  point of the season, since week 4 –  decimated by injuries,  with key players seeming to go down like flies in Foxborough. This ultimately hasn’t stopped Tom Brady from leading his team to a 12-4 record and a deep playoff run. This season, he has worked wonders with the players that were left on the roster, such as James White and KeShawn Martin, and deserves the majority of the credit if the Patriots are  to reach the Super Bowl.

The Denver Broncos this season have been led by their dominant defense which ranks as the first in the league in total yards, yards per game and top three in points allowed per game. So it was to many people’s surprise that Peyton Manning started off this season so poorly and was benched (with 9 TDs  and 17 INTs) in week 12, in favour for Brock Osweiler. The Broncos defeated the Patriots in week 12, this season 30-24, with their running game clinching the win with over 160 yards. Peyton has recently entered the fray again, after recovering from his injury, to guide his team to the title game and perhaps ultimately the denouement of his esteemed career.

As everyone knows the quarterback position is the most important in the game. So the Patriots should be encouraged by the fact that Brady has played every game this season and is in such good form, just as they get their star players back. In contrast, Peyton has had his worst statistical season since he entered the league and doesn’t look like being back to his superlative best. Brady will win this game for the Patriots, beating Peyton for the 12th time and in turn reaching his 7th Super Bowl.

NFC Championship Game : Arizona Cardinals vs Carolina Panthers 

These are the two teams that have been the the best all season, which is why it’s a shame this game isn’t happening as the Super Bowl. With the Cardinals having won 13 games and the Panthers 15 games, their seasons have been eventful to say the least. They have a combined 17 Pro Bowl players and I think, if it weren’t for the look of bias and other players going  in on reputation, then there should have been more in the Pro Bowl.

The Panthers have been the number one team this season , going 15-1 in the regular season, with Cam Newton “Dabbing” his way to an MVP trophy after his amazing 45 combined ( 35 throwing and 10 rushing ) touchdowns this season, making this the most touchdowns in  a season since 2013. The Cardinals are going to have a tough time stopping this man who’s in the form of his life. The Panthers defense this season, has turned up to play ranked as the  6th best overall and they lead the league in interceptions with 24. They have a strong spine on defense with 4 Pro Bowlers  ( Josh Norman, Thomas Davis, Kawaan Short and Luke Kuechly )  and Cam Newton, who some are putting as the ultimate dual threat quarterback: this should be a tough game for Arizona.

The Cardinals, this season, have been immense on both sides of the ball as their offence, led by Carson Palmer, was ranked 1st in total yards, average yards per game and 2nd in points per game only behind to Carolina. Arizona I believe has the most complete roster in the NFL, with star players at every level on each side of the ball: on offence they have game changers in Larry Fitzgerald, Michael Floyd and John Brown, not to mention their quarterback Carson Palmer who finished the season 4th in yards and 2nd in touchdowns. But what might put them ahead is the fiery, competitive and daring nature of their coach Bruce Arians. He has managed to put this Arizona team into another gear this season, especially with the ” Next Man Up” mantra. Rookie David Johnson has replaced Chris Johnson amazingly well and more with over 1000 all purpose yards this season, after CJ2K fractured his tibia in week 12, but has said that if they reach the Super Bowl he will be “ready to go”.

In conclusion, I believe the Cardinals will win a tight game in Carolina, because they have a healthier squad at the moment: Carolina’s star running back Johnathan Stewart has been limited in practice this week. I think he will play because you only get so many opportunities to get to the NFC Championship game. But not being 100% will hinder this run-focused Panthers offence, leaving their defense out on the field for longer, making them more tired and vulnerable to big plays and a lot of points. Also, let’s just see what Josh Norman is made of in this match-up with Larry Fitzgerald. Having been playing out of his mind this season, we will see if Norman can cope with a fired-up Fitzgerald, who’s desperate to make it to his second Super Bowl.

 

NFL Playoffs: Divisional Round

Hello World,

Wow! What a weekend of games we had! Starting off on Saturday with the Kansas City Chiefs dismantling the Houston Texans 30-0 in Houston, I have to say it got embarrassing for Texan fans by the end of the second 3rd quarter. Later on we saw an aggressive game between the Steelers and the Bengals that will unfortunately be remembered for a late meltdown by the Bengals’ defense giving the Steelers an easy field goal to win the game. Then on Sunday we had the 3rd coldest game between Seattle vs Minnesota that ended with a 10-9 win for Seattle after a missed 27 field goal with only 26 seconds left by Minnesota. After that we had a matchup between Green Bay and Washington, where Aaron Rodgers gave his best performance in a while as the Packers won 38-15. This leads us into the divisional round games this weekend and with the two best best teams in each division hosting a game: it should get interesting.

Saturday

Kansas City Chiefs vs New England Patriots

Kansas City last weekend put on a show, starting off with a 106 yard kickoff return for a TD by Knile Davis, giving them the scruff of the neck then they never letting go and forcing 5 turnovers from the Texans on their way to a 30-0 win. Amazingly the Patriots have had six first-round byes in a row, which is the longest streak since 1990 (when it was introduced) for two teams. Another mind blowing stat is that for Tom Brady, this game will tie him for the most playoff games in NFL history (30) with Adam Vinatieri!

However, it isn’t all sunshine and rainbows for both teams. The Chiefs, last weekend, lost their dynamic wide receiver Jeremy  Maclin with a knee injury, who this season along with tight end Travis Kelce has been the only passing attack for Alex Smith. So his return to 100% is essential for the Chiefs because without his presence, the Patriots’ secondary will erase Kelce, forcing their other receivers to make a play. Meanwhile for the Patriots, they are waiting on their own star receiver as Rob Gronkowski is questionable for this weekend as he’s received a knee injection, for his bruised MCL in week 12.

I’m going to predict a New England victory over Kansas City. This is due to the fact that if Justin Houston and Tamba Hali don’t play for Kansas City due to injury or aren’t 100% healthy, then Brady will have all day in the pocket to surgically dissect the Chiefs’ defense as he so usually does in the playoffs.

Green Bay Packers vs Arizona Cardinals 

This is a Green Bay team that has blown hot and cold this season, demonstrated by their comprehensive win last weekend over the Redskins and their pummeling loss by the Cardinals in week 16. The key for Green Bay is their core of receivers needs to create some separation: I think that having James Jones and DeVante Adams gives them the slowest group left in the playoffs from both conferences, not a key to winning the Super Bowl.

It is hard to tell with Arizona, because their Head Coach Bruce Arians said that his team will always play hard and won’t rest starters for the sake of doing so. This is why their mauling by the Seahawks in week 17 was so surprising, especially as Arizona possess one of the most complete rosters in the NFL and have stuck to Arians’ mantra all year, having ridden a nine game winning streak before playing Seattle.

I believe that Arizona will win this game comfortably at home, due to the fact that Green Bay doesn’t have the offensive firepower to even distract this Cardinals secondary, with James Jones of all people leading their passing attack. This gives Green Bay effectively no other option than to try and establish the run, which I’m afraid, Green Bay fans, isn’t happening because Arizona is ranked 6th in the league in run defense.

Sunday

Seattle Seahawks vs Carolina Panthers 

It was hard to decipher the Seahawks’ performance last weekend against the Vikings. I think the -25 wind chill affected their offence as they only ran for 97 yards whilst throwing for just 129 yards. Russell Wilson as per usual did enough to win, by leading his team down the field to get the winning score. This time though against the Panthers, it could be difficult for the Seahawks to get their offence up and running. As their offensive line has given up 46 sacks this season which is tied for the 6th most in the league, while the Panthers’ defensive line has 44 sacks, the 6th most in the league.

The Panthers then will need to replicate their performance from week 6 when they beat the Seahawks in Seattle 27-23, to get anywhere near a win. Greg Olsen was their catalyst last time these two teams met as he grabbed the winning touchdown score with only 32 seconds left and he needs to be back to his best for Carolina to have any downfield threat and win the game.

Ultimately I think the Panthers – who are at home for this game where they haven’t lost their last 11 matches dating back to week 15 last season – will win this game in Overtime to reach the NFC Championship. Cam Newton will run in for a touchdown to seal the game and send the home crowd into raptures, as it will be their first championship game in 10 years.

Pittsburgh Steelers vs Denver Broncos

The Steelers last week were struck by both sides of the proverbial sword, by winning on the road vs the Bengals, but having their star players injured: Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, separated his shoulder in the 3rd Quarter and Wide Receiver Antonio Brown was concussed on a late and dirty hit, by linebacker Vontaze Burfict. Both of them were assessed day by day on whether or not they will play: if they don’t it will seriously hinder Pittsburgh’s offence as both of them have been in the top 5 at their position this season.

Gary Kubiak has decided to start Peyton Manning this weekend over Brock Osweiler. Many other people and analysts are saying that this might be Peyton’s swansong as Osweiler has been a step up from Manning throughout the latter half of the regular season. I do think though that with this being Manning’s first full game since week 11, he will be quite rusty and struggle to move the ball early on. I think that it depends on their first 3 drives: if Manning is able to get into a rhythm and Kubiak establishes the run, then he will be able to manage the game from there – perhaps to a Denver victory.

In conclusion, I believe that everything depends on Brown’s and Roethlisberger’s health. If they play at 100% then the Steelers’ offence will power them to victory, but if not then CJ Anderson and Ronnie Hillman will run all over the Steelers defense for over 120 yards, buffering Manning’s career from riding off into the sunset. But I’m going to back the Steelers for a 10 point win and into the AFC Championship.

 

 

 

 

 

 

NFL Playoffs : WildCard Preview

Hello World,

We reached a climactic ending to the regular season last weekend with a lot of surprising results such as Miami beating New England, The Jets falling to the Bills, The Vikings finally winning in Lambeau against the Packers and just the severity of Seattle’s win over Arizona. These results cemented the playoff teams and their seedings in both the AFC and the NFC. Wildcard weekend will take place this weekend on the 9th and 10th of January. It should throw up some interesting games and duels between great players, especially seeing as we have historic rivals playing one another and rematches of classic games.

Saturday 

Kansas City versus Houston Texans.

I believe that Kansas City will win this game.  For a start, they are the hottest team,  having ridden a 10 game winning streak to an 11-5 record, becoming the only the second team since 1970 to do so, whereas the Texans won the worst division in the NFL with a 9-7 record, playing with 4 different quarterbacks all season.

The Texans’ strength is in their defense which finished the regular season ranked 3rd overall. This is because they have the greatest defensive player of his generation in JJ Watt who has 74.5 sacks in only 5 seasons, and along with him Whitney Mercilus, who has had a career year with 12 sacks.

Kansas City, overall have the 6th best rushing attack in the league, spearheaded by a 2 headed rushing monster, with Charcandrick West and Spencer Ware combining for 10 TDs and 1036 yards.  For the Chiefs to win, they have to keep running the ball at Houston and keep the ball out of Alex Smith’s hands so he can’t hand it over to the much improved Houston secondary.

Pittsburgh Steelers vs Cincinnati Bengals

The Bengals have the worst situation possible. Just a few weeks ago, they were in prime position for the 1 seed in the AFC,  but Andy Dalton got injured, and they lost 2 of their last 4 games, falling to the 3 seed. With Andy Dalton not being ready for this game, they have to face Pittsburgh with AJ McCarron under center. Trying to keep pace with their offense is going to be a tough task for this 2nd year QB.

At the start of the season the Steelers lost Le’Veon Bell for the season with an ACL tear, so have had DeAngelo Williams step in who has produced 907 yards and 11 TDs. But last Sunday he left the game with an ankle injury so they won’t have him for this game, leaving the Bengals to sit back and let Big Ben throw at them all day, because they know that Pittsburgh don’t possess a legitimate running game.

I’m predicting a Steelers win because the most important position is the quarterback and Pittsburgh have the vastly superior player in Big Ben versus McCarron. Also the Bengals have lost in the 1st round of the playoffs every year between 2011-2014 so I’m expecting them to continue their unfortunate streak.

Sunday

Seattle Seahawks vs Minnesota Vikings 

If Kansas City are the hottest team in the NFL, then Seattle are a close second. They have won their last 7 games in a row, with Russell Wilson establishing stronger connections with Tyler Lockett and Cooper Helfet in those games. But it’s having Marshawn Lynch back from an abdominal injury which will encourage all Seattle fans this weekend.

Minnesota have Adrian Peterson who last weekend sealed his 3rd rushing title, so for the Vikings to stand a chance they need to keep Wilson and Co off the ball and ride Peterson for 20 carries or more to see how much he can do, then Bridgewater can try to take advantage downfield with play action passes.

I believe that overall both of these teams are quite equal especially as the Vikings will be getting back their defensive players such as Anthony Barr and Harrison Smith. However, due to Minnesota’s lack of a passing game I can’t see them posing much of a threat to the Legion of Boom who will stack the box against Adrian Peterson and ultimately win.

Green Bay Packers vs Washington Redskins

The Packers have struggled their way into the playoffs this season. It looked like at the start everything would be historic with Green Bay starting 6-0 but then went 4-6 in the last 10 games with Aaron Rodgers spending more time under pressure or being sacked than throwing touchdowns, but that doesn’t stop Green Bay being a sneaky Super Bowl contender.

For Washington, Kirk Cousins has been a revelation this season throwing for 4,166 yards, 29 TDs and only 11 INTs.  Jordan Reed and Pierre Garcon have been playing absolutely out of their minds in the last weeks, proving that Washington does have the weapons to put away this average Green Bay secondary, especially at home in Washington.

I believe that Washington will win this game because Green Bay have too many flaws for even Aaron Rodgers to overcome,especially in their offensive line. The Redskins with home field advantage, a quarterback on red hot form and a defense that was stout throughout the season, will win this game quite close in Overtime.