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What some are calling the NFL’s Game of the Year

Messaggio Inviato da | Profilo | Amico del forum | lunedì 9 dicembre 2019, 8:03 | | Punti: 255  | Messaggi: 51
already has made huge headlines by being moved out of Mexico City because of poor playing conditions. Chiefs-Rams is back in Los Angeles Christine Michael Sr Jersey , in prime time and, if it lives up to its billing, could be a wild, high-scoring affair.Regardless of who wins, both clubs figure to be in the Super Bowl mix. And because of the extracurriculars associated with Monday night’s meeting, perhaps it won’t be a fair measurement which is the superior team.Who cares?For a mid-November match, fans can’t ask for much better than a pair of 9-1 teams with powerhouse offenses and stars galore — leading MVP contenders Todd Gurley of Los Angeles and Patrick Mahomes of Kansas City for starters — going at it as the only show in town. No matter which town.It’s the first meeting in NFL history this late in a season between two teams averaging 33 points per game.“He’s made some plays that you sit back and you can’t help but just say, ‘Wow, what a great play,'” Rams coach Sean McVay says of Mahomes, who leads the NFL in yards passing (3,150). Rams QB Jared Goff is second (3,134).Mahomes set a Chiefs record with an NFL-best 31st TD pass of the season last week. Len Dawson had held that KC record since 1964.Gurley paces the NFL in scoring (108 points), yards rushing (988), carries (198), yards from scrimmage (1,390) and touchdowns (17). He has scored a touchdown in 13 consecutive games, extending his own franchise record.“He is a heck of a player. A great player,” Chiefs coach Andy Reid says when asked how to slow Gurley. “You have to be disciplined. They’re a disciplined offense, so you have to be disciplined from a defensive standpoint. Then practice that way and then you go play.”OK, guys, go play. Let America watch what could be a classic.The weekend began Thursday night with Seattle’s 27-24 home victory over Green Bay. Russell Wilson threw for 225 yards and his 15-yard touchdown pass to Ed Dickson with 5:08 left was the difference. Seattle (5-5) snapped a two-game losing streak. Green Bay dropped to 4-5-1.Off this week are New England (7-3), the New York Jets (3-7), Miami (5-5), Cleveland (3-6-1), San Francisco (2-8) and Buffalo (3-7).MINNESOTA (5-3-1) at CHICAGO (6-3)We soon will find out if the Bears are for real. They are on top of the NFC North, now face the defending division winners, then in a ridiculously short turnaround from Sunday night, they play the early Thanksgiving Day game at Detroit. They also have the Rams and Packers on the road in December.Two of the NFL’s stingiest and most physical defenses should be main factors Sunday.Minnesota has allowed an average of only 252.5 yards over last four games, winning three. It did so missing some starters. Safety Harrison Smith likes seeing the Bears: Smith has four interceptions and six passes defended in 10 career games vs. Chicago.Chicago dropped 10 in a row against the NFC North before beating Detroit last Sunday. It leads the NFL with 16 interceptions, and ranks second with 24 takeaways.HOUSTON (6-3) at WASHINGTON (6-3)Two also-rans of 2017 now leading their divisions.The Texans have won six in a row and come off a bye. Key personnel such as DE J.J. Watt and QB Deshaun Watson were injured last year and are now playing at peak efficiency.If Watson gets time to throw — Houston has surrendered 30 sacks — DeAndre Hopkins will be the biggest challenge to cover. He has four games with 10-plus catches, 100-plus yards and a touchdown through the air. That’s most in the league since the start of 2017, and Hopkins has five TD catches over the past four games. .Washington has showed some balance on offense, but the defense has been a major factor in its strong year. It has forced a turnover in 13 consecutive games, the NFL’s longest active streak.TENNESSEE (5-4) at INDIANAPOLIS (4-5)Suddenly, there’s a race in the AFC South, and the Colts could get even more involved with a fourth consecutive victory. But the Titans Pat McAfee Color Rush Jersey , coming off their best game by far in an upset of the Patriots, have won six straight within the division.Of course, Andrew Luck was not in the lineup for any of those; Luck is 9-0 in starts against Tennessee.“I’m aware of it,” Luck says. “But what’s happened has happened, and good, bad or ugly, it doesn’t really matter.”The Titans have the league’s No. 1 scoring defense, allowing 16.8 points a game, and have yielded a league-low 16 touchdowns.PHILADELPHIA (4-5) at NEW ORLEANS (8-1)New Orleans looks like the NFL’s top team right now, and the Eagles don’t resemble their title-winning squad of last season.Injuries are damaging Philly’s defense at a really bad time. A banged-up secondary takes on Drew Brees and his assortment of helpers. The Saints have scored at least 40 points in five games this season, the third team in NFL history to score 40 in five of the first nine. Brees is completing 77.1 percent of his passes, has thrown for 21 TDs with one interception, and has a 123.8 passer rating.Michael Thomas is tied for the NFL lead with 78 catches, ranks second with 950 yards, while Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram form a formidable and versatile backfield.PITTSBURGH (6-2-1) at JACKSONVILLE (3-6)The Steelers will be wise to look forward and not back at their last encounter with the Jaguars. Jacksonville beat Pittsburgh twice last season, including a 45-42 playoff shocker at Heinz Field.Thinking revenge would be foolish because the Steelers are on a roll. Well, so are the Jags: Pittsburgh has won five in a row, Jacksonville has dropped that many consecutively.Steelers running back James Conner has not allowed the team to regret the contract impasse that has led to Le’Veon Bell sitting out the season. Conner is the eighth player in team history with at least 10 rushing touchdowns, leads the AFC in rushing, and is expected to play after being placed in concussion protocol following last week’s win over Carolina.CINCINNATI (5-4) at BALTIMORE (4-5)Cincinnati brings a historically leaky defense to Baltimore, which might be without regular quarterback Joe Flacco (hip). That would mean either first-round pick Lamar Jackson or veteran Robert Griffin III will try to further expose that Bengals unit.The Bengals have won eight of the last 10 in the series, but they fired first-year defensive coordinator Teryl Austin after a 51-14 loss to the Saints, the second-most points allowed in franchise history. They became the first team in the Super Bowl era to give up 500 yards in three straight games and are on pace to give up an NFL-record 7,273 yards.Head coach Marvin Lewis takes over defensive coordinator duties, too.DALLAS (4-5) at ATLANTA (4-5)The Falcons appeared ready to take a role in the playoff race with three successive wins. Then, they put forth a stinker at Cleveland.Meanwhile, the Cowboys seemed headed toward irrelevance before they went into Philadelphia and outplayed the Super Bowl champions.Dallas will want to run with Zeke Elliott, who’s second in the NFL in rushing behind Gurley after gaining 151 yards against the Eagles. Atlanta will want to throw: Matt Ryan has seven games with a QB rating over 100 and six games with more than 300 yards passing, while Julio Jones became the fastest player in NFL history with more than 10,000 yards receiving.CAROLINA (6-3) at DETROIT (3-6)Both teams would like to forget last week’s poor performances.Carolina leads this infrequent series 6-2 and remains in good position in the wild-card race with a victory. Detroit needs an immediate turnaround to get into contention.If this is close, expect Cam Newton and Co. to win. Since 2013, the Panthers are 26-14 in games decided by seven points or fewer. They have won five straight games decided by three or fewer.Newton has thrown at least two TD passes in eight straight games, the longest streak in franchise history.DENVER (3-6) at LOS ANGELES CHARGERS (7-2)While the Rams grab the headlines in LA, the Chargers keep grabbing victories. They could get help in the AFC West if their neighbors knock off KC, too.The Chargers are a league-best 13-3 since Week 9 of last season. Their six-game winning streak marks the 11th time since the merger they had a streak of six or more. Philip Rivers has thrown for two or more TDs in nine straight games. Only five quarterbacks in league history have a string of 10 or more games.TAMPA BAY (3-6) at NEW YORK GIANTS (2-7)Saturday’s Notre Dame-Syracuse matchup in the New York area figures to be more fun than this, although the Bucs usually pile up the yards in passing offense and the Giants come off a stirring Eli Manning-led comeback win.Tampa has lost three in row and six of seven, while New York broke a five-game slide on Monday night. Bucs wideouts Mike Evans (13 catches for 217 yards and a TD in two games) and DeSean Jackson (five touchdowns in the last six games) have feasted on the Giants’ defense.OAKLAND (1-8) at ARIZONA (2-7)The lowest-ranked teams in the AP Pro32 face off with the Cardinals coming off a solid effort at Kansas City. The Raiders? They seem to have fallen into the Black Hole , outscored 54-9 in the last two games.Cardinals star Larry Fitzgerald needs eight receptions to surpass Jerry Rice for the most catches for one team. While the Colts remain squarely in must-win territory if they hope to make the playoffs, the next two weeks carry an even greater significance. Division games on the road against the Jacksonville Jaguars and Houston Texans could relieve a little pressure down the stretch. Two wins and a Texans loss to the Browns would give the Colts the lead in the division with two non-conference home games and a road season finale against the Titans to wrap up the season.2018 has been a disastrous year for the Jaguars. Less than a year removed from a visit to the AFC Championship Game, Jacksonville has fired its offensive coordinator, benched its starting quarterback, placed its biggest free agent signing on injured reserve and watched its best offensive player miss much of the season due to nagging injury. If that wasn’t enough, that same player chose to come off the bench to participate in a ridiculous scuffle against the Buffalo Bills, leaving the the Jaguars without him once again. Oh yeah, the team’s best defensive player has seemingly been suffering from some kind of mental breakdown and has not been nearly as dominant in his third season.The Colts are on the opposite trajectory. Somehow, Andrew Luck has rebounded from shoulder surgery, and nearly two years away from football, to have perhaps his most impressive season yet. The team’s Achilles heel, its offensive line has gone from one of the worst units in the NFL to arguably one of the best. T.Y. Hilton has had back-to-back 100+ yard receiving games and Eric Ebron continues his incredible touchdown pace, and is in the midst of the best season of his career. Second round draft pick Darius Leonard has filled in at the team’s weakest position heading into the 2018 off-season. He is squarely in the race for Defensive Rookie of the Year and has a fighter’s chance to be considered for Defensive Player of the Year.Simply put, the Colts cannot exit this game looking for excuses. With that in mind, here are the keys to the game.WIN UP FRONTIn their first meeting this year, the Colts offensive line was able to shutout the Jaguars pass rush. Impressive given that Jacksonville had 10 sacks in just one game a season ago. Last week, the line gave up its first sack in over five weeks against the Miami Dolphins. However, another would-be sack didn’t count due to a defensive penalty in the secondary. Also, it was clear that Luck was under considerably more pressure than he had been in weeks.Part of the reason for the struggles is that starting center Ryan Kelly has been forced to miss time with a knee injury. No specific timetable has been set for his return but in his absence, Evan Boehm has had to step in to fill the role. Another reason was that rookie Braden Smith struggled to contain rushers on the edge. Both players will need to play at a higher level if they expect to keep Luck clean against the Jaguars. Miami’s defensive line is respectable but Jacksonville’s investment on defense is stunning. This franchise has been embarrassed and gone through a great deal of turmoil. At some point, players are going to want to make a statement. The Colts offensive line will need to be ready to make sure that statement doesn’t come up front.TORMENT KESSLERTypically, when teams play their backup quarterback it is because they have no choice. If you ask the front office in Jacksonville, they will probably tell you that they feel like they are in that situation now. Don’t get me wrong, starter Blake Bortles is healthy, but one can go only so long before making a change.Strangely, the Colts have found ways to make average or bad quarterbacks look like superstars. This is a phenomenon that has been going on for years. Bortles has a history of feasting on the Colts. Backup quarterbacks have a ridiculously high success rate.The defense cannot allow Kessler to pick it apart. The bend but don’t break style the Colts play can allow signal callers to find a rhythm. Indianapolis must find a way to break that rhythm and keep Kessler uncomfortable.MAINTAIN BALANCE ON OFFENSEOne thing that seems absolutely certain is that the Colts are poised to score more than the Jaguars. It is why they are clear favorites to win. The Jaguars have not been particularly good at putting the ball in the end zone all season. If the defense can limit big plays and force Kessler to make a ton of attempts, mistakes could happen.If the Colts get a lead, it is important that they can maintain balance. This doesn’t mean that they need to go to vanilla play-calling, as Reich has a habit of doing on occasion, but offensive balance results in keeping a defense off-balance. It also results in eating up clock and giving your defense a chance to catch their breath on the sideline.No huddle, aggressive play-calling and blinding pace can remain — even as the offense chews up clock on the ground. Get the Jaguars defensive line tired and keep it that way. It will take balance to get this done.WIN THE TURNOVER BATTLEWhile this is a key to the outcome of any game, it matters even more on the road in the division. There cannot be backbreaking turnovers that end offensive drives and give the Jaguars great field position. Luck needs to protect the ball and make sure he doesn’t repeat his back-to-back interception glitch from last week. Ball carrier need to secure the ball above all else.The only way a lower scoring offense can hope to win the game is to gain extra possessions. This means that goal number one on offense is to be balanced and score more points. Goal number one, b is to protect the ball and not give Jacksonville extra chances.CATCH THE DAMN BALLTurnovers aren’t the only drive killers. If Indianapolis finds itself in more of a dogfight than it imagined, nothing will be more important than making sure to sustain drives and avoid self-inflicted mistakes. Too often this season Colts fans have watched as wide open receivers have allowed the ball to bounce off of their hands and fall to the ground (or into the hands of a defender) on what would have otherwise been a big play or at least a first down. These momentum killers stall offensive drives and breed punts and poor field position.Andrew Luck will be without one of his most reliable targets in tight end Jack Doyle. The ramifications of losing Doyle will be multiple. Who will Luck turn to in his absence? Whoever it is, he needs to catch the ball.
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