That Crazy NFC East
Stop me if you heard this one. A team loaded with offensive weapons and a solid defense walks into an NFL season as Super Bowl contenders… and are currently 6-7. Punchline: the Dallas Cowboys.
After losing to the Chicago Bears (who are trending up just in time not to be able to salvage their season), 31-24, the Cowboys are now 6-7. They lead the Philadelphia Eagles, who play the New York Giants Monday night, by ½ a game in the NFC East. The Cowboys have lost seven of their last 10 games, but owner Jerry Jones is sticking with head coach Jason Garrett to finish 2019. What’s the definition of insanity? Sorry. I digress.
Here’s the crazy thing about the NFC East and playoff seeding. Whether it’s the Cowboys or the Eagles that win this sinking division, they will host a first-round playoff game. They will play a Wild Card team, with all signs pointing to that team being the San Francisco 49ers or the Seattle Seahawks, both of whom are 10-2. I don’t make the news friends. I just report it. Next slide.
The Big Game in the Big Easy
Coming off a hard fought loss, and possible Super Bowl preview, to the Baltimore Ravens, the 10-2 red and gold San Francisco 49ers are off to New Orleans to face the 10-2 black and gold Saints. The Niners are fighting for the NFC West and can clinch a Wild Card spot with a win. The NFC South Champion Saints are fighting for home-field advantage in the playoffs.
With 45 sacks on the season, and the return of DE Dee Ford, the 49ers’ defense should have a field day bringing pressure to Saints’ QB Drew Brees in the pocket. With that in mind, the Saints will need a big game from RB Alvin Kamara. It will be all eyes on WR Michael Thomas (whose handle @Cantguardmike is no exaggeration) for Richard Sherman and the 49ers’ secondary.
Over on offense, the 49ers will want to establish the run as they did last week (and they’ll have running back Matt Breida back), but the Saints’ are allowing an average of 88.6 rush yards a game. That means Jimmy Garoppolo and friends will have to get it going through the air. Look for TE George Kittle and the wide receiver trio of Emmanuel Sanders, Deebo Samuel, and Kendrick Bourne to take advantage of a Saints’ defense that’s allowing 234.9 yards per game.
And the advantage goes to…the team from California. That defense is just too good.
The 12th Man Takes Hollywood
Sunday Night Football brings us the 10-2 Seattle Seahawks vs. the 7-5 LA Rams matchup we thought we would be epic when the schedule came out. In all honesty, it still could be.
Just like the 49ers, the Seahawks could clinch a Wild Card spot with a win, and just like San Francisco, Seattle is fighting for the division. Meanwhile, the Rams are making a run at the Wild Card and are one game behind the Minnesota Vikings for the second spot.
The Rams’ defense sacked Cardinals’ QB Kyler Murray six times last week, which bodes well for their matchup against the ever-elusive Russell Wilson. Wilson has seen a slight dip in his production the last couple weeks, but he’s Russell Wilson and he finds a way to win, win, win, no matter what.
Rams’ quarterback Jared Goff looked like 2018 Jared Goff against the Cardinals, going 32-for-43 for 424-yard and two-touchdowns. He was named NFC Offensive Player of the Week for the performance. The Seahawks’ defense is towards the bottom of the league, giving up 269.3 passing yards a game.
This is a tighter matchup than the teams’ records show. The Rams are at home. The Rams have something to fight for. The Rams have a good defense. The Seahawks have Russell Wilson. This will be fun.
Brady vs. Mahomes
The New England Patriots have been struggling. Granted they’re 10-2, so I use struggling lightly, but the Patriots’ did not look great in their 28-22 loss to the Houston Texans and with the 9-3 Buffalo Bills breathing down their necks in the AFC East, the Patriots have work to do. And that work starts with the Kansas City Chiefs.
The 8-4 Chiefs come to Foxborough with a 25th ranked defense, so that’s a benefit for the Brady Bunch. We’ve seen a somewhat different and somewhat less commanding Tom Brady, but it’s not entirely on him. Other than Julian Edelman, he just doesn’t have the weapons he once had.
Meanwhile, the Patriots top-ranked defense will be contending with one Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs 4th ranked offense. Mahomes, Kelce, Hill, McCoy. Talk about the Fab Four.
That being said, these are circumstances where Brady and Bill Belichick thrive. This is a big game for the Patriots – statement-wise and record-wise.
Buffalo Meet Lamar Jackson
Quietly and without much fanfare, outside of Buffalo and Bills Fangirl, the Buffalo Bills are 9-3, coming off three-straight wins and sit one game behind the Patriots in the AFC East. This Sunday, they host the Baltimore Ravens, and that, my friends, is what we call a big test.
The Ravens are looking for their ninth-straight win and Lamar Jackson is Lamar Jackson. The 49ers’ defense did a stellar job containing him last week, and Buffalo has their work cut out for them. The Bills may have 37 sacks, but that’s no match for Jackson, who was held to 101 yards rushing against the Niners. The quarterback was held to 101 yards rushing. Let that sink in.
Bills’ quarterback Josh Allen has thrown for 2,591 yards, 16 touchdowns, and eight interceptions. With the Ravens giving up an average of 228.5 yards passing per game, Allen will have to rule on offense, because the Ravens run D is just too tough.
This game will come down to Lamar Jackson, and the chances of the Bills stopping him, are not great. Sorry Bills Fangirl!