Vikings and 49ers Houdini act
Going in to Week 11 the Vikings were riding high after a statement win over the Cowboys whereas the 49ers were seeking to re-establish their claim to the NFC #1 after their first loss of the season to divisional rivals Seattle. On paper, both had good reason to think their week 11 games could be straightforward (49ers vs Cardinals and Vikings vs Broncos) and another W on the record. They could not have been more wrong.
At one stage on Sunday night the 49ers were 16-0 down and the Vikings were 20 points down. Defeats would have severely dented both teams credentials as NFC contenders and could have sowed seeds of doubt in both camps. Instead both sides stepped up, as champions do in adversity, to overcome the odds and claim victory.
The change at half time in the Broncos versus Vikings game was stark; two halves of football that were like night and day. The key thing here was that the Vikings stuck to their game plan, they didn’t panic. They moved the ball on offense responsibly, sticking to their strengths in the play action and Kirk Cousins (29/35 for 319yds 3TDs) slayed another demon in marshalling the comeback. At the end the defense, who rampaged through the second half, held a goal-line stand to rubber stamp the win.
The 49ers will have seen the danger signs two weeks ago in their first tilt against the Cardinals – a team who have been improving game by game. San Francisco were also missing key pieces on offense such as Matt Breida and George Kittle. Without Breida the run game stalled which added more pressure to the shoulders of Jimmy Garoppolo. The further loss of Emmanuel Sanders, already a key piece for 49ers since his trade, could have completely derailed Jimmy G. Instead he stepped up with 424yds and 4TDs.
In both cases the Vikings and 49ers will be emboldened by their comeback wins. They have a number of similarities, imposing defence, solid run game and QBs who have their doubters. Both, however, are well on course to be in the mix come January.
Oakland rookies lead the way
When the dust was settling after the 2019 NFL Draft one of the big questions was whether the Raiders rookie class would prove their worth given the additional picks the Raiders have gathered from trading away high profile players. There is no doubt, with still 6 games to play, that the 2019 Oakland Raiders draft class is one of the best in recent history. What is most pleasing to see is the value they have gained from the lower round picks; 4th round pick DE Maxx Crosby already has 6.5 sacks, 5th round WR Hunter Renfrow (one of my favourite picks in the entire draft) is becoming a reliable target for Derek Carr. Throw in TE Foster Moreau, EDGE Clelin Ferrell and did we mention RB Josh Jacobs yet….
Oakland sit at 6-4 right on the bubble on spot #6 in the AFC playoff running. With the Jets, Titans, Jaguars and Chargers in the remaining games 10 wins could be on the cards. If they achieve this, and a playoff spot, the Raiders rookies will have played a large part.
Check on playoffs
So, a few weeks ago I put out a prediction for the playoffs. These were the teams I thought had the best shot of January football.
AFC Patriots, Ravens, Colts, Chiefs, WCs Bills and Texans
NFC Cowboys, Vikings, Saints, 49ers, WCs Packers and Seahawks
How does these stand up four weeks later? In the AFC the Patriots and Ravens look like locks for the #1 and #2 seed – which way round will be the question. Although the Chiefs have had a recent wobble I think they still take the AFC West. The AFC South tips back n forth. The ‘wild’ wildcard could be the Raiders. If they finish strong they will challenge for a WC spot and they may well upset either the Bills or Texans/Colts for the final place.
In the NFC it looks as though it will be these 6 teams headed to the playoffs. However, in two divisions (West and North) the records are so close that who ends up divisional winners and who is left the wildcard will be the race (Packers/Vikings, Seahawks/49ers).
2020 Draft – what now for Tua?
Almost from the first snap of the 100th NFL season the story in the background has been ‘Tank for Tua’. The Alabama QB, Tua Tagovailoa, was considered such a sought after commodity in the 2020 draft stakes that it was felt teams in desperate need of a new franchise QB would write off this season just to snag him with #1 pick next April.
Disaster struck the young QB last weekend when a dislocated right hip ended his season. Comments like ‘career threatening’ were quickly out in the open and we can only hope that with the right rehabilitation programme he makes a full recovery. There is no doubt he is a top talent, easily capable of making his mark in the NFL, and we can only hope this is still possible in the long run.
What happens now in the draft? Will teams still want to take Tua early on day 1 depending on the information available to them by next April. Doubts may creep in and push him down the board for some sides. However, there always seem to be half a dozen sides who would be in the market for their new franchise QB and 2020 will be no different. I still think that Tua will go on day 1 (assuming his recovery is on course) but this injury is going to shake up teams’ plans for their early pick – luckily they still have around 6 months to plan!
Week 12 ones to watch
Back down to 1 out of 4 last week – right back down to earth for me! Some great games next week to pick from, let’s see how we go.
Dallas Cowboys @ New England Patriots – Another NFC East opponent for the Pats this week but are they catching the Cowboys at a bad time? Dallas have regrouped and thrown the offense behind Dak more whereas the Patriots struggled on offense versus Philly. Dallas hand New England its second loss – Cowboys by 4
Green Bay Packers @ 49ers – The last time the Packers came way out west they laid an egg versus the Chargers. The 49ers came back last week – will they have Breida and Kittle back? I think this will be another Aaron Rodgers magic show, Packers by 3
Seattle Seahawks @ Philadelphia Eagles – Seattle will be nice and rested after the bye whereas Philly will be steaming after the home loss to Pats. Eagles D will make it tough for Wilson and Co but he always finds a way doesn’t he? Seahawks by 7
Indianapolis Colts @ Houston Texans – Is the AFC South ultra-competitive or is nobody good enough to break from the pack and command the division? The Texans were beat down on bad by the all conquering Ravens whereas the Colts kept on trucking over the Jags. I think Deshaun Watson bounces back from last week, Texans by 6
Same time next week!