“It’s a trap!” – Week 15 4-point stance

…as Admiral Ackbar once said. Entering into week 15 we still had several teams with a outside shout of a playoff spot and some had games which, on paper, looked like another W in the column to get them one step closer. However, traps lay ahead.

Who fell in?

Cleveland Browns 24 – 38 Arizona Cardinals
The Browns were 6-7 going into this game with a reasonable shout of at least an 8-8 record and an outside chance of #6 in the AFC playoff race. The Cardinals had fallen to 3-9-1 with 6 defeats on the spin (after a promising start). Arizona smashed Cleveland in the mouth early on and kept on pounding on the ground. The Browns got behind and could not catch up, even with another stand out performance from Nick Chubb. After lots of pre-season talk about the potential in Cleveland they have underperformed and at times have appeared disjointed and ill-disciplined. It will be interesting to see if they move on from HC Freddie Kitchens with the thought that they cannot afford to let the talented roster start to break up and the possibility that a change in the coaching staff could bring out the best in these Browns.

Atlanta Falcons 29 – 22 San Francisco 49ers
What goes 1 – 5 – 1 – 5? Answer, the 49ers as they yoyo between seedings in the NFC. After last week’s game of the season victory over the Saints they got ambushed at home by the Falcons, who have stuttered their way to an unconvincing 5-9 record. As with the 49ers other defeats this season the L came in the last few seconds thanks to Matt Ryan and Julio Jones. Dan Quinn and his team have rescued the Falcons season somewhat (4-2 in last 6 weeks) but the 49ers should have banked the W to almost lock up the division title. Instead they are back to #5 and probably needing to beat the Seahawks in Seattle in week 17.

Jacksonville Jaguars 20 – 16 Oakland Raiders
Not so much of a playoff spot at risk here – Oakland have ground to a halt in the last month with 4 defeats in a row – but more of another example that sport does not stick to any fairytale script. This was the Raiders last game in Oakland before their move to Las Vegas next season, and their opponents looked ideal on paper. The Jaguars had lost 5 straight, all by at least 17 points. Oakland got up early and at 16-6 in the 4th the W seemed assured if not spectacular. However. Two late TDs from Gardner Minshew turned the game on its head as Oakland disintegrated. It takes some more of the shine off what had been a promising season from the Raiders and a disappointing end to football in Oakland for one of the most dedicated and fervent fan bases around.

Who survived?

Philadelphia Eagles 37 – 27 Washington Redskins
This was close. The Eagles are decimated at WR. Their offense survived through RB Miles Sanders and Wentz throwing to TEs and RBs – Greg Ward was the only WR to pull in a catch – 7 in total – with the most important the go ahead with seconds remaining. The Redskins pushed them close but the Eagles survived to go into the all important NFC title bout versus the Cowboys next week.

Seattle Seahawks 30 – 24 Carolina Panthers
The Seahawks were banged up and lost key players during the game, but they go out in front and at 30-10 in the 4th all was going according to plan. But then out of nowhere Kyle Allen and the Panthers scored 14 points unanswered to test Seattle’s nerve. Russell Wilson then converted a long 3rd down and the Seahawks were able to run out the clock and take the edge in the NFC West.

Other thoughts

Tip of the cap to Eli Manning after the Giants beat the Dolphins 36 – 20.
Deshaun Watson to Deandre Hopkins could take the Houston Texans to AFC south title.
The Packers and Patriots could end up being the least convincing #2 seeds ever.
Why can’t Jameis Winston play like that in September, October and November?
Philip Rivers looks done with the Chargers.
Welcome back to the Dallas Cowboys (and goodbye to the LA Rams).
Feeling the Draft – Chasing Young

I feel sorry for Ohio State’s premier pass rusher Chase Young. With still a little over 4 months until the 2020 NFL Draft and the fervour around his destination next year is already building. He has been anointed by several draft experts as the best player coming out of the college system – to such an extent that some even consider that the QB-needy Cincinnati Bengals may pass on Heisman Trophy winning LSU QB Joe Burrow in order to draft Chase Young. It could well be a close call for the Bengals as QB and pass rusher are probably the 2 most coveted positions to nail in the draft. However, I don’t see the Bengals limping on for another 12 months with Andy Dalton (or Ryan Finley) under center.

The more likely destination at the moment would be the NY Giants, still sat at #2 (just). Pass rush is a definite need for the Giants and if Young is on the board when they pick it could be the simplest decision for the front office to make. This plan took a jolt this week when a report came out that maybe Young was thinking of staying at Ohio State in 2020. Social media caught fire. Then, when you delved into the ‘story’ there was nothing of substance there. The report came out of TMZ Sports when they caught up with him at the Heisman Trophy ceremony. For me, if anything, this demonstrated how ready for the NFL Young is. It was a show of great maturity – here he is still concentrating on his College season and the game against Clemson in the Fiesta Bowl on December 29th. He did not want the story to become him. He is focused on the game and his team mates. It demonstrated he is a professional.

It won’t be until the book is closed on the 2019 College season before he declares his position – which i think will be to enter the 2020 NFL Draft. If he does so whichever team manages to secure him will be getting a gem. We will though have to put up with numerous stories surrounding him such is the level of interest in the very top College talents. By the looks it though he can cope – I hope the fans of the teams he could go to (Bengals, Giants, Dolphins, Redskins) can too!

Week 16 picks

Back to .500 last week. Some great fixtures in week 16, could this be a 4 out of 4 week? Going for the crunch games so I am sticking my neck out!

Buffalo Bills @ New England Patriots – both teams are now in the playoffs and I think this benefits Buffalo more. With nothing to lose I think they will feel the Patriots are there for the taking. New England beat Cincinnati last week but their offense still did not fire. I don’t see many points in this but I see more for Buffalo – Bills by 4

LA Rams @ 49ers – both looking to bounce back after defeats and the need is perhaps more with San Francisco in order to keep up with Seattle in the hunt for the NFC West title. I don’t think the Rams will be able to recover from the beat down the Cowboys gave them. 49ers by 6

Dallas Cowboys @ Philadelphia Eagles – okay you two, one of you has to win the NFC East, who’s it gonna be? I look at what is available to both offenses and on that basis it has to be Dallas. I’ll take the Cowboys by 10

Green Bay Packers @ Minnesota Vikings – it is bizarre that a team as strong as the Vikings with their record are in line to be #6 with the Packers at #2. No doubts that Green Bay have had a good season but, similar to the match up above, I’ll take Minnesota’s options on offense in the dome, Vikings by 7.

Same time next week!

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