Alvin Kamara, Dallas Cowboys, Drew Brees, Fletcher Cox, Gus Bradley, Joey Bosa, Josh Gordon, LA Chargers, Mark Ingram, Melvin Ingram, Michael Thomas, New England Patriots, New Orleans Saints, NFL, Nick Foles, Philadelphia Eagles, Philip Rivers, Rob Gronkowski, Sean Payton, Tom Brady
Following on from Saturday’s contests, we have the Sunday Divisional games, although I have to fail at the trivia competition first:
‘First then, for the 2018 Regular Season only who scored the most touchdowns? Name, Team and Number for a max 3 points.
My second Divisional related question was triggered by the chaos which followed the Vikings TD as time expired last year.
What penalty is to be applied if a team lines up for scrimmage with fewer than 11 on the field? 2 points available here.’
There was a clarification on the first question that a quarterback running the ball would count, but not passes as we were looking for the play crossing the goal line with the ball. This immediately made me think of quarterbacks and suspected Cam Newton, but I just don’t think that quarterbacks get enough of an opportunity to lead the league in touchdowns so I’m going to jump positions on the Panthers and plump for Christian McCaffery, who had a fantastic year and I’m going for eight touchdowns.
As for the penalty, I’m not sure there is one but my guess is illegal formation as what else could it be? Well, I’ll find out later in the week!
‘Tricky questions again this week, and I feel a bit more pressure now I’m leading!
Question one I had to clarify as I was originally thinking of a Quarterback who will have thrown the most touchdowns, but apparently that doesn’t count. So I think it’ll be a running back, and I’m a bit torn between Todd Gurley and Alvin Kamara…. I think I’ll go with Saints Number 41, Alvin Kamara.
Second question I think is a bit of a trick. Obviously there’s a penalty for having too many players on the field, but I don’t think there is one for having too few. I’m just struggling to justify why that answer warrants 2 points and whether there’s another answer to go with it, but I’ll stick with that!’
LA Chargers (5th) @ New England Patriots(2nd)
Another year, another division win for the New England Patriots but this is the first time in nine seasons that they didn’t get at least twelve wins. There have been several, is he slipping moments for Tom Brady in recent seasons, which is perhaps not that surprising given that he is now forty-one, but the Patriots have not been as convincing this season as in recent years. Part of this is the relative weakness of their receiver group, which was worrying enough that the Patriots took the risk of trading for Josh Gordon. The troubled receiver did supply help on the field for a while, but even the Patriots couldn’t help Gordon off the field and it may be that the football environment may not be conducive for Gordon staying healthy. Back on the field, Rob Gronkowski has laboured all season and doesn’t look himself, but Brady has thrown for over four thousand yards and the Patriots do rank fifth in the league by DVOA so all is not terrible. They have lost some surprising games but their defence ranks better by DVOA than last year they still earned a bye week for the start of the playoffs.
This week the entertain one of the more dangerous fifth seeds of recent years in the twelve win LA Chargers. I didn’t get to watch all of the coaching tape from last week, but the Chargers played with seven defensive backs to counter the Ravens running game, reminding everyone just how good a defensive coordinator Gus Bradley is. It also helps that in Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram, Bradley has the players to get pressure on the quarterback whilst rushing four, which is the nearest anyone has found to a formula to stop Tom Brady. For all his regular season success, Philip Rivers has not had the playoff victories he wold have hoped for and has a pair of playoff losses to the Patriots from the 07/08 seasons to avenge. The Chargers have really played well this season and stand as good a chance of dethroning the Patriots as anyone has in recent years. However, winning in Foxborough is never easy and particularly not in the playoffs and so I must give the edge to the Patriots as I don’t think you can count them out until they have lost, but this is a dangerous game for them.
Philadelphia Eagles (6th) @ New Orleans Saints (1st)
The New Orleans Saints took a step forward last season with a draft that yielded the offensive and defensive rookies of the year and finally pairing a defence good enough to help the always proficient Drew Brees get back into the playoffs. They carried this momentum forward into this season and continue to make moves in an attempt to maximise the chances of getting Brees another Super Bowl in the time the veteran quarterback has left. Their offence was truly terrifying for a lot of the season, and even when it cooled off they still found ways to win and finished with only three losses all season. In securing the first seed they ensured that they got to play with their impressive home field advantage. They currently rank fourth of the elite offences through the season, and if there is a weakness in the offence it is the talent behind Alvin Kamara and Michael Thomas, although Mark Ingram did also run the ball effectively in the games he played, but the creativity of Sean Payton and Drew Brees has been more than enough to carry them through.
This week they welcome the Philadelphia Eagles and the supposed playoff mojo of Nick Foles. There is not a large enough sample size to declare that Foles is especially effective in the playoffs, but he has certainly done brilliantly for a backup over last season and this. Still, we shouldn’t forget how effective the Eagles defensive line was against the Chicago Bears last week. Still, the Saints at home are a different prospect and Fletcher Cox and the rest of the defence will need to get pressure up the middle to disrupt Brees. It is possible as the Cowboys demonstrated earlier this season, but right now the Saints are my tip for the Super Bowl. Brees may have thrown for under four thousand yards for the first time in fourteen years, but he also has the highest completion percentage of his career and the lowest number of interceptions. The route to the Super Bowl runs through New Orleans and I don’t see the Eagles disrupting that this week, although of course all things are possible.