NFL Previews Part Two


Buccaneers @ 49ers

It is politic when talking about the Bucs to praise their young quarterback Josh Freeman for his clutch play in tough situations. This offence is far more varied than that, LaGarrette Blount is an explosive running back while Parker and Winslow are great pass options for the young quarterback.

The Niners are a curious prospect. As a fan myself I was infuriated initially by Jim Harbaugh’s decision to back Alex Smith for another year but it now appears inspired, he’s yardage is growing game by game and he is giving up very few takeaways. Frank Gore is back from his ankle injury that reduced his production in the first two with a big game at the Eagles supported by rookie Hunter. Furthermore the rush defence has been very impressive, the fourth best in the league against good rushing teams.

What will decide the game?

The run game. Both sides look bright against the run and have strong players in the backfield. Whoever establishes the run game first will be the side who adds a fourth win to their 2011 record. I’m biased but I think the Niners will bring home the bacon.

Chargers @ Broncos

I’m a big Philip Rivers fan, last year he came close to breaking Dan Marino’s seasonal passing yard record and while he’s not quite on that pace this year his 1286 yards put him 7th in the league. Add into the mix the twin backs of Matthews and Tolbert, Mr. reliable Vincent Jackson and a special teams that no longer presses the self destruct button week in week out and you can see why San Diego are considered playoff material again this year.

Kyle Orton can do no right in Denver. His defence lets him down and yet the fans call for Tebow en masse. However, unless Orton can get the Broncos back to winning ways it will be very hard for the Franchise to resist the calls forever. Orton does have a number of good targets, Decker & Lloyd in particular but the rungame has not been productive. Willis McGahee has just 3.8 yards per carry.

What will decide the game?

The Chargers Offence. I can’t see a way that the 29th ranked passing defence in terms of points preventing one of the strongest offences in the league consistently. Rivers  and Jackson will hook up all day long and this one could get very nasty, so nasty that Tebow might get his snaps by the end, even if Orton isn’t to blame.

Jets @ Patriots

In terms of secondary personnel the Jets have one of the most intimidating line-ups in the league; Revis and Cromatie can put the fear in any team, but the Patriots aren’t just any team. The 2nd ranked defence in the NFL isn’t the concern for the Jets heading into the evening kickoff for the Jets though. The issue lies on the offence line; Pro-bowl centre Nick Mangold is doubtful with an ankle injury while Plaxico Burress, Santonio Holmes and Derrick Mason all met with Rex Ryan to complain about the offensive play-calling.

The Patriots offence is always a terrifying prospect, this year, is no different. They lead the league in all purpose yards, passing yards, ranked tenth in rushing yards and third in total points scored. Welker and Gronkowski are targets that always provide for Brady while the combination of Ridley and Green-Ellis is giving the offence the much needed balance the Patriots have lacked. Brady chucked four picks against the Bills but has thrown just one since.

What will decide the game?

If the Jets stop the Patriots on offence they will win. Oakland couldn’t do it last week and when Campbell gave the ball away the Pats ran away with it. I think the Patriots will improve to 4-1 here and Sanchez will find himself taking a few hits.

Packers @ Falcons

We all love a matchup between two great quarterbacks. At the moment Aaron Rodgers is peerless and his offence is packed with quality. Add into the mix a league leading defence and it’s easy to understand why the defending champs top nearly ever power league of merit.

The Falcons have built on a similar model to the Packers. Matt Ryan is an excellent young quarterback who removed the playoff hoodoo last year while the receiving corps has been improved with the addition of Julio Jones (who Atlanta traded the house for in the draft). That’s of course neglecting the pinnacle of the Falcons offence, running back Michael Turner who can barrel through any defence.

What will decide the game?

Sacks. The Falcons have only been outdone by the Bills in getting to the quarterback. If the Falcons have Rodgers on his backside logic dictates he can’t torch their defence. If this turns into a shootout you have to fancy that the Falcons will come up just short. The Pack will go 5-0.

Bears @ Lions

A penny for Jay Cutler’s thoughts? Cutler has spent most of this season avoiding the attacks through his porous offensive line of dusting himself on in the dirt and the prospect of the Lions D will not be an appealing one. In the lack of massively successful passing game the team has relied on the duel threat of Matt Forte who has given Cutler help in both the run game as well as on screen plays.

Ndamukong Suh, Nick Fairley and Karl Van Der Bosch will have had this game marked down in their diaries for a long time. The Bears weakness will surely be exploited by this team. Meanwhile on the offence ‘Megatron’ Calvin Johnson will be seeking revenge for the controversial call that robbed him of a game winning touchdown last year in the same fixture. While Matt Stafford will be hoping to build on his solid start to the season after missing last season’s clash with injury.

What will decide the game?

Matt Forte. Cutler will get smashed and flattened unless the run game can give him space. If they can get the ball to Forte on the screen the long pass might open up as well. Having said that I can’t envisage a scenario where the  Lions don’t hammer Cutler to the deck. He left the NFC Championship game last year injured, he’ll be a relieved man if he gets off the field by his own momentum on Monday.

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