NFL 2019 – DIVISIONAL ROUND PREDICTIONS

The 2019 Wild Card playoff round certainly lived up to its name. New Orleans crashed out at home to Minnesota in typical Saints fashion, becoming just the second team after the 13′-15′ Packers to be eliminated from the playoffs on the final play of the game three seasons in a row. Yet the drama didn’t stop there — the Titans marched into Foxborough to knock off the defending champions and the Texans came back from the dead to beat a beleaguered Buffalo team to set up a rematch with the Chiefs. One can only hope said drama continues into the next round when the #1 and #2 seeds from each respective conference enter the playoff frame. Surely the past weekend can’t be topped? With this in mind here are our Divisional round predictions for the 2019 NFL season.

#6 Minnesota Vikings @ #1 San Francisco 49ers- Sat 11/01 4:35pm ET on NBC, 9:35pm GMT on Sky Sports

What a statement made by the Minnesota Vikings in the Bayou. Kirk Cousins recorded his first playoff victory in an overtime stunner against the Saints, eliminating, for now, any talk of him not being able to perform well in the big games. However, prior to Sunday’s game, Cousins’ record against teams with a .500 record or better stood at a dismal 6-30, effectively just one win in six games. It is statistics like these that made the win in New Orleans all the more incredible, yet also make a win in San Francisco seemingly just as improbable.

The 49ers’ Levi’s Stadium will host its first playoff game on Saturday, with the team coming off a massive high after their win in the division decider against Seattle on Sunday Night Football. Whilst that game did ultimately come down to a matter of inches, the 49ers were in control for the vast majority of the game with the defense being able to smother and contain Russell Wilson and company. Perhaps a worry for Niner fans though is how close their games have been in recent weeks since the blowout of the Packers as all of their games have been decided by a score or less

Pick: Vikings 17, 49ers 27

#6 Tennessee Titans @ #1 Baltimore Ravens- Sat 11/01 8:15pm ET on CBS, Sun 12/01 1:15am GMT on Sky Sports

This game should be played at an electric pace as it features two of the top three teams in terms of rushing yards per game (BAL #1 and TEN #3). The Titans certainly ran the ball against the Patriots behind Derrick Henry who looks borderline unstoppable heading into the second week of the playoffs, single-handedly winning the game for Tennessee as Tannehill threw for just 72 yards. Expect more from against Baltimore though and potential Offensive Rookie of the Year candidate AJ Brown. If the Titans get out in front early, this game might be a lot closer than people think.

Perhaps the only concern for Baltimore fans is that come Saturday it would have been 20 straight days since the offense saw any proper action and thus there could be fears of a slump, not unusual to teams having clinched homefield advantage in Week 16 (see beginning of the Eagles-Saints playoff game last year). Any slump would have to be catastrophic to slow down the Ravens and MVP elect Lamar Jackson who stroll into the playoffs having reeled off 12 straight games and not tasting defeat since September. It will take a special effort from Tennessee to reach the AFC Title game.

Pick: Titans 24, Ravens 34

#4 Houston Texans @ #2 Kansas City Chiefs- Sun 12/01 3:05pm ET on CBS, 8:05pm GMT on Sky Sports

Special comeback by Watson and the Texans on Saturday in that truly wild game against the Bills. Houston looked like it was heading for another early playoff exit before Watson put the team on his back, scoring 19 straight points and taking the game to overtime where he starred. Even better news for Texans fans is that WR WIll Fuller, inactive against the Bills, is expected to return on Sunday against Kansas City. Although KC was injury crippled during their week 6 affair, the Texans go into Arrowhead Stadium in confidence knowing that they can beat Mahomes and Co. , having done so 31-24. Are the pieces coming together for a first AFC Championship appearance in franchise history for the Texans?

On Sunday, Kansas City looks to return to the AFC Championship game it so agonizingly lost last January. Just like the Texans though, the Chiefs come into this game with momentum, having won six straight and seven of their last eight. Most importantly for KC though, the defense this time around in the playoffs is substantially better than the ‘defense’ the Chiefs fielded 12 months ago, ultimately costing them against the Patriots. An interesting note on the KC offense; they rank 20th in the NFL in the Redzone, a huge decline from a season ago. Field goals will not win this game against the Texans.

Pick: Texans 24, Chiefs 27

#5 Seattle Seahawks @ #2 Green Bay Packers- Sun 12/01 6:40pm ET on FOX, 11:40pm GMT on Sky Sports

Strange game in Philadelphia for the Seattle Seahawks, who seemingly should have blown out the Eagles but allowed them to stick around right till the end, until that brilliant catch by star rookie DK Metcalf on 3rd down. Whilst the defense for SEA did look good against the Eagles, the challenge presented by Aaron Rodgers will be far greater than that of Josh McCown, despite his best efforts, therefore making it difficult to judge how good they were. This is by far the toughest game of the weekend to pick, as both come in stumbling. A key stat; the Seahawks are 8-1 on the road this season.

The Green Bay Packers host their first divisional round playoff game since 2015. This is quite remarkable given their desperate performance against the Lions in Week 17 with a bye and homefield advantage on the line which they clawed back to win. It sounds criminal to not trust Aaron Rodgers and the Packers offense but there have been instances where the GB offense has not performed to the level you would expect (see games against Chicago and Washington). A similar style performance on Sunday would undoubtedly see the Packers one and done. B

Pick: Seahawks 23, Packers 17

MIDSEASON 2019 NFL POWER RANKINGS

After 8 punishing weeks we now find ourselves at the half way mark of the 2019 NFL season. Naturally, some teams have performed better than others — perhaps due to talent, strength of schedule or by simply staying healthy at the right time(s). Conversely, others have flattered to deceive, with a number of owners and coaches seemingly ready to blow their respective rosters up in the hope of gaining an advantage in 2020. Nevertheless, despite the above and a number of exciting matchups still to come, here are our midseason power rankings. J

1. New England Patriots (8-0)

2. New Orleans Saints (7-1)

3. Green Bay Packers (7-1) +3

4. San Francisco 49ers (8-0) +7

5. Kansas City Chiefs (5-3) -2

6. Seattle Seahawks (6-2) +2

7. Baltimore Ravens (5-2) +6

8. Indianapolis Colts (5-2) +6

9. Los Angeles Rams (5-3) -2

10. Minnesota Vikings (6-2) +10

11. Dallas Cowboys (4-3) -6

12. Buffalo Bills (5-2) +3

13. Houston Texans (5-3) +3

14. Philadelphia Eagles (4-4) -5

15. Chicago Bears (3-4) -11

16. Carolina Panthers (4-3) +3

17. Jacksonville Jaguars (4-4) +1

18. Los Angeles Chargers (3-5) -8

19. Detroit Lions (3-3-1) +2

20. Pittsburgh Steelers (3-4) +3

21. Oakland Raiders (3-4) +5

22. Tennessee Titans (4-4) -1

23. Cleveland Browns (2-5) -11

24. Arizona Cardinals (3-5-1) +4

25. Denver Broncos (2-6) +4

26. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-5) -1

27. New York Giants (2-6) -3

28. Atlanta Falcons (1-7) -6

29. New York Jets (1-6) -2

30. Washington Redskins (1-7) +1

31. Cincinatti Bengals (0-8) -1

32. Miami Dolphins (0-7)

Who do you have top of your power rankings? Sound off in the comments section below.

NFL 2019 – MIDSEASON TAKEAWAYS

Just how have 8 weeks of the 2019 NFL season passed so quickly?

Despite a number of earth shattering injuries to some of the biggest names in league history the quest for NFL supremacy waits for no man — including Patrick Mahomes it seems. Here are some our biggest takeaways at the half way mark of the 2019 NFL season. Roll the tape…

Zebra’s need help

Every season has bad officiating at times — blown calls, missed PI’s and so on, but this year feels different. The tone appeared to be set in week 2 when the Saints had a defensive TD against the Rams called back despite Jared Goff fumbling the ball — something every man, women and child could see. Additionally, the ability for head coaches to challenge and overturn PI calls has yielded little to no success. Rightly or wrongly, the league appears to not want to go against the officials and instead appears to have the rule in place as a fail safe — in an apparent attempt to avoid the type of controversy seen in last years NFC Championship. Oh did we forget to mention the increased protection QB’s appear to be receiving? Look we get it. QB’s are the lifeblood of the NFL and Roger Goodell wants to avoid another concussion based class action lawsuit, but ‘roughing the passer’ has taken on a whole new meaning in 2019. No wants to see players get hurt but can’t we just let the players play?

The 49ers are legitimate Super Bowl contenders

Hands up if you thought the 49ers would pose a threat to the NFC this year? Put them down and stop lying to yourself. Despite Kyle Shanahan being considered to be one of the games best offensive minds, defensive coordinator Robert Saleh has turned this team into a defensive juggernaut. Just look at their defensive line — Nick Bosa, DeForest Buckner, Soloman Thomas and Dee Ford is scary good. Then add Kwon Alexander and Richard Sherman to that. Unfortunately, because the Patriots appear to be enjoying their own defensive homecoming — destroying every single season defensive record and putting up the biggest mid season point differential since the 1920 Buffalo All-Americans in the process — the 49ers are being overlooked for having the NFL’s best defensive unit since the 2015 Denver Broncos. Much to Robert Kraft’s dismay, something tells me we might see Brady vs Garoppolo in February.

The Browns need a Head Coach

The Dawg Pound just can’t seem to catch a break. After drafting elite level talent on both sides of the ball over the last 2 years the Browns went all in (with a view of making the playoffs for the first time since 2002) when they brought in Odell Beckham Jr. during the offseason. However, a team comprising of the league’s best WR and players such as Mayfield, Landry, Chubb, Garrett and Ward (you get the picture) is currently 2-5. Granted they do have a favourable end of year schedule and a 9-7 season could very well get them into the playoffs, but this team has a number of issues. Cleveland have committed an utterly ridiculous 70 penalties thus far and with Mayfield regressing — he has been a turnover machine this year — it would be easy to place the blame squarely on Freddie Kitchens’ shoulders. But Browns GM John Dorsey should have known better than to hire a man who was a running backs coach just 18 months ago. Yes it may seem unfair to make a change so soon into Kitchens’ tenure, but with the Bengals in full rebuild mode and the Steelers having an off year the Browns need to win and win now.

The Chargers need to win or find a new home

It’s safe to say the Chargers may regret moving to Los Angeles. With the team unable to fill a 25,000 capacity ‘soccer’ stadium for the third year in a row, team owner Dean Spanos has had to revise projected annual revenues to $150m — down from the $400m they were expected to make by making the move alongside the Rams. With L.A. perceivably remaining a Rams/Raiders town and home games being regularly ambushed by away fans, the Chargers may ultimately have to move in the not too distant future. Of course all this could be avoided should they ultimately win a Lombardi trophy, or perhaps be in the position to offer L.A. natives the hottest ticket in town by acquiring someone with undeniable cache, someone like Thomas Edward Patrick Brady Jr. for example. Stranger things have happened of course, but the likelihood of at least one of the above scenarios coming to fruition is currently slim to none whilst having a 3-5 record.

The Bears must look beyond Trubisky

With the Chicago Bears narrowly losing to the Philadelphia Eagles in last years NFC wild card round much was expected from Matt Nagy’s boys this year. However, with respective resurgent Packers, Vikings and Lions squads, they currently sit bottom of the NFC North with a 3-4 record. From a team that has one of the best head coaches in the game and a defence that is led by Khalil Mack, Bears fans have rightly identified Mitch Trubisky as the weak link in what is undeniably their best chance of winning a Super Bowl since the mid 80’s. Despite injury the third year QB has consistently struggled with both his second and third reads. To rub salt into their wounds the Bears passed up the opportunity to draft both Patrick Mahomes and Deshaun Watson in 2017 — trading UP to get him. Can the Bears still win a Super Bowl? No doubt. But it would be a damn site easier if one of those third year QB’s were running this offence.

Mahomes/Watson rivalry is here

Talking of the league’s most electric QB’s, the NFL has patiently waited for a ‘New Age’ rivalry at the QB position ever since Peyton Manning retired and now they appear to have it. What Patrick Mahomes achieved in his first year as a starting QB was nothing short of a miracle — after all, only Tom Brady and the aforementioned Peyton Manning have dropped 50 TD’s during a 16 game regular season. Couple this with the fact that Mahomes was on pace to throw for an utterly ridiculous 7,000 passing yards before dislocating his knee, one has to wonder whether this man will break the record for every statistical category once he calls it a career. Nevertheless, stats don’t win championships and Deshawn Watson has just as much of a chance to win a Super Bowl as Mahomes does. Watson has shown time and time again that you can’t count out the Texans whilst the ball is in his hands. Just ask the Chiefs, who lost to Watson in week 6. Something tells me we are going to see these QB’s square off for the right to represent the AFC in the Super Bowl for at least a decade.

Russell Wilson is the MVP frontrunner

I know many will lobby for Aaron Rodgers and others will protest the lack of defensive candidates each and every year — Stephon Gilmore and Nick Bosa come to mind, but in reality there is only one man worthy of league MVP at the half way mark and that man is Russell Wilson. Outside of Tom Brady the Seattle Seahawks QB has been the most consistent player under centre over the last decade. Perhaps influenced by THAT play that cost the Seahawks back to back championships in Super Bowl 49, Wilson has been criminally overlooked in the race for regular league honours. However, this could well be his year and with a stat line that includes 2127 pass yards, 17:1 TD/INT’s and a 77.6 QB rating, should he continue at this pace its going to be hard for those with a vote to deny what would be a career defining season for the diminutive signal caller. J

What are your top midseason takeaways? Sound off in the comments section below.

NFL LONDON GAMES 2019

On Sunday the NFL returned to London for what was the first of four regular season games to be played outside of the United States in 2019 and what was to be the first game to be played at the newly built state of the art Tottenham Hotspur Stadium — the first purpose built venue for American football outside of North America. After losing at home to the Green Bay Packers on opening night the Chicago Bears went into their game with the Raiders on a 3 game winning streak and must have believed they were going to come away from their international ‘business trip’ with an improved 4-1 record. Instead John Gruden put on a coaching clinic and redeemed his head scratching trade of Khalil Mack to Chicago in 2018 in the process, keeping the famed Bears defence on the field for most of the first half by pounding their defensive line with rookie RB Josh Jacobs time and time again. Conversely, the Raiders defence managed to do just enough to stop a later game comeback by the Bears, picking off Chase Daniels late in the fourth quarter to seal a famous win for what is an exceptionally young team.

Yet despite the game proving to be somewhat of an unexpected spectacle, it was the atmosphere that caught most seasoned NFL fans off guard. Put simply this game could have been mistaken for a Chicago Bears home game (for the record it wasn’t). In truth the games played at both Wembley and Twickenham are often attended by a variety of people; ranging from genuine fans of both teams, fans of other teams, casual fans and individuals who just want a good time. The issue with having such a mix of people would be the genuine lack of game day atmosphere, but this game felt ‘different’. I heard one fan say it was due to the sheer volume of fans making the trip over to the UK, whilst another attributed the improved atmosphere to the quality of said game. However, having experienced the game for ourselves it is almost impossible not to recognise the impact of the venue, which was co-financed by the NFL due to the sheer growth of the game over the past decade. In many ways this game felt like it was a ‘vindication’ of sorts for UK fans who long for a franchise to be based in London. Still, although they may have to wait a little longer for this to come to fruition, after witnessing the very best London has to offer, one has to believe this is now a question of when rather than if. J

Be sure to check out some of our photos from the big game below and let us know whether you attended the game, your thoughts and whether this could indeed convince the NFL to have a franchise based in London. Enjoy.

QUARTER-SEASON 2019 NFL POWER RANKINGS

Week 4 is in the books. As is often the case at the quarter-season mark a series of events have reshaped the NFL landscape for 2019. In addition to Andrew Luck retiring, a number of marquee QB’s went down with injury; Ben Roethlisberger and Nick Foles are both done for the season, Sam Darnold is out with mono (yes mono) and Drew Brees won’t return until week 8 after having his thumb surgically repaired. However, one man’s misfortune is another man’s fortune — just ask Tom Brady who went on to achieve G.OA.T. status after Drew Bledsoe was wiped out in week 2 of the 2001 season. Enter Baker Mayfield’s clone Gardner Minshew. The latter has been excellent thus far and has made the injury to Saint Nick look like a potential blessing in disguise, and the Jaguars remain a genuine threat in the AFC should ‘Minshew mania’ continue.

Then there is the rather improbable, but nevertheless continued emergence of Daniel Jones. After an impressive preseason no one could have predicted how Manning-esque Eli’s replacement would look — completing 69% of his throws for 578 yards and 3TD’s as well as 2 rushing TD’s has been seriously impressive, and all this despite Saquon Barkley being unavailable after suffering a high-ankle sprain in Jones’ debut against the Buccaneers in week 3. The Giants are well on their way to competing with the Cowboys and Eagles in 2020 and may just shock a number of teams as the season progresses.

Continuing the theme of positive early season surprises Aaron Rodgers has to be pleased with his Green Bay Packers. For the first time since his lone 2010 Super Bowl triumph it appears the future HOF’er might finally have some genuine defensive help. The Saints, who as previously mentioned lost Drew Brees to injury, have been exceptional under Sean Payton’s leadership — beating the Seahawks and the Cowboys with Teddy Bridgwater under centre. And what about those Buffalo Bills? Everyone and his dog knew they had an elite defence, but they have finally started to translate that into wins. If it was not for a defensive master class from the reigning champs in week 4 the Bills would be 4-0.

Finally, what of the teams that so much was expected? The Rams have looked fairly pedestrian without a fully fit Todd Gurley, the Chargers appear to have regressed despite Phillip Rivers operating an offence with a banged up receiver corp, the Falcons have yet to get going on either side of the ball and the Vikings have just straight up been Kirk Cousin(ed). Oh and despite all the offseason hype surrounding the Browns, Freddie Kitchens’ boys were brought back to earth by both the Titans and the Rams. With the above story lines and those I have chose to ignore (AB, Burfict et al.) here are my quarter-season 2019 NFL Power Rankings. J

1. New England Patriots (4-0)

2. New Orleans Saints (3-1)

3. Kansas City Chiefs (4-0) +3

4. Chicago Bears (3-1) +1

5. Dallas Cowboys (3-1) +4

6. Green Bay Packers (3-1) +7

7. Los Angeles Rams (3-1) -4

8. Seattle Seahawks (3-1) +7

9. Philadelphia Eagles (2-2) -2

10. Los Angeles Chargers (2-2) -6

11. San Francisco 49ers (3-0) +10

12. Cleveland Browns (2-2) +2

13. Baltimore Ravens (2-2) +4

14. Indianapolis Colts (2-2) -3

15. Buffalo Bills (3-1) +13

16. Houston Texans (2-2) +3

17. Detroit Lions (2-1-1) +9

18. Jacksonville Jaguars (2-2) -2

19. Carolina Panthers (2-2) +1

20. Minnesota Vikings (2-2) -8

21. Tennessee Titans (2-2) -3

22. Atlanta Falcons (1-3) -14

23. Pittsburgh Steelers (1-3) -13

24. New York Giants (2-2) +7

25. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-2)

26. Oakland Raiders (2-2) -3

27. New York Jets (0-3) -3

28. Arizona Cardinals (0-3-1) +4

29. Denver Broncos (0-4) -7

30. Cincinatti Bengals (0-4)

31. Washington Redskins (0-4) -4

32. Miami Dolphins (0-4) -3

WEEK 2 NFL PICKS

The NFL’s 100th season began exactly how the 2018 season finished — with an incredibly tense Thursday night game which saw the Packers defense suffocate the Bears offense to win 10-3. The tone that was set in Chicago carried over to the Lions and Cardinals on Sunday which resulted in a tie for two of the league’s perennial underachievers. Finally, Monday night saw New Orleans pip Houston in a thriller and there was a much needed moral boosting win for Jon Gruden and the Raiders against the Broncos. So what will Week 2 have in store?

Thursday Night Football

Tampa Bay Buccaneers @ Carolina Panthers – 8:20pm ET on NFL Network, 1:20am BST on Sky Sports/NFL GamePass

Both teams started their campaigns with a defeat, but it’s the Carolina Panthers who will be feeling a lot better about their performance than the Bucs. The Panthers went toe to toe with the defending NFC champions in a close 30-27 loss. Christian McCaffrey stole the show for Carolina on Sunday, rushing for 126 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Although Cam Newton had a disappointing game (239 yards, no TD and 1 INT), he will look to set the record straight against a poor Tampa Bay defense.

It was a messy week 1 for Tampa Bay in a 31-17 loss to the 49ers. Quarterback Jameis Winston had by far the lowest rating of all QBs in week 1 (45.4), throwing for just 194 yards and being picked off three times by San Francisco. If the offense does not perform it is hard to see Tampa winning many games this season.

Pick: Tampa Bay 20, Carolina 34

Sunday Slate

Arizona Cardinals @ Baltimore Ravens – 1pm ET on FOX, 6pm BST on NFL GamePass

The Cardinals took until the 4th quarter to show up against the Lions, but show up they did — scoring 18 unanswered points, 15 of those with under six minutes remaining — and all of this with a rookie QB. Kyler Murray became the first Cardinal in franchise history to rack up 300 pass yards in his debut game, a promising start for the first pick in the draft and for a Cardinals offense who ranked dead last in all offensive categories last season.

The Ravens looked fantastic in all areas of their systematic beatdown of the Miami Dolphins. One of the biggest questions heading into the season was whether Lamar Jackson could step back and be a pure pocket passing QB. Against Miami he showed plenty of promise — a perfect passer rating is not bad for a QB playing in just his ninth NFL game. This will be a sneaky good game on Sunday, though expect the Ravens to come out on top.

Pick: Arizona 23, Baltimore 33

Dallas Cowboys @ Washington Redskins – 1pm ET on FOX, 6pm BST on NFL GamePass

Dallas produced a statement performance against the Giants in Week 1. Dak Prescott passed for over 400 yards and threw for four touchdowns, posting a perfect passer rating in the process. The good news for Cowboys fans is that they were able to dominate without Ezekiel Elliott making a major contribution.

Washington raced into a 17 point in Philadelphia before collapsing in the second half, but it’s not all doom and gloom for Redskins fans. Quarterback Case Keenum showed much more of his old Vikings form than he showed last season in Denver, passing for 380 yards and three touchdowns. Whilst the result was ultimately disappointing given the position they were in, the Redskins would have taken a lot of heart from their performance in Philadelphia. Expect a close game with the Cowboys.

Pick: Dallas 23, Washington 20

Indianapolis Colts @ Tennessee Titans – 1pm ET on CBS, 6pm BST on NFL GamePass

The Jacoby Brissett era nearly got off to the perfect start as the Colts lost a heart-breaker to the Chargers. A steady start for Brissett, but his two touchdowns on the road against a playoff caliber team will do wonders for any pre-season nerves he may have had. Brissett now has the weight of Indianapolis on his shoulders following the shock retirement of Andrew Luck, but on Week 1’s evidence he looks likely to rise to the challenge.

What a win for the Tennessee Titans against an overhyped Cleveland Browns. Tennessee has long been overlooked in the AFC despite having one of the NFL’s best defenses — which often allows them to keep even the most difficult of games close. Whilst Brissett and the Colts will pose a challenge, expect the Titans to move to 2-0.

Pick: Indianapolis 14, Tennessee 19

Seattle Seahawks @ Pittsburgh Steelers – 1pm ET on FOX, 6pm BST on NFL GamePass

This is a battle between two teams who drastically under performed in Week 1. Whilst Seattle managed to scrape a win, they were massively underwhelming against the Bengals. Although Seattle thrived in the run game a season ago, Chris Carson will have to improve on his 15 carries for 46 yards if Seattle is to be a contender this season. On a positive note Seattle’s pass rush will please Pete Carroll — getting to Andy Dalton on five occasions and constantly pressuring and harassing him throughout their season opener.

It was an ugly Sunday night in Foxborough for the Pittsburgh Steelers. The Steelers and Patriots have had many close and exciting showdowns in previous seasons, but looked worlds apart as Pittsburgh could only muster up three points on offense. The defense didn’t look much better either. There were several instances of poor tackling and coverage, particularly the play that allowed Dorsett to be wide open for a 58 yard score. I expect the Steelers’ woes to continue on Sunday.

Pick: Seattle 34, Pittsburgh 28

Buffalo Bills @ New York Giants – 1pm ET on CBS, 6pm BST on NFL GamePass

A fantastic road comeback win against the divisional rival New York Jets on Sunday will fill second year quarterback Josh Allen and the Buffalo Bills with bags of confidence. In similar fashion to the Cardinals, the Bills decided to only show up late in the game, but it was effective and they looked utterly dominant in the 4th quarter. Bills fans will no doubt be excited by a second straight trip to MetLife Stadium.

Not a good day for the Giants in Dallas. Still, Saquon Barkley looked like he will carry his 2018 form into 2019, firing the Giants into a great start against the Cowboys. Sadly for the G-Men, that’s where the good news ends. Daniel Jones made his first appearance late in the game, but his ball security came into question yet again when he fumbled the ball that helped the Cowboys seal the win. Still, this game is a repeat of Super Bowl XXV and history often repeats itself. However, this time it will be the Giants who will miss a last second field goal and whilst the Buffalo Bills won’t be crowned Super Bowl champions, they will (deep breath Bills fans) move to 2-0.

Pick: Buffalo 13, New York 10

San Francisco 49ers @ Cincinnati Bengals – 1pm ET on FOX, 6pm BST on NFL GamePass

It took a while for San Francisco to get going in Tampa but get going they did. Jimmy G and the Niners put up 25 points in the second half and had three touchdowns in the first half hauled back by penalties. Although this will have to change when they play better teams — the early signs are good for Garoppollo and San Francisco.

Whilst the win-loss column doesn’t show it, the Bengals would argue that they were the better team for the most part at CenturyLink Field. Bengals fans would have been pleasantly surprised with their showing in Seattle, but Cincinnati does have a history of starting strong and Seattle starting slow. It will be interesting to see if the Bengals can perform as well against San Francisco as they did against the Seahawks. Expect another high scoring game.

Pick: San Francisco 38, Cincinnati 21

Los Angeles Chargers @ Detroit Lions – 1pm ET on CBS, 6pm BST on NFL GamePass

The injury stricken L.A Chargers begun with a hard fought victory over the Colts. Whilst the Melvin Gordon holdout certainly makes the Chargers weaker, they are strong at the RB position and shouldn’t be affected too much by his continued absence. Also expect Rivers and the Chargers to get better and better as the weeks go by — starting this weekend in Detroit.

I was a nightmare finish for the Lions in the desert on Sunday — they blew an 18 point lead in the final quarter to eventually tie with Arizona. The failure to win in Glendale makes this game vitally important for Detroit, who have games against the Eagles and the Chiefs coming up in the not so distant future. A loss here and the Lions could be heading for a winless opening quarter of the season.

Pick: Los Angeles 27, Detroit 17

Minnesota Vikings @ Green Bay Packers – 1pm ET on FOX, 6pm BST on Sky Sports

Minnesota had perhaps one of the most impressive Week 1 wins, dominating who many people expect to be a resurgent Falcons team. The defense looked good as always, restricting Matt Ryan and company to just 12 garbage time points, whilst Kirk Cousins and that running offence didn’t look so bad either. They will have to perform just as well on Sunday against the Packers to get the W.

The Packers defense was one of the biggest surprises of the opening weekend, stifling the Bears to just a single field goal. Although they were playing a vaunted defense in Chicago, Aaron Rodgers will be expected to perform better against an equally good defense in Minnesota. This is a big game for Green Bay — a win would put them 1.5 games ahead of Chicago and the Vikings in what is an ultra competitive division.

Pick: Minnesota 14, Green Bay 24

Jacksonville Jaguars @ Houston Texans – 1pm ET on FOX, 6pm BST on NFL GamePass

Whilst all preseason hope may have evaporated when Nick Foles’s shoulder was slammed into the ground in the opening game, rookie QB Gardner Minshew certainly showed that even despite losing their star QB, the Jaguars will be no pushovers. It is, though, now imperative that the defense steps up — they match up against another explosive offense in Houston in Week 2.

Despite the heartbreaking loss in New Orleans, Deshaun Watson showed once again why he is an elite QB, throwing for 268 yards and three touchdowns. Newly acquired WR Kenny Stills began to repay some of his late season trade value by catching the go ahead score in the last minute of Monday Night Football. Nevertheless, despite losing Jadeveon Clowney, expect the Texans to swarm Minshew and the Jags.

Pick: Jacksonville 13, Houston 34

New England Patriots @ Miami Dolphins – 1pm ET on CBS, 6pm BST on NFL GamePass

These are two teams that had very contrasting opening weekends. It seemed like New England barely had to get out of first gear in their crushing win over the Pittsburgh Steelers. Brady looked brilliant as always, but it was the defense that stood out as they suffocated Big Ben and co. Three points allowed against the Rams in the Super Bowl, three allowed on SNF — notice a trend?

If there is any consolation for Miami Dolphins fans, it can’t get much worse than last Sunday. Still, a game against the division rival, reigning Super Bowl champions is probably not what you want after a 59-10 home loss. Miami is going to need a lot of Fitzmagic to get anything close to a win against the Patriots, but if so, then who knows? Another ‘Miami Miracle’ might occur. I think not, though.

Pick: New England 38, Miami 9

Kansas City Chiefs @ Oakland Raiders – 4:05pm ET on CBS, 9:05pm BST on NFL GamePass

The Jags defense will be one of the best Pat Mahomes and the Chiefs play this season and they still put up 40 with both Mahomes playing on one foot for large parts and WR Tyreek Hill exiting with a shoulder/collarbone injury. Hill being out for 4-6 weeks does change the dynamic of the offense though — there will undoubtedly be more pressure on Travis Kelce, Sammy Watkins and rookie WR Mecole Hardman to make up for his lost production.

The Raiders begun their last season in Oakland with a nice divisional win over the Broncos. The win would have come as a welcome relief to Jon Gruden following all of the Antonio Brown drama and it does in some respects feel like a weight lifted from the shoulders of the Raiders’ organisation. Oakland nearly pulled off a win against KC last season, can they get the job done this time around? No. But they will come close once again.

Pick: Kansas City 34, Oakland 31

New Orleans Saints @ Los Angeles Rams – 4:25pm ET on FOX, 9:25pm BST on Sky Sports

By far and away the most anticipated game of Week 2 takes place at the Coliseum. It goes without saying that the Saints will be dying for revenge following the events of January’s NFC Championship game. Drew Brees completed 74% of his passes in a brilliant comeback win over the Texans on Monday night and Alvin Kamara looked good as well, racking up just under 100 yards.

The best way to summarise the Rams’ win over Carolina would be to call it the great escape. Jared Goff had a poor game and will have to be considerably better if they are to beat the Saints. It is vital for the Rams to win this game, especially with it being at home. Additionally, although it may be too early to talk about potential playoff seedings, this could ultimately decide who ends up hosting this season’s NFC title game and if there’s one thing that is absolutely guaranteed — the Rams won’t want to head back to NOLA in a hurry.

Pick: New Orleans 38, Los Angeles 28

Chicago Bears @ Denver Broncos – 4:25pm ET on FOX, 9:25pm BST on NFL GamePass

Having been the talk of the NFL throughout the offseason, what a disappointing start for the Chicago Bears. Mitch Trubisky was nothing short of dreadful against the Packers and will have to do better playing in a difficult environment in the Mile High City.

It does not bode particularly well for the Denver Broncos that the only substantial points they could put up against a questionable defense was in garbage time. The Bears defense is not who you want to play just a few days after a lacklustre offensive performance. On the bright side, no one will know the Bears defense better than former Bears DC, and now Broncos HC, Vic Fangio. I expect Chicago will still be too much for Denver to handle though.

Pick: Chicago 23, Denver 10

Philadelphia Eagles @ Atlanta Falcons – 8:20pm ET on NBC, 1:20am BST on Sky Sports/NFL GamePass

These two teams have produced exciting but low scoring games in two meetings in the last couple of seasons, with Philly coming out on top in both. Philadelphia will have to ensure they play right from the start — rather than waiting for the third quarter — as they did against Washington on Sunday. The defense will need to be better as well, allowing 27 points to Case Keenum is not a good start to the season.

It was an ugly loss for the Atlanta Falcons in Minneapolis. Although the 28-12 scoreline may suggest otherwise, they were utterly dominated by the Vikings run game. A loss here and the Falcons will drop to 0-2. Too soon to panic? Perhaps, but only 11% of teams starting 0-2 make the playoffs. it goes without saying but a big home win is needed for Atlanta. However, I predict Philly will edge another narrow win over the Falcons.

Pick: Philadelphia 27, Atlanta 24

Monday Night Football

Cleveland Browns @ New York Jets – 8:15pm ET on ESPN, 1:15 am BST on Sky Sports/NFL GamePass

If they make the playoffs the Browns might look back and believe their Week 1 humbling to Tennessee to be the best thing to have happened to them. But make no mistake, it was a catastrophe for Cleveland, who now find themselves in what is now a must win game. The team simply has too much talent to fail, but there are clear teething problems — Baker Mayfield looked terrible and his receivers were largely ineffective all game. Still, I expect him and Browns to bounce back soon rather than later.

It was all going so well for the Jets before they completely lost their way in a calamitous 4th quarter against the Bills. To make matters worse they will be without QB Sam Darnold for at least two games — who was ruled out on Thursday with mononucleosis. Oh and Le’veon bell has been listed questionable for the game too. Both teams entered the NFL’s 100th season with plenty of promise but one will be 0-2 after two games and that team will be the Jets. B

Pick: Cleveland 30, New York 17

NFL 100 – FULL SEASON PREDICTIONS

The wait is finally over. After the best part of seven months the 2019 NFL regular season is upon us. But what do the Football gods have in store for each of the 32 teams? Will this finally be the year Tom Brady and the Patriots fall off? Can the Saints put the disappointment of two of the most controversial and devastating playoff defeats in NFL history behind them to win a second Super Bowl? Will there be more Nick Foles magic down in Jacksonville? Will Jason Garrett be able to save his job in Dallas? Or perhaps Andy Reid can finally win a championship his career so richly deserves? Here are my full 2019 NFL regular season and playoff predictions.

AFC NORTH

AFC SEEDAFC NORTHWLTDIV
3CLEVELAND BROWNS10-64-2
6PITTSBURGH STEELERS10-64-2
9BALTIMORE RAVENS9-73-3
16CINCINNATI BENGALS3-131-5

The AFC North should be one of the most competitive divisions in football in 2019. The Steelers will remain the Steelers so long as Mike Tomlin and Big Ben are in Pittsburgh and the Ravens are always a good bet to make the playoffs. However, the Browns made huge strides last year and now have arguably the best offence in football outside of Kansas City and New Orleans. This year they make the playoffs with the Steelers sneaking in at #6.

AFC SOUTH

AFC SEEDAFC SOUTHWLTDIV
4JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS10-64-2
8TENNESSEE TITANS9-73-3
10HOUSTON TEXANS7-93-3
11INDIANAPOLIS COLTS7-92-4

Look away Colts fans. Before Andrew Luck announced his shock retirement I had the Colts going to this years AFC Championship game. Yet despite having a genuine starting calibre replacement QB in Jacoby Brissett the Colts will likely struggle until they find a settled offensive identity. One team who stands to benefit from the Colts misfortunes are the Jaguars. Nick Foles will undoubtedly make a difference to a once maligned offence that was previously guided by Blake Bortles. However, one often forgets just how good their defence can be and I fully expect them to bounce back from an unexpectedly poor 2018 campaign to win the AFC South.

AFC EAST

AFC SEEDAFC EASTWLTDIV
1NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS13-35-1
7NEW YORK JETS9-74-2
13MIAMI DOLPHINS6-103-3
15BUFFALO BILLS 4-120-6

You can book the Patriots winning an 11th consecutive AFC East. There is also a great chance they make a 9th consecutive AFC Championship game. But what of the rest? Despite some encouraging play from QB Josh Allen the Bills look devoid of talent on both sides of the ball and the Dolphins look to be in full rebuild mode since trading Tunsil, Alonso and Stills over the last few days. However, the Jets are a little trickier to assess. Sam Darnold certainly has all of the required tools to be a top tier NFL QB and any team will stand to benefit from having Le’Veon Bell in their backfield. Nevertheless, something tells me they are still a year away from making the playoffs.

AFC WEST

AFC SEEDAFC WESTWLTDIV
2LOS ANGELES CHARGERS11-54-2
5KANSAS CITY CHIEFS11-54-2
12DENVER BRONCOS7-92-4
14OAKLAND RAIDERS5-112-4

Some will call me stupid to bet against Andy Reid and Patrick Mahomes. Nevertheless, I do have the Chargers sneaking the #2 seed this year. Don’t get me wrong the Chiefs are still the most explosive team in all of football, but I have seen little to suggest they have improved what was the 24th overall ranked defence in 2018. Additionally, teams have now had an entire year to find Superman’s Kryptonite and although we should still come to expect another MVP calibre season from Mahomes, I would be astonished if the Chiefs were to average 35 points per game for a second consecutive season.

NFC NORTH

NFC SEEDNFC NORTHWLTDIV
3CHICAGO BEARS11-55-1
8GREEN BAY PACKERS9-73-3
11MINNESOTA VIKINGS7-93-3
15DETROIT LIONS3-131-5

Green Bay undoubtedly has the most talented QB to ever grace the game of football under centre, but this alone no longer guarantees success for the Packers in the NFC North. With Mike McCarthy gone one might expect Aaron Rodgers to bounce back from missing the playoffs in each of the last two seasons. However, the competition around Green Bay’s future HOF QB is as strong as it has ever been in his 14 years in the NFL. Make no mistake — the Bears are stacked on both sides of the ball. Yet what Matt Nagy did for Mitch Trubisky’s game in just his first season in Chicago was nothing short of a miracle. If he can get his franchise QB to be more accurate in long yardage situations in 2019 then Nagy could be looking at winning the first back to back AP NFL Coach of the Year Award since Joe Gibbs in the early 80’s — as well as a potential trip to the Super Bowl.

NFC SOUTH

NFC SEEDNFC SOUTHWLTDIV
1ATLANTA FALCONS12-44-2
5CAROLINA PANTHERS11-54-2
7NEW ORLEANS SAINTS9-74-2
13TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS 4-120-6

Yes you read that correctly. I do indeed have the Saints missing out on the playoffs, but allow me to explain. The Saints are clearly the most complete team in the NFC South. However, they are coming off two of the most devastating playoff defeats — back to back — in recent NFL history. I’m not simply suggesting the Saints will suffer an emotional hangover in 2019 — both the Falcons and Panthers simply have to be better then they were in 2018. Each season one team comes out of the doldrums and this year I expect that team to be Atlanta. Put simply they are far too good on paper to finish under .500 for a second successive season.

NFC EAST

NFC SEEDNFC EASTWLTDIV
2PHILADELPHIA EAGLES12-46-0
6DALLAS COWBOYS10-63-3
12WASHINGTON REDSKINS6-102-4
14NEW YORK GIANTS4-121-5

With or without their star RB I do envisage the Cowboys making the playoffs in 2019. However, if they don’t pay Ezekiel Elliott you can bet the house on Dallas continuing their streak of failing to win their first Lombardi trophy since the mid 90’s. Conversely, the Eagles are in prime position to make yet another run. From top to bottom I have yet to see a better roster in the NFL and I fully expect Carson Went to return to MVP level form this season. The Redskins have some exceptional talent but are at least a year away from challenging and unless the Giants finally decide to sit Eli for Daniel Jones — who was a revelation during preseason — then expect more of the same reliance on star RB Saquon Barkley from Pat Schurmer and the G-Men.

NFC WEST

NFC SEEDNFC WESTWLTDIV
4LOS ANGELES RAMS10-65-1
9SEATTLE SEAHAWKS8-83-3
10SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS7-93-3
16ARIZONA CARDINALS2-141-5

Having looked at the business the Seahawks conducted during the offseason its hard not to be impressed. Drafting D.K. Metcalf appears to be an inspired pick by Seattle GM John Schneider and with the additions of Jadeveon Clowney and Ezekiel Ansah, the Seahawks could lay claim to having the best defensive front seven in pro football. However, they are still far too reliant on Russell Wilson and are in a division with the reigning NFC champion Rams as well as a resurgent 49ers. Can they make the playoffs? Absolutely. But the NFC is stacked and inevitably there has to be casualties. Finally, what of the Arizona Cardinals and Kyler Murray? Put simply Arizona GM Steve Keim has set their rookie QB up to fail by refusing to invest in one of the NFL’s worst offensive lines — the same line that failed to protect Josh Rosen last season. Expect them to be drafting #1 yet again come next April.

2019 NFL PLAYOFFS

They say anything can happen in the playoffs and even if you ask some of the most optimistic Saints and Bears fans respectively — it can be downright cruel at times. Nevertheless, although the playoffs rarely disappoint I fully expect the usual suspects to be in the mix come January/February. But ultimately which team will get the privilege of hoisting the Lombardi trophy? Let’s take a look.

AFC WILD CARD

(5) KANSAS CITY CHIEFS (WIN) @ (4) JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS

(6) PITTSBURGH STEELERS @ (3) CLEVELAND BROWNS (WIN)

NFC WILD CARD

(5) CAROLINA PANTHERS @ (4) LOS ANGELES RAMS (WIN)

(6) DALLAS COWBOYS @ (3) CHICAGO BEARS (WIN)

AFC DIVISIONAL

(3) CLEVELAND BROWNS @ (2) LOS ANGELES CHARGERS (WIN)

(5) KANSAS CITY CHIEFS @ (1) NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS (WIN)

NFC DIVISIONAL

(3) CHICAGO BEARS @ (2) PHILADELPHIA EAGLES (WIN)

(4) LOS ANGELES RAMS @ (1) ATLANTA FALCONS (WIN)

AFC CHAMPIONSHIP

(2) LOS ANGELES CHARGERS @ (1) NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS (WIN)

NFC CHAMPIONSHIP

(2) PHILADELPHIA EAGLES (WIN) @ (1) ATLANTA FALCONS

SUPER BOWL LIV

(NFC) PHILADELPHIA EAGLES @ (AFC) NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS (WIN)

So there you have it. Rather predictably I have the New England Patriots winning a record setting seventh championship by gaining revenge over the Eagles. But fear not. This has to be the Bill Belichick and Tom Brady’s last rodeo. Right? J