Will the Saints Go Marching On?
After losing their lynchpin Drew Brees, New Orleans stand-in quarterback, Teddy Bridgewater has gone 4-0 in his place. This record is partly due to head-coach Sean Payton adapting the game-plan to suit and partly due to a defensive unit suffocating their opponents.
The NFC South leaders now welcome the well-rested Chicago Bears coming out of their bye week. The Bears will still feel wounded after falling to the Raiders in London.
The Bears have struggled offensively all season but this week off should have given starting quarterback, Mitch Trubisky enough time to get over his shoulder injury. Trubisky has struggled to move the offense forward all year and as we near the season's halfway point, Trubiksy must show what he is capable of. Failure to light a fire under the Bears offense will leave questions for head-coach, Matt Nagy and the Bears’ front office.
After their 13-6 win over the Jaguars last weekend, the Saints and Bridgewater will be coming under huge pressure from Khalil Mack and his defense, who is trying to keep up with Green Bay in the increasingly tight NFC North race.
This might not be a high scoring game but will be a fascinating one. Both teams will be expecting to reach the play-offs but a loss here, particularly for the Bears, could derail those plans. This is a game that could come down to how the coaches handle it. Payton has been masterful in his approach since their second-week loss to the Rams but Nagy has had two weeks to plan for this one.
Eagles face an air-raid
Carson Wentz is a quarterback who doesn’t deserve to be leading a team with a 3-3 record. For all his quality and plays made, his toiling in the field has been met with dropped catches, fumbles and general misfortune.
On the other side of the ball, the Eagles have not been the same as they have in previous seasons. A solution would have been a trade for wantaway Jacksonville cornerback, Jalen Ramsey. However, two first-round draft pick and one fourth-round draft pick was never on the cards.
Facing the Eagles this weekend are the Cowboys who, at 3-3 themselves, are on a three-game losing streak. However, quarterback, Dak Prescott’s offense rank third in the league in passing yards and will be banking on grounding the Eagles in the secondary.
Surely things must get better for Wentz and the offense. If things stick this time around, this game, already huge due to the historic rivalry, could easily be the game of the week, becoming a shoot-out between the two attacking units.
With the Giants and Redskins propping up the NFC East, either the Cowboys or the Eagles will be guaranteed a playoff berth come January. As we near the halfway mark of the year, both teams are stuttering from one week to the next. In this NFC, the likes of Green Bay, Chicago, Minnesota, Seattle, San Francisco, Carolina, and Detroit have realistic playoff hopes. Whoever comes out behind after this one is looking at an increasingly steep mountain to climb despite the talent they have at their disposal.
Ravens Running Wild
The Baltimore Ravens are swooping into Seattle to face the Seahawks. If it wasn’t for that Eagles/Cowboys match-up then this game would be leading the charge for that title.
On one side you have Russell Wilson who has rarely looked better for Seattle. On the other side there is quarterback, Lamar Jackson, flanked by receiver Mark Ingram. Everything Wilson is doing at the moment is working, while Lamar Jackson takes off downfield like a gazelle outrunning a pack of lions. Despite both teams remaining optimistic in going deep into the post-season, neither team has the kind of defense their current reputation might suggest.
The Ravens rank firmly in the bottom ten of the league for defense against a passing game, though they make up for it as the 4th ranked defensive unit against a running game. The Seahawks rank similarly as a defensive unit against the pass while sitting 11th overall against the run.
It's in the rushing game that the Ravens lead the NFL so far this year. How well Seattle stands up to Jackson or Ingram is the key to who gets the win this weekend.
Call it a curse or call it a hangover but very few teams lose a Super Bowl and come back stronger the following year.
Last season, Sean McVay led his Rams to the Super Bowl on a wave of clever play-calling and outmaneuvering his fellow coaches. Jared Goff was completing every play, Todd Gurley was bulldozing his way through defenses, and Los Angeles was basking in their winning glow.
Now, McVay is either over-thinking or under-preparing, Goff looks a shadow of his former self, and Todd Gurley is out with an injury. The 49ers and Seahawks sit above them in the NFC West and the Rams might struggle to even get back into the play-offs.
It is better than the situation with the Atlanta Falcons, though. After losing the 2016 Super Bowl, they came within six points of a return in 2017. But 2018 was a 7-9 losing season and now, after six games, they are 1-5 for the year. Head coach, Dan Quinn is calling the shots defensively, which has put him firmly on the hot-seat. Quarterback, Matt Ryan - league MVP in their Super Bowl losing year - is a great player but things just aren't happening. For McVay and the Rams, there might not be a better team to play right now, kick-starting that offense and sweating out that hangover.
The Quarterback Merry-Go-Round
The NFL has been a quarterback's league for some time now. Despite the Panthers’ running back/receiver, Christian McCaffrey, becoming a potential MVP this year, the chances of him taking that title away from a quarterback seem slim.
Quarterbacks are like spouses in that statistics suggest half of all marriages end in divorce. Is the NFL any different? There are many factors that can cause breakdowns in relationships but for every happy marriage - such as Brady and the Patriots or Mahomes and the Chiefs - there are multiple others that either need to seek counseling or are just waiting on the lawyers to serve the papers.
Sometimes, a marriage is rushed or simply a mistake. The Cardinals took Josh Rosen as their starter last year before dumping him for Kyler Murray. Rosen is now trying to prove his worth as an NFL starter with Miami.
The way the salary cap works in the NFL is directly related to how the rosters are structured. Mitch Trubisky of the Bears is nearing the end of his rookie contract. The decision for the Bears will soon be whether or not to sign a big contract for Trubisky and then build around him for the foreseeable future.
Miami is sinking fast and is likely to pick the new talent coming out of college first in the draft. Miami will likely choose a new quarterback, give him a cheaper rookie contract, and then build around him in the hope that this leads the Dolphins to future success. Alabama’s Tua Tagavaiola is a probable choice.
There are a lot of teams and a lot of quarterbacks taking a good look at their marriage, deciding whether to double down and renew vows, just as the Rams did by giving Jared Goff a big contract, or look elsewhere. The Titans are surely one of those teams. Starter, Marcus Mariota could find himself cast aside as soon as this weekend, replaced by Ryan Tannehill - no stranger to the quarterback merry-go-round, himself. Does it make Mariota, a Heisman Trophy winner - who was picked second overall by the Titans in 2015 - a bad player? Not necessarily. However, it does mean he will likely be looking for a new team in the offseason.
If Mariota is given the start this week, he must show the league and thirty-one other teams, what he is capable of. The visiting L.A. Chargers might be the team to do it against.
Contributing Author - Rees Dale