Archive for November, 2010

Sunday Night Football Preview – Philadelphia Eagles @ Chicago Bears

If you look at the stats, this one has all the hallmarks of a cracking game.

Both teams hold a 7-3 record. Both top of their respective divisions. They are the top 2 defences in the NFL on defensive turnovers (Bears 29, Eagles 27). However, they have got here in very different fashions. Chicago lean on a tough defence, held together by pro-bowl linebackers Brian Urlacher & Lance Briggs. They don’t allow much through, and that has given a stuttering offence more opportunities to put points on the board. Philadelphia, conversely, are driven by an explosive offence led by the always-entertaining Mike Vick, with an array of weapons such as DeSean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin & LeSean McCoy.

The big factor in this game can be summed up with this question: Can the Bears slow the Eagles offence down enough for Jay Cutler & company to put up points?

Last week Philadelphia racked up 27 points against the top overall defence in the league (at the time – New York Giants). In Chicago’s last game, they could only muster 16 points against a struggling Miami Dolphins side. The Bears run the Tampa 2 defensive scheme, and may do the best job of any team this season at slowing down Vicks running game. In addition, Chicago have only allowed 5 receiving TD’s this season, although they may face a brand new challenge with the speed of Jackson & Maclin.

The Eagles defence is not full of holes either, and they lead the NFL in interceptions with 19. While they will be without their top cornerback, Asante Samuel, Dimitri Patterson (who took over the starting right CB job from Ellis Hobbs) has been playing at an extremely high level. Philadelphias secondary will not be as outstanding as it has been in the last 2 weeks, but Cutler will not have an easy ride.

To make things harder for Jay Cutler, the Eagles are adept at bringing pressure, both off the edge and through the middle, with a blitz heavy defensive scheme.  The Bears quarterback has been sacked more than anyone else in the league this year (33 times) and if his offensive line dont give him time he is either going to make mistakes, or get hit alot. Either way it could be a long afternoon for him.

Who to Watch

Devin Hester – Chicago Bears KR/PR/WR – Hester needs one more return touchdown to become the all time leader in the history of the NFL. If the Eagles have much sense, they won kick it to him. He is an incredibly dangerous runner in open space and does a fantastic job of seeing running lanes. If you see him back to receive a kick or a punt, hold your breath – it may well go to the house.

Winston Justice – Philadelphia Eagles Offensive Tackle – This is not so much a suggestion to watch a tackle all day. Don’t get me wrong, they are stunning athletes and their position is actually one of the most technically difficult to play, but it’s usually more fun to watch the deep passes and long runs than a lineman at work. However, this week Justice will line up at right-tackle against perrenial pro-bowler Julius Peppers. Peppers is a gifted off-the-edge pass rusher, and will be chasing Vicks blindside all afternoon. We saw against the Redskins and Giants – Give Mike Vick time in the pocket and he’ll hurt you. Winston Justice could be the most important man in Philadelphias offense on Sunday night.

Prediction

Looking at the numbers, this seems like an even game. However I think this is a matchup that heavily favours the Eagles.

Philadelphia 31 – 20 Chicago

 

Andy Stuart

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Weekend Predictions (21/11)

Yes, we’re back for a second week of predictions here at UKNFL. Our crystal balls were clearly off last week, and we all had quite abysmal predictions. Andy takes the early honour of being in the lead (and having his photo at the top of the page) with 6 correct predictions. Jamie is close behind on 5 whilst David lags behind on a frankly embarrassing 3. Here are this weeks predictions-


Ravens @ Panthers

David- Ravens

Jamie- Ravens

Andy- Ravens

Bills @Bengals

David- Bills

Jamie- Bengals

Andy- Bengals

Lions @ Cowboys

David- Cowboys

Jamie- Cowboys

Andy- Cowboys

Browns @ Jaguars

David- Browns

Jamie- Browns

Andy- Browns

Cardinals @ Chiefs

David- Chiefs

Jamie- Chiefs

Andy- Chiefs

Packers @ Vikings

David- Packers

Jamie- Packers

Andy- Packers

Texans @ Jets

David- Jets

Jamie- Texans

Andy- Jets

Raiders @ Steelers-

David- Steelers

Jamie- Raiders (I know, I know…..)

Andy- Steelers

Redskins @ Titans

David- Titans

Jamie- Titans (More in hope than optimism)

Andy- Titans

Seahawks @ Saints

David- Saints

Jamie- Saints

Andy- Saints

Buccs @ 49ers-

David- 49ers

Jamie- 49ers

Andy- Buccs

Falcons @ Rams

David- Falcons

Jamie- Rams

Andy- Falcons

Colts @ Patriots

David- Patriots

Jamie- Patriots

Andy- Colts

Giants @ Eagles

David- Eagles

Jamie- Eagles

Andy- Eagles

Broncos @ Chargers

David- Chargers

Jamie- Chargers

Andy- Chargers

So there you have it, if I were you, I would take this advice and go and bet ALL THE MONEY YOU HAVE on these results.

(N.B. This is an attempt at irony, UKNFL does not promote excessive gambling, especially off the back of our predictions.

The UK NFL Team

NFL Sunday: Previews and Predictions.

Ravens @ Panthers

So, the Ravens, a team with one of the league’s most superstar-laden defences, face off against the Panthers, a team without their two starting QBs. They have been forced to bring in Brian St Pierre, a man who has never started a game in the NFL despite being active for eight years. This can surely only go one way.

Prediction: Ravens 35 Panthers 3

Bills @ Bengals

Terrell Owens returns to Buffalo (he was there last season, honestly) on a rich vein of form, which is more than can be said for the hapless Bengals. Tipped highly at the start of the season, the Bengals have fell to 2-7, and what might have seemed unthinkable at the start of the season could easily happen this weekend, as the Bills have won nine straight against the Bengals, and could easily complete the feat again on Sunday.

Prediction: Bills 17 Bengals 14

Lions @ Dallas

Coming off the back of only their second win of the season last week in New York, Coach Garrett’s Cowboys will hope to finally give the Dallas crowd a win at home. They will be favourites to beat a Lions side still without Matthew Stafford at QB, and the ‘Boys will be looking for Dez Bryant to be their big-play WR for consecutive Sundays.

Prediction: Lions 14 Cowboys 21

Browns @ Jaguars

The Jags ride back home on the back of a ridiculous victory last weekend, as David Garrard’s last ditch 50-yard Hail Mary beat the Texans with time expired. The Browns endured a horrible OT defeat to the Jets, but will still think back to their Week 9 defeat of the Patriots to prove anything is possible, and they have beaten the Jaguars on their last three meetings. Maurice Jones-Drew and Peyton Hillis will compete in a battle of the running backs in a game that will most likely be tight, as even when the Jags are good, they rarely win big.

Prediction: Browns 24 Jaguars 21

Cardinals @ Chiefs

The Chiefs have faded from a fantastic start to 5-4, but should be perfectly capable of beating the Arizona Cardinals in Week 11. After a stellar statistical performance last week in a defeat, Matt Cassel will look to get his two stars running backs in Thomas Jones and Jamaal Charles going this week against a weak Cardinals defence. Kansas’ own D will look to improve after giving up a whole load of points last week against Denver.

Prediction: Cardinals 14 Chiefs 35

Packers @ Vikings

Ever since he went to the Vikings in 2009, this game has only been about one man. Favre, Favre, Favre. The Vikings are done for the season if they fail to beat their biggest rivals here, and Brett Favre is deservedly in the spotlight. The aging QB has 21 turnovers this season, whilst Green Bay are opening to catching those picks, with 19 take-aways themselves (and a massive eighty points coming off those turnovers). Vikings have one-up on their rivals in the running game, but the Packers defence may be too much for Favre, Peterson et all to cope with. Green Bay could hammer the final nail in the Vikings’ coffin here.

Prediction: Packers 28 Vikings 21

Texans @ Jets

The Texans go to New York enjoying a mixed season, whilst the Jets are flying high above all expectations at 7-2. One of the Jets’ biggest strengths this year has been their sturdy run defense, and Houston’s own strengths play right into the Jets’ hands. Arien Foster may struggle to get anything out of New York, whilst Mark Sanchez’ transformation into the real-deal could let to the Jets having a field day through the air.

Prediction: Texans 7 Jets 21

Raiders @ Steelers

The Oakland Raiders are on a three-game winning streak, and are enjoying one of their better seasons in recent times. However, they haven’t beaten the Steelers since 2002, and will face a tough task this Sunday. Darren McFadden leads the NFL in yards-per-game this season with 108.1, but comes up against a Steelers defence that has only allowed one 100-yard rushing game in a mammoth 43 match-ups. The Steelers are banged-up a little and endured a mauling at the hands of the Patriots last Sunday, whilst the Raiders are coming off a bye-week, but Jason Campbell is not Tom Brady, and the Raiders will have their work cut out at Heinz Field.

Prediction: Raiders 14 Steelers 28

Redskins @ Titans

There are more stories off-the-field than there are on it in this match-up. Randy Moss arrives for his first home game in Tennessee, whilst Albert Haynesworth returns to his own team. Donovan McNabb jets into Tennessee on the back of one of the most unexpected contract extensions of the season, and it may not be a happy day against the Titans for the QB. Whilst both Kerry Collins and Vince Young are struggling with injuries and consistency, the Redskins defence have given up a shocking amount of yards this season, and the Titans should still easily find a way through on the run.

Prediction: Titans 28 Redskins 10

Seahawks @ Saints

The story of this game is the return of Reggie Bush from a broken leg, against the NFC West-leading Seattle Seahawks. The ‘hawks have little in the offensive line to protect their key asset, Matt Hasselbeck, and Drew Brees will look to return to the Championship-winning form he displayed in Week 9, albeit against the Panthers. With the Saints at home after enjoying a bye, a win should be relatively straight-forward.

Prediction: Seahawks 7 Saints 28

Bucs @ 49ers

West Coast versus East Coast in San Francisco, in perhaps one of the most unpredictable games in Week 11. Troy Smith comes off two straight wins in his first games as 49ers QB, which although impressive, have seen some wild throws and more than a few strokes of luck. Josh Freeman is proves to be another impressive youngster at QB for the Bucs, who will not leave the playoff picture alone. The Frank Gore Show may prove to be the difference between the sides.

Prediction: Bucs 14 49ers 17

Falcons @ Rams

Recent weeks have seen the Falcons become serious Superbowl contenders. Matt Ryan has begun to move from ongoing rookie to the league’s elite, and the Falcons will look to reproduce their invincible home form on the road against the Rams, who also look impressive in the own backyard. No. 1 pick Sam Bradford will have to play out of his skin to defeat the high-flyers from Atlanta.

Prediction: Falcons 21 Rams 17

David Dickson

Sunday Night Football Preview – Indianapolis Colts @ New England Patriots

Take two of the best quarterbacks in the modern game, the two most successful teams of the last decade, add a dash of rivalry, and the importance of playoff spot and you can’t help but admit that Sunday night’s game between the Indianapolis Colts and the New England Patriots has all the ingredients for a cracking matchup.

The two sides seem to have been a staple of AFC Championship games for the last decade, but in fact the Patriots haven’t even made that game since January 2008, where their unbeaten regular season ultimately ended in disappointment at the hands of Eli Manning and the New York Giants in the Superbowl. Prior to this they had won 3 Superbowls out of the previous 7 as Tom Brady &  Bill Belicheck built a dynasty.

Repeating the Superbowl success of 2006 has thus far eluded Peyton Manning and the Colts however. Despite recording more regular season wins than any time has in any decade, they seem to be making a habit of coming up short in the playoffs. Last season saw them make it to the Superbowl only to leave to the seemingly unstoppable force that were The New Orleans Saints.

So far this season, both teams have got themselves into good positions to make a playoff push, despite losing key personnel. The Patriots lost number 1 receiver Randy Moss, and once again have found themselves relying on young receivers, notably tight ends Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski, and an inexperienced running game, with Tom Brady once again managing to transform an offense into a unit greater than the sum of its parts. They currently sit on top of the AFC East with the New York Jets with a 7-2 record, including an impressively dominant win over the Pittsburgh Steelers at Heinz Field last week.

The Colts on the other hand currently have an injury-ravaged offense marshalled by Peyton Manning. It seems like every front-line receiver on the Colts Roster has suffered one injury or another. Their defence has dropped below the high standard they kept up last season, and have particularly struggled against the run, with rookie Arian Foster destroying them on the opening weekend. Despite these issues, you can’t rule out a team with Peyton at the helm, and they are leading the AFC South with a 6-3 record.

Ones to Watch

When given time in the pocket, there are few quarterbacks in the NFL as dangerous as Tom Brady, and last week against the Pittsburgh Steelers was a prime example of that. For that reason Guard Logan Mankins is my key man for the Pats. After being drafted in the first round in 2005, he had a stunning 2007 season where he allowed only one sack and was selected to both the Pro-Bowl and All-Pro sides.  This season he refused to sign his tender until recently and his performance last week was his first of the season. The impact to the side was tangible and Brady was afforded an obscene amount of time in the pocket and was able to pick apart the much vaunted Steelers defence. If Brady gets the same amount of time against a struggling Colts defence then he could inflict serious damage.

For the Colts, how can you look past Peyton Manning? His 13 years in the NFL have seen him dominate the league. In that time he has been selected for the Pro-Bowl 10 times, had 5 All-Pro selections and an NFL record 4 MVP awards. He has been named player of the decade, and led to Colts to a period where they won more games than any team in any decade and won a Superbowl. This season has seen many of Manning’s key weapons injured and Peyton have to lead a bunch of rookies and backup players to the top of the AFC South. Last season he masterminded a comeback to beat the Patriots the matchups between him and Tom Brady always produce fireworks. The one that has the better day may well come out on top.

Prediction

The Patriots were dominant against a strong Steelers team last week, and up against a banged-up Colts team they will fancy their chances. One can never rule out a team led by Peyton Manning however.

Patriots by 3.

 

Jamie Cutteridge

Sunday Night Football Preview – New York Giants @ Philadelphia Eagles

The NFC East carries some of the most vicious, long standing rivalries in the NFL. Sunday nights game between the New York Giants & the Philadelphia Eagles is no different, dating back to 1933, with this being the 151st contest between the teams. This particular matchup is made all the more interesting as 1st place in the division is on the table.

The Giants, 6-3, had a fantastic start to the season, with many touting them as the best in the NFC. However, they have not been able to shake the criticism that they have yet to beat an elite team this year. Their two early season losses came against the Colts & Titans, while last week they fell to a reinvigorated Dallas Cowboys side. The Giants will be looking to bounce back from that disappointing loss, and they certainly have the ability to do so. On the back of a scary defensive line led by Osi Umeniyora (8 Sacks, tied 3rd in the NFL), New York have the 1st ranked total defence, allowing an average of just 270 yards per game. They also have a wealth of offensive weapons. Hakeem Nicks is tied for 1st in the NFL with 9 recieving touchdowns, Ahmad Bradshaw is 3rd in the NFL with 838 rushing yards and Eli Manning, the man leading it all, is tied 1st in the NFL with 19 touchdown passes.

While they certainly have the weapons to get it done against the Eagles, they will face perhaps their toughest challenge of the season against Philadelphia’s offence. The word that best fits their play at the moment is ‘explosive’, and theres not much more that can be said about Vick’s emergence as a potential MVP candidate that hasn’t already been said. The Eagles were a good team last year with Donovan McNabb under center. Vick is certainly throwing as well as McNabb was , and whats difficult to explain is how much of a nightmare it is for defences to contend with passing ability coupled with running back-like elusiveness. The Eagles showed against the Redskins that you can take away a few weapons from their offence but they still have options, with 6 individial players scoring touchdowns. The Giants will have realised very early in their preparation for this week that they will struggle to stop the Eagles scoring, and to win this one they will simply have to go out and outscore them on offence.

Ones To Watch

The Giants are going to rely heavily on Hakeem Nicks. As mentioned, he leads the leage with 9 TD’s this year and has become Mannings favorite downfield target this season. While traditionally a power running team, I see this game has being a straight shootout and the Giants will have to pass the ball more than they might like. They will need their best reciever.

Eli Manning, while leading the league in TD’s, has also thrown the 2nd most interceptions, and “leads” the NFL in turnovers (INTs + Fumbles). Asante Samuel is one of the best cover cornerbacks in the game and has 5 INTs this year so far (2nd NFL). The Eagles like to blitz more than most teams, and this will force Eli Manning to make quick decisions, which is not a great strength of his. Dont be suprised to see Samuel walk away from this game with a pick or two.

Prediction

I really think this is going to be a full on NFC East shootout. 1st place in the division is on the line, not to mention bragging rights and both teams are going to be fired up for it. The historic rivalry has been high scoring in recent years, and I’m not expecting that to change this weekend. You really don’t want to miss it.

New York Giants 38 – 45 Philadelphia Eagles

 

Andy Stuart

Midseason Roundup – The Off The Field Soap Opera

For the first ten weeks of the NFL, the on-field action has been action-packed and wildly unpredictable. Perhaps the most predictable part of the season so far has been the inevitable controversy off the field, with coaches fired, players arrested, and a certain wide receiver embarking on a personal quest to score a touchdown for every team in the league within a season. Here’s a look at what has shocked the more naive fans of the NFL so far this season…

Randy Moss’ Incredible Journey

 
One of the greatest wide receivers to ever grace the game, Randy Moss spent the first four weeks of the season at the New England Patriots, but committed the ultimate sin from the first week in trying to be bigger than a team under the rule of General Belichick. Telling CBS Sports (and more or less anyone that would listen) that he ‘didn’t feel wanted’ in New England, Moss started the season with few catches before being rewarded with the trade he desired. He would return to the Minnesota Vikings, the team he built his career at for seven years, starting in 1998 until he left for the Oakland Raiders in 2005.

 
Trades happen in the NFL, even unpredictable big ones like this. What doesn’t happen too often, however, is that after such a big trade, the player is then waived four weeks later. But there aren’t too many players like Randy Moss. He swept into Minnesota on a wave of media attention, before a four week rollercoaster of chaos ensued. Moss started well, catching a touchdown in his opening game, but proceeded to make only thirteen catches in his four games for the Vikings, and became more of a royal pain in the horns for Vikings fans as opposed to a star catcher of the football. He criticised the food in the camp, slated his teammates and coach, refused to speak to the media (incurred a $25,000 fine) and spoke endlessly about his desire to return to the Patriots, where all was good and holy. After a month in Minnesota, coach Brad Childress reached his wit’s end, and Moss was waived.

 
Month number three of the season meant team number three for Randy. The only team who felt they could deal with Moss’ tantrums in the waiver jumble sale were the Tennessee Titans. With Kenny Britt injured, the Titans clearly felt Moss had something more to offer in the coming season. These feelings might prove misplaced, since Moss caught only one pass for 26 yards in his opening game against the Miami Dolphins. What happens next, who knows…

 

Destruction in Dallas

 
It always seems that the Dallas Cowboys rise to the top of the bookies’ tips for the Lombardi trophy at the beginning of each season, before usually letting down their faithful come the playoffs. However, Cowboys fans could have been forgiven for holding out some hope in 2010. A triple-pronged running attack, a quarterback ready to finally fulfill his potential, a collection of star wide receivers and a powerful defence placed the Cowboys at the top of the teams-to-beat in most eyes at the beginning of the season.

 
Even by Cowboys standards, the self-destruction of their own hype came spectacularly early in the first ten weeks of the season. Despite unfortunate moments such as Tony Romo’s (borderline) season-ending injury, much of the criticism around the winless Cowboys Stadium centred around coach Wade Phillips (their only win in the first nine weeks came in Houston in week two). When a coach is criticised in Dallas, the leading man in the ensuing soap opera is Dallas’ very own JR, owner Jerry Jones.

 

No off-the-field review would be complete with a comprehensive review of Jerry’s thoughts on his team’s season. The only issue up for debate is whether Jones really counts as being ‘off the field’, since when things go wrong, he’s usually prowling the sidelines, spouting nuggets of wisdom to smiling-and-nodding defensive tackles half his age and six times his weight.
When things started to go wrong in Dallas, Jerry stayed behind his coach. After a late defeat to Tennessee in week five, Jones would not even entertain the idea of ridding Dallas of Waddlin’ Wade. After a week six defeat to the Vikings that left the Cowboys 1-4, Jones still stood by his man. Even after a humiliating defeat at home to the witless Jacksonville Jaguars that left the Cowboys, Jones was ‘not in any way’ ready to sack Phillips. Only a complete crushing by the Green Bay Packers shook Jones into action. General Manager Jimmy Johnson wielded the axe on Jerry’s instructions, and Wade was evicted from Texas, probably with the same expression on his face he seemed to display come touchdown or pick.

 

National Flippin’ Lockdown

 
Fred Davis. Gerard Lawson. John Gill. Fili Moala. Braylon Edwards. Bret Lockett. Dwayne Jarrett. Pat McAfee. Jerramy Stevens. D.J Williams.

 
No NFL season would be complete without its superstars being arrested for a variety of misdemeanors. McAfee was nicked for allegedly swimming in a canal whilst ‘publicly intoxicated’, whilst Prisoner Stevens was cuffed for possessing cannabis with intent to sell. However perhaps the most common name in the list above is that of Jets wide receiver Braylon Edwards.

 
Edwards has been arrested so many times in the past few years, they may as well leave wanted posters up throughout New York all the year round. Speeding violations are the usual ticket; as recently as 2008 Edwards was caught doing a Vettel-esque 120mph in a 65mph zone in the city. This time last year, Edwards was busy assaulting party promoter (and mate of Lebron James) Edward Givens in a New York nightclub. This season, our favourite con has downgraded to simple drink-driving. After police pulled over his car for having ‘overly-tinted’ windows (!), Edwards was found to be twice over the legal limit for alcohol, and was arrested. All of this despite the fact that the Jets have their own chauffeur service for any of their players, 24/7, due to other incidents involving their players and a few too many over the years.

 
Despite all this, the Jets were happy to play Edwards in a grudge match against the Dolphins later in the week. Maybe, unlike Moss, some players are bigger than the team…
So, the NFL has had it fair share of headlines so far this season. We have gone through this entire article without mentioning Tom Brady’s hair, Rex Ryan’s weight loss and the fact that the population of the Vatican City regularly fills Jacksonville’s stadium week-in, week-out. We’ll save that for Week 17.

 

David Dickson.

Midseason Roundup- The AFC

10 weeks into the season and the league is starting to take shape. It’s been  a crazy ride so far, and if the previous weekend is anything to go by, this isn’t going to change anytime soon. Pre-season a lot of the focus was on NFC teams (Packers, Cowboys, Saints), whilst the favoured AFC teams (Jets and Ravens) were seen if solid if unspectacular.

The early weeks of season however were dominated by the AFC as teams such as the Titans, Steelers and Colts picking up impressive wins against some of the strongest teams in the NFC seemed to prove pre-season predictions false. With teams picking up impressive wins all over the place, picking playoff teams, let along superbowl contenders, from the AFC seemed impossible, but over the recent weeks the NFC have bounced back, giving the playoff picture a bit more shape, and maybe evening up the competition between divsions.

The Top Teams and Playoff Picture

The two teams with the best record in the AFC sit utop the AFC East. The Jets and Patriots both hold 7-2 records and look impressive. In the last couple of weeks the Jets have sneaked two wins in overtime whilst on Sunday Night the Pats posted possibly the best team performance of the season to seal what could be a defining win over the Steelers. The Pats team has a youthful look to it after losing Randy Moss, but Tom Brady is doing a fine job of leading this time whilst Bill Belichek has done what he does best in creating a team better than the sum of its parts.

In the AFC South, as one would expect the Colts are on top, once again led by perennial MVP contender and future hall-of-famer Peyton Manning. Numerous injuries across their offense however means that they haven’t been perfect and have suffered 3 losses to teams they would normally expect to beat. Behind them the Titans have the talent to push them close, but despite adding explosivity to their offense in Randy Moss, failed to shine at the weekend, suffering what could be a crucial defeat to the Dolphins. There are plenty of matchups between these divisional teams and the Jaguars and Texans will fancy their chances of a playoff push.

In the North, the Steelers and Ravens look set to battle all the way to end for the divisional title after disappointing defeats in week 10, both sitting on 6-3 at this point. The Steelers started impressively, despite losing quarterback Ben Rothlisberger for the first 4 weeks but were disappointing on both sides of the ball in their weekend loss to the Patriots. The Ravens seem to have changed identity from last season. The traditionally strong defense have struggled, whilst a solid if unspectacular offense have blossomed with a raft of options for Flacco to aim at, and the option to hand it off to Ray Rice.

Surprises/ Disappointments

Perhaps the biggest disappointment of the year have been the Cincennati Bengals, last years AFC North winners seem to have lost any kind of defense, and despite adding Terrell Owens to their roster are yet to explode on offense, with running back Cedric Benson a particular disappointment.

The madness of the AFC West perhaps deserves a blog, if not website of its own. Pre-season Superbowl contenders San Diego Chargers, despite Phillip Rivers being on course to break all kinds of records, have suffered their traditional slow start, hampered by an abysmal special teams unit, and sit on a disappointing 4-5 record. Ahead of him, are the two surprise packages, the Kansas City Chiefs, who with an offense led by Matt Cassell have improved steadily and have a real shot at the playoffs. As, shockingly, do the Oakland Raiders! The traditional joke team of the league have upped their game and have found an ability to hold onto the ball, play solidly, and punish mistakes. Despite being a laughing-stock before this season, if Tom Cable guides this team to the playoffs, he is a hero!

Standout Players

More so than the NFC, the AFC has been dominated by the offensive side of the ball, in particular, the Quarterbacks.

Peyton Manning-Despite suffering injuries to key offensive targets such as Joseph Addai, Dallas Clarke, Austin Collie and Reggie Wayne Peyton has once again found a way for his team to win games. Their offense may not have been as spectacular as in recent years, but Peyton has done what he does best and lead an offense that continues to cause problems for defensive co-ordinators and win games despite a defense that has once again struggled.

Phillip Rivers– Lets face, for the most part the Chargers have been poor this season. They’ve managed to lose games that they looked to have won, and their special teams unit have barely functioned. Despite this, the team lead the league in yards, and quarterback Phillip Rivers is on course to beat Dan Marino’s 26-year old record for regular season passing yards. Similarly to to Manning, this has been in the face of injuries or absences to key targets Antonio Gates, Malcom Floyd and Vincent Jackson.

Arian Foster- A surprise this one. At the start of the season, Arian Foster wasn’t even expected to start for the Houston Texans, but after week 10, and despite starting one game on the bench, Foster is having a breakout season. He leads the league in rushing yards (920), rushing touchdowns (10) and also has over 300 recieving yards and a touchdown, a dream for fantasy owners! This is even more impressive if you consider that the Texans are traditionally a pass-first team, with one of the best targets in the league in the shape of Andre Johnson.

Championship Prediction

It’s really open but I’ve got to go with the quarterbacks that are leading winning teams, despite coming up against some good defenses, we are going to see Brady and Manning facing off once again, with the Patriots beating the Colts. If this is going to happen, it makes this sunday’s game between the two even more mouth-watering!

Jamie Cutteridge