Yet another week of intriguing matchups with four games that could go a long way to deciding the shape of the playoffs including Jared Goff’s debut for the Rams. The weekend gets underway with a strong Ravens defence trying to slow down a Cowboys offence that has looked almost unstoppable and ends with the Raiders hosting the Texans in Mexico. There is also radio coverage on Five Live Sports Extra of the Patriots at the 49ers.
Ravens at Cowboys
Last meeting: Cowboys 29 Ravens 31 (14/10/12)
Overall record: Ravens lead series 4-0
A battle between the best rushing defence and the best rushing offence as the Ravens head to Dallas. We’ve all read about Ezekiel Elliot and his MVP chances this week and he is going to have to be at his very best to break this tough Baltimore defence. The Ravens are giving up a little over 70 yards per game on the ground this season while Elliot is going for over 110. Something has to give here and it has the potential to be the best match-up of the whole weekend.
The Ravens offence isn’t exactly firing on all cylinders. They are in the bottom half of the league in rushing and passing but with the defence proving to be one of the best in the league, they have a formula that could well carry them to a division title and once there, we’ve seen what the Ravens can do.
Both teams need this one. The Giants are lurking behind the Cowboys and any slip up could let them back in. The Ravens lead the division but the Steelers and Bengals are both still within touching distance. Whoever wins this will be in a great position as we head towards the end of the season.
Dolphins at Rams
Last meeting: Rams 14 Dolphins 17 (14/10/12)
Overall record: Dolphins lead series 10-2
This may not be the best game of the week but it may well be the most intriguing as Jared Goff makes the first start of his NFL career. The first overall pick from this year’s draft will take over from the struggling Case Keenum as Jeff Fisher looks to kick start this Rams offence. Goff hasn’t been deemed ready to go all season so it is hard to really see him making a huge difference but his big arm may open things up for Todd Gurley and help him get back to last season’s form.
The Rams are coming off a win but they scored just six points against the Jets. It was against a very bad offence but Fisher will have been delighted that his defence managed to hold the Jets to just a single first half touchdown. That defence will need to play well again as they go up against a Dolphins offence that has looked very good since they have started to lean on Jay Ajayi and the running game. Ajayi has over 600 yards and four touchdowns in his past four games and has been one of the best players in the league over the past month.
This is a big game for both of these teams and one that they will both feel like they can win. A loss for the Rams would almost certainly end any hopes of playoff football and a loss for the Dolphins would put them in a precarious position in a competitive AFC.
Packers at Redskins
Last meeting: Packers 35 Redskins 18 (10/1/16)
Overall record: Packers lead series 20-14-1
It’s hard to really say what has happened with the Packers this year but the whole team just feels a little lifeless. Aaron Rodgers has played well at times but it hasn’t been often enough. The defence got off to a good start but has been struggling lately. The whole thing just feels a little stale. The NFC north has not been great this year and for that reason, the Packers still have a chance but something will have to change quickly if they are going to make the postseason.
The Redskins have been heading in the other direction. The season started with two losses but since then they have been 5-1-1 and have put themselves right in the mix in the NFC. The team will have a big decision to make in a few months when it comes to Kirk Cousins but right now he is playing well enough to lead an offence full of weapons past a struggling Green Bay team.
There has been more and more talk about Mike McCarthy and his position with the Packers. A loss here could be the beginning of the end of his time in Green Bay. With Rodgers the team always have a chance, but the Redskins will be seen as fairly strong favourites for this one, particularly at home.
Texans at Raiders
Last meeting: Texans 30 Raiders 14 (14/9/14)
Overall record: Texans lead series 6-3
The last of this year’s International Series games. Not in London however, in Mexico.
Perhaps the biggest surprise package this year, the Raiders head to Mexico looking almost certain to be playing playoff football for the first time since 2002. They got a huge win over the Broncos in their last game before heading to the bye and they may well be favourites to win the AFC west now.
Derek Carr has been fantastic all year and has established himself as one of the favourites for the MVP award. However, in his first two years in the league he has struggled down the stretch after getting off to a good start. It will be interesting to see how Carr has developed this year and if he can keep up his great start to the season.
He is throwing to perhaps the best pair of recievers in the league. Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree have been a huge part of the team’s offence and why they have the record they do. This week they go up against a very good Texans defence that boasts Pro Football Focus’ no.1 ranked cornerback, A.J. Bouye. This may be the key matchup in this one.
Brock Osweiler’s struggles have been well documented. The quarterback was handed a huge contract by the Texans but has not lived up to it so far. He will need to turn things around quickly with the Titians and even Colts lurking behind them in the division and looking ready to punce on any slip up by Houston.
This game rounds off a week of very intriguing matchups and it will be interesting to see how the game in Mexico compares with the games held in London.
Follow Author Dave Gray on twitter at djg23
Read more from Dave and other UK NFL fans at FirstandTen.co.uk