NFL Ones to Watch: Play-off places on the line

In Week 13 we saw the Chiefs lose again, the NFC play-off race is tight, and as you read this, the matchups this week could yet complicate things further.

Even the once 0-6 Giants aren’t out of it yet. As it stands, 28 out of the 32 teams in the league, are in playoff contention. That’s ridiculous!

This week, we have no teams on a bye, so again, score by score, the playoffs can get less or more complicated.

The first focus is on the clash at the Mercedes Benz Superdome between the two teams atop of the NFC South, as the Carolina Panthers take on the New Orleans Saints. Both teams are on 9-3 records coming in, and the winners of this one are more than likely to seal a play-off berth.

The Panthers line up with the 24th ranked offence, second ranked D line, 27th ranked passing and their rush game is also in the top ten at ninth overall. They also come into this one having won eight in a row!

The individuals who could make the difference to take them to their 9th in a row are as follows:

  • Steve Smith and Greg Olsen whom have the most receptions and yards with 54, 632 & 50, 611 respectively and 8 TDs between them.
  • QB Cam Newton who has 226-366 with 2616 yards and 19 TDs. Newton is in his 3rd year, and at just 24 years old and is in the midst of a solid season, which could get even better next season, with a solid core around him. Even more threat comes from the running line and in particular DeAngelo Williams with 151 carries for 610 yards and 2 TDs, but QB Newton has six rushing TD’s off 447 yards from 82 rushes.

On the flip side we have the Saints’ picks of:

  • Drew Brees who is, by far and away, their star player . With numbers of 29 TDs from 323 completions and totalling 3794 yards it is easy to see why.
  • His primary receiver with 988 yards off 68 catches for 12 touchdowns is Jimmy Graham. Brees does spread the ball about though, so it isn’t all on Graham.
  • On the ground meanwhile, Pierre Thomas has the key yardage which could swing this game towards the Saints with his touchdown off 486 yards. The Saints line up with the O line, D line and Passing game all in the top ten (sixth, eighth and third respectively) while their rush is languishing down in 23rd. All things considered, the Panthers have the more solid numbers, while the Saints are more spectacular, and you know the old saying about consistency – it doesn’t mean a thing in a battle like this.

Secondly this week we take a trip over to the AFC as we look at the Indianapolis Colts as they take on the Cincinnati Bengals.

Both teams lead their divisions within the AFC to a tune of 8-4.

The Colts are consistent, and with three of their four team rankings are ranked 20th, with only Defence (22nd):

  • The Colts have Andrew Luck with 2793 yards and 15 TDs from a 243-418 completion rate.
  • His main outlet is TY Hilton with 56 catches, with 5 TDs for 791 yards at an average of 14.1 yards per carry.
  • Reggie Wayne and Coby Fleener are decent secondary options with 6 TDs between them for a total of 1047 yards combined.
  • Their rushing game consists secondarily of Donald Brown [although he has more yardage from less carries] 71 attempts for 378 yards and 4 TDs, and primarily Trent Richardson who has 108 rushes for 306 yards and a pair of TDs.

The Bengals on the other side of the field, have all four inside the top 20, with their Rush line lowest at 18:

  • Led by Andy Dalton with 22 TDs for 3144 yards off 266-433.
  • Dalton is backed up by the duo of A.J Green and Marvin Jones who each have 7 TDs, although Jones has them off only 32 catches for 458 yards, while Green has 72 catches and 1103 yards, this indicates that he can catch for a first down and a lot more.
  • The Bengals rushing game doesn’t appear to be all that impressive, but it actually beats the Colts by three yards per game. The star rusher for the Bengals is BenJarvus Green-Ellis with 4 trips to the end zone for 614 yards off 176 carries. Backing him up is Giovani Bernard with 119 carries 521 yards and he has crossed the plane of the goal line 4 times.

Finally, this week we look at the Dallas Cowboys on the road as they tackle the Chicago Bears.

This game has importance on the NFC East as the Cowboys and Eagles are locked in a tie for first with a 7-5 record. The Eagles are hosting the Lions who lead the NFC North by a game over the Bears.

Firstly, it is the Bears who, on paper, have the advantage here as they line up eighth, 28th, 6th & 19th which are opposed by the Cowboys at 23rd, 32nd, 15th & 27th.

The Cowboys have at their disposal:

  • Tony Romo at QB whose season to date reads like this : 285-440 with 24 TDs off 3140 yards.
  • The receivers unit is led by Dez Bryant with 9 TDs with 896 yards from 68 catches through the air. Jason Witten also knows where the sticks are, [not that it matters when catching] but his numbers of 6 TDs from 54 grabs of the squashed like object with 622 yards make it a tricky prospect even for the Bears superior D.
  • The Cowboys rushing line is DeMarco Murray with 7 trips off 142 carries totalling 697 yards.

Chicago Bears have these spots that will be of significance:

  • Jay Cutler [high ankle sprain] again misses out so Josh McCown will deputise with 120-184 , 1461 yards and 9 TDs.
  • Brandon Marshall has received the ball 78 times for 990 yards and 9 TD whilst Alshon Jeffrey and Martellius Bennett each have five TDs to a tune of 70 carries and 1109 yards & 48 carries totalling 545 yards respectively.
  • Running the ball is Matt Forte; he has seven touchdowns from 214 attempts with 971 yards accomplished. Alshon Jeffrey has also chipped in with 14 carries for 115 yards.

All in all, a very enticing prospect this week, and three very exciting looking match-ups on paper. I look forward to seeing how many teams potentially slip out of contention, while others cement their places in the next phase of the season.

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