NFL Ones to Watch: Road to Recovery and Wembley

So, the Giants (finally) win, the Broncos lose and the Chiefs remain alone in ‘Perfectville’. Strange.

The three games to keep an eye on in Week Eight are Steelers at Raiders, Falcons taking on the Cardinals, and from Wembley Stadium, 49ers vs Jaguars.

There are six teams on a bye week, of these it is the Bears that will be most glad of the break, having lost their QB Cutler last week for possibly their next three games due to a groin strain.

I’ll start with the Steelers from Pittsburgh as they take on the Raiders from Oakland. The reason I chose this is that a few weeks ago, Pittsburgh looked devoid of ideas, and looked on the fast lane to reaching 0-16. However, just three weeks after going into their bye week winless, the Steelers have definitely used that time to their advantage, and come into this one with a two-game winning streak.

They still aren’t quite in contention for the play-offs, but if they can get a .500 record next week when they visit New England, they can certainly put pressure on the rest of their division. The numbers here suggest that the Steelers will make it three wins on the bounce, as they out rank Oakland 20,6 & 12 to 24,12& 32 on Offense, Defence and Passing. The Raiders have the numbers on Rushing with an advantage of 9 to 27. Roethlisberger’s numbers are looking healthier and he has a go to guy in Antonio Brown who is averaging just under 12 yards per carry, from 47 carries for 2 TD’s on 548 yards total.

On the other side of scrimmage , Raiders have a QB with numbers of 89-138, 1061 yards with a completion rate of 64.5%, and his main receiving threat is Denarius Moore with an average of 16 yards per carry.

This may be close initially, but the Steelers should gain the advantage after the half and gradually pull away for the W.

Secondly, we see Arizona Cardinals hosting the Atlanta Falcons. It wasn’t supposed to be that the Falcons would be two games under .500 when training camps started. Yet here we are, with the 9th ranked O line, and the 3rd ranked Passing team taking on 29th ranked Offense, and 17th ranked passing, with secondary numbers of 16 & 17 D line and Passing, taking on 20 & 3 for the Falcons.

Somehow, the Falcons have the better numbers, yet have a worse record. Carson Palmer with Larry Fitzgerald at his line takes on Matt Ryan who has Julio Jones at his disposal; and again it is the Falcons with the more impressive numbers – Ryan’s 171-244 with 1922 yards and 13 TD’s & 41 carries for 580 yards at a little over 14 YPC for 2 Receiving TD’s (Jones) compared to Palmer’s 161-266 for 1741 for 8 TD’s & Fitzgerald’s 422 yards at an average of 13.2 per carry for 4 TD’s off 32 receptions.

This will be one of the nitty-gritty fixtures in which the Falcons should win and they really need to win, in order to put their post season desires back in full swing.

Finally, the NFL embarks into Wembley Stadium once again for the second of two International Series games. We find a team that looks almost certain of victory because of the opposition, as the 49ers will be looking to add to their training camp ambitions to surpass last season’s run to the Super Bowl and to lift the Lombardi Trophy high into the night sky. The teams to beat going into the season were the 49ers and many people had a feeling for the Falcons to be battling out the NFC Championship game with them.

It should be like a practice game for the 49ers as their mid-range offensive line (17th), their top 10 defensive line (8th), and their top three rushing line (3rd), all outrank the Jags 32nd, 28th and 32nd in the same categories, however, the NFL is a passing league, and the Jaguars hold the advantage here (21–31) although the 49ers have the much better quarterback here in Kaepernick, so the difference should be two five-yard penalties at the same time, offset.

They also have a slight advantage in their 1-2 receiving core (Boldin and Davis over Shorts and Blackmon).

Jacksonville just do not score enough to trouble the 49ers, and they will look to start their bye week early here. The Jaguars will be glad of the experience to play in London however, and it could pave the way for a future franchise move in a few years.

The Jaguars should take note, that of all the Wembley games, bar those that have involved the New England Patriots, have been pretty close, and decided by a TD or less (13-10, 37-32, 24-16, 24-18 & 34-27).

The Jags will also be back in this stadium in one of next year’s International Series games, in fact they host one game until at least 2016. On the 49ers last visit; they won as they hosted the Broncos.

This should be pretty entertaining and a great spectacle of the sport.

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