PREVIEW: Patriots versus Steelers Sunday December 17

For all intents and purposes, we all know that Sunday afternoon’s game between the New England Patriots and Pittsburgh Steelers will determine which team will clinch the #1 seed in the AFC playoffs, and secure home field advantage throughout the postseason.

Interestingly enough, the Steelers enter this game as the underdog (the latest lines have the Patriots as three-point favorites in the football odds for Patriots game), despite the fact that Pittsburgh is not only riding an NFL-high eight-game winning streak and has the best record in the conference, but also has generally played a bit better in the friendly confines of Heinz Field, versus on the road (they’re 11-2 at home, compared to 11-3 on the road, since the start of 2016).

But then again, we’re talking about the Patriots. Even with the ugly loss against the Miami Dolphins last Sunday evening, New England is still the highest scoring team in the AFC (averaging 28.3 points per game), but also has the second-highest point scoring differential in the conference as well (+118). With the season-ending injury to Carson Wentz last Sunday, Tom Brady may have found himself in the proverbial driver’s seat for the NFL’s Most Valuable Player (MVP) award, which would move him into a tie with Jim Brown, Earl Campbell, and Kurt Warner as the only individuals to win the award three times over the course of their career.

New England’s famous modus operandi of attacking opponents is described as “making their opponents play left-handed.” In other words, they identify what the opposing team does best, devotes their top resources towards eliminating the opponent from relying on that, and forcing them to have to rely on “Plan B.”

But in terms of the Steelers, which “poison” is the Patriots comfortable with picking? Do they focus on stopping wide receiver Antonio Brown, who is in the midst of an MVP campaign of his own? Or do they worry about stopping running back Le’Veon Bell, who leads the NFL in both rushing yards and total yards from scrimmage?

That’s the challenge the Steelers present. Bell’s patience, vision, and ability to rip off chunks of yards time and time again is absolutely demoralizing to opposing defenders, and he could make life very miserable for a Patriots rushing defense that’s ranked 23rd in the NFL in rushing yards allowed per game, and dead last in the league in average yards per carry allowed by opposing runners.

And then there’s Brown, who is not only on pace for his 5th consecutive season with at least 100 receptions, 1,200 yards receiving, and nine touchdowns, but has averaged almost 10 catches for over 130 yards and more than one touchdown over the last four games. Brown has easily distanced himself from all other peers at his position, and sits alone atop the “best wide receiver in the NFL” discussion.

Of course, it’s not like the Patriots’ defense will be the only unit with the totally unenviable task of stopping the opposing offense; the Steelers offense will spend all week answering the nearly-unanswerable question of “how do we slow down Brady?” Pittsburgh’s pass defense was already something of a question mark, and with the loss of speedy linebacker Ryan Shazier (to a very scary spine injury on December 4th), that could open up spots on the middle of the field, which Brady is lethally effective at exploiting.

Plain and simple: in this battle among the AFC’s top heavyweights, expect an old-fashioned shootout between two of the best offenses the conference – and the league in general – has to offer.

PREVIEW: Eagles at Hawks Sunday Night Showdown


Between the Philadelphia Eagles and Seattle Seahawks, who will square off in the nationally-televised game on Sunday evening, the narratives seemed pretty entrenched before the season started.
Given the betting odds for Philadelphia Eagles at Seattle Seahawks game everyone wants a piece of the action. The ff-winners.com artificial intelligence computer projects Seattle to win 25-22.

One of these two teams was the presumed favorite to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl, thanks to a ferocious defense that could single-handedly wrest control of the game from whoever they played, and an MVP-caliber quarterback who could make up for the fact that the team really didn’t have any other stars on offense.

The other team was likely going to be right in the playoff mix themselves, but probably on the outside looking in around this time of year. There were a lot of interesting and talented pieces on defense to work with, and they had a promising do-it-all quarterback of their own, but they didn’t quite seem like they could compete with the very best that the conference had to offer.

Of course, back in September, everyone thought the Seahawks fit that first team description, and the Eagles fit that second team description. And yet, entering the first week of December of 2017, it’s actually the complete opposite.

In a conference that legitimately has as many as 10 teams who could realistically challenge for a playoff spot, the Philadelphia Eagles have been head-and-shoulders above the other nine teams – if not any other team in the NFL. The last time they lost a game, it was still technically summertime (September 17th). They’ve outscored teams by a league-leading 160 points, which is 37 more points than the team with the second-highest point differential. We’re barely clearing our Thanksgiving meals off the table, and yet the Eagles could very likely clinch a playoff spot already.

Meanwhile, if the playoffs started today, the Seahawks would snap a five-year playoff streak, as they’re currently behind the Atlanta Falcons in the playoff standings (both teams have a 7-4 record, but Atlanta has the head-to-head victory tiebreaker). The previously impenetrable Seattle defense has been decimated by injuries along the defensive line, but especially among the pillars of its vaunted “Legion of Boom” secondary; cornerback Richard Sherman and safety Kam Chancellor have both been placed on season-ending injured reserve.

But what really makes this game worth watching is the duel between the two quarterbacks playing in this game. We’re very likely looking at two of the three finalists for the 2017-2018 Most Valuable Player award.

Through 12 weeks this season, Carson Wentz of the Eagles leads the NFL in touchdown passes (28), and could become only the third quarterback in NFL history to lead the NFL in touchdown passes in his second year of the league; the other two guys who did so are in the Hall of Fame: Dan Marino and Kurt Warner.

Wilson gets overlooked because he’s seemingly not even the top quarterback in his own conference. But, he has the third most touchdown passes this year (23), is second in total touchdowns (passing + rushing) only behind Wentz, and averages 35 more passing yards per game than Wentz (275 to 240). You could easily make the argument that the Seahawks would be in much bigger trouble if they lost Wilson to a long-term injury, versus if the Eagles lost Wentz to a similar injury.

Regardless, Seattle is going to give Philadelphia everything they have on Sunday evening. The Eagles find themselves in a really tough spot, having to play the Seahawks in Seattle, knowing in the back of their mind that they’ll face the NFC West-leading Los Angeles Rams one week later. If the Eagles were going to lose again at some point in the regular season, early December looks like the time frame for that to happen.

Game Preview: Arizona Cardinals versus Los Angeles Rams (London, Sunday, October 22, 2017)

This Sunday, the Arizona Cardinals and the Los Angeles Rams travel to London for their game. NFL betting for the Cardinals vs Rams game  has the Rams as the 3.5 point favorite  with a total score of 47. However, FF-Winners AI-generated prediction (52-33 ATS this year) favors Arizona by 2 with a total of 44.

We’re now over one-third of the way through the 2017 NFL season, and the Los Angeles Rams are sitting atop the NFC West with a 4-2 record. Before the season started, if you had told any NFL fan that this is how the first six games of the season would go down in that division, they would have thought you had never watched football before.


Over the last three weeks, the Rams have been scoring an average of over 34 points per game, thanks to the innovative play designs of first year head coach Sean McVay, and the hard running of a rejuvenated Todd Gurley. This past Sunday, the Rams headed to Florida and picked up a very quality road win against a Jacksonville Jaguars team that has been one of the more fun stories in the NFL this season. The Rams put up 27 points on a team that was holding opponents to less than 17 points per game this year.
This Rams team looks like it’s legit. If they can get a defense that’s ranked 27th in the NFL in opposing yards per game to come together, this could be a fascinating team to watch down the stretch of the season.

After a big win against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers last week, the Arizona Cardinals seemingly got their season back on track, pulling back to a 3-3 record halfway through October. They’ll travel to London this week to take on the Rams, hoping they can snap the trend of playing poorly away from home; they’re 2-0 at home this year, and 1-3 on the road.

Expect the Cardinals to feature another heavy dose of the newly acquired Adrian Peterson, similar to what they offered Tampa Bay last week. Peterson went for 134 yards rushing and two touchdowns last week, looking reminiscent of the Peterson we remember from five years ago. This week, he — and the Cardinals — will face a Rams defense that’s 29th in the NFL in rushing yards allowed per game, while allowing an NFL-high eight touchdowns this season.

Ironically, while the spotlight was on Peterson after last Sunday’s performance, Arizona quarterback Carson Palmer also enjoyed his best performance since his MVP-caliber season in 2015, throwing for 283 yards and three touchdowns while completing 81.8% of his passes that day. He threw the ball in the direction of the guy who still might be the most reliable wide receiver in the NFL in Larry Fitzgerald, who caught 10 passes for 138 yards, and is currently 6th in the NFL in receiving yards.

It’ll be up to the Rams’ defense to keep the football away from the Arizona offense, and ensure that Peterson doesn’t slow down the game by keeping the Rams’ offense off the field. Arizona’s defense is still very talented, but the way McVay has been calling plays for the Rams, if there’s an opening somewhere, he’ll certainly find it and exploit it. The Cardinals also don’t play very well when they’re away from home, so Los Angeles has to do whatever it can to continue to make life uncomfortable for Arizona.

Game Preview: Green Bay Packers at Minnesota Vikings (Sunday, October 15, 2017)

Riding high after their huge victory against the Dallas Cowboys last Sunday, the Green Bay Packers are riding high as they enter brand-new U.S. Bank Stadium this Sunday, as 3.5-point favorites against the Minnesota Vikings according to NFL betting odds for Packers vs Vikings gameAnd that’s exactly why they could be in position for a big upset this weekend…

When we think of the Vikings, we first think of their defense, thanks to the organizational philosophy laid down by head coach Mike Zimmer. Minnesota enters Week 6 of the NFL season with the 11th-ranked defense in the NFL. They have star players at every level of the defense. Defensive end Everson Griffen is third in the NFL in sacks (six). Cornerback Xavier Rhodes has been one of the best in football this season. Outside linebacker Anthony Barr is a freakish athlete that does so many things for them.

But even with the in-and-out from Sam Bradford due to various injuries, this offense has been deceptively good as well. Minnesota actually averages more passing yards per game (357 — 5th most in the NFL) than Green Bay (336.6 — 11th most in the NFL). It’s even more disparate when you look at each team’s rushing attack: Minnesota averages 118.2 yards per game (#11 in the NFL) versus Green Bay’s 91.6 yards per game (22nd in the NFL). In place of promising rookie Dalvin Cook, who was lost to a season-ending injury to his ACL, Jerick McKinnon provided a spark to Minnesota’s offense, evidenced by his 146 total yards against the Chicago Bears on Monday night. Wide receiver Stefon Diggs is in the midst of a breakout season of his own, sitting in 5th place in the NFL with 395 receiving yards. And the Vikings are just as likely to spread the ball around to the rest of their offense, as they are to force-feed their stars. On Monday evening, quarterback Case Keenum — playing in place of the injured Bradford — threw 16 of his 21 passing attempts to his running backs and tight ends.

Of course, the great equalizer in this entire game — or any game Green Bay plays in — is Aaron Rodgers. At some point, it just feels like we’re going to run out of superlatives to describe his level of play. Tom Brady is the greatest quarterback of all time right now, but Rodgers is the best in the game as of today. His stats don’t tell the whole story (although his league-leading 13 touchdown passes certainly help), but the way he puts the Packers on his shoulders, week after week, is unlike anything we’re seeing in the league today (this side of New England, anyway).

Minnesota’s defense has held Rodgers to less than 220 passing yards in each of the last three games these two have played in Minnesota. Of course, the Packers are 2-1 in in those games, thanks to the balance provided by the Packers rushing attack.

Minnesota handled two very potent offense at home already: New Orleans in Week 1, and Tampa Bay in Week 3. They should be well aware of this, given that they play them twice a year, but if Green Bay is not careful, they could have their hands full.

But as of right now, Green Bay looks like they’re one of the two best teams in the NFC, alongside the Atlanta Falcons. While this game should be a really good matchup, the Vikings aren’t quite as dangerous as the Packers… or as Rodgers, anyway.

My Pick: Green Bay.