WE’VE made it to the final month of the NFL season! All the Antonio Brown stories, Christian McCaffrey fantasy points and Lamar Jackson highlights later we are left with just 64 games left before the postseason gets underway. Dallas and Philly need to get their act together and the MVP race is set up to finish with a bang, but they aren’t the only things worth talking about.
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New York Jets Run Defense
THE 4-8 New York Jets aren’t where you’d expect to find the best run defense in the NFL; and yet, here we are. Through a dozen games, the Jets have allowed just over 900 rushing yards, topping the league for stinginess on the ground. Over the past five weeks, the team has allowed just 239 rushing yards and it’s no surprise to see that success translate to a 3-2 ledger in those five games. Ezekiel Elliott back in Week 6 is the only player so far to gather 100 yards this season against New York and it’s a shame the rest of their team hasn’t been as dominant as their D-line or their 2019 campaign might’ve amounted to something.
The MVP Race
LAMAR Jackson has established himself as the MVP favourite in the past month or so of football, but he has some noteworthy competitors. Deshaun Watson and Rusell Wilson both deserve to be included in the top-3 right now and I’m willing to listen to any arguments over the order that trio should be placed. It makes for a memorable sprint to the MVP finish line with dark horses like Michael Thomas, Aaron Rodgers and Stephon Gilmore also worth mentioning. I’d be shocked if one of the top-3 didn’t win the award with Jackson slowly distancing himself from the entire field.
Image from si.com
AS the season has progressed, Buffalo has been getting more and more production out of rookie back Devin Singletary. The man affectionately known as ‘Motor’ is improving rapidly now that a hamstring injury is behind him, with his season total 553 rushing yards now overtaking Frank Gore – by one yard – as the team’s leading rusher in 2019. It’s somewhat fitting with Singletary decisively passing Gore on the Bills depth chart in the process and they’re going to need him if Buffalo is going to survive the 3rd-hardest remain strength of schedule.
IT’S been a long, long season for Brian Flores in his first year running the Dolphins. Miami did their best to give him a terrible team, trading away young talent for future draft capital that led to a 0-7 start for the club. It hasn’t been all doom and gloom though, with Flores getting the most out of his troops in the last five weeks, leading to three W’s against some quality opposition. Topping the Eagles and Colts gave the Dolphins a pair of impressive scalps and leaning on their improving passing attack to build momentum for 2020 and beyond could see them cause another upset or two to close the season.
THE one time 2-4 Titans are flipping the script and surging up the AFC standings right now. Winners of five of their last six contests, Tennessee is just one game behind Houston in their division and is a big-time chance to qualify for the postseason with a wildcard berth. Since Week 7 only two teams have scored more points than the Titans, with a league-best 10 rushing touchdowns helping to up their scoring output.
DERRICK Henry (seven of those TD’S) has been a driving force on the ground rushing for 724 yards. No one else has more than 570 yards in the same time span. Henry isn’t the lone player helping to boost Tennessee with the play of quarterback Ryan Tannehill the real catalyst behind the Titans climb. The former Dolphin boasts the third-highest passer rating since becoming the team’s full-time starter and if he and Henry can keep this up, the dull mediocrity that has followed the Titans for years might finally be over. Might.
DEAR Jon Gruden, I, no WE need to apologise. When the 2019 season started, no one thought Oakland would be a good football, let alone one that is still in the playoff picture with a month to go. Buoyed by the favourite for Offensive Rookie of the Year honours in Josh Jacobs and an improving pass rush, this Raiders team has the pieces necessary to be successful for a lengthy period of time in the NFL.
NO longer is your $100 million dollar contract a laughing matter, instead, turning Derek Carr into an efficient passer and restoring the reputation around your coaching ability has that hefty payday looking like money well spent. I still have some doubts over the longevity of this success, but there is now a bright future with the
Oakland Las Vegas Raiders that I didn’t see coming.
THE fact that the Washington Redskins can still win this division tells you all you need to know about the NFC East in 2019. The Eagles, Cowboys, Redskins and Giants have worked in harmony to become the NFL’s worst quartet with a 16-32 combined record the lowest win total out of all eight divisions.
UNFORTUNATELY, given the way the playoff seedings still work, one of these four will be the 4th seed in the NFC and a Week 16 showdown between Dallas and Philadelphia will likely determine the winner of the East. On paper that sounds like a fun football spectacle, but given the level of play in their division this year, I think I’ll still give it a miss…
WITH Kai Forbath being waived after just one game with the team, New England is now on the hunt for their fifth kicker of the season. Forbath missed an extra point attempt against Houston while also converting a 29-yard field goal and another extra point. The veteran kicker, who ironically owns the NFL record for consecutive field goals to begin a career with 17 replaced Luke Falk who replaced Nike Nugent who replaced an injury-reserve ridden Stephen Gostkowski.
CURRENTLY, New England doesn’t have another kicker on their team and questions around their scoring ability are a concern for the Pats – especially given the lack of weapons Tom Brady has to march the ball downfield with. If they can’t punch the ball into the end zone, they’ll need the kicking game to be on point if the Patriots want to maintain their label as the title favourites.
Image from foxsports.com.au
THIS one is pretty self-explanatory. Simply put, the Browns have failed this year with their seemingly exciting offense plagued by inconsistencies, turnovers and a lack of professionalism leading to a 5-7 record. The unprofessionalism was one full display before Cleveland vs. Pittsburgh 2.0 with Freddie Kitchen’s questionable wardrobe choice firing up the Steelers who went on to cause an upset. Odell Beckham has been held to under 100 receiving yards for six straight games, the longest stretch in his career and with Baker Mayfield’s fitness (and diet) coming under fire, Cleveland seems destined to continue tumbling after showing such promise a year ago.
THE play of the sixth overall pick from a year ago was concerning long before news broke that he was donning a moon boot. There was no easy way to bring Daniel Jones into the mix thanks to the blind faith they showed Eli Manning, with the rookie thrown straight into the fire from Week 3. At first, Jones landed on his feet leading New York to a pair of wins and allowing Giants fans to optimistically cast an eye to the future. Eight straight losses have halted that glass half full mindset.
JONES’ low completion percentage has evaporated some, not all, but still some of the confidence that he was displaying a few months ago. If Jones does miss some time, it paves the way nicely for Eli Manning to finish out the season and embark on a farewell tour effectively his career. Given New York’s bleak 2019, finishing the season on a high is about the nest they can hope for.
Coaches on the Hot Seat
THE coaching carousel has churned out another member following Ron Rivera’s firing and if Week 13 was anything to go by, he won’t be the last domino to fall. I had six coaches in the “five games to save their job” category in my hot seat power rankings last week and an 0-6 mark from the lead men may have just sealed their fate. Losing streaks from the Eagles, Chargers and Cowboys could turn up the heat on another trio of coaches as this year’s ‘Black Monday’ firing day shapes up as an eventful one for those who clean house.