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Sunday Football Preview: 10 Things To Look For

Sunday Football Preview: 10 Things To Look For
How long till Peters is the game's best cornerback?
  1. The desperate situation in Jacksonville: Expectations which have steadily built in Jacksonville over the past two seasons, reached a crescendo over the offseason with an enormous spending spree and an aggressive draft strategy. However, three games into the football season the situation already looks bleak. Blake Bortles looks completely lost, having regressed enormously from last season. The high fire offense has struggled to move the ball, particularly against the Chargers and Ravens. At 0-3 this shapes as a must win for the Jags, which is particularly worrying considering we’re still in the first month of play.
  2. The number 1 offense in the league is……Atlanta: That may surprise some people, but statistically it’s true, the Falcons currently possess the league’s best offense. Through the first three weeks the Falcons have run up big scores on the Saints, Raiders and Bucs (albeit in a losing effort), now they’ll face their first real defensive challenge. Defending NFC Champions, Carolina Panthers. The Falcons offense has certainly diversified so far in 2016. Jacob Tamme, Mohammad Sanu, and Tevin Coleman have all stepped up in the receiving game, taking targets and pressure away from the elite Julio Jones. Furthermore, Devonta Freeman has looked strong in the running game and will test out a Panthers defense that hasn’t been at its best to this point.
  3. Ravens looking for 4-0, Raiders face their first real challenge: There’s a real feeling of optimism in Baltimore right now, as the Ravens lead the AFC North at 3-0. But perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised, the Ravens are one of the best run organizations in the game, and 2015 could easily be considered an aberration thanks to an enormous injury toll. The Raiders for many years now haven’t been one of the best run organizations, but GM Reggie McKenzie has started turning Oakland’s fortunes around, with strong drafting and healthy recruitment. Just quietly this could very well be the match of the round.
  4. Quarterback conundrum in New England: Only Bill Belichick seems to have any inkling as to whom will start at quarterback for the Patriots on Sunday. Both Jimmy Garoppolo and Jacoby Brissett are far less than 100% right now, but Belichick will require either one or both to play the Bills this weekend as the Patriots don’t have another true quarterback on the roster (sorry Julian Edelman). Reports seem to be indicating that Garappolo will get the start, and another chance to secure himself a monstrous contract at season’s end. Fortunately the Patriots have another healthy quarterback to call upon from week 5, one Tom Brady.
  5. Battle of two great defenses in the Meadowlands: Anyone with expectations of multiple touchdowns and explosive offensive plays in this game, will need to re-evaluate their expectations. The Jets and Seahawks possess two of the finest defenses in the league, with the Seahawks defense a shade more skillful and versatile. The Jets will be looking to make life for Russell Wilson highly uncomfortable, whose offensive line has been extremely sub-par thus far, not to mention the multiple leg injuries Wilson’s suffered over the past fortnight. The Jets’ own Ryan Fitzpatrick will receive his own challenge from the “Legion of Boom” after his…. shall we say apocalyptic performance last week in Kansas City. It will be a classic for fans who love old fashioned football.
  6. The Cardinals looking to erase some early season demons: In this writer’s opinion, no football franchise has a stronger or deeper roster than the Arizona Cardinals in 2016. The excuses for the Cardinals NFC Championship game collapse and a pretty poor start this year have run out. This is simply a game they must win and win well, to stay within striking range of the Seahawks in the NFC West. Carson Palmer and his pass catchers need to vastly improve, particularly John Brown and Michael Floyd. The deep passing game which was so effective and game-breaking in 2015 hasn’t been visible this time round. That needs to change. Additionally, the cornerback position opposite Patrick Peterson(and corner depth) remains an issue, one that Jimmy Garappolo targeted mercilessly in week 1.
  7. Time for the Saints defense to stop somebody. Or at least slow them down: The issues in the Saints defense have been clear for the past two and a half seasons; holes everywhere, no pass rush and zero covering ability in the secondary. On Monday Night Football, Matt Ryan and co marched down the field on each drive with ease and had the Saints offense not scored points themselves, the final scoreline could’ve looked nasty. Real nasty. The biggest issue is the lack of a pass rush, the Saints are 23rd in the league for sacks. Worse still, they’re 31st in total yards allowed indicating that their run defense is in hardly better shape. The good news? Philip Rivers and the Chargers offense have already lost two of their most integral pieces Keenan Allen and Danny Woodhead, so if they’re a chance in any game this is it.
  8. That insane Denver defense: Any thoughts of a major regression on the part of the Broncos defense has quickly been forgotten. They’re as dominant and frightening as ever. Trevor Siemian had his best game by far last week in Cincinnati, and he has one of the strongest 1-2 wide receiver combos to help his progression in the passing game. Over on defense, Von Miller is playing at an MVP level, Brandon Marshall and Derek Wolfe are nightmares in the middle and the secondary lead by the criminally underrated Chris Harris Jnr. Their next targets on this perfect run of their’s, is sophomore quarterback Jameis Winston and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
  9. Houston looking to bounce back: The Texans franchise was embarrassed in Foxboro last week. From top to bottom, recruiting, coaching, offense, defense and special teams. Bill O’Brien will be smarting, and will be driven to the extreme to get his talented side back on track. However, the loss of JJ Watt likely for the remainder of the year, is a huge blow to any Super Bowl aspirations the Texans have. Fortunately the AFC South is a virtual dumpster fire, and the Texans even without Watt are still the class of the division. Their opponents this week are the struggling Tennessee Titans. The Texans will be craving a win to get their reasonable start to the 2016 season back on track.
  10. A bounce back performance form Big Ben and the Steelers offense: Pittsburgh got their butts handed to them last week, in Philadelphia. Carson Wentz shredded their defense. Fletcher Cox and company mauled their running game and held the offense to a miserly three points! The Chiefs defense, in particular star cornerback Marcus Peters will be a tough test for the big play, explosive Steelers offense. The return of Le’Veon Bell is an enormous bonus for their all-round offensive. At his best he’s the best back in the NFL, bar none. His return should take some of the pressure off Big Ben and the anticipated matchup between Peters and Antonio Brown should be a cracker!

Australian Sports Journalist. Writing and talking about the sports that I was never talented enough to play!