In a brand new series for BetBright, Ste O’Brien of the UK and Irish Packers, looks back at ‘The Good, The Bad and The Ugly’ from last week’s NFL action, as we begin to look forward to The Playoffs…
The Regular Season is over for another year, the Playoff contenders are known and dates set. Some teams are predictably through to the knock out stages whilst other powerhouses from last year will be watching the show this year from the comfort of their living-rooms. The last week of football was good for some, bad for others and at times just downright ugly.
The San Francisco 49ers acquired QB Jimmy Garoppolo from the Patriots mid season and expectations were high. Working with limited weapons, Garoppolo has engineered impressive game after impressive game, making his trade price of a 2018 second round draft pick look like an absolute bargain. The Niners closed out the season with a win over a second string LA Rams team becoming the first team in NFL history to start the season 0-9 but finish with 6 wins.
The Niners are the only undefeated team in December and 2018 is looking bright for HC Kyle Shanahan now that he has his franchise QB, provided they re-sign Garoppolo to a predictably high priced contract. Jimmy G ends 2017 undefeated as a starter in the NFL, with a QBR through the roof even when blitzed and is worth every cent.
The Minnesota Vikings are for real and they didn’t rest on their laurels on Sunday. They terrorized the Bears defensively and finished the game deserved winners. The Vikings defense has now smashed franchise and league records for some key defensive statistics but their season third down conversion efficiency has been eye watering. They only allowed the Bears one third down conversion on the day which boggles the mind and they completely shut down Chicago’s standout RB Jordan Howard to a paltry 9 yards on 9 carries for an embarrassing 1 yard per carry average.
Despite ending the season as the 2nd seed in the NFC, the Vikings are 2nd favorites at 9/2, to lift the Lombardi Trophy in their home stadium behind the Tom Brady led Patriots (2/1). This has been an incredible achievement for a team who lost their 2 starting QBs to injury in Teddy Bridgewater and Sam Bradford over the last 2 seasons.
In stark contrast, their division rivals, the Green Bay Packers, tanked after losing their starting QB Aaron Rodgers, relying on backup Brett Hundley who they trusted had learned the offense after sitting behind Rodgers for a number of years. Relying on your QB2 never usually pans out well in the NFL, never mind trusting in your third stringer to get the job done, but Case Keenum has been a revelation for the Vikes this season.
The Baltimore Ravens went into Sunday’s game knowing a win would send them into the Playoffs, a place their QB Joe Flacco seems to flourish. What happened instead defies logic and will forever go down in Raven’s history as one of the most crushing defeats ever witnessed in their home stadium. Does that sound slightly hyperbolic? Let me paint the devastation…
The Ravens were all but certain to make the Playoffs. They were playing the Bengals at home who will likely be without their head coach in the near future in a decision that seems to be touted as a foregone conclusion; a team with only 6 wins all year and a team who sported the worst offense in the NFL coming into this game.
Add to that the fact that the Ravens were winning the contest up to the final minute of the game and their defense had the Bengals, a team playing only for pride and mild amusement, attempting a 4th & 12 play with 53 seconds left on the clock. Up steps little known WR Tyler Boyd who hauls in an Andy Dalton pass, the only pass over 30 yards in his career to date, and he brings it 49 yards to the house for the winning score.
Not only was this a devastating end to the season, it was lightning striking twice for a Ravens team who suffered the exact same fate last season in the final minute to the Steelers. Some losses are character building and enforce a toughness in a team. Suffering two last minute Playoff berth ending, crushing defeats in two seasons, falls into the character destroying category.
The Green Bay Packers have struggled without Aaron Rodgers who sustained a broken right collarbone against the Vikings in Week 6. When there was still an outside shot of a Playoff berth, the Packers sent ARod back out there to be cruelly defeated by the Panthers with the game ending limply on a Geronimo Allison fumble. Since that game, the Packers have limped to the finish line with backup Brett Hundley under center and this week’s loss to the Detroit Lions was a fitting end to an embarrassing season.
The entire season post Rodgers injury could be filed under the ugly section but this game epitomized the state in which the Packers find themselves in. Starting the game with an onside kick which was recovered, the Packers oozed desperation instead of ingenuity and their ineffective passing attack was matched only by their lackluster defensive display. Long time DC Dom Capers has been on the hotseat in Green Bay for some time with his ‘bend but don’t break’ style of play, but Sunday’s display was the straw that broke the camels back and he has since been relieved of his duty with Green Bay now in search of a new defensive mind to reinvigorate a defensive unit which looks in serious need of a shake up.
There are always games in certain games weeks that are difficult to watch. The Dallas Cowboys at Philadelphia Eagles game is not one of those games. This game falls into the hazardous to your health category!!!
Re-watching this game might end up in irreversible paralysis and instant dislike of sport in general. The game ended 6-0 with the only score coming late in the game. The game was useful as an indicator of where both teams are at in their development. The Cowboys have taken a huge step back this season and QB Dak Prescott really struggled without RB Zeke Elliot when the RB was eventually suspended by Commissioner Roger Goodell.
The young QB who forced fan favourite Tony Romo into early retirement and a successful broadcasting career has shown his limitations leaving many analysts who declared him elite after a year with egg on their faces.
The Eagles on the other hand have now joined an elite group of their own in the sense that they are one of the only teams in NFL history to obtain the top seed in the NFC but to be regarded, industry wide, to be the underdog of the postseason. Without injured QB Carson Wentz, this talented team look to live and die by the poor performance of backup Nick Foles who showed again why fans should be concerned in his limited and flawed showing against Dallas.
The Playoffs are here…
The Playoffs are always exciting and this year is no exception. We have seen the emergence of teams this year that were wallowing at the bottom of their divisions last year. We see the old reliables grace the schedule in the Steelers and Patriots and also some teams who look likely to be one and done in the Titans and Bills.
That said, the phrase “any given Sunday” exists for a reason and we have seen teams beat the odds and go on a blistering hot streak in January in the past. Make sure you check back in on Thursday to see my vlog preview of what to expect for this weekend’s Stateside action.
Odds are provided at time of writing, please check your betslip to confirm they have not changed before betting.