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Friday, 3 October 2014

The Three Best Must See NFL Matchups In Week 5

This weekly article will highlight, preview, and predict, three key player matchups and must see NFL games.

The NFL is known by many coaches, players, and fans, as “The Not For Long league”. The NFL is the most unpredictable and exciting sport in the world.  Fans and media will often make snap judgments on players and teams each week. As a fan of the NFL for 20 years, I want to give fans some insight on the best matchups each week of the NFL season. This article will highlight, preview, and predict, key player matchups and must see NFL games. Fans who read this article will gain insight on the big games and matchups that affect the NFL, as well as fantasy football.

Matchup No. 3 - Indianapolis Colts’ Andrew Luck vs. the Baltimore Ravens defense.

Right now Luck is playing quarterback at the highest level. In back to back weeks Luck has powered the offense. He has put up at least 370 passing yards, 4 passing touchdowns and 41 points in wins over Jacksonville and Tennessee. Let’s face it, the Colts competition has been weak, but Baltimore is no pushover! The Ravens are currently on a three game winning streak. During this streak they have dominating wins over playoff hopefuls Pittsburgh Steelers and Carolina Panthers. The Ravens needed a very late comeback to defeat division rival the Cleveland Browns.

In his brief career, Luck has been the master of the 4th quarter comeback. In his first two seasons he has led eight 4th quarter comebacks. He orchestrated the 2nd best playoff comeback of all time last year. The Colts overcame a 38-10 3rd quarter deficit over the Kansas City Chiefs. Luck has all the tools you could want in a franchise quarterback; size, accuracy, arm strength, athleticism, intelligence and leadership. Throughout his career the Colts have struggled early in games, needing miraculous comebacks to win.

Great teams and quarterbacks dominate and don’t allow inferior teams to hang around. To be successful in this matchup against the surging Ravens, four quarters of outstanding football is required. Football is the ultimate team game, so the Colts will need major contributions from Reggie Wayne, T.Y. Hilton and Ahmad Bradshaw. Wayne is Luck’s go to guy. He makes the tough catches that keep drives alive. Hilton brings a much needed big play element to this offense. Hilton’s 4.34 40 time is freaky fast. He is much more than a speed guy. He is skilled at eluding defenders in space and turning short gains into big plays. Bradshaw is technically the backup running back but is outperforming current starter Trent Richardson. He can make plays on his own that Richardson isn’t capable of doing. Bradshaw has much more speed and elusiveness than Richardson. Bradshaw has also excelled in the passing game with four receiving touchdowns. Those four receiving touchdowns rank him 5th in the entire NFL!

Luck has supreme confidence in his ability and his teammates. His supporting cast is much deeper and consistent than last season. It would seem like I’m ready to crown the Colts as the Super Bowl Champs. In the words of ESPN College Football Analyst Lee Corso, not so fast my friend. Luck’s fatal flaw in his career has been turnovers. One turnover often turns into two which may even turn into three turnovers. He will have to avoid turnovers against this Baltimore defense.

The Ravens run defense is very good currently ranked 7th overall. Their pass defense is weak only ranked 24th overall. This could be problematic because Indy is a much stronger passing team than a running team. The Ravens linebackers must create havoc on defense. This season, linebacker Elvis Dumervil has 3.5 of the team's 4.0 quarterback sacks. The Ultimate X factor will be linebacker C.J. Mosley. This rookie from Alabama is leading the team in tackles, tackles for loss and passes defended. He has also forced and recovered a fumble. His early season is impressive but don’t forget that he is still a rookie! I expect the offense to challenge Mosley early and often and to see how he holds up. I can see a lot of misdirection, screens and even receiver reverses as they see how disciplined Mosley plays.

Matchup No. 2 - Dallas Cowboys Demarco Murray vs. the Houston Texans run defense.

If everything is bigger in Texas what do you call this matchup between two Texas rivals? The Texas Two Step Bowl presented by Jerry’s World? One liners aside, this is a fantastic football matchup. The Dallas Cowboys are making a lot of haters eat crow during their current three game winning streak. The Cowboys defense is much better than most would have expected. The run offense is carrying the load right now. Murray is the 4th running back in NFL History with 100+ rushing yards and a rushing touchdown in the team's 1st four games. The Texans are a surprising 3-1, considering that last season they went 2-14. The Texans are a balanced team. They can win on offense and defense. They have big time playmakers in Andre Johnson and DeAndre Hopkins. Arian Foster when healthy is a rare workhorse running back. The defense is fast and physical.

Murray is the focal point of this team right now. The Cowboys will go as far as Murray can take them. When Murray runs for 100 yards the Cowboys are 8-3. The Cowboys have always favored the pass but now are showing a commitment to Murray and the running game. Murray has run for at least 100 yards in each game, that is a big reason why they are now 3-1. The Cowboys have realized they have a great offensive line that can control the game on the ground. They also have a talented running back that can carry the load. Murray is one of the most versatile backs in the game. He is a very strong runner with deceptive speed. He can run inside and outside. He can break tackles with his power and can juke defenders with a nice stutter step. He is also a strong receiver in the backfield. He has elevated his performance in the red zone. He has been finishing goal line runs with touchdowns. He also broke open last week’s game with a 15 yard touchdown run. As good as Murray has been, he has had a fumbling problem this year. His three fumbles lost leads all running backs. He can’t afford to fumble this week against the Texans which thrive on turnovers.

Speaking of turnovers the Texans are tied for the league lead with nine turnovers forced. Their five fumble recoveries are also tied for the league lead. The Texans defense has forced four interceptions this season. As we learned last Sunday not all interceptions are created equal. Buffalo was leading 10-7 and had a golden opportunity to build their lead until J.J. Watt intercepted an E.J. Manuel pass. Eighty yards later, this defense end made a house call reservation for six. Watt’s touchdown return gave the Texans their 1st lead that they would never relinquish. Watt is a complete football player. He is a dominant pass rusher but also an outstanding run defender. His presence will open up opportunities for teammates to make plays. Defensive end Jared Crick stepped up last week with 1.5 sacks. If he complements Watt on the defensive line then watch out. Ultimately, Murray vs. Watt is the heavyweight battle which will decide the ultimate outcome.

Matchup No. 1 - Denver Broncos’ Peyton Manning vs. the Arizona Cardinals defense.

What in the world happened to the Broncos high octane offense? So far this season, Denver is scoring less points in each game, going from 31, 24, to 20 points scored. To date, the Broncos have only scored one more point then the Cleveland Browns. Last season the Broncos broke all kinds of offensive records for yards, points and touchdowns. This season the New York Jets actually average more total yards per game then the Broncos. The Cincinnati Bengals and the Arizona Cardinals are the only remaining undefeated teams. This year the Cardinals defense is winning games for them. They have the 2nd best scoring defense allowing only 15 points per game. This team could win a lot of games and challenge the Seahawks for the division if they can play this well on defense.

Truth be told, some regression from the Broncos' recording breaking offense should be expected. The Broncos' running game hasn’t produced, which is making the offense very predictable. Manning thrives on play action, but without an effective run game those fakes don’t work as well. The Cardinals have the 4th best run defense, allowing less than 72 rushing yards per game. I expect the Broncos' running game to be stuck in neutral so Manning is the key for this matchup. The Broncos and Cardinals are each coming off a bye which should help each team recover from injuries. Wes Welker should be healthy and is a great slot receiver. Several times Welker will extend drives with crucial 1st down catches. Julius Thomas’ five receiving touchdown ties him for league lead. Emmanuel Sanders has been a major addition; his ability to make big plays is much needed for this offense. Demaryius Thomas only has 141 receiving yards and 1 touchdown. He is capable of getting that production in one game. He is converting less than half of the passes thrown his way into catches. Demaryius Thomas is much better than that. He needs to become a dominant #1 receiver to bring some life into the offense. For most of the season Manning has played conservatively, he is rarely taking chances down the field. Finally, late in the Seattle game Denver challenged the defense and it led to some big plays. I hope Denver unleashes Manning this week against the Cardinals. I want to see a great quarterback challenge a great defense and see who comes out on top.

The Cardinals are not a defense that forces a lot of big plays. They have forced only 3 sacks which is 2nd worst overall. They have forced 5 turnovers which is just about average. Their run defense is really good but their pass defense is only 18th overall. Facing Manning will be a great challenge for their pass defense. Cornerback Patrick Peterson is the best defensive playmaker on this team. He has the size, speed, quickness and ability to be a shutdown cornerback. He will line up against Demaryius Thomas often but he can play several positions. Peterson could also cover Welker in the slot. Julius Thomas is having another outstanding year so Peterson may shadow him as well. The best defense for a Manning offense is a great pass rush. Defensive end Calais Campbell is a massive presence at 6’ 8” and 300lbs. He is a good pass rusher so he has the opportunity to make impactful plays against Manning. I predict the first team to score 21 points will ultimately win this game.


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