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Saturday, 13 December 2014

The Three Best Must See NFL Matchups In Week 15

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


Matchup No. 3 - New England Patriots Tom Brady vs. the Miami Dolphins’ defense.

This is my under the radar matchup of the week. The Miami Dolphins always seem to give the New England Patriots fits. More often than not, this game will go down to the wire. In Week 1 the Dolphins overcame an early deficit to defeat the Patriots. The Patriots led 20-10 at the half but were outscored 23-0 in the 2nd half. The Dolphins at 7-6 will likely need to win out if they want any chance to make the playoffs. The Patriots control their destiny, if they win out they will clinch home field advantage in the AFC. One loss could allow the Denver Broncos to steal the home field away from the Patriots.

Tom Brady is having another stellar season. Few players at age 37 can carry still play at the highest level. One of Brady’s biggest blemishes this season was the Week 1 loss to the Dolphins. The Patriots were shut out for the entire 2nd half. The Dolphins pass rush dominated the Patriots offensive line. Brady was in constant duress and barely completed half of his passes. The Patriots allowed a season high four sacks in that contest. With so much on the line I expect a bounce back game for Brady.

Since that week 1 contest the Patriots offensive line is much improved. Brady’s ability to diagnose defenses and make split second decisions is critical to his success. He has a quick release and his accuracy is outstanding. Even at his relatively advanced age he still has a strong arm and can make any throw on the football field. Brady’s go to guy is always going to be Rob Gronkowski. Gronkowski plays the game as physical and fearless as anybody. His versatility is something to watch; he has tremendous size and speed, outstanding hands and is a great blocker. No matter the time or situation he will be an asset on the football field. Outside receiver Brandon LaFell could be a much needed big play threat. He has good size and speed and if he can make plays he will open up the field for Brady. Ultimately, Brady’s ability to dominate will be difference in this matchup. 

The Dolphins defense has been much better than one might expect. They rank top 10 in passing yards allowed, total yards allowed, points allowed and turnovers forced. They have several strengths on defense that are important to note. Their pass rush allows them to force sacks and turnovers at a high level. Defensive end Cameron Wake is one of the best pass rushers in the game. You can pencil him in around 10 sacks each season. This season he already has 9.5 sacks so he could be on his way to a pro bowl season. Cornerback Brent Grimes is having a standout year. No cornerback has faced more stud receivers than Grimes. To date he has faced, Randall Cobb, Jordy Nelson, Brandon Marshall, Alshon Jeffery, Calvin Johnson, and Demaryius Thomas. Grimes is competing at the highest level. He is slightly undersized at only 5’ 10” and 190 lbs. This hasn’t stopped him from picking off five passes. He ranks 2nd overall in interceptions for the season. Grimes hasn’t forced an interception in the last four games. Grimes has the speed, awareness and hands to play effectively against the top receivers. Turnovers will be critical in deciding this game. Currently the Patriots have only 11 giveaways and forced 21 turnovers. The Patriots +10 turnover margin is a critical component of the team’s success. I like the Dolphins chances only if they can force multiple turnovers. If not the Patriots will win 27-17.

Matchup No. 2 - Dallas Cowboys DeMarco Murray vs. the Philadelphia Eagles’ defense.

This Sunday Night matchup is not for the faint of heart. These division rivals come into the matchup at 9-4. The winner will position themselves for divisional supremacy, while the loser could miss the playoffs. It’s not quite winner take all, but football fans will still enjoy one of the best rivalries in the NFL. If the Eagles win they would sweep the season series with a victory. This would position them with the divisional tiebraker and put the magic number to clinch the division at 1.  The Cowboys would have a one game division lead with a victory. The Cowboys have a great opportunity to build on their stellar road record. The Cowboys are the only team with fewer than two road losses and currently are 6-0 away from home.

Lately it seems Murray’s breakout performance has gotten lost in the shuffle for national attention. Fans should appreciate the season he is having, it could be a season for the ages. Murray currently has 320 carries and 1606 rushing yards. In NFL history only five players have recorded over 400 carries in a single season. In NFL history only seven players have recorded 2000 rushing yards in a season. No NFL player has ever recorded 400 carries and 2000 yards in the same season! This season Murray has the opportunity to break this record! Murray is also an excellent receiver, he is 2nd on the team with 53 receptions. Overall Murray has got everything you could want in a running back. Murray has great speed, size and strength. He can run past, thru or around opposing defenders. He is almost impossible to tackle in one on one situations; he throws a nasty stiff arm and can spin out of harm’s way.  Great physical attributes can only get you so far against NFL competition.  Murray also has great vision and his ability to cutback against the defense is outstanding. He has the ability to wear down a defense. The Cowboys thrive when they can control the clock. If Murray carries 25+ times for 125 yards then the Cowboys are controlling the action. The Eagles offense is not very explosive sitting on the sidelines!

The Dallas Cowboys ball control is critical in two aspects. Keeps the Eagles high paced offense on the sidelines, also keeps their big play defense and special teams at bay. No team this season is more opportunistic then the Eagles. The Minnesota Vikings rank 2nd in the NFL with six non offensive touchdowns. The Eagles are #1 with ten non offensive touchdowns. The Eagles have more return touchdowns than over half the NFL teams have in total rushing touchdowns. The Eagles are 18th against the run and 24th in total yards allowed. The defense plays a high risk/ reward defense. The Eagles have a good pass rush and often blitzes to bring even more pressure. Often times their corners will have to matchup with receivers in man to man coverage. Against the Cowboys ground attack, defensive end Fletcher Cox is the defensive x factor. His ability to penetrate the line of scrimmage is critical in containing the running game. Last week he was tied for the team high with 11 tackles. Cox at 6’ 4 300 lbs combines excellent size and quickness. He can really move for a player his size. I expect the outcome of this game to come down to the wire. This Sunday Night get your popcorn ready, grab your favorite beverage and enjoy the show!

Matchup No. 1 - Denver Broncos Demaryius Thomas vs. the San Diego Chargers’ defense.

The Broncos come into this game 10-3 and the 2nd seed in the AFC. The Broncos will likely need to win out and get some help to clinch home field advantage in the AFC. Home field advantage may be difference between a Broncos early playoff exit and Super Bowl visit. This season the Broncos are 7-0 at home and only 3-3 on the road. The Chargers at 8-5 are currently the #6 seed in the AFC playoff race. Eight teams in the AFC are currently 7-6 and 8-5. The Chargers will likely need to win out to clinch a playoff berth. Even at home I don’t expect the Broncos to run away with the game. The Chargers have a formidable offense and defense and I expect each team to play at a high level with so much on the line.

Surprisingly Peyton Manning has thrown for under 200 passing yards in back to back games. Last week Manning had his 51 game touchdown streak snapped. No, I don’t think Manning now has forgotten how to play quarterback. I believe he is ripe for a bounce back performance. Demaryius Thomas is a playmaker who can dominate the competition.  Demaryius Thomas ability as a wide receiver is off the charts. He is a physical freak who happens to play wide receiver. Demaryius Thomas is 6’ 3” and 229 lbs and he is a physical force. He has game breaking speed and big play ability. He can burn defenders down the field and is exceptional at taking screen passes and turning into long receptions. He also runs excellent routes and makes acrobatic catches. He is currently one of the best receivers in the game. His production has dipped over the last few games. Thomas had a seven game streak with at least 100 receiving yards snapped against the Miami Dolphins. Over the last three weeks he hasn’t recorded a 100 yard game. Thomas’ playmaking ability will be critical in beating the Chargers.

The strength of the Chargers defense is their secondary. They rank 8th in pass yards allowed. Their defense is one of the worst teams in sacks and turnovers forced. The Chargers secondary is often on an island especially against the better offenses. The Broncos offense will be a major challenge for the Chargers. This week I have two x factors for the defense; cornerback Brandon Flowers and strong satety Marcus Gilchrist. Flowers performs well as a press corner. He plays physical even though he is undersized. Demaryius Thomas ability to beat press coverage will be critical. Gilchrist must work in tandem with Flowers. This season Gilchrist is the Chargers 3rd leading tackler. His tackling and coverage must be on point or else the secondary will get exposed. I predict the Broncos will jump out to an early lead and hang on for the 28-24 victory.


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