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Saturday, 6 December 2014

The Three Best Must See NFL Matchups in Week 14

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

Matchup No. 3 - New England Patriots Rob Gronkowski (Bamm-Bamm) vs. the San Diego Chargers’ defense.

The Patriots are very difficult to game plan against. Each week the Patriots can and will exploit a favorable matchup. In Week 11 running back Jonas Gray went off for 201 yards and 4 touchdowns. In Week 12 Timothy Wright caught 2 touchdowns. In Week 13 Brandon LaFell caught 2 touchdowns. This week the Patriots are going against a very difficult pass defense. This season the Chargers are 7th against the pass. The Chargers are even stingier against opposing tight ends. The Chargers are 6th in passing yards allowed against tight ends, 2nd in touchdowns allowed, and 1st in fantasy points allowed to tight ends. Most teams would shy away from the challenge but I expect the hoodie to embrace it. I expect Brady and Belichick to go with a game plan featuring the great Gronkowski. Challenge the Chargers,  feed Gronkowski, and see if they can stop them. I predict Gronkowski will go off for a career high 161 receiving yards. He will also catch 2 touchdowns for good measure. Gronkowski is a mismatch any time he steps on the field. No receiver plays with his size, strength, competiveness and fearlessness. He does not take plays off and his energy is contagious. In a critical AFC showdown Gronkowski must be fed early and often. He will eat buffet style, get your popcorn ready for this Sunday Night showdown!  

As mentioned earlier this is a tremendous challenge for Gronkowski. The Chargers have one of the best secondaries in the NFL. Opposing tight ends have been shut down when they face the Chargers. No one player on the Chargers can stop Gronkowksi. The best way to contain him is to bump him off his routes. I expect Gronkowski to be guarded by linebacker Jarret Johnson. At 6’3 260lbs he has the strength to compete with Gronkowski. Free safety Eric Weddle will likely guard Gronkowski on deeper patterns. Weddle is always around the ball and his playmaking ability will be critical in this matchup. Weddle can turn the tide if he can keep Gronkowski in check. Overall Weddle’s lack of size will likely by his downfall this week.

Matchup No. 2 - Pittsburgh Steelers Le’Veon Bell vs. the Cincinnati Bengals’ defense:

This is a tremendous matchup against bitter division rivals. Only 1.5 games separate 1st place Cincinnati Bengals from last place in the division. The Steelers are in a three way tie with the Cleveland Browns, and Baltimore Ravens. A Steelers loss will likely end their division chances. The Steelers are amazingly 10th overall in the AFC with a 7-5 record. This is clearly a must win matchup for Pittsburgh. The Bengals also really need a win this week. The Bengals still have the Cleveland Browns, Denver Broncos and the Steelers to close out the season. The Bengals could easily go from 1st to worst in the AFC North in a matter of weeks!  

Bell is definitely having a breakout season. In only his 2nd year he is among the league leaders in carries, rushing yards, rushing average, receptions, receiving yards and total yards. Bell is an extremely unique and versatile back. He has great size and strength, great agility, quickness and excellent vision. Bell is very patient and is a very savvy runner. He is a rare back who can overpower, elude, and outrun defenders. His best attribute may be his production as a receiver. Bell has as many receptions as Randall Cobb, Jimmy Graham, and Rob Gronkowski. Bell has more receptions than Brandon Marshall and Kelvin Benjamin. Bell can run routes like a receiver or turn a screen pass into a big gain. He is also saving his best performances for last. He is coming off back to back 200 yard games. His importance to this matchup cannot be overstated. He will need a dominant performance this week to carry the Steelers to a victory.

The Bengals will have their work cut out against Bell. The Bengals are 25th against the run allowing over 125 rushing yards per game. In Bengals losses their run defense is absolutely getting shredded. They have more holes than Swiss cheese! The Bengals have three loses and one tie. In those games the Bengals are allowing 177 rushing yards per game. For comparison sake the worst run defense this season only allows 141.5 yards per game. The Bengals have absolutely no chance if they get ran over again. Bengals linebacker Emmanuel Lamur is the one to watch on defense. He leads the team in tackles and also has 2 interceptions. He must have an impact performance to contain Bell as a runner and receiver. This has the makings of a hard hitting division battle. Some games are won because of tremendous athletes this game will be won in the trenches.

Matchup No. 1 - Philadelphia Eagles LeSean McCoy vs. the Seattle Seahawks’ defense:

The Eagles are flying high after defeating division rival Dallas Cowboys 33-10 on Thanksgiving. They are now in sole position of 1st place but the Cowboys are right on the Eagles tails. Even at 9-3 the Eagles have their work cut out for potential playoff positioning. The Eagles losses against the San Francisco 49ers, Arizona Cardinals and Green Bay Packers will hurt them in tiebreaker scenarios. Philadelphia will need to beat NFC contenders or their playoff lives could be in Jeopardy. The Seahawks are coming off back to back dominating victories. The defense suffocated the 49ers and Cardinals in back to back weeks by a score of 19-3. Opposing quarterbacks are having a miserable time during the last two weeks. The Seahawks have allowed only 149 and 121 passing yards during the last two victories. During that streak their defense has forced seven sacks, three turnovers and only six points.

LeSean McCoy is also very much a dual threat running back. He does it differently than Bell. McCoy’s stutter step and juke move often leaves defenders tackling air. In addition his ability to change direction is also outstanding. McCoy has a nice stiff arm when he bounces runs to the outside. He excels when he can hit the hole and face a defender in a one on one matchup. More often than not he can elude the 1st defender and gain extra yardage. He is a great fit for Chip Kelly’s offense. The Eagles love to spread out the defense, push the tempo and wear down defenses. McCoy with the addition of Darren Sproles is double trouble for opposing defenses. They will run circles around most teams. Defenses have to be fundamentally sound and tackle exceptionally well. The Eagles have a very athletic line which allows McCoy to get out in space, and get around the corner and cause havoc all across the field. McCoy started the season slowly but is hitting his stride right now. McCoy’s rushing yards and rushing average has increased each of the last three weeks. He is coming off a season high 25 carries and 159 rushing yards. He will be the feature back of the Eagles wide open offensive attack.

We all know the Seahawks defense is good, but how good are they? They rank 5th against the run, 3rd against the pass, 3rd in points allowed. This defense is very deep and versatile. Defensive ends Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril can flat out rush the quarterback. Linebackers K.J. Wright and Bobby Wagner are always around the ball. This season, each player could force 100+ tackles and also are good coverage linebackers. The secondary is flat out nasty. Cornerback Richard Sherman talks a lot of noise but has the game to back it up. Byron Maxwell is considered the weak link of the group but still is a solid cornerback. The Seahawks safeties are also very good with Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor, they are physical ball hawking players. I expect the Eagles to move the ball relatively well against the Seahawks. I like the Eagles tempo and their playmakers. If the Eagles play up to their potential they have what it takes to knock off the Champs. With that being said the red zone is the x factor in this matchup. The Eagles really struggle in red zone efficiency. The Eagles have to turn their red zone opportunities into touchdowns. Ultimately the first team to 20 points will win.


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