Championship Play-Off Final: Michael Owen’s View
After four weeks of the season things are shaping up nicely. However, they may not quite be going the way in which most people envisaged. There has been plenty of upsets and we have indeed seen Cleveland win. All of the rookie Quartebacks taken in the top 10 of the draft are now starters for their respective teams. This has added to the drama of the league so far this season.
Baker Mayfield has made watching the Browns a box office event now, Sam Darnold has shown glimpses of what he can do, Josh Allen has produced one of the biggest upsets by bulldozing the Vikings and Josh Rosen has finally been given the reigns in Arizona.
With this in mind, and how vital this second quarter of the season could prove to be, I have a look at some of the stand out crucial games as team already begin to think about playoff ramifications.
Who would have thought when the schedule was announced that the two teams who contested the NFC championship game, one of who then won the Superbowl, would be in desperate need of a win in week five. But somehow this is the scenario we find ourselves in.
Last season’s Superbowl winners Philadelphia have had a very mixed season, beating the Falcons and the colts but succumbing to losses against Tennessee and Tampa Bay. The only plus point from their 2-2 start is that Carson Wentz is back in the QB position
They have been lacking that dominant outfit from last season through injuries but they look to be closing in on a full strength team which may need to produce the performances from last year if they are to be considered in the frame for a long playoff run. They are helped by the inconsistent form of their divisional rivals.
Minnesota however are most definitely having a disappointing season. It all started so well with a solid win against San Francisco before they followed this up with a tie against divisional rivals Green Bay. The nature of this tie though would have been encouraging as Kirk Cousins orchestrated a remarkable comeback to take the game to overtime. But this has been followed by a humbling defeat to Buffalo and then they lost to the impressive Rams in a highly entertaining game.
One thing has been on display though for the Vikings, that their investment in Kirk Cousins looks to have been money well spent. He has struck up an immediate relationship with Stefon Diggs and this has been highly fruitful for the pair. I can seem him going to his faithful outlet a few times in this crucial game as they cannot afford to go 1-3-1 at the start of this season.
Stefon Diggs to score a touchdown 5/4
Carson Wentz to score a touchdown 7/1
Who better to face than a 0-4 team with a rookie Qb when you have lost your own star QB. Well this may not be the case for the 49ers who host a wounded Arizona.
However, the 49ers seem to be light on the ground after a string of injuries. They may have a good run game going for them but the loss of Jimmy Garoppolo is one which will be felt after his sterling start to life in San Francisco. I think that they will view this as a game they should win given the starts to the season they have had. But for the Cardinlas they are almost resigned to not making the playoffs this year but have started the build for the future by investing in their own rookie QB.
Josh Rosen has now taken the reigns at QB for the cardinals after the Sam Bradford experiment proved to be unsuccessful. However many may think that Rosen is not yet ready but he has an incredibly reliable support cast in the team. Future Hall of Famer Larry Fitzgerald is an ever reliable outlet and should things not be going Rosen’s way he can always offload the ball to David Johnson who is one of the best Running Backs in the league. It is the latter who I think will be utilised most in the game as a way of easing the pressure on the rookie. Plus his adaptability also poses a threat as a receiving target too. This is why I fancy him becoming Rosen’s best friend as he eases himself into life in the NFL.
David Johnson first touchdown scorer 9/2
Cardinals to win 7/5
Two teams who are incredibly inconsistent at the moment and clearly missing key players, for very different reasons. Le’Veon Bell still remains absent due to the ongoing contract dispute he has with the Steelers.
Big Ben and co have found a way to get motoring with stand in RB James Connor but they seem to be lacking some of that spark they had last season. However with Antonio Brown as one of his outlets then I can see Roethlisberger airing it out against a team who have shown that they will allow you opportunities. With JuJu Smith-Schuster in the ranks too I can see this being a high scoring affair.
The Falcons have been depleted defensively which is why I view this as a home win for the Steelers. One of the plus points for Atlanta though has been the emergence of rookie WR Calvin Ridley who currently leads the league in receiving TDs.
I can see Matt Ryan targeting him again as he proves to be a welcome addition to the already explosive offense. Julio Jones is one of the best in the league but has only scored three touchdowns since the start of last season. I think the attention being given to him, as he has still managed to put up 500 yards receiving this season, is allowing Ridley to flourish.
Roethlisberger over 2.5 passing touchdowns 5/4
Calvin Ridley to score a touchdown 6/5
The most intriguing game of the season so far.
Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs have been one of the most explosive and dynamic offenses in the league this season. They and the LA Rams are the only remaining 4-0 teams in the league and are already being tipped to meet in the Superbowl in February. The first real test for Kansas City arrives as they face one of the most feared defenses in the league. This is how they will be judged. Can they overcome this test against a team who have been nicknamed ‘Sacksonville’.
Whilst Kansas City have been a joy to watch offensively they have left a lot to be desired defensively and this is where they will need to improve if they are to be taken seriously. I have fancied the Chiefs to make a serious run towards the Superbowl but I will be fully on the bandwagon should they be able to overcome this stern test.
Mahomes and co have proven that they can attack you from any angle and what he displayed last week was a excellent football brain by using his weapons to create space for himself to run in a TD of his own. He has been setting records so far this season and I do expect them to win as Arrowhead is one of the toughest places to go, especially when the home side are rolling as impressively as they are right now.
Mahomes to rush for 25+ yards 2/1
Chiefs to score every quarter 9/4