Bills @ Jaguars 

If the Ravens had managed to record a home win over the 6-9 Bengals then the Bills wouldn’t even be in the playoffs. The “Bills mafia” have been thanking Bengals Quarterback Andy Dalton by donating $17 (1 dollar for every year of their playoff drought) or $49 (because the winning touchdown pass to Tyler Boyd was a 49 yard completion) the Dalton Foundation has raised around $250,000. Others donated to Tyler Boyd’s fund-raising campaign and so far Boyd has received over $20,000 for a youth athletic foundation in Western Pennsylvania! So arguably the Buffalo fans have made a more valuable contribution to this NFL season than their team. On the road the Bills have won just 3 games all season but if the Buffalo faithful are looking for a glimmer of hope they have won 2 of their last 3. Their last road game was in Miami and the Dolphins gave away 5 first downs with penalties, the Bills Offence actually only managed to gain 18 first downs of their own volition. They’ve really struggled to run the ball on the road and all season they’ve looked like a team who get by on character and stubbornness over any kind of talent or flair. The one player who can provide plenty of skill and flair is running back LeSean McCoy (he’s scored 6 of their 28 Offensive touchdowns) but he will be carrying an injury and even though he’s expected to play he has struggled away from home this season even when he’s been fully fit. 

The Jaguars defence on the other hand has bags of talent, arguably enough talent to get them all the way to a Super Bowl. On average they have allowed opposing teams just 17 points per game at EverBank (and Wembley Stadium), in all of their last 3 road games the Bills have scored 16 points. The Jaguars have scored 105 in their last 3 games at EverBank Field. Injuries have played a part recently for the Jaguars too with star running back Leonard Fournette and several Offensive linemen missing game time, this week they have Tackle Cam Robinson and Centre Brandon Linden along with Tight-End Marcedes Lewis on the Injury Report but they all played at least some part in practice. 

I can’t see the Bills winning this game but there is a very real chance that the Jaguars could lose it. The play calling this season hasn’t always been sympathetic to Blake Bortles talents, they haven’t let him run too often and he always seems more composed and confident after he’s made a few positive plays of his own. If the Bills are to stand any chance at all they will need to run well and tire out the Jaguars pass rush, if they continue with their road struggles and have to resort to a pass heavy attack then Tyrod Taylor will be forced to choose between throwing rushed passes or being sacked by the electrifying Defensive front the Jags have amassed recently.

Bookmakers favour the Jaguars to win a close one (8 points or less) but if the Bills can’t stop Fournette and you’d imagine Chris Ivory on occasion running the ball then the Jaguars Offence could end up racking up the points like they did against the Ravens in London  and the Texans last time out in EverBank. 

The most interesting 2016 NFL offseason moves (part 2)

DSC_0198Brock Osweiler would score you 24 points in a game of Scrabble, but since the use of proper nouns is frowned on by us traditionalist Brock will have stick to scoring points on NFL field’s around America instead.  The 25 year old threw 10 touchdown passes in the 8 games he played last season, which is not particularly impressive but under Gary Kubiak’s stewardship the Broncos only threw 19 all season (a totally underwhelming TD pass % of 3.1, snore) so Brock’s number’s look pretty reasonable in that light.  The Broncos won 5 of the 8 games Osweiler started last season and averaged a shade over 20 points per game (compared to 24 ppg in Peyton Manning’s 8 starts).  When Manning retired it looked like the Broncos had a readymade replacement so when they decided that Osweiler could go to the Texans and draft Paxton Lynch instead more than a few heads were scratched.

For their part last season the Texans finished 9-7 and averaged 20 points per game, but they threw 29 touchdown passes (a TD% of 4.7).  They did make the playoffs as winners of the AFC South but since no other AFC South team managed to finish the season with a winning record it wasn’t exactly worth shouting from the rooftops.  Having drafted Ohio State standout Braxton Miller who will probably feature as a Wide Receiver opposite the blisteringly fast DeAndre Hopkins (who hauled in 11 of their TD passes last season), or in the slot, but has experience of playing at Quarterback in College so he could feature as a “Wildcat” QB.  As a College Quarterback Miller was known for his elusive running may even appear in the backfield as a Running Back alongside Osweiler so the Texans have no shortage of talent and versatility in the “skill positions”.  The area where you worry about the Texans Offence is up front; their Offensive line allowed 36 sacks last season and that contributed to the inconsistent performance of their Quarterback’s.  Brian Hoyer, by his own admission was bad in his first game for the Texans (some would say he wasn’t particularly good all season but he finished with 19 TD passes and just 7 interceptions) but having been sacked 25 times in 2015 he ended the season having received 2 concussions, an injured wrist and a strained neck!  Hoyer was sacked 6.3% of the times he dropped back to pass but Osweiler was sacked 7.7% of the times he dropped back for the Broncos last season and while the Broncos Offensive line was more comfortable run blocking more than a few of the 23 sacks on Osweiler were as a result of him not going through progressions quick enough or because he didn’t throw the ball away when nobody was open.  At 6 feet 8 inches tall and weighing around 108 kgs Osweiler is no Braxton Miller when it comes to the dancing feet and jet heels so the Texans pass Offence may well take a while to fulfil its undoubted potential.  If the addition of powerful Running Back Lamar Miller to the exciting Alfred Blue can provide the Texans with a balanced, or even run heavy Offence then they will have a real chance of winning the AFC South again.

By far the biggest plus for the Texans and the area where they have used more 1st round draft picks than you can shake a stick at is the Defensive front.  With JJ Watt, JaDaveon Clowney, Vince Wilfork and Whitney Mercilus all pressurising opposing Quarterbacks they should be very difficult to score against.  However last year they allowed n average just less 20 points per game and gave up 44 points to a capricious Miami Dolphins and 48 to the Falcons who finished the season 8-8!  Allied to this concerning trend is the fact that Clowney has traditionally struggled for fitness and JJ Watt may miss the start of the season with a back injury.

Osweiler leaving the Broncos will be more of a problem for them than it will be for Osweiler, the Texans have plenty of tools that he can utilise to his own benefit.  Even if Braxton Lynch is a revelation in Denver he won’t have stars like Hopkins and Miller around him, the AFC South should be a completely different kettle of fish this season with the Jaguars investing heavily during free agency and having a draft of a lifetime (plus their number 1 pick from the 2015 draft potentially playing his first NFL game this season having blown his knee out in training camp last season) and Andrew Luck actually being 100% healthy it promises to be a wild ride.