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www.thesaintsfootballauthentic.com
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January 8, 2019
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It's been a while since the NFL flexed a game to Sunday night. The Bengals vs. Chiefs is a worthy choice.No games were moved from day to night last season http://www.thesaintsfootballau.....hentic.com , except for the final weekend, when all games are scheduled for the afternoon until the league and NBC figure out what is most attractive for prime time. Back in 2016, there were three flexed games, including Week 17. Not counting that, the last flex was Bucs at Cowboys on Dec. 18, 2016.So switching a pair of first-place teams made sense: Cincinnati (4-2) is at Kansas City (5-1).Some of the juicy plot lines involve offense, hardly a surprise in this year of points, points and more points. Kansas City has the league's lowest-ranked defense and the Bengals rank 29th. Even worse, both are dealing with a slew of injuries on that side of the ball.So Patrick Mahomes throwing to Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce and Kareem Hunt could fill the screen. So might Andy Dalton connecting with A.J. Green and Tyler Boyd."Any time you want to be one of the great ones on the defense or you want your defense to have a statement-type game, you have to do it against the best offenses in the league," Cincinnati defensive end Carlos Dunlap said. "And right now, they're putting up those points like they're one of the best offenses in the league. So you've got to go out there and put it on 'em."There are some caveats to this matchup, however.Although the Bengals have won four straight in the series dating to Oct. 14, 2007, they are 3-15 on Sunday nights, losing eight straight. The Chiefs are 7-3 in games on Sunday nights.The weekend began with Denver's 45-10 victory at Arizona on Thursday nightEmmanuel Sanders threw and caught touchdown passes, Denver returned two interceptions for first-quarter touchdowns and the Broncos snapped a four-game losing streak.Todd Davis returned rookie Josh Rosen's deflected pass for a touchdown on the second play of the game and Chris Harris Jr. took another back 53 yards for a score with 2:02 left in the quarter as the Broncos (3-4) opened a 21-3 lead. Rosen threw three interceptions and fumbled the ball away twice on a rough night that began badly for him and never got better. The Cardinals (1-6), down 35-3 at the half, fell to 0-4 at home for the first time since 1979.Off this week are Seattle (3-3), Green Bay (3-2-1), Oakland (1-5) and Pittsburgh (3-2-1).New England (4-2) at Chicago (3-2)Seems like every week, the Patriots' opponent is battered by injuries to key players. No one is more key in Chicago than edge rusher Khalil Mack, who is battling an ankle problem.Just what Tom Brady needs against one of the five teams he's never lost to. Brady is 4-0 against the Bears; the others are Atlanta (5-0), Dallas (4-0), Minnesota (4-0) and Tampa Bay (4-0).While the Bears should be able to move the ball on New England, they'll likely need lots of points for a chance in this one.New Orleans (4-1) at Baltimore (4-2)Just like Patriots-Bears, this is one terrific offense against defense matchup. New Orleans ranks third in total offense and Baltimore is first on defense.Led by Drew Brees, who set the yards passing career mark in a rout of the Redskins before their bye the Saints have won four in a row. Nobody is more balanced with the ball now that RB Mark Ingram is back from suspension to team with dynamic Alvin Kamara. Brees, who is 0-4 vs. the Ravens, this year has a 78 percent completion rate for 1,658 yards with 11 touchdowns and no interceptions.The Ravens had 11 sacks last week against Tennessee and a league-most 26 overall. They are allowing an NFL-low 12.8 points per game and the fewest yards per game (270.8). Baltimore has four of the NFL's past 14 shutouts since the start of the 2017 season.Carolina (3-2) at Philadelphia (3-3)An intriguing matchup of a solid running team in Carolina, led by Christian McCaffrey and QB Cam Newton, facing the second-stingiest rushing defense in a place where the Eagles are 17-4 under Doug Pederson.As for the air game, which seemingly everyone needs to succeed these days, Carolina is far too inconsistent.Meanwhile, Carson Wentz has thrown at least one TD in his past 19 games played, the longest streak in franchise history and second-longest active streak behind Andrew Luck (28). Wentz has thrown 133 consecutive passes without a pick. His longest streak is 135 passes.Tennessee (3-3) vs. Los Angeles Chargers (4-2) at LondonThe Titans were humiliated at home by Baltimore and should welcome the long trip overseas. Then again, they have lost 10 of the past 11 to the Chargers and bring a sputtering offense into Wembley.Although Tennessee has a solid D New Orleans Saints T-Shirt , it faces an in-synch offense. The Chargers are 13-5 since starting last season 0-4 and QB Philip Rivers leads the AFC and ranks second in the NFL with a 115.1 passer rating. He has 13 TD passes and four interceptions in seven games vs. the Titans.Houston (3-3) at Jacksonville (3-3)The other AFC South leaders.After beginning the season with three defeats, the Texans have turned it around, albeit all their wins have been tight affairs, two in overtime.Defensive end J.J. Watt , perhaps the NFL's best player when healthy, is back in form after missing most of the 2016 and '17 seasons with injuries. Watt has seven sacks and three forced fumbles in the past four games.The Jaguars have a solid defense, too, particularly against the pass, where they ranked first in yards surrendered. But Jacksonville was outscored 70-21 in consecutive road losses, forcing coach Doug Marrone to return to training camp practices this week to emphasize fundamental football.Dallas (3-3) at Washington (3-2)Among pro sports' most intense rivalries, this will be a physical and possibly low-scoring affair given the strength of both defenses and imbalance of the offenses.Dallas, winless on the road, will try to run with Ezekiel Elliott, second in rushing yards with 586 and third in yards from scrimmage with 752. Washington will counter with Adrian Peterson, who averaged 108.5 yards rushing in the past two home games.Minnesota (3-2-1) at New York Jets (3-3)The Vikings have never won at the Jets, going 0-5. To break that slump, the main weapon could be WR Adam Thielen. He had 11 catches for 123 yards last week, joining Houston's Charley Hennigan (1961) as the only players in NFL history with 100 or more yards in each of his team's first six games to begin a season. Thielen leads the NFL with 58 catches, the most by a player in the first six games in league history, and 712 yards receiving.Guess what: New York's secondary is banged-up and porous.The Jets are seeking their first three-game winning streak since Weeks 3-5 of 2017.Los Angeles Rams (6-0) at San Francisco (1-5)Keeping the NFL's only perfect record shouldn't be too challenging for LA, which has the most dangerous offense around. RB Todd Gurley ran for a career-high 208 yards and two TDs last week. The Rams are averaging 32.7 points per game despite scoring TDs on only 56.7 percent of red-zone trips. Los Angeles also leads the NFL with 7.64 yards per play on first down.San Francisco blew a game at Green Bay last week and Niners QB C.J. Beathard is tied for the NFL worst with seven turnovers in the past three weeks since Jimmy Garoppolo tore up his knee. The Niners have an NFL-worst minus-11 turnover margin.New York Giants (1-5) at Atlanta (2-4), Monday nightMore injuries plagued the Falcons, who placed top running back Devonta Freeman on IR. No team has been more damaged by injuries in 2018, most of them coming on defense.That means Atlanta needs shootouts to have a chance most weeks, and QB Matt Ryan leads the NFL with 1,432 yards passing and a 128.2 rating since Week 3. He is tied for first with 12 TD passes in that span.New York's D is vulnerable and the offense is enigmatic despite the presence of sensational rookie RB Saquon Barkley, and firebrand wideout Odell Beckham Jr. The O-line should be dubbed the "Awful-Line."Detroit (2-3) at Miami (4-2)The Lions are feeling upbeat following a victory over Green Bay and a week off, but that special feeling could turn sour because of their special teams.Lions coverage units rank last on punts and sixth worst on kickoffs. The Dolphins rank second in kickoff return average and third in punt return average.Miami is no powerhouse, though. The Dolphins are tied for the AFC East lead even though they've been outgained by 398 yards.Cleveland (2-3-1) at Tampa Bay (2-3)The Dawg Pound was silenced in Cleveland when the Chargers pounded the Browns last week. Tampa will be hitting the airwaves, trying to find mismatches for WRs DeSean Jackson and Mike Evans. It won't hurt the Bucs that Browns Pro Bowl MLB Joe Schobert is out with a hamstring injury. This will be his first game missed 鈥?at any level 鈥?due to injury.The Browns do lead the NFL with 16 takeaways, three more than all last season. Tampa has 11 giveaways.Buffalo (2-4) at Indianapolis (1-5)Remember Derek Anderson, most lately the backup to Newton in Carolina. He has surfaced as the new starter in Buffalo with rookie Josh Allen hurting and Nathan Peterman an interception machine.On the positive side, the Bills' defense is tied for the league lead with seven fumble recoveries.The Colts will try for the fifth time to win game No. 300 since moving to Indy in 1984. And placekicker Adam Vinatieri needs 10 points to break Morten Andersen's scoring record (2,544 points). Drew Brees smiles widely and his eyes wander back to a time when he was a kid out of Purdue seeking his place in pro football.He was marveling at the statistics posted by the likes of Dan Marino, Joe Montana and John Elway, Hall of Famers all. And he wondered "How long do you have to play in the league to have a chance at that?"No more marveling for the 39-year-old quarterback in his 19th NFL season. Very soon, almost certainly next week in a Monday nighter against Washington, Brees will have thrown for the most yards in league history. Yep New Orleans Saints Hats , more than Marino, Montana, Elway, Brett Favre, Tom Brady and Peyton Manning.He's glad it will likely come in New Orleans, where he signed in 2006 after pretty much being dumped by the Chargers, who feared his shoulder would never be healed enough for Brees to be a championship quarterback. Well, he found the perfect offense with coach Sean Payton, he won a Super Bowl for the Big Easy, and he might be leading a team good enough to win another."I feel like we're getting better each week and that's what's most important to me," Brees says. "I feel like we're beginning to play more complementary football and not just on offense with run to pass, but really as a team. Understanding how to win football games. We've won in a lot of different ways and found ourselves in a lot of different circumstances already and it's still early in the season. These are things that strengthen you, bring you together and begin to help you form your identity as a team."Brees' identity as a passer in some ways has been obscured by the success of peers Manning and Brady. He's been considered by the legions of NFL followers as a great quarterback and future Hall of Famer, but not quite on the level of Manning or Brady.That's a fair assessment when it comes to the Patriots star who has five Super Bowl rings and eight appearances in the big game. But Brees is nearly as accomplished as Manning, and certainly has done as much as Favre and Marino.Consider that Brees probably will hold every regular-season passing record when he is done 鈥?and that day doesn't appear to be closing in. Like Marino, he's rarely had a defense capable of helping him win championships.His passing accuracy is unequaled by anyone. His mastery of the Saints' offensive schemes, as well as his versatility and, even approaching 40, his maneuverability, are enviable."What makes him great?" asks tight end Benjamin Watson, who also played with Brady and is in his 15th NFL season. "Almost everything. His preparation, his confidence, his leadership."Let me tell you something. Once when I was in the weight room at the (practice) facility, I looked outside and there he was, by himself, practicing his progressions, working through everything."This is a Hall of Fame player who has been here (12) years, nearly 40 years old. He commands your respect with the way he plays and the way he leads."As most quarterbacks and leaders do, Brees spreads the credit around. Given the resilience the Saints are showing while atop the tough NFC South, he probably is correct in doing so."Well there's so much that goes in to it," Brees explains. "I have to give a lot of credit to Sean and the entire coaching staff for the amount of time and hours they put into building a game plan each and every week. When I say the game plan and the game call and the shifts and movements and formations are completely different each week, it is completely different each week. It is a completely new offense each week, depending on who we're playing and attacking that defense."So there's a lot of time and effort that goes into it on it on their part, but also the players to absorb all that and be able to go out and execute it with confidence. So it works, but we work very hard at it."And it works because of who is at quarterback.
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