NFL season — a roller coaster ride of thrills, spills, chaosFriday, November 26, 2021
BY MARK ARCHER
The 2021/22 National Football League (NFL) season has — so far — been devoid of any true upper class and has found itself with an overstuffed middle class with a few teams in the very obvious lower class. Yes, some of those in the middle classers have had their run of wins but they have also had some very miserable losses. Eleven of the eighteen weeks have been completed and the final seven weeks may bring some stability but, as of now, this just feels like a very different year filled with a roller coaster ride of thrills, spills and chaos.
Week 11 featured, arguably, the best individual performance of the season, with Indianapolis Colts running back Jonathan Taylor racking up 185 yards on the ground and four touchdowns, plus he added 19 more yards on three catches and a fifth score. Indianapolis pulled off a 41-15 upset of the Buffalo Bills (in Buffalo) to put the Bills squarely under the microscope going forward.
The biggest upset of the week was the Houston Texans' 22-13 victory over the Tennessee Titans (in Tennessee), breaking their impressive six-game win streak. Tennessee quarterback (QB) Ryan Tannehill threw four interceptions and now appears isolated, with Derrick Henry, A.J Brown and Julio Jones unavailable on offence. This poor form comes at a terrible time, with the Titans (8-3) slated to face one of the three most consistent teams currently in the NFL, the New England Patriots (7-4).
The Patriots enter the weekend on a 5-game win streak but will play at Gillette Stadium this Sunday where their four losses have taken place this year. They have been more resilient on the road (6-0) but head coach Bill Belichick has found a very efficient formula for rookie QB Mac Jones and the New England defence has surged during the winning streak. In that stretch, the Patriots's defence has given up just 10 points per game, grabbed 12 interceptions and allowed only four touchdown passes. They have already matched their 2020 win-total and, though Mike Vrabel's Titans have developed a habit of overcoming the odds, JustBet has the Patriots highly favoured in this one and it should be a good bet.
The only other unbeaten team on the road this season are the Arizona Cardinals (6-0), who are finding ways to win in the absence of starting QB Kyler Murray. Veteran QB Daniel “Colt” McCoy put on a clinic in his third start in place of Murray last Sunday (November 21), throwing for 328 yards and two touchdowns to lead the Cardinals to a 23-13 victory over the fading Seattle Seahawks. The win positioned Arizona alone atop the National Football Conference (NFC), with a 9-2 record heading into their bye week this weekend. This break will allow an additional two weeks for Murray (ankle) and receiver DeAndre Hopkins (hamstring) to heal before a very favourable week 13 encounter against the Chicago Bears.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers shrugged off back-to-back losses to get back on track last Monday night (November 23). Following an iffy start to the game, the Tampa Bay offence found its groove and moved with clinical efficiency while the defence played containment for what turned out to be an (expectedly) easy 30-10 win over the New York Giants. Buccaneers QB Tom Brady went over 300 yards for the fifth time in 10 games this season while Mike Evans, Chris Godwin and Rob Gronkowski (returning after six games out) all went over 65 yards receiving.
Brady, who spent the final minutes of the blowout on the sideline as Blaine Gabbert finished things out with a few kneel-downs, has now gone over 3,000 yards for the season and has set the NFL record with 19 such seasons over the course of his career. Things are set to get back to fever pitch this Sunday when the Buccaneers (7-3) visit Lucas Oil Stadium to tackle the Colts (6-5), fresh off them flexing against the Bills. The Buccaneers have been perfect at home (5-0) this year but have lost three of five on the road and enter this weekend with JustBet offering only a field goal advantage for the visitors.
Entering week 12, road teams have had an 84-80-1 record, marking the first time road teams have had a winning record through 11 weeks since 1983. But, unlike last season when Tampa Bay went 9-2 on the road in the regular season and postseason combined, things are looking different this year. At home, the Buccaneers are averaging a league-high 38.4 points per game and surrendering just 16.8, but on the road they're averaging 23.4 points and giving up 27.6.
Indianapolis's QB Carson Wentz has thrown for 2,484 yards with 18 touchdown passes and just three interceptions this season, but the Colts have as many lost games as wins at home (3-3) and the Buccaneers are defending champions for a reason. The Colts have overachieved and won five of their previous six games but it's hard to imagine them celebrating at the end of this one.
The expected shoot-out between the QBs from the Kansas City Chiefs and the Dallas Cowboys (Patrick Mahones and Dak Prescott, respectively) last Sunday turned out to be a showing for the Chiefs' defence (particularly defensive end Chris Jones) in a 19-9 Kansas City victory. The Cowboys are still leading the National Football Conference (NFC) East but looked like a ship taking in water last weekend and will need to do much better going forward to ensure their place in the postseason. The Chiefs have their bye this weekend but the Green Bay Packers (8-3), who narrowly lost to the Minnesota Vikings last Sunday, invite the Los Angeles Rams (7-3) into Lambeau Field for an expected cracker.
Wide receiver Odell Beckham Jnr chose the Rams over the Packers two weeks ago following his release from the Cleveland Browns, despite the fact that he and Green Bay's QB Aaron Rodgers are close friends. That will not be the storyline come Sunday but Beckham's familiarisation with the Los Angeles playbook could make a huge difference – don't miss this one.
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Super Bowl LVI Champion
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 6.40
Kansas City Chiefs 7.60
Buffalo Bills 9.00
Los Angeles Rams 9.20
Arizona Cardinals 9.60
Green Bay Packers 11.00
Dallas Cowboys 12.00
Baltimore Ravens 13.00
New England Patriots 14.00
Tennessee Titans 17.00
*Only top 10 odds shown (see website for full list)