In what could well be a preview of the Super Bowl, Andy Reid’s 9-1 Kansas City travel to the West Coast to take on the 9-1 Los Angeles Rams this week. The game was due to take place in Mexico City at Estadio Azteca, but the condition of the pitch (probably caused by that fictional caravan traipsing across it on the way to the US border) wasn’t up to scratch. So instead the Rams play host and have given away thousands of free tickets to members of the emergency services and those affected by and the recent wildfires and the Thousand Oaks shooting.
The gesture will create a different kind of atmosphere in notoriously laid-back LA and, after conceding 45, 31 and 27 points in the last three games, the Rams’ all-star defense has something to prove. How better to make a statement than to shut down Patrick Mahomes and the league’s leading offense?
Star defender Aaron Donald is lucky to be playing after he clearly put his helmet back on before post-game handshakes with Seattle last weekend so he could confront Seahawks centre Justin Britt. Britt had cheapshot him towards the end of the game sparking a mini-rumble but Donald wasn’t ready to let it lie.
Donald, yet to be fined or suspended for his actions, was unstoppable against the ’Hawks, hitting Russell Wilson five times, sacking him 2.5 times and logging three tackles for loss. He, Ndamukong Suh and Dante Fowler will be key to containing the electric Mahomes, while cornerback Marcus Peters, who hasn’t had an interception since Week 1 will have his hands full with Tyreek Hill. Basically, whoever stops the opposing offense wins this game and LA’s array of talent was assembled for just such a game, so McVay’s side will come out on top.
Talking of players brought in for big games, Minnesota splurged $84 million in the Kirk Cousins sweepstakes this offseason to ensure Mike Zimmer’s side improves on their NFC Championship Game exit in 2017. Cousins leads the league in pass completions and has the Vikes at 5-3-1, half a game behind this weekend’s opponents Chicago. The Bears have won three straight, but those were against NY Jets, Buffalo and Detroit, who share a mere nine wins. Quarterback Mitch Trubisky has started to look like an NFL leading man but faces a stern test in Zimmer’s famous defense. The unit, ranked fourth in yards conceded, has also had a bye week to scheme against Matt Nagy’s explosive offense so expect Minnesota to get the W.
Holdout Le’Veon Bell didn’t report by Tuesday’s deadline so the talented running back won’t play a down for Pittsburgh this year and will move elsewhere on a big money deal when the season’s over. His soon-to-be ex-teammates responded by ransacking his locker. Nice.
The Steelers haven’t really missed him – James Conner has been outstanding in his absence, rushing for 10 scores and catching another, Antonio Brown has done Antonio Brown things and JuJu Smith-Schuster has emerged as a receiving threat.
This week Pittsburgh travels to Florida to take on Jacksonville. The same Jacksonville that swaggered into Heinz Field in January and strutted out as winners of the Divisional Playoff. Revenge will be on the Steelers’ mind and it’s hard to see how the Jags’ offense, ranked better only than Raiders (1-8), Bills (3-7) and Cardinals (2-7) competes with Ben Roethlisberger’s fifth-ranked unit.
In Week 10, Andrew Luck joined legends Peyton Manning and Tom Brady as the only quarterbacks in NFL history to throw at least three touchdown passes in six consecutive games within a single season. He faces a Tennessee Titans team coming off an emotional win over head coach Mike Vrabel’s old Patriots. Hardcore fans will enjoy the cat-and-mouse game within a game of defensive guru Vrabel vs offensive savant Frank Reich but the Colts boss will triumph.
Denver’s defense ranks in the bottom 10 against the run and this week faces the Chargers’ Melvin Gordon, who romped through Oakland for 93 yards on the ground and 72 (including a 66-yard TD) through the air last week. LA have won six straight, while the Broncos have dropped six of their last seven. A Chargers win and Chiefs loss will close the gap at the top of the AFC West to one game with a tantalising showdown scheduled for Week 15.
Chargers over Broncos
Colts over Titans
Vikings over Bears
Steelers over Jaguars
Rams over Chiefs