Making his Colossus debut, Jaimie Wooles is a huge NFL fan who has taken an analytical view of this weekend’s televised games. He reckons that the Houston Texans will do a job over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and clinch the AFC South title as a result. Agree with his picks? Use them in our NFL pools.
Jaimie Wooles: “As Andy Williams once sang, ‘It’s the most wonderful time of the year’. And I coudn’t agree more. But, whilst most will be getting ready for the visit from the big guy and will be eagerly awaiting to discover what offerings they’ve received, I’m jolly because it’s ‘unofficial knock-out football’ season and Sky Sports have the major games covered during a bumper weekend of action including Houston Texans @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Buffalo Bills @ New England Patriots and LA Rams @ San Francisco 49ers. All three fixtures will play their part in deciding Conference winners, Division winners and those 4 all important Wild card berth in the AFC and NFC.”
Houston Texans @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Texans head to Tampa Bay this week with a one game lead over their AFC South competitors, Tennessee Titans. They know that a win will clinch the division and the all important home field advantage in the first play-off round.
However, this Buccs side have found their spark towards this late stage of the season. They will be looking to make it 5 wins in a row. Although their play-off hopes in the NFC are dead, the buccaneers find themselves in a game with actual play-off implications.
Buccs are ranked #1 in the league for passing yards and were without wide receiver Mike Evans in a victory over Detroit last week. That didn’t slow the passing attack as the Buccs recording 450+ passing yards in consecutive weeks. They will be without Mike Evans again, along with wide receiver Chris Godwin (hamstring).
However, no team has more pass plays of 20+ yards that Tampa this season. So why fix something that isn’t broken? The Tampa Bay offence will still look to pass first, pass second and third on Saturday as the Texans are ranked #28 for passing yards allowed defensively. The Texans are also worst in the league defensively on third down.
On the other hand, obviously you can’t have a team that are ranked worse against third down and fourth worst against the passing play topping their respected division without an explosive offence. In fact, the Texans are the fourth best in the league at converting third downs, whilst the Tampa Bay defence is ranked fifth at preventing.
So many counteractions in one game! In summary, both teams relish offense when throwing the ball, Tampa Bay 308.8 yds/game Houston 245.0 yds/game, and both struggle against the pass defensively. Its all set up to be a fascinating watch. I believe Houston will come out on top and cover the -3 spread whilst doing so.
Score Prediction: Tampa Bay Buccaneers 20 – 37 Houston Texans
Buffalo Bills @ New England Patriots
After our starter (Buccs @ Texans), it’s time for the main course and what a feast we have here, carvery and all the trimmings. Both have already secured play-off berths, but the AFC East division title is well and truly for the taking.
A Bills win will see the division title go to the wire in the final week where they would need to beat the NY Jets and hope that Miami Dolphins can upset the odds in Foxborough. A New England victory will wrap it all up with one game to go as Patriots edge the Bills in the head to head tie break.
The bills have recorded their best record after 14 games since 1993, when they finished 12-4. They made the Super Bowl that year. It’s also the first time since 1999, that they’ve recorded 10 wins in a regular season. An eleventh win on Saturday would be a huge scalp during the Patriots domination of the sport, winning 16 of the last 18 AFC East titles including 10 in a row on their way towards a record 11 AFC championship victories and six Super Bowl rings.
You’d have to go back to 2008 for the last time Patriots weren’t crowned division winners when, ironically, Miami Dolphins took the division and Buffalo will need a huge favour from them next week should they be victorious.
Patriots suffered two back to back defeats before their recent win over a very poor Bengals side. That win only papered over the cracks as doubts continue to grow about how good this New England side actually are. Against a poor Bengals defence, the Patriots racked up just 128 passing yards and only 4.4 yards per pass attempt. Further to this issue the Bills are ranked third when defending against the pass play and second when defending plays 20+ yards.
The Patriots took to the ground after the pass offence struggled last week rushing for 175 yards, 5.5 yards per carry.
Both defences struggle against the rush and give up an average of 4.3 yards per carry over the season. However, the similarities don’t extend to the rushing offences where Buffalo average 4.7 yards per carry on the ground with New England an average of 1 yard less.
Very similar defences, but very different offences will make for an interesting watch. My opinion, the Bills running game outweighs the Patriots passing game and the AFC East will go down to the wire next week.
Prediction: New England Patriots 13 – 17 Buffalo Bills
LA Rams @ San Francisco 49ers
Both come in off the back of a defeat. Rams were blown away by Dallas where San Fran threw away a 9 point lead, conceding 19 points in the final five minutes of play. Other results meant that the 49ers hold a play-off berth in a very strange NFC play-off picture. Rams could win their two remaining ties, finishing 10-6, and still not make the post season whilst the winner of the NFC East division could finish 8-8 and make the play-offs as division winners.
The NFC sees 4 teams fighting it out to top the conference, all locked on 11-3, San Francisco, Saints, Packers and Seattle. All 4 have already qualified for the post season but home field advantage, in every play-off game, is up for grabs. So there’s still all to play for.
Defeat for the Rams would see their, slender, hopes of play-off football shattered but would set up a classic, conference decider, next week when the 49ers face Seattle should Seattle beat the Cardinals.
San Fran boast the second best defence in the league and second best rushing offence in the league. Looking back on the Rams performance last week vs Dallas, the rushing offence could be the preferred play for San Fran over the passing game after the Rams allowed 2 different running backs to rack up 100+ yards each.
49ers gave up an average 4.5 yards per carry against the rush last week which isn’t great either but they are far superior against the throw, giving up an average of 15 yards less than second ranked Patriots.
Rams are second in the league for passes over 20 yards but this risky plays have their consequences as Rams have thrown 16 interceptions this season, only Tampa Bay have thrown more in the NFC.
I like San Francisco this year, and they’ve been fun to watch, especially these recent weeks. Rams have everything on the line but I’m not sure their offence will match the sublime niners defence especially as Rams prefer the passing play.
Prediction: San Francisco 34 – 16 LA Rams