Each week during the 2019 NFL season, four familiar faces from the British media and broadcasting landscape will debate the big talking points from the United States.
Introducing The Panel
Nat Coombs -Host of ESPN'SThe Nat Coombs show offering four episodes per week on the NFL and host of the NFL show on talkSPORT 2
Neil Reynolds -Host of Host of the Sky Sports' NFL coverage, editor of the London gameday magazines and host of the Inside the Huddle podcast.
Can any team prevent an AFC title game matchup between Kansas City and New England?
NC: Both Detroit and Buffalo showed us that KC and NE are fallible, though the rest of the NFL should all be terrified that the Patriots still found a way to win with Tom Brady playing like Mitch Trubisky on a bad day. I think the Chargers have to be in the AFC conversation, as do the Browns, and the latter is not a one game hyper overreaction. They are showing that heavyweight slugger dimension that other teams will fear in the playoffs. If they manage the dysfunction and get in, they'll be dangerous. If anyone else had coached that display against Baltimore other than Freddie Kitchens, we'd be lauding it as the second coming of Sean McVeigh. (Honourable mention to DC Steve Wilks for shutting down the Ravens without his two starting corners too)
WG:In a league so historically unpredictable it's a little boring to say no - but assuming the two QBs stay healthy then no. If anyone has a shot it's maybe the Ravens if they win the North and a home wildcard, but I still think they'd be heavy underdogs on the road against either team, especially with more tape on Jackson. And who is even coming out of the AFC South? They can't stop beating each other up! I hope we get someone upsetting the apple cart, but it looks like a very top-heavy AFC this year.
NR:It definitely looks like a two-horse race, to me. They are going to be the top two seeds providing Tom Brady and Patrick Mahomes stay upright. Who could spring a potential surprise in the early rounds of the playoffs to spoil the inevitable matchup? Buffalo's defense is for real but I don't trust Josh Allen, so not them. I would probably point to the Los Angeles Chargers and the Cleveland Browns if they can find consistency. But that trait has avoided both these teams. That said, they are dangerous on their day and are the first that spring to mind.
The stud player not getting enough attention so far this season is
JB:I would say Shaq Barrett from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He is just killing people. He was no longer wanted in Denver and I would say Todd Bowles is having an impact on Barrett. He is one of the best teachers around the league and good teachers not only recognise talent, they know how to use it. He has seen something in Shaq Barrett and he is putting him in position to play well.
WG:Hard to say as a 49ers fan, but Russell Wilson. The Seahawks have their least talented roster under Wilson, I'm not sure they'd win four games with even an average starting NFL QB. He is the only quarterback in the NFL this season to start with four straight games with a passer rating over 100.
He is first in completion rate (72.9 percent) and second in both touchdown-to-interception ratio (8/0) and passer rating (118.7). There are a couple of other stars on this team, but Danger-Russ is carrying them right now.
NR:Philip Rivers. I think we take him for granted these days but he has passed for 300 yards or more in three of the Chargers' four games to date and he was in the 290s in the other game. While the often-flaky Chargers go into basket-case mode at times, especially when they blow games they should win, Rivers is the one constant who is playing at a very high level.
JB:No because he can run the full offense and he has total command of the offense. Whenever you get a backup in the game, the big worry is that they won't have been through enough reps to know the offense. Chase Daniel has been around this offensive system for a long time, this is not his first year in this offense and he is very comfortable with the entire playbook.
NC:I think Chase Daniel is a backup at his stage of his career for a reason. He's a solid deputy, dependable but he'll struggle to win too many games. You can win the Super Bowl this way if your defense is good enough - history has shown us this - so that's the decision the Bears have to make. Their defense is good but is it exceptional. And is Trubisky going to cost them games vs the upside he offers which is greater than Daniel.
WG:Daniel has never had a run of starts in his 10 years in the NFL, but based on the small sample size he's an upgrade on Trubisky. Bears fans (and coaches) were STILL treating MT with kid gloves before he was injured, despite him being in year three with no signs of progression! High draft picks are expected to perform from day one nowadays, I'd honestly take Daniel Jones over Trubisky if the trade was on the table.Daniel sees the field better than Trubisky, is more accurate and gets the ball out quicker - he might not have the running threat, but he suits the offense better and they are a better team with him there.
NR:In the short term, probably not. But you have to wonder how consistent Chase Daniel can be if given a lengthy period of starting time. Starters are starters for a reason and backups are backups for a reason. But I get where the question is coming from because the Bears don't win with their quarterback. They have yet to top 300 total yards in a game this season yet are 3-1. Defense rules the roost and the quarterback needs to just do enough. Daniel can do that because he is so comfortable in this offense. But if he was the long-term answer, he would have been the starter from day one.
JB:Yes and no. We all know what his weaknesses are and that is to put him in a position to do dropback passes without the play action working from the stretch running game, but he did not get a lot of help from his offensive line in this weekend's game. His interior offensive line got beaten up and that really didn't help the entire team. I know Goff looks bad and he is what he is but it was because they couldn't stick to their formula because they got beaten up on the offensive line.
NC:Goff hasn't suddenly changed overnight. He's a highly skilled NFL QB, that is in a great situation (the team around him, the coach who is in his ear guiding him), an elegant passer that's learning all the time. But he has flaws, he's young and still learning, and as every starting QB in the history of the league has proved, he's gonna have some off days. The emergence of a player like Mahomes - and the inevitable comparisons - are affecting perception here. He's just not the same QB - nor does he need to be. Goff may never be a Top 3 QB at any given time in the league. He just needs to be good enough. Eli, Flacco, Foles - all SB winners in the last 10 years.
WG:Absolutely. When everything is set up right for him Goff has incredible arm talent and can make excellent tight window throws - but with the offensive line and run game on a downward trend in Los Angeles, Goff has shown he finds it difficult to be the difference-maker. It's not like he doesn't have talent around him - innovative coach, the best 1-2-3 WR group in the NFL, serviceable TEs - but his inability to read defenses and his lack of anticipation throws is increasingly worrying. I hope it's not the case and he figures it out, but the Rams could be defined by two big contracts to struggling players in Goff and Gurley.
NR:I think they should be concerned, to a degree. But take any top-end quarterback and remove two of his five offensive linemen from a year ago and give him reduced output in the running game and that quarterback is going to struggle. Goff makes some beautiful throws that wow you, but he also doesn't always handle physical pressure all that well. And the mental pressure? He looked scared stiff ahead of last season's Super Bowl. I feel like Goff is at a crossroads and I don't have nearly as much confidence in him as I did around this time last year. But rather than just worrying about Goff, the Rams should focus on that under-construction line and a Todd Gurley-led running game that attempted just 11 rushes this weekend.