NFL Ireland Team of the Week: Week 11

As the final bye week approaches we’re starting to get a good idea of the great and the good in this year’s league, but still every week throws up a few surprises. Week 11 was no difference, with big performances from rookies and practice squad players to go along with the established stars. This week promised some of the biggest matchups of the season and didn’t disappoint, so without further ado here’s our NFL Ireland Team of the Week!

Offense | Defense

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Quarterback: Aaron Rodgers – Green Bay Packers

It’s been six weeks of dominance from the Packers’ QB as he continues to put up the kind of numbers that get him benched (in a good way). The Packers Defense and Special teams got a lot of the plaudits but Rodgers’ performance was exemplary, going 22 of 36 for 341 yards, 3 TDs and no interceptions. It’s getting harder by the week to see anybody else take the MVP crown this year.

Running Back: Jonas Gray – New England Patriots

Belichick seems to do this every now and then. An unheralded running back comes in to take the place of the injured starter (Ridley, Vereen or both) and has a career day. The Colts gave up 4 TDs to LeGarrette Blount in the playoffs last season as the Patriots marched their way to the AFC title game, and this week the same team gave up another 4 scores to New England’s newest backfield sensation Jonas Gray. The Pats leaned on the former practice squad player all game, and he took full advantage as he romped into the end zone again and again, racking up 199 yards from scrimmage in the process. Regardless of whether or not he can produce like this again, this was a career day for Gray.

Tight End: Coby Fleener – Indianapolis Colts

In a season where the returning Dwayne Allen has hogged both touchdowns and headlines for the Colts, Fleener has seemed somewhat overshadowed. He made up for it on Sunday night as he hauled in all seven passes thrown in his direction, totalling 144 yards through the air. Even though the Colts were eventually worn down, Fleener was a bright spark in the offense and this performance was a timely reminder of the Stanford product’s ability and importance.

Wide Receiver: Mike Evans – Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Evans is now making it a weekly habit. Big plays downfield just go his way, and the no.7 overall draft pick is proving to be everything the Bucs had hoped for. His size, speed and safe hands were all on display as he torched the Redskins secondary, grabbing seven passes for 209 yards and a pair of scores. It doesn’t matter if it’s Mike Glennon or Josh McCown throwing him the ball, Evans is producing week-in, week-out.

Wide Receiver: A.J. Green – Cincinnati Bengals

Welcome back A.J. Green! After missing time through a niggling foot injury and being visibly frustrated as Andy Dalton imploded last week against the Browns, the Bengals superstar wideout returned to form with a vengeance this week. He took the inconsistent Saints defense to task as he caught six passes for 127 yards and a touchdown, which was about as classic an A.J. Green score as you’ll see.

Offensive Line: New England Patriots

After the Broncos surprise loss to the Rams on Sunday afternoon the AFC matchup between  the Colts and the Patriots took on extra importance as the race for home-field advantage in the playoffs began. The Patriots drew away from the Colts in the second half, and this game was won at the line of scrimmage. The Pats O-line is now settled after early-season experimentation saw the offense sputter and stumble, and on Sunday they didn’t allow a single sack on Tom Brady while also creating the holes for Jonas Gray’s breakout 4-TD performance. This unit is currently the best in the AFC by some distance.

Defense | Offense

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Defensive Line: Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Maybe Lovie Smith isn’t done in Tampa. In what has been a dreadful season so far the Bucs have been poor on both sides of the ball, but things are starting to click and, incredibly for a team with only two wins, they’re not out of the NFC South title race just yet. Breaking a 5-game losing streak against the hapless Redskins, the Bucs D-line got to Robert Griffin III on no fewer than 6 occasions, spreading the sacks around between the excellent Gerald McCoy, Jacquies Smith, Michael Johnson and Clinton McDonald. This is the fearsome front people expected to see this season, and it might be coming good at just the right time.

Linebackers: Kansas City Chiefs

In a week when your team gives up over 200 rushing yards it might seem that your front seven are to blame, but the Chiefs linebackers corps were all over the field against one of the strongest rushing attacks in the game. Tamba Hali and Justin Houston are closing in on All-Pro years and they could yet be joined by the increasingly impressive Josh Mauga. Their performances this season so far are making this unit look like the best linebacking corps in football. The numbers put up were a case of volume as Seattle’s poor passing attack meant they leaned on Lynch and Wilson time and again, and time and again the Chiefs had the World Champions under control.

Cornerback: Darrelle Revis – New England Patriots

Revis may not be the best defensive player in the league anymore, but he’s still a top corner in this league. On a day when Andrew Luck saw no help on the ground and was forced to throw again and again, Revis kept everyone he was asked to cover in check, throwing in two pass breakups. Reggie Wayne said before the game that this is the best Patriots secondary he’s ever faced, and they showed it with Revis leading the way on Sunday.

Cornerback: Johnathan Joseph – Houston Texans

People will look to Ryan Mallett, J.J. Watt and Alfred Blue as the reasons the Texans romped to victory in Cleveland on Sunday afternoon, but don’t forget about Joseph. On a day when Brian Hoyer threw for 330 yards, he slung seven passes into Joseph’s area of coverage. Per PFF, Joseph allowed just one catch for zero yards and broke up another two of those passes. That’s about as good a day in the secondary as you can ask for.

Free Safety: Husain Abdullah – Kansas City Chiefs

Abdullah makes his second appearance of the season on these pages, following another big game against big-name opponents. He was solid in coverage against the Seahawks, breaking up a pass and batting down another, and he also managed five combined tackles to keep the Super Bowl winners in check anytime they broke the line of scrimmage. Abdullah is another of the supposed small-name players having big years in Kansas City this year, as this defense keeps making plays and winning games.

Strong Safety T.J. McDonald – St. Louis Rams

The Rams D had a big day on Sunday, shutting down Peyton Manning’s Broncos attack and making big plays time and again. While the plaudits will go to the star-studded front seven, safety T.J. McDonald managed a pass defensed while giving up just ten yards on 8 balls throw into his area. This is the second strong game in a row for the second-year starter, and his improving form is a boon for the Rams’ inconsistent secondary.

NFL Ireland Team of the Week: Week 8

Week 8 marks the halfway point for most teams and it’s a good time to sit back, take stock and appreciate what we’ve got. The NFL Ireland Team of the Week has been dishing out the most-sought after honours in sport for half a season now, and the players keep making plays, each one desperate to get their name on the teamsheet! Whether it’s a quarterback making history or a veteran DB revisiting his island, Week 8 saw great performances from some of the top players in the league. Here’s your NFL Ireland Team of the Week!

Offense | Defense

 

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Quarterback: Ben Roethlisberger – Pittsburgh Steelers

In case you were living under a rock this weekend, on Sunday Ben Roethlisberger gave us one of the greatest QB performances of all time. He was completely error-free, with a box score full of numbers so good they’d make Rachel Riley blush: 40 of 49, 6 passing TDs, 522 passing yards, 0 INTs, 0 sacks. Although he finished a TD shy of tying the single game record, and just 32 yards short of the all-time single-game passing record, Big Ben’s performance made him the first player in NFL history to have TWO games with over 500 passing yards. And this Colts team came into the game looking like one of the better defenses in the NFL. Ben, we salute you.

Running Back: Mark Ingram – New Orleans Saints

Mark Ingram is often the victim, sometimes of injuries, more often of the many-headed running back committee in New Orleans. With Darren Sproles  now injured in Philly and Pierre Thomas and Khiry Robinson both forced to sit out the Saints’ Sunday matchup against the Green Bay Packers, Ingram was finally used as the featured back his Heisman-winning college career promised he could be. The 4-th year veteran didn’t disappoint, carrying the rock 24 times for 172 yards and a touchdown as the Saints got their season back on track with a 44-23 win. Have they finally found how to use the talented back?

Tight End: Rob Gronkowski – New England Patriots

We’ve said it before: Gronk is back and when he works, the Patriots work. The tight end and Tom Brady were partying like it was, well, 2011, as they hooked up on 9 passes for 149 yards and  3 TDs in a blowout win against the misfiring Bears in Foxboro. With Gronk in this kind of form, he only needs to stay healthy to keep the Patriots offense firing. Of course that’s always been his problem, but he is the key to New England booming or busting.

Wide Receiver: Jeremy Maclin – Philadelphia Eagles

Maclin is putting any fears about his ACL recovery to bed this season. Having hauled in a scary 12 passes for 187 yards and two touchdowns in the Eagles’ painful loss to the Cardinals this week, he’s also showing why Chip Kelly had no problem in letting DeSean Jackson walk this offseason. Maclin’s performances have made Nick Foles look good and saved Philadelphia’s blushes on a couple of occasions. It wasn’t enough this time, but if he maintains this form the Eagles will always be in with a chance.

Wide Receiver: Mohamed Sanu – Cincinnati Bengals

The Bengals improbably top the AFC North despite putting in some absolute stinkers since their bye week. A big reason for these bad performances has been the continued injuries of A.J. Green, but in his absence, Mohamed Sanu has stepped into his considerable shoes and performed admirably. In a tight divisional game against the Ravens, Sanu caught five balls for 125 yards, adding another 27 yards on two rushing attempts. Plays like this bobbling catch-and-run reception to bring the Bengals into scoring range are a big part of what Sanu does every week, and to do it in this tough a matchup was impressive.

Offensive Line: Denver Broncos

The Broncos managed to keep Peyton Manning’s jersey clean all day Thursday against the Chargers. As well as keeping their QB sack-free, they made the holes for Ronnie Hillman’s second rushing game of at least 100 yards this season. The Broncos O-line has been a strong base from which this offense is able to get downfield and score, which they do better than anybody.

 

Defense | Offense

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Defensive Line: Tennessee Titans

Looking for bright spots as a Titans fan is tough right now, but their D-line is starting to click again having faded after a promising start to the season. Jurell Casey, Sammie Lee Hill, Mike Martin, Al Woods and Ropati Pitoitua served as a reliable rotation in the hybrid fronts of Roy Horton on a team struggling for reliability on both sides of the football. Now if only they could get some help.

Linebackers – Buffalo Bills

So the Bills aren’t missing Kiko Alonso as much as people might have feared. Against a hapless New York Jets side they held the opposition running backs to just 78 yards while also forcing a fumble and taking an interception. A good game for a unit that continues to impress despite injuries to key players.

Cornerback: Darrelle Revis – New England Patriots

The Patriots big offseason acquisition has been a solid performer in recent weeks. Against the Bears he was targeted 8 times but he only gave up 23 yards for 3 receptions. He also managed to catch his second pick since moving to New England. If he continues to perform like this the Patriots will be looking at another deep postseason run.

Cornerback: Antonio Cromartie – Arizona Cardinals

Cromartie landed in Arizona as the second corner behind Patrick Peterson. He’s been a good contributor at times this year, but his talents really shone on Sunday against an Eagles side who like to throw the ball. He had a pass breakup and by the end of the game Cromartie was also celebrating his first multiple-pick game since 2010. He also had this glorious juke on a red-zone interception return to leave two Eagles players smashing into each other.

Free Safety: Tashaun Gipson – Cleveland Browns

After a strong start to the season that saw him make our team in Week 2, Gipson’s form slipped slightly at the start of the month. He’s bounced back in the last two weeks with 3 passes defended, all picks. His most recent interceptions came against Derek Carr and a Raiders team who found it difficult throwing his way, and the Browns safety chipped in two tackles for good measure. With continued good all-round play, Gipson is fast being recognised as a quality safety in the NFL.

Strong Safety: D.J. Swearinger – Houston Texans

Swearinger’s return to form this season has been somewhat overshadowed by the stellar form of J.J. Watt, and his performance against the Titans was again quietly efficient. He didn’t allow a single reception into his area of coverage per PFF, breaking up one pass and picking off another. He’s always been strong against the run but his work in coverage this year has improved, and he has proven to be an excellent and consistent performer for the improved 2014 Texans.

NFL Ireland Team of the Week: Week 7

We’re almost at the halfway point for the season and a lot of 2014’s top performers are starting to make multiple appearances on these hallowed pages. We still have plenty of debutantes in the NFL Ireland Team of the Week though, as plenty of fresh players made a big impression on us this week. Here’s the NFL Ireland Team of the Week!

Offense | Defense

 

 

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Quarterback: Peyton Manning – Denver Broncos

It’s not just that he set the all-time NFL passing TD record, which was an achievement worthy of a lady on a horse with a flag, but Manning this week also went 22 of 26 for 4 TDs, topping 300 yards and running out with an almost-perfect QB rating of 157.2 in the win against San Francisco. He didn’t just break the record, he did it with one of the best performances of his career. That’s what legends do.

Running Back: Denard Robinson – Jacksonville Jaguars

A Jaguar hasn’t graced these pages since Allen Hurns in Week 1, but Robinson finally brought some semblance of order to the chaos that has been the Jacksonville backfield this season. In the team’s first win of 2014, Robinson went for 127 yards and a TD on 22 carries – behind a very questionable offensive line – as they cruised to victory over the Browns. The former ‘offensive weapon’ looked every inch a starting NFL running back, and the Jaguars will be hoping he can continue this fine form from here on out.

Tight End: Greg Olson – Carolina Panthers

The Panthers’ problems on defense have been well documented, but on offense Cam Newton has always been able to rely on Greg Olsen. Even as the team struggled last week, the former Bears tight end continued to show that he’s one of the most underrated players at the position, racking up 105 yards on 8 receptions. He’s the best weapon the Panthers have outside of Newton, and an invaluable cog in this offense.

Wide Receiver: Golden Tate – Detroit Lions

With Matt Stafford struggling and the Lions staring down the barrel of a home loss to the Saints, Golden Tate stepped up and took a short pass 73 yards past the Saints secondary for a touchdown. The score breathed new life into the Lions, setting up a come-from-behind victory that keeps the Lions on pace with the Packers in the NFC North, and contributed to Tate’s 154 yards on ten receptions.

Wide Receiver: Demaryius Thomas – Denver Broncos

Thomas makes his second appearance of the season here as he not only hauled in 8 passes for 171 yards and 2 TDs, but he also caught the all-important no. 509 from Peyton Manning’s hand. He’s found his feet in the end zone after a slow start to the season, and on this form he looks set to continue posting monster numbers as the season progresses.

Offensive Line: Dallas Cowboys

They’ve been consistently good all season, so it’s about time we put them in our team. The Cowboys offensive line has been so good, leading DeMarco Murray to a historic first 7 games with 100 yards rushing, that the RB surprised them all with presents this week. The real reward for the Cowboys has been a 6-1 start to the season with all of their star players performing above expectations, and creating an offensive juggernaut that will be hard to stop in the NFC.

 

Defense | Offense

 

 

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Defensive Line: Denver Broncos

It’s not just on offense that the Broncos are playing well this year. The D has been strong and against the 49ers they managed to give up just 62 yards rushing to the 49ers and getting to the QB four times for sacks. When you include Von Miller this defensive front is one of the most fearsome in football, and with the offense as dominant as it has been it’s difficult to see a weakness in this team for other AFC sides to exploit.

Linebackers: Baltimore Ravens

One side who might be contending for the AFC along with Denver is the Baltimore Ravens, and a big reason for their improvement this season has been the consistent production from their linebackers. The emergence of Pernell McPhee alongside rookie CJ Mosley and Daryl Smith, combined with Terrell Suggs and former Bronco Elvis Dumervil on the edges has created a corps with depth and impact talent. Against the Falcons they combined for 5 sacks and a fumble, alongside good coverage and shutdown performance on the ground. This Baltimore D is a serious unit, and their linebackers are the starting point for all their success.

Cornerback: Vontae Davis – Indianapolis Colts

Davis lands  a spot on our team for the second week in a row, as the Colts defense improved again to shut out the Cincinnati Bengals in a  27-0 victory at home. Davis allowed just two receptions into his area of coverage for a mere 21 yards, and his contribution to the Colts improvement this season on the defensive side of the ball can not be overstated.

Cornerback: Adam Jones – Cincinnati Bengals

One player who managed to overshadow Davis this week was playing in the same stadium. In spite of the success Indianapolis enjoyed on Sunday, the Bengals D could still rely on Pacman Jones to be strong against the run and allow just 8 yards on two receptions on balls thrown his way. The Bengals are struggling in many areas of the game at the moment, but Jones was excellent and if he can continue to perform like this, the rest of the team will have a great example to follow

Strong Safety: Robert Blanton – Minnesota Vikings

Blanton may have ended up on the losing side against the Bills on Sunday, but his performance alongside former Team of the Week-er Harrison Smith was a bright spot for the Vikings. He managed to be strong in the box against the run and also caught his first career interception. He’s earned his place as a starter this year and the Vikings’ safety duo look as good as any in the league right now.

Free Safety: Glover Quin – Detroit Lions

In a dominant Detroit Lions defense this season the secondary has sometimes been overlooked. Not so this week, as Quin managed 5 tackles and the crucial 4th quarter interception to set up his team for a win at home against the Saints. He has progressed this season into a strong starter and with the trip to London this week the Lions should be hoping to secure a big victory working off the base this D gives them.

NFL Ireland Team of the Week: Week 6

Week 6 is usually the point in the year where everything settles down, we know what most teams are and the story of the season starts to take shape. Well obviously the Cowboys, Browns, Panthers, Bengals, Eagles and Ravens are reading from a different playbook, because the surprises keep on coming! The 2014 season is shaping up to be one of the most intriguing in a long time, and the NFL Ireland Team of the Week is here to lavish honour and praise upon those who keep us guessing! So without further ado, here’s the Week 6 Team of the Week!

Offense | Defense

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Quarterback: Joe Flacco – Baltimore Ravens

Flacco spent most of last season underperforming. This year, behind a vastly improved offensive line, he has resumed Super Bowl Flacco form. No QB since the AFL/NFL merger in 1970 has passed for 5 touchdowns quicker than Flacco did against the Bucs on Sunday, and he finished the game with 21 completions from 29 attempts, a passer rating of 146.0 and 306 yards through the air. The Buccaneers are in all sorts of trouble, but Flacco put them to the sword on Sunday and the Ravens are looking up.

Running Back: LeSean McCoy – Philadelphia Eagles

Shady’s back. McCoy routed the hapless Giants defense in the NFC East clash on Sunday, carrying the rock 22 times for 149 yards. He had long runs to set up a touchdown and to convert a crucial 3rd down in the first half, as the league’s leading rusher from last year showed the patience and determination we all expect from him. The Eagles are on a bye next week, but with confidence and a rest behind him, I wouldn’t count against a repeat performance against the Cardinals in Week 8.

Tight End: Julius Thomas – Denver Broncos

He didn’t have the complete performance of weeks past, but Thomas hauled in another two touchdown passes against the Jets on Sunday. As he rightly pointed out, it was ‘so f***ing easy’ to get in for his second score of the day, and the stats monster now has nine touchdowns through just five games. That is scary, and that is why he’s in this team once more.

Wide Receiver: T.Y. Hilton – Indianapolis Colts

Hilton took over on Thursday Night Football against the Texans. The wideout pulled in 9 passes for 223 yards – just one yard shy of the Colts single-game franchise record – and a touchdown. Andrew Luck’s team are the highest-scoring outfit in football so far this season, and with Hilton on this form, it’s easy to see why.

Wide Receiver: Andre Holmes – Oakland Raiders

It’s probably not often that you’ll see a Raiders player end up on these pages in 2014. Holmes has emerged as a big-play threat in their last two games however. On Sunday against the Chargers he only had four receptions, but he took two of them to the house, ending up with 121 total receivng yards on the day. Interim Head Coach Tony Sparano might end up with the job full time if Holmes can continue this excellent form.

Offensive Line: Cleveland Browns

For the second week in a row the Browns are our offensive line. They were again dominant against a Steelers side who have traditionally dominated in this AFC North rivalry, but the most impressive facet of this performance was how well they coped with the departure of star centre Alex Mack. He may well be the best centre in the league, but the Browns marshaled the trenches and allowed Ben Tate and Isiah Crowell to combine for 165 rushing yards and 3 rushing TDs.

Defense | Offense

 

 

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Defensive Line: Detroit Lions

The rotating carousel of punishment that was the Detroit Lines defensive line combined for 7 sacks last weekend as Minnesota’s rookie QB Teddy Bridgewater was afforded no time to get set or more the football in a convincing NFC North victory. The run game was stuffed and the passing game non-existant, as the Lions cemented their place as the best defense in football this year. The front line is a big reason for their place atop the pile.

Linebackers: Philadelphia Eagles

The Eagles front seven was dominant against a New York Giants offensive line which had been among the best in football in recent weeks. In a shutout win at home to hated division rivals, the Eagles linebackers Connor Barwin, Brandon Graham and Trent Cole combined for 12 tackles, 5 sacks and 2 forced fumbles, causing havoc in the Giants’ backfield and keeping Eli Manning off his feet and under pressure. A great performance from an improving unit.

Cornerback: Vontae Davis – Indianapolis Colts

Davis is very much the star in this backfield, and the cornerback was solid against a resurgent Texans side. He added a forced fumble and a pass breakup to a four-tackle performance, continuing his improvement as the Colts progressed to 4-2 on the season.

Cornerback: Jason Verrett – San Diego Chargers

If it’s not one Chargers cornerback, it’s the other. The rookie Verrett was excellent in coverage against the Raiders, allowing just 36 yards into his area while also grabbing the game-icing interception to seal a surprisingly close victory in this AFC West matchup. If he continues to improve, Verrett and Flowers make a scary secondary for opposition offenses.

Free Safety: Devin McCourty – New England Patriots

McCourty went into Orchard Park against the Bills and helped himself to five tackles while also forcing a fumble. It was a controlled and intelligent performance from a player who should now be leading the Patriots backfield, and the Bills offense had no answer for it.

Strong Safety: Donte Whitner – Cleveland Browns

Whitner continued to earn his free agent money in Cleveland, contributing in both coverage and against the run to a dominant victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers. He has quickly established himself as a capable replacement for T.J. Ward, and the Browns improving defense is reaping the benefits.

NFL Ireland Team of the Week: Week 5

In a week of big comebacks and close wins, it takes a lot to stand out from the crowd. The honour of making the NFL Ireland Team of the Week has to be earned, and this collection of heroes managed to do just that. Here’s our Team of the Week for Week 5:

Offense | Defense

 

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Quarterback: Peyton Manning – Denver Broncos

It was a close-run thing between Manning and Tom Brady this week, as both wily old veterans had milestone games. Brady passed the 50,000 career passing yards mark, while Manning broke 500 career touchdown passes. In the end, plumping for Manning was the only choice as he threw for 4 TDs and 479 yards against a Cardinals D that had been tough to break down so far this season. Oh, Peyton only needs 6 more TDs to hold the career total touchdown passes record. Who’d bet against him getting it this weekend at the Jets?

Running Back: Arian Foster – Houston Texans

As the Texans passing attack came shuddering to a halt, the decision to start Ryan Fitzpatrick looks as bad as we predicted in preseason. Thankfully the Texans have the return to form of their star running back to lean on. Foster hit local rivals the Dallas Cowboys for 157 rushing yards and 2 rushing touchdowns in a close game proving that, if he can stay healthy, he’s still one of the best backs in football.

Tight End: Rob Gronkowski – New England Patriots

A return to form in an offense designed around his strengths once more, the Pats star TE hit the previously stingy Bengals defense for 100 yards and a touchdown on six receptions. It’s no coincidence that the Patriots offense found a spark in their best receiving weapon, and after working slowly back from ACL injury in the offseason a healthy Gronk spells trouble for the rest of the league.

Wide Receiver: Demaryius Thomas – Denver Broncos

After a comparatively slow start to the season Broncos fans must’ve gone into last week’s bye wondering when Thomas was going to show up. They didn’t have to wait long as the star wideout went for 228 yards and a pair of touchdowns on 8 receptions. He had another 77-yard TD called back for a chop block by Julius Thomas on Calais Campbell. Had it stood, Thomas would have had a day for the ages. As it stands, he had to settle for just a franchise record in yards for a wide receiver.

Wide Receiver: Vincent Jackson – Tampa Bay Buccaneers

As Mike Glennon has settled back into the starting QB role in Tampa, he’s found comfort with his old favourite target Vincent Jackson. VJ came out against the Saints for 144 yards on 8 receptions, leading the line in a narrow overtime divisional loss. If he can reproduce this form consistently the Bucs might just stand a chance of being relevant this season.

Offensive Line: Cleveland Browns

The Browns offensive line has been quietly productive all season long. Allowing just one sack on QB Brian Hoyer and creating the holes that allowed Ben Tate 124 rushing yards, Alex Mack and co. were the bedrock upon which the Browns’ historic comeback road win was based. The AFC North has a number of the leading offensive lines in the business. Might this group be the best of the best?

 

Defense | Offense

 

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Defensive Line: Buffalo Bills

The Bills had a last-gasp win at the Detroit Lions, continuing their good form against the NFC North. The win was based upon dominance in the trenches, as the defensive line was all over Matt Stafford. Marcell Dareus, Jerry Hughes and Mario Williams combined for 12 tackles, 2 forced fumbles and six sacks as they took the Lions line to town in a frighteningly efficient performance. More of the same and Kyle Orton will be playing with the lead a lot more in 2014.

Linebackers: Carolina Panthers

Making their second appearance on these pages the Panthers once again dominated against the Bears. Luke Kuechly and Thomas Davis are the best linebacker duo in football, and while forcing Matt Forte into receptions and out of the running game, they also allowed just 67 yards combined in coverage. They’re carrying the load for a Panthers defense which is patchy at other spots.

Cornerback: Chris Harris – Denver Broncos

It wasn’t just on offense that the Broncos shone this week. Harris didn’t allow any receptions on seven attempts into his coverage, per PFF, as the Denver secondary held the combined talents of Drew Stanton and Logan Thomas under 200 passing yards on the day. A solid performance from an underrated player.

Cornerback: Alterraun Verner – Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Another repeat defender on our list  Verner was once again on song as the Bucs nearly clinched a victory in New Orleans. Adding an interception on Drew Brees to two passes defended and just 42 yards allowed in his coverage, the free agent signing continues to prove shrewd business in his new home in Florida.

Free Safety: Harrison Smith – Minnesota Vikings

In an otherwise miserable loss to the Green Bay Packers, the continued good form of Harrison Smith proved to Minnesota’s lone bright spot in the rain of Lambeau. With almost no help whatsoever Smith managed a team-high five tackles with a pass defended and an interception to boot in a game with not a lot riding on it after half time. A solid performance from an improving player.

Strong Safety: Morgan Burnett – Green Bay Packers

On the other side of Thursday night’s game, Burnett was a monster for the Packers. His tackling stats and a forced fumble don’t even begin to tell the story of his performance. He was good in coverage and against the run, stopping the Vikings on five of his eight tackles, and looked like a leader for this defensive secondary. In bad weather, in divisional matchups at home you want your players to stand up and stand out, and Burnett did just that.

Who did we forget? Tell us on twitter, facebook or right here in the comments!

NFL Ireland Team of the Week: Week 4

The first bye week is always tough, and with six teams sitting it out Week 4 needed players to step up and entertain us poor football fans. They didn’t disappoint as we saw upsets, big games and standout debuts from big names and surprise starters alike. See the best of the best from the NFL as we present the lucky few who made the NFL Ireland team of the Week!

Offense | Defense

 

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Quarterback: Aaron Rodgers – Green Bay Packers

Let’s be honest, Rodgers has been poor this season. The team needed the refs and some sketchy secondary play to see off the Jets in their lone win before this season, but the QB wasn’t worried, telling fans and reporters to RELAX ahead of their trip to divisional rivals the Chicago Bears this weekend. The Super Bowl winner obviously saw something the rest of us hadn’t, as he threw 22 of 28 for over 300 yards, 4 TDs and no interceptions in a dominant 38-17 victory at Soldier Field. Now everybody can relax, except Packers opponents.

Running Back: DeMarco Murray – Dallas Cowboys

Here at NFL Ireland we like to spread the love around. The Team of the Week is about casting our eyes far and wide to find someone who has been not just great, but great with a story, so we’re reluctant to shower praise on any one individual too much. That said, 149 yards and two TDs against the Saints is enough to grab our attention, and so for the second time in 3 weeks Murray makes the grade as our RB. He’s the best runner in football right now, and it’s not even close.

Tight End: Martellus Bennett – Chicago Bears

With Murray repeating, we might as well keep the ball rolling. Making his second appearance in as many weeks in our team of the week, Bennett was phenomenal against the Packers, catching 9 balls for a whopping 134 yards while his blocking helped Matt Forte to hit a season-high 122 yards on the ground. On this form, Bennett looks a complete tight end.

Wide Receiver: Steve Smith – Baltimore Ravens

When Steve Smith was cut by the Panthers in March, he promised that if he returned to the Bank of America Stadium in another team’s colours there’d be ‘blood and guts everywhere’. The 35 year-old veteran was as good as his word (figuratively speaking), torching his former team for 139 yards and two touchdowns. Smith is averaging over 107 yards per game since his arrival in Baltimore, and after last week the receiver-needy Panthers must be kicking themselves for letting him go.

Wide Receiver: Keenan Allen – San Diego Chargers

After kicking off the season with three fairly anonymous performances despite the Chargers posting big numbers, last year’s Offensive Rookie of the Year exploded against the Jaguars, grabbing ten balls for 135 yards. That’s more yards than in his first three games combined! As Philip Rivers continues to spread the ball around Allen might not always see so many targets, but it was great to see that his ability, and reliability, are back.

Offensive Line: New York Giants

Against a Redskins line that had racked up 10 sacks in the first three games of the season, the Giants improved markedly to keep Eli Manning upright and unhurried. After being written off in Week 1, the Giants offense, and the line in particular, are starting to put it all together under new coordinator Ben McAdoo. If they can continue to keep Eli’s shirt clean like they did here, we’ll be talking about the Giants offensive line as a strength once more, rather than a weakness.

Defense | Offense

 

 

TOTW-4-Defense

Defensive Line: Houston Texans

Expect to hear this a lot this season: J.J. Watt is the best player in the NFL right now. He was all over E.J. Manuel in the Buffalo backfield and, while he didn’t notch up a sack, he got a pick-six for his second touchdown of the season. Jared Crick and Tim Jamison combined for the team’s two sacks, rounding off a dominant day for the Texans line.

Linebackers: Kansas City Chiefs

The Chiefs linebacker group trod all over the Patriots on Monday Night Football. Tamba Hali, Josh Mauga and Justin Houston combined for 3 sacks and two forced fumbles, breaking the brittle Pats offensive line time after time and helping shut out Tom Brady and co. completely in the first half. For a defense that struggled down the stretch last season, this was a complete performance.

Cornerback: Sean Smith – Kansas City Chiefs

Keeping up the theme, Smith had a great night in coverage against the Patriots, while also adding a pick in the middle of the third quarter to ice any comeback aspirations. The Chiefs secondary will need performances like this from their no.1 corner if they are to stay relevant this season.

Cornerback: Brandon Flowers – San Diego Chargers

Another player on the repeat list, having made this team just last week, Flowers improved on his Week 3 performance by allowing just three yards into his area of coverage, while also adding an interception. The Chargers defense looks like a unit to be taken seriously this season, and leading the sea change has been the excellent free agent cornerback signing.

Free Safety: Husain Abdullah – Kansas City Chiefs

Rounding out the impressive performances from the KC D this week is free safety Husain Abdullah. His eight tackles contributed to a solid run defense but the cherry on top was a fourth quarter 53-yard pick six. Even though he suffered an unjust penalty after the play for praying in the endzone, he won’t mind too much if he’s running home interceptions again this season.

Strong Safety: Mike Adams – Indianapolis Colts

The Colts have some problems in the secondary, but Mike Adams wasn’t one of them this week. He hauled in two interceptions to keep Charlie Whitehurst and the Titans offense in check and ensure a solid win and keep the Colts close to the Texans in the AFC South.

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Philadelphia Eagles @ San Francisco 49ers

Levi’s Stadium, Santa Clara, California

Kick Off: 9.25pm GMT – Sky Sports 2

The undefeated Eagles travel to the West Coast to face off against the 49ers on Sunday in this Week 4 matchup between two of last year’s NFC playoff participants.

The 49ers are already sitting 1-2 for the year, trailing the 2-1 World Champion Seahawks and the undefeated Arizona Cardinals in the NFC West. It’s still early in the season but in such a competitive division they’ll already be worried about falling too far behind their rivals and will need to win their home games to avoid that. Having christened the newly-opened Levi’s Stadium with a loss against the Chicago Bears however, San Francisco must lay down a marker in Sunday’s game, and that begins with the defense. The 49ers held a 19-4-1 record in regular season matchups at Candlestick Park since Harbaugh arrived in 2011, surrendering a meagre 13.2 points per game. The will need that home field dominance to carry over to Levi’s Stadium if they want to remain competitive in the NFC West, but that dominance was predicated on a strong defense which many thought suspect before the season. Star linebacker NaVorro Bowman is injured and will be until at least week 6, having been placed on the PUP list before the season started. Pass rusher Aldon Smith is also still absent as he serves his 9-game suspension for personal conduct and substance use violations and nose tackle Glenn Dorsey won’t suit up this season after knee injury ruled him out in August. Their secondary has lost starters at cornerback and safety in the offseason and has only seen Antoine Bethea arrive to help. Even with all these problems, the 49ers still rank 6th in yards against, and it’s clear that the defense will be at least competent until they can get some of their stars back midway through the season.

The problem for Jim Harbaugh is with his offense. After an offseason where they failed to score a touchdown, many assumed that San Francisco were merely hiding their light under a bushel, waiting for the real games to start so that they could unleash an offense which began to spark down the stretch last year. In their three games so far they have averaged just 20.7pts per game, tied for 19th in the NFL with the less-than-prolific Bills and Jets. The startling thing about these stats is when these points have been scored:

That’s right, of the 62 total points the 49ers have scored in 2014, just 3 have come after half time. In fact, they’ve been outscored 52-3 in the second half of games this season. Colin Kaepernick has been almost flawless through two quarters, and one of the worst QBs in the league in the third and fourth. They should be able to find their way into the end zone against a porous Eagles defense on Sunday night, especially with the expected return from injury of start tight end Vernon Davis, but having lost from winning positions at the half twice in the last two weeks, Kaepernick and co. can’t afford to take their foot off the gas or lose focus against Philly, especially at home. Given these spectacular capitulations, the Eagles might just be the worst possible visitors for San Francisco to host this week. Not only are Philadelphia undefeated, but they are also the first team in NFL history to have a 3-0 record having trailed by more than 10 points in each game. As good as the 49ers have been in the first half of games, the Eagles have been even better in the second half of them, averaging 24.7 points in these periods alone.

Nick Foles has been erratic to say the least, dispatching the Jaguars, Colts and Redskins in spite of inconsistent play, but he is still touching nearly 1,000 passing yards already and on course for a 5,000-yard season. These gaudy numbers through the air must be tempered by the less impressive rushing totals. With LeSean McCoy they boasted the best rushing offense in the league in 2013, the Eagles were brought back down to earth with a bang last week against a rejuvinated Redskins defensive front, managing just 2.2 yards per attempt. Similar numbers should be forecast against the 49ers, who have been solid against the run since Harbaugh took over.

While their attack has been excellent through the air, the same can’t be said of the Eagles’ passing defense. Last year they were the worst unit in football, and in 2013 they are again among the softest secondaries, ranking third behind the hapless duo of the Jags and Bucs. With the return of Vernon Davis, the emergence of Stevie Johnson after he broke the 100-yard receiving mark against the Cardinals and the constant threat of Michael Crabtree, who already has two TD receptions this season, there is hope for the 49ers offense against the Eagles. Although this isn’t their style, preferring as they do to use a ground attack to wear down teams before picking them off with read option and play action passes, they might be forced into passing should they fall far behind Chip Kelly’s quarterback-proof offense, and with both teams throwing relentlessly this could well be a high-scoring shootout.

A game of two halves? Definitely, and with offenses throwing and defenses sputtering there should be plenty of entertainment to keep you up late on Sunday!

Prediction:
Philadelphia Eagles 34
San Francisco 49ers 28

An Introduction to NFL Betting

Here at NFL Ireland we all love the sport of American Football, and we all enjoy predicting what will happen. Maybe you fancy trying to put your knowledge to the test while winning a bit of money, maybe you’re after one more selection to add to your weekend accumulator, or you just want to have an interest in the games on Sunday evening after the Premier League has finished. But what’s this? The NFL betting on your bookie’s website or on their coupon is full of goobledygook! How can you possibly make an informed decision on where to put your hard-earned money with this weird jargon all over the place? Fear not, we’re here to set things straight with our introduction to NFL betting!

Terminology:
Many bookmakers take the terms used for their NFL betting from the American betting industry, which can sometimes be slightly different than here in Ireland. Here’s a few examples:

The Money Line:
Money Line betting is, simply put, match betting. Similar to Win-Draw-Win betting on soccer, GAA and rugby, but without the draw bit included, it will usually look like this:[container]Green Bay Packers @ Philadelphia Eagles
Green Bay Packers 21/20
Philadelphia Eagles 4/5
[/container]

This is simple. If you back Green Bay to win the game you get odds of 21/20, and if you back Philadelphia to win the game you get odds of 4/5.

But why is there no option to back a draw? What happens if it is a draw? Well, Americans and american sports don’t really like ties, so you’ll often see something similar to this on screens and coupons in bookies on this side of the pond:

[container]Overtime to Count. Tie = Push = Stake Return[/container]

In the NFL if scores are tied at the end of the fourth quarter, the game goes to overtime because, as we said, America hates ties. If your selection wins in overtime, you still win your bet. In the event that no team scores in overtime, the game is stopped and awarded as a tie. This means the match result is a draw, and that equals a ‘Push’ result (more on this in a minute). Basically the bookie acts like the bet never happened and you get your money back, because the only thing Americans hate more than a tie is a loser. For single bets you’ll get your stake refunded, and if your selection is in a multiple bet, it counts as a non-runner.

This applies to 2-way markets like the Packers @ Eagles example above. Some bookies will offer you a 3-way market which includes the Tie as an option to back, in which case there’s no ‘Push’ result and no stake returned, but that’s a separate market (not Money Line) that you need to specifically seek out.

Spread Betting:
In most high-scoring sports, spread betting is very popular. You’ll have heard people in TV and movies saying they’ve ‘beaten the spread’. Spread betting is very similar to Handicap betting in other sports, so if you’re familiar with Handicap betting that’s a great start. If you’re not, here’s a quick primer. A typical spread market often looks like this:

[container]Green Bay Packers @ Philadelphia Eagles
Green Bay Packers +2.5 pts 10/11
Philadelphia Eagles -2.5 pts 10/11[/container]

This is a way of leveling the playing field between the two sides, and also splitting some of the risk for the bookie. You must add the ‘handicap’ or spread points that you have selected to the final result of the game and, if your selected team still wins the game after applying the selected points, you win the bet. Let’s say that you selected the Philadelphia Eagles to win -2.5 pts in the above example, and the final score of the game is Philadelphia Eagles 27-20 Green Bay Packers. You must subtract your handicap points from the final score. That means that you take away 2.5 points from the Eagles score in the actual result:

27 (actual) – 2.5 (handicap) = 24.5 pts

So, your score for betting purposes is now Philadelphia Eagles 24.5-20 Green Bay Packers. Even with the handicap of subtracing 2.5 pts your selection still wins the game, so your bet is a winner. This is called beating the spread.

What if the winning margin is smaller than the handicap points, and the final score of the game is Philadelphia Eagles 21-20 Green Bay Packers? Let’s do the same sums:

21 (actual) -2.5 (handicap) = 18.5 pts

So, your score for betting purposes is now Philadelphia Eagles 18.50-20 Green Bay Packers. That means the Eagles would lose the game after applying the handicap, so your bet is a loser. In the same scenario, suppose you selected the Green Bay Packers +2.5 pts instead of the Eagles. Then the handicap points you’ve selected are applied to the Packers final score. Let’s do the maths for that:

20 (actual) +2.5 (handicap) = 22.5 pts

The final score for the game with your selected handicap is now Philadelphia Eagles 21-22.5 Green Bay Packers. Even though they didn’t win the game, the Packers win for betting purposes, and so do you!

As with Money Line betting, overtime counts for these markets unless they offer a ‘Tie’ option. Sometimes you will see handicap betting using a whole number of points, rather than with a decimal. There is a slight advantage to this, because it means that our friend ‘Push’ comes back into play. Say for example this is the market offered:

[container]Green Bay Packers @ Philadelphia Eagles
Green Bay Packers +3 pts 4/5
Philadelphia Eagles -3 pts 11/10[/container]

Imagine you back the Eagles -3 pts in this scenario, and the game finishes Philadelphia Eagles 23-20 Green Bay Packers. Again, we do the sums:

23 (actual) -3 (handicap) = 20 pts.

Now the score for betting purposes reads Philadelphia Eagles 20-20 Green Bay Packers, which is a tie. ‘Push’ comes into operation here again, and your stake is returned for the bet. You don’t win but you don’t lose!

Now that you have a grasp of some of the betting jargon, you can make an informed bet on the American football games. We’ll be looking at other popular bet types in our next post, so come back for more soon, and good luck with your betting!

remember to always gamble responsibly visit gambleaware.ie

NFL Ireland Team of the Week: Week 3

In another week where the lead-up was dominated by off-field issues, the weekend couldn’t come quickly enough. And what a weekend it was; overtime, big scores, big plays, and a reminder of everything we love about the NFL. Here we list the best of the best according to NFL Ireland. Week 3 winners, here we go!

Offense | Defense

 

Team of the Week 3: Offense

QB: Kirk Cousins – Washington Redskins

In his first start of the season Cousins made his case for taking the QB job ahead of the injured Robert Griffin III. He threw for 427 yards and three TDs, and if Cousins keeps playing like this, the former Offensive Rookie of the Year might not have a job to come back to.

Running Back: Rashad Jennings – New York Giants

Against a stout Houston defense Jennings managed to rack up 176 rushing yards and a TD. More importantly for the Giants, he was able to dominate the game and regulate the pace of the attack, keeping the Giants in control of what many thought would be a tough home matchup.

Tight End: Martellus Bennett – Chicago Bears

Another week of banged-up receivers for the Bears but another strong performance from Bennett. The former Cowboy and Giant stepped up when it counted with two TD catches against the Jets on Monday Night Football. He’s had a great start to the season.

Wide Receiver: Julio Jones – Atlanta Falcons

Sure it was only against the awful Bucs, but you can’t ignore 181 yards and 2 touchdowns. Jones is back and better than ever, and when he’s reeling off 40-yard TD catches like this one (from a poor Matt Ryan throw too) opposing defensive backs should be scared. Very scared.

Wide Receiver: Jeremy Maclin – Philadelphia Eagles

DeSean Jackson graced his return to Philly with a TD, but it was the Eagles no.1 receiver who put on a clinic, catching 8 balls for 154 yards and a 4th quarter score. Coming off an ACL injury which sidelined him all of last season, Maclin is showing there is life after DeSean in this Eagles receiving corps after all.

Offensive Line: Washington Redskins

The Redskins didn’t give up a single sack and gave Kirk Cousins the time and space to be our QB of the week. A solid effort from an improving unit.

 

Defense | Offense

 

 

Team of the Week 3 Defense

Defensive Line: Kansas City Chiefs

The Chiefs notched up 4 sacks and, with Dontari Poe and Allen Bailey leading the way, kept Ryan Tannehill on the backfoot to ensure an inept passing game from the Dolphins. This week saw a big jump from the Chiefs D-line, and KC needs that trend to continue.

Linebackers: Miami Dolphins

The Dolphins linebackers are still struggling with injuries, but this unit dominated against the Chiefs. Alex Smith moved the ball in spite of their pressure, as Jelani Jenkins, Jason Trusnik and Philip Wheeler combined for 23 individual tackles, with Jenkins adding a pair of sacks and forcing a fumble for good measure.

Cornerback: Brandon Flowers – San Diego Chargers

The beleaguered Chargers passing defense of 2013 was boosted by the addition of Flowers in free agency. Flowers held receivers in his area to just 29 yards and added a pass breakup too. The Chargers already see his signing as money well spent.

Cornerback: Kyle Fuller – Chicago Bears

Fuller makes his second team of the week appearance in as many weeks. The rookie had a red zone interception and a crucial pass breakup against the Jets. If he continues to play like this, the Bears won’t miss injured veteran Charles Tillman one bit.

Free Safety: Tony Jefferson – Arizona Cardinals

In spite of losses all over the defense, Cardinals defensive coordinator Todd Bowles has found a way to keep this unit not just competitive, but dominant. A perfect example was Jefferson’s week 3 performance against the 49ers, as he managed 8 tackles and a sack to help keep the Cardinals’ divisional rivals scoreless in the second half.

Strong Safety: Kam Chancellor – Seattle Seahawks

Both safety spots could easily have been occupied by Seahawks players, but Chancellor had the edge on Earl Thomas with a pick on Peyton Manning in Seattle’s overtime win. The Legion of Boom has faced questions this season, but there was no questioning Chancellor’s performance on Sunday.

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