Younger weapons showdown, a brand new QB period and sandwich meats: 5 NFL issues to observe

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One month stays within the NFL common season earlier than the playoffs start and there are 4 division races that appear to be they’ll go right down to the ultimate weekend — the AFC South, AFC West, NFC South and NFC West, whereas, fights for home-field benefit in each conferences warmth up.

With that, right here’s a have a look at The Publish’s NFL Excessive 5 for Week 14:

Recreation of the week to observe

Sunday’s scrumptious late-afternoon matchup between the 10-2 Eagles and 9-Three Rams in Los Angeles is definitely the sport of Week 14.

“These are the video games that you simply higher be able to go for as a result of they’re an ideal soccer staff,” first-year Rams coach Sean McVay stated. “It’s an thrilling matchup.”

The Eagles rank first within the NFL in scoring differential (plus-146), and the Rams second (plus-139). The Eagles’ offense is averaging the third-most yards per sport (385.1), and Rams’ the fourth-most (372.7). The Eagles’ protection is permitting the sixth-fewest factors per sport (17.92), and the Rams’ the seventh-fewest (18.50).

The Eagles gave the impression to be on cruise management en path to home-field benefit all through the playoffs till they have been tripped up by the Seahawks final week. They’re now tied with the Vikings with the perfect report within the NFC, although Minnesota has the tiebreaker edge for the time being based mostly on energy of schedule.

The Rams misplaced to the Vikings in Week 11, however they beat the Saints (9-Four), so a Rams win Sunday would give them head-to-head tiebreakers over two of the three groups battling preventing for first-round playoff byes.

“You get excited for these video games as a result of it’s going to be future video games,” Rams working again Todd Gurley instructed reporters, referring to potential rematches with these groups.

Rams left deal with Andrew Whitworth referred to the Eagles sport as “a measuring stick sport,” in response to ESPN.com.

Misplaced within the enormity of the matchup, the subplot to the sport is on the quarterback place, the place Jared Goff, the Rams’ No. 1-overall draft decide in 2016, and the Eagles’ Carson Wentz, the No. 2-overall decide that 12 months, go at it.

“It’ll be enjoyable to play in opposition to him, however I’m extra excited to play their staff,” Goff stated.

“That is what you’re keen on in regards to the NFL,” McVay stated. “These video games are enjoyable.’’

Franchise quarterback period to observe

Jimmy GaroppoloAP

The Jimmy Garoppolo period in San Francisco is below approach.

Garoppolo, who was acquired by the 49ers from the Patriots on the commerce deadline, will make his second consecutive begin Sunday, in opposition to the Texans, after main his staff to a win at Chicago final week.

49ers followers, who’ve been starved for a number of years for a winner, are buzzing about Garoppolo, some dreaming of him turning into one other Joe Montana. Garoppolo shortly tried to tamp down these sorts of expectations.

“We’re each Italian, so we’ve that in frequent,” Garoppolo joked with reporters this week, referring to comparisons between him and Mondays. “I believe it could be a little bit early. We’ve obtained an excellent factor going proper now. We’ve simply obtained to maintain working onerous and preserve bettering each week and preserve this factor moving into the appropriate course.”

49ers coach Kyle Shanahan stated Garoppolo’s job will develop into “simpler every week’’ he performs.

“I get a really feel for him, how he reacts all through a sport, what he’s snug with [and]he will get an thought for the way I name performs, how we talk on the sidelines about issues, how we alter to issues as soon as we see them,’’ ’’ Shanahan instructed reporters.

Garoppolo can have a attainable slight profit Sunday: He and the Patriots practiced in opposition to Houston throughout coaching camp.

Finish of playoff drought to observe

Soccer followers are having enjoyable in Jacksonville once more.

The Eight-Four Jaguars, energized by the hiring of head coach Doug Marrone and president Tom Coughlin, are on the verge of their first playoff berth since 2007. The Jags, who’re tied for the AFC South lead with the Titans, haven’t even had a profitable season since 2007, after they completed 11-5.

The Jaguars can clinch that elusive playoff berth this week, however they need to care for enterprise Sunday by beating the Eight-Four Seahawks at residence, after which they’ll need assistance.

The Jags would clinch with a win coupled with a Payments loss to the Colts, a Chargers loss to the Redskins, a Jets loss or tie in opposition to the Broncos and a Dolphins loss or tie in opposition to the Patriots on Monday.

Even when it doesn’t occur this week for the Jags, they’ve strongly positioned themselves for a postseason berth. And the vibe in Jacksonville is far totally different than it’s been in recent times, with the strict Marrone even having unwittingly began a bologna craze when he just lately instructed reporters his favourite meal is a bologna and cheese sandwich.

Since these feedback, which have been revealed first on ESPN.com, the factor has gone viral, with a meat firm sending a number of hundred logs of bologna to Marrone, who saved six of the three ½-pound logs and donated the remaining to Feeding Northeast Florida, which provides native meals banks.

And now, the Jaguars are promoting a “Marroney Bologna’’ sandwich for $6 at their stadium throughout residence video games with a portion of the proceeds donated to the Jaguars Basis.

December run to observe

Russell WilsonGetty Photographs

It’s December so the Seahawks should be beginning to get sizzling.

The Seahawks, who defeated the favored Eagles at residence final week, imagine they’re simply hitting their stride based mostly on their current historical past enjoying video games right now of 12 months, throughout which they’re 20-5 since 2012 in regular-season video games in the course of the months of December and January.

Their .800 profitable proportion ranks first within the NFL in that span, in response to ESPN. It’s approach up from their profitable proportion in September, October and November since 2012 (.664), however that ranks third-best within the league.

“It’s our time of the 12 months,” Seahawks normal supervisor John Schneider stated in his pregame radio interview with 710 ESPN Seattle final week.

“I do assume it has lots to do with the way you put together your guys to complete and getting them able to do it, and with an actual self-discipline and mentality,” coach Pete Carroll instructed reporters final week.

Regardless of the losses of star cornerback Richard Sherman and security Cam Chancellor, the Seahawks’ protection has not faltered, holding its first two opponents below 200 passing yards then permitting simply 10 factors to the Eagles, who have been NFL’s highest-scoring offense.

The Seahawks maintain the NFC’s No. 5 seed with 4 video games remaining. However amongst their remaining video games are Sunday in opposition to Eight-Four Jacksonville and a house sport in opposition to the NFC West-leading 9-Three Rams.

These video games determine to problem the Seahawks’ December supremacy.

Coping with no star to observe

The Patriots will play the Dolphins on Sunday with out their suspended star tight finish Rob Gronkowski. What does it imply for the offense? Based mostly on historical past, maybe not a lot.

Sunday will mark the 26th sport during which the Patriots have performed with out Gronkowski, who was hit with a one-game suspension for a violent late hit on Buffalo cornerback Tre’Davious White — they usually’re 20-5 with out him. They’re 9-Zero with out Gronk for the reason that begin of the 2016 season.

Gronkowski is coming off an enormous sport in opposition to the Payments, in opposition to whom he had 9 catches and 147 yards (each season highs). New England’s No. 2 tight finish is Dwayne Allen, who’s a powerful blocker however hasn’t been used lots within the passing sport (5 catches for 40 yards this season). That is excellent news for the Dolphins’ protection, which has been horrible protecting opposing tight ends.

“Dwayne’s had a really strong function for us all 12 months lengthy,’’ Patriots coach Invoice Belichick stated. “He does what we ask him to do. Some issues are totally different than the way in which he was taught to do them prior to now, however he’s been very open and receptive to attempting to do what the staff wants him to do on any explicit play or scenario or approach or no matter it occurs to be.’’



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