Now here’s the wide open NFC side.
Byes: Philadelphia Eagles (13-3), Minnesota Vikings (13-3)
Atlanta Falcons (10-6) at Los Angeles Rams (11-5) 8:15PM ET (NBC)
The defending NFC champ Falcons had to win to insure a playoff spot as a wild card. Though their offensive numbers weren’t as huge as there were last season, they were pretty decent. Quarterback Matt Ryan will face a fierce Rams pass rush. His number one guy to throw to, Pro Bowler Julio Jones is banged up with an ankle and thumb injuries. Fellow receiver Taylor Gabriel is questionable with a hamstring injury, as well Pro Bowler Alex Mack with a strained calf. The Falcons may have to depend on running backs Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman for offense.
The defense finished top ten overall. Linebacker Deion Jones, who finished top ten in tackles, is one of the best pass rushers in the league that you may not know about. Don’t forget about fellow linebacker Vic Beasley Jr. They also have a solid secondary led by cornerback Desmond Trufant and safeties Keanu Neal and Ricardo Allen.
Where to start with the Rams? They’ve had the talent for the last couple of season but now it’s paying dividends. They went from worst to first in the NFC West. They also went from the lowest scoring team in the league last season to the highest. Oh, they also ended a 12-year playoff drought. Of course, first-year head coach Sean McVay deserve most of the credit. Quarterback Jared Goff threw for 28 touchdowns and only seven interceptions. Pro Bowler and MVP front-runner Todd Gurley finished second in the league in rushing. There’s also a stacked group of wide receivers led by Sammy Watkins and Robert Woods.
The defense is led by a nice mixture of youth and experience. Pro Bowler Aaron Donald leads a ferocious pass rush. Linebackers Connor Barwin, Robert Quinn and Alec Ogletree will try to put pressure on Ryan. Cornerback Trumaine Johnson and safety Lamarcus Joyner will be task to slow down the Falcons’ receivers.
Carolina Panthers (11-5) at New Orleans Saints (11-5) 4:40PM ET (FOX)
This will be the third meeting between these NFC South rivals. Saints won both meetings, week three 34-13 in Carolina and week 13, 31-21 in New Orleans.
Panthers quarterback Cam Newton was sacked 35 times this year, so his offensive line needs to keep him upright if the Panthers want to advance. If running back Jonathan Stewart is close to 100%, he and rookie Christian McCaffery are a solid tandem. Newton will also need his playmakers: receiver Devin Funchess and tight end Greg Olson to step up as well.
The defense finished top ten once again, but they gave up too many big plays in both meetings with the Saints. Pro Bowl linebacker Luke Kuechly, and fellow linebackers Thomas Davis and Shaq Thompson and tackle Kawann Short will try and slow down the Saints offense. While the secondary must try and force turnovers.
As for the Saints, the offense finished second only to the New England Patriots in total offense. They also ranked top five in points. Pro Bowler Drew Brees became just the third quarterback in NFL history to throw over 70,000 career yards. Pro Bowler Michael Thomas was top ten in receiving yards and is Brees’ top target. Pro Bowl running backs Mark Ingram who finished top five in rushing yards, and rookie Alvin Kamara have given defense fits all season.
The defense went from much maligned to respectable. Pro Bowl defensive end Cameron Jordan was top five in sacks, and is one of the league’s top pass rushers. Rookie cornerback Marshon Lattimore has proved he can go head-to-head with top receivers, landing himself a Pro Bowl spot.
This should be a great weekend, enjoy!!
Bills Put O.J. Simpson’s #32 Back in Rotation for First Time Since 1977
For the first time since 1977 the Buffalo Bills have put #32, the number famously associated with O.J. Simpson, back into circulation and new free agent signee Senorise Perry is now wearing the number during OTAs, according to ESPN.
“I thought it was retired, but then I was told it was available. Boom, I took it,” Perry said of the number, according to The Athletic.
“I know the situation. I know that greatness comes with that number, playing in Buffalo. But I’m willing to take anything that comes my way. I’m going into my sixth year, and I know what it takes to get in this league and stay here. With that number on my back, I know I’m doing well for my family.”
Simpson rushed for 10,183 yards and 57 touchdowns, leading the NFL in rushing four times during his nine seasons playing for the Bills, but his post-career life has been marred with numerous troubles with the law and his controversial trial, and outcomes, stemming from the murders of his ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ronald Goldman, which he was acquitted for in 1995, but found liable by civil court for wrongful death.
Simpson, 71, was sentenced to prison in 2008 for armed robbery and kidnapping after entering a Las Vegas hotel room to recover stolen memorabilia items, and paroled in 2017.
“Whatever they do is fine with me,” Simpson said, according to the Athletic. “That’s how I feel. When I played there, I tried to honor the team. Since I left, I always tried to honor the Bills.
“And, to be honest, it’s not something I think about. There’s too much else going on in life.”
Simpson’s number was never retired, although he is on the team’s Wall of Fame at New Era Field.
Bucs’ Jason Pierre-Paul Automobile Accident Blamed on Bad Weather
A recent automobile accident the occurred in Broward County in South Florida involving Tampa Bay Buccaneers pass rushed Jason Pierre-Paul is being attributed to bad weather, according to TMZ Sports.
According to the report which cites a crash report that they had obtained regarding the accident, Pierre-Paul was driving a $350,000 Ferrari 88 Pista when he crashed into a concrete barrier back on May 2nd.
Officials believe that Pierre-Paul lost control of the car around 2:38 AM and collided with a concrete barrier on I-95 in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, adding that there were no skid marks or debris found in the roadway. Officers did not believe that Pierre-Paul was under the influence of drugs or alcohol and did not test him for it.
In conclusion, officers believe “weather conditions”, more specifically wet roads, caused Pierre-Paul to lose control of the car and crash into the concrete barrier. Pierre-Paul and a passenger in his car were transported to a nearby hospital.
Pierre-Paul is considered likely to miss the entire 2019 NFL season after suffering a fractured neck due to the accident.
Panthers’ Greg Olsen Donates $2.5 Million to Pediatric Cardiac Center
Carolina Panthers veteran tight end Greg Olsen, and his wide, recently made a $2.5 million donation to help establish the HEARTest Yard Pediatric Cardiac Center in Charlotte, North Carolina o expand access to vital therapies that improve survival rates and quality of life for children with congenital disease, according to an official announcement from the Atrium Health Foundation.
“While most know Greg Olsen as a Pro Bowl Tight End for the Carolina Panthers, we at Levine Children’s know him and his wife, Kara, as visionary leaders and champions for pediatric congenital heart disease,” said Stacy Nicholson, MD, president of Levine Children’s, as he announced the transformational gift, according to an official release.
Greg and Kara Olsen started the HEARTest Yard initiative in 2012, initially focusing on home health care for children with congenital heart disease. The Olsens have a son with a congenital heart defect. Back in 2017, the couple helped launch a cardiac neurodevelopmental clinic at Levine Children’s, which is currently one the few such clinics in existence in the United States.
“This new center will be a game changer for the children of the Carolinas,” said Nancy Dobrolet, MD, director of the cardiac neurodevelopmental clinic. “Thanks to the Olsens, and their many supporters, we provide the best comprehensive cardiac care in the country for young heart patients.”
The HEARTest Yard Pediatric Cardiac Center, scheduled to open in 2021.
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