WHAT WE LEARNED: NFL Week 15 — LA Rams rocking and Aaron Rodgers’ record run comes to an end

After a touchdown-less performance against the Chicago Bears, Jared Goff and his Rams offensive line were restricted to just two touchdown scores against the erratic Eagles. (USA TODAY Sports)
Updated 19 December 2018
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WHAT WE LEARNED: NFL Week 15 — LA Rams rocking and Aaron Rodgers’ record run comes to an end

The playoffs are on the horizon, and teams are jostling for position in the post-season push. Arab News examines who is hitting form at the right time and who is blowing it at just the wrong moment.

LA RAMS BEING FOUND OUT?

It looks like the Rams are coming a cropper at the worst time possible. After a touchdown-less performance against the Chicago Bears, Jared Goff and his offensive line were restricted to just two touchdown scores against the erratic Eagles in Week 15. Defensive coordinators in the NFL appear to have cracked the code of this previously blistering, unstoppable offense.
Granted, the Eagles defense pulled out one of their best showings of the season in Los Angeles. And they utilized a four-man backline perfectly, something that Goff has struggled with this year.
But it was the lack of fight in the Rams attack that will worry their fans as the playoffs are fast approaching. It would be inconceivable if they did not make the post-season, but home-field advantage is key and they will want to start it in four weeks’ time rather than three.
Speaking of the playoffs, the Eagles’ victory over the Rams means they are (somehow) still in the hunt in the NFC East after Dallas blew the chance to clinch the division by being shutout by Indianapolis. It is going to go down to the wire.


BEWARE WOUNDED PATRIOTS
Excuse the pun, but Pittsburgh’s steely resolve in their victory over the Patriots has thrown the AFC playoff picture wide open. The Steelers managed to stop the rot and snap their five-game losing streak off the back of Ben Roethlisberger’s game-winning drive with less than three minutes on the clock. Despite their bad run, the victory keeps them on top of the pile in the AFC North division and No. 4 seed for the conference. The defeat, their second running, pushed New England into No. 3 seed, unheard of in the last decade — the last time Tom Brady and Co. finished outside the top two seeds was 2009. But with home games against Buffalo and the Jets remaining, expect them to come out firing on all cylinders and potentially maintain their staggering record come Week 17.


INTERCEPTION FOR THE SCRAPBOOK
While his Green Bay Packers will now officially not be playing in January, Aaron Rodgers still manages to astound us. After Wisconsin’s finest lost again — to the Bears this time — at the weekend, he will have his first losing record on a season since 2008. Not great news. And that bad news was compounded by the fact that he threw for an interception late in the fourth quarter while trying to drag the Packers back into the game. But that it was his first interception in 402 passing attempts is staggering. Tom Brady originally had the record, set in 2010-2011 with 358 passes. Rodgers broke Brady’s record last week in a 34-20 win against the Atlanta Falcons. That Rodgers also holds the record for most pass attempts without being picked at home games (583) is a measure of just how good the 35-year-old has been at looking after the football throughout his career.


NOTHING MIRACULOUS ABOUT MIAMI THIS WEEK
After their mind-blowing win against the Patriots in Week 14 — dubbed the “Miami Miracle” — there was no such drama in Minnesota this weekend. The Dolphins bombed badly, as they lost Frank Gore to injury early on and quarterback Ryan Tannehill was sacked an eye-watering nine times. That is far too often to get any sort of offense going. Meanwhile, this writer’s dark horses for the Super Bowl managed to sneak themselves in for the NFC’s sixth playoff seed. But the picture is far from clear if Kirk Cousins and his “purple army” will be good enough to cement that place, let alone go all the way to the Big Game in February.


Jurgen Klopp tells Liverpool to beware of Bayern Munich ahead of Champions League clash

Updated 19 February 2019
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Jurgen Klopp tells Liverpool to beware of Bayern Munich ahead of Champions League clash

  • Reds boss worried about resurgent German giants ahead of second-round first-leg clash.
  • Bayern defender Joshua Kimmich claims Liverpool are the favorites.

LONDON: Jurgen Klopp has warned his Liverpool side they will have to be at their very best if they are to beat Bayern Munich.
The Reds head into the Champions League clash as slight favorites after months at the top of the Premier League. But having drawn the German giants in the second round, Klopp has told his players they have to keep their feet on the ground worthy could end up out of the competition before it really gets going.
“It’ll be very tough,” there Liverpool manager said.
“(Bayern are) only two points off Dortmund in the domestic league and have been consistent finalists and semifinalists.
“They’re a world class team but at the same time we’re confident we can cause them problems.
“They’ve got world class players so we know how difficult it will be.
“Everyone has to be at 100 percent otherwise we’ll get nothing from the game.
“Having said that we have confidence we have the ability to hurt them, and it’s up to us to show that.”

After a tough start to the season Bayern are up to second in the Bundesliga. 


Liverpool went al the way to the final last year, before losing to Real Madrid. But the momentum created by that surprise run has been maintained in the Premier League and another trip to the Champions League knockout stages.
Bayern currently lie second in the Bundesliga and are starting to look like their old levels agains after a tough start to the season. For Klopp, who managed Dortmund before arriving at Anfield, that could spell trouble for the Reds.
“After six years of pretty much dominating the league it was clear this year was going to be a tougher situation.
“It’s actually still the same, being at the top of the league and still in the last-16 of the Champions League.
“It’s a normal situation with a high quality team.
“Munich’s situation, from my point of view, makes them even more dangerous and even more of a threat from my point of view.
“This is a competition, in Europe, where they always do well.”
For the Germans the role of underdogs suits them perfectly. At least that is according to Joshua Kimmich.
The defender said: “Liverpool are the favorites.
“They have lost one league game all season and have let in only 15 goals. But when you look at us, we are not as consistent as before.”
Before a ball has been kicked Bayern did receive some good news. Winger Franck Ribery was originally left out of the squad to play at Anfield and did not fly with his teammates. But after becoming a father, the Frenchman has now decided to join up with the squad and will be available for selection. One man who definitely will not make the pitch is Jerome Boateng. The central defender is suffering from a stomach virus.
The Bavarians will also have to wait until Tuesdays to determine whether winger Kingsley Coman will be able to play after picking up an ankle injury on Friday.
The Frenchman scored twice but was injured in the final stages of their 3-2 win at Augsburg.

KEY MAN — ROBERTO FIRMINO 

Of Liverpool’s brilliant attacking trio the Brazilian is perhaps the most underrated and important. When he plays well the Reds usually do likewise. He links up the play well, settling up as many goals as he scores. Liverpool will be hoping he turns up with his A-game tonight, because if he does Bayern Munich could be in for a  long night. 

ARAB NEWS PREDICTS

For once Bayern are not having it all their own way in the Bundesliga. But they are improving and giving Borussia Dortmund something to think about in the race for the title. But home advantage will be key and a resurgent Reds will prove too strong for a Bayern defence that has, on occasions this campaign, looked less than watertight. The only question is can Liverpool get a decisive lead and put the tie to bed before the second leg?