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.