WHAT WE LEARNED: Writing was on the wall for Mike McCarthy, watch out for Texans and magic Patrick Mahomes

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McCarthy led the Packers to much success but ultimately the pair had come to the end of the line. (AFP)
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Updated 05 December 2018

WHAT WE LEARNED: Writing was on the wall for Mike McCarthy, watch out for Texans and magic Patrick Mahomes

  • Packers boss had run out of ideas after a success-filled time at Lambeau Field.
  • Patrick Mahomes has the star quality and skill for MVP award.

LONDON: Week 13 has been and gone and so it is time to see who can start preparing for the playoffs and who can plan for a January vacation.

END OF AN ERA AT THE PACKERS

It was the best of times at Lambeau Field under Mike McCarthy. In 12 years at the Green Bay Packers, he led many people’s favorite “second team” to the playoffs nine times, won six NFC North divisional titles, two NFC Championship games and a Super Bowl in 2010. It helped that he had one of the greatest quarterbacks in history in Aaron Rodgers, but McCarthy was an astute coach who bought into the Packers philosophy from day one.
But the 55-year-old’s reign in Wisconsin had started to sour in recent seasons. And many are now questioning whether a different coach might have achieved more than one championship with the the Packers’ plethora of talent.
McCarthy cost Green Bay dear over the past few years by not updating his offensive strategy, by sticking to the same formula that brought success but one that every other team soon worked out how to counter. The complete overhaul of attacking strategy is something that has worked so well for the Kansas City Chiefs and Los Angeles Rams this season, but McCarthy rested on his laurels.
There is talk of him going to the Cleveland Browns, and teaming up with their “diamond in the rough” quarterback Baker Mayfield. If he is to bring success to that franchise, he will need a radically different approach.

This week's 20-17 defeat was to be the last match McCarthy was to lead the Packers having led them to Super Bowl glory in 2010. 

MVP RACE OPENS UP AGAIN

Just as it looked like Drew Brees would be a shoe-in for the Most Valuable Player award at the end of the season, Week 13 happened and the Chiefs’ Patrick Mahomes moved back into the prime position. An uncharacteristically poor performance from Brees in the Saints’ 13-10 defeat to the Cowboys — in which he threw an intercepted pass at a crucial point in the game — saw him finish the game with a 71.6 pass rating. This was almost unheard of for the Saints playmaker.
In the previous two weeks, Brees was virtually the unanimous pick, while Mahomes was second across the board. But after the Chiefs’ wonder-kid peppered the Oakland Raiders defense on the way to a 40-33 victory, Mahomes has edged ahead in the MVP ballot once again.
They are the two stand-out candidates for the award. Few come close to the duo, but with just four rounds of the regular season left, I cannot wait to see which of these highly talented quarterbacks comes out on top.

Week in, week out Mahomes is proving that he is Gridiron's best quarterback and a more than worthy MVP. 

BAD WEEK IN THE NORTH

It was a bleak weekend for the NFC North teams. The Lions and Packers can kiss any hope of a post-season run goodbye, but the previously solid Bears reverted to 2016 (when they notched a woeful 3-13 record) and showed a frailty unseen so far this season in defeat to the Giants. With games against the Rams, 49ers and divisional rivals Green Bay and Minnesota, the Bears could sneak into the playoffs with a 9-7 record — hardly inspiring for a shot at the Big Game.
As for the Vikings, their season now hangs by a thread, and the clash against the Bears in the final week will be crucial if they hope to top the division. Their result against the Seahawks next week could make or break their season.

The Bears have it all to do after defeat to the Giants this week. 

TEXANS ON THE RAMPAGE

The AFC should watch out — the Houston Texans are making a monumental charge for the post-season. Having started the season 0-3, they have now won nine straight games to storm to the top of the AFC South, and will give even the very best teams a tough test in the playoffs. 
It was an emotional week for the franchise with their owner Bob McNair passing away and the recent death of their most famous fan, former US president George H.W. Bush. 
Teams will definitely have to take this very talented offense and mean defense seriously as we move into the business end of the season.

It is a case of don't mess with the Texans at the moment as they make an impressive charge for the playoffs. 


Police want Liverpool title decider in neutral stadium

Updated 30 May 2020

Police want Liverpool title decider in neutral stadium

  • The move aims to prevent fans from gathering outside when the competition resumes

MANCHESTER, England: Liverpool might not win the English Premier League at Anfield after police included the leader’s key games among at least five it wants at neutral venues in a bid to prevent fans from gathering outside when the competition resumes.
Liverpool manager Jürgen Klopp hopes authorities will allow them to play at home as planned, with supporters adhering to advice while they are prevented from attending games due to COVID-19 restrictions.
Police originally wanted neutral venues for all 92 remaining games but the plan was opposed by the clubs — particularly those trying to avoid relegation.
The league plans to resume on June 17 after a 100-day shutdown to contain the coronavirus pandemic, pending final approval from government, which is trying to prevent a second spike in cases.
Police don’t object to the games on that Wednesday night being played at Manchester City and Aston Villa.
But police want the derby between Everton and Liverpool to be played away from Merseyside a few days later. The game was originally scheduled at Goodison Park. Liverpool, which leads by 25 points with nine games remaining, could clinch the title by beating Everton if second-placed City loses to Arsenal on June 17.
If the 30-year title drought doesn’t end that day, police want Liverpool’s next game, against Crystal Palace, to be played away from Anfield.
Greater Manchester Police have already determined Liverpool’s third game back against Manchester City should be staged away from Etihad Stadium.
Liverpool’s fourth game back is against Aston Villa, currently scheduled at Anfield.
The same Manchester force wants City’s game against Newcastle and Manchester United’s home game against Sheffield United played outside of the northwest location.
Police in Newcastle also don’t want the home game against Liverpool to be played at St. James’ Park on the final day of the season, which could be July 26.
Mark Roberts, the head of football policing in England, said the plans will remain under review but are based on public health demands.
“We have reached a consensus that balances the needs of football, while also minimizing the demand on policing,” said Roberts, the football policing lead at the National Police Chiefs’ Council. “The views and agreement of forces which host Premier League clubs have been sought and where there were concerns, the Premier League has been supportive in providing flexibility in arranging alternative venues where requested.”
One obvious neutral venue is Wembley Stadium in north London which is not the home of any club side.
“This plan will be kept continually under review to ensure public health and safety and a key part of this is for supporters to continue to respect the social distancing guidelines, and not to attend or gather outside the stadiums,” Roberts said.
Even without a vaccine for COVID-19, fans could return to games next season, which is due to begin in September.
“There is optimism at the Premier League and at clubs that we will see fans back in the stadiums next season,” Premier League chief executive Richard Masters told Sky Sports TV, “and it may happen on a phased basis.”
Only 200 of the 380 Premier League games each season are contracted to be broadcast live in Britain, but all remaining fixtures will be aired live because fans will not be allowed in stadiums.
The reshaped English season is set to end with the FA Cup final on Aug. 1.
The Football Association on Friday announced its competition will provisionally resume with the quarterfinals on the weekend of June 27-28. The semifinals are now scheduled for July 18-19.
“This has been a difficult period for many people and, while this is a positive step, the restart date is dependent on all safety measures being met,” FA chief executive Mark Bullingham said.
Though the COVID-19 deaths per day have fallen in Britain since early April, another 377 were still reported on Thursday, bringing the known death toll in all settings including hospitals and care homes to 37,837.