Tom Brady and New England Patriots catching Chicago Bears at right time

Jay Asser 21/10/2018
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Two weeks ago, this match-up would have looked a lot different than it does right now.

The Chicago Bears still have a good chance to upset the New England Patriots at home on Sunday, but the timing of the meeting isn’t working in the hosts’ favour.

In Khalil Mack, Chicago have the exact kind of disruptive force that can make Tom Brady’s life difficult, but the star linebacker isn’t 100 per cent this week due to an ankle injury.

Mack was limited in practice on Friday and is listed as questionable for the game, but he’s expected to play. How effective he can be is another question.

He has five sacks and four forced fumbles this season, and had he come across the Patriots offence earlier in the season, it would have potentially resulted in fireworks.

But New England’s attack has picked up steam over the past three weeks, in which they’ve scored 38, 38 and 43 points to once again look like themselves.

Brady now has all his weapons at his disposal, with wide receivers Julian Edelman and Josh Gordon now practically fully integrated into the offence.

However, it’s been the running game that has been the backbone and allowed the Patriots to move the ball as easily as they have.

Over the past three games, New England are attempting the third-most rushes in the league with 33.7 and picking up the sixth-most yards with 148.3.

Against Chicago though, the Patriots could be in for tougher sledding against a defence that is allowing the eighth-fewest yards per rush at 3.9 and the fourth-fewest rushing yards per game at 83.4.

Mack may not make his usual impact as a pass rusher, but Akiem Hicks and the rest of the Bears’ front seven are still capable of turning New England’s attack one-dimensional.

Where Chicago’s defence is vulnerable is on third down, particularly against the pass. No team in the league has allowed more yards per pass attempt on third down this season, with the Bears’ mark of 9.3 comfortably at the bottom, according to Pro Football Focus.

On the other side of the ball, Mitchell Trubisky will have his work cut out against Bill Belichick’s scheme and preparation.

Since 2001, quarterbacks in the first two years of their career are just 11-53 against Belichick. Kansas City Chiefs gunslinger Patrick Mahomes became the latest victim of the stat last week despite coming into the match-up with momentum.

To slow down Chicago’s attack, the Patriots will have to focus on limiting Trubisky’s deep ball and containing Tarik Cohen, who has been one of the best receiving backs in the league this season.

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Drew Brees takes aim at more records against Baltimore Ravens and other talking points in Week 7

Jay Asser 21/10/2018
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Drew Brees isn’t done making history just yet.

One game after setting the NFL’s new record for most career passing yards, the New Orleans Saints quarterback will take aim at two more milestones on Sunday.

One is inevitable. The other may not come around again.

Brees needs just one more touchdown throw to reach 500 for his career, which would put him in a club currently occupied by Peyton Manning (539), Brett Favre (508) and Tom Brady (501).

If he beats the Baltimore Ravens, he’ll join Manning and Favre as the only quarterbacks in league history to defeat all 32 teams.

With the way Brees is playing – he leads the league in completion percentage at 77.9 and passer rating at 122.3 thanks to a touchdown-to-interception ratio of 11-0 – the records and a victory appear well within his grasp.

Baltimore, however, present the toughest challenge yet for New Orleans as they bring the league’s top-ranked defence into the match-up.

The Ravens are allowing just 12.8 points per game and rank number one in several categories against the pass: completion percentage at 55.6, yards per attempt at 6.0, passer rating at 73.1 and sacks with 26.

After sacking Marcus Mariota 11 times last week, Baltimore’s pass rush will set their sights on Brees, but New Orleans’ offensive line has given up just eight sacks all season – tied for the second-fewest in the league.

Brees is one of the best at getting the ball out quick and will also have his two running backs, Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara, to lean on.

Here are more talking points in Week 7.

ANOTHER SUNDAY NIGHT SHOOTOUT?

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The Kansas City Chiefs and New England Patriots put on a show last week in primetime with their 43-40 shootout, and there’s a chance the clash between the Chiefs and Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday night could be a worthy encore.

Cincinnati don’t have Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski, but they have their own collection of dangerous skill players around Andy Dalton that should give Kansas City’s defence trouble.

The Bengals are averaging 29.9 points, but they’re also surrendering 409.2 yards and 26.3 points per game, which means there should be no shortage of points once again in a game the Chiefs are involved in.

Kansas City will hope to fix their recent red zone issues, which has resulted in 10 touchdowns to nine field goals in the last three games – a drop-off from the blistering pace Patrick Mahomes and the offence were on early in the season.

“We’ve stalled on getting it in the end zone. I take responsibility for that,” Chiefs coach Andy Reid said. “We want to score touchdowns. I love (Harrison) Butker, but I’d rather score touchdowns.”

RAMS KEEP CHARGING

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It will take a substantial upset to knock off the only remaining undefeated team in the league this week.

The San Francisco 49ers get the unenviable task of slowing down a red-hot Los Angeles Rams team that features the top-ranked offence and a playmaker in Todd Gurley who is coming off a 200-yard rushing performance.

At the start of the season, the match-up had the potential to be a fight over the division crown. However, after Jimmy Garoppolo went down with a season-ending injury in Week 3, the 49ers have lacked the same bite on offence with back-up quarterback C.J. Beathard, who is 1-7 as a starter.

San Francisco’s defence will have one less weapon to worry about with wide receiver Cooper Kupp out to a knee injury, but quarterback Jared Goff still has Brandin Cooks and Robert Woods to work with – the latter of which has totaled at least 92 receiving yards each of the past four contests.

Considering the Rams’ form and opponent this week, there’s little reason to think they’ll suffer their first loss on Sunday.

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Duke Johnson, Taylor Gabriel and other fantasy NFL sleepers for Week 7

Jay Asser 20/10/2018
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Here are five players who you can pluck off your bench or waiver wire and insert into your starting lineup for this weekend’s games.

DUKE JOHNSON

Even before Carlos Hyde was traded away this week, Johnson was a worthy flex play thanks to his role in the passing game. But with Hyde gone, Johnson’s workload could be even bigger if he gets more chances on early downs.

He’ll face a Tampa Bay Buccaneers defence that is allowing the seventh-most fantasy points to running backs.

TAYLOR GABRIEL

Gabriel’s past two performances should be reason enough to get him in your lineup this week. He was the the model of efficiency in those games, hauling in all 12 of his targets for 214 yards and two touchdowns, and on Sunday he should have a positive game-script to work with against New England as the Bears are expected to be chasing points.

of the game at Hard Rock Stadium on October 14, 2018 in Miami, Florida.

ELI MANNING

Whether it’s in real life or fantasy, Manning doesn’t inspire confidence. But leave your hesitations at the door this week with the Atlanta Falcons’ leaky defence on the menu.

Atlanta are giving up the second-most fantasy points to QBs this season, and have been particularly vulnerable against pass-catching backs. Good luck stopping Saquon Barkley.

C.J. UZOMAH

Injuries have paved the way for Uzomah to be fantasy relevant after starting tight end Tyler Eifert broke his ankle and back-up Tyler Kroft suffered a broken bone in his foot.

Whether you need a short-term streamer or a tight end with staying power for the rest of the season, Uzomah is an intriguing option, especially against the Kansas City Chiefs defence this week.

FRANK GORE

An ageless wonder, Gore continues to produce at the age of 35. The veteran running back has led the Miami Dolphins in carries each of the past four games and is coming off his best outing of the season, in which he tallied 101 rushing yards on 15 attempts.

Start Gore with confidence as a flex or low-end RB2.

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