Odell Beckham Jr and Julio Jones look to end scoring droughts when star wideouts meet

Jay Asser 22/10/2018
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Two of the best offensive talents in the league will be in action on Monday night when Odell Beckham Jr and Julio Jones share the same field.

But while the wide receivers are game-changers, their impact has come, for the most part, away from the end zone.

Beckham has only scored one touchdown, which came in Week 5 against the Carolina Panthers, while Jones has yet to find pay dirt.

It’s not as if the star wideouts have been marginalised in their respective offences – Beckham and Jones are both in the top 10 in the league in targets (69, 69), receptions (45, 44) and receiving yards (506, 708).

Yet end-zone visits have been almost non-existent as opposing defences have focused on limiting them inside the 20-yard line.

The drought is uncharacteristic for Beckham, who had 38 scores in 47 games coming into the season.

Jones, however, has strangely never had many touchdowns in his career, reaching double-digit scores in just one of his seven seasons before this year.

Facing a crippled Atlanta Falcons defence on Monday, Beckham has a golden opportunity to have an explosive performance, with Atlanta allowing the fourth-most passing yards per game at 295.8, while being tied for the most passing scores surrendered with 16.

Beckham and running back Saquon Barkley can do much of their damage underneath, where the Falcons have been particularly vulnerable, allowing 1,675 yards on throws under 20 yards, which is second-most among all teams this season, according to Pro Football Focus.

Injuries and rough play on the defensive side of the ball have throw Atlanta’s season into disarray and put them firmly on the outside of the playoff picture.

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Watch: Antonio Gates praises London's growing understanding of NFL

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Antonio Gates and the Los Angeles Chargers will be in London to take on the Tennessee Titans on Sunday, marking the second game in the UK this season.

Ten years after the Chargers made their first trip to London, Gates believes the game is growing across the pond.

“This country has opened their arms to welcome us and being able to play the game of football,” Gates said. “And more people understand it now too.”

See Gates’ full comments in the video below.

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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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