WITH the first quarter of the NFL season in the books we know a bit more about how the season is shaping up, who could be challenging for play-off spots and who may have one eye on next year’s draft.
There have been all manner of wild finishes and big upsets but no real dominant force has emerged from the pack although the only undefeated team – the Kansas City Chiefs – are undoubtedly the best team in the NFL right now.
Since 1990, 64 of the 79 teams to start 4-0 or better have reached the play-offs so the Chiefs look well set although it’s so tight in the standings with so many close games meaning a whopping 24 of the 32 NFL teams have even records or better.
We’ve got more winless teams than undefeated and perhaps more questions than answers over some play-off contenders while for the surprise teams such as the LA Rams and Buffalo Bills it’s now time to prove they are the real deal and no flash in the pan.
Packers @ Cowboys (9.25pm)
Dallas look to get back on track following a home loss to the LA Rams and have revenge on their minds for Green Bay’s eventful play-off win back in January. At 2-2 it’s hard to know what to make of the Cowboys but they’re 1.74 favourites at Unibet to beat the visitors (2.14).
The Cowboys won at Lambeau Field last October but that is their only victory in the last seven meetings while Aaron Rodgers and his Green Bay side have fond memories of AT&T Stadium in Dallas as they’re unbeaten in two games against the Cowboys and also won the 2011 Super Bowl at the same venue.
Ezekiel Elliott is the key for Dallas, he ran for 157 and 125 yards in the two games against the Packers last season but the Cowboys’ running game hasn’t hit top gear as yet this year. Green Bay may have had their injury worries in their 19th-ranked defence, having given up 111 yards per game, but they’re yet to allow a 100-yard game for a single rusher.
As usual the Packers’ threat comes from quarterback Rodgers – who threw four touchdown passes with no interceptions for the 16th time in his career last Thursday as they dismantled Chicago.
Cowboys defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence leads the NFL with 7.5 sacks this season and you get the feeling he’ll need at least a couple to keep Rodgers, after an extended rest, contained.
Seahawks @ Rams (9.05pm)
It’s crunch time in the NFC West – are the top-scoring LA Rams the real deal? Well, a win over division rivals Seattle would really make the rest of the NFL sit up and take notice. First-year head coach Sean McVay has transformed a muddling outfit into a seemingly unstoppable offence powerhouse, with 142 points and fresh off a win in Dallas.
QB Jared Goff has showed poise and talent while running back Todd Gurley has piled up 596 yards and seven touchdowns – numbers only matched by legends Jim Brown and Emmett Smith.
They beat the Seahawks once last year but failed to find the endzone in either contest, and you’d have to think the new Rams have the tools to find pay dirt this time around.
Both sides are 1.92 with Unibet for the win but the Rams may well have been favoured had Seattle not had a visit of Indianapolis last week to boost their confidence as they finally found a running game to speak of, they’ll need that to fire again to give Russell Wilson some breathing space.
LA are still 5.0 to take the NFC West title but a win over Seattle would see those odds tumble as they’d be in prime position.