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NFL 2023 – Game Week 9 Preview

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NFL Gameweek 9

Football season is in full swing, and competition in the NFL is heating up as we approach the season’s midway point. Patrick Mahomes and his Kansas City Chiefs look primed and ready for another shot at the Lombardi. Over in the NFC, Jalen Hurts and his Philadelphia Eagles look set to go head-to-head with Brock Purdy’s San Francisco 49ers for conference glory.

 While all three teams are powering through the competition, their path to Super Bowl LVIII will take an almighty twist on game week nine. Two of our three heavyweights will all be in action against fellow big hitters aiming to throw a potential banana skin in their path to superstardom. The big games have been coming thick and fast in recent weeks but on week nine, exhilaration levels will go into overdrive. And here’s why.

Bills vs Bengals in Prime Time 

Last season, many people picked the Buffalo Bills for Super Bowl glory. They finished with the joint-best record in the AFC and looked set to face off against the Chiefs in the conference championship game. The NFL was so confident of the neutral venue matchup that they had already begun selling tickets for the contest before the divisional round had even taken place.

Unfortunately for both the Bills and the NFL itself, neither of them had banked on the brilliance of Joe Burrow and his Cincinnati Bengals.

The Ohio outfit rocked up to a snowy Highmark Stadium intent on spoiling the party, and they did exactly that. With the 2019 Heisman winner at quarterback, the Bengals ran out 27-10 winners with their star man throwing for 242 yards and two touchdowns.

Running back Joe Mixon also got in on the act, racking up over 100 yards himself as well as reaching the endzone on one occasion. After the match, Burrow famously said “They better get processing those refunds.” And process them they did.

On week nine, the pair will face off for the first time since that fateful day back in January. This time around, both teams aren’t yet in the kind of form that they were last season however, they are both championship-winning teams on their day. Whichever comes out on top in this crunch clash could lay down a marker when it comes to their AFC Championship aspirations this season.

Experienced Chiefs Host In Form Dolphins 

Mahomes and his Chiefs are the favourites for the Lombardi this season. After lifting the trophy twice in the last four seasons and reaching the AFC Championship game in each of the last five, it’s clear to see why. They have the joint-best record in their conference this season.

 The team with the same record as them? The Miami Dolphins. And these two square off at Arrowhead Stadium on week nine.

 Last season, the Floridians threatened to become a powerhouse once more. Had it not been for an injury early in the campaign to quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, they may very well have won their first 11 games. Instead after 11 games, they had a record of 8-3, and their only three losses came with Tua out injured.

Their form did fall off a cliff towards the latter stages of the season, losing five on the spin before being knocked out of the playoffs by the Bills in the wildcard round, but not before they had shown that they were a team on the rise. And this season, their progression has continued.

After six games, the Dolphins are currently 5-1, with the only defeat coming against the heavyweight Bills. They have scored at least 30 points in four of those victories including posting a mighty 70 points in a thumping of the Denver Broncos on week three. This trip to Missouri will let us see just how good they are.

Will they manage to get the victory on the road and announce to the league that they are genuine Super Bowl contenders? Or will Mahomes steer his side to victory and stamp down the challenge of the upstart Dolphins?

NFC Heavyweights Eagles and Cowboys Square Off

Start well, falter at the end of the season, lose in the early rounds of the playoffs… That’s how it always seems to go for the Dallas Cowboys. That was the case last season, and they have already ticked the first box by starting the 2023 season well.

 After six games they have built up a decent 4-2 record however, both of those defeats came in disappointing fashion. The first was an upset on the road at the Arizona Cardinals on week three and the second was a humbling 42-10 defeat at Levi’s Stadium against the 49ers. They will have to be at their very best on week nine as they head to Lincoln Financial Field to face the reigning NFC Champion Philadelphia Eagles.

 Similar to the Chiefs vs Dolphins, this game is significant for the conference. Can the Cowboys prove once and for all that they are finally back as a major player in the NFC? Or will the Eagles romp to victory and set their sights on the 49ers as their only competition for a spot in Super Bowl LVIII inside Las Vegas’ Allegiant Stadium next February?

A lifelong Liverpool supporter with a passion for storytelling and an unhealthy obsession with Anime, NFTs, and Web3. When not cheering on the Reds or diving into the latest crypto trends, I'm busy crafting engaging content that'll keep you up-to-date on all things sports.

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Detroit Drafts into the Spotlight: Unprecedented Turnout and Lions’ Standout Picks

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NFL Ball with Logo of all NFL Team

The opening day of the 2024 NFL Draft in Detroit witnessed an unprecedented turnout, with over 275,000 fervent fans flocking to support their teams, shattering the previous attendance record for Day One.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell revealed this staggering figure midway through the first round on Thursday, following the closure of the NFL Draft site due to reaching maximum capacity even before the commencement of the draft proceedings.

The previous Day One attendance milestone was set by the 2018 NFL Draft in Nashville, Tennessee, where over 200,000 attendees gathered on the inaugural night.

Draft in Detroit

Since the NFL designated Detroit as the host city for the 2024 draft, officials had touted the event as an opportunity to elevate the city’s national prominence and generate a substantial economic boost. However, skeptics, both among experts and within the downtown draft environment, question the true significance of enhancing Detroit’s national image and its potential long-term financial implications.

Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan expressed readiness to showcase a revitalized Motor City, emphasizing that the event’s true impact would be gauged not only in the immediate aftermath but also in its lasting effects on the city’s trajectory.

In addition to the overwhelming turnout of fans in downtown Detroit, millions more across the nation tuned in to witness the draft unfold against the backdrop of Detroit’s cityscape. Unlike previous events such as the 2006 Super Bowl, which relied on temporary installations, Detroit showcased its thriving downtown, with the towering presence of a nearly 700-foot structure emerging from the site of the historic Hudson’s store.

Dave Beachnau, the head of the Detroit Sports Commission, highlighted that the draft also provides essential funding for local nonprofit and community organizations, prompting reflection on what enduring legacies the event will leave behind once the NFL departs from the city.

Day One Pick Terrion Arnold

Following this record-breaking attendance, the Lions draft pick was Terrion Arnold coming from Alabama Crimson Tide. In the 2023 season, Terrion Arnold, demonstrated his versatility and impact across various facets of the game. Racking up a total of five interceptions, 17 passes defensed, a forced fumble, a sack, and 63 total tackles, including 6.5 for loss, Arnold emerged as a dominant force on the defensive side of the ball.

Arnold’s prowess also extended beyond his individual statistics, as evidenced by his exceptional performance in coverage. Over the course of 471 coverage snaps throughout the season, he held opposing quarterbacks to a passer rating of just 50.7, showcasing his ability to shut down passing lanes and limit big plays downfield. Furthermore, Arnold’s impact was not limited to his coverage skills alone, as he also proved to be a highly effective run defender. With a remarkable Pro Football Focus(PFF) run-defense grade of 90.6, Arnold consistently demonstrated his ability to disrupt opposing rushing attacks and make key stops in the backfield.

Arnold’s stellar performance throughout the 2023 season did not go unnoticed, earning him well-deserved recognition from both the media and analytics experts. Garnering first-team All-American honors from the Associated Press, Arnold solidified his status as one of the premier defensive players in the nation. Additionally, his impressive overall grade of 88.4 from PFF further underscored his impact and contributions to his team’s success. 

Second Day Pick Ennis Rakeshaw

The Lions’ newest addition, Rakestraw, boasts a versatile skill set suited for both zone and man coverage schemes, yet he strongly favors press man coverage, aligning well with the team’s preferences. With a background primarily on the outside, he’s demonstrated proficiency in slot coverage, indicating potential flexibility in his NFL role. Rakestraw’s arrival could provide the Lions with added depth and strategic options in their defensive lineup, potentially allowing their current nickel starter to take on more versatile matchups.

Rakestraw offers a candid assessment of his playing style, emphasizing his physicality, competitiveness, and love for tackling. While acknowledging the need to increase his ball production, he asserts confidence in his ability to judge the ball in flight and disrupt passes effectively. Known for his aggressive play, Rakestraw brings a fearless attitude to the field, delivering impactful hits and asserting his presence on every play.

In coverage, Rakestraw showcases patience and versatility, excelling particularly in press man situations. His adeptness at mirroring receivers, coupled with sharp change-of-direction skills, allows him to maintain tight coverage and minimize penalties. Despite occasional challenges with long speed, Rakestraw compensates with instincts, often positioning himself strategically to contest passes effectively.

While ball production remains an area for improvement, Rakestraw demonstrates promise in his ability to position himself for plays on the ball. With the guidance of NFL coaching, he has the potential to further enhance this aspect of his game. Notably, Rakestraw’s standout attribute lies in his run defense, where he exhibits exceptional instincts and tackling prowess. Quick to diagnose plays and unafraid to take on blockers, Rakestraw’s proficiency in run support sets him apart as one of the premier defenders in his class.

Read More: Arsenal beat Tottenham to stay alive in the EPL 2023/24 title chase

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Rodgers’ Reinstatement: Eagles’ Cornerback Depth Gets a Lift

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Philadelphia Eagles NFL Kit and Equipment

Just days before the kickoff of the 2024 NFL Draft, the Philadelphia Eagles received encouraging news. Isaiah Rodgers has been reinstated by the NFL after serving an indefinite suspension for violating the league’s sports gambling policy.

The 26-year-old cornerback was initially suspended last summer and subsequently released by the Indianapolis Colts. Despite his suspension, the Eagles demonstrated faith in the young defensive back by signing him in August of the previous season, with the understanding that he would be ineligible for at least a full season. The decision to retain Rodgers on the Reserve Suspended List underscored the team’s belief in his potential and willingness to provide him with a second chance.

The Eagles’ voluntary offseason program commenced on April 15, marking a timely opportunity for Rodgers to rejoin the fold. Now, Rodgers could potentially be a hidden gem for Philadelphia in the upcoming 2024 season. While a year away from NFL action might raise questions about his immediate impact, Rodgers has a clear path to a significant role on an Eagles team in need of both short-term and long-term help in the secondary.

The Suspensions

A total of 12 players have faced suspensions for gambling, starting with receiver Calvin Ridley’s season-long suspension in 2022. Ridley was reinstated in March and has since joined the Jacksonville Jaguars. Despite the NFL reinstating five players from gambling suspensions on April 18, Rodgers’ name was conspicuously absent from the list. 

In an interview with ESPN conducted in February, Rodgers admitted to placing bets from his account, albeit on behalf of others residing in Florida, where online sports betting remained illegal at the time. He acknowledged the error in judgment and expressed remorse for the consequences. Notably, Rodgers’ suspension coincided with a period of personal growth and reflection, as he contemplated the ramifications of his actions.

Before Suspension

Prior to his suspension, Rodgers had exhibited promising potential as a cornerback for the Colts, with his standout season occurring in 2022. Over the course of his tenure in Indianapolis, Rodgers showcased his versatility as a kick and punt returner, amassing impressive statistics and demonstrating his value as a multifaceted player. With the NFL’s revised kickoff rules enhancing the importance of return specialists, Rodgers’ reinstatement presents an opportunity for the Eagles to leverage his speed and agility in special teams play.

Despite his modest stature at 5’10 and 170 pounds, Rodgers’ previous experience primarily as an outside cornerback suggests he could transition seamlessly into the slot position for the Eagles.  The UMass product possesses exceptional speed, evident from his impressive kick return stats as a rookie in 2020. That year, he ranked third in the NFL with an average of 28.8 yards per kick return and scored a touchdown with a 101-yard run-back. His agility and speed, evidenced by his impressive 40-yard dash time of 4.28 seconds, make him a formidable asset in coverage and special teams play alike.

In his subsequent seasons, despite limited defensive snaps, Rodgers showcased his playmaking abilities with interceptions, pass breakups, and fumble recoveries. His versatility and skill set have garnered praise from teammates and opponents alike, with many recognizing his potential impact on the field.

The Comeback

Rodgers will likely compete for an outside cornerback role, but he may also see reps both inside and outside. With a strong off-season, Rodgers could contend for a starting spot or a key backup role, especially with competition at the corner from players like James Bradberry, potential improvement from Kelee Ringo in his second year, and the Eagles’ potential draft plans.

With players like Darius Slay Jr. and Bradberry aging at cornerback, Rodgers provides a mix of youth and experience to the Eagles’ defense. Additionally, with the NFL emphasizing the return of meaningful kickoff plays, Rodgers could be a frontrunner to handle return duties for Philadelphia in 2024, adding speed and agility to a crucial position.

Additionally, Rodgers could contribute as a kick returner, boasting a career average of 27.0 yards per return and one touchdown. With the NFL’s new kickoff rules potentially increasing his value, Rodgers has another opportunity to make an impact.

While expectations should be tempered given his year-long absence from football and adjustment to a new team and scheme, Rodgers could prove to be a valuable addition to the Eagles. His performance in OTAs and training camp will be worth watching as he looks to make his mark in Philadelphia.

Read More: 2024 NFL Draft Top Young Prospects

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Which NFL Teams Made Smart Free Agency Plays & Trades This Off-Season?

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NFL Player Ready for Kick off

We’re still months away from the start of NFL squads reporting for training, but that hasn’t stopped teams from preparing for the upcoming season. Players have been jumping from team to team as GMs conduct trades and scour the free agency markets, looking for hidden gems. Here are the NFL teams that have had a productive off-season and may have just found the players they need to push them into the playoffs in 2024!

Carolina Panthers Get Diontae Johnson and a 2024 Seventh-Round Pick

The Carolina Panthers have finally fixed its lack of receivers, thanks to Diontae Johson. The 27-year-old has a remarkable ability to get open and has a safe pair of hands with a drop rate under 5%. He’s consistently been one of the best receivers in the league throughout his career, ranking in the top 10% in three of his five NFL seasons.

To acquire Johnson, the Carolina Panthers sent cornerback Donte Jackson to the Steelers. Jackson is an average NFL cornerback, allowing 1.3 yards per coverage snap. However, he’s still young and has the potential to become a pro bowler. The Panthers definitely got the best out of this trade. Johnson is a higher-production player, and wide receivers have a bigger impact on the game compared to cornerbacks.

Pittsburgh Steelers Get a New QB Justin Fields

High-quality backup quarterbacks are few and far between in the NFL. So the Pittsburgh Steelers have pulled off a smart move by signing Justin Fields, who has played almost 40 NFL games over the last three seasons. If the Steelers’ starting QB gets hurt, Fields is more than capable of leading the offense thanks to his strong and accurate arm. 

To convince the Chicago Bears to part with Fields, the Steelers sent them a 2025 sixth-round draft pick, which can transform into a four-round pick if Fields plays more than half of the games in 2024.

Unfortunately for the Chicago Bears, they held onto Fields for too long. His value took a hit, and they had to settle for, at best, a fourth-round pick. The Bears should have traded him earlier! 

Los Angeles Rams Sign Safety Kamren Curl

The Los Angeles Rams have signed Kamren Curl to a two-year contract for $8.75 million. LA has been making some noise this off-season, and the safety fits perfectly into their system. Los Angeles is hoping Curl can reduce the number of yards the Rams concede. Curl is now in his fourth year in the league and is in his prime. The Rams will probably draft a rookie safety to play alongside Curl, who LA hopes will mentor him. 

Curl was drafted in the seventh round back in 2020 and played for the Commanders for three seasons. In 2023, he was a tackling machine with 74 solo tackles. The 24-year-old is fast and equally good at stopping the run and pass. The Rams have picked up strong value that barely puts a dent in its salary cap. 

Tennessee Titans Pay Big for Wide Receiver Calvin Ridley

The Tennessee Titans have opened up the financial floodgates by signing wide receiver Calvin Ridley to a four-year contract, $92 million contract with $50 million guaranteed. The 29-year-old missed most of the 2021 season as he was battling mental health problems and then was suspended for the whole of the 2022 season for betting on NFL games.

Ridley returned to the NFL in 2023 and had a good but not great season, racking up 1,016 yards from 76 receptions. It’s definitely a risky play by the Titans, but we think it’ll pay off. 

When Ridley is at his best, he’s one of the top wide receivers in the whole league. In 2020, he had an incredible 90 receptions and over 1,300 receiving yards alongside nine touchdowns. If he can return to this form, he should help the Titans make the playoffs.

The Carolina Panthers may have made the sharpest NFL off-season play by picking up Diontae Johnson and a seventh-round pick in a stacked draft class. The Steelers, Rams, and Titans also made moves with major upside. We’ll have to wait until September 5, when the NFL regular season kicks off, to see if these trades and free agency signing pay off!

Read More: Ranking the worst NFL trades in history

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