On paper, this looks like a great advantage for Jacksonville’s No. 1 rushing offense against New England No. 20 rushing defense. Leonard Fournette coming back from his ankle injury to finish a dominant game against the Steelers was a good sign after he was shut down against the Bills. So was the fact that T.J. Yeldon made big plays out of the backfield coming off the bench, as both a runner and a receiver.
Seeing how New England has been gashed by top feature backs all season, Jacksonville will feel confident it can have more good running success by matching defenders with blockers. The Patriots are built a whole lot more to stop the pass up front and in the secondary.
Not much has come easily this season for the Panthers, and last week’s curious trade-deadline deal of WR Kelvin Benjamin was the latest issue to make things seem less than ideal. But the Panthers continue to play well through it all, and the win over the Falcons means that they are the primary challenger to the Saints in the NFC South.
They and the Jaguars have emerged as the class of the AFC South. Could the division title be at stake when the two teams meet in the regular season finale?
The Chiefs don’t resemble the team that began the season 5-0. But with the Raiders and Broncos failing to put much pressure on them in the AFC West, they haven’t had to be that team.
The ankle injury suffered by WR Odell Beckham Jr. during a preseason game complicates things. The Giants must have Beckham in the lineup and at something close to full speed for this offense, which was underwhelming last season, to function at a level high enough for this team to be a top contender. The defense must maintain last season’s level while Coach Ben McAdoo and QB Eli Manning find a way to make the offense more productive.