The Road to Miami (via London): Bears win again

Charlie Mullen

September 18, 2019 at 12:40 pm.

Throughout the season, we review and preview the matches involving the NFL teams that will play in London. Of the eight teams crossing the Atlantic, the Rams are the only team still with a 100 percent record after Oakland were beaten by Kansas City last weekend. Can Jared Goff lead the defending NFC champions to victory in front of the Dawg Pound this weekend? And can Jacksonville, Cincinnati and Carolina get their seasons up and running with their first wins of the season?

Titans @ Jaguars

The Jaguars have been rocked by the news that CB Jalen Ramsey has demanded a trade out of Jacksonville following his confrontation with head coach Doug Marrone on the sideline of Sunday’s 13-12 loss in Houston. Ramsey insists he will play like he normally does in what could be his last game for the Jaguars against a Titans team that were beaten 19-17 at home by Indianapolis. The one bright spot for the troubled Jaguars is WR DJ Chark who has scored the first TD for the Jaguars in their opening two games so far this season. After just two games, turnovers have been a key for both teams with the Jaguars -3 in their account while the Titans lead the NFL with +5. If the Titans are to win this game, they are going to have to improve their third down efficiency that has seen Tennessee convert just three of the 20 they have faced in their first two games.

Titans by 3

Bengals @ Bills

Buffalo can open their season with three straight wins for the first time since 2011 if they can get the better of the Bengals who have yet to win a game. The Bills have been one of the surprise packages in the first two weeks of the season with both their wins coming in the MetLife Stadium against the Jets and the Giants. This will be their season opener and everything points to a Bills win. Cincinnati have rushed for a total of 59 yards in their losses to Seattle and San Francisco leaving their offense one predictable and one dimensional. One of the reasons why the Bengals have struggled like they have is because of their offensive line which has allowed QB Andy Dalton to be sacked nine times already this season. The Bills have five sacks already this season and that number should increase at home to Cincinnati.

Bills by 10

Raiders @ Vikings

Both the Raiders and Vikings are looking to bounce back from their first losses of the season last weekend. Oakland were destroyed by a stunning second quarter display by Kansas City QB Patrick Mahomes who threw four TD passes in a 28-10 win. Minnesota fell just short of beating the Packers in Green Bay but there were plenty of positives to take from that loss. The key match-up in this game will be if Oakland can stop the Vikings’ ground game. Minnesota rush for an average 185 yards per game thanks to the league’s leading rusher Dalvin Cook’s 265 yards while the Raiders defense are ranked fifth in stopping the run with an average 63 yards allowed in their opening two games. With such a prolific running game, it’s perhaps no surprise to find that 59.6 per cent of the plays called by Minnesota head coach Mike Zimmer have been running plays.

Vikings by 10

Panthers @ Cardinals

Carolina have been one of the biggest disappointments this season with losses to the Rams and the Buccaneers with QB Cam Newton coming under fire for his poor performances. Newton has yet to throw a TD pass this season and failed to lead the Panthers into the endzone in their 20-14 loss to Tampa Bay which was their second home defeat of the season. Perhaps a trip to the desert will be the game where Newton can ignite Carolina’s offense into life. The Cardinals, with number one draft pick Kyler Murray leading the attack, have allowed teams to get off to fast starts. Arizona were 17-3 down at half-time to Detroit before tying the game 27-27. Last week against the Ravens, Baltimore led 17-6 and managed to hold on to win 23-17 against the spirited Cardinals. David Johnson will be looking to score Arizona’s first TD in the third successive game this season.

Panthers by 3

Giants @ Buccaneers

The big news coming out of New York is the decision by Pat Shurmur to bench two-time Super Bowl winner Eli Manning for their trip to Tampa Bay. It was always going to be a matter of time before the offense was handed over to Daniel Jones who was the sixth overall draft pick in April’s Draft. Jones impressed in pre-season but the Buccaneers’ defense will be a tough proposition for the rookie. Tampa Bay’s defense has only given up one TD all season and that was in their opener against the 49ers. Expect the Giants to simplify their offense until a point where Jones is confident of expanding it, which means Giants RB Saquon Barkley is likely to see a lot of the ball than the 14.5 carries he averages so far this season. Despite not geting his hands on the ball often, Barkley has still rushed for 227 yards. The Buccaneers though have the sixth best rush defense in the league with their opponents running for an average of 68.5 yards per game.

Buccaneers by 4

Texans @ Chargers

The Texans defense stood firm when it mattered most to break up a Jacksonville two-point conversion attempt at the end of their game last weekend which would have handed Houston their second straight loss after losing their opener in New Orleans by two points. The Chargers have also been involved in two close matches this season needing overtime to beat Indianapolis 30-24 while they were held without a point in the second half in Detroit who beat them 13-10. Texans QB Deshaun Watson has scored his team’s first TD in their two games while RB Austin Ekeler has scored his team’s first TD in both matches the Chargers have played. Both teams are well balanced and well matched and this could be another one-possession game. Both teams have scored the first points in their opening two games as well as leading at half-time.

Chargers by 7

Rams @ Browns

While the Browns got their first win of the season at the NY Jets, we still don’t know how good this Cleveland team really is. A 23-3 win on Monday night came against a weak Jets team missing first-choice QB Sam Darnold and losing back-up Trevor Siemian during the defeat. As for the Rams, they will feel they took a major step towards controlling the NFC by beating New Orleans 27-9 while knocking Saints QB Drew Brees out of the game for around six weeks. Aaron Donald inflicted the injury legally and he will have Baker Mayfield in his sights on Sunday night. Penalties have plagued Cleveland so far this season with a league-high 27 for a total of 267 yards. Their failure to curb their ill-discipline could cost the Browns this season and they cannot afford to give up cheap yards to a Rams team that has the weapons in their offense to capitalise. Despite having home advantage, the Browns could struggle against a Rams team that has conceded just three TDs.

Rams by 10

Bears @ Redskins

Chicago has new hero to worship, for now anyway. Step forward kicker Eddie Pineiro who nailed a 53-yard field goal as time expired to help the Bears beat the Broncos 16-14 in Denver. The Bears look to have found a reliable kicker after losing crucial games in the past couple of seasons by wayward kicks. Washington are looking for their first win of the season and while they have scored a respectable average of 24 points per game, it’s their defense that has let them down giving up 31.5 points in their first two games. We have yet to see the best of Bears QB Mitchell Trubisky, who has only managed one drive that has ended with a TD. Case Keenum has not thrown an interception in his 81 pass attempts this season, but he comes up against a formidable Bears defence that has given up just 24 points in two games. The Bears led the NFL with 27 interceptions last season and they will be disappointed to have just one through the first two weeks of the season.

Bears by 7