NFL: It comes down to a few inches, a few seconds

New England Patriots’ Marcus Jones runs back for the game-winning touchdown against the New York Jets during an NFL football game at Gillette Stadium, Sunday, Nov. 20, 2022. (Photos: AP)

Professional sports, like most things in life, come down to a few inches, a few seconds, and the ability to capitalize on opportunities. Teams Argentina and Germany, in their early World Cup shortfalls against Saudi Arabia and Japan respectively, are proof of this, but the highlights of the 2022/23 National Football League (NFL) regular season this week in, next week out.

Marcus Jones returned 84 yards for a touchdown with five seconds left as the New England Patriots (6-4) defeated the stunned New York Jets (6-4) by a score of 10-3 last Sunday. This marks their 14th consecutive victory over the Jets, who now drop to last place in the hotly contested American Football Conference (AFC) East Division.

That same afternoon, the point play of the neighboring New York Giants (7-3) was halted by the much-maligned point defense of the Detroit Lions (4-6). The Giants’ running back and NFL’s leading rusher Saquon Barkley amassed just 22 yards, while his counterpart Jamaal Williams racked up a career-high three touchdowns as Detroit stunned New York 31-18 — with consecutive victories on the road and their first three match winning streak since November 2017.

Dallas Cowboys (7-3) quarterback (QB) Dak Prescott was nearly flawless (22 of 25 passes for 276 yards and two touchdowns) and Ezekiel Elliott rushed for two scores in his return from injury against the high-flying Minnesota Vikings (8 -2) last Sunday. Kicker Brett Maher entered with four field goals made—including a 60-yarder to end the first half—and running back Tony Pollard had two touchdown catches, with a career-high 189 rushing yards from scrimmage. The 40–3 score was a far cry from the Vikings’ heroics this year, and the Cowboys’ score was a reversal from the fourth-quarter shutout they had lost to the Green Bay Packers the previous week.

Elsewhere in the National Football Conference (NFC) East, the previously undefeated Philadelphia Eagles (9-1) used nearly all available time to get past the fluttering Indianapolis Colts (4-6-1) last Sunday. Eagles’ QB Jalen Hurts ran for an eight-yard touchdown with 1:20 left, for their first lead of the game and the 17–16 win. After their first loss of the season last week to the Washington Commanders, the Eagles trailed 13-3 in the fourth quarter before making the telltale run to earn their seventh straight win.

This weekend’s big matchup set the Tennessee Titans (7-3) to host the Cincinnati Bengals (6-4) in a crucial AFC showdown between two teams with playoff ambitions, and the teams only matchup this weekend with winning records. The Titans reached the top AFC seeding last year en route to the playoffs, only to be promptly eliminated in the Divisional Round by the Bengals, in Tennessee. The Bengals made it to Super Bowl LVI, took on the Los Angeles Rams at SoFi Stadium, and the rest is history.

Of course, after the way last season ended, many view this game as a potential redemption game for the Titans when the Bengals return to “the crime scene.” However, many of the current Titans weren’t on that team and wouldn’t be in the mood for revenge, but QB Ryan Tannehill will have a hard time forgetting a three-interception performance. Tannehill has recovered from that loss, and while he hasn’t had a breakaway statistically, he’s done enough to help the Titans to a 6-2 run in games he’s started. Tennessee is in good position again, leading the AFC South in this weekend, but as JustBet underdogs at home to Cincinnati.

The Titans played a consistent game last Thursday against the Green Bay Packers, scoring in each quarter and knocking out their opponents in the fourth for a 27-17 win at Green Bay. Tannehill was efficient (22 of 27 passes for 333 yards and two touchdowns), but running back Derrick Henry’s legs carried the team—he finished with 87 heavy yards but also completed two passes, one for a touchdown.

Cincinnati played a hard-fought game against the Pittsburgh Steelers last Sunday afternoon, with QB Joe Burrow swinging it for 355 yards and four touchdowns to secure their first division win of the season. Wide receiver Tee Higgins made a huge contribution with 148 receiving yards, but the glory went to running back Samaje Perine who had three rushing touchdowns in the 37-30 win. The Bengals expect widely received Ja’Marr Chase to return on Sunday to bolster an already formidable offense — Chase has been out with a hip injury since the team’s Week 7 victory over the Atlanta Falcons.

These teams have met 77 times (including two post-season games), with the Bengals winning 36 games and the Titans winning 40. They also drew once. The Bengals may not want to admit it, but a win on Sunday would not only put them in a tie with the Titans, it would give the satisfaction of sweet revenge for last season’s playoff loss. A win would take Tennessee to 8-3 and give them a commanding lead in the division before the calendar flips to December. If the attacking strike that Henry can provide emerges, an eventual win is expected for the home side, but action to that point should be fire. Are you ready for a game of football?

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Super Bowl LVII champion

Team opportunities

Buffalo Bills5.20

Kansas City leaders5.40

Philadelphia Eagles7.00

San Francisco 49ers8.20

Dallas Cowboys 11 a.m

Baltimore Ravens1 p.m

Tampa Bay Buccaneers 6 p.m

Miami Dolphins 6pm

Minnesota Vikings18.00

Cincinnati Bengal26.00

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Note: Odds are subject to change

Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott (4) in action during the first half of an NFL football game against the Minnesota Vikings, Sunday, November 20, 2022 in Minneapolis.

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