NFL

Eagles look to continue 100 per cent start, Packers hope to improve record against Bills

By Sports Desk October 28, 2022

The big boys are back in Week 8 as the NFL season edges its way closer to the playoffs.

The Philadelphia Eagles, Buffalo Bills and Minnesota Vikings all return after a bye week, as do the defending champion Los Angeles Rams, who will look to increase the pressure on the San Francisco 49ers.

The Eagles are aiming to maintain their 100 per cent record when the Pittsburgh Steelers come to town, while the Bills host Aaron Rodgers and his wobbling Green Bay Packers.

Stats Perform has taken a look at the numbers ahead of Sunday's games, starting in the city of brotherly love.

Pittsburgh Steelers (2-5) @ Philadelphia Eagles (6-0)

It promises to be a tricky trip for Pittsburgh, as the Eagles own a nine-game winning streak at home against them, a streak that started in 1966 (Pittsburgh's last win there was Week 6, 1965). It is the Eagles' longest home winning streak against a single opponent in franchise history.

The Steelers lost 16-10 at the Miami Dolphins last week, and are averaging just 15.3 points per game, the second fewest in the NFL (Denver Broncos, 14.3). The last time they finished in the bottom two of the NFL in scoring was 1969 (15.6 points per game, second worst).

The Eagles have held a lead of at least 14 points in each of their six games this season. The last team to do so in seven straight games to begin the season was the 2007 Patriots (eight straight).

Philadelphia have won Jalen Hurts' last nine starts, tied for the longest quarterback win streak in franchise history with Carson Wentz (2017), Donovan McNabb (2003) and Norm Van Brocklin (1960). The Eagles were 6-10 in Hurts' first 16 career starts in the NFL.

San Francisco 49ers (3-4) @ Los Angeles Rams (3-3)

Including a 24-9 home win in Week 4, the 49ers have won seven straight regular-season games against Los Angeles, their second-longest streak against the Rams all-time (17 straight from December 1990 to December 1998). However, the Rams beat the 49ers in last season's NFC Championship Game at SoFi Stadium.

San Francisco lost to the Kansas City Chiefs, 44-23, at home last week. It was the first time they have lost back-to-back games by at least 14 points since Weeks 9-10 in 2020. They followed those games up with a 23-20 win against the Rams in Los Angeles.

Last week, Jimmy Garoppolo threw for 303 yards, the 11th game in his career with at least 300 yards. The 49ers won the first seven of those games but are just 1-3 in the last four. The only win in that span came on the road against the Rams in Week 18 last season.

Rams QB Matthew Stafford is 1-6 in his regular season career against the 49ers, his worst record against any NFC opponent. He has thrown four touchdown passes and five interceptions in his three games against them since joining the Rams, losing each one.

Green Bay Packers (3-4) @ Buffalo Bills (5-1)

The Packers have won their last four home games against the Bills, but are 0-6 all-time in Buffalo, most recently losing a 21-13 game there in Week 15, 2014. The Bills are the only active franchise the Packers have never beaten on the road.

Green Bay lost 23-21 to the Washington Commanders last week, and have lost three straight games for the first time since Weeks 11-13 in 2018. They have not lost four straight since Weeks 8-11 in 2016. The last time they lost four of their first seven games was in 2006 (also 3-4).

The Bills are coming off their bye week following a 24-20 win in Kansas City in Week 6. Since the Bills' last Super Bowl appearance in 1993, they have begun a season 5-1 four times – 1995, 2008, 2019, and this year.

Buffalo's offense has faced a blitz on 35.3 per cent of its passing plays this season, the fourth highest in the league. The Packers have faced a blitz just 20.2 per cent of the time, second lowest in the league (Miami, 18.2). The Bills have blitzed opponents just 12.9 per cent of the time, the lowest in the league.

Elsewhere…

Dak Prescott should face the Chicago Bears (3-4) after making his return in the Dallas Cowboys' (5-2) win over the Detroit Lions last week, moving his career record as a starter to 54-33 (.621). Since 2016. The Cowboys are 9-8 when Prescott does not start (.530) while averaging almost 60 total yards fewer per game when he is not the starter (382.3 with, 322.9 without).

The New York Jets (5-2) enter their clash with the New England Patriots (3-4) with a chance to break their current 12-game losing streak against them, which dates back to the 2016 season. With a loss, the streak would match Denver's 13-game losing streak to Kansas City as the longest active one in the NFL.

Saquon Barkley (110 rushing yards) and Daniel Jones (107) each ran for over 100 yards last week, the third time a New York Giants (6-1) duo has eclipsed that mark. Brandon Jacobs and Ahmad Bradshaw did so in Week 14, 2010 and Week 16, 2007. The only other team with such a duo this season was the New Orleans Saints in Week 5 against the Giants' opponents for Week 8, the Seattle Seahawks (4-3).

The Tennessee Titans (4-2) own a four-game win streak after a 19-10 win at home against the Indianapolis Colts. This is the Titans' sixth-straight season with a winning streak of at least four games, and it could go to five with a win at the Houston Texans (1-4-1).

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  • Can anyone loosen Europe's hold on the Club World Cup? Can anyone loosen Europe's hold on the Club World Cup?

    The Club World Cup begins on Wednesday as seven teams compete to become world champions.

    Representatives from each confederation will take part over 11 days in Morocco, with Real Madrid favourites to end up lifting the trophy.

    That is not to disrespect any of the other participants, but Europe's stranglehold on the competition simply cannot be denied.

    Although South American teams won the first three editions in its current format, the only occasion in the last 15 where the Champions League winners have not triumphed was in 2012 when Corinthians defeated Chelsea in the final, the last time Europe's best did not succeed.

    With four-time Club World Cup winners Madrid present, can anyone realistically stop Carlo Ancelotti's men? Stats Perform has taken a look at the other participants.

    CONMEBOL – Flamengo

    It would be fair to assume that, as the only other confederation to claim the prize, the South American representatives will always be seen as the biggest challengers to Europe.

    Flamengo have participated in the Club World Cup before, having reached the final in 2019 only to lose 1-0 to Liverpool after extra time.

    The Mengao have faced some recent upheaval with head coach Dorival Junior leaving despite winning the Copa do Brasil and Copa Libertadores, just the third time they had prevailed in South America's premier competition.

    Former Fenerbahce and Corinthians boss Vitor Pereira arrived in December and will be relying on star striker Gabriel Barbosa to fire his team to glory, as the ex-Inter man did when he scored the only goal of the Libertadores final against Athletico Paranaense in October.

    Despite promising young midfielder Joao Gomes leaving for Premier League side Wolves, Pereira will hope his new team can at least make their way to the February 11 final when they face either hosts Wydad Casablanca or Al Hilal in the final four.

    CONCACAF – Seattle Sounders

    The Sounders are carrying the hopes not only of Seattle but of MLS as a whole. Due to a series of CONCACAF Champions League heartbreaks for American and Canadian clubs prior to Seattle's triumph last May, the league has had a long, long wait for representation on the world stage.

    It is fitting then that the Sounders should be the team to do it, having broken so many barriers since arriving in MLS in 2009, selling out stadiums, enjoying instant success and signing big-name stars from European clubs.

    Although the 2022 season saw the Sounders' ever-present record in the MLS playoffs ended, that was no reflection of the quality of this squad; injuries badly hampered Brian Schmetzer's side after their early-season focus on that successful Champions League campaign.

    Joao Paulo is back fit again, Raul Ruidiaz provides a goal threat, Jordan Morris' pace causes problems for any defence, and captain Nicolas Lodeiro – a veteran of two World Cups – knits it all together.

    The Sounders – and those watching back home – will be desperate to get through the second round and have a crack at heavyweights Madrid.

    CAF – Wydad Casablanca

    Otherwise known as Wydad AC, the Moroccans would have sealed their place regardless of being hosts after lifting the CAF Champions League in May.

    Under the guidance of Walid Regragui before he left to lead the Morocco national team to the semi-finals of the World Cup, Zouhair El Moutaraji's two goals in the final against Al Ahly brought Wydad their third Champions League title.

    Their record in this competition is less impressive, with their only previous involvement coming in 2017 when they were beaten by Mexico's Pachuca in the second round, before going down 3-2 to Japan's Urawa Reds in the fifth-place playoff.

    Former Racing Santander and Birmingham City player Mehdi Nafti took over from Regragui after leaving LaLiga side Levante late last year, and Regragui thinks they can improve on their 2017 showing at least.

    "I think the trap game is Al Hilal [second round]. If they manage to pass Al Hilal, they can go to the final against Real Madrid. Everything is possible," the Morocco coach told FIFA.com.

    AFC – Al Hilal

    The four-time AFC Champions League winners will compete with Wydad in the second round, with the winner going on to face Flamengo in the final four.

    Ramon Diaz returned for a second spell in charge, and like several other head coaches at the Club World Cup, was not actually the one who lifted the trophy that got his team here in the first place.

    Former Monaco boss Leonardo Jardim was in charge when Al Hilal beat Korea's Pohang Steelers in November 2021, before leaving by mutual consent to be replaced by Diaz.

    Diaz is unsurprisingly the only former Oxford United manager at the Club World Cup, but the 63-year-old has plenty of talent to call upon in his quest for glory in Morocco.

    Odion Ighalo and Luciano Vietto will be accompanied by a number of players from Saudi Arabia's impressive World Cup campaign, with Al Hilal looking to improve on their last CWC campaign when they were beaten by Chelsea in the semi-finals and Al Ahly in the third-place playoff in 2022.

    CAF – Al Ahly

    Al Ahly are also back again, somewhat fortuitously as they inherit Wydad's assigned host spot following the Moroccans beating them in the CAF Champions League final.

    This will be the Egyptian side's eighth appearance at the Club World Cup, with their most impressive previous campaign seeing them finish third after beating Brazilian's Palmeiras on penalties in 2021.

    Head coach Marcel Koller also played no part in his team's qualification for this competition, with the former Austria boss only arriving in September.

    With a number of Egypt's national team players to call on, they will be hoping to repeat their previous meeting with Auckland City in the first round when they beat the New Zealanders 2-0 in 2006. 

    OFC – Auckland City

    This will be the 10th appearance for the Navy Blues, but they are back again after their 3-0 win against Tahiti's Venus in the 2022 OFC Champions League final.

    That was overseen by head coach Albert Riera, not to be confused with the former Liverpool and Galatasaray winger, who took charge in December 2021.

    Riera will be hoping to at least match his team's best ever performance at the CWC, when they came third in 2014 after winning on penalties against Mexico's Cruz Azul. 

    It would take a momentous effort for anyone to stop Madrid, who somehow overcame Paris Saint-Germain, Chelsea, Manchester City and Liverpool on their way to Europe's Champions League title last season.

    Never say never, though.

  • Lillard carries the Trail Blazers yet again as he builds under-the-radar MVP case Lillard carries the Trail Blazers yet again as he builds under-the-radar MVP case

    Damian Lillard's red-hot scoring form continued on Monday as he posted his eighth 40-point game of the season.

    Lillard was the star of the show in the Portland Trail Blazers' 129-125 home win against the Atlanta Hawks, scoring 42 points on 10-of-21 shooting after finishing a perfect 17-of-17 from the free throw line. Only Joel Embiid (nine), Giannis Antetokounmpo (10) and Luka Doncic (11) have scored 40 more often this season.

    He outdueled Dejounte Murray of the Hawks, who was terrific in his own right, collecting a career-high 40 points (13-of-26 shooting), eight rebounds and seven assists.

    Having already claimed the record as the Trail Blazers' all-time leading scorer earlier this season, Lillard is showing no signs of slowing down, and is on pace for arguably the best statistical season of his career.

    He is averaging a career-high 30.4 points per game, while also tying his career-best field goal percentage of 46.3. Lillard has never averaged more than the 4.1 three-pointers he is making each game, while he is also on track for his fourth season with at least seven assists per game, and his fourth season shooting at least 90 per cent from the line.

    He started the season in fine fashion as he posted back-to-back 41 point games in the opening week, but after his scoring average dipped to 22.3 in November, Lillard has hit a rich vein of form since the beginning of the new year.

    The six-time All-NBA selection is averaging 34.5 points per game in January – trailing only Philadelphia 76ers powerhouse Embiid with 34.9 – and nobody in the league is averaging better than Lillard's 38.8 points across their past 10 contests.

    Portland are 19-19 in the 38 games their star point guard has suited up for this season, and are 5-7 without him, but that does not accurately portray how valuable Lillard is for his franchise.

    Lillard's overall plus/minus this season of plus 129 is the best figure on the team, while Josh Hart (plus 110) is the only other player with a mark better than Jusuf Nurkic's plus 52.

    His impact on the Trail Blazers' offense is massive, as the team boasts an offensive rating of 118.7 while he is on the floor, but it drops to 112.4 when he is on the bench or not available. For reference, that 118.7 mark is higher than the league-leading Denver Nuggets (117.4), while 112.4 would tie them with the 23rd-ranked Los Angeles Clippers.

    Lillard will likely not receive any MVP consideration unless the Blazers make a late push into the Western Conference's top-six, but since the calendar flipped over to 2023 there has arguably not been a better player in the sport.

  • Brock Purdy set for six-month lay-off after torn UCL in NFC Championship Game Brock Purdy set for six-month lay-off after torn UCL in NFC Championship Game

    The injury Brock Purdy sustained in the San Francisco 49ers' NFC Championship Game defeat is set to sideline him for six months, according to reports.

    Breakout rookie star Purdy – the final pick in the 2022 NFL Draft – was injured on the 49ers' first drive of their big 31-7 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles.

    A strip sack from Haason Reddick saw Purdy's right throwing elbow injured, significantly damaging the 49ers' chances of advancing in Philadelphia.

    Backup Josh Johnson then suffered a concussion, meaning Purdy eventually returned to the game but was reluctant to throw the ball.

    NFL Network reported on Monday that Purdy's UCL in his elbow had been completely torn and he would undergo surgery, potentially for a repair, rather than a reconstruction.

    ESPN said no decision had yet been made on surgery ahead of Purdy receiving second opinions, but the team were recommending the procedure.

    The injury will see Purdy out for around six months, although that could mean he returns in time for training camp ahead of the 2023 season.

    The 49ers lost Trey Lance and Jimmy Garoppolo to injuries before Purdy was thrown in and led the team to the brink of the Super Bowl.

    The severity of this setback suggests the team will face another offseason of uncertainty at the sport's most important position.

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