NFL

Patriots aiming for six in a row, Brady and Evans look to down Colts

By Sports Desk November 26, 2021

The New England Patriots are the form team in the NFL right now after winning five-in-a-row, but will have the AFC-leading Tennessee Titans to contend with on Sunday.

The last time the two teams met was in the wild card round of the 2019 playoffs, where Tennessee beat New England 20-13 in Tom Brady's last game as a Patriot.

Brady of course now leads the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and the 2021 Super Bowl champions also have a tricky contest in week 12 as they travel to Indianapolis to face the Colts.

The Green Bay Packers will be looking to shake off their heartbreakingly narrow loss to the Minnesota Vikings last time out as they host the Los Angeles Rams at Lambeau Field.

 

Tennessee Titans (8-3) @ New England Patriots (7-4)

The Patriots beat Atlanta in week 11, 25-0, for their fifth consecutive win, and the longest active streak in the NFL. Bill Belichick's team are the only one this season to win five straight games by a total of more than 100 points (+125, 175 points for and 50 points against during the streak).

Tennessee lost to Houston in week 11 (22-13), snapping a six-game winning streak for the Titans. Their 103 rushing yards were the most since they lost Derrick Henry to knee surgery in week 8.

Ryan Tannehill threw 52 passes for 35 completions against Houston, the second most attempts of his career (58 in week 12 of 2015) and tied for his career high in completions (also 35 in week 16 of 2014).

Including the playoffs, New England are 7-3 against Tennessee over the last 20 years.

Nick Folk went a perfect 4-for-4 on field goals in the Patriots victory over the Falcons. It was his fourth game this season kicking at least four field goals and making them all, the most in the NFL (Zane Gonzalez of the Carolina Panthers is second most with two such games).  

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (7-3) @ Indianapolis Colts (6-5)

The Buccaneers and Colts have met just seven times when playing in Indianapolis, with Tampa Bay winning only twice. Tampa's last win there came during week 10 of the 1997 season.

Tampa Bay beat the Giants 30-10 in week 11, breaking a two-game losing streak. They have lost back-to-back games just twice in the last two seasons and have not lost three in a row since Tom Brady arrived. Their 10 points allowed were the second fewest allowed all season after holding Chicago to three points in week seven.

Brady found Mike Evans for a five-yard touchdown pass in the third quarter of last week's victory. Their 10 combined touchdowns are tied for the most between any passer and receiver this season with LA Rams' duo Matthew Stafford and Cooper Kupp.

The Colts beat the Bills last week (41-25) for their third-straight-win and longest win streak of the season. Their 26-point differential was the second-largest victory of the season for the Colts, only behind their 31-3 victory over the Texans in week six.

Colts quarterback Carson Wentz was 11-for-20 with 106 passing yards in their victory over the Bills. That is the lowest number of passing yards he has ever thrown for in a game when having at least 20 pass attempts.

Los Angeles Rams (7-3) @ Green Bay Packers (8-3)

These two last faced off in the divisional round of the playoffs in January, with the Packers winning 32-18 at Lambeau Field. After 96 games in the all-time series (including the playoffs), the teams are separated by just six points, with the Rams having scored 2204 points to Green Bay's 2198.

The Rams have lost two straight after a 31-10 defeat to San Francisco in week 10, having lost to Tennessee 28-16 the week prior. It is the first time the team has lost consecutive games with both being by double digits since Sean McVay became head coach in 2017.

Matthew Stafford has thrown for more interceptions than touchdowns in consecutive games after not doing so in any of his first eight games with the Rams. Stafford had 31 such games in his 12 seasons with Detroit.

Green Bay fell to Minnesota in a dramatic 34-31 loss last week, despite converting seven of 11 third-down attempts (63.6 per cent). It was the highest third-down conversion percentage for the Packers in a loss since week two of the 2005 season when they lost 26-24 to Cleveland while converting 10-of-14 third downs.

Aaron Rodgers threw for a season-high 385 yards to go with four touchdowns and zero interceptions against the Vikings. It was the fourth time Rodgers has thrown for 375 or more yards, four or more touchdowns and no interceptions in the same game, which is three more times than any other Packer QB.

Elsewhere...

The number one pick of the 2021 draft Trevor Lawrence will be hoping to fare better against the Atlanta Falcons (4-6) after going three straight starts without throwing a touchdown for the Jacksonville Jaguars (2-8). He is one of two quarterbacks to go three-straight-starts without a passing TD this year, along with the Carolina Panthers' Sam Darnold.

The Minnesota Vikings (5-5) are the only NFL team that has had every game decided by fewer than 14 points this season. Minnesota will tie a single-season team record for most consecutive games (11) decided by 13 or fewer points with another such game on Sunday when they travel to the San Francisco 49ers (5-5).

The Denver Broncos (5-5) will be looking to keep a lid on LA Chargers (6-4) QB Austin Ekeler, who scored four touchdowns against Pittsburgh last week, two on the ground and two in the air. He is the only active player with multiple rushing and receiving TDs in a game and the first player to do so since Jacksonville's Maurice Jones-Drew in 2011 against Tampa Bay. 

The Cleveland Browns (6-5) head into their clash against the Baltimore Ravens (7-3) coming off a 13-10 win over Detroit, their fourth win in the last two seasons when scoring 17 or fewer points. No other NFL team has more than two wins while scoring so few points since the beginning of last season. 

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    For the first time at SW19 this week, there was little evidence of Nadal's recent fitness problems as he completely outclassed his Italian opponent.

    And on this form, the calendar Grand Slam appears a genuine possibility for the Australian Open and French Open champion.

    Indeed, it was hard not to feel sorry for Sonego – and he did appear to have the sympathy of the Centre Court crowd – as Nadal's strokes painted pretty patterns around him.

    The Spaniard remarkably dropped only two points on his own serve in the first set – both to double-faults. It was a similar story in Sonego's service games, too, as he held at the first attempt but then lost the next nine in succession.

    Such was Nadal's superiority a relieved Sonego lifted his arms to salute the crowd as he finally held serve in the fifth game of the second and was given a generous cheer.

    That small victory scarcely slowed Nadal, who wrapped up the second on his own serve and then blasted Sonego away in the opening game of the third to break once again.

    Sonego soon found a more effective way to hold up his opponent, however, appealing at length for the Centre Court roof to be closed and eventually succeeding after a brave hold and a handful of points on Nadal's serve informed officials he was capable of dragging the contest out under fading light.

    So it briefly proved, as Nadal – perhaps irked by the delay – lost his composure and was broken to love after Sonego made a noise as he approached the ball; Nadal deemed the umpire an unnecessary middle man and called Sonego over for a word, clearly upsetting the Italian.

    A fired-up Nadal immediately broke back, and after finally delivering a little drama, the match – and Sonego's campaign – was over.

    Data Slam: Rafa ramping up

    This was Sonego's first meeting with Nadal, and he might have picked a better time to face this fiercely focused great. The 22-time major champion has now won 10 third-round Wimbledon matches in a row, including the past four without dropping a set. Sonego had a hard enough time merely winning a game for much of the match.

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    Nadal – 24/17
    Sonego – 19/17

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    Nadal – 2/4
    Sonego – 2/2

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    Nadal – 6/8
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    Ronaldo returned to United at the end of August 2021, but after a season back at Old Trafford, the 37-year-old apparently wants out.

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    Ronaldo was United's top scorer last season, though it would be fair to say his comeback did not go entirely to plan, with the Red Devils finishing sixth and recording their worst Premier League points tally.

    Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was sacked in November and interim manager Ralf Rangnick hardly made a lasting impression.

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    Sure, United's season might not have gone according to plan, but without Ronaldo, it could have been a lot worse. United ultimately scraped into the Europa League despite a dismal end to the campaign, and the fact that they have continental club football of any description to look forward to in the coming season is, in large part, down to the 18 league goals Ronaldo scored.

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    Ronaldo scored a goal every 132 minutes last season, recording a shot conversion rate of 16.9 per cent. With Ronaldo in the team, United won 17 of 38 games (44.7 per cent). That win rate dropped drastically to 27.3 per cent (3/11) without him.

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    Ronaldo departure would provide opportunity for reset - Ryan Benson

    Goals win football matches. Cristiano Ronaldo scores goals – we know this. But did he make United a better team in general? Few would claim he did.

    Granted, some might suggest that is a harsh way to judge him given he played in – and scored 18 league goals for – arguably the worst United team (at least in terms of seasonal statistics) in over 30 years, but who's to say only he could have netted that amount for this side? Don't forget, they did finish second in the 2020-21 campaign.

    Even before he returned to Old Trafford, there were plenty of critics warning fans United could potentially be worse off than before with Ronaldo because of how little he offers to the wider team.

    Yes, he scores goals, but what's stopping United signing a replacement who does that but also works hard off the ball and adds dynamism to the attack? Maybe that's easier said than done, but those players do literally exist.

    United are in a transitional stage, the middle of a rebuild. With that in mind, no one will be expecting them to mount anything close to a title challenge next season, Ronaldo or not.

    Therefore, they might as well allow Ten Hag to bring a striker he deems to be tailor-made for the way he wants to play, rather than shoe-horn into the side a Ronaldo who offers precious little outside of the box.

    Ronaldo is 37. United would've needed to replace him soon anyway, so at least this provides them with an earlier opportunity to sign, and start building around, someone much younger.

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