What to look forward to in tonight’s Hall of Fame game

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21/12/2018 05:57
It may not be a game that matters , but for the first time since February, we’re getting some actual football. Tonight at 8 PM eastern time, the Chicago Bears and Baltimore Ravens will face off in the annual Pro Football Hall of Fame game at (where else) the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio. While both teams missed out on the playoffs last year, there’s actually plenty of reason to be excited about what they have in store for 2018.If you follow me on Twitter, you know how excited I am about the 2018 Bears. The biggest issue this team had in 2017 was indisputably the receiving corps, where the only players that had more than one touchdown were tight ends and running backs. The team responded by signing Jaguars receiver Allen Robinson, Falcons receiver Taylor Gabriel, and Eagles TE Trey Burton, while selecting Memphis receiver Anthony Miller in this year’s draft. Combine that with Jordan Howard, Tarik Cohen, Adam Shaheen , and (maybe) a healthy Kevin White, and the Bears have playmakers everywhere, with former Chiefs offensive coordinator Matt Nagy pulling the strings. The defense features a promising safety duo in Adrian Amos and Eddie Jackson, and the team drafted Roquan Smith out of Georgia in the first round to a defensive line that includes Leonard Floyd, Akiem Hicks, Danny Trevathan, Eddie Goldman, etc. It’s hard to see the Bears not having a better record this season than last, and they could be a sneaky playoff contender in a loaded NFC.The Ravens have one of the league’s best defenses, and have made an effort to form some identity on offense in an attempt to contend for the playoffs. The team signed receivers Michael Crabtree, John Brown and Willie Snead in the offseason, and drafted tight end Hayden Hurst and quarterback Lamar Jackson in the first round of last year’s draft.I had Lamar Jackson as the best quarterback out of the 2018 draft class. He’s a much better passer than his critics give him any credit for , and as a runner he may be the best prospect since Cam Newton. His combination of speed, elusiveness, and ability to be lined up in all sorts of areas as a runner makes him dangerous. As a passer, he’s excellent down the field, is extremely poised under pressure, and can fit the ball into tight windows.If Lamar Jackson starts for the Ravens, there’s actual reason to be excited about that offense. Michael Crabtree is a high quality receiver that is a master at sideline catches, putting himself in a position for yards after the catch, and someone that offers great route running and ball skills. John Brown has been a quality receiver when healthy, and he gets a second chance to do some damage in Baltimore. Combined with a well coached running game, and this Ravens team could be fun to watch as long as Joe Flacco doesn’t start.On the Bears’ side of the ball, guys like Kevin White , Anthony Miller, and Adam Shaheen are expected to play tonight. For the Ravens, expect guys like Lamar Jackson, Hayden Hurst, Jaleel Scott, Breshad Perriman, and Jordan Lasley to play tonight.And, of course, expect the infamous helmet contact rule the league enforced in the offseason to rear its ugly head tonight. I expect to be infuriated about this rule early on. I’m hoping that will change as the season progresses, but this is the NFL, where nothing is run correctly.With that said, the game will be on at 8 pm eastern time on NBC Womens Derrick Henry Jersey , and can be streamed live via NBC Sports Live as well. The Tennessee Titans will try to earn their first win in the past few weeks as they travel across the pond to face the talented Los Angeles Chargers.Running WildThe Chargers have one of the best offensive attacks in football as the team has the potential to do damage both through the air and on the ground. This spells trouble for a Titans team that has struggled to deal with both. The Titans run defense has plummeted over the past few weeks and the absences of Wesley Woodyard and Will Compton both have left a void in the center of the defense. The Titans get Woodyard back this week, but will be without outside linebacker Derrick Morgan. Tennessee’s run defense currently ranks 27th in total rush yards allowed and rank 17th in average rush yards allowed per attempt. Despite ranking in the bottom half of the league, the Titans are tied for 6th in fewest rushing touchdowns allowed. Melvin Gordon leads the Chargers stable of running backs and has proven he can be deadly with the football in his hands. The Chargers offense currently ranks 6th in total rush yards and are tied with a handful of other clubs for rushing touchdowns with six.The Chargers offensive line has done well in creating holes and building a workable pocket for veteran Phillip Rivers to dissect defenses. His quick release combined with his experience will make him the toughest quarterback the Titans defense has faced all season.Ageless RiversRivers has the Chargers passing offense ranked 13th in total passing yards. The Chargers rank 4th in passing touchdowns with a whopping 15. This is concerning. When facing the Titans, Rivers usually tends to carve up the secondary. He understands how to use his weapons, how to adjust the plays based on his pre-snap reads and can get the ball out of his hands in a heartbeat once he starts to feel a bit of pressure.The Titans secondary ranks 8th in fewest passing yards allowed and is tied for 3rd for fewest pass touchdowns given upThat seems great - but then you look at the quarterbacks they’ve faced. Rivers is head and shoulders above any of the quarterbacks in terms of overall ability. Sure, Carson Wentz is off to a promising career, Joe Flacco is playing good football and Deshaun Watson has shown his Jekyll and Hyde abilities week to week (it helps having DeAndre Hopkins) - but the rest of the list aren’t too great.The will of this Titans defense will be tested. The Chargers are built on lacing together explosive plays. The Titans have struggled to stop the explosions, and recovering has also proven to be difficult. Mainly due to the offense lacking any kind of explosion over the past few weeks. The Titans cannot aren’t built to engage in a shoot-out with the Chargers, so the best help to the defense will be the offense finding a way to score a touchdown. A single touchdown won’t win this game, a pair might make it close but three touchdowns will be the difference in leaving London with a W or an L.Expect Rivers to target Malcolm Butler early and often. He is aware of Butler’s struggles and will look to break his will and shatter his confidence early. The Titans must be prepared and the defensive adjustments should be made to avoid letting Butler take a punch right out of the gate. The Titans defense will be asked to do a lot and the talent is there to do it - it’s just a matter of whether they are on the field for a lengthy time or not. The offense hold the key to keeping the defense fresh and ready to contend with a fiery Charger offense.
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