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Packers offense needs to be prepared for Antoine Winfield Jr. in Week 6

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Tampa Bay safety Antoine Winfield Jr. has had a hot start to his rookie campaign and could present some trouble for the guys in green.

Understandably, all eyes will be on the quarterback matchup between the Green Bay Packers and Tampa Bay Buccaneers Sunday afternoon as two of the premier talents in NFL history will duke it out mano a mano for only the third time in their career. However, another matchup worth paying close attention to is that between the Packers’ offense and Buccaneers’ rookie safety Antoine Winfield Jr.

Winfield Jr. has been sensational after being selected in the second round of the 2020 NFL Draft out of the University of Minnesota. The diminutive safety – who stands at a mere 5-foot-9, and is grit personified – is ranked as the sixth-best safety in the league according to Pro Football Focus.

The former Golden Gopher excels at defending the run as well as getting to the quarterback, two areas where the Packers’ offense has performed well through their first four games; Green Bay boasts the NFL’s fifth most-potent running game with 150.8 yards per game and have allowed Aaron Rodgers to be sacked only three times, which is tied for fewest in the league with Ryan Tannehill and the Tennessee Titans.

Tampa Bay enters Sunday allowing the fewest running yards per game (58.4) and Winfield Jr. is a primary catalyst for their dominance; he is a great wrap-up tackler who doesn’t often miss in the open field, regardless of the elusiveness of the opponent. In this clip, Winfield Jr. easily takes down Carolina Panthers’ running back Christian McCaffrey, preventing a would-be touchdown.

However, Packers’ running back Aaron Jones presents a bit of an unstoppable-force-versus-immovable-object corollary for the standout safety as he boasts the fourth-most rushing yards after contact (211) in the NFL. (That’s the equivalent of 3.2 yards after contact per rush, a whole yard more than McCaffrey, for reference.) It’s possible that the team that comes out on top in the Battle of the Bays will be whoever wins the matchup between these two.

Winfield possesses great burst and a nose for making plays. In this clip, he times the snap perfectly, allowing him to get to Denver Broncos’ quarterback Jeff Driskel unabated.

Winfield Jr.’s speed off the edge will be difficult for the offensive line to contain, meaning the Packers may have to keep Jones and Jamaal Williams in the backfield to block or audible to a quick pass when he shows blitz. Other potential antidotes include switching up the snap count and relying on RPOs to throw Winfield Jr. off the scent.

Rodgers is one of the best in the NFL at making things difficult for opposing defenses as he excels at deceiving with his eyes and pre-snap antics and with his ability to improvise in the pocket. Winfield Jr. acknowledged this in a press conference earlier this week.

“The challenge is staying in position and doing our jobs. We’re going up against a great offense, one of the best offenses in the league right now, so our goal is to just go in there and do our job. ’12’ is their guy, he’s the one who runs the show, so we got to do our best to contain him and do our job.”

Containing Rodgers won’t be easy for the Buccaneers – who are average at best at defending the pass – especially with Davante Adams expected to return from his hamstring injury. Winfield Jr. will be tasked – and a tall one at that – with assisting in deep coverage and preventing Rodgers and his receiving corps from completing big plays.

Rodgers versus Brady will garner all the headlines and be the focus of the bulk of the narrative heading into and out of Sunday, but Antoine Winfield Jr. provides as much of a threat to the Packers’ chances of victory as anyone on Tampa Bay’s sideline. The Packers will have their hands full trying to prevent him from having a large impact on the outcome of the game.

Next: 3 bold predictions for the Packers in Week 6 vs. Bucs

NFL Football

Atlanta Falcons prediction: Can the birds get their first win of the year?

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The Atlanta Falcons are back in action for the first time since firing Dan Quinn.

At 1-4 the Minnesota Vikings aren’t much better than the 0-5 Atlanta Falcons. This has all the makings of a really bad pillow fight among two teams that had Super Bowl hopes coming into 2020.

This will be the fifth time that these two teams have met over the last seven NFL seasons, the Falcons are 0-4 in the previous four meetings. The Falcons last win against the Vikings came in 2011 when Matt Ryan threw for 262 yards and three touchdowns.

Here is how the staff at Blogging Dirty thinks the game turns out.

Jeff Benedict – Site Expert

When these two teams met last season, I was shocked at how bad the Atlanta Falcons had looked. Minnesota jumped out 28-0 and never looked back.

Vikings running back Dalvin Cook evolved into one of the best pass-catching running backs in the league and while he was able to rush for 111 yards, he didn’t embarrass the Falcons like he did other teams across the league.

He will be out Sunday, which is a big advantage for the Falcons.

This Vikings team is much different on the defensive side than they were a year ago and I think the Falcons will be able to take advantage of that.

I think Raheem Morris starts his Falcons coaching career with a win.

Joe Beasley – Contributor

I expect the Falcons to play with some type of fire. If interim head coach Raheem Morris wants a shot at this job or any other head coaching gig, he has to show he can somewhat fix this mess in Atlanta.

The offense does get Julio Jones back which is good for everyone except a young Vikings secondary. Add that to the fact that Dalvin Cook isn’t playing and you have a perfect storm for the Falcons to get their first win.

Besides, I’m bound to get one of these right.

Justin Churchill – Contributor

Last week the Vikings were close to beating the Seahawks. They have a very good offense but may struggle without Dalvin Cook in the backfield.

Their defense will give up a lot, hopefully allowing Todd Gurley to get back into a groove. However,  I think the Vikings will win this one.

Ross Terrell – Contributor

It’s officially a new era in Atlanta. Maybe just maybe Raheem Morris was gunning for this job the whole time. So he sabotaged Quinn to get his shot as head coach. Or maybe the Falcons downward spiral will continue.

Let’s hope the latter isn’t true and the Atlanta Falcons finally pull themselves off the mat.

Next: Falcons have a chance to get out of sports purgatory

Ethan Johnson – Contributor

The Atlanta Falcons will not win this game. The team may come out inspired and rejuvenated, or heartbroken because their coach is gone.

Either way, it doesn’t really matter because they haven’t beaten the Minnesota Vikings since 2011, and that streak won’t end Sunday.

 

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Buffalo Bills: 4 defensive tackles to consider trading for this season

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Buffalo Bills

Sep 22, 2019; Orchard Park, NY, USA; Cincinnati Bengals defensive tackle Geno Atkins (97) jogs off the field following his sack of Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen (not pictured) during the first quarter at New Era Field. Mandatory Credit: Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

These are four defensive tackles the Buffalo Bills should consider trying to trade for before the trade deadline.

The defensive line for the Buffalo Bills went through a significant change this past offseason. They saw free agents Jordan Phillips and Shaq Lawson leave in free agency but the front office replaced them with Vernon Butler, Quinton Jefferson, and Mario Addison as well as selecting A.J. Epenesa in the second round.

In addition to those offseason moves, the Bills had last year’s starting defensive tackle Star Lotulelei elect to opt-out of the 2020 season due to concerns around the pandemic.

After six games, it is clear that the changes have caused this defense to take a step backward stopping the run and the front office may need to look outside the organization on how to correct this.

The focus for general manager Brandon Beane should be to look for someone similar to Lotulelei in terms of a zero tech defensive tackle that can eat up space and take on multiple defenders. This will help force running backs into fewer lanes but also free up Tremaine Edmunds and the rest of the second and third-level defenders clear running lanes to get to the ball carrier.

These are four defensive tackles that could be available for a trade that makes sense for the Buffalo Bills.

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4 tight ends the Carolina Panthers should target in the 2021 NFL Draft

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Carolina Panthers

(Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images) Ian Thomas

Which college prospects are emerging as early draft candidates for the Carolina Panthers at the tight end position?

The Carolina Panthers clearly have a need at the tight end spot which needs to be addressed next spring. They are getting next to no production from either Ian Thomas or Chris Manhertz through six games of the 2020 season and this is a stark contrast to what the team got from prolific veteran Greg Olsen for so many years.

It’s hard to deny that this isn’t what the Carolina Panthers expected coming into the season. They had high hopes for Thomas to step up and fill the void left by the Pro Bowler, who opted for one more shot at a Super Bowl with the Seattle Seahawks before inevitably taking up a broadcast position next year.

Thomas hasn’t lived up to his billing this season. He has accumulated just six receptions, 39 receiving yards, and one touchdown from 11 targets, which simply isn’t good enough if the former Indiana standout wants to make a real go of things from a starting role.

Although all hope isn’t lost, he is clearly skating on thin ice.

There were fewer expectations on the shoulders of Manhertz. The veteran is seen as more of a blocking tight end and has aided the Panthers in this area. This has been of particular use to quarterback Teddy Bridgewater and running back Mike Davis, depending on what play is called by Joe Brady.

If things continue as they are then this might be priority No.1 for the Panthers once the dust has settled on the 2020 season. Whether they bring in a veteran during the free agency period is up for debate, but there are plenty of exciting tight end prospects entering the 2021 NFL Draft that will also warrant consideration during the evaluation process.

Let’s take a look at four players at the position who could come into Carolina and potentially make a big impression.

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