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Wednesday 8 February 2023 Dublin: 4°C
AP Photo/Sharon Ellman Tony Romo.
# Gridiron
The Red Zone: Garrett fiddles while Romo burns
It’s a low-key schedule in the NFL this weekend. But here’s the best of the bunch.

THERE’S NOT A huge amount to look forward to this week in the NFL but Steven O’Rourke manages to find the three diamonds in the rough.

Dallas Cowboys (3-3) @ Philadelphia Eagles (2-4)

Just like week one, when the Ravens and Steelers went head-to-head, week eight sees the renewal of one of the NFL’s fiercest rivalries.

Having played each other more than 100 times, familiarity – in this case at least – breeds hatred.

In July, for example, Cowboys’ defensive coordinator Rob Ryan reacted to the Eagles declaring themselves the dream team by saying:

“I don’t know if we win the all-hype team. I think that might have gone to somebody else, but we’re going to beat their ass when we play them.”

Strong stuff from a man who knew he’d be facing the Eagles after their bye week knowing that Philadelphia have won all 12 of their games following the bye week under Andy Reid.

The Eagles, well their defence at least, seemed to show some semblance of form in their last game, putting in a huge defensive performance against the Washington Redskins and forcing four interceptions.

Those stats will give Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo nightmares ahead of Sunday’s game. The Dallas QB has been a turnover machine this year with six interceptions and three fumbles.

Worse still, his head coach, Jason Garrett, no longer seems to believe he can get the job done. Last week, with first choice running back Felix Jones out with injury, Garrett decided the Cowboys were better off giving rookie RB DeMarco Murray the football than trusting the arm of his star quarterback.

It was a risk Murray rewarded with a franchise-record 253 yards and, given Romo’s record against the Eagles, ten interceptions, it’s difficult to see Dallas do anything but run the ball this weekend.

Verdict: 12-0 off the bye week is a very impressive record and shows that Andy Reid must have a formula that works. For that reason, Eagles by 3+

New England Patriots (5-1) @ Pittsburgh Steelers (5-2)

Most quarterbacks dread the visit to Heinz Field. It has, afterall, been the graveyard for countless AFC Championship contenders over the years. However, Tom Brady is not most quarterbacks and has won four of his five visits to Pittsburgh.

While the Steelers come into this game as the league’s second rated pass defence, they have been outclassed by both the Ravens and Texans already this season and almost lost to both the Colts (0-7) and Jaguars (2-5).

The Steelers also have the distraction of a rematch with the Ravens next week. For any team, it’s difficult to play at peak performance two games in a row, for the aging Steelers, it will be almost impossible.

Verdict: Were I a Steeler, I’d be looking to gain revenge on Baltimore next week. With Brady almost perfect in Pittsburgh, Patriots by 6+

New Orleans Saints (5-2) @ St. Louis Rams (0-6)

There really isn’t much else to look forward to this week in the NFL but if you like car crash television, this might just be the game to watch.

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Having put 62 points on the Colts last week, it’s very possible that the Saints could top the 70 mark in this game.

The Rams have injury concerns over Sam Bradford and an offensive line that’s more beat up than a cow carcass in a Rocky movie.

Verdict: This one will be over before the end of the first quarter. Saints by 35+

All fixtures and predictions

Arizona Cardinals @ Baltimore Ravens – Ravens
Minnesota Vikings @ Carolina Panthers – Panthers
Jacksonville Jaguars @ Houston Texans – Texans
Miami Dolphins @ New York Giants – Giants
New Orleans Saints @ St. Louis Rams – Saints
Indianapolis Colts @ Tennessee Titans – Titans
Washington Redskins @ Buffalo Bills – Bills
Detroit Lions @ Denver Broncos – Lions
New England Patriots @ Pittsburgh Steelers – Patriots
Cincinnati Bengals @ Seattle Seahawks – Seahawks
Cleveland Browns @ San Francisco 49ers – 49ers
Dallas Cowboys @ Philadelphia Eagles – Eagles
San Diego Chargers @ Kansas City Chiefs – Chargers

Steven O’Rourke is the Offensive Co-ordinator of Tullamore Phoenix American Football Club, winners of the IAFL DV8s national title in 2010 and 2011. Tullamore are always recruiting new players so, if you’d like to play football and not just read about it, Steven would love to hear from you.

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