NFL

Stats Perform's NFL Friday Facts: Big Ben set to break Elway tie with 22nd postseason start

By Sports Desk January 08, 2021

Despite getting under way in the middle of a pandemic, the NFL was able to complete its full regular season schedule. 

The drama is set to step up a gear as the postseason arrives this weekend, with only the Kansas City Chiefs and the Green Bay Packers securing a first-round bye. 

Cleveland head coach Kevin Stefanski will be absent when the Browns make their first playoff appearance since 2002 having tested positive for COVID-19. The Pittsburgh Steelers are their opponents. 

The Los Angeles Rams have concerns over the fitness of Jared Goff – one of the many injury worries affecting those teams still left standing – ahead of their encounter with the Seattle Seahawks, while the Buffalo Bills will be aiming for a first postseason win since 1995 when they go up against the Indianapolis Colts.

SATURDAY'S GAMES

Indianapolis Colts at Buffalo Bills – Saturday, 1.05pm (all times Eastern)

- The Colts claimed the third AFC Wild Card spot with an 11-5 record, the most wins for the franchise since 2014. Indianapolis have held opponents under 100 rush yards in each of their past five games – including playoffs, they have not done so in six straight since a seven-game run from October 27 to December 7, 1968. 

- The Bills claimed their first division title since 1995 and won 13 games this season, their best record since 1991. However, Buffalo are still seeking their first playoff win since the 1995 Wild Card round – their 24-season drought is the third-longest active streak in the NFL, behind the Cincinnati Bengals (30 seasons, including 2020) and Detroit Lions (29 seasons, including 2020).

Los Angeles Rams at Seattle Seahawks – Saturday, 4.40pm

- Making his NFL debut against the Arizona Cardinals last week, backup quarterback John Wolford finished with 231 passing yards and 56 rushing yards, both game-highs. The 56 rushing yards were the most by a Rams QB since Roman Gabriel had 57 in Week 6, 1967.

- In the first eight games of the season, Russell Wilson averaged 317.6 passing yards and threw 28 touchdown passes, but in the last eight games, those numbers were just 208.9 and 12. However, Seattle went 6-2 in both sections of the season.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Washington Football Team – Saturday, 8.15pm

- After starting the year 2-7, Washington finished on a 5-2 run to clinch their first division title since 2015. Washington's last playoff win came in the 2005 Wild Card Round against Tampa Bay - they are 0-4 since then. This season, they reached 30 points just once. 

- The Bucs have attempted 22 pass plays of at least 40 air yards this season, three more than any other team in the league, and its eight completions also lead the league. Washington have attempted just two such passes, tied with the New Orleans Saints for the fewest, and is one of two teams (also Cincinnati) without a completion.

SUNDAY'S GAMES

Baltimore Ravens at Tennessee Titans – Sunday, 1.05pm

- The Titans have won three of the past four meetings with the Ravens, including a 30-24 overtime victory in Week 11 this season and a 28-12 win in last season's Divisional playoff. This will mark the fifth postseason meeting between the teams – they have split the previous four 2-2 with the visiting team winning each game.

- Tennessee won the AFC South for the first time since 2008, when they fell to the Ravens 13-10 in the Divisional playoff. The Titans scored at least 40 points five times this season, including in Week 17 against the Houston Texans, the most in the NFL this season and one shy of the all-time record (last set by the 2018 Saints).

Chicago Bears at New Orleans Saints – Sunday, 4.40pm

- In his past six games, David Montgomery has averaged 99.7 rushing yards per game, and has seven rushing touchdowns. In his first nine games, he averaged just 52.4 yards per game and had one touchdown. His highest yardage total in that span came against New Orleans in Week 8 (89 yards).

- The Saints have lost each of their past two playoff games in overtime (against the Minnesota Vikings last season, and the Rams in 2018). No team has ever played three straight overtime playoff games – the Saints beat the Bears in overtime in Chicago in Week 8 this season.

Cleveland Browns at Pittsburgh Steelers – Sunday, 8.15pm

- The Browns and Steelers will meet in consecutive weeks after Cleveland pulled out a 24-22 victory at home in Week 17. This will be the teams' third meeting in the postseason and the third straight postseason game the Browns will face the Steelers – Pittsburgh won both of the previous two, most recently a 36-33 win in the 2002 Wild Card game.

- Ben Roethlisberger is expected to make his 22nd career postseason start, which would break a tie with John Elway for fifth most all-time. His 30 postseason passing touchdowns are tied for ninth most in NFL history, while his 24 career playoff interceptions are tied with Dan Marino for sixth most all-time.

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    Watson has received an 11-game suspension and a $5million fine after the NFL and NFL Players Association (NFLPA) reached an agreement over his punishment.

    The 26-year-old faced 24 civil lawsuits over sexual assault and misconduct allegations. He was not charged by two grand juries and settled 20 of 24 lawsuits in June, with a further three settlements reported ahead of a hearing verdict early this month.

    Watson was given an initial six-game suspension and no further fine after a disciplinary hearing conducted by former US district judge Sue L. Robinson. However, the NFL formally appealed against that ruling in order to seek further punishment, agreeing to the new sanctions with the NFLPA.

    Watson's first game back is scheduled to be on December 4, against his former team the Houston Texans.

    Having denied any wrongdoing after the accusations were made, Watson last week apologised to "all of the women that I have impacted".

    A similar message came on Thursday in a statement from the Browns, in which Watson said he wished to "apologise once again for any pain this situation has caused".

    "I take accountability for the decisions I made," Watson's statement added. "My focus going forward is on working to become the best version of myself on and off the field and supporting my team-mates however possible while I’m away from the team."

    Just minutes later, Watson faced the press and said he would continue to "stand by my innocence".

    Watson said it was important to swallow the punishment, stating: "My whole life has to be able to move forward."

    He spoke of needing "to grow as a person", but refused to offer a view on the level of punishment dished out.

    "I can't speak on the fairness," Watson said. "The NFL did what they had to do, and the NFLPA communicated with the legal side. I'm going to keep my opinion to myself."

    Watson was not mincing his words when he added: "I'm moving on with my career and my life, and I'm continuing to stand on my innocence. Just because a settlement's been paid, it doesn't mean a person is guilty for anything."

    When asked about whether he would tell all at some point, Watson said: "That's definitely the plan, that's definitely the goal. I've felt like through this whole process I've been trying to tell my side of the story, but a lot of people didn't really pay much attention to it."

    He said he needed "to do what's best for Deshaun Watson" and said he could not control public opinion.

    On top of the ban and fine, Watson will be required to commit to an evaluation with behavioural experts while also following a mandatory treatment programme. He says he wants to prove himself to the Cleveland community.

    "Counselling is definitely a big part of that," Watson said. "I'll continue to show my face and show people who I really am."

    Browns owners Dee and Jimmy Haslam issued a joint statement in which they spoke of "a real opportunity to create meaningful change", saying they were "committed to investing in programmes in Northeast Ohio that will educate our youth regarding awareness, understanding, and most importantly, prevention of sexual misconduct and the many underlying causes of such behaviour".

  • Liverpool the 'perfect game' for Man Utd to turn things around, warns Van Dijk Liverpool the 'perfect game' for Man Utd to turn things around, warns Van Dijk

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    United followed up a 2-1 home loss against Brighton and Hove Albion in their opening Premier League game of the campaign with a heavy 4-0 defeat at Brentford last weekend.

    The Red Devils find themselves bottom for the first time since August 1992, which is the only previous occasion they lost their opening two games in the competition.

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    "This year they've had a difficult start and we've not had the best start that we wanted either, so it will be interesting. 

    "Obviously they're not in the best situation confidence-wise probably, but it's the perfect game to turn it around for them."

    Liverpool finished one point behind champions Manchester City last season, but they have started the 2022-23 campaign with draws against Fulham and Crystal Palace.

    That makes Monday's encounter the first time that United and Liverpool have been winless in the Premier League heading into this fixture.

    Jurgen Klopp's side have won their past two league games at Old Trafford, including a 5-0 thumping last season, and are looking to make it three in a row for the first time.

    "Over the years it’s proven tough for us to win there, though last year was a great result, we can't deny it," Van Dijk said.

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    Deshaun Watson has received an 11-game suspension and a $5million fine after the NFL and NFLPA reached an agreement over the Cleveland Browns quarterback's punishment.

    The 26-year-old faced 24 civil lawsuits over sexual assault and misconduct allegations. He was not charged by two grand juries and settled 20 of 24 lawsuits in June, with a further three settlements reported ahead of a hearing verdict early this month.

    Watson was initially given a six-game suspension and no further fine after a disciplinary hearing conducted by former US district judge Sue L. Robinson.

    The NFL formally appealed against that ruling in order to seek further punishment, and they have now agreed an extended suspension and fine with the NFLPA.

    Watson will additionally be required to commit to an evaluation with behavioural experts while also following a mandatory treatment program.

    The ban means that Watson's first game back is scheduled to be on December 4, against his former team the Houston Texans.

    Watson denied any wrongdoing after the accusations were made. He then last week apologised to "all of the women that I have impacted."

    The Texans traded the three-time Pro Bowler to Cleveland in March, and the Browns promptly signed Watson to a five-year, $230m extension that is entirely guaranteed.

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