NFL Sunday: Aaron Rodgers, Christian McCaffrey, Dalvin Cook and Ezekiel Elliott on show in huge night
By James Simpson - @JS_Football
Last Updated: 10/11/19 5:55pm
The NFL is edging ever closer to the postseason, and on Sunday, you can watch huge games with big playoff implications - including Cardinals at Buccaneers, Panthers at Packers and Vikings at Cowboys - live on Sky Sports Action.
Sunday's build-up coverage will begin at 5pm before the first kick-off at 6pm, and the games will be followed by a massive Monday night match-up when the Seattle Seahawks (7-2) visit the San Francisco 49ers (8-0), live on Sky Sports Action at 1.15am on Monday night/Tuesday morning.
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For now, let's look ahead to Sunday's games...
6pm: Arizona Cardinals at Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Seasons so far: The Cards (3-4-1), with a rookie quarterback in Kyler Murray and new head coach in Kliff Kingsbury, have generally performed as expected. They have lost to their strong opponents (Ravens, Panthers, Seahawks and Saints), beaten the weak ones (Bengals, Falcons and Giants) and tied with the mediocre (Lions). This is a game they will feel they can win.
Tampa Bay (2-6) have turned the ball over a whopping 18 times and it has cost them the chance to compete despite only trailing the Ravens, Patriots and 49ers in points scored per game (28.8). They are currently on a four-game losing skid after a crazy 55-40 win over the Rams.
Players to watch: No 1 overall pick Kyler Murray is the player to keep your eyes on here. He's been up-and-down after nine games, but has sprinkled in some special performances throughout the season (340 yards and three touchdowns against Atlanta) to show why he was a former Heisman Trophy winner and top draft selection.
Also, Arizona running back Kenyan Drake managed 162 total yards last week after his trade from Miami. Is he a star who's been suppressed in a bad situation for too long? He provides a spark with David Johnson (coming back this week) and Chase Edmonds (still out) nursing injuries.
The Bucs, despite their turnover woes, have two of the NFL's top five receiving leaders: Mike Evans (842 yards) and Chris Godwin (766). Evans has seven touchdowns, Godwin has six, and the duo are near impossible to stop one-on-one.
Head coach Bruce Arians named Ronald Jones the starting running back this week - will he seize the opportunity and prove he was worth his second-round selection last year?
The Bucs also have the NFL's sack leader, Shaquil Barrett (10.5), who could cause problems for Murray - the rookie QB has been sacked 29 times, third-most in the league (Buccaneers QB Jameis Winston has the most with 30).
9.25pm: Carolina Panthers at Green Bay Packers
Seasons so far: After two games with Cam Newton at the helm, the Panthers (5-3) were 0-2 facing a second straight losing season. However, as Newton stepped out with a Lisfranc fracture - having since been placed on injured reserve - the team turned to sophomore Kyle Allen. He has gone 5-1 as starter, and the Panthers are in the playoff hunt.
It has been an interesting year so far for Green Bay (7-2). Early on, the defense stole the show, holding their first three opponents to 35 combined points. Then the Eagles put up 34 on them, and they've given up at least 22 points in every game since.
Meanwhile, Aaron Rodgers and the offense struggled early but he threw eight touchdowns against Kansas City and Oakland in Weeks Seven and Eight.
Then the Packers made things confusing last week. In their 26-11 loss to the Chargers, they were held to 184 yards and gave up 442. Who are they?
Players to watch: It's all about Christian McCaffrey for Carolina. He leads the NFL in yards from scrimmage (1,244), averaging 155.5 per game. With his performances, he's not only in the conversation for Offensive Player of the Year but is arguably an MVP candidate.
He is coming off a 166-yard, three-touchdown performance against Tennessee and all Green Bay defensive eyes will need to be trained on him.
On Packers receiver Davante Adams' return after four games out with a turf toe injury, he managed just 41 yards and seven catches on 11 targets.
In his absence, running back Aaron Jones had managed 271 yards rushing, 280 yards receiving and seven combined touchdowns before slumping to 30 rushing yards and just one catch for minus-one yard against the Chargers. Will they get back to Jones on Sunday?
Of course, Aaron Rodgers is the key here - can he get back to his MVP ways after the blip in L.A.?
1.20am: Minnesota Vikings at Dallas Cowboys
Seasons so far: The Vikings (6-3) appear to be built for the playoffs. They have the fourth-best scoring defense, the third-best rushing attack and a quarterback - Kirk Cousins - playing perhaps the best football of his career (68.8 per cent completion percentage, 2,217 yards, 16 TDs, three interceptions and a 112.0 passer rating).
After a narrow loss in Kansas City last week, will they get back on track in Dallas?
The Cowboys (5-3) have bounced back after a three-game losing streak to win two straight NFC East games and take a clear lead at the top of the division. With the trio of Dak Prescott, Ezekiel Elliott and Amari Cooper firing on all cylinders, this offense is hard to stop. Plus, the defense ranks in the top six in yards and points allowed.
Players to watch: We mentioned Christian McCaffrey's yards from scrimmage total earlier, but Minnesota running back Dalvin Cook is right behind him with 1,232 - and leads the league with 894 yards on the ground. When they get him going, it allows Cousins to reach his best and that's what they need to do on Sunday.
Before a one-catch, four-yard dud against the Chiefs, Stefon Diggs had managed 21 catches and 453 yards over the previous three weeks. Will he step up in the absence of Adam Thielen, who misses out with recurring hamstring issue?
Cowboys' QB Dak Prescott has 14 career wins in primetime games (the most of any player since he entered the league in 2016), is 4-0 in career games against Cousins, and is 6-1 with a 105.9 passer rating against top-five scoring defenses.
RB Ezekiel Elliott has increased his rushing yards in each game since Week Four (35, 62, 105, 111 and 139) and has averaged 134.6 scrimmage yards in his last five primetime games.
WR Amari Cooper is ninth in receiving yards, tied-second in touchdowns and tied-third in big plays (20-plus yards).
In short, the Vikings have their hands full.