Thursday, 20 December 2018

For The Missing - Lina Bengtsdotter

It seems that Nordic noir is not going away, from the high point times of the The Girl trilogy by Steig Larsson to the Wallander novels; noir from Scandinavia is in vogue and not retreating to the shadows.

The debut novel by Bengtsdotter, is one of those novels that takes a while to get its claws into you, and once it does, it refuses to let go.

Nordic noir follows a template of a structure familiar to crime readers old and new; a young detective fighting her own demons must go back to her hometown following a long absence as a new case opens up old wounds for not just our protagonist but the family and friends she left behind for the bright lights of a big city.

This familiar tale of redemption to overcome a failing is well handled. DI Charlie Lager, is a detective with an affliction for alcohol, but the type of drinking where she drinks to an oblivion yet she wakes up for work with no problem; her peers know of her vices and dance around the issue as she is good at her job.

A missing child in her hometown leads Charlie to head north away from Stockholm, at odds with her partner and at odds with the town she returns to; nevertheless Charlie must find the missing Annabelle before it is too late.

And yet it is not Annabelle she is really looking for, Charlie is really looking for herself and this journey home helps her. Good writing is not just by the numbers of thriller and crime tropes, Bengtsdotter navigates a gripping tale of kidnapping, infidelity and violence against women with assuredness.

For The Missing is out now from Orion Publishing on all formats.

Our Life In A Day - Jamie Fewery

The debut novel from journalist Jamie Fewery, takes a unique narrative concept to tell the story of a relationship over 10 years.

Esme and Tom, meet by chance at a fancy dress party - they are the two who have not bothered to get dressed up so immediately there is a kinship bond between the two of them, a common footing from which to spring off.

That night Tom escorts Esme home to her flat south of the river, this walk they get to know each other and they agree to meet the next day. A relationship is blossoming.

Fast forward to 10 years later, on the day of their 10th anniversary, as a treat Esme decides to play a game where Tom has to come up with the story about their life together. 24 post-it notes, one signifying one hour of any hour of any day from the last 10 years - so we embark upon a flash backing and jumping around narrative where we encounter surprise birthday parties, Christmas get-togethers, long disruptive car journeys that paint the picture of a partnership and the obstacles that society can thrust upon you such as parental passings and the past that hangs around you.

While comparisons will be drawn no doubt to David Nicholls' One Day, this is an altogether different book which does not have the unnecessary ending Nicholls' book had which redeemed the quite frankly awful character of Dex.

Fewery has taken great care in constructing two lead characters who are fully rounded and while they have negatives and drawbacks, the realisation is 'don't we all'.  Tom is flawed in that he has his demons from his university days, attempting to deal with the pressures of uni life by drowning his sorrows too much and forcing himself to make a terrible decision.  That decision comes back to haunt him and his rendering is one of the better ones to show the pain of mental illness in young men, a portrayal rarely seen in literature and goes hand in hand with the current social groundswell taking place.

Esme meanwhile is written beautifully, like women in fiction she is stubborn, forthright and opinionated but loyal and faithful to Tom to a tee.  In the inevitable adaptation, you can picture Emilia Clarke (Game of Thrones) taking on the mantle of her role.  We are now past the manic pixie dream girl and landed in the land of beautifully stubborn young lady.

Fewery writes with a conciseness and clarity, I read the book in less than a week ripping through chapters at will. He has created two very rounded characters - a forthright female with her own ambitions and stubborn as hell, while in Tom he has written a man who has his demons and is wary to share them.  This is a great portrayal of mental illness; we as men need to open up and share our problems - when you communicate openly you can share the burden but also find some resolution and consolation in being honest about how you are feeling.

This book will garner a great audience and is a lovely book to purchase for Christmas; this is a book written for both sides of the argument, this is not a book solely written by the male gaze instead it can be considered a metrosexual novel of an altering relationship.

Our Life In A Day is published by Orion Books on 27th December 2018.

Monday, 26 November 2018

White Lies 'Believe It' New Video

White Lies are back and returning with a new album out on February 1st from PIAS Recordings. Below is a taste with new video for 'Believe It' from the album Five.

Some years ago, the band had a massive hit with single 'Fairground' and were set to break the ceiling along with contemporaries Editors; yet it did not happen.

That has not stopped the band writing and have created a ten-track album that is the broadest and most commercial friendly songs they may well have written.

The song 'Believe It' would be familiar to those fans of Bastille and the undoubted influence of Depeche Mode; a band who who able to marry between electronica and rock. White Lies are a band who embrace both the keyboard and the guitar; lyrics of alienation fit perfectly with this mixed up world we are living in currently.

Directed by Mexican David Pablos, in his hometown of Tijuana, he wanted to shoot about 'the "otherness", that is, the people who are rarely seen, but also confirm the identity of the city.'

The album is released on February 1st, the band then embark on an extensive European tour in February and March featuring a show at London Forum on Valentines Day.

You can pre-order the album here.

White Lies are Harry McVeigh (lead vocals, guitar), Charles Cave (bass, vocals) and Jack Lawrence-Brown (drums).

Follow the band on Twitter @whiteliesmusic 

Wednesday, 14 November 2018

Restorations 'LP5000'

Released by Tiny Engines at the end of September, the fourth studio album by Philadelphia band Restorations entitled LP5000 is out now on all platforms.

Coming in at seven tracks long and under 30 minutes in length, this is an album full of vigorous energy and an abundance of heart; with hard work dripping from the amplifiers and the smell of the end of week bar screaming through the short set list.

Throughout the album there is a polish to the musicianship, a band who are tight together and in unison reminiscent of The Hold Steady and the working-class roots of Bruce Springsteen; vocal young men shouting to be heard, and hopeful the world shouts back at them.

From the album opener 'St.' there is a rhythm to match the rock and roll that strikes through the core of the listener; there is more melody on second track 'Nonbeliever' coupled with the subtlety of 'Remains'.

The album has its marker though on 'The Red Door' a shout of adrenaline that will get toes tapping and heads bopping at once.

For fans of The National and Band of Horses, this is a rock and roll album fit for the current age of attention or lack there-of. This is not a disservice to the album, it is short, sweet and superb.

LP5000 is out now from Tiny Engines

Thursday, 8 November 2018

It Looks Sad. 'Sky Lake'

The debut album Sky Lake from It Looks Sad. is released by Tiny Engines on 9th November

The first material from this pair in nearly three years, It Looks Sad hail from Charlotte, North Carolina a region of America which has beaches and gorgeous coastal lines but nothing that would make you think of rich Californian beaches in the pure sunshine.

Following band changes, the band now comprise of the duo Jimmy Turner (vocalist and keyboardist) and Alex Ruiz (drummer). Despite the hiatus Turner has not stopped writing and progressively has moved from the earnest writing of three years ago to a more formative composition; writing songs within a sonic landscape.  He asks you to embrace the sound and feel of the record.

Starting with the shimmering thumping of 'Shave' it tells us that there is a series of two-minute interludes which continues with the wonderful 'Bike'. The album is full of hooks worthy of comparison to their label mates Spirit of the Beehive and the UK's own Night Flowers

There has been this recent uptick in albums of quantity married with quality - bands want to be short but sweet to linger with your earworms a la Frankie Cosmos and Tony Molina. Maybe this is indicative of the lack of attention span in people nowadays, but if new bands feel this is a sow to plough then its fine by me.

From the pulsating 'Sisters' to the gorgeous 'Palms', this is an album full of priceless pop and at some points reaches moments of glory from a bygone 80s album.

Sky Lake is an album full of summer shimmers and magnificent pop that will make you smile and groove.

Sky Lake is out from Tiny Engines on all formats from Friday 9th November

Wednesday, 7 November 2018

David Nance Group 'Peace and Slightly Pulverized'

Released by Trouble in Mind Records in early October, this latest album is entitled Peaced and Slightly Pulverised. Below is the single 'In Her Kingdom'

David Nance is anything but prolific, and after a six year period releasing albums for labels Grapefruit and Ba Da Bing, including cover albums of Lou Reed, The Beatles; he returns with a full length album for Chicago label Trouble in Mind credited to the David Nance Group which comprises of himself, guitarist Jim Schroeder, bassist Tom May and drummer Kevin Donahue.

The album is a seven track piece of old fashioned rock and roll, featuring distortion pedals, long solos, meandering lyrics and giving the group the space to seemingly jam and riff to their hearts content to create an album that sounds both fresh and something from a by-gone era.

Endebted to the album work of early Neil Young and Crazy Horse, up to and including the oeuvre of Jim James and My Morning Jacket.  For rock aficionados, there are songs that will rock many a boat from the opener 'Poison' which is perhaps the most ear catchy song with a riff and a rhythm that would not be out of place on AOR radio currently.

While the second track 'Ham Sandwich' is a bit hit and miss due to the abundance of distortion on it, the album regains purpose when '110 Blues' and 'Amethyst' come along - songs that carry you on a wave of emotion and euphoria as solos give way to words.

The album is out now from Trouble in Mind records 

Thursday, 25 October 2018

Stan and Ollie

Very pleased to share with you the new clip from forthcoming movie, Stan and Ollie, out from Entertainment One.

The film chronicles the illustrious partnership of Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy, one of cinema's greatest partnerships, directed by Jon S. Baird.

The film stars Steve Coogan (Laurel) and John C. Reilly (Hardy) as we follow the pair through some of their landmark moments as they look back when on a variety tour of Great Britain. Gone are the golden days of Hollywood, and this is their farewell tour.  Despite a hectic schedule for an ageing pair, the pair's love of performing and for each other endures.

Co-written by Steve Coogan, the film promises to be a faithful tale for a pair who deserve a great depiction on the form they helped path the way for.

Stan and Ollie will be in cinemas from 11th January 2019.

Thursday, 4 October 2018

Jack Gilden interview

Jack Gilden is the author of the brilliant new NFL book Collision of Wills about the tumultuous pairing of two behemoths of the Gridiron in Johnny Unitas - the first great Quarterback - and Don Shula, the Hall of Fame coach whose paths crossed together at the now defunct Baltimore Colts.

His novel is a look back at a very different NFL where running was key to success, games were won at the line of scrimmage and a quarterback was a game manager who rarely threw downfield and merely handed off to a tailback.

Gilden successfully weaves a narrative that has an abundance of characters and stories, and charts the changing climate of a sporting landscape going hand in hand with an ever changing socio-political context of the late 1960s in the shadow of foreign wars, political assassinations and freedom of expression.

I was lucky enough to gain some time with Jack Gilden, in the week leading up to the book's release to ask some questions about the book and his takeaways from it.

What was the idea for the book?
When I was a high school student I went to a conference for high school journalists put on by the old Baltimore Colts at their new facility near my school.  There was a famous (famous in Baltimore) old newspaperman there named John Steadman who was very close to the franchise and especially to the old Colts players.  He happened to mention that Unitas and Shula hated each other.  I thought to myself then, 'How interesting that the greatest player and the brilliant coach (he would later surpass George Halas as the biggest winner in league history) spent seven seasons together and never won a title.  Plus they didn't get along.  That's a great idea for a book.'  When I finally started the project (in my 40s) I discovered the discord between the men echoed their nation, which was also in deep conflict.  The men and their times, I felt, offered an origin story for America and professional football in the 21st Century.

- How much research was involved?
There was a great deal of research for this book.  I went back and talked to as many men (and a few women) as I could find who could shed light on the careers and personal lives of both men.  I read as many books as I could on the men, the Colts, football, and the 1960s in general.  I pored through periodicals and newspapers of the era for news that was contemporaneous to the events.  I watched as much film as I could that pertained to the old Colts and to football of the 1960s, including both raw game footage and documentaries so that I could describe the players and the events as I saw them through my own two eyes.

- What were your preconceptions of both Unitas and Shula going into the book?
When I started the book Johnny Unitas was my hero.  I played football in high school for four seasons.  I started off as a quarterback who was under 100 pounds (I was the smallest player on the field in every game in which I ever played).  Unitas's long shot story and rise to unprecedented success resonated with me then as it does now.  As a high schooler I read everything I could about him in order to learn the secrets of his success and apply them to my own game.  In general, however, by the time I entered high school both men were still living and still relatively young, but they were both already mythologized. At that time, they seemed to represent the American virtues:  Hard-nosed toughness prevailing over all, duty, and adherence to the chain of command (as opposed to later day players who seemed to upstage their coaches, their teams, and the game itself.)

- What are your conclusions of the men now?
I found that the men were quite different than what I, and many others had assumed about them.  Unitas was far from a dutiful and unquestioning warrior.  By the time he came under Shula's tutelage he was egotistical and felt he knew more than the coach.  Sometimes his actions were insubordinate, as when he would change or ignore plays that were sent in from the bench.  I also think the pressures of his position mounted on him and caused him to act out in certain ways.  Both men are considered among the biggest winners the game has ever seen, but they were forced to deal with crushing defeat during their time together.  They didn't always handle it well.  After researching them, my conclusions about them are that they were far more complex than the public knew.  They had big egos, and stunning vulnerabilities. They were very good men, incredibly driven to succeed, but at times their emotional weaknesses got the better of them.

- How different is the NFL now to then?
I believe that the NFL of the 1960s represents the apex of both the league and the game.  The sport hit its highest levels then with so many players and coaches considered among the greatest in history all active at the same time.  Unitas, Jim Brown, Dick Butkus, Paul Warfield, Jim Parker, Raymond Berry, Gino Marchetti, Bart Starr, Jim Taylor, Paul Hornung...the names go on and on.  In the coaching ranks, there was Lombardi, Shula, Paul Brown, George Halas, George Allen, Blanton Collier, Chuck Noll and Weeb Ewbank.  In the AFL there was Al Davis, Sid Gilman, Hank Stram, and others.  It was extremely hard to make the postseason then.  In '67 the Colts lost only a single game and had the best record in football and still did not make it.  So every game then was filled with great players and coaches, and every single game crackled with import.  The theatre of of it all was so compelling it propelled the sport past baseball as the number one game in America and it had people tuning in for special prime time games...the precursor of Monday Night Football.

- Why has Weeb Ewbank been lost to history, a man who never lost a Championship game winning 3?
Weeb isn't totally lost to history; he is in the Hall of Fame.  He was also the winning coach in the two most famous and important games in league history:  the '58 Championship Game, and Super Bowl III.  He is the only coach in history who does NOT have a losing record in head-to-head competition with Lombardi.  Even so, he clearly doesn't get his due.  I consider him to be the best football coach in history.  His low-key reputation comes from a couple of factors.  Number one, he was fired from the Colts.  In his era that was an ignominy, and after he left Baltimore no one in the NFL wanted to hire him.  He was forced to go to the supposedly inferior AFL.  To a certain extent, Weeb's strengths are precisely the things that overshadow him.  Number one, he was a superb team builder.  Unlike Lombardi and Shula who both walked into teams that had excellent players already on the roster, Weeb essentially inherited two bankrupt franchises and built both of them from the ground up.  Consequently his winning percentage is low even though his championships are high. He chose all the talent for both of his franchises, including finding and developing two of the games greatest-ever quarterbacks in Unitas and Namath.  His teams were slow to build but ultimately were brimming with depth.  Unfortunately, the charisma of his QB's overshadowed Ewbank.  Both Unitas and Namath were taught to be superb and autonomous play callers by Ewbank, so the public assumed that Weeb had less control of his teams and was less responsible for their successes than, say, Lombardi, who seemed to dominate with a (supposedly) mediocre quarterback in Bart Starr.  (In fact, Starr was superb and extraordinarily accurate.)  In other words, Lombardi was bigger than his teams, while Ewbank prepared his teams to be bigger than himself. 

- And for that matter Earl Morrall, four Super Bowl wins
Actually, Morrall went to four Super Bowls, but won three.  He lost Super Bowl III to the Jets.  Earl was the best player on one of the best teams in history, the '68 Colts.  Earl was MVP of the league that year.  He also quarterbacked the undefeated Dolphins to nine straight victories, more wins than Hall of Famer Bob Griese had that year.  Morrall is lost to history because his very poor showing in Super Bowl III swallows his entire legacy.  In fact, he was a heroic player with statistics that are similar to Joe Namath's.  He deserves to be in the Hall.

- The names that pass through the stories – Lombardi, Ryan, Noll, Namath for example – are amazing, it must have surprised you to see how far this coaching tree extended to current history of the NFL
It is a testament to how great the football was in the 1960s to see how the coaches, players and front-office personnel influenced the game over the next several decades.  Former Baltimore Colts employees dominated football in the seventies and eighties, showing how deep and great that franchise really was. 

- What is your NFL team?
Today I am a season ticket holder and fan of the Baltimore Ravens.  Nothing, however, can supplant the love I had for the Baltimore Colts.

- What are your opinions of the game now? What can be changed?
My opinion of today's game is that it has been watered down a great deal, making it less exciting and compelling than the game was in the 60s.  I think the quarterback position seems to be more important than ever, and yet the modern quarterback is diminished.  With the modern rules designed to protect the quarterback and improve his statistics the position seems less genuine. With so many plays coming from the sidelines quarterbacks are no longer the intellectual leaders of their franchises.  I'm not sure what can be done to change modern football to 'fix' it.  It's just a different game than it was, and not necessarily better.

- What are you working on currently?
I'm currently working on my second book.  Again, it examines the success/failure dynamic.  It is a horse racing story that uncovers issues of drug abuse, mistreatment of a child, and true stories that have never been told.

Collision of Wills is out now from University of Nebraska Press and available on all platforms.

Wednesday, 3 October 2018

NFL 2018 - Week 5 Preview

The NFL starts making a bit more sense once teams have played a significant proportion of their games. Remember we are four weeks in and bar Washington and Carolina, all teams have played 25% of their games. That is a quota enough to start making clear who are contenders, who are also rans and who are looking for the draft next year already - looking at you New York G-men.

What did we learn from Week 4 - that the two best teams are the Rams and the Chiefs, they have two young quarterbacks who are ready to reach for that brass ring and make noise that needs to be heard. Whilst the Rams were thoroughly dominant in usurping the now treading water Vikings, the Chiefs had to come from behind to get a road win in Denver - a big step for Patrick Mahomes and company.

The false economy I alluded to last week was evident in the very poor performance by the Miami Dolphins who laid a huge egg on the road in New England, a team that still has question marks on Brady's consistency and yet could not muster a jab on them. The Chicago Bears are legitimate contenders now, partly due to a weird division where teams trip up at every occasion and also having a Top 3 defence led by Khalil Mack and Mitch Trubizky looking able to make plays and amazingly throw across his body.

Teams that are flailing for life remain the New York Giants who picked Saquon Barkley in a win-now draft pick but are struggling with Eli Manning getting any rhythm; the Pittsburgh Steelers are being let down by no consistency from Big Ben and a weak secondary; the Buffalo Bills could get nothing on the road at Green Bay unable to get pressure on an ailing Aaron Rodgers. In another two weeks it will be clear which teams are playoff bound and which are sucking for a higher draft pick.

Week 5 Predictions
Byes: Chicago Bears, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Thursday Night Football
Indianapolis Colts (1-3) at New England Patriots (2-2)
Following Frank Reich's brain fart of a call to punt the ball away to Houston in overtime and allow them sufficient time to get into field goal range, the Colts look a little bit lost. They have not got a lot of talent on the roster and they are struggling to be taken seriously; although Nyheim Hines a fourth round pick at RB had himself a day and is probably a fantasy football pick. They travel to Boston to face New England who have Julian Edelman returning for his first game, expect targets a plenty underneath which could well open up Josh Gordon for big plays downfield. James White was big in this game and the Patriots showed some efficiency on offense for once this season.
Prediction: New England by 10

Tennessee Titans (3-1) at Buffalo Bills (1-3)
The Titans are probably the most pleasant surprise finding themselves 3-1 despite starting Blaine Gabbert for one game but they are not scoring a lot but they tough out games sticking with the Super Bowl champs in overtime; their defence is excelling themselves and this is despite a plethora of injuries that seem to mount up for them; Mike Vrabel is getting the best of his charges. The Bills at home finally after what seems an eternity could provide some resistance but can they get any fluency against that D-line of the Titans.
Prediction: Titans by 3

Miami Dolphins (3-1) at Cincinnati Bengals (3-1)
The Dolphins were woeful in Boston and a road trip to the red hot Bengals might fill them with dread as Andy Dalton the Red Rifle is throwing for 300+ a game and has weapons everywhere in AJ Green, Ross, Boyd and Bernard. The defence remains elite and will try and snaffle up any productivity the Fins can muster.
Prediction: Bengals by 8

Baltimore Ravens (3-1) at Cleveland Browns (1-2-1)
The Ravens had a good road win against Pittsburgh and this looks like a good battle between two stellar defences, the Browns swarm hunting the ball at every opportunity while the Ravens will try to win the line and force Mayfield to throw downfield where Eric Weddle will be waiting. Flacco is getting big plays when he needs them with John Brown outside.
Prediction: Ravens by 4

Green Bay Packers (2-1-1) at Detroit Lions (1-3)
The Packers are being very professional, winning games concisely and not outdoing themselves or forcing issues while Rodgers still recuperates on the fly. The defence is exceeding expectations and will fancy their chances against a team struggling for consistency.
Prediction: Packers by 7

Jacksonville Jaguars (3-1) at Kansas City Chiefs (4-0)
This should be a great game, the perfect Chiefs have the league's most exciting QB prospect but they do not have a defence that can stop many teams. Blake Bortles has showed an improvement in game management and the ability to find his pacy receivers in open spaces may exploit this leaky Chiefs defence. This is definitely the biggest test of Mahomes career against the Jags.
Prediction: Chiefs by 6

Denver Broncos (2-2) at New York Jets (1-3)
The Broncos had a 10 point lead over the Chiefs and have shown a toughness not seen in recent years as Case Keenum does enough on offence; Von Miller must be licking his lips to attack Sam Darnold as his learning in the big boy league is getting harder with every week; talent wise they have not got enough game changers.
Prediction: Broncos by 7

Atlanta Falcons (1-3) at Pittsburgh Steelers (1-2-1)
A match up between two teams with records they would not have been expecting, and the team that loses this matchup could be eliminated from play off consideration as they will be cast adrift at the bottom of their respective divisions. The Falcons have been firing on offence with Matt Ryan not turning the ball over and yet they have been outgunned by Drew Brees and Andy Dalton in the last two weeks; the inability to not get stops on defence may offer hope to the struggling Steelers but they themselves are poor on defence and lack a fire in them to stand toe to toe with rivals currently.
Prediction: Falcons by 6

New York Giants (1-3) at Carolina Panthers (2-1)
The Panthers return from a bye week and are at home to the timid Giants - a team failing to land a punch of note in this season. Barkley is running great but the pressure on Eli Manning to perform at a high level is not coming to fruition; the ability on both sides of Panthers will be too strong for the Giants to even get close. This could be the most one-sided scoreline of the week.
Prediction: Panthers by 12

Oakland Raiders (2-1) at Los Angeles Chargers (2-2)
The Chargers host the Raiders who got their first win last week in overtime against the Browns, though they got a few breaks to go their way. The Chargers are still exciting but they could do with Joey Bosa to return on defence and would it hurt to have a decent field goal kicker to stop leaving points on the field.
Prediction: Chargers by 7

Minnesota Vikings (1-2-1) at Philadelphia Eagles (2-2)
At the start of the season, this would have been earmarked as a great game now it is between two teams failing to meet expectations. The Eagles are suffering a hangover from Super Bowl celebrations, and the Vikings got hit by the LA Rams buzzsaw which can be forgiven as they are the best team in the league. This is a hard one to call though Cousins showed enough in defeat to warrant another chance to back him.
Prediction: Vikings by 3

Arizona Cardinals (0-4) at San Francisco 49ers (1-3)
The winless Cardinals face the Jimmy G-less Niners, yet the 49ers were resilient on the road against the Chargers and CJ Beathard is a good set of hands in the offense and has weapons that are ready to stand up. The Cardinals could be picking one overall at this rate and be lucky to get 2 wins this season.
Prediction: 49ers by 8

Los Angeles Rams (4-0) at Seattle Seahawks (2-2)
Expect more of the same from the Rams against a defence that was ageing before Earl Thomas' season ending injury on Sunday. The Rams d-line will be able to get after Russell Wilson and this could get nasty early if the Rams explosive offence catches fire again.
Prediction: Rams by 10

Dallas Cowboys (2-2) at Houston Texans (1-3)
This is Sunday night football and everything is bigger in Texas. The Cowboys overcame the Lions despite having 240 total yards from Ezekiel Elliott who is taking the team on his back and dragging them to unlikely victories. The Texans show plenty on offence although the inability to close out a Colts side they were leading 28-10 and nearly tie and/or lose the game is a worry for fans who must still have question marks over Bill O'Brien's tenure.
Prediction: Cowboys by 3

Monday Night Football
Washington Redskins (2-1) at New Orleans Saints (3-1)
The Saints are a very good side able of scoring quickly. From a 12-7 half time scoreline, before you blinked it was 33-18 due to the big playmaking ability of Alvin Kamara. Mark Ingram returns from his PED suspension which will give the Saints another dimension to their play. Can they get pressure to Alex Smith though in an under-rated Washington side, should be a good game.
Prediction: Saints by 7

Fantasy Football Advice
Courtland Sutton (WR, DEN) - have mentioned this man before and his yardage and targets has gone up week upon week. This week away at the Jets expect him to get a red zone look for sure

Nyheim Hines (RB, IND) - a 4th round pick who had a huge day with 2 receiving touchdowns and with a weak backfield in terms of depth and TY Hilton got multiple injuries on a short week against a still unproven New England defence, Andrew Luck will need a safety blanket.

Mark Ingram (RB, NO) - back from a four week suspension, it will be intriguing to see what this does for Alvin Kamara's carries and numbers. Either way it will not stop New Orleans' offensive juggernaut.

Nick Chubb (RB, CLE) - he had three carries for 105 yards for two touchdowns. One carry was for 1 yard. He had a big day, at home to Baltimore might be a tough match-up but he will provide that option for Baker Mayfield.

Follow me on Twitter for NFL @JamieGarwood

Michigan Rattlers 'Evergreen'

On the first anniversary of Tom Petty's untimely passing, I was pointed via social media to a debut album by the Michigan Rattlers entitled Evergreen.

This is an album that bursts out with the legacy and influence of Americana streaming through its veins; it is in touch with the land, the people who sow the land and those who have laid claim to it. Even more prevalent is that it comes out during the season of harvest, a record that is in touch with the fabric of the American landscape that is devoid of political ideology during this highly charged political contextualised period.

While a lot of records in recent months have attempted to make sense of the mess their country is in by way of the leaders they have elected, this band, albeit one relocated to a base of Los Angeles has not lost touch with its roots - featuring nods to bluegrass ('The Heat'), country ('Sirens') and original rhythm and blues.

Evergreen is an album eager to pay homage to famous musicians, it tells stories about being in love, about falling in love, the difficulty of love, wanting to tell that person that you are in love with them despite it all. You need only look at the chorus to 'Sweet Diane'

'I'll buy you y'all a beer if you want a drink.
And I'll take you anywhere you want to go.
You ain't got to call me by my name if you don't want to,
Just open up the door and we'll hit the road.'

In the same song is the little nugget, 'I think I saw you smile once tonight', this has the air of being in a roadside bar and having a moment that sticks with you forever.

The band consist of a trio which started as a duo when Graham Young (guitar) and Adam Reed (upright bass) where friends in Michigan who played together and worked bars sharing vocal duties. They created a self-titled EP which launched last year, and they added pianist Christian Wilder to give the additional honky tonk feel to the musicianship.

There is an aged humility to the compositional songwriting perhaps due to the shared upbringing of the original pairing, but there is an admiration for the love of music.

Songs do not overstay their welcome, instead they remind you of old friends who have come back to visit leaving you with a knowing smile of days gone by. Perhaps a reminder of halcyon days yes but the fondness of the past never dwindles.

Evergreen is out now on all available streaming platforms.

My thanks to Christopher Porter of Pulp, a Michigan based website for the recommendation.

Monday, 1 October 2018

Collision of Wills

Out from the University of Nebraska Press, the novel by Jack Gilden looks deep in to the conflicted relationship between two titans of the NFL - Johnny Unitas and Don Shula - and how this helped model the present day NFL

Johnny Unitas is lauded as the first great quarterback, his legacy is untouchable as that of a gifted athlete but a born leader who helped the Baltimore Colts be vaulted to elite status as one of the premier teams of American football before the merger of the AFL and NFL which led to the Super Bowl being created. While Unitas never won the premier competition, his influence and type of play to change it from a brutal battle reminiscent of trench warfare to one embracing passing quarterbacks and dynamic receivers is relevant today more than ever.

The first modern day QB - Johnny Unitas
Don Shula is one of the great coaches in NFL history, winner of two Super Bowls and still the only coach to oversee a perfect season in the sport when with the Miami Dolphins in 1972.  Yet he started as a player himself, playing with Unitas as a linebacker for the Colts before becoming a coach.  When he became coach of the Colts, his style and manner clashed directly with Unitas who was the figurehead of the franchise - one is outgoing, personable and respected; the other (Shula) was introvert, cold and demanding.

This collision of personality types led to a complex relationship between two men who were very similar in terms of Christian values, morality and work ethic; yet this tempestuous relationship played out against a changing social-political landscape of the United States in the mid to late 1960s with the advent of the sexual freedom, the Vietnam war, political assassinations and civil rights.

Don Shula and  Unitas (19)
The times were a changing, as they were in the NFL, gone were the days of running backs pounding the rock time after time into monsters of defensive lineman, the game used to be won at the line of scrimmage but the advent of west coast offence and embracing of athleticism meant that more faith was being thrust into the now archetypal figure of the quarterback - a man who can make decisions based on defensive shifts and blitz coverage, he passed the ball in the air more to receivers running down field. More points were being scored and games were becoming more appealing to broadcasters who began to screen games live in prime time; and the person throwing the ball became the photogenic persona that praise was bestowed upon weekly.

Gilden's expertly researched book is full of anecdotes about not just the two named stars of the book but also the luminaries and contemporaries who are connected to the two men either as team-mates, rivals, coaches. The roll call of Hall of Fame talent that are name checked are Vince Lombardi, Jim Brown, Dick Butkus, Bart Starr, Jim Taylor , George Halas, Chuck Noll, Al Davis, Joe Namath and Bubba Smith.

Namath is testament to the quarterback becoming the star, a charming handsome man who famously guaranteed that the New York Jets would defeat the Baltimore Colts in Super Bowl 3 in Miami; Namath was true to his word as the Colts suffered five turnovers as Shula had no answer to the Jets defence, shepherded by another famous name, Weeb Ewbank.

In the UK, we have a shorter history and knowledge of the NFL, names that I have mentioned before will be well known to many a true NFL fan, yet for all my knowledge I cannot recall nor remember hearing the name of Weeb Ewbank before.

Weeb Ewbank and QB, Joe Namath - Champions of Super Bowl 3, January 1969
Ewbank was the coach of the Jets during Super Bowl 3 and was also the coach of the 1958 Championship game won by the Baltimore Colts. Both times Ewbank built small teams from ruins and created winning franchises; created two greatest-ever quarterbacks for their franchises in Unitas and Namath; yet he was unceremoniously sacked from the Colts pathing the way for Shula to take an already excellent team and make them winners.

Yet reading Gilden's transcript of the Super Bowl triumph, it is Ewbank who marshals the team to victory - Namath does not throw that much but is accurate when he needs to be, the defence swamp Earl Morrall forcing mistakes that they capitalise on.

While Lombardi and Shula became the mouthpieces for their team, Ewbank gladly stepped aside and let his players take the credit, even if it means overshadowing his achievements.

Written with great purpose and elaborating cleverly on the socio-political context of the late 1960s, Gilden makes clear that without these men as forefathers you cannot have the spectacle that the NFL has become now, this institution that has become the No. 1 sport in America. During the 1960s, it was behind baseball in terms of popularity and exposure. Now the NFL is far and away the biggest team sport in America, with talk continuing of a franchise being based in London someday.

Without this collision between Unitas and Shula, we would not be in a position we are now, and thanks to Unitas he made the athlete the star. Many casual observers can name a dozen starting quarterbacks easily, can they name five head coaches.

Collision of Wills is published by University of Nebraska Press on October 1st.

Wednesday, 26 September 2018

Calvin Johnson 'A Wonderful Beast'

The new album from Calvin Johnson, is as much a collaboration as a solo album. Recorded at the Audio Eagle Studio in Nashville, Tennessee, Johnson with producer Patrick Carney and chief engineer Marc Whitmore, used the motif 'Rock and Roll will Never Die' as a premise honoring the electric guitar, modern synthesizer and trap drum kit circulating around the chords of A, C and Dm. The results is a creation unlike any rock and roll album before.

The name Carney may well be familiar to musos, as one half of Ohio's rambunctious The Black Keys, a band who were built around not setting itself limits by its own mere limitations of two musicians performing.

Johnson has released an album which is an amalgamation of invention and creation, one bursting with promise looking towards the future as well as being respectful of the past and where they have come from.

His drawl is reminiscent of early Johnny Cash and yet there is a vibrancy to the work, he may not sound infused when singing 'Kiss Me Sweetly' but there is a resilience coursing through the album

Tuesday, 25 September 2018

NFL 2018 - Week 4 - False Economy

What struck me most about watching the bewildering set of results happen on Sunday was not just the Any Given Sunday motto ringing truer than ever, but that there is a False Economy in the league. We buy stock in people who are hot and then the next week go colder than England in February.

This rang true for the Minnesota Vikings who were the epitome of complacent at home to the winless (now winning) Buffalo Bills; the Jacksonville Jaguars get revenge versus the New England Patriots yet cannot muster any offense superiority versus the Tennessee Titans who somehow have two wins both coming by a combined six points. The Miami Dolphins are 3-0 but have beaten three losing teams and face another one this week in New England in a tasty divisional encounter.

The Saints remain the most complete offensive unit in the league week in, week out but are being upstaged by the Patrick Mahomes show who led his side to a perfect record. The Rams are favourites for the NFC because no-one can stand up to them on either side of the ball.

Week 3 Predictions: 9-6 - Best pick KC over 49ers by 10 points, they won by 11
Week 4 Preview
Byes: Washington Redskins, Carolina Panthers

Thursday Night Football
Minnesota Vikings (1-1-1) at Los Angeles Rams (3-0)
It may only be late September, but the Vikings laid the biggest egg in time for Easter; like Sunday they were either too late or way too early; much like our supposed hype for them. The defence vaulted Josh Allen to new heights and a Bills side much derided put on a show in Minnesota. The last thing you want is to probably travel cross country, lick you wounds and play the most complete team in the NFL. Alas, the Vikings play the Rams on Thursday night - the same Rams who are scoring at will and have enough on defence to stop the Vikings.
Prediction: Rams by 9

Cincinnati Bengals (2-1) at Atlanta Falcons (1-2)
Despite Matt Ryan throwing for 5 TDs and no turnovers, they succumb to bitter rivals the Saints in OT. The Bengals lost on the road to Carolina, but still showed offensive production but could not contain Cam or McCaffrey. The Falcons at home are the surer bet here you feel with Calvin Ridley having three TDs himself on Sunday, the two headed monster of Ridley and Jones may pay dividends again.
Prediction: Falcons by 7

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-1) at Chicago Bears (2-1)
The Fitzmagic is era, its over, turn off the lights, the Winston regime returns, crab legs all round. They may have lost but the Bucs were unfortunate in certain aspects and rallied in the fourth quarter for a memorable comeback. Now the decision has to be made in regards to who starts, however they would be doing Fitzpatrick a disservice should Winston step back in. On the road to the Bears could be a challenge, and Fitz can get the ball out quicker which may be necessary against that Chicago line whereas Winston is prone to lapses in concentration. Dependent upon who starts is how my pick goes, at the moment I'm leaning towards the Bucs in a closely run contest.
Prediction: Bucs by 2

Detroit Lions (1-2) at Dallas Cowboys (1-2)
The Lions got a win at home to the underwhelming Patriots, and now travel to Dallas who lost to Seattle last week. The Cowboys have little or no offense and are reliant on Elliott so expect Detroit to load the box on run plays and contain Zek, and with Darius Slay in the secondary the Lions have playmakers to turnover, this could well be a road upset if Stafford does not get flustered.
Prediction: Lions by 3

Josh Allen was eye-catching to say the least v Minnesota

Buffalo Bills (1-2) at Green Bay Packers (1-1-1)
The Bills had the performance of the season, defeating the Vikings 27-6 racing out to a 27-0 halftime lead; the defence swarmed the Vikings in a showing that shocked many but Josh Allen had a coming out party to make passing plays and even hurdled tackles showing athleticism. The Packers meanwhile were not impressive again, their weaknesses being overshadowed by 'We have Rodgers' constantly - Washington got to Rodgers over and over, so if Buffalo can build upon that show they may well have a .500 record.
Prediction: Bills by 3

Philadelphia Eagles (2-1) at Tennessee Titans (2-1)
The Titans have probably been the least convincing side with more questions than answers remaining, yet they overcame the Jaguars in a field-goal battle. The Eagles have Carson Wentz back and they did enough to defeat the Colts but they were dominant in terms of possession outgaining by 170 yards and twenty minutes more time in possession. This was indicative of the Eagles last year, Wentz under centre controlling the game with long drives then suffocating the opposition. Eagles should have enough but they remain in close encounters not blowing anyone out yet.
Prediction: Eagles by 6

Houston Texans (0-3) at Indianapolis Colts (1-2)
In this divisional matchup, this is a must win as the loser will no doubt be eliminated from winning the division and the Texans need to show something. Time and again Deshaun Watson makes mistakes, three red zone turnovers this season has crippled their offence and the line did not force enough mistakes out of Eli. A returning Andrew Luck is showing life and the Texans' secondary of the Texans may be under attack from TY Hilton this week.
Prediction: Colts by 3

Tom Brady will be seeking consistency at home to Miami this week

Miami Dolphins (3-0) at New England Patriots (1-2)
Following the Patriots road loss in Detroit, this game becomes about AFC East supremacy. Traditionally, the Dolphins do not travel well to Boston and they would feel they have enough to overcome the Foxboro hoo-doo based on confidence, however, there three wins have come against the Titans, Jets and Raiders who have one win between them. They have beaten who they have faced but can they still trouble Tom Brady who cannot seem to find people downfield whilst Gronk is double teamed, and yet once the game was out of reach James White was finding room. The defence cannot make plays forcing the Lions to three punts all game. This will be close but could be messy.
Prediction: Patriots by 3

New York Jets (1-2) at Jacksonville Jaguars (2-1)
The Jaguars laid an egg themselves this week as they failed to defeat the Titans as they were again without Leonard Fournette and did not replicate their gameplan versus the Patriots failing for fluency on offence. The Jets had the indignity of losing to the Cleveland Browns, yet were 14-0 up in that game. There is hope in NY for Sam Darnold but expect an angry reaction from the Jaguars on home turf.
Prediction: Jaguars by 6

Baker Mayfield - The No.1 overall pick now starts for Cleveland

Cleveland Browns (1-1-1) at Oakland Raiders (0-3)
The Raiders are bad, they cannot seemingly play a full game. I remember Mike Lombardi stating this about teams last season, there are 45 minute, 50 minute and so on. The Raiders are currently playing 45 minutes and do not show up for the remainder. They burst to a 10-0 lead and yet left enough time for the Dolphins to come back. The Browns meanwhile are walking on air, the era of Baker Mayfield has begun and they must be giddy with this match up and the possibility of a winning streak.
Prediction: Browns by 3

Seattle Seahawks (1-2) at Arizona Cardinals (0-3)
The Cardinals are bad also, they seemingly cannot function and yet they were 14-0 up and lost 16-14 as the Bears shook off jet lag to get the win. David Johnson was involved but for only 31 yards on 12 carries. Sam Bradford turned the ball over too much forcing Josh Rosen to come in and attempt to muster a 4th quarter comeback. The Seahawks won their home opener versus the Cowboys and in this divisional match up should have enough to win so long as Wilson has time to make plays, though Chris Carson had 102 yards off 32 carries (!) talk about a workload, they forced three turnovers on Dallas also so expect more of the same versus the wingless Cards.
Prediction: Seahawks by 7

New Orleans Saints (2-1) at New York Giants (1-2)
You can have your Mahomes and Fitzmagic but if there is a more entertaining team week in, week out than the Saints let me know. They can go toe to toe with any team, overcoming a near flawless Matt Ryan by winning in overtime. Two receivers - Michael Thomas and Alvin Kamara - had 100+ yard games, with Kamara adding 66 yards on the ground. They travel to the Big Apple to face a Giants team who got a much needed win in Houston, they got offense and shut up shop to get the win. However, can that Giants secondary and core stand up to the offensive barrage they should face.
Prediction: Saints by 8

San Francisco 49ers (1-2) at Los Angles Chargers (1-2)
Two losing sides meet but two teams going in different directions, the 49ers had bad news as they lost both Jimmy G to an ACL tear and with that goes any hope the Niners had of causing a stir in a bridging year. They still have Breida and Goodwin is back who had a good connection with CJ Beathard last year in relief.  The Chargers show potential as always and yet cannot get the victories to back up that up, expect that to alter this Sunday.
Prediction: Chargers by 10

Baltimore Ravens (2-1) at Pittsburgh Steelers (1-1-1)
The Steelers redeemed themselves somewhat against the Bucs getting a vital road win to remain relevant in the now competitive AFC North, a home game versus the Ravens means no respite and this rivalry will be enhanced again. Steelers won thanks to big plays from Vance McDonald and Antonio Brown, yet the underrated secondary picked off Fitzpatrick three times. This will be a game won at the line of scrimmage, if only the Steelers had a ground and pound type running back.
Prediction: Steelers by 3

Patrick Mahomes - the front runner for the MVP

Monday Night Football
Kansas City Chiefs (3-0) at Denver Broncos (2-1)
The Broncos ran out to a big lead on Sunday, but could not sustain the performance at Baltimore. They return to Mile High to face the dominant KC offence and the hottest property in the NFL right now - Patrick Mahomes. The question remains though on the KC defence which bleeds points against anybody. The Broncos have those two quality wide receivers and a decent running back combo (if one remains on the pitch). Can the Broncos make Mahomes look mortal, we shall see, but no fresh quarterback has seen the field like Mahomes has, though the possibility of Von Miller getting him is appetising.
Prediction: Chiefs by 6

Fantasy Football Advice

- Tyler Boyd (CIN, WR) with injury concerns remaining over AJ Green, Boyd had a big day with 6 catches for 132 yards and a touchdown. He overtakes John Ross as the #2 in Bengals depth chart.

- Baker Mayfield (CLE, QB) now confirmed as the starter you can anticipate Mayfield going big against the haphazard Raiders. He will find comfort in targets such as Duke Johnson (himself one to pick up) and Jarvis Landry.

- Marquis Goodwin (SF, WR) had a great relationship with CJ Beathard last year in his six games as starter - expect more of the same. Beathard will also dump off to Breida much like he did to Carlos Hyde for catches in space. Breida has had a great start and luckily has not suffered as bad an injury as sadly Garoppolo has.

- Stirling Shephard (NYG, WR) has been a good receiver for a couple of seasons for the Giants who no doubt will be involved in a shootout with New Orleans this week.

Monday, 24 September 2018

Doe 'Grow Into It'

The London outfit Doe return with their new album Grow Into It; and it shows a band who are moving on and maturating into a grown up sound as the album title would suggest.

Those unfamiliar with the band - they are a punk garage band with rock and roll sub-text - the sound of the group is one indebted to the early 1990s garage sound reminiscent of The Breeders and The Pixies; with male and female voices vying for superiority across songs.

From the sombre sounding strum of guitar strings on album opener 'My Friends' this album is explicit in showcasing how growing up is hard to do; how strong bands diminish when personal feelings come front and centre in an ever expanding world.

The band though are not merely a loud crash and thrash band, they have pop capabilities as evidenced on single 'Labour like I Do' which has a funny video with the band wearing alien head masks to show how even though you may look different you still experience the same problems.

The band are making big strides with a push for them to break the mainstream in this country, yet they have played sold out gigs in the USA also; the sound of the band is distinctly American which may be the stumbling block to break the airwaves in the UK yet if you give the band a chance you will come away with something from this album.

Full of sonic sounds and indie rock hook, this album explodes with life and authenticity which is rare to hear and see nowadays.

The energy from such tracks as 'One at a Time' to the thoughtful 'But It All Looks the Same' which has a drive to the anthemic climax is indicative of a band growing up both personally and collectively.

The album Grow Into It is out from Big Scary Monsters on 28th September and they are on tour supporting Speedy Ortiz throughout October.

My thanks to One Beat PR for the audio link opportunity to review.

Wednesday, 19 September 2018

NFL 2018 - Week 3 Preview

By the end of Week 2 there are some events becoming more set in stone; this occurs because teams maintain a week 1 performance level or they have a drop off because they may be on the road or suffering from home debut nerves. Other people maintain performance and still we are surprised - those that we are surprised by are Ryan Fitzpatrick and Patrick Mahomes; Mahomes has started his career with three road games and three road wins.

On Sunday in Pittsburgh, he showed no nerves as he threw for 6 touchdowns and no turnovers as the Chiefs gained their second win of the season; they are tied with the Broncos who defeated the Raiders at home. The Chiefs are in better shape and more impressive as they opened on the road while Denver have had the comfort of Mile High.

Cleveland still cannot catch a break; they lose by three points in New Orleans with new field goal kicker missing two extra points and two field goals. A team that cannot win, will always find a new way to lose.

Jacksonville are not going away and neither is Blake Bortles - he shouldered responsibility with Leonard Fournette hamstrung - throwing for four touchdowns as the Patriots questionable defence cost them again. Early days in the season but the Pats are behind the Dolphins for East supremacy but no shame in losing to a genuine contender in the AFC but may count come playoffs and home field advantage.

Week 3 Preview
Thursday Night
New York Jets (1-1) at Cleveland Browns (0-1-1)
A team that conspires its own downfall play a team that came back down to earth. Tyrod Taylor again played badly but he will probably get the start due to quick turnaround, while Sam Darnold threw for over 300 yards but two interceptions proved costly as the early scores came from costly turnovers. Miami did not have do much to gain the victory. The Jets may have a few more weapons but can the Browns get it together, we hope.
Prediction: Browns by 2

New Orleans Saints (1-1) at Atlanta Falcons (1-1)
The NFC South is going to be the toughest division this year, three good teams anyway but one team exceeding expectation. The Saints got over the line versus Cleveland though they the reliance on Kamara is proving them to be one-dimensional. The Falcons bounced back at home to Carolina, and they are a different beast in the Mercedes-Benz stadium seemingly. The Falcons have a greater balance on both sides while the Saints look for an answer before Ingram returns.
Prediction: Falcons by 7

San Francisco 49ers (1-1) at Kansas City Chiefs (2-0)
The Chiefs finally get home to Arrowhead and the atmosphere will be electric, the 49ers will be buoyant after their first victory of the season however they are going up against a rampant KC offense led by the lights out Patrick Mahomes who had six touchdowns and no turnovers on the day in Pittsburgh. The defence is giving up numbers though so it will again be a 60 point game probably, but does JimmyG have the firepower to contend with Tyreek Hill and company.
Prediction: Chiefs by 10

Oakland Raiders (0-2) at Miami Dolphins (2-0)
The Dolphins have quietly gone under the radar gaining two wins to lead the division, and they face the woeful Raiders at home who have to travel from coast to coast. Although they showed improvement and lost only by one point, you feel the chance was gone and this will be a tough trip for them. Miami though have an efficiency and force turnovers that result in points; facing a mistake prone Oakland side that could be a match made in heaven.
Prediction: Dolphins by 3

Buffalo Bills (0-2) at Minnesota Vikings (1-0-1)
The Vikings have a lot going for them, but for a questionable roughing the passer call they may have lost to Green Bay; while the Bills were again abysmal versus the Chargers. Josh Allen is starting for Buffalo and he showed promise but he has no talent outside and if LeSean McCoy cannot get running room there is little chance for productivity. The Vikings defence will be too strong for the Bills
Prediction: Vikings by 9

Indianapolis Colts (1-1) at Philadelphia Eagles (1-1)
Andrew Luck is an inspiring figure gaining his first win since his return usurping Alex Smith and the Washington franchise who stutter despite the good efforts of Chris Thompson. The Eagles meanwhile, got thrashed by the Bucs and Fitzpatrick who showed up their questionable secondary. The Colts have one great receiver and the Eagles did well against one great WR such as Julio Jones, the problem was against a squadron of WR. The Eagles may have Carson Wentz back which would be interesting to see, and they may have enough.
Prediction: Eagles by 6

Green Bay Packers (1-1-0) at Washington Redskins (1-1)
The Packers have Aaron Rodgers who is nursing himself through a knee injury, this may be the toughest game to pick as the Packers have a questionable secondary which Washington may exploit. Alex Smith has the skills to manage this game, while the Packers still need to find their offensive identity despite having a great quarterback.
Prediction: Washington by 3

Cincinnati Bengals (2-0) at Carolina Panthers (1-1)
This should be a great contest, the Bengals came out firing against the Ravens and shot out to a huge lead that they never gave up. The Panthers will be licking their wounds after losing in Atlanta, but McCaffrey got a huge amount of yardage and can Carolina get to Dalton enough to force mistakes.
Prediction: Panthers by 4

Tennessee Titans (1-1) at Jacksonville Jaguars (2-0)
The Jaguars are for real, despite the injury to Leonard Fournette, Blake Bortles had the keys to the cars and drove through New England with reckless abandon, Keenan Cole had a huge day with great runs supplemented by Ryan Grant. Bortles was able to find receivers open anywhere on the field. The Titans got a good game out of Blaine Gabbert but can imagine Sacksonville having a field day here.
Prediction: Jaguars by 7

Denver Broncos (2-0) at Baltimore Ravens (1-1)
Another good even contest, the Ravens will be in need of a reaction following the woeful submission to the Bengals on Thursday night. The Broncos rode their luck at home to Oakland but they have a perfect record. Again though the big travel across country may count against them, the Ravens though face a formidable defensive line while Keenum has shown great poise under duress. A field goal to split them here.
Prediction: Ravens by 3

New York Giants (0-2) at Houston Texans (0-2)
One team will get a win, unless we have our third consecutive tie, and for all the promise and talent on display in the Big Apple there is a real worry that the Giants may be looking at a terrible September; is Eli Manning just past it now? The Texans have a home game opener and they showed promise but need to find better protection for Deshaun Watson who nevertheless threw to both DeAndre Hopkins and Will Fuller for over 100 yards each. The Texans may have enough, while the Giants are merely treading water.
Prediction: Texans by 6

Los Angeles Chargers (1-1) at Los Angles Rams (2-0)
The Battle for LA - but the Rams are appearing to be the most complete team in the NFL, they brushed aside the Arizona Cardianls 34-0, Todd Gurley ripped them up and the defence swallowed up Sam Bradford. Goff is executing McVay's game plan with little fuss and you cannot see anything but a Rams victory here. The prediction may seem harsh but this due partly to Rivers prone to errors be it fumbles or interceptions.
Prediction: Rams by 10

Chicago Bears (1-1) at Arizona Cardinals (0-2)
This Bears defence is frightening, they looked good admittedly against a poor O-line of Seattle which necessitated to Russell Wilson having kittens; yet it is Trubizky doing enough when required either with passes or on his feet. There is a nice balance in Chicago which may come to greater fruition, and this defence against a weak Cardinals side may eat up more sacks again on the road.
Prediction: Bears by 6

Dallas Cowboys (1-1) at Seattle Seahawks (0-2)
A few seasons ago this would have been a prime time fixture, now it is two franchises in a state of flux and flabbergast. A one-dimensional Dallas side reliant upon a running back due to the lack of receivers against a Seahawks side who still have defenders to make plays. Can Seattle get to Dak enough, does Dallas have enough pressure to force Russell to get out of his comfort zone with Doug Baldwin still sidelined. Feel the Seahawks will sneak this one in an ugly contest.
Prediction: Seahawks by 3

New England Patriots (1-1) at Detroit Lions (0-2)
The Patriots have a questionable defence, they leave receivers wide open and cannot get pressure up front on third downs to force mistakes from the relevant quarterback; they face a good quarterback with receivers but their old defensive co-ordinator Matt Patricia who has not had a good start to his head coaching career. The Patriots should have enough to overcome this defence and the importance of having match ups and fooling the Lions is key, would like to see more of James White.  The Patriots got outplayed and even Brady cannot overcome that defence and scoreline.
Prediction: Patriots by 7

Monday Night Football
Pittsburgh Steelers (0-1-1) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-0)
It is strange how schedulers are sometimes laughed at, and yet happen stance or good fortune results in hot properties getting their due attention. The Buccaneers have turned some heads with a road win in the opener in the Superdome followed by a defeat at home of the Superbowl champions, Philadelphia Eagles. Thanks in no small part to the resurgent Ryan Fitzpatrick, with 8 touchdowns in two games, but a defence that is swallowing up offensive lines. This is the last game of Jameis Winston's suspension, meaning the Bucs will have a huge decision to make. Fitzpatrick has made great start to seasons before and tailed off, but he gives a level of dependency you will not ordinarily get from Winston with fewer turnovers. Plus the explosive nature of three wide receivers gives them a match up nightmare for any defence, and facing a Steelers secondary that gives up big plays after big plays - can you see anything but the continuing Fitzmagic spell?
Prediction: Bucs by 8

Fantasy Advice
- Austin Ekeler (LAC, RB) - has to share workload with Melvin Gordon for carries but outrushed Gordon who was used more in screens, had 98 total yards on Sunday in Buffalo. Will aim to get a TD this week albeit against the stellar Rams defence.
- Philip Lindsay (DEN, RB) does all the hard work - 107 yards off 14 carries but Royce Freeman got the TD. On the road at Baltimore that may alter this week.
- Philip Richardson (WAS, WR) - 63 yards off of four targets, they are at home to Green Bay and their questionable secondary. Ample opportunity there for big numbers.