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Michael Vick to remain an Eagle; will Kevin Kolb be traded?

January 30, 2011 2 comments

Mr. Excitement to remain in Philly

The worst kept secret of the upcoming NFL offseason has been revealed. The Eagles will use the “Franchise Tag” on Michael Vick virtually ensuring that he plays for the team again next season, whenever that might be.

Given Vick’s on-field exploits during his 2010 comeback season, this was a no-brainer for the typically shrewd Eagles brass. Keeping Vick ensures that the Eagles will remain contenders next season and cause headaches and other ailments in NFC East rival cities Dallas, New York, and Washington.

So for the next 7-8 months, or however long it will be before the players go to training camp for the next season, the pressure has shifted to Vick. He goes into the offseason having regained his prominence as the most exciting player in professional football and the typical off-field scrutiny is sure to follow. Vick still has over a year left on his probation and his suspended sentence stemming from his conviction for dog fighting in 2007.

Last summer, Vick was unable to navigate the offseason without incident, which undoubtedly played into the Eagles decision to use the Franchise Tag and not sign him to a long-term deal with an enormous signing bonus. To get that long-term deal, Vick will have to make it through this offseason without any issues and prove that he’s going to avoid any kind of trouble that might get him locked up again.

As for Kevin Kolb, the Eagles are reportedly now discussing trading their 2010 opening day starter. With this being reported the day after the Senior Bowl was played, one wonders if the Eagles found somebody to make their newest QB project?

Kolb’s value shouldn’t get any higher than it is right now and there are plenty of possibilities for a trade partner:

  • Carolina: The Panthers say that they are not comfortable with Jimmy Clausen as their QB and that they consider that a position of need. Now a skeptic would see that and determine that the Panthers are posturing in an effort to drive up the price for their first overall pick and the ability to draft anybody on the board. But if the Panthers are serious and they are interested in Kolb, maybe a combination of Kolb and the Eagles #23 pick for the #1 could come up?
  • Buffalo: You never really know with the Bills these days. There’s been a lot of speculation in upstate New York about their QB situation. Would 92 yr old Ralph Wilson be more comfortable with a somewhat proven NFL QB like Kolb over a rookie draft pick like Gabbert or Newton? This could be another potential trade with Kolb and the #23 for the Bills #3 pick.
  • Cincinnati: Carson Palmer wants out. Would the Bengals trade their #4 for Kolb and the #23, and then trade Palmer for a second or third rounder? That might be too complex for owner Mike Brown to handle.
  • Arizona, San Francisco, and Minnesota: These are all NFC competitors (much better than Carolina) that are relatively close to a playoff spot and could eventually compete for a NFC championship. It’s hard to believe that Andy Reid would keep Kolb in the NFC unless he didn’t like him that much and thought that he could beat Kolb. He traded McNabb to the Redskins because he knew Donovan was done and how to defend him.
  • Tennessee: Would the Eagles be interested in the spunky Courtland Finnegan? Maybe the Titans and Eagles can swap first rounders and Kolb for Finnegan? Then the Eagles would have addressed their second corner position while getting an opportunity to move into the end of the top 10. New defensive line coach, Jim Washburn, came from the Titans and could have input here.

Another team, like the Dolphins, might get into this as well, but don’t they remember A.J. Feeley in South Beach?

What would be interesting to see is if the Eagles were impressed with the play of, say, FSU QB Christian Ponder during yesterday’s Senior Bowl and they were willing to move Kolb to acquire more draft pieces in order to get Ponder in the 20-30 area while also having another first round pick to get a linebacker or corner?

Head coach and QB are the two most important positions for a NFL team. The Eagles decision to keep Vick and move Kolb might be the best thing to happen to Kolb’s eventual new team.

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NFL Wildcard Recap and Offseason Preview for Wildcard Losers

No celebrations for the Saints on Bourbon Street this year.

Seahawks beat Saints 41-36:

Why did Seattle win?

1. Matt Hasselbeck played the best game of his 13-year career. Hasselbeck completed over 60% of his passes for 272 yards and 4 TDs, including this one to Mike Williams in the 2nd half. Although he’s been to 3 Pro Bowls and a Super Bowl, it’s hard to remember a better performance in a game like this for Hasselbeck.

2. Marshawn Lynch might have had the greatest run in recent memory on his game clinching 67 yard run in the 4th quarter. Lynch ran 19 times for 131 yards in helping the Seahawks outgain the Saints on the ground 149-77.

3. One year after surprising the Colts with an onside kick to begin the 2nd half of the Super Bowl, the Saints attempted the worst onside kick I’ve ever seen after scoring the final points of the game.

Why did the Saints lose?

1. Their secondary was unimpressive. While the Seahawks didn’t reach 300 yards passing, numerous coverage breakdowns highlighted the Saints top offseason priority in addressing their pass defense. They fell for the receiver falling down trick and it seemed like the stop-and-go double move was there all game.

2. Julius Jones scored twice, but he fumbled and he only carried 15 times for 59 yards. When going on the road in the playoffs, a good running game and solid defense are usually required. The Saints had neither.

Offseason Preview

New Orleans Saints

Head Coach: Sean Payton

  • He’s fine.

Quarterback: Drew Brees

  • Outside of needing to cut down on his picks, Brees is still almost elite.

Other: The rest of the Saints need some tinkering as losing to the Seahawks was not indicative of a team that just needs one or two changes. Their running game was inconsistent all season thanks to injuries and that played a major role in Brees’ increased interceptions. A solid running game will return this offense to elite status. Look for a first or second round pick to be used on a multi-purpose back with size as they will be looking to move on from Reggie Bush in a year or two. As seen on Saturday, their secondary needs to be better. Look for a replacement for the old Darren Sharper and they could also need an impact outside linebacker or defensive end. Their first two picks should be on RB and pass rusher. If they address these issues, it’s back to the playoffs and another run towards the Super Bowl next season.

Jets beat Colts 17-16:

Rex Ryan hasn't been this excited since his wife's last pedicure

Why did the Jets win?

1. The Jets took a dominating running game on the road with them. They ran 38 times for 169 yards and held the ball for 33:07. If they do that against the Patriots, the Jets might win. Included with that was the 17 play, 87 yard drive that took 9:54 and ended with about 10 minutes left in the game.

2. Defense: The Jets held the recently resurgent Colts running game to only 93 yards on 27 carries. As for Peyton Manning and the passing game; Manning threw for only 225 yards and completed only one pass to Reggie Wayne.

3. Special teams: Punter Steve Weatherford average over 50 yards per punt and Antonio Cromartie returned the final kickoff 47 yards to the Jets’ 46 yard line. Needing only a field goal, that return left the Jets only 20 yards or so from Nick Folk’s range. Folk was able to easily convert the eventual 32 yarder for the win.

Why did the Colts lose?

1. In addition to the final kick return, head coach Jim Caldwell decided to call a timeout with less than 30 seconds left and the Jets presumably ready to kick a 50 yard field goal. With another play, the Jets completed an 18 yard pass to Braylon Edwards to set up that 32 yarder. Does Folk make that 50 yarder? I’ll bet that doesn’t come up in Indy during the offseason…

2. One catch for one yard for Reggie Wayne and Wayne let it known afterwards that he wasn’t happy. Whose fault is it? Manning for not targeting Wayne? Wayne for not getting open on Revis Island? The Offensive Coordinator for not lining Wayne up in different positions to change the matchups? It will be interesting to see where this goes.

Offseason Preview

Indianapolis Colts

Head Coach: Jim Caldwell

  • He’s fine. But another egregious display of game management to end next season will turn up the heat on Caldwell.

Quarterback: Peyton Manning

  • Manning will be 35 when next season begins. Statistically, he’s going to be the best ever. It seems like he’s able to carry the Colts to the playoffs, but that’s when his teammates are exposed for not being good enough. Manning is also a free agent and will be receiving a landmark contract.

Other: The Colts had a rash of injuries to many of their skill position players not named Manning. The Wayne issue in the Jets game is also worth keeping an eye on. With the 22nd pick in the draft, would the Colts shop Wayne and pick one of the top receivers in the draft to replace him? If they can get a 2nd rounder for Wayne, they would have to look into it. Wayne is 32 years old and his best days have to be behind him. As for the rest of the offense, the O-line needs work as their running game was nonexistent for most of the season and some key players, like Jeff Saturday, are getting up there in age. Defensively, has the time to break up Freeney and Mathis come? Neither are particularly good against the run, which is their annual Achilles heel. A pass rusher of their ability would no doubt garner interest close to a first round pick. In fact, their Super Bowl opponent from last season, the Saints, need to improve their pass rush and might swap their first for Mathis and a second rounder. Bob Sanders doesn’t look like he’ll ever play a 16 game season and the time has probably come to move on from him. With that in mind, their secondary could probably use a corner as well as a replacement for Sanders. The Colts are playoff good, and will be a contender as long as Manning suits up. But it’s going to take some creativity and guts to reshape this roster to give Peyton an opportunity to play for Super Bowls in the final years of his career.

Ravens beat Chiefs 30-7:

T-Sizzle has Big Ben in his sights now

Why did the Ravens win?

1. Domination: The Ravens outgained the Chiefs 390-161 and forced 5 turnovers compared to 2 for the Ravens. When Matt Cassel only completes 9 of 18 for 70 yards while losing most of the game, that is the definition of dominance. Time of possession: Ravens 41:44, Chiefs 18:16. Need anything else?

 2. Joe Flacco completed 25 out of 34 for 265 yards and 2 TD’s with 10 completions to TE Todd Heap for 108 yards. Does anybody on the Chiefs want to cover Heap?

3. The defense led by Terrell Suggs. Somebody needs to block this guy as he sacked Cassel twice and knocked him down all day. The Ravens wear purple and black and Cassel has to be purple and black today.

Why did the Chiefs lose?

1. Matt Cassel and the lack of a passing game, despite trailing for the entire second half. Did Dwayne Bowe play? Get this, Bowe and the Colts’ Reggie Wayne combined for 1 catch for 1 yard. Guess where they’re playing next? Hawaii, not Pittsburgh or New England.

2. Less than 100 yards passing, 5 turnovers, and 8 first downs is not the formula for victory in the 21st century NFL.

Offseason Preview

Kansas City Chiefs

Head Coach: Todd Haley

  • Playoff coaches typically don’t get fired, but Haley is going to have to make sure the “voluntary” departure of offensive coordinator Charlie Weis doesn’t setback the offense. There were reports that Haley stripped Weis of his play calling duties at halftime. I wouldn’t want that second half game plan on my resume if I were Haley.

Quarterback: Matt Cassel

  • This was only the second season that Cassel entered training camp as the starter and played the season since high school. Cassel should be fine, but Weis’ replacement will play a critical role in his continued improvement.

Other: The Chiefs are young and talented with breakout years out of Cassel, RB Jamaal Charles, and WR Dwayne Bowe. Getting an offensive coordinator to continue to guide their improvement is priority #1 in this offseason. As for the players, they could use a pass catching tight end to give Cassel some more weapons in the passing game. Defensively, the Chiefs had trouble against the run at times during the season. With the super running game in Oakland, improving their run defense up the middle needs to be a priority. Jovan Belcher might not be big enough to play inside linebacker in Romeo Crennel’s defense. He needs to add 20 pounds or he could be targeted to be replaced. Nose tackle Ron Edwards will be 32 when training camp opens and they could probably get younger there. Overall, the Chiefs made the playoffs and should contend with their current team next season. If they can improve their offensive consistency and get stouter against the run, they might have a playoff run in them next year.

Packers beat Eagles 21-16:

Why did the Packers win?

1. The Packers defense kept the Eagles from running the football. The Eagles RB’s ran 13 times for 49 yards and Vick only ran for 33. As for their pass rush, Clay Matthews seemed unblockable at times. There’s a reason why Vick was hobbled at the end of the game.

2. Aaron Rodgers was practically flawless. Rodgers completed 18 of 27 for only 180 and 3 TD’s. He would have had another one at the end of the first half if James Jones caught that deep ball. Mistake free football is paramount to winning on the road in January and Rodgers was solid.

3. Rookie RB James Starks caught the team bus to Lincoln Financial on Sunday. Because of that, he was able to run 23 times for 123 yards after running only 29 times for 101 yards in his career. To win on the road, make sure you take your running game and defense with you. The Packers did and won.

Why did the Eagles lose?

1. David Akers missed two field goals, 41 and 34 yards. While the 41 yarder was in a swirling wind, the 34 yarder was inexcusable and forced the Eagles to go for a touchdown at the end. Akers will probably return for his 13th season, but you never know.

2. The Eagles were undisciplined all season and couldn’t develop a traditional running game. Yesterday was no different as the Eagles RB’s couldn’t crack 50 yards rushing and the Eagles were penalized three times as much as the road team Packers. Despite that, they still could have won if Akers had made one of those field goals to set up another one on the final drive.

Offseason Preview

Philadelphia Eagles

Head Coach: Andy Reid

  • Going nowhere after another playoff season. But Reid doesn’t have McNabb to deflect the postseason flameout criticisms anymore.

Can free-agent-to-be Vick stay healthy enough for the Eagles to re-sign him and trade Kolb?

Quarterback:

Michael Vick

  • Vick is a free agent after his comeback season and Kevin Kolb wants to start here or somewhere else. Expect Vick to get the Franchise tag and for Kolb to only get traded if the Eagles can land a very good backup to play behind the always hurt Vick. With that in mind, don’t expect Kolb to be traded since Vick has only played 16 games once in his career and always seems to have some injury.

Other: This was supposed to be a transition year for the Eagles and they came through pretty well. But the QB position wasn’t the only reason this was a transitional year and those issues are still there. They have the Vick/Kolb situation and also a new contract for DeSean Jackson coming. Jackson is like Vick, explosive and oft-injured. The Eagles would be wise to cover themselves with any new contract for him. Right tackle William Justice was abused to the point of being benched yesterday so that should be an area to upgrade. There’s no shortage of high motor pass rushers in the NFC East. As for their defense, CB Ellis Hobbs had his season end early due to a neck injury and says he will retire. They will need to replace him at one corner. The rest of the defense was middle of the pack against both the run and the pass. That can turn into a disaster if they don’t improve at least one aspect of that defense. They could use some improvement along the defensive front and their linebackers are average at best. Outside of Asante Samuel and Quentin Mikell, they could use upgrades in the secondary as well. The Eagles usually draft well, which is why they are always competitive and they should target that right tackle and improvement in their defensive front seven. Pending free agent cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha is the type of player that can help improve everybody on the defense and could be targeted to team with Samuel to face the high powered receiving corps in Dallas and New York next season.

Pro Football Week 16 Sunday Recap

December 27, 2010 Leave a comment

Here are my thoughts on this weekend’s games as I still wonder if Tony Dungy is the best choice to be the next coach of the Cowboys

Cardinals beat Cowboys 27-26: Well, the Cowboys found another way to lose as their kicker blew an extra point in this one. That kind of summed up their year, starting with the end of first half fumble against the Redskins and culminating in this. Next week’s game in Philly should be a three touchdown blowout as this team runs to the offseason and Jason Garrett can put 4-4 as interim head coach on his resume. The good news is that the Cowboys could sneak into the top 5 on draft day. With the top level quality in this draft, the Cowboys might be able to drop down and get an additional 1 or 2.

Patriots beat Bills 34-3: Another ho-hum affair for the team that clinched the best record in the AFC. Brady continues to play “perfect” and Pats defense has given up 7 or less in 3 of their last 4 after not holding opponents under 10 all season. Seven straight victories for the Pats are the most since their undefeated regular season in 2007. The 2001 Pats won 6 straight and 8 of 9 going into the playoffs, the 2003 Pats won 12 straight, and the 2004 Pats won 8 of 9 going into playoffs. This team plays similar and the results are as well.

Bears beat Jets 38-34: Matt Forte ran for over 100 yards for only the third time this season as the Jets lost for the third time in four games. Could all of the distractions finally be catching up to the Jets? A month ago the talk was about a Super Bowl and now the coach is becoming a walking punch line and the defense is having problems stopping anybody. The Bears can clinch the 2 spot and a bye with an Eagles loss or a win next week at Lambeau.  Soldier Field is going to be a tough place to win in January. The Jets host Buffalo needing a Steelers loss and a win to get to the 5 spot.

Ravens beat Browns 20-10: The former Browns continue to haunt Cleveland worse than LeBron. The Ravens are hanging in the shadows as the playoffs approach. The Patriots get a lot of hype and already beat the Ravens earlier this season. But the Ravens dominated them last year as they eliminated the Pats from the playoffs. There seems to be even more animosity between the Pats and Ravens then the Pats and Jets. The Ravens can win the division with a win against Cincinnati and a Steelers loss to the Browns.

Chiefs beat the Titans 34-14: The Chiefs clinched the AFC West for the first time since 2003 with the help of the Bengals. The Chiefs have a stellar defense and their own triplets with Cassel, Charles, and Bowe. The best rushing team in football is going to be a difficult out in the postseason. Including this season’s five; there have been 70 quarterback seasons with 30+ TD passes. Matt Cassel is 3 TD passes away from joining that club. The Chiefs are in the 3rd spot but lose the tiebreaker if they’re tied with the Colts. The Raiders come to town to close out their season on Sunday.  

Rams beat 49ers 25-17: The 49ers lost the game and Mike Singletary lost his job later in the evening. Somebody will give him a chance to redeem himself as a defensive coordinator and not regret it. This situation just highlights how difficult it is to coach in the NFL. This team hasn’t had stability at the QB position since Jeff Garcia. The Rams win in Seattle and get into the playoffs. Sam Bradford has to be the ROY if they win on Sunday.

Lions beat Dolphins 34-27: The Lions win back-to-back road games after losing an NFL record 26 straight. The Dolphins finish at 1-7 at home, including the Browns, Bills, and Lions to finish the season. Their home losses were not bad until that string. Tony Sparano will most likely suffer the consequences and probably should since a 1-7 home record doesn’t get you into the playoffs or, more importantly, help fill the stadium. The Lions are a definite sleeper going into next season if Matthew Stafford is healthy.

Redskins beat Jaguars 20-17: Believe it or not, this game didn’t really mean that much for the Jags. If the Colts lose to the Titans next week, the Jags are in a win and they’re in position in Houston. But for that to happen, MJD will need to be healthier and productive against the Texans on Sunday.

Bengals beat Chargers 34-20: This game was the nail in the proverbial Chargers’ coffin. The Bengals have now won 2 in a row and are reportedly petitioning the league to not count their 0-8 record in October and November. Marvin Lewis is completing his contract, but the team has surprisingly not quit on him and so far it appears like he might return. As for Norv Turner, GM AJ Smith is renowned for his hardheadedness and will probably bring Norv back for what might be their final season in San Diego. He’s not old yet, but Philip Rivers will be 30 when next season ends and the window of opportunity with a great quarterback will close sooner than anticipated for the Chargers. That needs to be in their minds when they decide on their coaching situation for next season.

Broncos beat Texans 24-23: Tim Tebow threw for over 300 yards and a TD and then ran for one as he brought the Broncos back from 17-0 at halftime to win his first game as a starter. Tebow has sort of a Doug Flutie feel to him as the talent evaluators find problems with him, but he finds a way to win. Do the Texans move on from Gary Kubiak and if they do, will the Broncos hire him?

Colts beat Raiders 31-26: The Colts running game showed up again (191 yards) and their defense stuffed the 3rd ranked rushing offense, holding them to only 80 yards. The Colts need to win at home against the Titans or have the Jaguars lose in Houston to make the playoffs. If they win and the Chiefs lose, they get the 3 seed and a probable matchup with the Jets.

Packers beat Giants 45-17: This was a beat down in Lambeau. Aaron Rodgers returned and was well protected as he threw for 404 yards and 4 TDs. That had to be the best non-Brady/Vick performance of the year and top 5 overall. The Giants turned the ball over 6 times and that looks like it might lead to the downfall of Coach Tom Coughlin. Coughlin’s trademark is discipline and holding onto the football.  The turnovers are indicative of a team that isn’t as disciplined as they should be. Both teams are now tied at 9-6 and need to win next week. The Giants play at FedEx against the Redskins and the Packers host the Bears in Lambeau. The Skins are done but the Bears are still playing for a bye. That should work to the Giants advantage.

Buccaneers beat Seahawks 38-15: Josh Freeman is a beast as he threw for a career high 5 TD passes yesterday against the Seahawks in front of a not so capacity crowd of 46,576. Tampa Bay has their best quarterback since Doug Williams and a winning team and still don’t support this team. Ridiculous. How good was Freeman? His 21 completions were to 10 different receivers. Pretty good. He’s still at the top of the list of first and second year quarterbacks that I would want to build my team around. The Bucs need to win at New Orleans next week and hope. Hope for a Saints loss tonight and either a Giants loss or Packers loss. Or they need both the Giants and Packers to lose next week.

Tonight I like the Saints. The winner of this game might be my favorite to win the NFC as the Saints are rolling and the Falcons haven’t lost outside of the Keystone State. This game should be a pre-playoff statement game where the winner can feel like they will have an advantage if they play again and that could happen as soon as the Divisional Playoff round. The Falcons have to feel like they can do their part to eliminate the Saints if they beat them. They need to feel like it will be easily to beat the Saints tonight rather than in three weeks. The Saints had won 6 straight until last week’s loss to the Ravens. The Saints will probably have to win either tonight or next Sunday against the Bucs to make the playoffs. A win would set them up with the hapless winner of the NFC West in the wild card round. That’s almost like getting a bye week and should be enough motivation for the Super Bowl champs to win tonight.

I concur with Governor Ed Rendell about the Eagles and Vikings game.

Post Week 14 MVP ballot (If I had one):

1. Tom Brady QB Patriots: It’s tough to not vote for Brady when he is having, arguably, the best season of his career. Who is going to be the Patriots’ deep guy without Moss? Hah.

2. Michael Vick QB Eagles: As great as Vick has been, if the Eagles don’t win in Chicago, there won’t be any reunions in Atlanta for the NFC championship game. The Eagles have already lost there with Vick and the weather shouldn’t be better in the middle of January.

3(tie). Julius Peppers DE Bears and Clay Matthews LB Packers: These two have dominated on two of the best defenses in the league. Both seem to make key plays that lead to wins on a weekly basis. That play yesterday by Matthews to rundown Brandon Jacobs was indicative of what he’s brought in his two years in the league. Peppers is the most disruptive pass rusher of his era and his freakish athletic ability enables him to defend passes and rundown running backs like a linebacker or safety.

My Super Bowl pick, this week, is the Patriots to beat the winner of tonight’s game (Saints/Falcons).

NFL Week 16 Preview

December 25, 2010 Leave a comment

Here are my thoughts on this week’s NFL slate of games while I wonder where TO will be keeping it real next year…

Cowboys at Cardinals: Tonight’s game is the first of a group of “who cares” games. Both teams are positioning for a top 10 pick on draft day 2011. The Cards know they need a QB and the Cowboys fans know they need a new QB. Unfortunately for Cowboys fans, the owner/president/general manager doesn’t know this yet. The Cowboys have been winning some ugly football games with Garrett and should continue tonight.

Patriots at Bills: The Pats just need a win to clinch the division and home field throughout the AFC playoffs. The Bills have won 4 of 5 and are taking themselves out of position for a top 10 pick. This week should get them back on track as the Pats clinch.

Jets at Bears: The good news for the Jets is that it looks like Mark Sanchez will start. The good news for the Bears is that it looks like Mark Sanchez will start. Why? Sanchez has thrown for only 4 TD’s and 17 INT’s in games played in less than 45 degrees. Guess how cold it’s supposed to be in Chicago for this one? Add in the Bears stifling run defense and you can imagine Sanchez running from Defensive POY candidate Julius Peppers frequently. The Bears have won 6 of 7 and the key has been Matt Forte and the ability to protect the football. After breaking 45 yards just once in his first 7 games, Forte has gone over that total in 6 of the last 7. The only game Forte didn’t run that well was against the Patriots. He’s averaged over 81 yards per game in those 6 victories. The Bears have also taken care of the football by winning the turnover battle by 8 in their 6 wins. The Jets win this one and they’re in the playoffs. The Bears need this to keep ahead of the Eagles for the NFC 2 seed and a wild card round bye. Look for the Bears defense to force 3 or more turnovers and either score on defense or special teams to give them the win at Soldier Field.

Ravens at Browns: The annual Art Modell Hate Bowl is being held tomorrow in northeast Ohio. The Ravens need to win and they’re in. If they win out they can win the division if the Steelers lose next week.

Titans at Chiefs: The Titans broke their losing string last week, but that was more of a win for the man who pays the checks as they beat Bud Adams’ hometown team. This week, they face the Chiefs who are 6-0 at Arrowhead. The Chiefs are playing well with Cassel at QB and Jamaal Charles might win the rushing title. The Chiefs need to win out with two home games. This will be the first of two needed wins.

49ers at Rams: My favorite division. The Rams control their own destiny and the Niners control theirs if the Bucs beat the Seahawks. Got that? The Niners go back to Troy Smith this week but are still 1-6 on the road. The Rams get the win and play for the division next week in Seattle.

Lions at Dolphins: The Lions broke their NFL record 26 game road losing streak last week in Tampa and stay in Florida to play the Fins. The undercard might be Ricky vs. Gunther. Pedro Martinez against Don Zimmer, football style. The Dolphins are 1-6 at home and heading for 1-7. Lions win.

Redskins at Jaguars: MJD is doubtful, heading towards out. That leaves Rashad Jennings to attack the worst defense in the league. The Skins are slightly better against the run at 27th in the league. The Jags need help to win the division or get a wildcard. But they don’t have a chance if they don’t win this one. The Rex Grossman era started with a 4 TD game in a loss last week for the Skins. Look for bad Rex to show up and the Jags keep their playoff hopes alive.

Chargers at Bengals: The Chargers are 2-4 on the road and need two straight and a Chiefs loss to win the division. They also have a long shot at the wildcard. The weather in Cincy is sure to be un-San Diego like as they expect a wintry mix. This was the site of one of the coldest games in NFL history when the Bengals beat the Chargers on their way to Super Bowl XVI. It’s been over 20 years now since the Bengals appeared in the Big Game. The Bengals broke a 10 game losing streak last week, but will get back into the loss column against the Chargers.

Texans at Broncos: This is the Gary Kubiak Bowl where the winner might have Kubiak as head coach next season. Why? Because he keeps his job by winning and he’s reportedly the favorite in Denver if he’s available. Tim Tebow starts for the second time. Let’s go with the Broncos in this one.

Colts at Raiders: The Colts now control their own destiny after running and stopping the run last week for the first time all season. Can they keep this up? The Raiders have a great running game as they have run for over 239 yards in 4 games already this season. If the small Colts defensive front can’t handle the physical Raiders front, the Jags are back in it. The Raiders are also 5-2 at home and are starting to make the Coliseum a tough place to play for the first time in years. The Raiders have a solid defense and Peyton Manning might need to find somebody besides Reggie Wayne if Asomugha is covering him. This might be the best matchup of the day and the Raiders get a win to keep their faint playoff hopes alive.

Giants at Packers: There isn’t a game with more on the line than this one this week. The Giants win and they’re in. The Packers win out and they’re in. Aaron Rodgers returns after missing last week with his second concussion this season. The Giants have knocked out 6 QB’s already this season and an already woozy Rodgers in their sights. The Giants shouldn’t be in this position as they have blown some games (last week) with careless turnovers and play calling. The Packers have to feel the same as they’ve lost 4 games by 3 points and two others by 4. So expect a close game at Lambeau. Matt Flynn showed that he can play with a solid performance last week and could be called on again. If Eli can limit his turnovers, the Giants win. Look for a steady dose of Brandon Jacobs in the cold and short passes to Kevin Boss to keep the chains moving. A screen pass to Ahmad Bradshaw will break this open in the second half and the Giants win by 3 or 4.

Seahawks at Buccaneers: Seattle is home of the 12th man and the Buccaneers are just looking for 12 fans. Expect a post Christmas crowd of less than 50K again in the worst sports region in North America. The Seahawks win out and they’re in the playoffs. The Buccaneers can win out and get in with a Saints loss on Monday and a little more help. The Bucs are 8-1 against teams with sub .500 records. With the Bucs still playing for something expect them to win.

Vikings at Eagles: It looks like the Favre era might finally be done. But he does like the primetime spotlight. The Eagles win and they are in, but they need to beat out the Bears to get a bye. Otherwise they might be seeing a ticked off Giants squad bent on revenge in two weeks. Look for this to be a game for a quarter or two before the Eagles break it open. The Vikings haven’t put together a full game defensively in weeks (months?). Mike Vick continues his MVP march with another big game Sunday night and the Eagles are NFC East champions.

Pro Football Week 15 Sunday Recap

December 20, 2010 Leave a comment

Bengals beat the Browns 19-17: Well, the Bungles blew their chance at the #1 pick in the 2011 draft with this win. Does anybody else find irony in both Ochocinco and Owens not starting, with Owens season also ending on an injury? Classic. Just keeping it real.

Cowboys beat Redskins 33-30: Late field goal by the Cowboys beat Rex and the Skins. Grossman had 4 TD passes in his first game replacing Donovan McNabb. I guess the Shanahan’s might have been right after all. And they also lost, which keeps their hopes for a top 5 pick alive. They might not get Lucky, but they might get a Mallett.

Titans beat Texans 31-17: Another Titans-Texans matchup; another fight…. between Texans’ teammates! Brian Cushing and Antonio Smith went at it. In an awesome gesture, Jeff Fisher awarded offensive coordinator Mike Heimerdinger the gameball following the game. Heimerdinger is fighting cancer and still performing his coaching duties. Next week the Texans road show goes to Denver. Does the winner get Kubiak for next season?

Colts beat Jaguars 34-24: The Colts stepped up and won a big game running the ball and stopping the run. The Colts outrushed the Jags 155-67 and were up 254-84 in total yards at the half. The Colts came out and took the Jags out of their game and the “bad” Peyton Manning from their losing streak of a few weeks back didn’t show up. The Colts were plus 2 in the turnover battle and their only mistake was on the controversial punt return Mike Thomas in the second quarter. Jags coach Jack Del Rio made some questionable coaching decisions, almost as if they weren’t confident, nor, expected to win. That seemed uncharacteristic for the normally solid Del Rio. They are both now tied at 8-6 and the Colts hold the current tiebreaker. That could change, but the Colts just need to win out. The Jags are lucky that they host the Redskins (tanking games??) on Sunday. The Colts travel to the Bay Area to face the Raiders. They better bring their run stuffers next week as well.

Chiefs beat Rams 27-13: The Chiefs needed a win to stay in front of the Chargers, and Matt Cassel returned and delivered. The Chiefs outrushed the Rams 210-69 and were plus 1 in the turnover battle. Sam Bradford had a dreadful day, throwing for 2 INTs and a 40.9 rating. The Chiefs had been a question mark on the road until recently winning two of three. The 9-5 Chiefs can eliminate the Raiders next week by winning against the Titans at home. The Rams are still tied with the Seahawks for first and try to finish off the 49ers at home next Sunday.

Bills beat Dolphins 17-14: Give the Bills credit for not quitting as they’ve won 4 out of their last 6, including a loss to the Steelers when Steve Johnson dropped the game winning TD pass in overtime. Prediction time: The Bills will draft Cam Newton and Chan Gailey will use him similarly to how he used Kordell Stewart in Pittsburgh. The Dolphins have been eliminated and the Tony Sparano watch is on. The Fins are 1-6 at home and Bill Cowher is making eyes at his job. Not a good combination for the coach that engineered the greatest turnaround in NFL history two years ago. Either the Dolphins will give him a chance or forget that they haven’t given him a good quarterback without a trick shoulder. It will be interesting to see if Cowher is the next person to “bring his talents to South Beach.”

Eagles beat Giants 38-31: Just in case you want to see it again, here’s THE punt return. Here’s the Original Miracle at the Meadowlands with Herm Edwards. It’s ridiculous that this happens again. I was expecting Tom Coughlin to go Woody Hayes on the punter. First, Cliff Lee goes to the Phillies instead of the Yankees and now this. Don’t forget Michael Vick running 10 times for 130 yards and a TD. It reminded me of using him in Madden when he was with the Falcons. This wasn’t a good week for the Giants to choke either, with Billy the Chin making eyes at Coughlin’s job as well.  The Eagles win the division now with a win or Giants loss. The Eagles might need to win out to get a bye since the Bears hold the tiebreaker. The Birds host the Vikings next Sunday night. The Giants try to get off the psychiatrist’s couch to play the Packers in Green Bay. They can make the playoffs with a win.

Lions beat Buccaneers 23-20: The Lions broke their NFL record 26 game road losing streak by going to empty Raymond James Stadium and beating the Bucs in overtime. But like a tree falling in the woods, if nobody saw this game, did it really happen? Just kidding Detroit. The Bills and Lions have continued to play hard and have to be considered dark horses to contend next season. If Matthew Stafford can’t ever get healthy, the Lions might have something with Drew Stanton. The Bucs ride virtually comes to an end as they need to beat the Seahawks at home next week and win in New Orleans to have a chance. Even then, they need help.

Panthers beat Cardinals 19-12: The Panthers retain the #1 pick with the Bengals loss. The Cards move up to a tie for 4th. I wonder if Shanahan can get them to swap first rounders and give them McNabb in the deal. That would be interesting.

Ravens beat Saints 30-24: Ray Rice finally came through with a big game as he ran 31 times for 153 yards and caught 5 balls for 80 yards and he scored twice. On the other side, the Saints ran 14 times for 27 yards. Add in a plus 2 in the turnover battle and it’s pretty easy to see why the Ravens won yesterday. With the Steelers loss, the 10-4 Ravens are now tied for first, but losing the tiebreaker and need help. They play at Cleveland next week in the annual Art Modell Hate Bowl. The 10-4 Saints go to Atlanta where they will need to win and hope that Atlanta loses against Carolina in their last game.

Falcons beat Seahawks 34-18: With the Saints loss, the Falcons only need a win or Saints loss to clinch the South. A win would also give them home field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs. The 6-8 Seahawks are still in first and play at Tampa next week.

Raiders beat Broncos 39-23: The Raiders overcame Tim Tebow parting their defense and running 40 yards for a TD early in the game. Darren McFadden went over 1,000 yards for the first time with 20 carries for 119 yards as the Raiders ran for 264 yards. For those counting at home, that’s 98 points and 592 yards RUSHING in two games against the Broncos. The Raiders have now gone over 250 in rushing yards in 3 games, with another game of 239. Until yesterday, next week’s opponent, the Colts, were having issues against the run. They better bring that “A” game next week as well.

Jets beat Steelers 22-17: The Jets went to Pittsburgh and gutted out a very good win. They just need one more win to get the wild card. Special teams were the key as Brad Smith took the opening kickoff the distance to provide the margin of victory for the Jets. This was a pretty well played, tough game as there were no turnovers. Although the Steelers didn’t play bad, the return put them behind and the safety kept them from being able to kick a game-tying field goal at the end. The Steelers get to recover quickly when they host the Panthers on Thursday night. The 10-4 Jets get a trip to Chicago for another warm weather game against the Bears.

Patriots beat Packers 31-27: If the game was 60 1/2 minutes long, the Pack might have won. The Patriots came out flat against the Aaron Rodgers-less Packers and needed 2 turnovers and a 71 yard return from guard Dan Connolly on a kickoff to win this game. But that’s what good teams do and the Pats have now gone an NFL record 6 straight games without a turnover. The 8-6 Packers still have a chance as they host the Giants next week in a must win game for their playoff hopes. The Pats can clinch the AFC East and the home field next week with a win at Buffalo or a loss by the Jets.

Tonight I like the Vikings and their fans. As I’ve been late and seen the first drive, the fans look ecstatic that this game is outdoors and it would be great if the Vikings could get that ridiculous home field advantage back in the Arctic region of the US. They would have NO problem selling premium seats and luxury boxes with at least 2-3 games being played in freezing conditions. Those would be the “hottest” selling premium seats in the league.

Post Week 14 MVP ballot (If I had one):

1. Michael Vick QB Eagles: Flip-flopping Brady and Vick again, as yesterday put Vick on top. Is it appropriate to call this MVP race a “dogfight”?

2. Tom Brady QB Patriots: It’s amazing that Brady is only second on this list because Brady has been historically good for the past 7 weeks.

3. Minnesota Fans: It’s going to be in the single digits with snow tonight in Minnesota.

My Super Bowl pick, this week, is the Patriots to beat the Eagles. That’s changed from the Falcons because the Eagles karma is tough to ignore.

NFL Week 15 Preview

December 19, 2010 Leave a comment

Here are my thoughts on this week’s NFL slate of games while I continue to keep it real…

Thursday’s review first:

Chargers beat 49ers 34-7: Vincent Jackson imposed his will on the Niners defense scoring 3 times and a great challenge by Norv Turner that overturned a 49er TD that would have tied the game early in the second quarter were the keys to this Chargers victory. The Chargers didn’t turn the ball over, didn’t give up a big play on special teams (that wasn’t called back) and almost doubled the yardage of the 49ers. This was simply a dominating performance by the team that nobody in the AFC wants to see in January. The Chargers need help to catch the Chiefs and they need to win out. Good news for the 8-6 Bolts is that they finish at Cincinnati and at Denver.

Sundays Games:

Browns at Bengals: The Battle of Ohio will not be shown in Cincinnati as the game is blacked out. But, just keeping it real, the hometown fans won’t miss anything because the Browns will win anyway.

Redskins at Cowboys: Usually it’s Jerry Jones who would do something ridiculous to attract attention to an upcoming Cowboys game. Not this time. Mike Shanahan decided to create a controversy by benching Donovan McNabb for Rex Grossman, with an emphasis on “gross”. Evidently McNabb was supposed to lead the long suffering Redskins to the Super Bowl this season with Division I-AA receivers and a UFL offensive line. What’s the Redskins running back’s name again? Right. It’s Donovan’s fault. This game does remind the Redskins of the highlight of their season in the opener against the Cowboys. Right before halftime, weeks before asking the “dog fighter” for his autograph after the game, Tayshard Choice caught and fumbled an ill-advised pass at the end of the first half that DeAngelo Hall returned for a touchdown. The Cowboys never recovered from that and Wade Phillips was fired five weeks ago. While Tony Romo can’t make the poor decision of throwing a screen pass in the waning seconds of the first half this week, he did what he should have done in that situation. He took a knee (and proposed to his girlfriend). Good “Choice”, Tony. Oh, let’s go with the less dysfunctional Cowboys in this one.

Texans at Titans: Time for Finnegan v. Johnson II. Or, you can tune in to see how many catches “Woody from Nashville” gets. Or maybe the Texans will lose another heartbreaker. The Texans are the pick this week over the Titans.

Jaguars at Colts: The battle of past and present Houston is the AFC South undercard to this one in Indy. The Jaguars can clinch the AFC South with a win. The Colts haven’t missed the playoffs since Jim Mora’s last year in 2001. Peyton Manning needs 972 yards (324/week) to eclipse the 5,000 yard mark for the first time in his career. He only needs 530 yards passing to set his own personal mark (4557 in 2004). Both MJD and Garrard are banged up for the first place Jags, but expected to play. The Jags won the first matchup in J’ville in week 4 on Josh Scobee’s 59 yard field goal at the gun. Both Joseph Addai and Dallas Clark played for the Colts that week. Clark is now out for the season and Addai is questionable after missing the past 7 games with a neck injury. The Colts offense has been completely one dimensional since Addai’s injury and that could repeat itself this week. The Jaguars figure to run, run, and run some more with MJD and 2nd year back Rashad Jennings. The Colts will have to prove that they can stop the run to win this game. But it just seems like it’s the Jags year, so that’s the pick.

Chiefs at Rams: The Battle of Missouri at the Ed. Matt Cassel is questionable for the game, but the thinking here is that he’ll go. If he doesn’t, the Rams should win easily. Either way, this game will feature two good RB’s in Steven Jackson and Jamaal Charles. Both are already over 1,000 yards rushing and will be the keys to taking the pressure off their respective QB’s. Assuming Cassel plays, this one should be close throughout. The Chiefs are in a must-win situation with the Chargers nipping at their heels and the Rams control their own destiny, but need to win. The Rams are 4-2 at the Ed, while the Chiefs have struggled on the road, going 2-5. Expect Cassel to struggle a bit because of his situation and the crowd to be fired up. The Rams win by less than a touchdown.

Bills at Dolphins: The Dolphins are at home (1-5) and need a win to keep their faint playoff hopes alive. The Dolphins are in a decent position if they win out, because the Jets have a tough remaining schedule. It looked like it was over two weeks ago when they gave away the game to the Browns at the end, but last week’s win over the Great Wall of Alosi kept them alive. Let’s assume there will be some good karma for the Dolphins in relation to the Jets and go with the Fins this week.

Eagles at Giants: Picture this: Michael Vick goes on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno with the Lombardi Trophy after winning the Super Bowl and he walks in with his new beautiful Golden Retriever, Redemption. Wouldn’t that be a great story? Now imagine this: Michael Vick drops back to pass and coming around the left tackle is Osi Umenyiora and as Vick is backing away Justin Tuck blindsides him with a vicious hit. Quarterback #7 was just knocked out by the Giants this season. The Giants do seem to be getting healthier, Steve Smith notwithstanding (out, torn ACL). The Eagles are hopeful that DeSean Jackson and Asante Samuel will be able to go. Don’t expect Jackson to get the “kid gloves” treatment that he got from the Dallas secondary last week. And he won’t dare try to pull that celebration stunt in Jersey. He’d have the whole Giants defense going after him. The Giants roughed up Vick last time out. It wasn’t good enough as LeShon McCoy broke a 50 yard run with 4:25 remaining to give the Birds the lead. Eli Manning threw 3 picks and lost a fumble. The Giants weren’t dedicated to the run, 19 for 61. This week should be different as the Giants defense roughs up Vick a little bit and the two-headed RB monster of Bradshaw and Jacobs runs for over 130 yards. Manning will limit his turnovers to only 1 or 2 and the Giants will win by a touchdown. Expect a rematch in the Wild Card round.

Lions at Buccaneers: Guess what? The Bucs home game is blacked out in the Tampa Bay area for the 7th straight game. Great fans on the west coast of Florida. When the Vikings or Chargers relocate to LA, the Bucs will be the team that replaces them within five years with this kind of support. This is a matchup between two QB’s picked in last year’s first round and two DT’s picked in this year’s first round. The problem is that QB Matthew Stafford is hurt for the Lions and DT Gerald McCoy is hurt for the Bucs. It will be interesting to see who does better with those similar picks as the years go by. Hopefully injuries don’t play a role, especially with Stafford’s shoulder. The Lions are 0-6 on the road. Make that 0-7 as the 8-5 Bucs stay alive for a wild card spot in the NFC.

Cardinals at Panthers: I hope Jay Feely scores again this week. That was cool. One question for each team: Will Donovan McNabb end up in Arizona next season? Why has Steve Smith put his $2.7 million home up for sale in the Charlotte area? Another question: Who do the Panthers select with the #1 pick in the 2011 draft? If they haven’t Lucked into a great quarterback, then they’re something that rhymes with that. Cards win this week to, um; stay alive in the NFC West.

Saints at Ravens: The weather looks clear and not too cold. Advantage Saints as they travel north trying to extend their winning streak to seven games. The Ravens won that exciting Monday night game against the cursed Texans on the interception return in overtime by Josh Wilson. The key for the Ravens will be establishing that running game with Ray Rice. Rice has been down this year, averaging less than 4 yards per carry, and only ran for 100 in a game once, against the Broncos. The Saints have a good defense, but are average against the run. Rice will have to have his second 100 yard game if the Ravens are to win. This game should be harder hitting than one would expect with the Saints, but they can play pretty physical on defense as well.  Expect Drew Brees and company to take advantage of the mild weather conditions and the 10-3 Saints win this game over the Ravens to go to 11-3 into their week 16 showdown in Atlanta.

Falcons at Seahawks: The Jim Mora Jr. Bowl should go to the Falcons, unless the Seahawks special teams come to the rescue. Look for the Falcons to get ahead early and pound Michael Turner against a mediocre Seahawks run defense. Falcons will go to 12-2 for their big game next week against the Saints.

Broncos at Raiders: Tim Tebow meet Violator. The week 7 matchup in Denver was 59-14 in favor of the road team. Records were set on both sides between teams that have played twice a year since 1960. There should be some sort of “pride” showing this time by the Broncos. The Tebow factor adds a little intrigue to a game that most would expect to be one-sided. Look for Tebow to run for a few first downs, make some decent throws on the move, and walk on water. But don’t expect him to beat the soon to be 7-7 Raiders this weekend.  

Jets at Steelers: With special teams coach Sal Alosi suspended for the rest of the season, the Jets have turned to Yankees fan Jeffery Maier to do their dirty work. Just kidding. The Jets have to find a way to get Mark Sanchez comfortable throwing the ball because the Steelers defense will not let the Jets run. No way. They could have LT in his prime and not have a chance of running the ball on this historically good run defense. But the Steelers can be beaten through the air and former Steelers WR Santonio Holmes is the perfect player to exploit that defense. The Steelers secondary has problems covering quick receivers who catch the ball at the second level as well as the tight ends in the seam. Great safety Troy Polamalu is out for the remainder of the regular season as well. If Sanchez can get the ball to Holmes in space and Dustin Keller in the soft spot of that zone, then the Jets can get back into the win column. Its gut check time in Gotham as the Jets have lost two straight and their once promising season could be heading down the toilet. This should be another physical game for the Jets. One wonders if the weekly physical grind is catching up to this team. The Steelers haven’t lost since the Patriots game five weeks ago. A win here and they should win out. While the Jets will have the microscope on them, still expect them to take a few borderline shots at Big Ben. I usually don’t make an actual score prediction, but here it is: Jets 17-Steelers 16.

Packers at Patriots: Aaron Rodgers is officially out for the Pack in Foxborough. Expect backup quarterback to be near the top of the Packers to-do list in the offseason. The weather should be really nice for the inexperienced Matt Flynn. Snow is expected and the wind should be swirling. The last time Charles Woodson played in the snow in Foxborough was….. Oh that’s it. Surely some great memories for Woodson against his former Wolverine teammate. This one should be less painful, as the Pats should get out early and play ball control throughout. Don’t expect a lot of big plays this week out of the Pats as they will try to wait on Flynn to commit mistakes for them to capitalize on. Flynn and the Packers will turn it over at least 3 times, Brady and Pats will break their turnover streak at 6 games without one. The Pats should win this one by 10 or more.

Pro Football Week 14 Sunday Recap

December 13, 2010 Leave a comment

Some thoughts on yesterday’s pro football games while looking for an oversized Stay Puff Marshmallow Man to walk into the Metrodome after the roof collapsed…

Giants play Vikings in Detroit at 7:20 EST on Fox (NY/MIN) and DirecTV Sunday Ticket

Favre is inactive for the game, breaking his streak of 297 consecutive starts. My guess is that he never plays again.

Giants luck out again as they did when they hosted the Saints after Katrina five years ago. The Meadowlands is actually almost 3 hours driving closer to Ford Field than the Metrodome is. Next time any Giants’ fan complains that the NFL doesn’t like them, point to the multiple instances of road games turning into home/neutral field games. How many Lions’ fans do you think will be cheering for the Vikings tonight? Do you think there are more transplanted New Yorkers or Minnesotans in the Detroit area? Oh, but the Giants have one less day to prepare for the Eagles next week. Yeah, they NEVER play the Eagles do they? I wonder how much the game plan will have changed from their first meeting THREE WEEKS ago? Stop the whining and play!

Bills beat Browns 13-6: Um. Yeah. I don’t care. Jake Delhomme losing a game isn’t headline material anymore. The good news for the Browns and their fans is that Colt McCoy will be the starter next season. The bad news for Bills fans is that Ryan Fitzpatrick is playing himself into keeping his job for next season.

Lions beat Packers 7-3: The Lions were going to get somebody, and this week they got the Packers. Aaron Rodgers suffered his second official concussion of the season and Matt Flynn is no Aaron Rodgers. Where’s Brett Favre when you need him? What was more alarming was the fact that this was the lowest scoring game of the day, yet the only one played indoors in the north. Tonight’s game at Ford Field might have more scoring each quarter than the ten points combined for the whole game yesterday. The Packers gave up 190 yards (44 to QB Drew Stanton) on the ground compared to 31 yards by the Packers (non-QBs). A solid running game was able to cover up Stanton’s atrocious QB numbers that resulted in a 39 rating. The 8-5 Packers are going to need Rodgers next weekend in Foxborough as they play the Pats on Sunday night.

Steelers beat Bengals 23-7: Carson Palmer submitted a Peyton Manning performance yesterday, without the positives. Two pick 6’s by the Steelers provided most of the margin of victory and Palmer was awful against a mediocre Steelers pass defense. Terrell Owens had 1 catch for 22 yards and Cedric Benson ran 8 times for 19 yards. Those numbers don’t usually equate to victories. Big Ben took some more hits but came through with another tough performance completing 2/3 of his passes for over 250 yards. The 10-3 Steelers are in control of the AFC North and host the Jets next week.

Buccaneers beat Redskins 17-16: The Skins find a new way to lose weekly, it seems. This week they botched an extra point with 10 seconds left. Kicker Graham Gano wasn’t guilty in that attempt, but he missed two easy field goals (34, 24 yds.) earlier. Ryan Torain wasn’t to blame either as Mike Shanahan’s newest RB find ran 24 times for 172 yards. The hero, again, for the Bucs was 2nd year QB Josh Freeman. Freeman orchestrated his 7th fourth quarter/overtime comeback victory of his career. Maybe the locals by the Bay will catch on and actually support this young, exciting team. Next week’s home game against Detroit is their first chance to change my mind about them. I’m not holding my breath.

Falcons beat Panthers 31-10: Panthers QB Jimmy Clausen apologized to the defense after the game. Only three more apologies left before Cam Newton takes over. Falcons are still the team to beat in the NFC and play at Seattle next week. That could be a look-ahead game with the showdown against the Saints the following week.

Jaguars beat Raiders 38-31: This was the best game of a rare uneventful Sunday in the NFL. Jason Campbell and Darren McFadden had huge games for the Raiders, but it wasn’t enough. My favorite rookie, Jacoby Ford, fumbled a kickoff in the 3rd quarter, leading to the Jags taking a 28-24 lead after being behind 24-14 minutes earlier. Then Ford caught a pass on the final play of the game that he should have dropped because he couldn’t get out of bounds. For the Jags, they ran, ran, and then ran some more as MJD and Rashad Jennings ran for over 100 yards each. David Garrard wasn’t great, but threw for 3 TDs and ran for 32 yards. Nobody wants to give the 8-5 Jags credit, but they keep winning and get a chance to put away the division next week in Indy. The 6-7 Raiders try to keep their faint playoff hopes alive next week against Denver.

Saints beat Rams 31-13: Malcolm Jenkins picked off Sam Bradford with less than a minute left in the first half and returned the ball 96 yards for a touchdown, making the score 21-6. That’s as close as Bradford and the Rams would get to upset the world champs. Along with Josh Brown’s 46 yard missed field goal, that 14 point turnaround was the difference in an otherwise close game. This has the potential to be the wild card round matchup in the playoffs if the Rams win the division and the Saints make the wild card. That game would be played in St. Louis. The 6-7 Rams play home next week against the Chiefs. The 10-3 Saints go to Baltimore for a tough game against the Ravens. The final three games for the Saints should toughen them up for another playoff run.

49ers beat Seahawks 40-21: Alex Smith and Bryan Westbrook had big games for the Niners. Matt Hasselbeck did not have a good game for the Seahawks. This division stinks. The Oregon Ducks would have a chance to win this division. The Niners have a quick turnaround with the Thursday night game in San Diego. The Seahawks host the Falcons.

Patriots beat Bears 36-7: Is anybody going to stop the Pats? The Patriots became the first team in league history to go five consecutive games without committing a turnover. That’s one key to winning every week. Another stat that helps: total yards for the Pats was 475, Bears was 185. That will help as well. Deion Branch’s numbers in 9 games with the Pats: 44 Receptions for 648 yards and 5 TD’s. Randy Moss’ numbers since being traded from Pats: 18/236/2. Thanks for the 3rd round pick, Chilly. Signed, BB. The Pats host the Packers next Sunday night and the Bears might have to play the Vikings outdoors at the University of Minnesota on Monday night. How cold will it be outside in Minnesota next Monday night? That sore shoulder for Favre should feel really good in that weather. Frostbite alert!

Dolphins beat Jets 10-6: This might have been the most boring game of a bad football day. Despite their best efforts, the Jets were unable to, um, trip up the Fins. The Jets outgained the Dolphins 280-131 and won the turnover battle 3-2. How did they lose? Dolphins’ punter Brandon Fields kicked 10 times for an average of 56.5 yards per punt with NO touchbacks. The 9-4 Jets are now reeling as they head to Pittsburgh to face the Steelers next week. The Dolphins have the longest of shots to make the playoffs, but they host the Bills next week to keep their season alive.

Cardinals beat Broncos 43-13: Who cares, except Jay Feely’s family? Feely kicked 5 field goals and scored a touchdown on a cool fake field goal late in the 2nd quarter. This game only affected those people who have to change the order of their mock drafts.

Chargers beat Chiefs 31-0: The Chargers gave the undermanned Chiefs a thorough beat down in San Diego yesterday. Chiefs QB Brodie Croyle just stinks, as his record as a starter is now 0-10. Former Mets pitcher Anthony Young was overheard calling Croyle a loser. The Chargers outrushed the Chiefs 207-48 and outgained the Chiefs overall 426-67. That’s 67 total yards gained on offense. A 67 yard drive might not even get you into the end zone during a possession. Needless to say, the Chiefs failed to get into the end zone all day. No word if this kept offensive coordinator Charlie Weis from being able to get his hands on a calzone at halftime. The Chiefs just need to win out and they play at the Rams next week. The Chargers host the 49ers on Thursday night.

Eagles beat Cowboys 30-27: Big plays, especially by DeSean Jackson, were the downfall for the Cowboys last night. Jackson only had four catches, but two went for 60 and 91 yards and running back LeShon McCoy ran for a 56 yard run that set up a field goal in the 3rd quarter. Then the Cowboys were unable, or unwilling to stop McCoy on the Eagles final drive of the game when McCoy ran 4 times for 50 yards to run out the clock. After a decent first half, the Cowboys defense reminded everybody how soft they are and that they need an overhaul in the offseason. They might want to start with corner Mike Jenkins, who is allergic to contact. The Eagles lack of discipline, Jackson and returner Jorrick Colvin, could be the downfall for the Eagles later on. Nobody can afford multiple personal fouls and continue to win, especially in the playoffs. BTW, Tashard Choice made a good, um, choice in getting Mike Vick’s autograph after the game. He’ll need the money that he gets on eBay for the autograph after the Cowboys cut him. The Eagles play at the Giants next week in a game that could determine the division winner. The Eagles can win the division if the Giants lose tonight and next week.

Tonight, in the real Monday night game, I like the Ravens. The Ravens are a legitimate Super Bowl contender with an outside chance at catching the Steelers to win the AFC North. The Texans are just an AFC South pretender, continually proving they can’t stop the pass and the coaching leaves little to be desired. The Texans should put Coach Gary Kubiak into a limo and send him to Denver. Bill Cowher would look good on the Texans’ sideline next season. The Texans need toughness, Andre Johnson notwithstanding.

Post Week 14 MVP ballot (If I had one):

1. Tom Brady QB Patriots: Flip-flopping Brady and Vick, because Brady has been historically good for the past 6 weeks, while Vick was historically good for one game.

2. Michael Vick QB Eagles: He’s been too good to ignore. The Eagles might not even be a playoff team without him.

3. Troy Polamalu S Steelers: Between Polamalu and James Harrison, the Steelers provide a level of intimidation that no other team enjoys defensively. It seems like every time the Steelers need a big play defensively, Polamalu is there to make it.

My Super Bowl pick, this week, remains the Patriots to beat the Falcons. That’s sure to change, but hasn’t in recent weeks.