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NFL Division Round Recap and Offseason Preview for Weekend Losers

January 18, 2011 1 comment

With a win against the Jets, Big Ben will try to match Brady with 3 Super Bowl wins

Steelers beat Ravens 31-24:

Why did the Steelers win?

  1. Defense: The Ravens compiled 126 total yards of offense and only 35 on the ground. The Steelers also forced 3 turnovers and held the Ravens to 3.0 yards per pass. Ridiculous. The final score doesn’t underscore the job that the Steelers’ D did.
  2. Ben Roethlisberger was really good. Except for that freaky fumble that resulted in the Ravens’ TD, Big Ben completed 19/32 for 226 and 2 TDs. No INTs. He was huge in the face of a defense that limited the Steelers to 71 yards on 31 carries.
  3. James Harrison: He was missing for the most part of the second half of the season, but on Saturday the ultimate intimidator hit Flacco early and often. Three sacks, two QB hits, and frequent pressure helped shutdown the Ravens passing game. He also had 3 tackles for loss and 2 passes defended. When he plays like this, he might be the best defensive player in the league.

Why did the Ravens lose?

  1. Second half: The Ravens lost the second half 24-3. The best chance that the Ravens had was when Anquan Boldin dropped a sure TD after the Lardarius Webb punt return was called back. That would have given the Ravens the lead at 28-24 and put the Steelers in a pressure situation to need a TD with less than 4 minutes remaining. Instead, the Steelers were only tied, not trailing, and took advantage of a fatigued Ravens defense to score the winning touchdown with about 1:30 left. No word on if TJ Houshmandzadeh is blaming Pete Carroll and the Seahawks for his fourth down drop that essentially ended the game.
  2. Joe Flacco and the Ravens Offense: This was supposed to be the game where Flacco stepped up and led the Ravens to a big win over Big Ben and the Steelers. Flacco was bad. He barely completed half of his passes and was sacked five times. While Flacco is part of the problem, his receivers dropped critical passes late in the game and Ray Rice played like he was sick. 16 carries for 36 yards for Rice and McGahee.
  3. Not Terrell Suggs: T-Sizzle was awesome with that sack and forced fumble that was returned for a TD and 3 sacks. He was every bit as good as James Harrison was for the Steelers. And don’t blame the refs either. Yes, that was a bad call on the return, but Anquan Boldin should have caught that pass in the end zone on the following drive. If he catches that, the Ravens might have won.

Offseason Preview

Baltimore Ravens

Head Coach: John Harbaugh

  • Not many coaches debut with three straight playoff appearances and road wins in each season.

Quarterback: Joe Flacco

  • Outside of the games against the Steelers, Flacco has been really good through three seasons.

Other: Those drops by veteran receivers late against the Steelers will most likely lead to some new blood at that position. Derrick Mason is 37 and was a non-factor. TJ Houshmandzadeh dropped the final Flacco pass and wasn’t much better than Mason. With some good receivers in the upcoming draft, the Ravens might target one with the 26th pick in the first round. If they don’t pick a receiver in the first round, maybe they go for a smaller, quicker type in the second round. Todd Heap is solid but turns 31 in March and missed almost four games with a hamstring injury. TE could be a target in the middle rounds. Their two TE rookies combined for 12 catches in 2010. They might look to involve them more in 2011. Center Matt Birk liked the catered food in the Vikings locker room when he played there but he’s going to be 35 and the Ravens might look to get younger there. It will be interesting to see if they bring tackle Jared Gaither back or find a trading partner. He’s got a lot of talent, but the Ravens weren’t interested in paying him big money last offseason and he ended up on injured reserve.

The defense might need some tweaks as some key contributors are getting old. Ed Reed had a horrible family situation last week and has talked about retirement before. Ray Lewis will be 36 in May and they might look for his heir apparent. Rookie Terrence Cody should be given a chance to supplant Kevin Gregg on the line. Overall, the Ravens are pretty good. They need more explosiveness on the offense and I would expect them to target one of the top WR’s in the draft. If they do that, they should be challenging the Steelers for the division again next season.

Packers beat Falcons 48-21:

Why did the Packers win?

  1. Aaron Rodgers and their unstoppable passing game. There isn’t a QB in football playing any better than Rodgers right now. He had only 5 incompletions to go with 3 TDs. Oh, and he ran one in too. Here’s a stat you may never see in a playoff game again: 4 WR’s caught passes for over 75 yards each.
  2. Turnovers and time of possession. The game was over when Tramon Williams had the 70 yard interception return to end the first half to make it 28-14. That was one of four TO’s and the Pack held the ball for 38:19 compared to 21:41 for the Falcons. That’s dominating football.
  3. Clay Matthews and the Packers defense held the Falcons to less than 200 yards of total offense. The Falcons were outgained 442-194. Matthews chipped in with 2 more sacks and was after Matt Ryan all night. His sack at the end of the first half led to the next play where Williams picked Ryan for the TD.

Why did the Falcons lose?

  1. Michael Turner ran 10 times for 39 yards. That’s not bad for a drive or quarter. But for the game? 14 rushes for the night is not the formula to beat an explosive offense like the Packers.
  2. The Falcons had critical penalties and interceptions by Ryan in the 2nd quarter when the game was still winnable.
  3. See everything the juggernaut that is the Packers did well.

Offseason Preview

Atlanta Falcons

Head Coach: Mike Smith

  • Smith has three straight winning seasons after back-to-back had never been done in Atlanta. When does he get a statue?

Quarterback: Matt Ryan

  • Matty Ice thawed out on Saturday, but a dedicated offseason to come back better and he could turn into the next Peyton Manning.

Other: The Falcons might be on their way to the Super Bowl if the Eagles had won last week or the Packers didn’t make the playoffs. The order of business for the offense is Tony Gonzalez and whether he is done. He was still effective, but the Falcons probably need another option at TE even if he returns. Another versatile TE can help their depth and give Ryan another option in the passing game. Notre Dame TE Kyle Rudolph would be a good fit here.

On the defense, John Abraham was playing for a contract and played well. They might want to think about using the “Franchise tag” and dare Abraham to prove that he can do it again. He’s going to be 33 and undersized DE’s don’t usually age well. He’s actually more suited to a situational pass rushing role now. Outside linebacker Mike Peterson is old as well and they need to look at replacing him. Whether Dunta Robinson had a down year or is just not that good, the Falcons should invest in another good corner as Brian Williams will be 32 at the start of the next season and as we saw on Saturday night, you can never have enough good cover corners. Assuming that the Falcons weren’t exposed, they should be able to make another run in the competitive NFC South. A 13 win season is unlikely, but even 11 wins might win the division next season and the Falcons should be there.

Bears beat Seahawks 35-24:

Why the Bears won?

  1. The Bears were overwhelmingly dominant, outgaining the Seahawks 437-276 overall and 176 to 34 on the ground. That dominance resulted in a 37 to 23 minute advantage in time of possession. Take out Golden Tate’s run and the Seahawks ran 11 times for 23 yards.
  2. Jay Cutler tried, but didn’t make a critical mistake. He played a very solid game, throwing for 2 TDs and running for 2. His completion percentage wasn’t great, but it didn’t need to be on Sunday.
  3. The Saints choked last week and the league’s playoff format gifted the Seahawks to frigid Soldier Field. One tweak to the playoff format would have re-seeded the worst team AFTER the Wildcard round to the #1 seed. It would have been interesting to see how the Bears would have done against the torrid Packers offense. Well, I guess we’ll see next Sunday. Can’t wait.

Why did the Seahawks lose?

  1. The Seahawks that Pete Carroll took over after last season had only 5 wins and a lethargy that was on display during a miserable 4 game losing streak to end last season. Nothing says “in the tank” more than losing 4 straight by the score 123-37. The Seahawks were undermanned and only made the playoffs because they were in the worst division in NFL history.
  2. The running game was bad and the run defense was worse. Mike Tice might be the best position coach in the NFL this season after completely remodeling that Bears offensive line during their bye week.
  3. Lawyer Milloy showed his age and the Seahawks didn’t have an answer for the balanced Bears attack. This game was over when Greg Olson slipped behind the secondary and scored the game’s first TD at 12:08 of the first quarter.

Offseason Preview

Seattle Seahawks

Head Coach: Pete Carroll

  • Considering the situation when he took over, Carroll did an admirable job of instilling a spirit in this undermanned team. Year two is when the great coaches get their teams to make their leap. We’ll see if Carroll’s USC experience has launched him into that level.

Quarterback: Matt Hasselbeck/Charlie Whitehurst

  • Hasselbeck is a pending free agent and Carroll traded a 3rd round pick for Whitehurst in the offseason. Based on Hasselbeck’s two playoff games and his career in Seattle, it wouldn’t be surprising to see him take less money to remain in Seattle. But if a more talented team, like Minnesota or Tennessee come calling, would he consider making another run at a Super Bowl? If he leaves for a contender, that might be the easiest and cleanest break for both sides in a relationship that has included the Seahawks only Super Bowl appearance and 5 straight playoff appearances in addition to this year. His 5 playoff wins is easily the best in club history.

Other: The Seahawks have a lot of work to do. They had a good draft last offseason and need another one. While they have some solid receivers, they don’t have a true #1. If they bring back Hasselbeck, they need more weapons to take advantage of his still potent arm and ability to read the defense. The offensive line could use a few upgrades as well. They can use anything to help an offense that ranked 28th overall and 31st running.

 Age is becoming a problem with Lawyer Milloy and Lofa Tatupu’s size is finally catching up with him as he’s been injured the past few seasons. Tatupu is a small player who plays an incredibly physical position. If they don’t change the scheme, they might look to trade him and get a bigger middle linebacker. Tatupu isn’t suited to playing the head-on, run stuffing role that he’s playing in Seattle. Even Urlacher in Chicago lets the lineman take on the blocks and slides to the ballcarriers. But that’s not the defense for the Seahawks. Overall, the Seahawks should be in a more competitive division next season and will need a winning record or even 10 wins to return to the playoffs. To do that, they need to upgrade their offense with skill players and decide if they want a transition season without Hasselbeck or make another run with him. Bringing him back means 5-9 wins, without him means 3-6 wins. Either way, they probably won’t make the playoffs and a complete tanking of next season might get them into position to select Luck.

Jets beat Patriots 28-21:

Why the Jets won?

  1. They put their best foot forward. Just kidding. They won because of the little things. They forced the only turnover of the game. They stopped the fake punt, or watched the Pats botch a fake punt. The Pats committed 6 penalties to 3 for the Jets. They converted on 4 of 5 possessions in the Red Zone compared to 2 of 4 for the Pats.
  2. Mark Sanchez played really well. The yards weren’t high, but he made the throws when he needed to and had 3 TD’s. He also didn’t commit a turnover, which is better than his counterpart.
  3. David Harris, Darrelle Revis, Shaun Ellis and the rest of the Jets defense were great. Harris made 12 tackles and picked off Brady’s first quarter throw. There’s no telling how the game would have gone if the Pats had taken an early 7-0 lead and then took it to 10-0. Revis was rarely tested and stepped up when he was. Ellis seemed to be in Brady’s face all day with 2 sacks and 2 knockdowns. For the first time in this series, he was more valuable than the man his draft choice was traded for: Bill Belichick. Five sacks overall for the Jets who knocked Brady down at least 7 times. Rex Ryan’s gameplan was brilliant. Brady had no clue what was coming on any play and was never comfortable in the pocket.

Why did the Patriots lose?

  1. They made the mistakes that they usually don’t make. In addition, Wes Welker and Deion Branch seemed to drop every important ball in the second half and don’t forget Crumpler’s drop in the endzone before the first quarter field goal. From the time they left the locker room and Welker was benched for the first series, nothing went smooth for the Pats on Sunday.
  2. Bill Belichick lost his Midas touch and made some coaching miscues. One wonders how the flow of the game would have been different had Welker played from the beginning. The fake punt was undoubtedly designed well, but executed horribly. The receivers couldn’t hold onto the ball and the usually resourceful defense didn’t force any turnovers. Also, the lack of a sense of urgency in the fourth quarter left viewers wondering what was wrong.
  3. The Jets beat the Patriots with a performance that reminds of the Patriots of the early 2000’s. They were outgained and seemingly outmanned going into the game. But the quarterback came through with clutch plays and the defense got stops when they needed them. There were some lucky plays, like the drops; fake punt and passes, and brain cramps by the opposition. You could have switched uniforms and gone back 7 years to watch this one.

Offseason Preview

New England Patriots

Head Coach: Bill Belichick

  • Not one concern. He’ll come back with a vengeance next season. He’s got an extra 3 weeks to prepare for the season now.

Quarterback: Tom Brady

  • Brady spent the Saturday night game between the Colts and Jets on Broadway with Gisele. Imagine if that were Tony Romo? Brady will be 34 and his window is getting narrower. He actually might go into next season tied with Roethlisberger for Super Bowls won by a QB. Expect to see that matchup on the opening Thursday if the Steelers are champs.

Other: Everybody is talking about the Pats needing a fast, big-play receiver. How soon does everybody forget that they won all three of their Super Bowls WITHOUT Moss and lost the one that he played in. Does that mean that they won’t pick one? With 3 of the top 33 picks in the draft, I expect them to fully vet all of the top receivers to see if there might be another Jerry Rice-type. Read: No high maintenance types. The biggest area that they need to address offensively is the running back position. Green-Ellis was serviceable, but despite the numbers, they had problems running when they needed to against the Jets. Their best running back during the Belichick era was Corey Dillon. Perhaps a veteran like Marion Barber would be a good fit to team with Green-Ellis next season. The Lawrence Maroney busted first rounder might make Belichick uneasy about using another high pick on a runner. Also on offense, Matt Light has been very good for a very long time. It might be time to look for an heir apparent for the soon-to-be 33 year old left tackle. Center Dan Koppen will be 32 and his replacement might be available as well. Also expect them to sign Logan Mankins to a big contract as he is still an elite guard.

Defensively, they have needed a dominant lineman to replace Richard Seymour when they traded hi m away before last season. Fittingly, they will most likely utilize the first rounder from Oakland to pick his replacement. Look for the Pats to use their largesse of picks to move into the top 10 or even top 5 to get the lineman they want. Da’Quan Bowers from Clemson, Nick Fairley of Auburn, and Marcell Dareus of Alabama are all possibilities for Belichick. Their young linebackers are fine, but don’t be surprised if they bring in a veteran pass rushing linebacker and somebody with experience to give them depth in the middle. Another cornerback might be picked to help out in the nickel. As for next season, will they win 14 again? Maybe. If they play 16 with a full training camp, the Patriots are as good a bet as any to be playing in Indianapolis next February. This young team now has a bitter playoff experience to drive them next year.

NFL Division Round Preview

Baltimore Ravens at Pittsburgh Steelers:

Notes on the regular season matchups:

1. The Ravens are 1-0 against Charlie Batch and 0-1 against Ben Roethlisberger. Guess who’s at QB on Saturday for the Steelers?

2. Haloti Ngata and Terrell Suggs combined for 4.5 sacks in the 2 matchups

3. Ravens ran 47 times for 113 yards. That’s an average of 2.4 yds per carry.

Keys:

1. The Ravens front seven have to stop the run and force the Steelers to pass. Although the Steelers passing game is not a weakness, keeping the Steelers from controlling the time of possession and giving Ed Reed an opportunity to make a big play or two is their best strategy. The Steelers, likewise, need to stop the run because their pass defense isn’t as good and when they don’t make teams one dimensional, they lose.

2. A big turnover caused by Troy Polamalu caused the forced fumble that led to the game winning TD in Baltimore in their last matchup and he also returned an interception for a TD in their last playoff matchup after the 2008 season. Turnovers are critical in all games, but if either team loses that battle, the assumption here is that they lose.

3. Ben Roethlisberger is 8-2 in the playoffs. In those two losses, Big Ben threw 3 interceptions and fumbled in each. He lost one of those fumbles. Anything close to 3 1/2 turnovers for Big Ben and the Ravens win by double digits.

Pick: Steelers in double overtime. Don’t expect to watch the beginning of the Packers-Falcons game without a second TV.

Green Bay Packers at Atlanta Falcons:

Notes on the regular season matchup: 20-17 Falcons

1. Aaron Rodgers fumbled at the goal line in the 2nd quarter and the Falcons drove the length of the field and scored a TD.

2. Besides that crucial fumble, there were no other turnovers during this well-played game. Michael Turner scored and ran for over 100 yards on almost 5 yards per carry for the Falcons. Matt Ryan was almost perfect as he completed short pass after short pass for 197 yards and completed over 80% of his passes. Aaron Rodgers played as well as anybody could expect, except for that critical fumble that turned out to be the difference in the game. An example of how effective each quarterback was, each completed passes to NINE different receivers.

3. The Packers outgained the Falcons by 120 yards in total offense. Why did they lose? That fumble at the goal line, 8 penalties for 66 yds vs. 4/50 and Eric Weems outgained his Packers counterpart in return yardage by 10 yds per kickoff. Turnovers, penalties, and special teams. Those three areas are what separates otherwise even teams.

Keys:

1. Rodgers led the Packers anemic run game with 51 yards. Packers RB’s ran 11 times for 27 yards. Last week in Philly, rookie RB James Starks ran 23 times for 123 yards. That kind of production can tilt the balance in the road team’s favor.

2. The Packers didn’t lose a game by more than 4 points and never trailed by more than 7 points all season. Putting the Packers in a position to have to come back would force the Packers to do something they haven’t done this season.

3. Penalties: Green Bay was the least penalized team in yardage (37.2/gm) and Atlanta was the least by number (3.6/gm). Both teams were well above their averages in their regular season matchup. Look for a critical penalty or turnover to turn this game. Otherwise, we could be headed to overtime and a game ending around midnight in the East.

Pick: Falcons are getting no respect from most. I’ll give it to them. Falcons 27-23

 

Seattle Seahawks at Chicago Bears:

Notes on the regular season matchup: 23-20 Seahawks

1. Matt Forte ran 8 times for 11 yards . Forte and the Bears running game struggled early in the season, but Forte averaged 83 1/2 yards per game in the final 8 games. That’s a 1336 pace for a full season.

2. The Bears were 0-12 on third downs. O-fer twelve! Don’t expect that again. The Bears were only 27th in 3rd downs conversions, but the shutout is extremely unusual.

3. Devin Hester had an 89 yard punt return for a touchdown. The Seahawks had 5 penalties for 83 yds vs. 2/18 for the Bears. The turnovers were even.

Keys:

1. The Bears have to win the ground battle. They won 7 of 9 after the bye week because they rearranged their offensive line to protect Cutler and ignite the running game. The sacks went down and the rushing yards went up and the Bears won. This formula will continue to be a key for the Bears.

2. The Bears are second in the NFL against the run, allowing 90 yards on 3.7 per carry. The Seahawks allowed nearly 120 yards per game and gave up 4.2 per carry. Matt Forte and Chester Taylor must run for at least 130 yards for the Bears to win. Typically cold and windy conditions in Soldier Field will make the running game a priority for both teams.

3. The Bears were +4 and the Seahawks -9 in turnover margin this season. Last week the Seahawks were even in their win. They were plus 8 in their 7 regular season wins, and -17 in their 9 losses. It’s no wonder the Seahawks didn’t lose any games by less than 15. The Bears had unusual numbers in that they were even in three of five losses, but minus 7 in the two others. That makes them plus 11 in their wins. Playoff football is about time of possession, turnovers, and special teams. Whoever wins these three categories will win.

Pick: Bears by less than a touchdown. Julius Peppers will make a turning point play.

New York Jets at New England Patriots:

Notes on the regular season matchups:

1. The home team was +3 in the turnover battle in both games. The home team also had an advantage in penalty yards. The first game: NE 6/79, NY 6/58 second game: NY 4/56, NE 1/10.

2. The Jets outrushed the Pats in both games. Game 1: NY 32/136, NE 20/54 Game 2: NY 31/152, NE 26/101. The Pats improved both in total rushing yards and average in the second game. Passing yards in both games: Game 1: NE 239-NY 200. Game 2: NE 304-NY 149. The Pats are clearly a pass-first team and they double the Jets in the second game in the air. But their running game doubled from the first game and gaining over 100 yards provided a balance that wasn’t evident in the first game.  

3. Tom Brady was 21/29 in their win. He was 20/36 in their loss. That accuracy in game 2 was a factor in the Patriots time of possession advantage despite getting outgained on the ground by 50. Completions keep the clock rolling just like a running play. The team with the TOP advantage won both games.

Keys:

1. Its pretty obvious: Penalties, time of possession, turnovers, and special teams always play a major role before anything. Special teams were neutral during the regular season, but the team that won the 3 other categories won both games.

2. Rex Ryan calls this the most important Jets game since Super Bowl III. Are you kidding? Last year’s AFC championship game wasn’t more important? How about the 1998 AFC championship? 1982 AFC championship? Come on Rex. The talk this week appears to have turned to desperation for the Jets and typically the dogs with the loudest bark don’t have the nastiest bite. Ryan’s made a great defensive adjustment last week in Indy by calling off the blitz most of the night. That might have worked this week as well, but last week’s scheme is now on tape and the Pats have surely dissected it. What does the defensive guru, Rex Ryan, have in store for Brady and the Pats? If he comes up with something original, the Jets have a chance. Barring that, Brady is seeing everything and rarely makes mistakes when he isn’t fooled.

3. There’s doubt in the Jets’ minds. You can see it with the talk. The numbers are self evident from their regular season matchups and that will tell the difference in the game when we look back at it. But the Jets have to start quickly and stay within one score because the Jets are wannabe bullies and bullies don’t usually respond well to adversity and falling behind. That’s what happened in their last meeting.

Pick: Patriots in a thriller. This one should be close and will be won on a Brady drive for a FG or TD, whatever they need to win. Look for some early penalties on both sides to tone down the talk as well.

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.

NFL Week 15 Thursday’s game preview

December 16, 2010 1 comment

Thursday Night NFL Football:

49ers at Chargers: The two preseason favorites out west try to keep their seasons alive tonight in San Diego. The 7-6 Chargers face a must-win in their pursuit of the Chiefs, especially since they have 3 division losses already. A loss tonight would effectively eliminate them from playoff contention. The 5-8 49ers are actually in a better spot than the Chargers, despite being two games worse. The 49ers are one game behind the Seahawks and Rams, but control their own destiny if they win out. They also will still be alive with a loss tonight. If the 49ers lose tonight, but win their final 3 games, they would most likely finish in front of the NFC West. Both teams are dealing with injuries as Antonio Gates and Larry English are both out and Malcom Floyd is questionble, though Coach Norv Turner is “hopeful” that he plays. The Niners have both Takeo Spikes and Patrick Willis wearing casts on their hands, though they are expected to play. Alex Smith starts again after playing well last week, but this week they play the best defense in the league, yards against. The Chargers also have only 1 December loss in the last 4 seasons, only losing to the Raiders two weeks ago for their only loss since 2006. One thing to look for in this one is how the Chargers play in the first half. In their 7 wins, they have led 6 times after the first quarter and were tied in the other game. In their 6 losses, they trailed at halftime 5 times, each time by double digits. With that in mind, expect the Chargers to come out early and take a two score lead into the second quarter while turning the 49ers into a one dimensional team offensively. This game could be over by halftime or early in the 3rd quarter. Chargers should win by at least 2 touchdowns.

Weekly Notes:

Jets suspend low level coach; NFL does nothing about Jets’ sideline shenanigans

So the Jets suspend indefinitely and fine $25,000 strength and conditioning coach Sal Alosi for cheating on Sunday against the Jets. Yes, Alosi served himself up as a perfect target for the Jets and the NFL, but does any reasonable person believe that a low level coach, not involved in game strategy, concocted this plan on his own? Or would it make more sense if it came out later that Alosi was ordered by either special teams coach Mike Westhoff or head coach Rex Ryan to set up that “wall”.

Westhoff, in fact, has come out and, violating league rules for filing grievances, accused the, wait, Patriots of doing the same thing. I know it’s shocking that the Jets would point to Patriots bad behavior to justify their bad behavior, but it happened.  If the wall is legal, and it seems like it is, then why would the Jets be so much on the defensive? If Alosi was renegade coach who did something more egregious than Belichick ever did with a video, why didn’t the Jets fire him? Smells like a Gang Greene cover-up to me.

The NFL should have come down hard on the Jets for this. Bottom line here is that a coach physically interfered with an opposition player in the middle of a play. That’s outrageous and for the NFL to sweep this under the rug when that player was helped off the field because he was injured, is ridiculous and shows the NFL’s true bias towards both New York teams. The NFL should have fined the Jets $1 million and head coach $250,000 for allowing anybody on the coaching staff to physically get involved with a live play.

With the NFL not willing to punish the Jets, it’s strange that they are still trying to cover this up. Remember, it’s usually the cover up that worse than the actual crime.