November 27, 2013
The 2013 NFL season is nearing a close but there are plenty of questions yet to be answered. This year more than ever it seems that every game is a coin flip. Right now there are literally 26 teams still in playoff contention. This is great—every game from here on out will be a nail-biter. Here’s a list of the most crucial games during the final quarter of the season. Remember, each week will contain three categories; the heavyweight bout, the divisional battle and the hidden gem.
The Heavyweight Bout: New Orleans Saints vs. Seattle Seahawks
Games don’t get bigger than this one. A potential NFC Championship Game in the making, both teams have a statement to make. Nothing like ending a holiday weekend with a cherry on top, Monday Night Football is not to be missed—Drew Brees and Russell Wilson will have their teams primed for a battle. Find time for this one.
The Divisional Battle: Green Bay Packers vs. Detroit Lions
NFL fans can thank the Detroit Lions for this Thanksgiving tradition. The Lions provided football on Thursday before football was on Thursday. Hooray! Hey, there’s nothing like spending family time together watching the Lions and Green Bay Packers pummel one another. Here’s some added fuel to the fire—first place in the division is on the line. The Lions currently hold the top spot but the Packers want it badly. Another added bonus, we get to watch Calvin Johnson—who doesn’t like to watch greatness?
The Hidden Gem: Arizona Cardinals vs. Philadelphia Eagles
These teams are both surprises this year and playing their best ball of the season right now. Arizona Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer just may be the hottest in the league. He’s thrown for 733 yards, four touchdowns and zero interceptions the last two games. The Cardinals have also won four straight games.
The Philadelphia Eagles, led by the NFL’s leading rusher through Week 12 LeSean McCoy are also sizzling. Winners of three straight and coming off their bye week, there’s no time to lose momentum now.
Neither team will give an inch. Expect plenty of offense. Give this one a go.
The Heavyweight Bout: Seattle Seahawks vs. San Francisco 49ers
Few words need to describe this matchup between bitter divisional rivals. Remember when the Seattle Seahawks dismantled the San Francisco 49ers at home in Week 2, 29-3?
The Niners do too, expect them to exact revenge.
The Divisional Battle: Carolina Panthers vs. New Orleans Saints
Winners of seven straight, the Carolina Panthers are the hottest team in the league right now. The NFL is far from easy and the Panthers will travel to the Big Easy in Week 14. This is to prove that they’re the best team in their division.
The New Orleans Saints don’t plan on relinquishing their A1 status anytime soon.
Cam Newton is living up to the hype—his counterpart Drew Brees is the standard. Jaw-dropping action will occur.
The Hidden Gem: Indianapolis Colts vs. Cincinnati Bengals
One week they look like outright champs, the next it looks like they don’t belong.
Quarterbacks Andrew Luck and Andy Dalton have to find a way. The winner of this one will gain the confidence it takes to go all the way. They’ll also do some convincing.
This is a true make-or-break game for both sides.
The Heavyweight Bout: Green Bay Packers vs. Dallas Cowboys
Two iconic franchises, two franchise quarterbacks, playoffs lives on the line—this game has all the elements to be a classic.
Aaron Rodgers will have returned from injury and Tony Romo will be psyched to make a run for the coveted Lombardi trophy. These two guys may just combine for 800 passing yards.
Fun, fun, fun—please pay attention to this one.
The Divisional Battle: San Diego Chargers vs. Denver Broncos
Philip Rivers and Peyton Manning on Thursday Night Football is a great start to Week 15. The San Diego Chargers and Denver Broncos have something to fight for as the Chargers are only 5-6 heading into Thanksgiving, but have a real punchers chance. Rivers has never performed so well and the Chargers are electric on offense.
Manning and the Broncos need little introduction, they’re the real deal.
The Hidden Gem: New York Jets vs. Carolina Panthers
Believe it or not, the New York Jets are currently in the playoff hunt. Yes, even at 4-7 they have a shot. Rookie quarterback Geno Smith has had his ups and downs, but the future is promising for him and the Jets.
The weak spot the Jets have this season is playing on the road. If they’re to make the postseason, they’ll have to head into Carolina and win. The Panthers defense, led by Luke Kuechley is one of the best in the league; don’t think they’ll let a rookie show them up.
Considering what’s at stake, this will be a good one.
The Heavyweight Bout: Chicago Bears vs. Philadelphia Eagles
The Chicago Bears are currently in a dogfight for the NFC North with the Detroit Lions and Green Bay Packers. The Eagles are in the same situation in the NFC East with the Dallas Cowboys and New York Giants.
Both teams are currently 6-5 and not in the playoffs. Considering their divisions will be on the line, neither team can afford to lose. This game has smash-mouth football written all over it. Last team with the ball wins.
The Divisional Battle: New Orleans Saints vs. Carolina Panthers
See Week 14—the loser of that game will want redemption. The winner will want to claim NFC South supremacy.
Scary thing is they may meet again in the playoffs. Awesome.
The Hidden Gem: New England Patriots vs. Baltimore Ravens
Hey, the champs haven’t thrown in the towel quite yet. The Baltimore Ravens still have a pulse and are picking up steam down the stretch. Don’t cross-off Joe Flacco and Ray Rice because after all, they’re stars.
If they are to truly be playoff contenders, they’ll have to beat Tom Brady and the New England Patriots. For them, it’s business as usual. They have yet to be their best and are still 8-3. That fact is downright frightening.
The Ravens must let it be known that they will defend what is rightfully theirs. A win in Week 16 will do just that.
If you think Week 17 was forgotten, think again. Sit tight, for it’ll have its own article. 16 divisional games—Wow!
Then, we’ll talk about playoffs.
November 26, 2013
In just a couple days the nation will be eating turkey and giving thanks for all the Black Friday sales. So if you are planning to spend hours in line waiting for the chance to trample other shoppers and need something to pass the time, try predicting what will happen in the last five weeks of the NFL season. I did. And trust me, I’m in the mood to trample. But I learned a few things along the way, too.
Here’s how my playoff field turned out in the AFC:
1. New England: 13-3
2. Denver: 13-3
3. Cincinnati: 12-4
4. Indianapolis: 9-7
5. Kansas City: 13-3
6. Miami: 9-7
The Broncos may have just cost themselves home field advantage in the AFC by blowing that 24-0 lead in New England. And if they don’t bounce back with a win in Kansas City on Sunday, they’ll be looking at a wild card spot.
Suddenly, Sunday’s game between the Titans and Colts is huge. The Colts are reeling after another blowout loss and still have to play the Bengals and Chiefs. A Tennessee win on Sunday would put the Titans just a game back with the Cardinals, Jaguars and Texans as their last three opponents.
Here’s how my playoff field turned out in the NFC:
1. New Orleans: 14-2
2. Seattle: 13-3
3. Dallas: 10-6
4. Green Bay: 9-6-1
5. Carolina: 11-5
6. San Francisco: 11-5
The NFC East will come down to the final game of the season when the Eagles head to Dallas to battle the Cowboys. Especially if the Eagles can beat Arizona this week.
The NFC North will come down to the health of Jay Cutler and Aaron Rodgers. The quarterback that returns and regains his form first will lead his team to the division title. And Detroit is going to regret blowing the game against Tampa Bay last week.
Several teams are playing for their season in week 13:
Detroit Lions: After losing at home to Tampa Bay the Lions face a must-win situation on Thanksgiving against a probably Aaron Rodgers-less division rival from Green Bay.
San Diego: With the Giants, Broncos and Chiefs still to play, San Diego cannot take a seventh loss against Cincinnati on Sunday.
Arizona: The Cardinals must beat the Eagles this week if their week 17 game against the 49ers is to mean anything in the wild card race.
November 14, 2013
We’ve past the halfway point of the NFL season and now have a pretty good idea of who is good and who isn’t. But the playoff race is still wide open. Unless you are the Atlanta Falcons, Buffalo Bills, Houston Texans, Jacksonville Jaguars, Minnesota Vikings, Oakland Raiders, Pittsburgh Steelers, St. Louis Rams or Tampa Bay Buccaneers. For everyone else, their season could be defined by the outcome of one game. Here’s my take on the games that each team must win to secure its playoff destiny.
Baltimore Ravens - The defending Super Bowl champ Ravens are on the ropes. And when you are on the ropes, you cannot afford to lose to a team playing without its starting quarterback. Even if the game is in Chicago.
Cincinnati Bengals – Nobody wants to head into the bye with three straight losses. A loss to Cleveland would take the Bengals out of the hunt for a playoff bye and leave them in a dogfight to win the division that was theirs just a couple weeks ago.
Denver Broncos – They can take control of the AFC with a win over the undefeated Chiefs. A loss and the Broncos could be looking at the No. 5 seed in the AFC. There is a huge difference between No. 1 and No. 5.
Philadelphia Eagles – New coach Chip Kelly has his team tied for the lead in the NFC East despite starting the season with four straight losses at home. A win in Philly over the Redskins would put the Eagles in first place and eliminate a division rival from contention.
Washington Redskins – A win would really tighten up the NFC East race. A loss would put the Redskins at 3-7 and needing six straight wins plus help. Better win in Philly.
Cleveland Browns – The Browns have two games left against the Steelers. If the Browns don’t win this one, the week 17 rematch won’t have any playoff implications.
Green Bay Packers – The Packers need to pick up at least one more win before Aaron Rodgers returns for the final month. Playing at home against a bad Vikings team looks like the one they cannot afford to lose.
New England Patriots – The Patriots will be in the playoffs but if they are going to have a chance at home-field advantage, this is a must win game on Sunday night against the Broncos.
San Diego Chargers – The Chargers have two games coming up against the Chiefs and for the one in week 17 to matter, they need to win this one.
Chicago Bears – If Jay Cutler can’t stay on the field, the Bears are in trouble. Either way, they’ll need this game against the Vikings to improve their conference and division record because if they are going to get in the playoffs, I expect tiebreakers to be involved.
Detroit Lions – The Lions are in first place in the NFC North and have a sweep over the Bears. They could win the division and make a run at a first-round bye. But for that to happen, they’ll need to give their fans something to be thankful for with a win over Green Bay on Thanksgiving Day.
Kansas City Chiefs – Despite the 9-0 record, the Chiefs haven’t shown they belong with the big boys by beating any of the other top teams in the league. They’ll have to beat Denver at least once to win the AFC West and home-field advantage in the AFC and this will be their best shot.
Seattle Seahawks – The Seahawks should have no trouble making the playoffs. But they could just about lockup home-field advantage in the NFC with a Monday night win over the Saints.
Indianapolis Colts – Nobody has better wins than the Colts. Another big one against the Bengals would give the Colts the edge for the No. 3 seed and keep them alive for the No. 2 seed in the AFC.
San Francisco 49ers – The 49ers shouldn’t have trouble picking up a few more wins to reach the playoffs. But if they are going to have a shot at winning the division or make a Super Bowl run, they’ve got to redeem themselves against Seattle after getting creamed earlier this season.
Arizona Cardinals – The Cardinals will need at least nine wins to get a wild card spot. They could get number nine in Tennessee and with Seattle and San Fransisco coming up, it could be their last win as well.
Carolina Panthers – They have two games to play against the Saints. Losing both would really hurt and I like Carolina’s chances to win at home much better.
Dallas Cowboys – The NFC East looks like it will come down to the final game of the season as usual. Luckily for the Cowboys, they’ll be at home to face the Eagles.
New York Jets – The AFC wild card race looks like its headed for a wild finish with at least six teams still in play. A week 17 win is a must for the Jets to grab the final spot.
November 1, 2013
The 2013 NFL season is now halfway in the books and there’s plenty of action left. With the cream slowly rising to the top there are currently 20 teams within one game of playoff contention. The next four weeks are the most critical to the season. Teams will either make themselves or start drawing up draft strategies. Here’s a list of the most crucial games during the third quarter of the season. Remember, each week will contain three categories; the heavyweight bout, the divisional battle and the hidden gem.
The Heavyweight Bout: Indianapolis Colts vs. Houston Texans
If one were to compare preseason notes compared to Week 9, this matchup would be upside down. The Houston Texans, not the Indianapolis Colts were supposed to be Super Bowl contenders, but it’s not so. The Texans are 2-5 while the Colts are 5-2.
Both teams are coming off their bye week and if you think the Texans will go down quietly, think again. Andrew Luck and Co. will have their hands full with this one. If the Colts win it will be the end of the Texans season. If Houston pulls it out they’ll suddenly have life. Both teams have to make a statement.
The Divisional Battle: Atlanta Falcons vs. Carolina Panthers
Like the aforementioned Texans, the Atlanta Falcons were Super Bowl bound before the games were played. Now, they’re and afterthought. The Falcons have been decimated by injury and are playing for pride at the moment.
The surprise team of the NFC South is none other than the Carolina Panthers. Quarterback Cam Newton looks like he’s leading his team in the right direction. This is a huge game for the Panthers—a win and they’ll make believers out of all of us. A loss and it’s simply back to mediocrity.
The Hidden Gem: San Diego Chargers vs. Washington Redskins
The Washington Redskins looked like they were going to steal one in Denver last week before the Broncos unleashed a massive comeback. Now at home against the San Diego Chargers in Week 9, it’s a must-win for the Redskins if they’re to keep hope alive. For those of you that are worried, RG3 will be just fine—head coach Mike Shanahan did the right thing and pulled him last week for precautionary reasons.
The Chargers are a definite surprise this season and quarterback Philip Rivers is having a monster year. At 4-3, the Chargers would be considered real contenders with a win. This one smells like a shootout.
The Heavyweight Bout: Dallas Cowboys vs. New Orleans Saints
This game isn’t for the defensive-minded person. Both teams are more than fun to watch and while the New Orleans Saints seem like they’re in cruise control the Dallas Cowboys will have to steal one on the road.
Peddle to the metal, this one will fuel the fire and reinsure all fans of why they love the game.
The Divisional Battle: Cincinnati Bengals vs. Baltimore Ravens
The Baltimore Ravens will look to remind everyone that they’re the defending champs the second half of the season. The Cincinnati Bengals on the other hand look like they’re making a run for the ring this season. This game will be a knock-down drag-out battle that will leave one team on top of the world and the other one in the dust. A huge confidence booster this one will be.
The Hidden Gem: Detroit Lions vs. Chicago Bears
This matchup between the Lions and Bears will be the breaking point for the losing squad. The Lions upset the Bears in Detroit early in the season and Chicago looks to return the favor. To the victor go the spoils, or at least in this situation, the hope of a solid playoff run.
The Heavyweight Bout: Kansas City Chiefs vs. Denver Broncos
Who predicted that the Kansas City Chiefs would start the season 8-0? The answer is unequivocally no one. Heading into Mile High in Week 11 they may still be undefeated. The Broncos currently have one loss, but strike fear in every opponent. No man rests easy when they have to face Peyton Manning.
The same can be said about the Chiefs defense.
Right now, the AFC West goes through Kansas City. Game on.
The Divisional Battle: Washington Redskins vs. Philadelphia Eagles
Both teams records may not be pretty at the moment but ask one squad about what they think of the other and the answer will be unkind.
This one may be ugly, but that’s why we’ll watch.
The Hidden Gem: San Francisco 49ers vs. New Orleans Saints
A definite playoff preview, pay attention because there could be a rematch come January. The San Francisco 49ers have found balance with Colin Kaepernick and Frank Gore–the New Orleans Saints still move at breakneck speeds thanks to Drew Brees.
Who will budge? Who will win?
Craziest prediction ever—this one ends in a 31-31 tie.
The Heavyweight Bout: Denver Broncos vs. New England Patriots
Two future Hall of Fame quarterbacks is about all one needs to describe a heavyweight bout.
Manning vs. Brady, grab the popcorn and smile.
The Divisional Battle: Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Cleveland Browns
This is a game where diehard football enthusiasts hope for sloppy conditions and wild plays. These cities are separated by only two hours yet they’re far from neighborly when it comes to football.
Always entertaining, this one should be a true battle.
The Hidden Gem: Dallas Cowboys vs. New York Giants
This one is a hidden gem due to the fact that the New York Giants lack a winning record, but that doesn’t mean they’re out of the NFC East race.
The Dallas Cowboys are currently in the lead at 4-4 but as we have all seen before the division could come down to a Week 17 rivalry to declare an 8-8 divisional winner.
Eli Manning has a reputation to repair/uphold while Tony Romo has a legendary status to create.
Every game is important and these teams will take it to heart. Expect nothing but the best from both sides.
October 18, 2013
When the Denver Broncos take the field against the Colts on Sunday it will be the game of the decade. TV ratings will prove this thought. Not only is Manning coming back to Indy for the first time since being left out in the pasture, both teams are pretty good. The 6-0 Broncos, led by Manning seem to be Super Bowl bound. Meanwhile, the Luck-led Colts are 4-2 and look to contend for a playoff position for the second time in as many years.
Both Manning and Luck are calmly downplaying the situation, as Manning will be honored before the game for his time spent in Indianapolis. All he did was resurrect the once futile franchise. After 14 years, a Super Bowl victory and 54,828 passing yards in Indy, he was released in 2012 after having multiple neck surgeries. Keep in mind that he missed the entire 2011 season and his career was in jeopardy. The franchise let him go after tanking that season in order to obtain the No. 1 draft selection and the most hyped college quarterback since Manning himself.
Luck was it and was taken by Indianapolis at the top spot. Colts fans may still hold a grudge against the team for doing so, but replacing Manning with Luck is something 31 other NFL organizations would love to do.
The comparisons between the two quarterbacks are remarkable:
Both had NFL dad’s that played the position themselves—Archie Manning spent many years with the New Orleans Saints, Oliver Luck with the Houston Oilers. Both Peyton and Andrew have been surrounded by football their entire live.
Here’s one that probably irks both competitive souls to this day—both Manning and Luck were heavy Heisman favorites heading into their senior seasons but finished a close second. Manning, a Tennessee Volunteer lost to Charles Woodson of Michigan in 1997. Luck, a Stanford Cardinal lost to Robert Griffin III of Baylor in 2011.
The obvious one—both went No. 1 to the Colts in their respected NFL drafts.
They may be the two most intelligent quarterbacks to ever call a game. What Manning does at the line of scrimmage is a thing of beauty and don’t think that Luck doesn’t learn from the best.
Right now, Manning looks like he’ll end up as the greatest to ever play the game, while Luck is only a decade or so behind him. It may be hard to compare numbers now, but Luck did finish his rookie campaign with the most passing yards in history with 4,374. Keep in mind that he did this while only throwing 54.1 percent. He also threw the ball an average of 39.1 times per game in 2012. Through six games in 2013, Luck has only averaged 31 attempts per. His completion percentage is at 61.8 and his game is only growing. While his numbers may not mirror his rookie year, the fact that his percentage is swelling is a great sign for the future. In a game of numbers, efficiency will always win.
Manning jumped from 56.7 to 62.1 in completion percentage in his second season and currently sits at 65.5 for his career. Expect Luck to reach the 65 percent mark before he calls it quits.
Sunday’s matchup is the Game of the Year thus far. Actually, it’s the game of the decade. Manning may be downplaying his return, but deep down all fans know that he wants to set career highs in all categories.
Don’t write-off Luck and the Colts quite yet. Nobody thought they would beat the Seattle Seahawks in Week 5 at home, but they did. If Luck leads his team to victory the football world may be turned upside down while the hype machine surrounding Luck will be turned up to 11.
Regardless of which team wins, expect both men to shine. Come Sunday, take the time and witness something special. Only when they meet again in the playoffs will we see something so pure.