December 28, 2013

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Bold Week 17 NFL Picks

By: Matt Bowen

The NFL never disappoints—all the league did this year was provide fans with playoff football two weeks early. Heading into Week 17, only the Kansas City Chiefs know they’re playoff position right now—they’ll be the No. 5 seed in the AFC. Everything else, including two divisions is up for grabs.

What more could we ask for? Every single game is a divisional battle this weekend. On a side note the NFL schedule makers deserve thumbs up for Week 17 packing such a punch. Think teams will “rest” players this week for the playoffs—think again. Too much is at stake, there’s a substantial amount seeding to be settled.

Main NFC Takeaways: The NFC East and North are for the taking. Every playoff position is subject to change.

Main AFC Takeaways: The No. 6 seed is up for grabs. The Miami Dolphins currently hold the position but the Baltimore Ravens, San Diego Chargers and Pittsburgh Steelers all hope the ‘Phins lose. Every seeding is subject to change besides the aforementioned No. 5 spot.

With those tidbits of information, here are some bold predictions for Week 17.

The San Diego Chargers Make the Playoffs: In order to do so the Chargers need the Dolphins and Ravens to lose. The Ravens laid an egg in Week 16 against the New England Patriots and won’t recover in Week 17 on the road against the Cincinnati Bengals. The Bengals are 7-0 at home this season and will remain perfect.

Bengals 31, Ravens 17

The Dolphins are currently in the driver’s seat for the spot but will fumble on the goal line at home against the New York Jets. The Jets are as hot-and-cold as they come and have only won once on the road this season. Don’t count them out though. Head coach Rex Ryan fears he’s on his way out which will inspire one helluva “win one for the gipper speech.”

This one won’t be pretty and the Dolphins will be scratching their heads after this game. The Jets will end the season at 8-8 and look respectable.

Jets 13, Dolphins 10

The Chargers will steal the moment and take care of business at home vs. the Chiefs. With both the Ravens and Dolphins playing at 1 p.m. the Chargers will know that the spot is theirs for the taking and feel inspired.

No one expected the Chargers to be much of anything this season but they’ve played well enough to contend for the playoffs.  Quarterback Philip Rivers has had one of the best seasons of his career and he’ll come up big in Week 17.

Rivers will throw for four touchdowns and 405 passing yards against the Chiefs. With it all on the line, he plays like a franchise quarterback.

Chargers 38, Chiefs 27

Can the Chargers sneak their way into the Playoffs?

Beside the Final Spot, the AFC is settled:

  1. Denver Broncos
  2. New England Patriots
  3. Cincinnati Bengals
  4. Indianapolis Colts
  5. Kansas City Chiefs
  6. Miami Dolphins

The New Orleans Saints, not the Carolina Panthers win the NFC South

All the Panthers have to do is win and the NFC South is theirs.

Don’t tell the Atlanta Falcons that—they’ve had a dismal season but will end it by spoiling the Panthers dreams.

It would have been easy to say the New Orleans Saints would squander their playoffs hopes away but they’re too good at home to lose against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

The Falcons will give it everything they have and it will be just good enough. Matt Ryan and the boys will win; making the Saints the NFC South champs which gives them a bye week. Just when everyone thought the Saints were dead in the playoff water because they play so poorly on the road, they’ll capture a home game or two.

Falcons 20, Panthers 17

Aaron Rodgers Will Lift the Green Bay Packers to the Postseason

The NFC North is for the taking and the Green Bay Packers will seize the day, becoming the most unlikely playoff team. The Packers appeared to be preparing next season due to an injury to quarterback Aaron Rodgers, but somehow they have a puncher’s chance.

Rodgers will return after a seven-week hiatus and he’ll be all that they need to beat the Chicago Bears in Week 17.

Some franchises in sports just have “it.” The Packers have just that. It is impossible to explain, there’s a mystique engulfing “it” that makes “it”: so special.

The Bears are a good team that seems to be the favorite in this one, but they simply don’t have it. Rodgers comes back with a fury and puts his team in the playoffs. He’ll finish with 323 yards and three touchdowns.

Packers 35, Bears 31

Let’s Be Real Here, the Philadelphia Eagles Fly High in Dallas

Well, the NFC East certainly didn’t disappoint this year. Their annual winner-take-all play-in game is still intact.

Considering the pick isn’t so bold, the final score will be. Yes, the Cowboys will be without Tony Romo and their defense is full of holes. The Eagles have won 6-of-7 and look primed for the playoffs. The Chip Kelly experiment looked a little rough at time this season but it’s here to stay.

This score will look like he’s still coaching at Oregon and strike fear into their playoff opponent.

Fly Eagles Fly!

Eagles 63, Cowboys 17

Final NFC Standings:

  1. Seattle Seahawks
  2. New Orleans Saints
  3. Philadelphia Eagles
  4. Green Bay Packers
  5. Carolina Panthers
  6. San Francisco 49ers

December 27, 2013

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Week 17 in the NFL

By: Joe Williams

With 16 weeks down and just one to go in the NFL season, there are still four playoff spots up for grabs, four division titles to be decided and three teams will secure a bye in the first round. With dozens of possible scenarios waiting to play out, nobody knows what will happen. But here’s what you need to know for week 17.

Just three of the 16 games have no playoff implications. Here’s hoping you don’t get stuck watching Houston at Tennessee, Detroit at Minnesota or Washington at N.Y. Giants.

Carolina at Atlanta
The Panthers win the NFC South with a win. They could be the 1, 2, 5 or 6 seed.

Cam Newton

Cam Newton has the led the Panthers to the playoffs in 2013. Can they capture the #1 seed in the NFC in Week 17?

Baltimore at Cincinnati
The Bengals have already won the AFC North and will be playing for a chance at the 2 seed and a bye. They could finish as the 2, 3 or 4 seed. Baltimore needs a win and some help to get the final wild card spot.

N.Y. Jets at Miami
The Dolphins need a win and some help to get the AFC’s final wild card spot.

Jacksonville at Indianapolis
The Colts have already locked up the AFC South and are headed to the playoffs. However, a win and a Bengals loss would make the Colts the 3 seed instead of the 4.

Cleveland at Pittsburgh
The Steelers need a win and some help to get the AFC’s final wild card spot.

Green Bay at Chicago
The winner takes the NFC North title and will be the 3 or 4 seed.

Denver at Oakland
The Broncos will clinch home-field advantage in the AFC with a win.

Buffalo at New England
The Patriots will get a first round bye with a win. They could be the 1, 2, 3 or 4 seed in the AFC.

Tampa Bay at New Orleans
The Saints could get a first round bye with a win. They will be the 2, 5 or 6 seed in the NFC.

San Francisco at Arizona
The 49ers are already in the playoffs but need a win for a chance at the NFC West title and home-field advantage in the NFC. The Cardinals can get the final wild card spot in the NFC with a win and some help.

Kansas City at San Diego
The Chiefs are locked in as the 5 seed in the AFC. The Chargers can sneak into the final AFC wild card spot with a win if Baltimore and Miami lose earlier in the day.

St. Louis at Seattle
The Seahawks need one more win to clinch home-field advantage in the NFC.

Philadelphia at Dallas
The winner takes the NFC East and will be the 3 or 4 seed.

My prediction:

AFC
Denver 13-3
New England 12-4
Indianapolis 11-5
Cincinnati 10-6
Kansas City 11-5
Miami 9-7

NFC
Seattle 13-3
Carolina 12-4
Philadelphia 10-6
Chicago 9-7
New Orleans 11-5
San Fransisco 11-5

September 5, 2013

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One Thing Every AFC Fanbase Wants to See in 2013

By: Matt Bowen

Football is in the air. With the 2013 NFL season just days away, every NFL fanbase has their collective fingers crossed for certain things to happen this season. While reality doesn’t forecast a Super Bowl victory for all 32 teams, improvements/expectations/excitement surrounds the league.  With that being said, here is one thing every AFC fan wants to see from their favorite team in 2013.

Baltimore Ravens:

Speaking of Super Bowl, the defending champion Baltimore Ravens will defend what is rightfully there’s this season. What fans are wondering most is how the team will do in the post-Ray Lewis/Ed Reed Era? Quarterback Joe Flacco proved to be elite, but can he rally the troops and return to the playoffs in 2013?

Can Flacco lead the Ravens back to the playoffs after losing Ray Lewis and Ed Reed?

Buffalo Bills:

One thing is on the mind of every Buffalo Bills fan right now; who exactly will the quarterback be in 2013? Is rookie E.J. Manuel the main man? Will he be healthy by Week 1? The Bills are exciting on paper with the likes of C.J. Spiller but have to put positive results in the box score.

Cincinnati Bengals:

Is quarterback Andy Dalton ready to take the next step? Certainly back-to-back playoff appearances would indicate yes, but Dalton has looked premeditated at times. The Bengals are a scary team when Dalton is on and this is the best roster the franchise has ever assembled. That being said, without confidence from Dalton, they will be dust.

Cleveland Browns:

Just how good can the offense be? The defense is stout, but the offense has to have fans on the edge of their seats and losing sleep at the same time. Quarterback Brandon Weeden looks improved from his rookie campaign and they have a chance to surprise. A balanced attack on offense and the Browns will be the most underestimated team in the NFL.

Denver Broncos:

Will missing Von Miller for the first six games put a detour in the Broncos plans? Adding Wes Welker in the offseason pretty much made them a preseason Super Bowl team, but losing Miller, one of the best linebackers in the league has to hurt. Are they strong enough to overcome? One thing is for sure, he’ll return with a viable vigor.

Houston Texans:

Is this the year? Can the Houston Texans reach the Super Bowl? Can quarterback Matt Schaub get over the hump? The team has provided with an arsenal to choose from. Now is the time to shine. Good things to come from deep in the heart of Texas.

Indianapolis Colts:

Can the Indianapolis Colts return to the playoffs? Most say “no”, but let’s not underestimate the greatness of quarterback Andrew Luck. Of course, the games have to be played, but look for better defense to help the offense.

Jacksonville Jaguars:

Can quarterback Blaine Gabbert play like he belongs? If not, the Jacksonville Jaguars will look not so great once again. This is Gabbert’s last audition as a starting quarterback in the NFL. If he succeeds, the Jags could win just enough games to spoil other teams’ seasons.

Kansas City Chiefs:

Just how good can quarterback Alex Smith make the Kansas City Chiefs? The franchise has a fresh breath thanks to new head coach Andy Reid. The team could really surprise. Regardless, anything will be better than last.

Miami Dolphins:

Is running back Lamar Miller the truth? Miami Dolphins fans will soon find out. If Miller can provide stability is the play-calling, the Dolphins will contend for the AFC East. If not, there’s always next year.

New England Patriots:

Who will step up on offense? The New England Patriots have a completely new look this season, but that doesn’t mean that they will miss a beat. Quarterback Tom Brady demands greatness and he’ll get it. One guy to watch out for is wide receiver Kenbrell Thompkins—he’ll be Brady’s go-to-guy by Week 3.

New York Jets:

Is the nightmare over? Will New York Jets head coach Rex Ryan be fired? Something has to give in this situation and it’s apparent nothing will be fixed until it does.

Oakland Raiders:

Can the Raiders win five games? That’s one better than last. The Oakland Raiders may seem like they’re in a black hole, but there may be light at the end of the tunnel. The team can only get better. Speaking of better, the NFL is always better with a contending Raiders team.

Pittsburgh Steelers:
Out of any team in the league, the Pittsburgh Steelers may have the most questions surrounding them. Are the Pittsburgh Steelers a playoff team in 2013? They were absent in the playoffs last season and have plenty to prove this season.
The vaunted Steelers defense is aging and their offense is lacking a running game. It doesn’t help that rookie running back Le’Veon Bell, who was slated to start Week 1 is out indefinitely with a foot injury.

The franchise isn’t to be left for dead, though. They have the grit to win, but can their offense stay on the field to give the defense adequate rest? The Steelers are one of the most interesting teams headed into the season, whatever the outcome may be.

San Diego Chargers:

Can quarterback Philip Rivers resurrect his career? He can be so good, but he’s rather inconsistent. Hopefully, for the sake of Chargers fans, he plays up to his pedigree this season. When he wants to be, he is great. Can he make his teammates better?

Tennessee Titans:

Is Jake Locker their quarterback of the future? This will be interesting to watch all season, if Locker makes it that long. Franchises hate giving up on a guy, but if he makes it evident that he can’t get the job done the Titans may have to. Locker won’t go down without a fight, but he doesn’t have much time.

August 14, 2013

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AFC Preview

By: Joe Williams

Last year I nailed five of the six playoff teams in the AFC and went 4-4 on division winners with New England, Baltimore, Houston and Denver. So if you need to know what’s going down in the AFC in 2013, look no further and keep reading. Of course if you are more concerned with what will happen in the playoffs……it’s probably a safe bet to go with the opposite of my picks.

AFC EAST
It is the same old story here. There is New England and there is a team that made a bunch of moves in the offseason and has certainly improved, but will it be enough to take down Brady and Belichek? Two years ago the team was the Jets. Last year it was the Bills. This year it is the Dolphins. But the answer remains the same. New England will continue its dominance of the division despite all the off the field issues that have happened with Tom Brady’s targets.

Division winner: New England

Will the Ravens be celebrating an AFC North title in 2013?

AFC NORTH

This may be the most interesting division race in the AFC. The Ravens come in as the defending Super Bowl champs but have lost enough key players that they could miss the playoffs altogether. Cincinnati is a young up-and-coming team that reached the playoffs last year and will be looking to take the next step. Cleveland should be better that last year’s 5-11 record and of course the Steelers never seem to miss the playoffs two years in a row. Until now. Baltimore is Joe Flacco’s team now and will get a chance to defend it’s title once we get to January, but the Bengals will be better after the playoff experience in 2011 and 2012 and do more than just tie for the best record in the division.

Division winner: Cincinnati

AFC SOUTH
Peyton Manning owned this division until he left. It’s belonged to Houston ever since. Now the Colts are trying to take it back. But unfortunately, they should take a step back from their over-achieving 2012 season. The South is Houston’s to lose and that isn’t going to happen (barring some devastating injuries). Tennessee and Jacksonville still have a long way to go to get in the mix for a division title.

Division winner: Houston

AFC WEST
Last season the Broncos won 13 games while the Raiders, Chargers and Chiefs combined for 13 wins. Peyton Manning looks like he’s fully healthy and the Broncos face the easiest schedule in the NFL (statistically speaking). Kansas City may have the best chance to steal the division from Denver after bringing in Andy Reid and Alex Smith at head coach and quarterback to compliment a roster that already has several great players but somehow finished 2-14. In Oakland and San Diego the talk has been more about possibly moving to Los Angeles and less about winning championships. That’s a bad sign.

Division winner: Denver

Wild Card winners: Baltimore, Miami

AFC champion: Denver

July 11, 2013

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Early 2013 NFL AFC Fantasy Sleepers

By: Matt Bowen

Football fever is in full force and now is the time to scout for your 2013 NFL fantasy team. Looking forward to having bragging rights around the office? Everyone knows that the Tom Bradys and Peyton Mannings of the fantasy world will put up gaudy numbers, but it’s the sleepers that will make you a champion.

The new NFL season brings excitement for all 32 NFL teams as they descend on their quest for greatness. Regardless of where a given team actually stands amongst the NFL power rankings, diehard fans believe this is the year for NFL superiority.

For that reason alone, here’s one sleeper from each AFC team that could turn the team’s fortunes forever.

Andre Johnson isn't the only Texans WR you want on your fantasy team.

AFC East:

Buffalo Bills: It’s hard not to make rookie quarterback E.J. Manuel this pick, but he won’t start Week 1 and may not start at all in 2013.

The Bills stocked up on wide receivers in the latest draft and rookie Robert Woods is their best fantasy sleeper this season. His steady hands will have him start the season as the No. 2 receiver behind Stevie Johnson. Woods is NFL-ready right now and the Bills will depend on him this season.

Miami Dolphins: Things are suddenly looking up in Miami. They have a ton of positive momentum heading into 2013 and rookie tight end Dion Sims will shine this season.

The Dolphins have an upstart offense led by quarterback Ryan Tannehill, a star receiver in Mike Wallace, and a possession receiver in Brian Hartline. Sims is said to be a block-first, catch-second type of tight end, but don’t be fooled by this analysis. Thanks to his massive size, Sims should see plenty of snaps in the red zone, which means he’ll be targeted in the play-action game.

New England Patriots: There’s an obvious choice for the New England Patriots this year—Shane Vereen is the key to the Pats offensive success this season.

He’s going to get the ball out of a variety of formations. As of now, fantasy fans may be skeptical about Vereen’s role, but by the time Week 1 kicks off, he’ll be all the fantasy rage.

The best part about Vereen; he may get RB/WR status, making him that much more valuable in the fantasy realm.

New York Jets: Want to be daring? Take quarterback Geno Smith with one of your last picks of your fantasy draft.

While quarterback Mark Sanchez will start Week 1 for the Jets, he may have the shortest leash of any NFL player this season. Smith will see playing time in 2013, just how much is to-be-determined. It may take some time for Smith to adjust to the NFL game, but anything is possible with the ball in his hands.

AFC North:

Baltimore Ravens: The defending Super Bowl Champions want to repeat and tight end Ed Dickson will become a utilized asset this season. His teammate, Dennis Pitta is highly touted right now due to his exceptional athleticism, but don’t forget about Dickson. The Ravens will often be targeting both tight ends this season and Dickson will be a nice addition to your squad.

Cincinnati Bengals: This one is easy–Mohamed Sanu is a no-brainer when it comes to the Cincinnati Bengals. Sanu took off in the middle of the 2012 season before a broken foot sidelined him for the rest of the season.

Given his health, Sanu is a ball magnet that will benefit from receiver A.J. Green stretching the field and slot-man Andrew Hawkins’ speed underneath. Sanu will be the team’s possession receiver in 2013.

Cleveland Browns: Davone Bess is a newcomer to the Cleveland Browns, but he’ll quickly become a fan favorite for his new team. The former Miami Dolphin is great at keeping a drive alive. His 130 catches on third down since 2008 is second behind Roddy White’s 146.

The Browns need Bess and was a great pickup in the offseason. He’ll quickly be the difference maker in Cleveland.

Pittsburgh Steelers: It’s not normal for a starting running back to be a fantasy sleeper, but Pittsburgh Steelers rookie Le’Veon Bell is just that.

The Steelers are known for their smash-mouthed style of pigskin and Bell fits the bill, but due to his rookie status, some may steer clear of him.

Don’t be afraid, Bell will carry the ball with regularity. Some Steelers fans may worry that the team is in a transitional period, but Bell will undoubtedly restore the faith.

AFC South:

Houston Texans: The Houston Texans need someone, anyone to compliment wide receiver Andre Johnson. That man will be DeAndre Hopkins this year.

The rookie receiver from Clemson has extra-large hands and is ahead of his peers when it comes to route running. It shouldn’t take long for Hopkins to make his presence known.

Indianapolis Colts: Remember Darrius Heyward-Bey, the former No. 7 overall pick by the Oakland Raiders in 2009? He’s now a member of the Indianapolis Colts. This is a win-win situation for both player and franchise. The Colts got him for a mere $3 million and Heyward-Bey no longer as much pressure on him.

At this time it’s as if he has been forgotten about, but don’t make that mistake. Heyward-Bey’s blazing speed will be put to use by quarterback Andrew Luck.

Jacksonville Jaguars: It’s not normal that a No. 1 receiver on a team’s depth chart is a fantasy sleeper, but it’s true in this case.

Cecil Shorts of the Jacksonville Jaguars is that man. Shorts nearly eclipsed 1,000 receiving yards in 2012 should topple that number this season. Although undersized, he’s vastly underrated at his position. There may be questions surrounding the Jaguars passing game, but don’t pass on Shorts.

Tennessee Titans: Picking up Tennessee Titans running back Shonn Greene is a safe bet. Greene will be used goal-line situations, which means that he’ll treat fantasy owners with touchdowns.

Sure, starting Greene may only pay off if and when he reach pay dirt, but with risk comes reward. He should be around in the last couple of rounds. Don’t be afraid to roll the dice. Greene scoring double-digit touchdowns in 2013 is not far-fetched.

Denver Broncos: With all the attention going to the passing game in Denver, running back Ronnie Hillman is an interesting sleeper this season. Right now, rookie Montee Ball is slated to be the go-to-guy, but Hillman isn’t a bad selection.

The Broncos have always depended on multiple backs and Ball is good, but he’s a rookie that saw a plethora of carries in his time at the University of Wisconsin. The Broncos aren’t worried about Ball’s past workload, but the NFL packs a punch.

Hillman has put on muscle in the offseason and will make the most of his touches.

Kansas City Chiefs: The Kansas City Chiefs have new life after a disastrous 2012 campaign. Rookie tight end Travis Kelce will be a big part of the turn-around for the franchise this season.

Kelce has tremendous athletic ability, but has to put the work in to succeed in the NFL. He may not be a star from Week 1, but give him some time and he’ll pay dividends.

Oakland Raiders: Wide receiver Rod Streater will soon be the man in Oakland. The second-year receiver will be the No. 2 receiver and tasted success in his rookie season.

He had 39 receptions for 584 yards in 2012 and those numbers will rise this season. As the season nears pay attention to the relationship with between Streater and new Raiders quarterback Matt Flynn. Streater is a guy fans love to root for—he’ll show everyone why this season.

San Diego Chargers: His name is Vincent Brown—don’t forget it. Brown was set to break out last season before a broken ankle in the preseason derailed his season.

Now ready to hit the ground running, Brown will break out this season. He’ll put a smile on Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers‘ face throughout the season.

When he’s around in the later rounds, don’t think twice.