February 26, 2013

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NBA Playoff Races To Watch

By: Joe Williams

With about 25 games to go in the NBA regular season, we’ve got a pretty clear picture of the teams that will make the playoffs and the ones that will be in the lottery. What we don’t know is who will face who once the playoffs get started. And that will go a long way toward determining what happens in the NBA playoffs. Here are a few races I’ll be keeping my eye on as we inch towards the final game of the regular season.

Will the Lakers make the NBA Playoffs?

The Heat will be the top seed in the East. We know that. But the second and third seeds could go to Indiana, New York, Brooklyn, Chicago or Atlanta. These teams ought to be desperate to finish second or third. That will get them home-court advantage in the first round, but that doesn’t really matter too much. The important thing for these teams is to get on the other side of the bracket and avoid a second round meeting with the Heat. You don’t want to face the defending champs any sooner than you have to.

Speaking of avoiding the Heat…Boston and Milwaukee shouldn’t be too worried about anyone below them stealing a playoff spot. But they will be battling to get the seventh seed and avoid the Heat in the first round.

In the West, the final playoff spot is getting all the attention. Can the Lakers squeak into the playoffs? That’s what all the talk is about, but I’m not counting out Dallas or Portland yet. All three teams are tied with 30 losses at the moment and are going to have to get red-hot to catch Houston or Utah. On second thought, after looking at the Blazers schedule, I’m counting them out. Their final 16 games are against teams in the playoff race. If they find a way to get in, nobody will be able to say they didn’t earn it.

Of course, whoever does get that final spot is going to be facing the team with the best record in the NBA, San Antonio. It would be quite the series if the Lakers do end up as the eighth seed.

The Clippers and Memphis must keep winning to stay in the top four and get home-court in round one. With so many good teams in the West, home-court will be important.

One more race that is a little bit interesting will be to see which team finishes with the worst record and gets the most ping pong balls in the lottery. It looks like this will come down to Charlotte and Orlando.

December 28, 2012

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NFL Power Rankings

By: Joe Williams

For the majority of NFL teams, there is just one game left in the season. Some of them know who they are. I’m talking to you Kansas City and Jacksonville. Others enter week 17 in do or die mode. You hear me Washington and Dallas? No matter who you are rooting for, this post season is setting up to be a great one. Now on to the rankings.

A Vikings win over Green Bay could set-up a rematch in the first round of the playoffs.

1 Atlanta Falcons (13-2) — The Falcons have clinched the top seed in the NFC and won’t have to play outside again until next season. Let’s see how they handle three weeks between meaningful games.

2 New England Patriots (11-4)Tom Brady was a big part of my fantasy championship winning team. You don’t care. Neither does he.

3 San Francisco 49ers (10-4-1) — You think the Cardinals are excited about facing an angry 49ers team that was completely embarrassed in Seattle? I think not.

4 Denver Broncos (12-3)Peyton Manning and Von Miller have the Broncos ready for a Super Bowl run. They haven’t lost since Oct. 7 and just need to beat the Chiefs to get a bye.

5 Green Bay Packers (11-4) — The Packers will have a bye if they beat the Vikings on Sunday. If they lose, they could get the Vikings again in the first round.

6 Houston Texans (12-3)Houston needs a win in Indy to claim the AFC’s top seed. Otherwise they will probably host the Bengals in the first round.

7 Seattle Seahawks (10-5) — Pete Carroll’s squad could still win the NFC West, but they are probably headed to Washington or Dallas in the first round of the playoffs.

8 Baltimore Ravens (10-5) — Are the Ravens back? They looked very good against the reeling Giants and will host the Colts or Bengals in the first round.

9 Washington Redskins (9-6) — The Skins are 6-0 since they had their bye week but it’s going to have to be 7-0 for them to win the NFC East.

10 Cincinnati Bengals (9-6)Andy Dalton finally got his first win against the Steelers. The Bengals will be the No. 6 seed and play at Houston, Denver, New England or Baltimore in the first round.

11 Dallas Cowboys (8-7) — Once again the Cowboys head into week 17 with everything on the line. You can bet this will come down to the fourth quarter.

12 Indianapolis Colts (10-5) — The turnaround of the Colts is one of the most impressive stories in the NFL. They are here to stay too.

13 Minnesota Vikings (9-6) — Wins over the Bears, Rams and Texans have the Vikings in control of their destiny. A win over the Packers would get them a playoff rematch in Green Bay.

14 New Orleans Saints (7-8) — Finishing at .500 would be pretty impressive considering all the drama in New Orleans this season.

15 Chicago Bears (9-6) — The Bears need to beat the reeling Lions and then root for Green Bay to knock off the Vikings.

16 New York Giants (8-7) — The defending champs have lost five of seven and need lots of help on Sunday to sneak into the playoffs.

17 Miami Dolphins (7-8) — If the season was 18 games like the commissioner wanted, the Dolphins would have a good shot to get in with the way they are playing.

18 St. Louis Rams (7-7-1) — After finishing 2-14 last season, the Rams are one of the most improved teams in 2012.

19 Pittsburgh Steelers (7-8) — Five losses in six games is not how the Steelers saw the stretch run going and they are out of the playoff hunt.

20 Carolina Panthers (6-9) — The Panthers waited too long to get hot. They have been one of the better teams after starting 2-8.

21 Tennessee Titans (5-10) — Clearly they are ready for the offseason. Nobody likes going to Green Bay in December but losing 55-7 is as bad as it gets.

22 New York Jets (6-9) — Looks like the Jets could go three for three on getting rid of quarterbacks this offseason. Should be interesting.

23 San Diego Chargers (6-9) — Beating the Raiders would give the Chargers a 3-1 finish but it won’t be good enough to save everybody’s jobs. Changes are coming.

24 Tampa Bay Buccaneers (6-9) — The Bucs won four straight to climb into the playoff hunt…then lost five in a row to fall out of it.

25 Arizona Cardinals (5-10) — It doesn’t appear that the Cardinals know who their quarterback is. But have they at least figured out who their quarterback isn’t?

26 Detroit Lions (4-11) — Were these guys really in the playoffs last year? What happened?

27 Cleveland Browns (5-10) — The Browns are making progress. Winning in Pittsburgh on Sunday would be another step forward.

28 Buffalo Bills (5-10) — Will either team show up when the Bills and Jets meet in the season finale?

29 Oakland Raiders (4-11) — If it wasn’t for beating the Chiefs twice, the Raiders could have the worst record in the league.

30 Philadelphia Eagles (4-11) — Will the Eagles knock the defending champs out of the hunt or improve their draft position?

31 Jacksonville Jaguars (2-13) — The Jags already beat Tennessee once. If they do it again, it could cost them the first pick in the draft.

32 Kansas City Chiefs (2-13) — Don’t expect the Chiefs to finish with a win in Denver against the hottest team in the league.

December 19, 2012

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Why the NFC East is the Best Division in All of Sports

By: Matt Bowen

Excitement and suspense fills our NFL imagination’s as the 2012 season once again comes down to the wire. With so much at stake during the final two weeks across the league, the tightest playoff race belongs to the tumultuous NFC East.

Last season, the NFC East winner was decided in a Week 17 matchup between the Cowboys and Giants.

Every sports fan, whether they like it or not, knows the NFL is No. 1 when it comes to media coverage and generated revenue. At the top of the food chain is the NFC East, a division that holds four of the most popular teams in all of sports. It may seem odd that the Dallas Cowboys belong to a division with three east coast teams, but the Cowboys are larger than life—a smaller media market simply wouldn’t suffice for Dallas. Joining the biggest thing in Texas are the New York Giants, Washington Redskins and Philadelphia Eagles.

Like last season, this year will be decided in Week 17. The Cowboys and Giants met in 2011’s final week for a winner-take-all showdown which crowned the victor the divisional champion and granted them a ticket to the playoffs. History tells the rest of the story as the Giants took the game and eventually the Super Bowl.

This season has been no different as the Redskins, Cowboys and Giants all have an 8-6 record heading into Week 16. The Eagles may be out of the running, but Philly fans are as faithless as they come. At the moment, the Redskins are on top, but there’s plenty of football left to be played.

Heading into this season, the defending Super Bowl champion Giants were the runaway favorite, the Cowboys were in a must-win situation and the Redskins weren’t expected to win the division, but were optimistic thanks to the acquisition of rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III.

Now, the Giants are coming off a 34-0 drubbing by the Atlanta Falcons, the Cowboys have won 5-of-6 and the Redskins, led by not one but two rookie quarterbacks(Kirk Cousins being the other) have won five straight and control their own destiny.

Week 16 pits the Redskins against the Eagles, who would like nothing more than to spoil the party. The Cowboys go up against the New Orleans Saints, who are only 6-8, but thanks to quarterback Drew Brees are as dangerous as they come. And finally, the Giants face the Baltimore Ravens, which is a desperate game for both sides.

If both the Redskins and Cowboys win in Week 16, this would set up a virtual win-and-in situation in Week 17.  Nothing screams playoff football like a playoff game in the final week of the regular season. Like last season, every football fan in the world will be glued to their television to see who exactly makes it to the postseason party.

This is why the NFC East is the best division in sports. As much as every sports fan may dislike that this division seems to get all of the attention, they sure do put on a good show. Enjoy the theatrics as sports history unfolds before our very eyes.

October 10, 2012

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5 NFL Games To Watch in Week 6

By: Junior

With the sixth week of the NFL season kicking off tomorrow, we take a look at the biggest games coming up on the schedule. Five weeks into the season, we are finally starting to understand which teams are making moves for the playoffs and which are already falling out of the hunt. These five match-ups in Week 6 should go a long way in helping us figure out which teams belong in each category.

The Giants and 49ers rematch in Week 6 could hold playoff implications down the road.

Green Bay at Houston

After a 15-1 season last year, there are few records as shocking as Green Bay’s. At 2-3 on the season, they now head to 5-0 Houston to try and start making their way back to the top of the NFC North. If they can’t, a previously unthinkable 2-4 start would give Chicago and Minnesota a nice cushion atop the division.

NY Giants at San Francisco

A rematch of last season’s NFC Championship game will help us find out where the Giants rank this season. Currently tied for the NFC East lead with Philadelphia, the Giants need a big win to show they aren’t having a Super Bowl hangover this season. While San Francisco is 4-1 and looks to be on its way to the postseason again, they are tied with Arizona for the division lead and need to stick with the underdog Cardinals, who could get a win this week against the struggling Bills.

San Diego at Denver

The AFC West is up for grabs, but the Chargers have possession for the time being. This is a perfect opportunity for Peyton Manning and the Broncos to take possession and start to make their run for the division title. The Manning-era is off to a bumpy 2-3 start, but a win going into the bye week could be what Denver needs to get on track. If the Chargers win, they too would be going into a bye, but with a nice lead in the division.

Baltimore at Dallas

Baltimore has looked impressive so far this season and many people are predicting a deep run in the playoffs for the Ravens. Dallas has been inconsistent so far this season, and a win over the Ravens could be the statement they need to make a run coming out of their bye week. If Baltimore wins, they will be 5-1 heading into a HUGE game against the Texans. This game could be a turning point for both teams.

Detroit at Philadelphia

After making the playoffs last season, the Lions have started out 1-3. Coming off of a bye week, they face a Philadelphia team that is 3-2 despite having quite a problem with turnovers. If the Lions want to climb out of the NFC North basement, this game seems like a must-win. For the Eagles, a win keeps them atop the competitive NFC East heading into their bye week.

August 29, 2012

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NFC Preview

By: Joe Williams

The NFC is the definition of parity. Since the 2001-2002 season, 13 teams have made an NFC Championship Game appearance. Eight teams have played in the last four. Only the Cowboys, Redskins and Lions haven’t been there in this century. Will an NFC team reach the game for the first time in this millennium this season? I said it would happen last season and the 49ers proved me right (even though that isn’t the team I had in mind.) It’s pretty much the only thing I had right about the NFC so I’m going to press my luck and say that it happens again this year.

Will the Packers be returning to the Super Bowl this season?

NFC EAST

Once again, the Washington Redskins win in the offseason. But this time it’s because they moved up in the draft and picked Robert Griffin III to build the franchise around instead of overpaying for big-name free agents. And once again, someone else will win the division. But it won’t be the defending Super Bowl champs in New York. I picked the Philadelphia Eagles last year and it took them 12 games to get their act together. Philadelphia won its last four games and I believe they keep the momentum going to a division title. The heat is on in Dallas as the playoff win drought continues. Tony Romo is going to need better protection and more weapons to stay healthy. I say the Cowboys and Giants will be in a battle for the final wild card spot that won’t be decided until week 17.

Division winner: Philadelphia

NFC NORTH

It’s going to be a long season for Viking fans. Barring quarterback injuries, Green Bay, Chicago and Detroit will all be in the playoff hunt. Meanwhile, Minnesota is rebuilding. Aaron Rodgers and the Packers are still the class of the North and will be looking for redemption from last year’s playoff loss to the Giants. Detroit gets better every year and could make a deep run if the defense gets better. The Bears will be much more dangerous after bringing in Jay Cutler’s favorite target from his days in Denver in Brandon Marshall and worked out a new deal for Matt Forte (if the offensive line can keep Cutler off his back). The Bears visit Detroit in week 17 and the winner will move on to the playoffs.

Division winner: Green Bay

NFC SOUTH:

The Saints were mere seconds away from hosting the NFC Championship Game last season. Letting the 49ers go 85 yards in less than two minutes was the beginning of the end for this team. From the Drew Brees contract mess to the Bountygate scandal, there couldn’t be much worse of an offseason. That’s too much to overcome in such a competitive NFC. This leaves the door open for Atlanta in the South. The Falcons have plenty of weapons. They just need to put it all together. In Carolina, the Panthers should continue to improve along with Cam Newton but they are at least a year away from contending. It’s anybody’s guess what we will see in Tampa Bay. The Bucs went from a 10-6 finish in 2010 to losing 10 straight and 4-12 in 2011.

Division winner: Atlanta

NFC WEST

Thanks for nothing St. Louis. The Rams were by far my worst pick last season. I’m off the bandwagon but at least they know who the quarterback is going to be. Seattle just made a surprising announcement that rookie Russell Wilson will be the starter over their big-money free agent signing Matt Flynn. That could change with a rough start. In Arizona, the starter hasn’t even been named yet. Considering what they gave up to get him, Kevin Kolb needs to win the job. If he does, he will have a good defense to help him, but the Cardinals aren’t in the playoff class. San Francisco made a huge improvement last year and could be even better this year with the additions of Mario Manningham and Randy Moss at the receiver position.

Division winner: San Francisco

Wild Card winners: Dallas, Detroit

NFC champion: Green Bay