November 27, 2013

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2013 NFL Q4 Must-See Games

By: Matt Bowen

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.

Week 13

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.

Week 14

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

Out of all the true Super Bowl contenders in the league, the Indianapolis Colts and Cincinnati Bengals may have the most questions surrounding them.

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.

Week 15

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.

Week 16

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.

June 19, 2013

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NFL Quarterbacks Facing the Most Pressure in 2013

By: Matt Bowen

As the summer heats up so do the predictions for the 2013 NFL season. Quarterbacks make the NFL world go round and no one in professional sports faces more scrutiny.

Cam Newton will start the 2013 NFL season on the hot seat.

With only 16 games on the schedule, there’s no time to be “off.” The grueling NFL schedule doesn’t allow it—one bad game could be the difference between the playoffs and NFL futility. Unfortunately it’s the quarterback that takes the brunt of the blame. It may not be fair, but it comes with the territory.

Nothing is different this time around as the following quarterbacks face the most pressure heading into the 2013 NFL season.

Mark Sanchez, New York Jets: Let’s get this out of the way now—Mark Sanchez is facing the most pressure of any athlete in the world this year.

Now with rookie quarterback Geno Smith waiting for his chance, Sanchez has no room for error. Playing in New York, it’s no surprise Sanchez faces an uphill battle.

The bottom line is that Sanchez must lead his team to playoffs and win at least one playoff contest. We shall see.

Andy Dalton, Cincinnati Bengals: Andy Dalton is light years beyond most NFL quarterbacks after two complete seasons in the league. He has turned the “Bungles” back into the Bengals. He has led his team to the back-to-back playoff appearances, but he has yet to win.

In fact, he has not looked good in the playoffs, he looks predetermined every time he drops back to throw.

So, how does he fix this? Dalton has to look confident from Week 1. The Bengals are one of the best up-and-coming teams in the NFL and there’s reason to believe that Dalton is the man—but now is the time leave it all on the field.

Russell Wilson, Seattle Seahawks: Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III, nope—it was Russell Wilson who was the 2012 rookie quarterback who stole the show. Don’t get confused, Luck and RG3 were phenomenal, but Wilson was as good if not better.

Now, Wilson must avoid the sophomore slump and lead the Seahawks to the top of the charts. There’s a great NFL debate going on right now and many say that the Seahawks are the league’s best team. That puts plenty of pressure on Wilson.

Wise beyond his years, Wilson is mature enough to handle the heat of the NFL media.

Matthew Stafford, Detroit Lions: Matthew Stafford came within 33 yards of eclipsing 5,000-plus yards for the second straight season last year.

So why does he face so much pressure in 2013?

Because his team, the Detroit Lions went 4-12 in 2012 and looked downright pitiful, that’s why. While it certainly isn’t all Stafford’s fault, as the focal point of the franchise, he is the one fan’s and media turn to for answers.

So, less is more for Stafford heading into the new season, except in the win column. True Lions fans know that if their quarterback throws the ball less than the NFL-record 727 times, that’s a good thing. That means the defense isn’t allowing the opposition to score at ease. That also means the Lions have a balanced offense.

Another downtrodden year for the Lions and it may be time to find a new front office and start over again.

Cam Newton, Carolina Panthers: Is it just me, or does Cam Newton seem like an afterthought right now? Let’s not forget about him, as the quarterback won’t disappoint this season.

After a stellar rookie season in 2011, Newton returned from space and was grounded in 2012, but his numbers weren’t that far off from his Rookie of the Year campaign. The Panthers, however, struggled last year.

Newton is devoted to his team and to prove that he’s one of the best. The pressure is astounding, but he’ll be up to the challenge. Expect nothing less than brilliance from Newton this season.

November 29, 2011

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NFL Power Rankings

By: Joe Williams

1. Green Bay Packers (11-0) — Sunday’s game at the Giants could be the biggest remaining hurdle towards 16-0. How bad do the Packers want to run the table?

2. New England Patriots (8-3) — With a two-game lead and the tiebreaker on their side, the Patriots have almost locked up the AFC East. The schedule sets up well for a run at home-field advantage.

3. New Orleans Saints (8-3) – Drew Brees and the Saints offense was unstoppable against New York on Monday Night Football. Can they outscore Detroit this week?

4. Baltimore Ravens (8-3) – The Ravens stay on top of the AFC North with a Thanksgiving Day win in the Harbaugh bowl. Now they must avoid any more letdowns.

 5. San Francisco 49ers (9-2) – Despite the loss, the Niners show they can compete with the NFL elite. They can clinch the NFC West with a win against St. Louis.

 6. Houston Texans (8-3) – The Texans pick up another win but lose another quarterback. Now it’s up to rookie T.J. Yates to lead a playoff run.

 7. Atlanta Falcons (7-4) – Atlanta has won five of the last six. Sunday’s trip to Houston looks more winnable with the Texans down to the third-string quarterback.

 8. Detroit Lions (7-4) – The Lions really need a win at New Orleans. It will be that much harder to slow down the Saints without Ndamukong Suh.

 9. Pittsburgh Steelers (8-3) – It wasn’t pretty in Kansas City but a win is a win. Huge game in the AFC North this week against Cincinnati.

 10. Dallas Cowboys (7-4) – America’s Team has moved to the top of the NFC East with four straight wins. They need to make it five in a row before a critical meeting with the Giants.

 11. Chicago Bears (7-4) – The Bears missed Jay Cutler on Sunday. If they are going to make the playoffs they need to beat the Chiefs and Broncos in the next two weeks.

 12. Cincinnati Bengals (7-4) – The Bengals continue to exceed expectations. If they can do that on Sunday and beat the Steelers, it would go a long way towards getting them to the playoffs.

 13. Oakland Raiders (7-4) – It’s a two team race in the AFC West. Oakland has a one-game lead but the more difficult schedule.

 14. New York Jets (6-5) – The Jets got back on track with a win over Buffalo. They should pick up a couple more wins with Washington and Kansas City in the next couple weeks.

 15. Tennessee Titans (6-5) – The Titans beat Tampa Bay in what was essentially an elimination game. They can knock the Bills out with a win this week.

Can the Titans continue to make a run at the Playoffs?

 16. New York Giants (6-5) – The Giants are in big trouble after losing three straight and the undefeated Packers are up next. The good news is they still play the Cowboys twice so they can control their fate.

 17. Denver Broncos (6-5) – Tim Tebow gets all the credit but the Denver defense has allowed just 15 points per game in the last five wins. Can they shut down Adrian Peterson this week?

 18. Buffalo Bills (5-6) – The Bills are on life support after four losses in a row. They will have to run the table for the week 17 game at New England to matter.

 19. Philadelphia Eagles (4-7) – With the loss to New England, the Eagles have a stranglehold on the most disappointing team of the year. How much worse will it get?

20. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-7) – The Bucs are another disappointing team in the NFC. They need to beat Carolina to avoid falling into last in the NFC South.

 21. Arizona Cardinals (4-7) – The Cards have won three of four and they could get Kevin Kolb back this week.

 22. San Diego Chargers (4-7) – What happened during their bye week? The Chargers were 4-1 before the bye and are now 0-6 after.

 23. Miami Dolphins (3-8) – The Dolphins have won three of four. They could give the Bills a run for third in the AFC East.

 24. Washington Redskins (4-7) – They broke the six-game losing streak against Seattle. They could start a new streak with three teams fighting for the playoffs coming up next.

 25. Minnesota Vikings (2-9) – The Vikings have lost three straight. If they don’t find a way to beat Tebow it could become six straight with the Lions and Saints coming up.

 26. Seattle Seahawks (3-7) – The Seahawks blew a 10-point lead against Washington. At least they have a short week to think about it.

 27. Carolina Panthers (3-8) – The Panthers are much better than last year but aren’t getting many wins to show for it. But they have found their quarterback.

 28. Kansas City Chiefs (4-7) – The defense played well against the Steelers but the offense couldn’t get it going. Will they turn to Kyle Orton this week?

 29. Jacksonville Jaguars (3-8) – Jack Del Rio has been fired. This franchise has a lot of work to do.

30. Cleveland Browns (4-7) – They put up a fight against Cincinnati but came up short. And there’s more bad news; four of the last five games are against Baltimore and Pittsburgh.

31. St. Louis Rams (2-9) – The way this team has played its hard to find another win on their schedule. The best chance appears to be at Seattle.

32. Indianapolis Colts (0-11) – The Colts could make a run at 0-16. They are at New England and Baltimore for the next two.

November 18, 2011

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Could the Indianapolis Colts go 0-16?

By: Junior

Could the Indianapolis Colts go 0-16?

Going into their bye week this Sunday, the Indianapolis Colts are a brutal 0-10. Before the Detroit Lions in 2008, losing every game on your schedule in a 16 game season was thought to be impossible. Could it possibly happen again just three years later? I thought I would take a look at the Colts remaining 6 games and see just how real the possibility may be.

Carolina

This could be their best chance at finally getting a win. The Colts have been at home for their previous two games and will be yet again when Carolina comes to Lucas Oil Field. Add to that the extra time they have to rest from their bye, and Indianapolis should be well prepared for this game.

Unfortunately for them the 2-7 Panthers are no pushover. Cam Newton is getting better and better as he continues to get more comfortable in the NFL. If the Colts can’t find a way to shore up their run defense (31st in the league), they could lose yet another decision.

New England

The Colts are going to have a hard time leaving Foxborough with a win. Even if New England has the 32nd worst pass defense, I don’t see the Colts winning a shootout with New England. The Colt’s defense will simply be outmatched with the firepower Tom Brady and the Patriots have on offense. Besides, New England might take pleasure in beating a recent rival who is down.

Baltimore

Double what I just said above. Ravens fans have a deep-seeded hatred for the Indianapolis Colts, who were once the Baltimore Colts. Expect M&T Back Stadium in Baltimore to be rabid as they hope to help their old team to a winless record. The Ravens are better in all phases and should have an easy time getting a win at home.

Don't expect the Colts to get a friendly welcome from the Ravens or their fans.

 

Tennessee

This game starts the stretch of divisional games that will run through the end of the season for the Colts. If the Colts don’t have a win by this point in the season, their spirits won’t be very high. Having already lost at Tennessee this year, chances are slim home field advantage will be able to make up the difference in this match up. The Titans at this point in the season still have a shot at the playoffs. If that is still the case in Week 15, you can bet they will be poised not to let this game get away.

Houston

The Colts may have caught a break in this game (no pun intended) as Matt Schaub may be done for the season with a foot injury. However, Texans fans would probably still like their chances with Arian Foster against the Colts run defense. If the Colts can avoid Schaub and stop the run, this could be a game they could sneak away with.

Jacksonville

Could you imagine the pressure if the Colts are 0-15 going into this game? The Colts fans would be in attendance for what could be a historically bad ending to their season, something Lions fans were spared in 2008. The good news would be, Jacksonville is not a world beater, and if the Colts haven’t packed it in already, they could save themselves in the 11th hour.

So many twists and turns could happen between each week of this outline. Regardless, the tension (and fear from Colts fans) is palpable as Indianapolis travels towards a mark that no one wants to be associated with. If they do achieve this unfortunate record, at least there is a light at the end of the tunnel. They will be getting Peyton Manning back next year, and they will have his successor, Andrew Luck, ready to learn.

November 15, 2011

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NFL landscape changes in week 10

By: Joe Williams

The path we are going down this NFL season became much clearer this week. Some teams showed they are pretenders, some lost key players to injury and others took a big step toward the playoffs. Here’s what I learned:

Giants vs. Cowboys

The NFC East is a two team race. The Giants hold a one game lead over the Cowboys but face a much tougher schedule the rest of the way. They meet twice in the last month of the season and those games should determine the division winner. The “Dream Team” in Philadelphia has a stranglehold on the most disappointing team in the NFL crown after losing at home to a two-win team playing with its backup quarterback.

Lions must beat Packers or Saints

After losing three of four, the Lions are in danger of blowing their 5-0 start. They are at 6-3 with two games coming up against Green Bay and one against New Orleans. If they lose those three games, they will likely be on the outside looking in at the playoffs because Chicago is also 6-3 and has a much easier schedule the rest of the way.

49ers headed for a bye

It’s no surprise the Packers are headed for a first round bye but who would have expected the 49ers to do the same? San Francisco is already 8-1 with five games left against the NFC West. They should finish with at least 12 wins and probably the No. 2 seed in the NFC.

Colts getting Lucky

After another loss drops the Colts to 0-10 and the Dolphins and Rams both pick up their second win, Indianapolis has a commanding lead in the Andrew Luck sweepstakes. Now the questions about what they will do are really going to start. Will Manning be back next year? Do they take Luck and let him sit behind Manning? Or could they trade Manning and really begin the rebuilding process?

 Bills, Bengals on the brink

Buffalo and Cincinnati have been surprisingly good teams in the AFC. However, they could be coming back to earth. Cincinnati has three games left against Baltimore and Pittsburgh. They really need to win two of those games to stay in the AFC North race. Buffalo has lost four of six and cannot afford any more no shows like they had against Dallas.

 AFC West truly pathetic

Get ready to see an 8-8 team hosting a first round playoff game. At least the NFC West has one team playing well. San Diego has lost four in a row. The Chiefs,who have lost two straight against two of the worst teams in the league, now get to face five straight teams with a winning record. The Broncos are scared to throw the ball and continue to let the fans run the show in Denver. And you never know which Raiders team is going to show up. They beat some good teams and then turn around and lose to some of the bottom feeders.