December 14, 2011

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NFL Playoff Projections

By: Joe Williams

With three weeks left in the season there are still 21 teams in NFL playoff contention. Who’s going to make it and who will be left at home wondering why they didn’t get the breaks to fall their way? After looking at the remaining schedules, here is what I project the NFL playoff seeds to look like.

AFC

No. 1    Baltimore Ravens – (13-3)

Key game: Week 17 at Cincinnati

Whoever ends up as the top seed will have to win their last three games. If the Ravens win the first two, a trip to Cincinnati will be a challenge with the Bengals likely playing for a wild card spot.

No. 2    New England Patriots – (13-3)

Key game: Week 15 at Denver

The Patriots need to win out to secure a first-round bye. Tom Brady and company haven’t had a lot of success in Denver but don’t expect them to lie down in the final minutes against Tebow like the Bears just did.

No. 3    Houston Texans – (13-3)

Key game: Week 17 vs. Tennessee

This game should mean a lot to both teams who play tough defense and like to run the ball. I like the home team in that type of game.

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Andre Johnson and the Texans look to be heading to the NFL PLayoffs for the first time in franchise history.

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No. 4    Oakland Raiders – (10-6)

Key game: Week 15 vs. Detroit

Let’s hope the NFL sends its best conditioned officiating crew to Oakland on Sunday. With the way these teams can draw the flags and turn the ball over, this has the makings of a wild affair.

No. 5    Pittsburgh Steelers – (13-3)

Key game: Week 15 at San Francisco

The Steelers could steal the division title if the Ravens slip up. If not, they will be on the road in the first round against the winner of the AFC West.

No. 6    New York Jets – (11-5)

Key game: Week 16 vs. New York Giants

The battle for bragging rights in New York will impact multiple teams in both conferences. A win for the Jets will come close to locking down the final NFL playoff spot.

Outside looking in:

Cincinnati Bengals – (9-7)

Key game: Week 17 vs. Baltimore

If the Bengals can pull one out against Baltimore, they could sneak into the playoffs if the Jets lose a game.

Denver Broncos – (9-7)

Key game: Week 16 at Buffalo

They can still win the West if they lose against the Patriots. But if they lose at Buffalo they are in trouble. The streak of miracle finishes can’t last forever and I think their playoff hopes are dashed by the Bills.

Tennessee Titans – (9-7)

Key game: Week 17 at Houston

If the Titans can pull one out against the Texans, they could sneak into the playoffs if the Jets lose a game.

San Diego Chargers – (6-10)

Key game: Week 15 vs. Baltimore

The Chargers are still alive but must win out and get a ton of help.

NFC

No. 1    Green Bay Packers – (16-0)

Key game: Week 16 vs. Chicago

Green Bay should have the top seed locked up so this game will really only matter to them if they want to finish a perfect season. Unless they decide they would like to put the final nail in the Bears coffin.

No. 2    San Francisco 49ers – (12-4)

Key game: Week 15 vs. Pittsburgh

A win over the Steelers on Monday Night Football would silence a lot of doubters and put them in great shape to earn a first-round bye.

No. 3    New Orleans Saints – (12-4)

Key game: Week 16 vs. Atlanta

If the Saints can run the table they could end up with a first-round bye. If not, they will be the third seed.

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The Saints are trying to make another magical run to the Super Bowl, but will need help to get a first-round bye.

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No. 4    Dallas Cowboys – (9-7)

Key game: Week 17 at New York Giants

All signs point to this game being winner-take-all in the NFC East.

No. 5    Atlanta Falcons – (11-5)

Key game: Week 16 at New Orleans

The Falcons are just about locked into the fifth seed. But a win in New Orleans and another Saints loss could give the NFC South to Atlanta.

No. 6    Detroit Lions – (9-7)

Key game: Week 16 vs. San Diego

With road games at Oakland and Green Bay, the Lions must win this game at home. One more win could be all it takes to get the final wild card spot.

Outside looking in:

Chicago Bears (9-7)

Key game: Week 16 at Green Bay

The Bears have a chance to end the Packers perfect season and salvage theirs with a win on the road.

New York Giants (8-8)

Key Game: Week 17 vs. Dallas

With a win the Giants should be NFC East champs. A loss and they will be watching the playoffs on TV.

Arizona Cardinals (8-8)

Key game: Week 16 at Cincinnati

Don’t look now but the Cardinals are making a run. Three wins, including a tough game on the road in Cincinnati and Arizona could come out of nowhere to make the playoffs if they get a little help.

Philadelphia Eagles (7-9)

Key game: Week 15 vs. New York Jets

They were pronounced dead weeks ago but three wins and a lot of help would make the Eagles NFC East champions.

Seattle Seahawks (6-10)

Key game: Week 15 at Chicago

Wins over the Bears, 49ers and Cardinals give them a chance to sneak in.

December 5, 2011

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Where Will Donovan McNabb End Up?

By: Anson Whaley

With news that Minnesota Vikings’ quarterback Donovan McNabb was released by the team, several teams could be looking to add the potential future Hall of Famer to their rosters. No NFL team claimed the veteran through waivers, but that could have actually been the best thing to happen to him. McNabb will now be able to select his own destination (assuming there are interested teams, of course) and pick what he feels is the best opportunity.

Retirement, of course, is an option. Every NFL team could decide that they’ve seen enough of the 35-year old quarterback, and if he’s unable to find a suitable offer, his career could be over. But the chance clearly exists that he could end up with another franchise before that happens, and McNabb believes he still has plenty of good football left.

So where could Donovan go?

  • Houston Texans: Thinking short term, this is an NFL team that could potentially use McNabb’s services. The Texans sit atop their division at 9-3, but recently lost starting quarterback Matt Schaub to injury. They turned to T.J. Yates as their starter, but while Yates has done a reasonable job thus far, it’s hard to imagine how he might do as the season winds down and the pressure builds. With Schaub on injured reserve, a return for him isn’t likely. The Texans could get into the playoffs, but does Yates give them the best chance to win the AFC and get to the Super Bowl? And with proven weapons such as wideout Andre Johnson and running back Arian Foster, McNabb wouldn’t even need to carry the team.
  • Chicago Bears: Chicago’s playoff footing isn’t quite as good as the Texans’ right now, but at 7-5, they’re tied for a Wild Card spot. The Bears didn’t get great play this weekend from backup Caleb Hanie, who’s filled in for starter Jay Cutler, who went down with a thumb injury. Playing against the Chiefs, Hanie completed only 11 of his 24 passes and threw a whopping three interceptions in a loss, showing his inexperience a bit.  The Bears had little offense and even worse is that star running back Matt Forte sustained a knee injury in the game. If Forte is out for any extended period of time, then it could be even more important that they get good quarterback play and McNabb might be able to provide that. He’s also played in Philadelphia and wouldn’t be affected by the cold weather in Chicago, meaning he could be an even more ideal fit.
  • Dallas Cowboys: The Cowboys wouldn’t be looking at McNabb as a starter with Tony Romo firmly entrenched there, but he could be a suitable backup in case something happens to the star. Current backup Jon Kitna has had back issues and if you need further proof that Dallas is looking for another quarterback, look no further than the fact that they reportedly tried to make a claim on Kyle Orton, who was eventually taken by the Kansas City Chiefs. With Orton now out of play, the Cowboys didn’t put a claim on McNabb. But that doesn’t mean Dallas won’t still consider him if Kitna doesn’t seem like a viable option.
  • Buffalo Bills: This one’s a bit less likely, but McNabb could potentially end up in Buffalo. The Bills are still only two games out of playoff contention even with this weekend’s loss to Tennessee and could be looking for another quarterback. The Bills are only 5-7, but still aren’t out of the hunt and current starter Ryan Fitzpatrick hasn’t helped the team with his play over the last five weeks (six touchdowns to seven interceptions). The only thing is that McNabb’s made it clear that his goal is to win a championship this season. And it would be hard to envision him going into Buffalo and learning a playbook this quickly … all for the slight possibility of even reaching the postseason. But the fact is that the Bills have now lost five games in a row and may turn to the veteran to help them salvage their season.

November 1, 2011

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NFL Power Rankings

By: Joe Williams

1. Green Bay Packers (7-0) — The Pack has not lost a meaningful game in a long time, but it is a little premature for the 16-0 talk to begin.

2. Baltimore Ravens (5-2) — Impressive comeback against the Cardinals but they shouldn’t have been down that much to begin with. Their game in Pittsburgh on Sunday will be huge.

3. New England Patriots (5-2) – The loss to the Steelers could prove costly in the playoff seeding tiebreakers.

4. Buffalo Bills (5-2) – A win over the Jets Sunday would go a long way towards getting Buffalo back to the playoffs.

5. Detroit Lions (6-2) – They will have an extra week to enjoy that beating they gave Tebow and the Broncos.

6. Atlanta Falcons (4-3) – They got some help Sunday when the Rams knocked off the Saints. NFC South race is wide open.

7. New Orleans Saints (5-3) — I have a feeling that loss to the Rams is going to hurt when we get to January.

8. Pittsburgh Steelers (6-2) – They beat the Patriots on Sunday, and they will have a huge edge in the AFC.

9. San Francisco 49ers (6-1) – They just keep winning and could be on their way to a first round bye.

10. Houston Texans (5-3) — Andre Johnson should be back this week and the Texans should handle the Browns.

11. New York Jets (4-3) — The next two weeks against the Bills and Patriots are critical for the Jets to climb back in the race. They must win at least one of those games.

12. New York Giants (5-2) — The schedule is really tough the rest of the way. Will a two game lead be enough to hold on in the NFC East?

13. Chicago Bears (4-3) – Can the defense slow down the Philadelphia offense? We will find out on Monday Night Football.

14. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-3) — Anyone else think the Saints will be ready to go when the Bucs travel to New Orleans on Sunday? Tampa cannot afford to fall two games back with a loss.

15. San Diego Chargers (4-3) — Rivers will be kicking himself all week for the fumbled snap against the Chiefs. Once again the Chargers find a strange way to lose a game.

16. Tennessee Titans (4-3) – Chris Johnson has to get going if the Titans are going to stay in the race much longer.

17. Philadelphia Eagles (3-4) – Philly finally looked like the team everyone thought they would be in their win against the Cowboys.

18. Cincinnati Bengals (5-2) – We will find out how good the Bengals are in the next three weeks against Tennessee, Pittsburgh and Baltimore.

19. Oakland Raiders (4-3) – Moved into a first place tie without even playing and Denver is coming to town. Things are looking up.

20. Kansas City Chiefs (4-3) – Miami and Denver could have the Chiefs at 6-3 before the schedule gets really hard.

21. Dallas Cowboys (3-4) – America’s Team has the easiest schedule of the NFC East teams but it won’t matter if they play like they did Sunday night.

22. Washington Redskins (3-4) – With three straight losses, Washington has gone from the top of the NFC East standings to the bottom in a hurry.

23. Minnesota Vikings (2-6) – Christian Ponder looks like he could be the starter for a while in Minnesota.

24. Carolina Panthers (2-6) – Cam Newton will be the starter for a long time in Carolina.

25. Jacksonville Jaguars (2-6) – 12.25 points per game doesn’t win many games in this league.

26. Cleveland Browns (3-4) – Colt McCoy needs more weapons.

27. Arizona Cardinals (1-6) – Blowing that lead against the Ravens hurts. Suddenly, Sunday’s game against the Rams doesn’t look so easy.

28. St. Louis Rams (1-6) – Looking to make it two wins in a row against the Cardinals.

29. Seattle Seahawks (2-5) – The loss to Cincinnati was much closer than the score would suggest.

30. Denver Broncos (2-5) – Bronco fans got what they wanted with Tebow taking over for Orton. Unfortunately, it looks like Denver’s opponents also got what they wanted.

31. Miami Dolphins (0-7) – Should have beaten the Broncos and almost beat the Giants. They will win soon.

32. Indianapolis Colts (0-8) – They have a one loss lead in the Andrew Luck standings. This team has more problems than no Peyton Manning.