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.

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

December 22, 2011

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Looking Toward the NFL Playoffs

By: Rick Jarrell

With the large majority of fantasy football over, with only a lucky, select few still worrying about their lineups this weekend, I’ll divert my attention. Just make a note to set your lineups before Thursday night, and especially before Saturday, when the majority of games will be played.
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Only two weeks left means the playoff picture is becoming clearer. The fringe teams like the Tennessee Titans and Kansas City Chiefs appear on their way out, although not mathematically eliminated. Meanwhile, perennial studs like New England and Pittsburgh have nearly solidified top seeds. But there’s still spots up for grabs and a few areas to be sorted out. I’ll point out the most interesting stories.

Tebow Brings the Broncos Back to the Playoffs

Despite that predictable hiccup against the Patriots Sunday – where Tom Brady put a muzzle on the Tebow fan club for a few days – the Broncos appear poised to take the division. Their final games are at a struggling Buffalo Bills team, who could not keep early momentum and have fallen to last place in their division, and the Kansas City Chiefs, who again are not technically out, but have a steep hill to climb. The biggest threat here is the Oakland Raiders – but Carson Palmer has played terribly for them, and unless Darren McFadden comes back strong, they’re likely to split their last two games.

San Diego is also looming. The team that tends to have a strong December may be too late, though, as the usually weak division has made forward strides this season.

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Tim Tebow and the Broncos are on the brink of the playoffs. Can they finish the job?

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NFC East Battle

At times considered one of the most competitive divisions in the NFL, it appears, at least for this season, to be because no team can rise up and take control. The Cowboys had a string of strong wins and were seemingly ready to take the reigns as a solid playoff possibility. Yet, after a heart-breaking loss against the Giants in Week 14, Eli Manning and his squad kept them in the hunt. The Giants had a seemingly easy game against the Redskins in Week 15, but that proved not the case, and knocked them back down a peg.

Now the Giants face their city rivals this week, followed by a potentially division-deciding match up against the ‘Boys. The insanity doesn’t stop there, though. If events happen right (or wrong depending on some viewpoints), the Eagles could sneak into the playoffs.

Will Three AFC North Teams Make the Playoffs?

The division is dominated by the Baltimore Ravens and Pittsburgh Steelers year in and year out, with this year being no different. Despite the lackluster performances this weekend, they’re both tied for the division lead at 10-4. But the new horse in the race is the Cincinnati Bengals

The Bengals have gone from bottom dweller – widely perceived as one of the worst teams going into the season – to a team that has found a spark behind a strong defense, easy schedule, and rookies AJ Green and Andy Dalton. They don’t face weak teams by any means – the Ravens and the Cardinals, who have showed flashes as of late – but have a strong opportunity to overtake the Jets as the sixth seed. As a Browns fan, if all three make it, I’ll have an excuse to think they were better than they performed this year. It’s the little things.