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:

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

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

August 30, 2013

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One Thing For Every NFC Fanbase 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 NFC fan wants to see from their favorite team in 2013.

Arizona Cardinals:

Fans of the Arizona Cardinals are dying to see all-world athlete Patrick Peterson play on defense, offense, special teams. Cards fans are dying to see him period. Truth be told, every NFL fan should have a burning desire to see him. He’s simply something special.

Atlanta Falcons:

The Atlanta Falcons have one goal this season. Without raising the Vince Lombardi trophy at the end of the season, 2013 will be considered all-for-not. With the addition of running back Steven Jackson, the Falcons sure do look like favorites. Can Matt Ryan and Co. get the job done?

Carolina Panthers:

Can quarterback Cam Newton revert to his rookie for this season? That’s what’s going through the minds of all Carolina Panthers fans at this moment. Who will become the secondary outlet for Newton outside of wide receiver Steve Smith? The team is truly a wildcard this season.

Chicago Bears:

Is new head coach Marc Trestman the cure for all that ails the Chicago Bears this season? If he can put a smile on the face of quarterback Jay Cutler, watch out. The NFC North is up for grabs and will be one of the most competitive in all of football, but a thriving Bears offense could put an end to the debate.

Dallas Cowboys:

Just how good is wide receiver Dez Bryant? Hold on, because we’re about to find out. When he truly explodes this year expect him to break the likes of Twitter. He’ll be the pride of Dallas and reinstall faith in the faithful. Leading the league in receiving yards isn’t out of his grasp.

Detroit Lions:

Which team will show up? The 10-6 2011 squad, or the 4-12 2012 version? Lions fans are begging to know.  This weighs heavy on Lions fans—Calvin Johnson can’t do it all. Quarterback Matthew Stafford can’t be fairly judged when he doesn’t have a running game. Offseason acquisition running back Reggie Bush looks to be the answer on offense. Lions fans sure hope. The defense, well that’s another can of worms. The Lions will sink or swim this season, but they won’t tread water.

Green Bay Packers:

Who will be quarterback Aaron Rodgers‘ favorite target? Randall Cobb, James Jones, Jordy Nelson? Is Jermichael Finley finally ready to truly breakout? At least it’s a good problem to have.

Minnesota Vikings:

Will Christian Ponder mature as an NFL quarterback? He has the size and strength, now he just needs the touch. Having a running back like Adrian Peterson always helps a quarterback moxie, but the Vikings really need Ponder to keep opposing defenses off-balance by being consistent all season long. Something tells one that this kid has got what it takes, at least for now.

New Orleans Saints:

Just how much of an impact does head coach Sean Payton make? Remember, the New Orleans Saints head coach was suspended for the entire 2013 season, and his team paid for it dearly. Now back in the saddle, expect a thriving Saints offense once again.

New York Giants:

Will the Giants‘ receiving corps stay healthy? This is always a tough thing to deliberate over, but a valid concern. With a healthy Hakeem Nicks and Victor Cruz, there will be plenty of dancing to do. Without, there won’t be much to write home about.

Philadelphia Eagles:

Just how good can quarterback Michael Vick be in new head coach Chip Kelly’s offense? This is a question we can’t wait to be answered.  Eagles fans expect highlight plays for days.

San Francisco 49ers:

Will quarterback Colin Kaepernick be as good as advertised? Last year he came on to light up the NFL. The 49ers intend on returning to the Super Bowl. In order to do so, Kaepernick will have to be just a touch better from last year.

Seattle Seahawks:

Can the Seattle Seahawks surpass the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC West? This will be a highly debated topic all season. Be sure to tune into these affairs. Just in case you were wondering, quarterback Russell Wilson is the truth.

St. Louis Rams:

What strides can the St. Louis Rams take in year two of the Jeff Fisher regime? Good things are happening in St. Louis. They will indeed be one of the most electrifying teams in the entire league this year. Quarterback Sam Bradford will justify his No. 1 overall selection this season.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers:

Can quarterback Josh Freeman get it done? He’s got a great running back in Doug Martin—now can he put it all together and help the Buccaneers win? The upper management won’t be afraid to pull the plug if he can’t.

Washington Redskins:

For Redskins fans, this one is easy—is RG3 okay? Will quarterback Robert Griffin III return to be his best? It will be fun to watch this unfold.

August 20, 2013

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NFC Preview

By: Joe Williams

Last year, I correctly picked Green Bay, Atlanta and San Francisco to win their divisions but was off the mark in the NFC East and with both wild card teams. The NFC is much tougher to read than the AFC. The NFC has been the definition of parity. In the last nine seasons, the NFC Championship Game has been played in eight different cities (only Chicago hosted twice), won by eight different teams (only New York won twice), and 11 of the 16 teams have played for the right to go to the Super Bowl (Washington, Dallas, Detroit, Tampa Bay and St. Louis haven’t been there in a while).

With Sean Payton returning to the sideline, can the Saints take back the NFC South?

NFC East

Once again, it’s the Redskins that are the most talked about team in the offseason. But this time its injury related. When will RGIII be back? Will he be 100 percent? Will he be able to stay on the field when he does come back? The Redskins come in as the champs, but won’t end the year that way. It should be safe to say that a team that finished 4-12 and has a rookie head coach won’t win either. So it comes down to the Cowboys and Giants and it won’t be decided until the final game of the season when Washington at New York gets moved to Sunday night.

Division winner: Dallas

NFC North

Three teams won 10 games last season and two went to the playoffs. The Packers will be very good again and it seems that we never know what to expect from the Vikings, Bears and Lions. The Lions will be better and the Vikings will be worse. So assuming that Jay Cutler can stay healthy this year, the Bears will be the team to challenge Green Bay. They play in Chicago in week 17 and the division title could be on the line…but it won’t. The Bears will be playing for a wild card spot and Green Bay will be looking to send their rivals home.

Division winner: Green Bay

NFC South

Atlanta won the South by six games and should have gone to the Super Bowl last season. Now that Sean Payton and Drew Brees are back together, it may have been the Falcons best shot. Tampa Bay and Carolina should both be better as well. But not everyone can be over .500. Either the Bucs or Panthers will fall out of the race before Thanksgiving but the other three will all be in the playoff chase until the bitter end.

Division winner: Atlanta

NFC West

This one is a two team race. The 49ers and Seahawks are clearly better than the Rams and Cardinals. If the 49ers and Seahawks were scheduled to play in week 17, I’d say the division title and probably a bye would be at stake. Both teams should be headed to the playoffs in January so the real question is which one gets the break that allows them to win West and host at least one playoff game.

Division winner: Seattle

Wild Card winners: San Francisco, Chicago

NFC champion: Atlanta

(To read our AFC Preview, click here.)

July 17, 2013

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Early 2013 NFL NFC Fantasy Sleepers

By: Matt Bowen

With NFL training camps set to begin in a matter of days, now is the time to start penciling in your fantasy sleepers for the 2013 season.

With the glass always being half-full, we’re now just weeks away from all things football. With that being said, it’s not soon enough, it never is.  Who’s not ready for charcoal filling the parking lot air, 24-hour coverage and competitive banter amongst friends through fantasy football contention.

Knowing that losing is not an option, keep these players in mind during your upcoming fantasy draft.

Here’s one fantasy sleeper from each NFC team.

NFC East:

Dallas Cowboys: The Dallas Cowboys have a telltale year ahead of them. They play in a strong AFC East division and need their stars to have career years. With that being said quarterback Tony Romo, running back DeMarco Murray and wide receiver Dez Bryant will need help. Look no further than wide receiver Dwayne Harris as a trusted sidekick in the receiving game.

Harris has improved his game this offseason and the Cowboys need a player like himself to step forth and become reliable.

Dez Bryant and the Cowboys hope Dwayne Harris can contribute this season.

New York Giants: Running back Andre Brown is a necessary handcuff if you choose to take New York Giants primary ball carrier David Wilson in your draft. Brown is goal-line gold—he scored eight touchdowns in just 10 games last season.

If you play in a deep league don’t be afraid to take Brown in the late rounds.

Philadelphia Eagles: A new era has begun in Philadelphia—it seems quite foreign but it’s a fresh breath of air for the franchise.

With new head coach Chip Kelly bringing an uptempo offense to town, expect rookie tight end Zach Ertz to see the field early and often. His receiving skills are his positive, which gives him fantasy value. He may be listed as tight end No. 3 for the Eagles, but he’ll soar before season’s end.

Washington Redskins: Due to second-year quarterback Robert Griffin III and running back Alfred Morris there’s a lot to like about the Washington Redskins future.

The team itself has made itself must-see TV. While wide receiver Pierre Garcon is the best the team has to offer, thanks to injuries he’ll be a fantasy steal. Garcon has reoccurring issues with a nagging foot injury that will steer would-be fantasy owners clear until the mid-to-late rounds.

Anything past round eight and Garcon is a must.

NFC North:

Chicago Bears: Quarterback Jay Cutler faces a must-win situation this season—he has so much talent but he perform brilliantly. With that being said, newly acquired tight end Martellus Bennett will do nothing good things for Cutler and the offense.

Bennett is the Bears‘ primary tight end and will be utilized to the fullest. Due to the uncertainty of Cutler and the offense Bennett will be forgotten about in most fantasy leagues. You’ve been warned–he’ll be out there for the taking.

Detroit Lions: The Detroit Lions are in desperate need of a safety valve for quarterback Matthew Stafford. Unfortunately, wide receiver Calvin Johnson can’t be targeted on every play.

Good thing for the Lions, receiver Ryan Broyles is poised to be a consistent contributor. He’s an immense talent that has been tormented by injuries since his days at the University of Oklahoma.

If he can stay healthy, and that’s a big if, Broyles could bring you a championship. He’ll definitely be available late.

Green Bay Packers: James Jones is now the No. 1 wide receiver for the Green Bay Packers, but he won’t be treated like it in fantasy drafts. Instead, fantasy junkies will go after the likes of Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb first.

While those are great options for quarterback Aaron Rodgers, Jones is his main man. The 29-year-old led the NFL with 14 receiving touchdowns last season, yet somehow he will be bypassed. Don’t be that person, anything past round four and Jones should be on your side.

Minnesota Vikings: Don’t be fooled by the Minnesota Vikings appearance in the playoffs last season—they are better than advertised.

Of course it doesn’t hurt to have running back Adrian Peterson in the mix, but the Vikes are true contenders.

Quarterback Christian Ponder has a ton of pressure against him heading into the season in terms of consistent production, but rookie wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson will help Ponder’s confidence.

Another fact is that new Viking receiver Greg Jennings is a great mentor for Patterson. The Vikings have been yearning for a guy like Patterson for some time now. The kid has a freakish skill-set. He’ll look really nice on your roster too.

NFC South:

Atlanta Falcons: The Super Bowl is the only thing the Atlanta Falcons have on their mind this season and for good reason. The addition of a hungry Steven Jackson at running back was one of the most underrated of the offseason. Having said that, backup running back Jacquizz Rodgers is the most important component of the Falcons offense heading into 2013.

A dual threat out of the backfield, Rodgers is a late-round must.

Carolina Panthers: Believe it or not, Panthers quarterback Cam Newton will be ripe for the picking in fantasy drafts this season. Since he isn’t considered an upper-echelon quarterback due to slight slip in production in his sophomore season, he’ll be a second tier guy.

Newton is one of the most game’s most dynamic players and this year is a critical time for the game breaker. When he’s available in the fifth round and you don’t have a quarterback yet, feel free to take him.

He may not be a sleeper, but he’ll be a steal.

New Orleans Saints: For Saints fans, anything has to be better than what 2012 brought them. Now that the nightmare is over the franchise can focus on returning to elite NFL status. If they are to do so, running back Mark Ingram will play a crucial role in the running game this year.

Ingram is the team’s big back, but the spry Darren Sproles is the focal point of many fantasy owners. With Ingram entering his third year in the league, he has to live up to his hype.  With something to prove, Ingram is a value pick in any round past eight.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Tamps Bay QB Josh Freeman needs a safety valve this year—that man will be tight end Luke Stocker. The role is Stocker’s to lose this preseason and Freeman needs the third-year tight end to make him look good.

With little in terms of production his first two NFL seasons, Stocker will be available throughout fantasy drafts. He may be a guy that has to score a couple of touchdowns in Week 1 against the New York Jets to get his point across.

NFC West:

Arizona Cardinals: It’s a new day in the desert and wide receiver Michael Floyd is a can’t-miss this year.

The Arizona Cardinals offense should look much improved this year with new head coach Bruce Arians at the wheel. Yes, Carson Palmer is now their quarterback, but he’s an improvement over last year.

Floyd is entering his second NFL season and will flourish in Arians new scheme. Oh yeah, it doesn’t hurt to have Larry Fitzgerald to distract opposing defenses on the other side of the field.

Seattle Seahawks: Fans of the Seattle Seahawks have to be restless this offseason in anticipation of the 2013 season. Unexpected success last year has brought the team to the forefront of the NFL elite.

If anything, the team improved this offseason and the addition of wide receiver Percy Harvin makes teammate and fellow receiver Golden Tate a sleeper.

Correct, Tate will have to impress in training camp to get balls thrown his way because of Harvin and Sidney Rice slated to start for the Seahawks, but Tate won’t be forgotten about.

He’s entering the final year of his contract and wanting to leave Seattle would not be wise. Expect Tate to leave it all on the field this season.

San Francisco 49ers: This is a tough one—A.J. Jenkins or Quinton Patton? Both youngsters are wide receivers and there’s only one starting position this season. Jenkins flopped in his rookie campaign with the 49ers while Patton is in his inaugural NFL year.

Both men are flush with raw talent; keep a close eye on who wins this training camp battle.

St. Louis Rams: Remember the “Greatest Show on Turf?” Well, Rams fans should buckle-up and enjoy the show this season, for the future is now for the franchise. Once suffering from NFL obscurity not too long ago, the Rams have improved tremendously.

As for a sleeper, take your pick—behind rookie wide receiver Tavon Austin, there’s a stable of quantifiable options. Chris Givens, Brian Quick and Stedman Bailey should all be options as a late-round steal.

The Rams will be one of the most exciting teams to watch this season, make sure to set some time aside on Sundays.