January 8, 2014
The 2014 NFL Divisional Playoff Games are set to make fans out of all of us beginning January 11. Now down to just eight teams, this round of playoffs is something special. Arguably the league’s top eight quarterbacks from 2013 will be on display and this one figures to be a ruckus affair.
If one had to compare it to another sports spectacle, the WWE’s Royal Rumble would be it. While there are not as many participants this late in the NFL season, the personalities left make for must-see TV. All of these games are great matchups, let’s rank the duels and find out who’ll remain when the dust settles. Last man standing wins.
San Diego Chargers vs. Denver Broncos
There’s an abundance of hype surrounding this one and deservingly so, but that doesn’t mean its king of the mountain this week.
This will be a rematch of AFC West foes as the San Diego Chargers are full of electricity heading into Mile High Stadium to face their nemesis, the Denver Broncos. The two teams split the season series, each winning on the road. The Chargers recently beat the Broncos in Week 15 to enrich their playoff formula. Being that this is so recent, the Chargers still relish that feeling while the taste of defeat still lingers in the Broncos mouth.
Philip Rivers vs. Peyton Manning is a dream matchup when it comes to quarterbacks. Their personalities may be opposite on the spectrum but their games are explosive. Manning was simply Manning all season as he put up historic numbers on his ascent to the top of the quarterback food chain. Rivers had a bounce-back season and reminded us all that his name deserves to be thrown in the ring when it comes to elite quarterbacks.
Whatever the outcome, this one will be great.
New Orleans Saints vs. Seattle Seahawks
There was much skepticism surround New Orleans being on the road, they just aren’t the same team away from their home. Well, they silenced critics last week when they escaped Philadelphia with a win.
Now Drew Brees leads his men back to Seattle with a score to settle. Filled with confidence, the Saints will be ready. Don’t think for one second this time around will end in the same lopsided score.
Then again, don’t think Russell Wilson and company won’t be ready for the Saints attack. The Seahawks are home to the 12th Man, which just happens to their crowd which is as loud as a Boeing 747. The 12th Man is a game-changer and given the playoff stipulation, they’ll find a way to crank it up to 11.
Brees vs. Wilson is a superb matchup as they’re simply two of the best the game has to offer. Albeit undersized, both men are extremely athletic and highly intelligent. They keep their respective teams composed throughout.
This is a matchup that we’ll look back on years down the road and simply smile due to its greatness.
San Francisco 49ers vs. Carolina Panthers
Wow—this games screams old-fashioned slobber-knocker.
The San Francisco 49ers are one of hottest teams in the NFL while the Carolina Panthers feel disrespected. After all, they beat the Niners in San Fran in Week 10, 10-9 and aren’t getting much love right now.
The Panthers feature a stout defense and a quarterback in Cam Newton that’s on a mission. The same can be said about the 49ers and Colin Kaepernick. Not wanting to give an inch, this one will be an all-out war.
Both quarterbacks can great runners but it will come down to their arms in this one. The quarterback that makes the big throw with the game on the line will win. Choosing to tuck and run at the wrong time will prove to be futile.
Expect this one to be ugly in the beginning due to neither team wanting back down. In the end, last team with the ball wins.
Indianapolis Colts vs. New England Patriots
What’s in a name? Andrew doesn’t need any, that kid is just a phenom. He’s recently been compared to Michael Jordan. While it’s still early in his career, that’s the best comment any athlete could ever get.
This isn’t all about Luck and the Colts, the Patriots are the home team and the great Brady has never done more with less. The Patriots have been picked apart no thanks to injuries this season but still find a way to win, which makes them scary.
Luck and his team has already beaten the Broncos, Seahawks and Niners in 2013. They play up to their competition and being that this is the playoffs, they’ll be ready to go.
This is one you may want to record because when you’re starving for football sometime in May, you’ll wish you could see this one. Every single second of this game must be seen by all. There’s no telling what Luck and Brady are capable of next.
December 28, 2013
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
Beside the Final Spot, the AFC is settled:
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.
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:
December 19, 2013
With the playoffs three short weeks away let’s have some fun and predict the 2013 NFL award winners. While the season is still in the balance for plenty of teams, let’s be bold and take an educated guess. The final two weeks may sway some votes, but we have a good idea of how things will pan out. One thing is for certain, the NFL definitely didn’t disappoint this season—the final two weeks along with the playoffs will be as exciting as ever.
Keep these players in mind when the awards are doled out at the end of the season.
Coach of the Year
This is a tight race, but there’s clearly one winner.
There were eight head coaching changes heading into this season, and it can be easily argued that every new coach met or exceeded their expectations. Last year the following eight teams won a combined 41 games—headed into Week 16 this year these teams have a combined 56 wins.
Hats off to all the men in charge, but the award goes to Andy Reid in Kansas City. The Chiefs were a dark horse Super Bowl team in 2012 before the won only two games and earned the No. 1 pick in the draft. This year Reid has tapped into their talent and the Chiefs currently have 11 wins. They may not win their division but a playoff appearance in a given. The Chiefs are explosive and a blast to watch.
Defensive Player of the Year
Defensive studs are often put on the back burner because they don’t score touchdowns. Not here, the men in the trenches get the acknowledgement they deserve.
While it’s difficult to pinpoint who is precisely the best defensive player, it’s not hard to find an answer. Many men are worthy of the award, but the Indianapolis Colts defensive end Robert Mathis takes the prize. His 16.5 sacks currently lead the league, and the Colts are once again going to make the playoffs.
What’s most remarkable about Mathis is his age—at 32 Mathis is an “old man” amongst the league’s new hybrid athletes on the defensive side of the ball. Still, Mathis is the best at his craft and a great leader on a rather young Colts defense. Cheers to you, Mr. Mathis.
Breakout Player of the Year
This award goes to the guy who doesn’t have a chance at 2013 NFL MVP, but his breakout season may earn him the grand award in the near future.
The argument can be made for both of these players but in the end only one can win. Both of these guys are receivers who have made tremendous strides toward stardom this season. The deciding factor ultimately comes down to team wins.
Josh Gordon of the Cleveland Browns currently leads the league is receiving yards with 1,467 and also has nine touchdowns. He has quickly become one of the most dangerous men in the game. If the Browns ever find a quarterback and running game Gordon may make a run a 2,000 yards in a single season. Right now, his team only has four wins. He’s 22 years old and has all the talent in the world. He’s had a troubled past, but should he leave his problems behind him the sky is the limit.
In the end, the 2013 Breakout Player of the Year goes to Alshon Jeffery of the Chicago Bears. The Bears currently lead the NFC North and control their own fate in terms of a playoff berth.
Jeffery is currently seventh in the league in receiving yards with 1,265. He has seven touchdowns and 80 catches. He’s the perfect complement to teammate Brandon Marshall and has hands like magnets. Jeffery is only 23 years old and appears to be a Windy City staple for the next decade. Because of Jeffery the Bears are multi-dimensional and have a chance at a deep Super Bowl run. All he does is make highlight reels.
Rookie of the Year
Let’s be honest—today’s NFL is not made for rookies. There’s a steep learning curve that takes many highly touted prospects and puts them in their place—the bench. Last year may have been an exception due to the likes of Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III, and Russell Wilson but reality has struck once again in 2013.
To be a standout rookie in the NFL you have to be something special. Right now, only three guys come to mind the rookie debate pops up. Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Mike Glennon deserves mention—the Bucs were terrible before he earned the starting job. Being a rookie quarterback isn’t easy, especially when you don’t start the season as the No. 1. The Bucs started 0-8 but have since won 4-of-6. For that they have hope for the future. Give the NC State alum a full offseason as the main man, and positive results will come.
Zac Stacy of the St. Louis Rams has been a bright spot in an up-and-down season for the franchise. The team was searching for a running back to win the job for weeks and found one in Stacy. The rookie from Vanderbilt has 854 yards on 202 carries and six touchdowns. He’s a real bruiser and looks like he’s made a name for himself in the NFL. Considering he only had one carry before October, Stacy has been a welcomed surprise. Because of him, the Rams will be a sleeper in 2014. He’s a real workhorse.
Look no further than Eddie Lacy of the Green Bay Packers for NFL Rookie of the Year. The rookie out of Alabama looks like this generation’s Marshawn Lynch of the Seattle Seahawks. Lacy has 248 carries for 1,028 yards and eight touchdowns. Right now the Green Bay Packers control their own destiny and when quarterback Aaron Rodgers returns from injury they’ll become the most feared offense in the NFC. Lacy makes them dangerous, the kid is a juggernaut.
So, who’s the NFL’s most valuable player this season? Let’s keep this short and sweet for there will be much debate to come.
Nick Foles deserves a mention for his work turning around the once underachieving Philadelphia Eagles.
Tom Brady, Peyton Manning and Drew Brees are always in the conversation as they should be. Manning will end up breaking the all-time touchdown record in a season of 50 set by Mr. Brady, he currently has 47 but is he the hands down MVP? No.
Outside the quarterback position, New Orleans Saints tight end Jimmy Graham is the most dangerous player in the game. He’s can’t be guarded—his physical stature is not really fair to his opponents—but even he missed the top spot.
Heck, even Baltimore Ravens kicker Justin Tucker deserves a vote—all that guy does is split the uprights.
This year’s NFL MVP is Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson.
Correct, Wilson only has 3,077 passing yards, which ranks him No. 17 in the league. But it’s not his arm that is most valuable, it’s his mentality. He’s thrown 24 touchdowns, eight interceptions, completed 64.7 percent of his throws and has run for 508 yards on 89 rushes.
He doesn’t make many mistakes and only runs when it’s the right choice. His team is currently 12-2 and lethal at home. Right now the Seahawks seem a lock for the Super Bowl.
So special that the Texas Rangers drafted him in the recent Rule 5 MLB draft—he hasn’t played baseball in some time yet everybody wants a piece of Russell Wilson. He can seemingly do no wrong.
He’s got a million dollar smile and is priceless on the field. Wilson for MVP—no doubt.
November 27, 2013
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
November 14, 2013
We’ve past the halfway point of the NFL season and now have a pretty good idea of who is good and who isn’t. But the playoff race is still wide open. Unless you are the Atlanta Falcons, Buffalo Bills, Houston Texans, Jacksonville Jaguars, Minnesota Vikings, Oakland Raiders, Pittsburgh Steelers, St. Louis Rams or Tampa Bay Buccaneers. For everyone else, their season could be defined by the outcome of one game. Here’s my take on the games that each team must win to secure its playoff destiny.
Baltimore Ravens - The defending Super Bowl champ Ravens are on the ropes. And when you are on the ropes, you cannot afford to lose to a team playing without its starting quarterback. Even if the game is in Chicago.
Cincinnati Bengals – Nobody wants to head into the bye with three straight losses. A loss to Cleveland would take the Bengals out of the hunt for a playoff bye and leave them in a dogfight to win the division that was theirs just a couple weeks ago.
Denver Broncos – They can take control of the AFC with a win over the undefeated Chiefs. A loss and the Broncos could be looking at the No. 5 seed in the AFC. There is a huge difference between No. 1 and No. 5.
Philadelphia Eagles – New coach Chip Kelly has his team tied for the lead in the NFC East despite starting the season with four straight losses at home. A win in Philly over the Redskins would put the Eagles in first place and eliminate a division rival from contention.
Washington Redskins – A win would really tighten up the NFC East race. A loss would put the Redskins at 3-7 and needing six straight wins plus help. Better win in Philly.
Cleveland Browns – The Browns have two games left against the Steelers. If the Browns don’t win this one, the week 17 rematch won’t have any playoff implications.
Green Bay Packers – The Packers need to pick up at least one more win before Aaron Rodgers returns for the final month. Playing at home against a bad Vikings team looks like the one they cannot afford to lose.
New England Patriots – The Patriots will be in the playoffs but if they are going to have a chance at home-field advantage, this is a must win game on Sunday night against the Broncos.
San Diego Chargers – The Chargers have two games coming up against the Chiefs and for the one in week 17 to matter, they need to win this one.
Chicago Bears – If Jay Cutler can’t stay on the field, the Bears are in trouble. Either way, they’ll need this game against the Vikings to improve their conference and division record because if they are going to get in the playoffs, I expect tiebreakers to be involved.
Detroit Lions – The Lions are in first place in the NFC North and have a sweep over the Bears. They could win the division and make a run at a first-round bye. But for that to happen, they’ll need to give their fans something to be thankful for with a win over Green Bay on Thanksgiving Day.
Kansas City Chiefs – Despite the 9-0 record, the Chiefs haven’t shown they belong with the big boys by beating any of the other top teams in the league. They’ll have to beat Denver at least once to win the AFC West and home-field advantage in the AFC and this will be their best shot.
Seattle Seahawks – The Seahawks should have no trouble making the playoffs. But they could just about lockup home-field advantage in the NFC with a Monday night win over the Saints.
Indianapolis Colts – Nobody has better wins than the Colts. Another big one against the Bengals would give the Colts the edge for the No. 3 seed and keep them alive for the No. 2 seed in the AFC.
San Francisco 49ers – The 49ers shouldn’t have trouble picking up a few more wins to reach the playoffs. But if they are going to have a shot at winning the division or make a Super Bowl run, they’ve got to redeem themselves against Seattle after getting creamed earlier this season.
Arizona Cardinals – The Cardinals will need at least nine wins to get a wild card spot. They could get number nine in Tennessee and with Seattle and San Fransisco coming up, it could be their last win as well.
Carolina Panthers – They have two games to play against the Saints. Losing both would really hurt and I like Carolina’s chances to win at home much better.
Dallas Cowboys – The NFC East looks like it will come down to the final game of the season as usual. Luckily for the Cowboys, they’ll be at home to face the Eagles.
New York Jets – The AFC wild card race looks like its headed for a wild finish with at least six teams still in play. A week 17 win is a must for the Jets to grab the final spot.