September 17, 2013

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NFL Teams That Must Win Week 3

By: Joe Williams

History has shown that it is highly unlikely that NFL teams starting the season 0-2 will make the playoffs and if they drop to 0-3 it is just about impossible. With that in mind, several teams head into the third game of the season knowing that it is pretty much a must-win situation. Here’s a look at the teams that are already in desperation mode.

Carolina Panthers

The Panthers are becoming notorious for losing games after leading in the fourth quarter. They’ve done it twice this year already. Sunday’s last-second loss in Buffalo really hurts because the Panthers have a bunch of tough games left to play. With the Saints and Falcons (twice each) plus San Fransisco and New England left to play, Carolina’s margin for error is about gone. That means the Panthers better pick up a W when the Giants come to town on Sunday.

Cleveland Browns

Let’s be honest; Cleveland wasn’t going to the playoffs anyway. This season is all about Brandon Weeden and figuring out if he is the quarterback of the future or if it will be time to find a new QB for 2014.

Jacksonville Jaguars

How bad are things in Jacksonville? So bad that the fans are asking that the team sign Tim Tebow. I’m looking at the schedule and having a hard time finding a game the Jags are going to win before the bye week. Can you say 0-8?

Can the Vikings bounce back with three straight home games?

Minnesota Vikings

The Vikings lost a heart-breaker in Chicago to fall two games behind the Bears in the NFC North. But they have a chance to climb back into the race with three straight home games against teams that are also 0-2. And they are going to need to win all three because the sledding gets pretty tough after that.

New York Giants

The Giants lucked out when everyone else in the NFC East lost on Sunday. They are just a game behind the Cowboys and Eagles but have three of the next four games on the road. Then again, if Eli Manning keeps throwing picks and the defense allows almost 40 points a game, the Giants won’t want to be in front of their home crowd anyway.

Pittsburgh Steelers

Two games. Two touchdowns. Two losses. The schedule doesn’t appear to be all that tough, but if the Steelers fall at home against the Bears on Sunday night and drop to 0-3, consider them done. The offensive line has to play better for this team to have a chance.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

What’s the best remedy to heal after two straight losses on the final play of the game? I’d say it’s definitely not a road trip to face Tom Brady and the Patriots. But that’s what the Bucs have this week. And if they lose, they’ll need to finish 10-3 to get a playoff spot. Good luck with that.

Washington Redskins

Washington has outscored its opponents 40-21 in the second half so far, but been so bad in the first half that they never had a chance to win either game. Luckily, the Lions and Raiders are up next and Washington has a good chance to get to 2-2 heading into the bye week. That would be a pretty good start considering the questions surrounding RGIII’s health entering the season.

December 18, 2012

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NFL Power Rankings

By: Joe Williams

A lot changed in the NFL in Week 15. Fans in Washington, Minnesota and Dallas saw their playoff hopes improve dramatically. And if you are rooting for Baltimore, Tampa Bay, New York Giants, St. Louis, Chicago, Pittsburgh or the New York Jets…your hopes either took a major hit and/or are gone all together. Here’s how I have them ranked with two games to go.

1 San Francisco 49ers (10-3-1) — As the Nature Boy Ric Flair always said, “To be the man, you’ve got to beat the man.” The Patriots were at the top last week and the 49ers went into New England and won. San Fransisco is now “The Man.”

Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers haven't given up on this season.

2 Atlanta Falcons (12-2) — Talk about making a statement. If anybody wants to get to New Orleans, they are going to have to go through Atlanta.

3 New England Patriots (10-4)Tom Brady was on the verge of one of the greatest comebacks in NFL history. But the Patriots couldn’t finish it off and likely cost themselves a playoff bye.

4 Houston Texans (12-2)
— One more win ought to be enough to lock up home-field advantage in the AFC. It won’t be easy with the Vikings and Colts both fighting for wild card spots.

5 Denver Broncos (11-3)
– The Broncos may be the biggest winner of week 15. Home wins over the Browns and Chiefs will clinch the No. 2 seed and a first round bye.

6 Green Bay Packers (10-4) – The NFC North champs have won eight of nine and have their sights set on the NFC’s No. 2 seed and a first round bye.

7 Seattle Seahawks (9-5) – After putting up 108 points in the last two weeks the Seahawks are one win away from getting into the playoffs (probably) and have an outside shot of stealing the NFC West from San Fransisco.

8 Dallas Cowboys (8-6) – Somehow the Cowboys got off the mat and won five of six. If they can make it seven of eight they should be NFC East champs.

9 Baltimore Ravens (9-5) — Remember when the Ravens were on the verge of earning a bye in the first round of the playoffs? A desperate New York Giant team could give them a fourth straight loss and make the Ravens at Bengals in week 17 for the division title.

10 Washington Redskins (8-6) – Five straight wins have the Redkins at the top of the NFC East. A win at Philly this week will set up a huge week 17 showdown with the Cowboys.

11 Cincinnati Bengals (8-6) – The Bengals can make the playoffs with a win in Pittsburgh. A loss makes things very interesting.

12 New York Giants (8-6) – Did the Giants just sneak in an extra bye week? Sunday’s game in Baltimore is a must win.

13 Indianapolis Colts (9-5) – The Colts should have no trouble with the Chiefs this week. A win should keep them from having to go to New England in the first round.

14 Minnesota Vikings (8-6) – If the playoffs started today….with Houston and Green Bay left on the schedule, they have started for the Vikings.

15 Chicago Bears (8-6) — Wins in Arizona and Detroit won’t be enough to get the Bears in the playoffs. They need help.

16 Pittsburgh Steelers (7-7) – Despite losing four of five, the Steelers can make the playoffs by winning the last two games. Their reward for doing so? Probably the Patriots.

17 New Orleans Saints (6-8) – This season cannot end fast enough for the Saints now that they are out of playoff contention.

18 Carolina Panthers (5-9) –  Don’t be surprised if the Panthers finish 7-9. This is one team that hasn’t quit.

19 St. Louis Rams (6-7-1) – If everyone in front of them loses, a win would give the Rams something to play for in week 17.

20 Miami Dolphins (6-8) – Surprisingly, the Dolphins still have hope. They must beat Buffalo and hope the Steelers beat the Bengals to go into week 17 with a chance.

21 Tennessee Titans (5-9) – Is Jake Locker the future for the Titans? I’m not sure they know the answer.

22 New York Jets (6-8) – The Jets looked more like a team playing for the top pick in the draft than a playoff spot on Monday night.

23 Tampa Bay Buccaneers (6-8)
– That 41-0 beat down ensured the Bucs won’t have to worry about making a trip to the frozen tundra in January.

24 Arizona Cardinals (5-9) – Nice win for the Cards. With the Bears and 49ers coming up, they were looking at a 12-game losing streak to finish the season.

25 Detroit Lions (4-10) – The Lions are a candidate for most disappointing team of 2012. They could lose their last eight games.

26 Cleveland Browns (5-9) – You heard it here first. Cleveland makes the playoffs in 2013.

27 Buffalo Bills (5-9) – Maybe the Bills are the new Redskins? Let’s see if they try to win the off-season for the second year in a row.

28 San Diego Chargers (5-9)
– The window in San Diego is officially closed. Time to rebuild.

29 Oakland Raiders (4-10) – The Raiders haven’t allowed a point in five quarters.

30 Philadelphia Eagles (4-10) – Eagles are headed for 4-12 with two playoff hungry opponents remaining but they would love to knock the Redskins and Giants out of the race.

31 Jacksonville Jaguars (2-12) – GM, Head Coach, quarterback and even franchise location are question marks? That’s not good.

32 Kansas City Chiefs (2-12) – The Chiefs appear to be a lock for 2-14 and the first pick in the draft.

October 17, 2012

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NFL Power Rankings

By: Joe Williams

The NFL season is really beginning to take shape now and parity is running rampant. Everyone has at least one win. Only Atlanta has yet to suffer defeat. Half the teams are at or within one game of .500. Here’s how I have them stacked up:

1 Atlanta Falcons (6-0) — Matty Ice does it again. Ryan led the Falcons on another game-winning drive to remain perfect. Nobody else in the NFC has more than 4 wins.

2 Baltimore Ravens (5-1) — The Ravens survived a late surge from the Cowboys but could be in trouble after injuries to Ray Lewis and Lardarius Webb.

The Kansas City Chiefs haven't started the season the way their fans had hoped.

3 Houston Texans (5-1) — It was the wrong time to face an angry team from Green Bay but next week may be the best time to take the Ravens.

4 New York Giants (4-2) – The Giants showed why they are the reigning NFC champs in San Francisco. They can create some separation in the NFC East with wins over Washington and Dallas in the next two weeks.

5 San Francisco 49ers (4-2) – The NFC West won’t be as easy as we thought. Next three games all within the division.

6 Chicago Bears (4-1) – Nobody talks about this team but with the Lions, Panthers and Titans coming up, the Bears could easily get to 7-1.

7 New England Patriots (3-3) – Brady has got to be fuming after the Pats blew a 13-point fourth quarter lead in Seattle.

8 Denver Broncos (3-3) – The miracle in San Diego could propel this team to division champs come December. Nice way for Denver to enter the bye.

9 Seattle Seahawks (4-2) – One of the biggest surprises so far this year. Big test next week in S.F. with division lead on the line.

10 Green Bay Packers (3-3) – That was the Green Bay team we expected to see all season Sunday in Houston. Have they righted the ship?

11 Arizona Cardinals (4-2) – Interesting matchup of surprise teams coming up with the Cardinals visiting Minnesota.

12 New York Jets (3-3) – The Jets are this years Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde team. Which one shows to to face the Patriots?

13 Dallas Cowboys (2-3) – Cowboys should be desperate for a win against Carolina with Giants, Falcons and Eagles coming up next.

14 Minnesota Vikings (4-2) – Huge game for the Vikings this week. They need to get their wins now with four games against Bears and Packers to come.

15 Washington Redskins (3-3) – The Redskins should be pleased if they can get to 4-4 with trips to the Giants and Steelers up next.

16 Detroit Lions (2-3) – The offense showed up just in the nick of time. Dropping to 1-4 would have severely hampered any remaining playoff hopes.

17 Philadelphia Eagles (3-3) – Changing defensive coordinators may help but it won’t matter if Michael Vick keeps giving the ball away.

18 San Diego Chargers (3-3) – That second half meltdown against the Broncos could be the difference in the AFC West at the end of the season.

19 Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-3) – A 38-10 win is a nice way to come off your bye week. Let’s see how Tampa Bay does against an opponent coming off its bye this week.

20 Pittsburgh Steelers (2-3) – The Steelers have a few extra days of rest heading into a big divisional game in Cincinnati. A loss puts Pittsburgh in a big hole.

21 New Orleans Saints (1-4) – The upcoming trip to Tampa is a must win for Brees and company with Broncos, Eagles and Falcons after that.

22 St. Louis Rams (3-3) – St. Louis will have a hard time getting out of the NFC West cellar. Packers, Patriots and 49ers are the next three. Can you say 3-6?

23 Cincinnati Bengals (3-3) – Blowing that fourth quarter lead against Cleveland could be very costly for the young Bengals.

24 Buffalo Bills (3-3) – The Bills need a win against Tennessee with road games in Houston and New England coming after the bye.

25 Miami Dolphins (3-3) – The Dolphins play very tough on defense. That will keep the rookie quarterback in a lot of games.

26 Oakland Raiders (1-4) – The Raiders looked pretty good but couldn’t close the deal in Atlanta. Schedule gets easier now.

27 Tennessee Titans (2-4) – Nobody gave them a shot to beat Pittsburgh. A loss in Buffalo on Sunday will make the playoffs a longshot.

28 Indianapolis Colts (2-3) – Terrible showing against the Jets. Luckily, Browns are up next.

29 Cleveland Browns (1-5) – Played the Ravens and Giants tough and then beat the Bengals. Browns making progress.

30 Jacksonville Jaguars (1-4) – The Jags have had a long time to dwell on the beat down from Chicago. How will they respond coming out of the bye?

31 Carolina Panthers (1-4) – The Panthers haven’t won in a month. That’s an eternity in NFL time.

32 Kansas City Chiefs (1-5) – The Chiefs have to be the most disappointing team of the season. The schedule doesn’t get any easier either. Long season ahead.

August 28, 2012

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Top 5 Things to Look Forward to in the NFL in 2012

By: Matt Bowen

The 2012 NFL season is set to kick off in just a few short weeks and this season promises to be nothing less than fantastic.

While every team has their own storylines to follow, a few stick out and will shape the NFL landscape in 2012.

Without further ado, let’s take a look at the upcoming headlines of the 2012 NFL season.

The New York Jets' QB situation will continue to be a storyline all season long.

No. 5: Randy Moss Returns to the NFL

Love him or hate him, Randy Moss is one of the most polarizing wide receivers in NFL history.  Now a member of the San Francisco 49ers after taking a season off, Moss is just another reason to believe that the Niners will be serious Super Bowl contenders this season. Their defense became the most feared in the NFL in 2011 as it was their offense that fans were skeptical of. Niners fans should have nothing but smiles on their faces because the organization boosted their offense with the likes of Moss this offseason. Everyone knows that he can be downright awesome when he wants to be and all signs indicate that he wants to be. Keep an eye on Moss.

No. 4: The New York Jets Quarterback Carousel

The New York Jets had a more than interesting offseason. After signing quarterback Mark Sanchez to a healthy extension, the team traded for Tim Tebow. Everybody expected a circus and they won’t be disappointed. The debate on who should start for the J-E-T-S, Jets!, Jets!, Jets! won’t end until one of the contenders is unable to answer the bell. One thing is for certain, Tebow will score at least 12 touchdowns on the ground this year.

No. 3: The Carolina Panthers are a Super Bowl Sleeper

Believe it or not, the Carolina Panthers are a deep Super Bowl sleeper this season. Behind quarterback Cam Newton and wide receiver Steve Smith, the Panthers are explosive on offense. Don’t forget that they have a 1-2 punch in running backs DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart, too. Combined with an improved defense and the belief that offensive lineman Ryan Kalil has instilled in the team, the Panthers will be for real. Kalil recently took out a full-page ad in the local newspaper stating that the Panthers would win the Super Bowl this season. Gotta love it.

No. 2: Peyton Manning’s Return from Injury

Future Hall of Fame quarterback Peyton Manning is now a member of the Denver Broncos, but fans shouldn’t expect anything but the usual from him this season. Yes, he’s had multiple neck surgeries, but even at 85 percent, Manning is better than 90 percent of NFL quarterbacks. Manning is a true competitor that wants to do nothing less than to prove his doubters wrong.

No. 1: The Highly Anticipated Debuts of Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III

Whose better, Andrew Luck or Robert Griffin III? Who cares, these kids are pure excitement on a field. Drafted No. 1 and 2 overall in the 2012 NFL draft, these guys are the two most anticipated quarterbacks to enter the NFL since Peyton Manning and Ryan Leaf in 1998. Not only are fans of the Indianapolis Colts and Washington Redskins in for a treat, but the entire league is in for something special. These guys will simply dominate the headlines this season, get used to it.

April 12, 2012

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NHL Playoffs – Eastern Conference First Round Picks

By: Junior

The NHL playoffs begin tonight, considered by many to be the best playoff atmosphere of any sport. Each first round series has a compelling storyline and even the 8th seeds have a shot at advancing. So who will win each series? That is exactly what I will tell you in the following predictions. After breakind down the Western Conference yesterday (to read it, click here.), we take a look at the Eastern Conference.

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Which teams will advance past the first round on their quest for the Stanley Cup?

Eastern Conference

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(1)Rangers vs. (8)Senators

A 1vs.8 series should be a no-brainer, right? Wrong. Ottawa took 3 of 4 from the Rangers during the regular season. The Senators have a solid combination of young stars (Erik Karlsson) and veteran leadership (Daniel Alfredsson), which makes them a very dangerous 8 seed. The Rangers, though, have a great goalie in Henrik Lundqvist and that could be the deciding factor in this series.

Prediction: Rangers in 6.

 

(2)Bruins vs. (7)Capitals

I will point to goalies as the key in almost all of these breakdowns, and the Capitals goalie situation is in dire straits. With Thomas Vokoun and Michal Neuvirth out, the Capitals will be likely be relying on a rookie early on. The Capitals will get Nicklas Backstrom back to team with Alex Ovechkin, but with Tim Thomas in net and Zdeno Chara on defense, I like the Bruins to escape this series.

Prediction: Bruins in 5.

 

(3)Panthers vs. (6)Devils

The Devils are hot (no pun intended). They are on a six game winning streak and actually scored more points in the regular season than their higher seeded opponent. Add that with veteran goaltender Martin Brodeur and they are a dangerous team. The Panthers haven’t been to the playoffs since 2000, and will be looking to prove they belong back in the postseason. Unfortunately, they won’t get that chance this year.

Prediction: Devils in 6.

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(4)Penguins vs. (5) Flyers

For many, this is the series to watch during the first round. It is always great when in-state rivals go head to head in the playoffs and this series shouldn’t be an exception. This should be a very physical series and also be very high scoring. Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin will make things difficult for Ilya Bryzgalov and the Flyers, who are missing a lot of pieces heading into the playoffs. However, the Flyers have talented young players who, if they can step up, will make a big decision in this series. With so many “ifs” on the Flyers side, the Penguins seem to be in a better spot in this series.

Prediction: Penguins in 7.