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.
October 10, 2013
Something is happening in Denver that has never be seen before—Peyton Manning is torching defenses at an all-time clip. Right now the Denver Broncos look indestructible behind their quarterback and Manning looks 27 and not 37 years old.
Who needs defense when you have Manning running the show?
His 1,884 passing yards through five games is tops in the league and a somewhat remarkable 162 yards ahead of New Orleans Saints gunslinger Drew Brees. It may not seem like a ton of yards, but that’s about one-half of production ahead of the next best. Brees is no slouch and Manning is even leaving him in the dust.
Through Week 5, Manning is averaging 376.8 yards/game. This puts him on pace for 6028.8 yards for the entire season. Considering the all-time record for passing yards/season is 5,476 by the aforementioned Brees in 2011, Manning is on track to blow it out of the water.
It’s hard to believe that in this day and age of 5,000-yard passers Manning’s career-best is 4,700 in 2010. This year it appears he’ll have little trouble toppling the passing mountain and planting his flag at its highest peak.
For whatever reason you may dislike Manning, but you can’t disrespect him, he’s simply too good. No one in the history of the NFL has called a game at the line of scrimmage like he has. Watching him audible before the snap is like watching a conductor direct their orchestra in perfect harmony—no one misses a beat.
This year in Denver, Manning has an offensive cast that will send shivers up your spine. Two young receivers in Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker that are super talented, even without the added boost of Manning. Denver also has a relatively unknown tight end in Julius Thomas that seems to be the cherry on top for what could go down as the highest scoring offense ever. They have a resurgent running back in Knowshon Moreno who provides just enough of a threat to keep defenses honest. Last but not least, receiver Wes Welker makes this team unstoppable. With the Thomas’ and Decker roaming about, Welker will always be open underneath to provide enough yards to extend a drive until the end zone is found. Ridiculous.
The lowest point total for the Broncos this year has been 37. They have already scored 50-plus twice. Through five games they have scored 230 points. To be honest, that’s realistically more than their Week 6 opponent the Jacksonville Jaguars will score the entire season. Their scoring output through five games is miniscule 51 points, and that includes a robust 20 in Week 5 against the St. Louis Rams. Before you think Manning may throw for 1,000 yards against the Jaguars, expect the Broncos to pad the stats then sit Manning for the fourth quarter.
Manning is Manning, he’s a spectacle. He’s 37 years old looking like he’s got enough gas in the tank to play until he’s 47. His 61,371 career passing yards are second all-time behind Brett Favre’s 71,838. The way he’s playing that’s only a couple of more 4,000-plus yard seasons to be the best. He’s currently 52 touchdowns behind Favre, which is only a couple of seasons away. Through Week 5, he’s on pace for 64 touchdowns, which is far ahead of Tom Brady’s 50. There’s nothing stopping him here—the records, all of them will be his.
Another Super Bowl ring and he’ll be considered the best. Right now, that seems like a done deal. Be sure to check out greatness while he’s still around. When the books close, Manning will be atop the list.
October 1, 2013
Peyton Manning still good at football: The Denver Broncos are scoring points at a record pace and veteran quarterback Peyton Manning is behind it all. The Broncos threw up a franchise-record 52 points on the scoreboard on Sunday against the Philadelphia Eagles and Manning had another four touchdown passes despite playing only three quarters. That gave the QB a whopping 16 on September and put him on pace for 64 on the season. The 16 touchdown passes are the most in an opening month in NFL history and Manning’s Broncos, by the way, are 4-0.
USC fires Lane Kiffin: USC head coach Lane Kiffin was dismissed after the team’s 62-41 blowout loss to Arizona State this weekend. Athletic director Pat Haden made the move after the team returned from their road game and Ed Orgeron is now the interim coach. Kiffin hasn’t been terrible, but at 3-2 this year and 28-15 during his tenure at USC, the school expected more.
Miami Marlins end dismal season in style – with a no-hitter: The Miami Marlins haven’t had much to cheer about this year, but in the season finale on Sunday, they went out in style with a no-hitter by pitcher Henderson Alvarez. It was only the fourth no-hitter on the final day of a regular season in baseball history. The Marlins nearly squandered the game despite the outstanding pitching performance. In the ninth inning, the score was 0-0 and Miami needed a wild pitch in the bottom of the inning to score a run and win the game
Pirates clinch playoff berth: Earlier this season, the Pittsburgh Pirates broke a two-decade losing streak with their 83rd win. After finishing second in the National League Central Division, Pittsburgh is officially in the postseason for the first time since 1992. The Pirates will take on the Cincinnati Reds tonight in the one-game Wild card matchup with the winner moving on to the next round. While Pittsburgh can be unceremoniously bounced with a loss to Cincinnati, Pirates fans at least have the benefit of watching the team play at home in their first playoff appearance in over 20 years as the game will be at PNC Park.
NBA to change Finals format: ESPN is reporting that the NBA is likely to change their finals format from 2-3-2 to 2-2-1-1-1. The 2-3-2 format, which gives the top overall seed the first two and last two games of the series at home, has been widely criticized because the lower-ranked team gets three home games in the middle and that is somewhat of a disadvantage to the top seed. The 2-2-1-1-1 format will mean more travel (and in an Eastern-Western format, those trips can be long ones) but ultimately is a bit more fair to the best team since they would receive the pivotal fifth game on their home court.
Horse on roof: A race horse got bored and did what any other bored race horse would do – climb on top of a roof.
L.C. Greenwood passes away: Pittsburgh Steelers’ defensive lineman L.C. Greenwood passed away this week of natural causes at 67. Greenwood was a member of the famed Steel Curtain, which also included Joe Greene, Dwight White, and Ernie Holmes. His death leaves Greene is the only surviving member of the group. Over his career, Greenwood was a four-time Pro Bowl selection and he ranks as second on the Steelers’ all-time sacks list.
Heat to sign Erik Spoelstra to extension: The Miami Heat finalized a contract extension over the weekend for him to remain as the organization’s coach. Terms aren’t yet known, but Spoelstra should be getting a significant raise after helping the team to two straight championships. It’s difficult to place a true value on his presence and there remain a good deal of fans that believe the team would win without him. Regardless, though, Spoelstra has done what he’s needed to in order to win titles and has had to deal with finding ways to keep all of Miami’s Big Three happy.
September 9, 2013
Peyton Manning Kicks off NFL Season with Seven TDs: In case there were any growing concerns about the age of Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning, he removed those with a monster performance in Week 1. The future Hall of Famer dropped seven touchdown passes on the Baltimore Ravens defense en route to a 49-27 romp over the Super Bowl champions. Those seven scores tied an NFL record and Manning also threw for 462 yards in the game. He continues to prove that no matter the receiver, he’ll find ways to get him the ball. In tight end Julius Thomas and the newly-acquired Wes Welker, two of Manning’s three starting receivers were both first-year starters.
Basketball Hall of Fame Inducts 12: The Basketball Hall of Fame inducted 12 players and sports personalities this weekend and the class was headlined by NBA stars Gary Payton and Bernard King, and coaches Rick Pitino and Jerry Tarkanian. All have a right to be thankful, but Tark’s induction came right on time. Now 83 and battling health issues, it was good to see the former UNLV coach get in.
Serena Williams wins fifth U.S. Open: Add another trophy to Serena Williams’ ridiculously crowded mantle as the tennis star won her fifth U.S. Open, defeating second-ranked player Victoria Azarenka this past weekend, 7-5, 6-7, 6-1. The win didn’t come easy as Azarenka staved off Williams’ serves as she went for the match in the second set. However, Serena was too dominant and claimed her 17th major title. Catching Steffi Graf’s record of 22 looked distant not too long ago, but with four majors in the past two years, it’s back up for discussion. Five more majors is still a lot to win and the odds are against her at the age of 32. But if there’s any player that can do it, it’s probably Serena.
Hey, Look – 81 Wins: For the first time in two decades, the Pittsburgh Pirates will have at least a .500 record after the team won their 81st game last week. The streak, the longest in major North American sports finally comes to an end and the Pirates now turn their attention to the postseason where they should be at least a Wild Card team. Finishing .500 is generally not something teams celebrate, but regardless of what Pittsburgh does in the playoffs, its fans will be glad the streak has ended.
Tim Tebow Reportedly Unwilling to Change Positions: SI’s Peter King reported last week that quarterback Tim Tebow is not willing to change positions to stay in the league. Tebow’s in a bit of a tough spot with this, actually. If he continues denying teams the opportunity to bring him in as a wide receiver, tight end, or other position, he may not get another option to play quarterback. Even if he changes that stance later, would teams be put off by his initial refusal? Quite possibly. As I said last week, I don’t think we’ve seen the end of Tebow. He’s too young to quit playing football and while others are forced out of the game soon after college, Tebow has shown some ability that will be intriguing to another team down the line. He may have to relent on his ‘quarterback only’ stance, but my guess is he’ll be back in some capacity.
Hi, this is Ryan Braun: Milwaukee Brewers star Ryan Braun took an interesting approach to his recent suspension for the use of performance enhancing drugs. While many players shy away from attention after being busted, Braun has instead stepped to the forefront. Last week, Braun took his apology straight to the fans, telephoning season ticket holders to say what he did was wrong. Whether Braun himself hatched the idea or whether it came from a smart PR person, the move is a borderline brilliant. While Braun will likely get his share of angry tirades from some fans, he’ll also help win some of them back. The fact is that Braun is still a fairly young player that should be around the game for many more years. While older players could fade away into the background, Braun is still going to be playing baseball for a significant amount of time.
So … the Lasagna Invite is an actual race: No, really.
Canucks to Retire Pavel Bure’s Number: Former NHL star Pavel Bure will have his number retired by the Vancouver Canucks. He didn’t play his entire career there, suiting up for the New York Rangers and Florida Panthers as well, but was with the franchise for seven of his eleven seasons. The Russian Rocket had two 60-goal seasons with the Canucks and finished his career with 437 goals. His 342 assists also helped him to be inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame last year.
NCAA Transfer Rules Could Change: The NCAA currently allows players to transfer to another school on a scholarship, providing their current school approves it. Technically, players are allowed to transfer wherever they want, but their current school can dictate if they are allowed to take a scholarship in their first season – otherwise, they have to pay their own way. However, the rule could be altered soon and allow players to transfer anywhere they want without approval from their former college. The rules are complicated here, but that’s probably the right move. Coaches often are able to break their contracts and leave for other opportunities with any other program they want and players should be able to do the same.
June 5, 2013
Face it—it’s never too soon to talk about the NFL. The thoughts of the upcoming 2013 NFL season are starting to invade NFL fanatics’ minds. Yes, we’re only a few days into June, but it’s been three months since Super Bowl XLVII. That means we have exactly three months to go until the 2013 season kicks off on September 5. Some may say that we’re in the doldrums of the offseason, but this is just the beginning. It only gets better from here.
With that being said, let’s talk football.
Here are the top five headlines weighing on everyone’s mind this offseason:
Will RG3 Be RG3?
Any true NFL fan is currently holding their breath hoping that Washington Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III will return healthy. The knee injury he suffered in the playoffs was gruesome to watch. The nausea that ensued when reality and doubt set in still exist today.
He’s the future—a prototype never before seen on an NFL field—the complete package.
Will he be okay?
Something tells me that he’ll be just fine—RG3 is a remarkable athlete.
Let’s hope he’s “ready for some football” on September 9 vs. the Philadelphia Eagles on Monday Night Football.
Can the Indianapolis Colts Return to the Playoffs?
The Indianapolis Colts took the league by storm last year when they defied the odds and made the playoffs. Then rookie quarterback Andrew Luck proved to be the truth, but can he avoid the sophomore slump?
Having tasted winning in 2012, the Colts grew leaps and bounds and impressed all as they won games they probably shouldn’t have. One adjustment this is season will be to new offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton. Former OC Bruce Arians is now head coach for the Arizona Cardinals. All Luck did under the tutelage of Arians in 2012 is set a rookie record with 4,374 passing yards.
Luck has the intelligence to absorb a new system quickly. The only question that remains is will the Colts return to the playoffs?
Will Wes Welker be the “It” Factor for the Denver Broncos?
After shaking off the rust, quarterback Peyton Manning looked like Peyton Manning by season’s end. All the Broncos needed heading into the offseason is some added offense and there was no better find than Wes Welker.
Will Welker be the difference? Are the Broncos now “locks” for a Super Bowl appearance? Along with Eric Decker and Demaryius Thomas, can the Broncos have three 1000-plus yard receivers?
Something tells me Manning and Welker are out for revenge. Watch out!
How Good Will the San Francisco 49ers and Baltimore Ravens Play?
The San Francisco 49ers and Baltimore Ravens look to avoid the Super Bowl hangover this season.
The Ravens took the league’s top prize last season and without a doubt will look different this season. Out are Anqaun Boldin (49ers), Ed Reed (Houston Texans) and Ray Lewis (retired)— and Ravens fans have to be wondering what their team will be like without three of their best. The Ravens still have a solid squad, but are they contenders?
The 49ers face the most pressure of any team this season. Having been so close the ultimate prize, can they get over the hump this season? Colin Kaepernick is now the man and expectations have never been higher. If there’s one team that’s built to win it all it’s the Niners, but will they do it?
Numerous Other Questions Scattered on Our Minds:
Can the Cincinnati Bengals win a playoff game?
Will Adrian Peterson eclipse 2,000-plus yards again?
Will Mike Wallace be the boost the Miami Dolphins need?
Can Calvin Johnson break his own single-season receiving record of 1,964 yards?
Will the Pittsburgh Steelers make the playoffs?
Are the New England Patriots at the end of an era?
Is this the year for the Atlanta Falcons?
What will unfold for the New York Jets?
Are the Seattle Seahawks the NFL’s best team?