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.
September 12, 2012
Baltimore Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco is the most underrated player in the entire NFL. Entering the 2012 NFL season, Flacco consistently caught plenty of flak for being an underachiever in his brief four-year NFL career.
In actuality, he does nearly everything right. What more could an organization ask for in its franchise quarterback? The Ravens have never finished a season worse than 9-7 with Flacco under center. His regular season record is an astounding 45-20. In fact, the Ravens have never missed the playoffs with Flacco.
Now, thanks to the league’s most underrated star, the Ravens are on their way to the Super Bowl.
Flacco looked superb in Week 1 against the Cincinnati Bengals as the Ravens won 44-13. He made throws no one believed he could make. Flacco wasted little time showing the world that he’s an elite quarterback as he completed a 52-yard bomb to wide receiver Torrey Smith on the team’s first play of the game. His first touchdown toss of the night was a 34-yard strike that found receiver Anquan Boldin in the end zone with pinpoint precision. Flacco’s second touchdown had the perfect touch and was similar to a rainbow three-pointer in the NBA as he found tight end Dennis Pitta for six points.
In the end, Flacco finished 21-for-29 for 299 yards and two touchdowns. He was even pulled in the fourth quarter to avoid risk of injury. He looked nothing short of an NFL star.
Combined with running back Ray Rice and one of the most feared defenses in NFL history thanks to Ray Lewis and Ed Reed, the Ravens are all the rage right now. Flacco deserves credit after being ridiculed in the media for the first four years of his career. This is the year where the tide turns in his favor.
With a new contract coming next season, even Ravens’ head coach John Harbaugh has publicly stated, “Pay him whatever he wants.” Harbaugh knows what Flacco means to his team—he is the team. The scary thing about Flacco is he’s just 27 years old; he hasn’t even hit his prime yet. He’s quietly on his way to being one of the best quarterbacks of all-time.
As this glorious NFL season unfolds, pay close attention to Flacco; there’s something special brewing in Baltimore.
August 15, 2012
With NFL Fantasy Football drafts right around the corner, we will take a look at the top 5 players at each position. Depending on what type of league you are in, theses evaluations will vary, but the general ranking will be similar. Our last rankings focused on quarterbacks. This week, we will look at the running backs and which players are worthy of a high pick.
1. Ray Rice
You won’t see this ranking many other places. To me, consistency is important, and Ray Rice has been nothing but solid that past three seasons. Add the fact he averages over 70 catches over the last three years, and you can count on lots of points from Rice. The Ravens are a team that runs the ball well and will feature Rice often. There is a little worry with the trend of players under-performing after signing a new contract, but I have faith that you won’t regret picking Rice early.
2. LeSean McCoy
Another shocker. However, if you compare his stats with Arian Foster’s the last 3 years, McCoy is right with Foster in many categories. Last season, McCoy had more yards on less carries, as well as 7 more rushing touchdown’s than Foster. That is a lot of points. The Texans can run the ball, but I think the Eagles have a better passing game, allowing them to be more balanced and not let defenses stack the box. I think McCoy is a solid pick up on your fantasy roster.
3. Arian Foster
We finally arrive at the consensus #1 running back in fantasy. I don’t have anything against Foster, and if you can get him on your team when the other 2 running backs listed are gone, I don’t think you will be too disappointed. Foster will get you points, but with Andre Johnson being the only other offensive weapon for the Texans, defenses know who they need to key in on. Add Ben Tate to the equation, and I feel the two other running backs are better options for this season.
4. Matt Forte
While the off-season was a little shaky with his contract dispute/holdout, Forte is in camp and should be his reliable self. As you can tell by my rankings, I like my fantasy running backs to be receiving threats and Forte holds his own, averaging over 50 catches over the last 3 years. However, he only has one 1,000 yard season over that time, which is hard to accept. That being said, with the additions the Bears have made in the passing game, I think Chicago could have a solid offense this season, leading to more red-zone opportunities for Forte.
5. Darren McFadden
This is a tough one. Darren McFadden is a solid bet, when healthy. That, unfortunately, is a big disclaimer. McFadden has had durability issues in the NFL so this could be a risky pick. However, most of the running backs left have concerns. Maurice Jones-Drew is currently holding out. The Falcons have said they may limit Michael Turner in the beginning of the year to keep his legs fresh. Steven Jackson is getting up there in age. The list goes on and on. So I will take a flyer on McFadden and hope for the best.
December 8, 2011
Man, did Ray Rice deliver. More than 200 yards and a touchdown, sealing the Ravens victory over the Browns quickly. Another touchdown would have been nice, but Ricky Williams vultured that one, and considering I forgot he was even on the team, he could use a moral win.
Dez Bryant followed with a solid game, notching a touchdown. But again, he could and should have done more. The Cowboys should have slaughtered Arizona. Call this a trap game, as they face the Giants this week on Sunday Night Football. They may have overlooked the Cards while simultaneously giving the Giants a shot at the division crown.
My other predictions were not so hot. Frank Gore couldn’t hit the century mark despite playing the Rams, and BenJarvus Green-Ellis didn’t get much action against the Colts, who surprisingly held their own against the Patriots.
NFL Fantasy Football Predictions
It pains me to keep predicting offensive explotions against my Browns, but as a fan, you know your team. Instead of creating false hope for the last four weeks of the season, I prefer to be realistic with their capabilities and focus on what can happen in the offseason.
While I do that, I’ll say Rashard Mendenhall could duplicate Ray Rice’s performance last week. The Browns had one of the easier schedules to start the season – not facing their superior division rivals until the last five weeks of the season. But these weeks will be brutal, and as the Steelers continue to fight for AFC supremacy, they’re all hands on deck while the Browns are still in their cabins (apologies if that’s a terrible metaphor, but let’s go with it). Cleveland’s bottom five rush defense will prove itself worthy of the description again as Mendenhall has his way.
Yup, I’m going with it again. Ray Rice and anti-Colts is a solid bet. I said it last week, so I’ll be brief. First of all, the Colts have nothing to play for. It’s difficult for players to get hyped for a game that has no meaning, so their quality of play will naturally suffer as the season dwindles down. Also, ownership would LOVE to go winless and “Lock up Luck” with the first pick. Rice and the Ravens are trending the opposite directions. Expect him (and Ricky) to do some work against Indy.
Staying with the running back theme, Reggie Bush has turned into somewhat of a feature back the last few games. Something I NEVER would have predicted, and actually campaigned the exact opposite sentiment his entire career. But he’s shown flashes of finally being worthy of the number two overall pick, and he’s facing an injured, beleaguered Eagles defense, who’s had trouble stopping the run most of the season. This is another example of teams trending opposite directions, impressive for Miami who didn’t win a game until November. Look for Reggie to continue to surprise – he’s a good flex position start the rest of the season.
Now to the other side of the ball, I like the Jets to smash the Chiefs this week on the shoulders of their defense. Whoever the Chiefs throw out there – Palko or Orton – will likely throw a few picks. Revis Island is always a factor, and the rest of the defense benefits. The Chiefs rushing attack is a three headed horse that doesn’t intimidate, so the New York front seven should play strong, too. As long as Sanchez doesn’t reciprocate turnovers and leave his defense tired, I like the Jets D to perform.
November 30, 2011
I can’t believe it’s Week 13 in the NFL already. Feels like yesterday we were freaking out about potentially not having a football season. Now we’re watching quarterbacks drop like flies. The Bears, who I boldly predicted would win the Super Bowl many times over the past weeks, have lost Jay Cutler for the rest of the regular season and may miss the playoffs. The Texans lost Matt Schaub, then Matt Leinart, and are forced to start a rookie QB no one’s ever heard of. And Kyle Orton was dumped – and picked up by the Chiefs for some reason – instead of one of the two aforementioned teams that have strong playoff teams with a good quarterback. The NFL is in its midseason stride.
My predictions last week were terrible if you don’t include Beanie Wells. The Ohio State alum had a career day, recording 228 rushing yards and one touchdown in a game where I honestly did not know who won until I looked at it now. Otherwise, the Green Bay-Detroit Thanksgiving Day game was not as high scoring as hoped (which I kind of predicted), Cam Newton led his team to a win despite only recording one touchdown, and the Texans defense did not destroy the Jaguars as I suspected, although limiting them to 13 points is pretty good as is forcing three turnovers. What’s Week 13 have in store for us?
Fantasy Football Predictions
As I’ve said before, the Cleveland Browns have one of the worst run defenses in the league. They’ve gotten better over the last few weeks, but have also been facing lesser opponents. Look for the Ravens to feed the ball to Ray Rice this weekend, limit Flacco’s impact on the game, and run all over the Brownies.
He’s one of the most impressive young receivers in the league on an explosive Cowboys team. The surge of Laurent Robinson over the last week has left many fantasy football owners dismayed, including myself, at the lack of scores by Dez Bryant. But he’s still the number one receiver with Miles Austin out, and the best red zone target the team has hands down. The Cardinals don’t have a strong, physical corner that can man up with his physical nature, and have a bad pass defense in general, so look for him to find pay dirt this weekend.
Frank Gore / BenJarvus Green-Ellis
I’m going to pick on St. Louis and Indianapolis the rest of the season. Sure, their records are terrible, but that’s only the first half of it. Once the record gets bad, it’s legitimate to think the players will not try as hard. It’s not the right thing to do, but it’s a natural tendency.
I’ve seen this from the Colts over the past few weeks, so I’m convinced Green-Ellis will have a big game, despite New England’s inability (or choice) not to run the ball. St. Louis is giving more effort, but has similar results. The Niners actually run the ball, too, so Frank Gore should have a solid game.