January 29, 2014

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Bold Super Bowl XLVIII Predictions

By: Matt Bowen

Super Bowl XLVIII promises to be historic. Take your pick, offense or defense. If you’re an old-soul and firmly believe that defense wins championships then you’re in the neon green corner with the Seattle Seahawks. If you’re a fan of the explosive modern-day offense then you’re in the bright orange corner with the Denver Broncos.

Super Bowl XLVIII

Which team will leave Super Bowl XLVIII as champions?

When the Seahawks and Broncos square-off on February 2, 2014 the gloves will come off. Seeing that the game is taking place in the media capital of the world only adds fuel to the fire. In the end, the NFL and its fans will be the real winner.

There’s a ton of stats floating out there surrounding this game but here is the only one you should be concerned with right now. This is the first time since the 1990 season that the No. 1 offense has faced the No. 1 defense in the Super Bowl. Last time around the defense of the New York Giants edged out the offense of the Buffalo Bills, 20-19 in Super Bowl XXV. The Broncos scored 606 points in the regular season while the Seahawks only allowed 231. Something has got to give—we’re in for a gem.

Let’s Dig into our Super Bowl XLVIII Bold Predictions

The First Quarter will end with the Broncos Leading, 7-0

This game will start slow due to nerves which is no surprise. With only four players total from both sides with Super Bowl experience plenty of men will be wide-eyed and amped with the opening whistle blows. Both teams will go three-and-out in their opening drive. On their second possession Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning will find wide receiver Demaryius Thomas for a 76-yard touchdown. Seahawks faithful everywhere will have sudden doubt about their highly-touted defense against the Broncos offense. Don’t fret—there’s plenty of ballgame left.

Seahawks Safety Earl Thomas Will Have a Game-Changing Sack in the Second Quarter

With the Broncos ahead 7-3 with 11:08 remaining in the second, Seahawks safety Earl Thomas will change the game. With fellow teammate Richard Sherman soaking up most of the attention, Thomas will have his time to shine.  A strip-sack of Manning and recovery by Seattle will flip the script. After all, the Seahawks just kicked a field goal to get on the board. Forcing a turnover and recovering on their 32-yard line will give the Seahawks prime field position. Momentum will now in favor of the Seahawks.

Manning Will Throw for Less Than 250 Yards

Hey, Seattle’s secondary isn’t called the “Legion of Boom” for no reason, there’s a reason they’re feared. The have the No. 1 defense after all and look to make a statement shutting down one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time in the Super Bowl. Besides Manning’s bomb to D. Thomas in the first quarter, he’ll be quite silent.  The Seattle defense will steal the show.

Manning’s Final Line: 18-for-28, 243 passing yards, 2 TDs

Marshawn Lynch Will Be MVP

Marshawn Lynch is a different type of running back. He has throwback toughness, game-breaking speed and just doesn’t stop. His nickname is the best in the business and he lives up to it. “Beast Mode” is no joke. He simply punishes his opponents and when they tire in the fourth quarter, he’s just getting started.

Things will be no different in Super Bowl XLVIII—Beast Mode will be out in full force. He’ll carry his team to victory. Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson gets plenty of credit, but the team’s success begins and ends with Lynch. He will set the tone for his team on offense.

Lynch’s Final Line: 26 carries, 143 rushing yards, 2 rushing TDs, 2 receptions, 23 receiving yards, MVP

Final Score

This will be one of the best Super Bowls we have ever witnessed. The Broncos will strike first, but the Seahawks will take a 10-7 lead into halftime. The second half will be a seesaw affair and one for the ages.  This game will leave fans yearning for anything NFL and dreaming of the 2014 NFL Draft.

Seahawks 27, Broncos 21

January 22, 2014

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10 predictions for Super Bowl XLVIII

By: Joe Williams

330 NFL games are in the books. There’s just one game left (I’m not counting the Pro Bowl) and its the biggest of them all. In the two weeks we have to wait for the Super Bowl, we’ll learn more than we ever wanted to know about the teams, players, location and everything else. What we really care about is the game. Here’s 10 predictions for Super Bowl XLVIII.

Super Bowl XLVIII

We give you our 10 predictions for Super Bowl XLVIII.

1. The weather has been the story ever since the location of this game was announced years ago. Sure it will be cold and probably impact a lot of the festivities happening in the area, but it will be no big deal when it comes to the game itself.

2. One thing that we all look forward to during the Super Bowl is the commercials. There are always a couple of great ones but its getting harder and harder for them to live up to the hype. I expect this year’s batch of commercials to be a bit of a let down.

3. The halftime show will be the perfect time for a bathroom break. Bruno Mars and the Red Hot Chili Peppers? No thank you. But I will appreciate the chance to leave my seat for the bathroom, more food or any other reason without the worry that I’m going to miss anything worth watching.

4. Anytime the game is close, the losing side will have a couple of calls (or non-calls) to complain about. This year will be no different. And if history is to be our judge, look for the Seahawks to be the one’s with something to complain about (anyone remember Super Bowl XL?)

5. Richard Sherman has gotten all the attention since the conference championship games ended, but he won’t get much during the game. Peyton Manning will be looking for the weak spot in the Seattle defense and won’t throw many passes in Sherman’s direction.

6. Champ Bailey will make a game-changing play.

7. So will Marshawn Lynch.

8. Percy Harvin will not.

9. Neither will Wes Welker.

10. The Broncos rarely score less than 30. The Seahawks rarely allow more than 20. Let’s set the magic number at 25. If Peyton Manning can put up 25 points or more, the Broncos will win Super Bowl XLVII. The last time the No. 1 defense played the No. 1 offense in the Super Bowl was in 1990 when the Giants beat the Bills on a last-second field goal miss. Look for this game to come down to a field goal attempt in the final minute. Final score: Broncos 27, Seahawks 24.

January 14, 2014

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10 Players That’ll Decide Who Goes To The Super Bowl

By: Joe Williams

The good news is that the NFL’s championship weekend is upon us and we’ve got what we wanted. Brady vs. Manning. Kaepernick vs. Wilson. The best coach in the league against the best offense in history. The best rivalry going today and the earthquake-causing 12th man. The bad news is that there is just three football games left and I’ve got to work on Sunday. I better start faking an illness today so I can get out of work on Sunday. So who will win? I couldn’t tell you that. But I do have a good idea which players could decide the games.

Anquan Boldin

Boldin came up big for the Ravens last year on their way to the Super Bowl. Will he be the x-factor for the 49ers this year?

Anquan Boldin
Colin Kaepernick is going to need someone to make a few big plays in the passing game. It could be Michael Crabtree or Vernon Davis, but I’d put my trust in Boldin. Nobody is tougher and his eight catches for 136 yards was huge against Carolina last week.

Colin Kaepernick
He’s won a few big games in his short career. Most of them with his legs. He’ll have to complete some big throws on Sunday and avoid the interceptions that have plagued him in Seattle for the 49ers to stay in the game. For them to win…he’ll have to make a huge third down conversion in the fourth quarter…with his legs.

LeGarrette Blount
Don’t expect Blount to come up with another 166 yards and four touchdowns this week. But if he can get to 100 without putting the ball on the ground, that would be a good sign for the Patriots chances.

Logan Ryan
The rookie cornerback led New England with five interceptions, but he’ll be facing the biggest challenge of his short career taking on Peyton Manning and all his weapons in Denver. Will he make a huge play or allow one?

Marshawn Lynch
28 carries. 140 yards. Two scores. That’s what he did to the Saints last week. Another performance like that should take Lynch & Seattle to the Super Bowl.

Percy Harvin
If he is healthy, the Seahawks offense goes to another level (in theory anyway…he hasn’t been healthy all year). Will Harvin play Sunday after suffering a concussion last week? I’m guessing no. But if he can get back on the field, he could make a game-changing play.

Peyton Manning
He’s dominated the league all season. Except for the game in New England. The Broncos didn’t really try to throw in that game because of the weather and the dominance of the running game. But he’s going to have to throw for them to win this week.

Seattle’s 12th man.
The Seahawks have the best home-field advantage in the league. They outscored the 49ers 71-16 in the last two games in Seattle. The first few minutes of this game will be big for the 49ers to get some momentum going. Otherwise the crowd could take control of the game.

Tom Brady
The Patriots haven’t been underdogs much in the last few years, but they are this week. And if New England is going to win, Brady will have to be at the top of his game. The Patriots don’t have the weapons that the Broncos do so it will be up to Brady to keep the chains moving and Peyton Manning on the sidelines. And of course, no interceptions.

Wes Welker
The Broncos’ offense is much more dangerous with Welker on the field. He’s going to want to have a big game against his old team, especially since it was his mistake that set up the Patriots game-winning field goal earlier this season. Look for Manning to try to get Welker going early and for Welker to pick up a couple key third down conversions in the second half if Denver wins this game.

December 19, 2013

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Predicting 2013 NFL Award Winners

By: Matt Bowen

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.

The Arizona Cardinals, Chicago Bears, Philadelphia Eagles, Buffalo Bills, Cleveland Browns, Jacksonville Jaguars, Kansas City Chiefs and San Diego Chargers all got new head coaches in 2013.

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.

MVP

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.

He’s special.

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

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2013 NFL Q4 Must-See Games

By: Matt Bowen

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.

Week 13

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.

Week 14

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

Out of all the true Super Bowl contenders in the league, the Indianapolis Colts and Cincinnati Bengals may have the most questions surrounding them.

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.

Week 15

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.

Week 16

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.