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.

December 19, 2011

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College Football’s Bowl Games: Part III

By: Anson Whaley

College football’s bowl season will officially kick off this weekend. No matter what side of the aisle you’re on when it comes to the BCS, bowl games are one reason college football is such a great sport. The system matches two teams that may never play otherwise and with 35 games, chances are that your favorite team ended up in one.

Last week, we broke down the first 18 games. (For Part II, click here.) Here’s a quick look at the next 8 games.

Meineke Car Care Bowl of Texas (Texas A&M vs. Northwestern): After playing a brutal schedule that included six ranked teams, the Aggies should have a home-field advantage against Northwestern. They lost four of them by a total of only ten points, including a one-point nail-biter to Oklahoma State and a four-point loss to Arkansas – both top five teams a few weeks ago. Texas A&M is better than their record indicates and should win this game.

Hyundai Sun Bowl (Georgia Tech vs. Utah): New Pac-12 team Utah will have its hands full trying to contain Georgia Tech’s dynamic quarterback Tevin Washington. Washington does almost as much damage on the ground (rushing for 890 yards in 2011) as he does in the air. Utah has a top 20 defense but struggled in their last two games against Washington State and Colorado – two of the worst teams in the conference this season. I’ll take the Yellow Jackets.

AutoZone Liberty Bowl (Cincinnati vs. Vanderbilt): The Commodores are playing in their home state, but I’m not sure that will be enough. Cincinnati won nine games this season and averaged nearly 35 points a game. The Bearcats will be at a bit of a disadvantage, though, if they can’t get quarterback Zach Collaros on the field, who’s been out due to injury. He’s been at practice, but if he can’t go, Cincinnati will start Munchie Legaux. Either way, though, I think Cincy’s high-scoring offense gets the job done in a close one.

Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl (Illinois vs. UCLA): Illinois will make the cross-country trip to play on New Year’s Eve. To make matters worse, after starting out 6-0, they dropped their final six games. UCLA, though, hasn’t been all that great this year, being blown out at times. This is one of those coin toss kind of games, but I’ll take the Illini.

Chick-fil-A Bowl (Virginia vs. Auburn): Both of these offenses have had difficulty scoring points at times this season, but the Cavaliers’ defense has been strong. Auburn is a difficult team to get a good handle on, because of their average record and a rugged SEC schedule. They still managed to win seven games playing in the conference and are my pick.

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A year removed from a National Championship, Auburn fans would like to bring home the Chick-fil-A Bowl to end the season on a high note.

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TicketCity Bowl (Houston vs. Penn State): Houston appeared headed to the BCS until they were throttled in their final game against Southern Miss. Playing in the TicketCity Bowl has to be a bit of a disappointment, but they’ll be facing a tough test against Penn State. The Cougars had the highest scoring offense in the FBS this season averaging more than 50 points per game, but they haven’t seen a defense nearly as good as the Nittany Lions’. Penn State’s defensive squad gives up just over 15 points per game, ranking fifth in the country. Even with the game in Texas, I like Penn State in this game.

Outback Bowl (Michigan State vs. Georgia): Here’s another tough one to call. Both squads have good defenses and won ten games this season. Kirk Cousins is one of the best passers in the nation, throwing for 24 touchdowns and more than 3,000 yards. The Spartans get the nod here in a close contest.

Capital One Bowl (Nebraska vs. South Carolina): This is another Big Ten-SEC matchup. I typically favor the SEC in these types of games, but not this one. Nebraska’s dual-threat quarterback Taylor Martinez has really become a player and other than a three-point hiccup to Northwestern, the Cornhuskers were impressive most of the season. The Gamecocks, meanwhile, avoided many of the top guns in the SEC West and haven’t shown as much as I’d like. I’ll take Nebraska in another narrow Big Ten win.

For “College Football’s Bowl Games: Part IV”, click here.

December 6, 2011

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The Luckiest Team in the NFL

By: Joe Williams

It takes a combination of things to win in the NFL. Certainly you need talented players, but you also need great coaching, timing, and a little luck doesn’t hurt either.

When the Denver Broncos inserted Tim Tebow as their starting quarterback over Kyle Orton, they were 1-4. With Tebow at the helm they have gone 6-1. Is Tebow that good? Is Orton that bad? I say no to both. Instead, I say the Denver Broncos are the luckiest team in the NFL.

Tim Tebow’s “magic” is getting all the credit for the wins Denver has pulled out in the fourth quarter. While Tebow does deserve credit for helping the team win, nobody in their right mind can believe he has made one of the worst teams in the league into one of the best by himself.

The Broncos have been extremely lucky in every win since Tebow took over. Let’s look at each win.

Denver 18, Miami 15 in overtime

The Broncos didn’t score until there was just under three minutes left in the game. Then they recovered an onside kick and scored again and then converted a two-point try. It takes some luck for all those plays to go their way. Of course it helps when you are facing a winless team. Then the defense wins the game for them in overtime when D.J. Williams forced and recovered a Matt Moore fumble. The Broncos had so little faith in Tebow they didn’t even try to pick up a first down and settled for a 52-yard field goal try, which was good.

Denver 38, Oakland 24

You never know what you are going to get from the Raiders. But I know that when you bring in a quarterback to a new team after not playing football for a year and he throws three interceptions, that’s not good. Take away their best offensive weapon in Darren McFadden and add 15 penalties for 130 yards to that and the Raiders aren’t beating anyone.

Denver 17, Kansas City 10

Tebow completes two passes in this game. Two. But the Broncos win because Kansas City is embarrassingly inept on offense. The Chiefs have scored 35 points total in their last five games. Of course, part of the Chiefs problem is losing their best offensive player, Jamaal Charles, for the season.

Denver 17, New York Jets 13

Just when you think the Broncos schedule couldn’t get any better, they get to host the Jets (one of their toughest opponents) on a short week. I’m not sure why, but teams that have to fly all the way across the country on a short week almost never win. Did I mention the Jets played without their top two running backs?

Denver 16, San Diego 13 in overtime

This is not the Chargers team we are used to seeing. They came into this game on a five-game skid and found a way to lose another one. Missing a field goal in the fourth quarter and another one in overtime is a good way to blow a game.

Denver 35, Minnesota 32

It’s another win against a team playing without its best offensive weapon. The Vikings didn’t have Adrian Peterson but still managed to score 32 points. And on the one week when Tebow actually needs to throw the ball, he is playing a team with five players from its secondary on IR. Tebow had receivers that were so wide open there wasn’t a defender in the picture when they caught the ball. It doesn’t hurt to have a rookie quarterback throw a terrible interception to give Denver a cheap field goal to win the game either.

Denver vs. Chicago

The Broncos get lucky again this week with one of the best teams in the NFC coming to town. At least they were great until a couple weeks ago. Now they don’t have Jay Cutler or Matt Forte.

So to recap, the Broncos have beaten a winless team, a team with a rusty quarterback still learning the offense and teammates, a team that cannot score, a team traveling cross-country on a short week, a team on a five-game losing streak, and a team with no secondary. And they didn’t have to face McFadden, Charles, Shonn Greene or Peterson. If that’s not good luck, then I don’t know what is.

December 5, 2011

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Where Will Donovan McNabb End Up?

By: Anson Whaley

With news that Minnesota Vikings’ quarterback Donovan McNabb was released by the team, several teams could be looking to add the potential future Hall of Famer to their rosters. No NFL team claimed the veteran through waivers, but that could have actually been the best thing to happen to him. McNabb will now be able to select his own destination (assuming there are interested teams, of course) and pick what he feels is the best opportunity.

Retirement, of course, is an option. Every NFL team could decide that they’ve seen enough of the 35-year old quarterback, and if he’s unable to find a suitable offer, his career could be over. But the chance clearly exists that he could end up with another franchise before that happens, and McNabb believes he still has plenty of good football left.

So where could Donovan go?

  • Houston Texans: Thinking short term, this is an NFL team that could potentially use McNabb’s services. The Texans sit atop their division at 9-3, but recently lost starting quarterback Matt Schaub to injury. They turned to T.J. Yates as their starter, but while Yates has done a reasonable job thus far, it’s hard to imagine how he might do as the season winds down and the pressure builds. With Schaub on injured reserve, a return for him isn’t likely. The Texans could get into the playoffs, but does Yates give them the best chance to win the AFC and get to the Super Bowl? And with proven weapons such as wideout Andre Johnson and running back Arian Foster, McNabb wouldn’t even need to carry the team.
  • Chicago Bears: Chicago’s playoff footing isn’t quite as good as the Texans’ right now, but at 7-5, they’re tied for a Wild Card spot. The Bears didn’t get great play this weekend from backup Caleb Hanie, who’s filled in for starter Jay Cutler, who went down with a thumb injury. Playing against the Chiefs, Hanie completed only 11 of his 24 passes and threw a whopping three interceptions in a loss, showing his inexperience a bit.  The Bears had little offense and even worse is that star running back Matt Forte sustained a knee injury in the game. If Forte is out for any extended period of time, then it could be even more important that they get good quarterback play and McNabb might be able to provide that. He’s also played in Philadelphia and wouldn’t be affected by the cold weather in Chicago, meaning he could be an even more ideal fit.
  • Dallas Cowboys: The Cowboys wouldn’t be looking at McNabb as a starter with Tony Romo firmly entrenched there, but he could be a suitable backup in case something happens to the star. Current backup Jon Kitna has had back issues and if you need further proof that Dallas is looking for another quarterback, look no further than the fact that they reportedly tried to make a claim on Kyle Orton, who was eventually taken by the Kansas City Chiefs. With Orton now out of play, the Cowboys didn’t put a claim on McNabb. But that doesn’t mean Dallas won’t still consider him if Kitna doesn’t seem like a viable option.
  • Buffalo Bills: This one’s a bit less likely, but McNabb could potentially end up in Buffalo. The Bills are still only two games out of playoff contention even with this weekend’s loss to Tennessee and could be looking for another quarterback. The Bills are only 5-7, but still aren’t out of the hunt and current starter Ryan Fitzpatrick hasn’t helped the team with his play over the last five weeks (six touchdowns to seven interceptions). The only thing is that McNabb’s made it clear that his goal is to win a championship this season. And it would be hard to envision him going into Buffalo and learning a playbook this quickly … all for the slight possibility of even reaching the postseason. But the fact is that the Bills have now lost five games in a row and may turn to the veteran to help them salvage their season.

December 2, 2011

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Weekend Sports Schedule

By: Junior

We like to make sure you keep track of all the relevant games nationwide. In order to ensure that you can watch all the big games, we have created your weekend viewing guide so that whenever you have some down time, you know which game you should be watching. Here is how we envision your weekend sports viewing schedule. (All times EST).

Friday night

6:30pm – (9) Florida at (3) Syracuse – College Basketball

It’s finally the weekend. Relax from your long week at work with a battle of Top 10 college basketball teams. This won’t be Florida’s first time facing the #3 team in the nation, already having fallen to then #3 Ohio State. They kept the score close though, showing they are a team that doesn’t shy away in a big game. Syracuse is undefeated this season, and this will be their toughest test so far in this early college season. It should be exciting to watch.

8:00pm – UCLA at Oregon (PAC 12 Championship) – College Football

If you watch the previous game in its entirety, there is a chance you might be coming in late. The inaugural PAC 12 title game isn’t projected to be a close game, but you can’t miss out on the chance of an upset. Oregon will take on a UCLA team who got in due to USC being ineligible, but the Bruins will be trying to prove they deserve to be there. If they can’t keep up with the Ducks, it’s the perfect game to help you wind down your night.

Saturday

Saturday is a hard day to project with the amount of games on all over the sports spectrum. Hopefully, you have multiple TV’s and can watch multiple games. If you can’t, here is what we recommend during each time slot.

12:00pm – (5) North Carolina at (1) Kentucky – College Basketball

Whenever two of the Top 5 teams in the country schedule each other out of conference, you know it’s a game you need to watch. These two storied programs will square off to try and prove they are the top team in the nation. North Carolina was previously #1, losing that ranking when they fell to UNLV. They have already rebounded, beating #7 Wisconsin on Wednesday, and they will look to continue that streak against Kentucky. Not shying away from tough competition, Kentucky has remained undefeated this season while already having beaten #11 Kansas. This game is a must see.

It'll be a packed house at Rupp Arena when Kentucky squares off against North Carolina on Saturday.

 

4:00 pm – (14)Georgia vs. (1)LSU (SEC Championship) – College Football

All eyes will be on this game Saturday, as many teams are affected by the outcome of this game. Many say LSU can still go to the BCS Championship even with a loss, but a win closes the door on any chance of being left out. A Georgia win makes the case for a lot of one loss teams, while a loss would open the door for teams ranked below Georgia to qualify for an at-large BCS bid. This game is interesting no matter the outcome.

8:00 pm – (10)Oklahoma at (3)Oklahoma State – College Football

This is the hardest time slot to fill and if you don’t have multiple TV’s make sure you have the remote handy. Michigan State takes on Wisconsin in the first ever Big Ten Title game at the same time. Virginia Tech travels to Clemson in the ACC Championship game.  However, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State is the game I think could be the most interesting. Oklahoma State has always had a hard time beating Oklahoma, but they will have to in order to have any chance at a BCS Title shot. Oklahoma, meanwhile, could get into a BCS game with a win in what is basically the Big 12 Championship game.

Get your rest, we won’t be slowing down at all tomorrow.

Sunday

1:00pm – Cincinnati at Pittsburgh – NFL

The AFC North is a tight race, and currently has three of its teams in the playoff picture, where Cincinnati and Pittsburgh hold both of the Wild Card spots. The Bengals lost a close game to the Steelers three weeks ago, but showed they can go toe-to-toe with last year’s AFC Champions. Pittsburgh currently holds the higher Wild Card spot since they have a better record, but a loss would bring them even with the Bengals.  With a tougher schedule coming up for the Bengals, a win by Pittsburgh could help them solidify a spot in the playoffs this year.

4:15pm – Green Bay at New York Giants – NFL

Whenever a team is 11-0, they have earned the right to be on a list of must-see games. When their opponent is the team who ended the Patriots undefeated season in the Super Bowl in 2008, you have to tune in. While the Giants have lost three straight games, a win against the juggernaut Packers could be exactly what they need to make a run at the playoffs. The Giants have one of the most feared pass rushes in the NFL, and they better hope they can get to Aaron Rodgers early and often if they want to do what no other team in the NFL has this year.

8:30pm – Detroit at New Orleans – NFL

This game all depends on which Lions team shows up when they travel to New Orleans. Having lost 3 of 4, the Lions need desperately to get on track after starting the season 5-0. They picked a hard place to rebound at, as the Saints are undefeated at home and are coming off a big win against the Giants. The Lions need to generate a pass rush, even if Ndamukong Suh is out, if they want to stay in this game. The Lions offense is going to have a hard time keeping up with Brees and the Saints if it becomes a shootout, so the Lions need to force turnovers if they are going to steal one on Sunday night.

Enjoy the games and we’ll see you next week!