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.

January 2, 2013

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The Week in Sports

By: Anson Whaley

Adrian Peterson barely misses Eric Dickerson’s record: I’ll admit that I was among the doubters not believing that Minnesota Vikings’ running back Adrian Peterson could break Eric Dickerson’s long-standing record of 2,105 rushing yards in a season. But Peterson shocked me (and probably a lot of other people) in rushing for 199 yards, coming much closer than expected. In the end, he fell only nine yards short of the goal and despite the happy face he may put on this week, it’s hard to imagine he’s not at least a bit disappointed. Peterson still should have a few more productive seasons ahead of him, but reaching the rarefied air that he did this year may never happen again. Even if it doesn’t, though, congratulations are in order for an MVP-type season and one of the best ever for a running back. Plus, the win over the Packers gave the Vikings a playoff berth and ultimately, that’s a pretty nice consolation prize for Peterson.

Drafted in April, Andrew Luck is now taking the Colts to the NFL Playoffs.

Avery Johnson fired as coach of Nets: The Brooklyn Nets made a fairly surprising move by firing head coach Avery Johnson. Assistant P.J. Carlesimo is leading the way for now, but the franchise also has an eye on Phil Jackson. For Johnson, it was a tale of two months. The former NBA guard had the Nets out to an 11-4 start in November and looking like one of the best teams in the Eastern Conference. But then came a 3-10 stretch in December and that ultimately cost him his job. Part of the reason for that downfall can be attributed to the loss of star center Brook Lopez, who missed six games due to injury. But with so much talent, more was expected of the team at this point in the season. Johnson should get another opportunity with a different team down the line, though. Before serving as the Nets’ coach, he led the Dallas Mavericks to the playoffs in each of his four years with the franchise and also took them to the NBA Finals in 2006.

Hideki Matsui retires: Japanese slugger Hideki Matsui ended his long career by officially announcing his retirement last week. Matsui spent a total of 20 seasons playing Japanese and American baseball and in ten major league seasons, he hit 175 home runs and batted .282 with the New York Yankees, Los Angeles Angels, Tampa Bay Rays, and Oakland Athletics. Even factoring in his 332 home runs in Japan, Matsui still isn’t a likely Hall of Famer. But he was certainly an above-average major leaguer. Matsui finished second in the American League Rookie of the Year Award in 2003, was a two-time All-Star, and won a World Series Most Valuable Player Award.

Three Rookie quarterbacks make playoffs: When a rookie quarterback leads a team to the NFL playoffs, it’s a big accomplishment. When three do it in the same year, it’s probably time to call the Mayans for another apocalyptic prediction. That’s what happened this year as the ColtsAndrew Luck, the RedskinsRobert Griffin III, and the SeahawksRussell Wilson led their franchises to the postseason. The amazing thing is that none were just along for the ride, either. Luck broke the rookie passing record, throwing for more than 4,100 yards this season, while Griffin had the NFL’s second-best passer rating and Wilson tallied 26 touchdowns and more than 3,000 yards.

Kevin Ollie named permanent UConn head coach: Ollie, a former player, was named as UConn’s permanent head men’s basketball coach with a reported five-year deal. Following the retirement of Jim Calhoun, Ollie was given the job on a sort of trial run with only a one-year deal. But so far this season, he’s steered the Huskies to a 9-2 record and convinced the administration that he was capable of leading the program. Replacing Calhoun is a tough task and Ollie will have his work cut out for him if he wants to achieve as much as the former coach did. The key here is that the new deal will make things much easier for him on recruiting. Instead of telling prospective players that he hopes to still be on the job next year, he can now virtually assure them that he will.

Brandon Roy hopes to continue comeback bid: Just a few years ago, Brandon Roy was one of the top young guards in the NBA. In his first four seasons with the Portland Trailblazers, Roy averaged nearly 20 points a game and made three All-Star teams. But knee issues forced him to suddenly retire after a disappointing 2010-11 season. Roy made a comeback this year with the Minnesota Timberwolves, but is still suffering with the condition and has only appeared in a few games so far this year. Roy has weighed another retirement, but is hoping to get back on the court after dealing with the chronic knee pain. The decision has to be difficult for him. He’s still young enough that he could have several seasons in front of him if the pain can be treated. But at some point, the conditioning day in and day out to be able to play has to be a burden.

December 28, 2012

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NFL Power Rankings

By: Joe Williams

For the majority of NFL teams, there is just one game left in the season. Some of them know who they are. I’m talking to you Kansas City and Jacksonville. Others enter week 17 in do or die mode. You hear me Washington and Dallas? No matter who you are rooting for, this post season is setting up to be a great one. Now on to the rankings.

A Vikings win over Green Bay could set-up a rematch in the first round of the playoffs.

1 Atlanta Falcons (13-2) — The Falcons have clinched the top seed in the NFC and won’t have to play outside again until next season. Let’s see how they handle three weeks between meaningful games.

2 New England Patriots (11-4)Tom Brady was a big part of my fantasy championship winning team. You don’t care. Neither does he.

3 San Francisco 49ers (10-4-1) — You think the Cardinals are excited about facing an angry 49ers team that was completely embarrassed in Seattle? I think not.

4 Denver Broncos (12-3)Peyton Manning and Von Miller have the Broncos ready for a Super Bowl run. They haven’t lost since Oct. 7 and just need to beat the Chiefs to get a bye.

5 Green Bay Packers (11-4) — The Packers will have a bye if they beat the Vikings on Sunday. If they lose, they could get the Vikings again in the first round.

6 Houston Texans (12-3)Houston needs a win in Indy to claim the AFC’s top seed. Otherwise they will probably host the Bengals in the first round.

7 Seattle Seahawks (10-5) — Pete Carroll’s squad could still win the NFC West, but they are probably headed to Washington or Dallas in the first round of the playoffs.

8 Baltimore Ravens (10-5) — Are the Ravens back? They looked very good against the reeling Giants and will host the Colts or Bengals in the first round.

9 Washington Redskins (9-6) — The Skins are 6-0 since they had their bye week but it’s going to have to be 7-0 for them to win the NFC East.

10 Cincinnati Bengals (9-6)Andy Dalton finally got his first win against the Steelers. The Bengals will be the No. 6 seed and play at Houston, Denver, New England or Baltimore in the first round.

11 Dallas Cowboys (8-7) — Once again the Cowboys head into week 17 with everything on the line. You can bet this will come down to the fourth quarter.

12 Indianapolis Colts (10-5) — The turnaround of the Colts is one of the most impressive stories in the NFL. They are here to stay too.

13 Minnesota Vikings (9-6) — Wins over the Bears, Rams and Texans have the Vikings in control of their destiny. A win over the Packers would get them a playoff rematch in Green Bay.

14 New Orleans Saints (7-8) — Finishing at .500 would be pretty impressive considering all the drama in New Orleans this season.

15 Chicago Bears (9-6) — The Bears need to beat the reeling Lions and then root for Green Bay to knock off the Vikings.

16 New York Giants (8-7) — The defending champs have lost five of seven and need lots of help on Sunday to sneak into the playoffs.

17 Miami Dolphins (7-8) — If the season was 18 games like the commissioner wanted, the Dolphins would have a good shot to get in with the way they are playing.

18 St. Louis Rams (7-7-1) — After finishing 2-14 last season, the Rams are one of the most improved teams in 2012.

19 Pittsburgh Steelers (7-8) — Five losses in six games is not how the Steelers saw the stretch run going and they are out of the playoff hunt.

20 Carolina Panthers (6-9) — The Panthers waited too long to get hot. They have been one of the better teams after starting 2-8.

21 Tennessee Titans (5-10) — Clearly they are ready for the offseason. Nobody likes going to Green Bay in December but losing 55-7 is as bad as it gets.

22 New York Jets (6-9) — Looks like the Jets could go three for three on getting rid of quarterbacks this offseason. Should be interesting.

23 San Diego Chargers (6-9) — Beating the Raiders would give the Chargers a 3-1 finish but it won’t be good enough to save everybody’s jobs. Changes are coming.

24 Tampa Bay Buccaneers (6-9) — The Bucs won four straight to climb into the playoff hunt…then lost five in a row to fall out of it.

25 Arizona Cardinals (5-10) — It doesn’t appear that the Cardinals know who their quarterback is. But have they at least figured out who their quarterback isn’t?

26 Detroit Lions (4-11) — Were these guys really in the playoffs last year? What happened?

27 Cleveland Browns (5-10) — The Browns are making progress. Winning in Pittsburgh on Sunday would be another step forward.

28 Buffalo Bills (5-10) — Will either team show up when the Bills and Jets meet in the season finale?

29 Oakland Raiders (4-11) — If it wasn’t for beating the Chiefs twice, the Raiders could have the worst record in the league.

30 Philadelphia Eagles (4-11) — Will the Eagles knock the defending champs out of the hunt or improve their draft position?

31 Jacksonville Jaguars (2-13) — The Jags already beat Tennessee once. If they do it again, it could cost them the first pick in the draft.

32 Kansas City Chiefs (2-13) — Don’t expect the Chiefs to finish with a win in Denver against the hottest team in the league.

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.

December 11, 2012

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NFL Power Rankings

By: Joe Williams

There are three weeks left in the NFL regular season and we know who four of the 12 playoff teams will be.

15 teams are still in the hunt for the other eight spots, leaving 13 teams that should already be looking to 2013. Where does your team sit?

Tom Brady and New England are the new #1 in the NFL Power Rankings.

1 New England Patriots (10-3)Brady and Belichick are at it again. New England is going to be scary in January and probably February.

2 Atlanta Falcons (11-2) — Oops. The Falcons put it on cruise control a bit early. They still need at least one more win to lock down the No. 1 seed in the NFC.

3 San Francisco 49ers (9-3-1) — You’ve got to feel for Alex Smith. Especially with a potential Super Bowl preview coming up Sunday night in New England.

4 Houston Texans (11-2) — Sunday’s game against the Colts just got a whole lot bigger. One more loss and Houston could have a big problem.

5 Denver Broncos (10-3) Manning is making a strong case for MVP. A win in Baltimore could get the Broncos a first round bye.

6 Baltimore Ravens (9-4) — Their last four games have been decided by three points. This week is a must-win if the Ravens are going to have a first-round playoff bye.

7 Green Bay Packers (9-4) – The Packers are now alone in first place in the NFC North and winning in Chicago on Sunday would give them another division title.

8 Seattle Seahawks (8-5) – Did Pete Carroll have a flashback to his USC days and think he needed to run up the score to gain style points?

9 New York Giants (8-5) – There is no margin for error in the NFC East and the Giants must go to Atlanta and Baltimore in the next two weeks. The defending champs could miss the post season.

10 Chicago Bears (8-5)Jay Cutler needs to get healthy quick and have a big game on Sunday or the Bears will be watching the playoffs on TV.

11 Dallas Cowboys (7-6)Pittsburgh comes to town this week in a meeting of two teams desperately needing a win. Dez Bryant could be out with a broken finger.

12 Indianapolis Colts (9-4) – Is this all Andrew Luck? This team was horrendous last season.

13 Washington Redskins (7-6) – The Skins are 4-0 since their bye week and have stormed back into the NFC East race. The question is whether RGIII can be RGIII with an injured knee.

14 Cincinnati Bengals (7-6) – Beat the Eagles, Steelers and Ravens and you’re in the playoffs. That’s a tall order.

15 Pittsburgh Steelers (7-6) – Do they want to make the playoffs? Didn’t look like it when they were down 27-3 to a bad San Diego team.

16 Minnesota Vikings (7-6) – That was a big win over the Bears. The Vikings need another win this week at St. Louis because they finish with Houston and Green Bay.

17 St. Louis Rams (6-6-1) – A three-game winning streak for the first time since 2006 has the Rams in playoff contention. Three more wins may not be enough though.

18 New York Jets (6-7) – The Jets were left for dead on Thanksgiving, but two straight wins has them in the hunt with three winnable games remaining.

19 Tampa Bay Buccaneers (6-7) – Allowing two touchdowns in the last four minutes to lose against the Eagles is going to haunt the Bucs while they are watching the playoffs at home.

20 New Orleans Saints (5-8) – It was really just a matter of time in New Orleans. Not even Drew Brees can overcome the issues they have had.

21 Detroit Lions (4-9) – There is too much talent on this team to be 4-9. The Lions just can’t find a way to win. Something’s missing.

22 Carolina Panthers (4-9) – Where has that Panther team been all season? It’s a little late to be showing up for the party.

23 Tennessee Titans (4-9) – The Titans are just the latest fourth quarter victim of Andrew Luck. I’m sure they are looking forward to another decade of that.

24 Miami Dolphins (5-8) – The Dolphins competed against the Patriots and 49ers in the last two weeks, but it is clear they are not on that level.

25 Buffalo Bills (5-8) – The defense has improved but it has been a disappointing season in Buffalo.

26 Cleveland Browns (5-8) – The Browns are 5-3 in their last eight and still mathematically alive in the playoff hunt? Who knew?

27 Arizona Cardinals (4-9) – U.G.L.Y. Cardinals got no alibi. From 4-0 to 4-12? Yikes.

28 San Diego Chargers (5-8) – Big changes coming in San Diego for 2013. Nobody is safe.

29 Philadelphia Eagles (4-9) – Nick Foles could be the starter in 2013 after that come-from-behind win against the Bucs, but Philly fans are probably complaining that he cost them a higher draft pick.

30 Jacksonville Jaguars (2-11) – Not much to be positive about in Jacksonville right now. At least the weather is nice.

31 Oakland Raiders (3-10) – There was hope when Oakland landed Carson Palmer, but some things never change. The Raiders losing seems to be one of them.

32 Kansas City Chiefs (2-11) – The Chiefs lead the race for the No. 1 pick in the 2013 draft…in large part because they are -22 in the turnover battle.