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NFL News: CBS Sports To Produce And Televise Thursday Night Football Games

thursday-night-footballThe National Football League has partnered with long-time broadcast partner CBS to produce and televise Thursday Night Football for the 2014 season as announced Wednesday by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell.

CBS will air eight early season games that will also be simulcast on NFL Network, which will televise the final eight late-season games leading up to the playoffs. It includes two Saturday games in addition to 14 Thursday games.

All 16 games will be produced by CBS Sports and broadcast by Jim Nantz and Phil Simms, with NFL Network hosting and analyzing the pregame, halftime and postgame shows alongside the CBS broadcasters.

The agreement is for the 2014 season with an option held by the NFL for an additional year.

Broncos vs. Seahawks Super Bowl Preview: Peyton Manning’s Last Stand?

SBPeyton Manning’s doubters are rather quiet on this Sunday morning as his Denver Broncos get ready to square off against the Seattle Seahawks from New York’s MetLife Stadium in the pinnacle of American sports, the Super Bowl.

Super Bowl XLVIII
Seattle Seahawks (13-3) vs. Denver Broncos (13-3)
MetLife Stadium
East Rutherford, New Jersey
3:25 p.m. PT
FOX

Game-time weather: Cloudy, 44 degrees

Wind: 3 mph, NNW

So it’s not going to be the coldest Super Bowl (39 degrees, Super Bowl VI, Tulane Stadium, New Orleans) ever, at least not by the weather forecast, but it’s going to be freezing out there as Peyton Manning locks up with Richard Sherman and the Seahawks.

First and foremost it’s going to be about the battle in the trenches. If the Broncos continue to protect Manning as well as they have (hasn’t been sacked since Week 17), the sky is the limit.

The Seahawks have three sacks in the postseason, including two in the NFC Championship game of Colin Kaepernick and the San Francisco 49ers.

And these two teams actually met in the preseason, a 40-10 shellacking by the Seahawks of the Broncos in Seattle.

But the 12th man will be staying in the Pacific Northwest. This is a neutral-site game under some pretty intense weather conditions.

Hey, Manning stood up during that game, but the Seahawks ravaged the Broncos thanks to a pretty solid defense.

One stat to take note of in that game though is indeed the sacks. While the ‘Hawks couldn’t get to Manning, they sacked backup QB Brock Osweiler four times.

Manning played about a quarter and a half before getting lifted with a 27-7 deficit, which was lifted due to fumbles by Ronnie Hillman and Julius Thomas. And boy, if you know Thomas’ season, you can bet that he is not likely to fumble the ball in this one.

And the Seahawks showed then what they are so good at doing now: Taking advantage of the other team’s mistakes.

While Russell Wilson isn’t a world-beater, he is a very smart player, who combined with Marshawn Lynch, can beat you handily.

But as everybody knows, it’s all about the Broncos’ offense and the Seahawks’ defense.

Neither team has actually exceeded 30 points in the playoffs, shocking for Denver, who was held under 30 just three times during the regular season.

Everybody has been talking about Richard Sherman, and you’ll see a nice matchup with he and the Broncos’ receivers, but they’re that much better than those of the 49ers. While San Francisco had Michael Crabtree and Anquan Boldin, there’s Wes Welker and Demaryius Thomas to deal with, in addition to fantasy football monster Eric Decker and the previously mentioned Thomas.

There is just too much of an argument as to why the Broncos should win this game.

Now how about the Seahawks?

The Broncos have been known to get lazy and even let a comfortable lead get away in New England, a 24-0 lead. Remember that game? Gillette Stadium is just 340.7 miles away from today’s game, and it too was a primetime game.

Want to talk cold? Peyton Manning has thrown one touchdown against six interceptions in weather conditions like today’s. Nothing the Legion of Boom won’t salivate at.

What happened the last time the Seahawks visited MetLife Stadium? They shut out the New York Giants, 23-0.

Wouldn’t you say they hold the field advantage tonight?

Some might say so. Few would argue it. I say it’s going to live up to the hype that all have given this game. Expect a higher scoring game than you previously anticipated, and that’s why it will favor the Broncos.

When you play fire with fire it typically favors the side whose specialty is being complimented, and the Broncos are offensive juggernauts, the best in NFL history according to the numbers.

But if the Seahawks’ defense finds a way to shut down Manning, watch out, Denver could be looking at single-digits in addition to frost bite.

Look for the kickers to have some fun too. Yes, Matt Prater, the guy that kicked a 64-yard field goal, setting an NFL record against Steven Hauschka, the guy that seemingly never misses.

It will be one for the ages.

Prediction: Broncos 29, Seahawks 24
MVP: Peyton Manning

NFL Rumors: Roger Goodell Considering Getting Rid Of Extra Point Attempt

USATSI_7616620NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said in an interview with NFL Network’s Rich Eisen on Monday that the league is considering doing away with the extra point attempt.

The extra point is almost automatic. I believe we had five missed extra points this year out of 1,200 some odd (attempts). So it’s a very small fraction of the play, and you want to add excitement with every play,” Goodell said.

A new system would award a team with seven points automatically, with an attempt at an eighth point being allowed by virtue of a two-point conversion, but with a penalty of a point loss if the conversion is failed.

 

NFL Playoffs: First Round Preview

The NFL playoffs are finally here, that means it’s time for the obligatory look at this weekend’s upcoming matchups.  Home field advantage could be key to winning for some teams, but as the saying goes, that’s why they play the games.  Without further adieu, our NFL playoff preview.

5. CHIEFS (11-5) VS. 4. COLTS (11-5) (-2.5) Saturday 1:35 PM CBS

This could be a very close, very interesting game.  These two teams seem to be pretty evenly matched heading into this weekend.  The Colts finished the season on a hot streak, winning four of their final five games, including a 23-7 victory at Kansas City in Week 16.  However, they were one of the most confounding and unpredictable teams in the league this year.  They had signature victories over Seattle, Denver, and in San Francisco.  They also had blow-out losses to St. Louis, Arizona, and Cincinnati.

The Chiefs were one of the best stories in the league getting out to a 9-0 start.  However, they met with some opposition from their divisional opponents and went 2-5 the rest of the way. The Chiefs rallied after a three game losing streak for two dominant victories against Washington and the Raiders in Weeks 14 and 15 that essentially locked them into the five spot.

OFFENSE: KC 26.9 PPG (6th), 208.8 Pass YPG (24th), 128.5 Rush YPG (10th); IND 24.4 PPG (14th), 232.8 Pass YPG (17th), 108.9 Rush YPG (20th)

DEFENSE: KC 19.1 PPG (5th), 247.6 Pass YPG (25th), 120.2 Rush YPG (22nd); IND 21.0 PPG (9th), 231.9 Pass YPG (9th), 125.1 Rush YPG (26th)

The numbers would seem to favor Kansas City.  I think we all knew the Chiefs had a stout defense, but I didn’t realize that their offense was just as strong.  And you know what, it’s been solid since day one.  The Chiefs were held under 23 points only twice during their nine-game winning streak, and only two more times after that.  Even when they lost they put up points, especially in shootout losses to the Broncos and Chargers.

To give you an idea how efficient the Chiefs are on offense check out the numbers of their QBs.

Luck: 3,822 yards, 23 TDs, 9 INTs, 87.0 Passer RAT, 377 rush yards, 4 rush TDs

Smith: 3,313 yards, 23 TDs, 7 INTs, 89.1 Passer RAT, 431 rush yards, 1 rush TD

The Chiefs also have the versatile Jamaal Charles at running back pacing their offense.  Charles was third in the league with 1,287 rush yards and tied for the league lead with 12 rushing TDs.  Charles was a dual threat this year too with a career high 693 receiving yards and 7 receiving TDs.  The Colts continue to search for a running game.  Following Week 2 they traded a first round pick to Cleveland for Trent Richardson, who had an abysmal sophomore season.  Richardson racked up a disappointing 563 yards and 3 TDs this year.  After moving to the Colts, Richardson averaged a horrendous 2.9 YPC, third to last in the entire NFL!

So, what does this matchup come down to?  The Chiefs are super balanced and efficient on both sides of the ball.  However, they can be had in the secondary.  Needless to say, Andrew Luck will be passing the ball a lot.  The Colts actually have a pretty good defense too, but they struggle stopping the run.  OLB Robert Mathis is a beast, but outside of him, the Colts don’t have a lot of playmakers on the defensive line.  A steady diet of Charles runs, play action, and outside passing should be enough to keep the Colts’ D’ on their heels.  We’ve established that Richardson won’t be a factor, and between Justin Houston and Tamba Hali, the Chiefs should be able to pressure Luck in the pocket.

I’m going Chiefs on this one 24-17.

6. SAINTS (11-5) VS. 3. EAGLES (10-6) (-2.5) Saturday 5:10 PM FOX

On first glance, this would appear to be a matchup of two incredible offenses.  However, that’s just not true.  The New Orleans Saints are not that same offensive juggernaut on the road.  The Saints were 8-0 in the Superdome and put up a gaudy 34 PPG.  On the road, the Saints were only 3-5 and averaged only 17.7 PPG.  Very quietly, the Eagles won seven of their final eight games.

OFFENSE: NO 25.9 PPG (10th), 307.4 Pass YPG (2nd), 92.1 Rush YPG (25th); PHI 27.6 PPG (4th), 256.9 Pass YPG (9th), 160.4 Rush YPG (1st)

DEFENSE: NO 19.0 PPG (4th), 194.1 Pass YPG (2nd), 111.6 Rush YPG (19th); PHI 23.9 PPG (17th), 289.8 Pass YPG (32nd), 104.4 Pass YPG (10th)

The Saints actually have a pretty decent defense, but some of that is skewed since opposing teams are generally playing from behind as they try to keep up with Drew Brees and the offense in the Superdome.  That won’t be the case in Philadelphia this weekend as Chip Kelly will turn the tables on the Saints who will be hard pressed to keep up with the speed of the Eagles’ offense.

The Eagles’ defense has not been good, as the numbers show, however, most of their worst performances were much earlier in the season when Kelly was still trying to get his schemes implemented.  Outside of an ugly 48-30 loss to Minnesota in Week 15, all of the Eagles’ worst defensive performances came during the first five weeks of the season.

The Eagles have won seven of eight games.  The Saints have lost three of their last five and have drastic home and road splits.  I also didn’t mention that the Eagles have the league’s leading rusher in LeSean McCoy (1,607 yards).  I want to see a shootout, but Brees and the Saints just don’t seem to come through in cold weather road games.  Eagles 28-20.

6. CHARGERS (9-7) VS. 3. BENGALS (11-5) (-7) Sunday 10:00 AM CBS

Four weeks ago, the Chargers seemed dead at 5-7, but with a little bit of luck and by winning their final four games, the Chargers snuck into the playoffs on the final day of the regular season.  As great as it was for Bolts’ fans to watch the emergence of Keenan Allen as a go-to receiver, and the re-emergence of Philip Rivers as a premiere QB, it seems unlikely San Diego will survive past Sunday.

OFFENSE: SD 24.8 PPG (12th), 270.5 Pass YPG (4th), 122.8 Rush YPG (13th); CIN 26.9 PPG (6th), 258.7 Pass YPG (8th), 109.7 Rush YPG (18th)

DEFENSE: SD 21.8 PPG (11th), 258.7 Pass YPG (29th), 107.8 Rush YPG (12th); CIN 19.1 PPG (5th), 209.0 Pass YPG (5th), 96.5 Rush YPG (5th)

I give you one stat.  The Bengals were 8-0 at home.  The Chargers are on a roll, but I have no reason to believe that San Diego will be the first team to go into Cincinnati’s house and shut them down.  The Bengals also have one of the most lethal passing attacks in the lead, led by all-pro A.J. Green.  Oh yeah, stopping the pass has been a major issue for the Chargers this year.

These two teams met back in Week 13, with the Bengals defeating the Chargers 17-10 down at Qualcomm Stadium.  It was an ugly game, and the Chargers never got their running game going.  Rivers threw for 252 yards in the game, but 100 of those yards were to Keenan Allen.  Rivers and the Chargers will be able to throw the ball on the Bengals, it’s the running game that will be the question.

You know what else coincided with the Chargers winning their final four games, Ryan Matthews rushed for 100+ yards in three of those four games.  The one game he didn’t crack the 100-yard mark, he rushed for 99 yards.  The Chargers found balance.

However, the Bengals are just as hot, winners of five of their last six games.  Prior to that, they had two consecutive overtime losses.  The Bengals have been one of the most consistent teams in the NFL since Week 1, something that can’t be said about the Chargers.  Bengals 34-24.

5. 49ers (12-4) (-2.5) vs. 4. Packers (8-7-1) Sunday 1:30 PM FOX

Can you hear the NFL Films music playing in the background?  It could be a “historically” cold day on the frozen tundra of Lambeau Field this Sunday.  That doesn’t necessarily give the Pack the advantage in this one.  Like the Chargers, the Packers snuck into the playoffs on the final day of the season, thanks to the triumphant return of QB Aaron Rodgers (and a breakdown by the Bears’ secondary).

OFFENSE: GB 26.1 PPG (8th), 266.8 Pass YPG (6th), 133.5 Rush YPG (7th); SF 25.4 PPG (11th), 186.2 Pass YPG (30th), 137.6 Rush YPG (3rd)

DEFENSE: GB 26.8 PPG (24th), 247.3 Pass YPG (24th), 125.0 Rush YPG (25th); SF 17.0 PPG (3rd), 221.0 Pass YPG (7th), 95.9 Rush YPG (4th)

It’s pretty clear, what’s going on here.  Aaron Rodgers is an elite quarterback and the Packers now have a strong running game with Eddie Lacy.  Their defense was horrible this year.  They couldn’t stop anybody.  The 49ers have a solid balanced offense, with emphasis on the run game.  Expectations were sky-high for Colin Kaepernick this year, and despite putting up solid numbers (3,197 Pass YDs, 21 TDs 8 INTs, 91.6 Passer RAT), it seemed at times that he didn’t do as much as in last year’s Super Bowl run.  However, they maintain one of the strongest running attacks in the game, and their defense is elite, contrary to Green Bay’s D’ which is moribund.

Let’s also not forget what has happened the last two times these two teams met.  Oh yeah, the 49ers annihilated the Packers.  Kaepernick torched the Pack for a record 181 rushing yards in the first round of last years playoffs.  When the two teams met in Week 1 of this season, San Francisco continued its dominance of Green Bay when Kaepernick threw for 412 yards.  He didn’ throw for more than 300 yards again until the final week of the season against Arizona.

Combine the fact that the Niners have a far superior defense than the Packers’ and that the Niners have owned the Packers in their last three matchups it’s hard to find any reason to belive that the Packers will have any chance of bringing down the Niners.  Freezing temperatures at Lambeau Field will not benefit the Aaron Rodgers pass attack, and that is what sets the Packers apart from other teams.  There’s no reason to think that the Packers inexperienced and injury-laden defense will be able to stage a sustainable front against the Niners run game to get a win.

NFL Division Races

122813-49ersAnd then there were just two. Two weeks remaining in the regular season. Boy, how quickly the time flew by. It still feels like yesterday when Peyton Manning scorched the Baltimore Ravens’ defense on Opening Night.

So with the season dwindling down and with some division races coming down to the wire, instead of having a top five things to look out for, let’s take a look at each division around the league.

American Football Conference (AFC)

-East

No surprise here, with the New England Patriots seemingly always on top of their division around this time. At 10-4, they just need a win this week, or a Dolphins loss, to clinch the division once again. Their only competition would be those Miami Dolphins, who sit at 8-6 and were able to take down the mighty Patriots last week. That win kept the playoff hopes alive for Miami, who are at the No. 7 seed at the moment. The Dolphins need to win out, and hope that they get a little help along the way, in order for them to grab the final playoff seed.

-North

The AFC North is one of those tight ones, coming down to the final stretch. The Cincinnati Bengals are currently atop that division and at the No. 3 seed, with the Baltimore Ravens behind them by just one game. The Bengals can wrap up this division this week, by defeating or tying with the Minnesota Vikings, AND a Baltimore loss against New England. The rest of that division, just forget about it. The Pittsburgh Steelers have a slight ray of light at the playoffs, but unlikely to happen. As for the Cleveland Browns, just another disappointing 4-10 season.

-South

The AFC South has already been taken by the Indianapolis Colts. No competition here for these last two weeks, as no other team in that division has any chance of making the playoffs. The Colts took care of this division as easy as 1-2-3.

-West

The interesting division out west. The Denver Broncos and the Kansas City Chiefs have both already clinched a playoff berth. The question is, however, who will take home the division crown? Both of them sit at an 11-3 record, but Denver has the tie-breaker, thus putting them at the top, not only in their division, but as the top seed in the AFC. The Chiefs are currently in the No. 5 wildcard seed. For Denver to clinch the division this week, they need a win, AND a Kansas City loss this week. If not, then it will have to go down to the final week of the season. And lets not forget about the San Diego Chargers who are still in the wildcard hunt. At 7-7, they are currently at the no.8 slot, and need to win out, and a whole lot of help for them to grab the final playoff spot.

National Football Conference (NFC)

-East

Oh, that NFC East. Recently, every single year this division just always has to go down to the last weeks of the season. Right now, the Philadelphia Eagles are at the top at 8-6, with the Dallas Cowboys behind them by one game, at 7-7. The Eagles also sit at the No. 3 spot, as of now. For them to clinch the division this week, they need a win or tie over the Chicago Bears, AND a Cowboys loss. The Cowboys must win out for them to have a chance at the division, as that’s their only hope. They have no chance at a wildcard spot.

-North

Probably the wildest division race out of all of them. With just two weeks left, three, yes three, teams can still grab the division title. The Chicago Bears, the Green Bay Packers, and the Detroit Lions. Now, the Lions did shoot themselves in the foot, after losing their last two games. It looked like they were gonna end up taking the crown, but not anymore. At the moment, the Bears sit at the top at 8-6 and can win the division this week by winning, AND a Detroit loss or tie, AND a Green Bay loss. For all three teams, the division is their only hope as well, as they don’t have a shot at a wildcard spot either. So whoever wins this division, will certainly gain a No. 3 or No. 4 seed. It will be interesting to watch, as all three teams must win their remaining games to reach the playoffs and grab the NFC North.

-South

Another tight race is the NFC South. The Carolina Panthers and the New Orleans Saints are both at 10-4, fighting for the division crown. And what makes it even better, is that they will face off this Sunday at Carolina. Clearly, this is the biggest game of the season for both of these teams. Right now, the Saints edge out the Panthers for the top spot in that division, so if they win this Sunday, they take home the division crown. If not, then strap yourselves in, because it will have to go down to Week 17.

-West

In the NFC West, the Seattle Seahawks already clinched a playoff berth, but not yet the division. The San Fransisco 49ers are behind them by two games, so the Seahawks just needs a win or a tie this week, OR a loss or a tie by the 49ers, to clinch the division. The 49ers are also in another battle with the third place team in that division. The Arizona Cardinals are behind them by just one game for the final wildcard spot. The 49ers currently hold the No. 6 spot, with the Cardinals at the No. 7 spot right now. It’s a wild, wild West with this division, so it will be pretty interesting to see where these teams will be at the end of Week 17.

NFL: The Difference Between RG3 And Robert Griffin lll Of The Redskins

121313-RG3Let’s stroll down memory lane.

One year ago the NFL world got introduced to a Heisman trophy winner who at the time was considered the best quarterback coming out of college. He was selected by the Washington Redskins with the No. 2 overall pick.

Meet RG3.

The young quarterback would wow us in 2012 with his lightning speed and accurate arm. He ended 2012 with 20 touchdowns to only five interceptions. He was awarded the 2012 AP NFL Rookie of The Year. But more importantly RG3 led Washington to an NFC East title .

In Week 14 RG3 would injure his knee in a game against the Baltimore Ravens. But that did not keep the young quarterback down as he would only miss three games heading into the playoffs. During the NFC Wildcard game against the Seattle Seahawks RG3 would re-injure his knee that would require him to have offseason surgery to repair ligaments in his ACL and LCL.

Nevertheless, everybody expected that the best of RG3 was yet to come.

Lets now flash forward to the present.

This same quarterback has now had his season 2013 ended through only 13 weeks of the season. He is being replaced by 4th round draft pick Kirk Cousins. The call comes from head coach Mike Shanahan whose team suffered a beat down last Sunday to the Kansas City Chiefs, 45-10.

NFL, meet Robert Griffin III.

He’s a quarterback who’s disappointing season started when he decided to become a social media sensation instead of worrying about his rehab. Pressure was then put on Griffin heading into Week 1 on whether he should be the starting quarterback. Instead of rising to the occasion, Griffin showed us an under performance we would get accustomed to in 2013. He then went on to throw wide receivers and coaches under the bus that would show Robert’s lack of leadership.

Griffin’s numbers would drop significantly, throwing 16 touchdowns to 12 interceptions while not rushing for any. He would also drop in quarterback rating to 31st (40.1) a year removed from being ranked 5th (73.2).

These numbers are just a sample of what the second year quarterback has endured this year. A lot of it can be summed up through Griffin’s disappointment of being shut down for the year.

“I don’t know”, says Griffin, “I just don’t know, coach decided to shut me down, and that’s that”.

The RG3 of 2012 who had gained the respect of fans, teammates, coaches and even opposing defenders has become a shell of himself. A quarterback who probably should have sat out the beginning of the year to recover from surgery, but instead went out there and took brutal hits from defenders and members of the media.

I, like many others, am curious to see how 2014 turns out for Robert Griffin III. Will we see the quarterback who throws costly interceptions and how who has now taken a backseat to the younger quarterbacks of the NFL who now include Russell Wilson, Colin Kaepernick and Andrew Luck.

Or will we see the return of RG3? The man who showed you how much he was having fun with his big smile, while torching defenses with his arm and legs.

NFL fans and the city of Washington will have to hope and wait.

NFL: Top Five Things to Look Out For in Week 15

121313-CousinsWhat a crazy week of football we had in week 14. From late comebacks, to snowy conditions, week 14 did not disappoint. Now, it’s time to get ready for week 15. Sadly, just three weeks of the regular season is left. So let’s enjoy these next remaining weeks by sitting down and watching some great football action.

With that, I bring you Week 15’s top five things to look out for:

1. Turmoil in D.C.

The Washington Redskins’ franchise doesn’t look all too pretty at the moment. A disappointing record, coach, and quarterback. That is surely not the formula for success in the NFL. Now, their franchise quarterback, Robert Griffin III will not play this week, and won’t probably see anymore action at all for the remainder of the season. Many people disagree with that decision, but it is what it is, and it’s unfortunate for Griffin.

Kirk Cousins will take over and will start against the 3-10 Atlanta Falcons, another team that has just disappointed. Cousins needs to go out and show that he can play and at least lead his team to a victory or two before the season ends. If not, then more fans will be disappointed with the decision to shut RG III down.

2. Will the Seahawks bounce back?

Last week, the San Fransisco 49ers handed the Seattle Seahawks just their second loss of the year. That was after the Seahawks demolished the New Orleans Saints on Monday Night football. Now, they will look to bounce back, traveling to New York to face the Giants. The New York Giants are currently at 5-8, after starting the season 0-6. The Seahawks are looking to get back into the winning column and do not want to drop this game, and go down to 11-3. They want to make sure they get home-field advantage for the playoffs, and secure it as soon as possible.

3. How will Carolina bounce back?

The Carolina Panthers were the hottest football team on the planet. That was, before they played Drew Brees and the Saints. They hosed down the fire the Panthers were on with a 31-13 victory. Now, they will look to get right back up on their feet when they host the New York Jets. They are not the Saints, so the Panthers should have less trouble against them. However, remember that this is the National Football League, where any given team can upend another. If the Panthers fall asleep in this one, then they will suddenly be at just 9-5. It will be interesting to see how they come back after a tough loss.

4. Will the Cowboys bounce back as well?

A tough, embarrassing loss for the Dallas Cowboys on the Monday Night stage. A 45-28 beat down against the Chicago Bears, in freezing temperatures. Yeah, it wasn’t a good day at the office for Tony Romo and company. Of course, he does have a terrible record in December, that carries on through January. If he wants him and his team to make the playoffs, then they must win out, with the Philadelphia Eagles right by them for the NFC East crown. A win over the Green Bay Packers at home will surely help them out. I don’t think they can afford to lose this game.

5. Can the Arizona Cardinals keep on pace?

No one saw the Arizona Cardinals making a push for the playoffs when the season began. But here they are. Just one little game behind the 49ers, for that 6th playoff spot. They too must win out, in order to have a chance to take it. If not, if they have one little slip-up, then more likely than not, there would go their playoff chances. This week, they take on the Tennessee Titans. Though they are 5-8, they can still be a pretty tough matchup. Arizona needs to play their butts off, for these remaining three weeks. If they do, then it will be quite possible they will steal that final playoff spot.

There you have it folks. Week 15’s top five things to look out for. May you have a good weekend of football action and if your fantasy teams are still alive, then I wish you good luck.

Ravens News: In Joe Flacco, Baltimore Trusts Toward a Playoff Run

120913-FlaccoIn a game that had seen four touchdowns in 1:20, Joe Flacco showed the sports world and Baltimore Ravens fans why in a up-and-down season, there’s absolutely no need to panic.

Flacco capped off an incredible drive that all but took 41 seconds. With a 9-yard back-of-the-endzone touchdown to rookie Marlon Brown with four seconds left, giving Baltimore a victory and hanging on another week to the sixth-and-final wildcard spot in the AFC.

In a rough season for Flacco and co. the former Super Bowl MVP has thrown 18 touchdowns against a surprisingly 17 interceptions. Flacco has a chance to not only redeem himself but a Ravens team that looked dead in the water not only on Sunday but after a 4-6 start.

Baltimore has strung off three straight wins and sits at 7-6, largely in part because of Joe’s big plays.

At times Flacco makes you forget why he is in his mind and too few considered elite, throwing careless passes and interceptions that make you shake your head and wonder if he is worth the $120 million contract he received in the offseason.

But a matter of 41 seconds shows why you should never count out the heart of a champion.

“Joe is our guy and to me that’s all you really need to say,” said Ravens coach John Harbaugh, “I love him and respect him and I think he’s a great player.”

Even with Flacco’s calm and nonchalant personality. His teammates know that at times of desperation Joe is battle tested and that’s what has gained their respect and confidence in him.

Ray Rice who accounted for 109 yards from scrimmage praised his quarterback on Sunday’s final drive.

“He did not panic. He did not say a word. It was ‘Lets go’ And that’s the kind of guy you want to be in a battle with in crunch time situations.”

With three brutal games to end the season against division leaders (Detroit, New England and Cincinnati). Baltimore will need Joe Flacco to be the quarterback that led them to a Super Bowl last year and lead them this year to a playoff run.

Fans, coaches and teammates have no doubt it can be done. And after yesterday’s win everybody can relate to one quote by safety James Ihedigbo, “Man I love Joe Flacco.”

NFL: Top Five Things To Watch In Week 14

120513-CamThe weeks of the NFL football schedule are dwindling down. In just a blink of an eye, we are already in week 14. So, that means it’s time for some December football. Where the weather can be brutal for some teams, and where it’s time to shine for other teams. The final stretch of the regular season is here. Let the fight for all playoff spots begin.

With that, I bring you this week’s top five things to look out for around the league:

1. The Last Place Bowl; Texans vs. Jaguars

Aren’t Thursday Night’s supposed to bring must-watch match-ups? Games that no one would want to miss?

Apparently not this week. This Thursday Night game will feature the 2-10 Houston Texans against the 3-9 Jacksonville Jaguars. Battle for last place. It doesn’t look like this game will bring in a lot of ratings. Sure, it’s still a football game and many people might still watch (at least a little). But, there’s really no excitement surrounding this match-up. It’s December. Time for big games to have big playoff implications. The only implication this match-up has is probably, who will get the number one draft pick for next year. Other than that, there’s really nothing much to this game.

2. Can the Kansas City Chiefs finally bounce back?

Remember when the Chiefs were 9-0? Where the talks about them possibly finishing a perfect season started stirring up? What happened to all that?

Well, it’s all gone now. Three straight losses for Kansas City. Twice to the Denver Broncos, including last week, and a loss to the San Diego Chargers. Now suddenly, a team that looked like they will never lose a game, are desperate for a win. It’s just crazy how everything can change in an instant to any team.

Now, the Chiefs will be looking for that victory that they are thirsty for, against the Washington Redskins. If the Chiefs drop this game as well, then it will feel like the Chiefs went from the top of the mountain, all the way to rock bottom. And with a close playoff picture, their playoff chances will be in jeopardy. Kansas City must win this game to avoid any of that.

3. Are the Seattle Seahawks the team to beat?

A dominating win last Monday Night against the New Orleans Saints. They devoured them. Ate them up like if they were dinner. It showed a lot about what this Seahawks team could do. Especially when at home. An 11-1 record, yes folks, just one loss. Are they the team to beat? I would say so. This team is looking like a group of men on a mission and they will tear you to pieces on the football field if you get in their way. Another win over the San Francisco 49ers, will put them at 12-1, and should certainly be looked at as the NFC favorite for the Super Bowl. Of course, predictions don’t mean that much, that’s why they play the game. However, this Seattle team sure does look dangerous.

4. Sunday Night Match-up to watch; Panthers vs. Saints

The Carolina Panthers are just on fire. And on no sign of cooling down. The entire team is playing great football. Thanks to their hot stretch, they have put themselves in a position to take the NFC South over the New Orleans Saints, and a top seed for the playoffs. This is their biggest game of the season so far, as a win here can certainly give them the edge to win the division crown.

It won’t be easy, however. Playing in New Orleans is tough enough. But now they will play a Saints team, looking to redeem themselves after being embarrassed on the Monday Night stage. The Saints should come out with guns blazing. They still see themselves as the top dog in their division. They are going to fight as much as they can to win this game. Either way, it should a fun game to watch, as these two 9-3 teams are set to battle it out, so tune in football fans.

5. Great Monday Night match-up; Cowboys vs. Bears

Both the Dallas Cowboys and the Chicago Bears are in the middle of tight divisional races. The Cowboys are currently tied for first place with the Philadelphia Eagles, for the top spot in the NFC East, both sitting at 7-5. The Bears are currently in 2nd place in the NFC North, one game behind the Detroit Lions. So, this is a crucial game for both teams. One loss can hurt them, significantly. This is what makes this game a must-watch. This is what makes football in December so great. Make sure to sit down and enjoy this game football fans. You just might regret it, if you miss it.

Seattle Seahawks’ Dominance And The Rest Of The NFL Playoff Picture

seahawks vs saintsThe Seattle Seahawks crushed and obliterated the New Orleans Saints 34-7 on Monday Night Football firmly putting Seattle in the driver’s seat for the No. 1 seed and home field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs.  The “Legion of Boom” completely flustered the great Drew Brees.

A pressured Brees couldn’t connect with any of his panicked receivers, and Seattle handed the Saints their worst loss in the Brees/Sean Payton era.  The Seahawks also brought an end to Brees’ streak of consecutive games with multiple TD passes.

Brees said after the game, “It’s clear the road to the Super Bowl goes through here.”  After watching the Seahawks just completely shut down the Saints’ offense on Monday, does anybody want to go up to Seattle to play a game in inclement weather.  Throw in the deafening Seattle crowd, which broke their own Guinness World Record for loudest stadium, and it just doesn’t seem like any NFC team can go into the Pacific Northwest and take out the Seahawks.

Who could do it? The Carolina Panthers are tied with New Orleans atop the NFC South, and they just don’t have the offensive firepower to make a dent in Seattle’s D.  The Saints are fifth in PPG at 26.0, the Panthers are 10th at 23.8.  New Orleans trots out 396 yards of offense per game, fourth in the NFC, Carolina, 327.8 YPG, good for only 12th.

What about the winner of the NFC Least? The Cowboys and Eagles have each given up the most and second most yards in the league on defense, respectively.  Brees couldn’t handle the pressure in Seattle, it’s unlikely that Tony Romo or Nick Foles would handle it any better.  Although, Foles could secretly be Napoleon Dynamite’s long lost twin, and be the single coolest guy on the planet, just nobody knows it.  But seriously, no.

The Detroit Lions are in the driver’s seat in the NFC North, but despite their talent, they are a team that is prone to shooting itself in the foot.  I think they’re the one team talent-wise that could bring it to Seattle, but they are often times undisciplined, and I’m not betting that Jim Schwarz will outcoach Pete Carroll in a playoff game.

That leaves the division rival 49ers, who currently hold a one game lead for the final wild card spot.  They’ll meet this Sunday at Candlestick Park.  The Seahawks trounced the Niners 29-3 back in Week 2 up in Seattle.  The Niners have gone 7-3 since and are starting to look like the team that went to the Super Bowl last year.  They’ll be eager to prove that that performance was a fluke.  They also have a familiarity with the Seahawks that the other teams don’t have since they play in the same division.

Are those would-be contenders all locks to make the playoffs?  No, but they’re in the driver’s seat and pretty much control their own destiny.  The most interesting race to watch will be between the Saints and the Panthers.  They’re each 9-3 tied for the NFC South lead.  They will meet this Sunday night at the Superdome, and again, two weeks after that, in Charlotte.  Obviously, both these teams will want to win their division and home field.  To show you how cutthroat the NFC is, the second place team gets the first wild card spot and a road game against either the Lions or Cowboys/Eagles.  Although, I’d definitely pick the Saints to upset the Cowboys indoors at Dallas.

The NFC East is also a two team race with Philly and Dallas each tied at 7-5.  Dallas has the edge having won the first matchup of the two teams 17-3 in Philly.  The two teams meet in the season’s final week in what could be a huge showdown.  In between then the Cowboys have games at Chicago, against Green Bay, and at Washington.  The Eagles host the Lions, visit Minnesota, and then host the Bears in between.  It’s tough to call, and it could go either way, but I like the Cowboys in the NFC Least.

The NFC North also provides some intrigue.  The Lions have a one game lead on the Bears, but own the tiebreaker, by virtue of the season sweep.  They have a one-and-a-half game lead on the Packers by virtue of Green Bay’s tie with the Vikings two weeks ago.  Detroit has two tough games coming up in Philadelphia and at home against the Ravens.  After that they have seeming shoo-ins at home against the Giants and at Minnesota to finish up the season.  Tough to see the Lions losing this one here.

What about over in the AFC?  The AFC is funny, they have two powerhouse teams at the top in the Denver Broncos and the New England Patriots, (sorry, Kansas City).  The rest of the AFC is just a morass of .500 and below teams.  Baltimore currently holds the final wild card spot with a 6-6 record, and there are several 5-7 teams still knocking on the door.  It’s funny though, no matter how much things change, they stay the same.  Peyton Manning and Tom Brady are leading the AFC, as always.

The Denver Broncos lead the AFC at 10-2 and have a one game lead and the tiebreaker over Kansas City (9-3).  The Chiefs would pretty much have to lose out to fall out of the playoffs.  In the race for the number one seed, the Broncos would appear to have the edge.  They play only sub-.500 teams the rest of the way.  Home games against Tennessee and the Chargers, followed by road games at Houston and at Oakland.

The Patriots aren’t playing world beaters down the stretch, but they appear to have a slightly more difficult schedule.  They host Cleveland this weekend in what should be a trouncing, but then they have potentially tougher games on the road at Miami, and at Baltimore.  Denver’s got this if you ask me.

The Colts have the AFC South all but wrapped up with a three game lead over Tennessee.  The Bengals have a two game lead in the AFC North over the Ravens and they have three of their final four games at home, but the final game of the season is against the Ravens, Cincinnati kind of has to win out.  The Bengals will host the Colts this weekend before traveling to Pittsburgh next weekend, followed by another home game against the Vikings.

The Ravens should handle business against the Vikings at home this weekend, but after that they have a trip to Detroit, and a home game against the Patriots before the penultimate matchup with the Bengals.  Tough to see the Ravens going 4-0 during this stretch and overtaking Cincinnati, but stranger things have happened, and the Ravens control their destiny for the second Wild Card.

How about that Wild Card?  The other 6-6 team is the PR nightmare Miami Dolphins.  Yes, those Miami Dolphins of bullying and fractured locker room fame.  I told you the AFC was a morass.  In this rollercoaster of a season where Miami started 3-0, then lost four straight, and had their entire worlds turned over due to a clubhouse bullying scandal that blew up into a national story, the Dolphins are firmly in contention for the final playoff spot.  I know, I’m having a hard time processing that.

The Dolphins travel to Pittsburgh this weekend, and they host the Patriots the week after that.  If they go 0-2, the Dolphins are toast.  If they stay afloat (ahem, bad pun), they have a road game in Buffalo and a home game against the Jets to finish the season.  If things stay the same between now and Week 17, I’d much rather play the Jets at home, than play the Bengals in Cincinnati to finish the season.  Just saying.