NFL: Week 17 Picks

The regular season comes down to this, one playoff spot in each conference remains up for grabs, with plenty of seeding to be set.  Three divisions are still unclaimed, including the NFC South, the final spot left unclaimed and all three of those battles are winner-take-all on top of it.  We couldn’t have asked for a better end to the regular season.

In Week 16, I went 10-6 to bring my season total to 155-84.  Here’s my final regular season set of picks. Comment with your thoughts!

Sunday 1PM Games

  • Bills @ Patriots: A win doesn’t help either team, as the Pats have already clinched home-field throughout the AFC playoffs, while the Bills are out of the playoff picture.  But as Tom Brady said in his press conference this week, with a bye in the 1st round, they need to make this game count so they stay fresh and ready. I don’t expect the starters to play the whole game, maybe just the 1st half, but I think New England gets the win, their 13th of the season. NEW ENGLAND WINS
  • Browns @ Ravens: Baltimore needs a win to keep themselves in the conversation, but if the Chargers win, that’s it.  Cleveland is on their 3rd quarterback after Johnny Manziel’s injury and the ineffectiveness of Brian Hoyer.  THey had a good run, but I don’t think the Browns finish with their first non-losing record since 2007, completing a 2nd half collapse.  I’ll take the Ravens to at least give themselves a chance at the final spot in the AFC. BALTIMORE WINS
  • Bears @ Vikings: Jay Cutler is back under center and looking to finish a down year on a high note.  Minnesota has had an okay season for a team that lost it;s starting QB and all-pro running back early.  If the Vikings get the win, the Bears will finish all alone in the NFC North cellar.  And that’s exactly what I think happens.  MINNESOTA WINS
  • Cowboys @ Redskins: The Cowboys are back in the playoffs after 3-straight seasons of finishing at 8-8, and they have a shot at a first round bye.  With a hand injury to DeMarco Murray, and Tony Romo’s back, they could use it.  A lot has to go right, but they have home-field locked up at the very least by virtue of winning the NFC East. DALLAS WINS
  • Colts @ Titans: Andrew Luck is having the worst season of his young career, and yet his Colts are division champs once again. But the turnovers can’t continue, and if you’re Indy, you want to see a crisp game heading into the playoffs. Seeding is still a factor, but they have home field in the first round, so I don’t think a full game will be played by the starters. That being said, I still think the Colts get a much-needed win to make them feel better before the postseason kicks off. INDIANAPOLIS WINS
  • Jaguars @ Texans: Jacksonville has a lot of pieces, especially on defenses, to make the future look bright. Add to that another top 3 pick, and they could make some noise fairly soon.  A loss would help things along, so while I don;t think they’ll go out and throw the season finale, I also don’t think they win. JJ Watt will look to finish the year strong and add to his MVP caliber campaign. HOUSTON WINS
  • Chargers @ Chiefs: When I looked at this match-up earlier in the week, I had the Chargers winning.  Now that Alex Smith is out for the Chiefs with a lacerated spleen, I’m even more sure that San Diego will lock up the final AFC playoff spot. Philip Rivers and company have had an odd season, but they can wipe it all away with a win and playoff berth, and I think that’s exactly what I think they do. SAN DIEGO WINS
  • Jets @ Dolphins: New York has been a disappointment all season, while the Dolphins have been disappointing to close out the season.  We know Joe Philbin will be back for 2015 in Miami, but we don’t know the true fate of Rex Ryan for the Jets. Ryan has had more success than Philbin as a head coach, but they coach in competely different markets so who knows.  All I know is I like Ryan Tannehill better than both Geno Smith and Mike Vick combined, and I saw a better defense all season long for Miami than New York.  So for that, I understand another year for Philbin.  That is also why I think the Dolphins end the season with a win. MIAMI WINS
  • Saints @ Buccaneers: This game means nothing to New Orleans but looking to end the season with a little pride. In a bad NFC South, a playoff perennial squad led by Drew Brees couldn’t even make it to week 17 in contention for the playoffs. As for Tampa, it’s been a lost season from the jump, and here they sit with a chance at the number 1 pick, with only Tennessee in the way, entering action with identical 2-13 records. Give me the Saints to finish the season with a win. NEW ORLEANS WINS
  • Eagles @ Giants: After being in the lead in the NFC East for most of the season, week 17 finds the Eagles out of the playoff picture and just looking to be a 10 win team that doesn’t make it.  The Giants have turned things around in the 2nd half of the season, and are a different team than when the two played the first time around.  Give me the Giants to finish out the season at 7-9 with another good day from Odell Beckham Jr, the probable Offensive Rookie of the Year. NEW YORK WINS

Sunday 4:25PM Games

  • Panthers @ Falcons: The winner is playoff bound. The loser goes home.  Neither team finishes above .500, but will host a tough 10+ win team in the wildcard round. Cam Newton’s health/ability is questionable after his car accident, while Matt Ryan’s offense is scary good.  Neither team’s defense has been impressive this season, so I’m going to go with the home team in this one. ATLANTA WINS
  • Raiders @ Broncos: The Broncos don’t have to win to ensure a first round bye, but you know they want to go into the playoffs strong and not leave things up to chance.  Peyton Manning is coming off one of his worst games ever in week 16, so you know he’s looking to bounce back.  Oakland has all but knocked themselves out of the top draft spot with 3 wins, but they’re still going to be in prime position.  Derek Carr has shown growth, so all is not lost in Raider Nation.  That being said, this is a home game with a week off at stake, give me the Broncos to get the job done. DENVER WINS
  • Cardinals @ 49ers: San Francisco has been a strange team all season, and they’ll be missing the playoffs after a nice streak of success th past few years under Jim Harbaugh.  With signs pointing to Harbaugh parting ways with the Niners sooner rather than later, I think the team plays hard for him one more time.  I just don’t think it results in a win.  The QB situation for Arizona is less-than ideal heading into the playoffs, but their defense can carry them for a while.  Ryan Lindley gets the start over rookie Logan Thomas, with news that Drew Stanton could be back for the playoffs.  They have a playoff spot no matter what, but they more than anyone else in the NFC, really needed that bye week, but their tailspin has coincided with the Seahawks resurgence.  ARIZONA WINS
  • Lions @ Packers: Winner gets the NFC North crown and home-field in the first round. The loser gets a wildcard spot. A first round bye is also in play for the winner of this one, so it’s the biggest game of the weekend. Detroit has been carried all season by their defense, but their potent offense has started to pick it up of late. The Packers are nearly unbeatable at home, looking to go 8-0 at Lambeau, so you know Green Bay wants to avoid going on the road as long as possible in the playoffs as they can.  Aaron Rodgers has more experience in high pressure games than Matt Stafford, and I think that’s the difference this week. GREEN BAY WINS
  • Rams @ Seahawks: The reigning champs started the season off slowly, but they are peaking at the right time, and a win guarantees a first round bye, and they have a shot at home-field throughout, and in 12-man territory that would be huge.  St. Louis has had a respectable season, their defense is formidable and their wins have come against some of the league’s best.  They will make the tough NFC West tougher next season with a stable QB. SEATTLE WINS

Sunday Night Football

  • Bengals @ Steelers: It’s the battle for the AFC North and home-field advantage in the 1st round. Both teams are already in the playoffs, and both could still, with a lot of help, get a bye.  Cincinnati hasn’t been super impressive for most of the season, but in clinching a playoff spot last week, they sure were.  Andy Dalton outplayed Peyton Manning, and the defense stepped up big time.  Not to mention how great Jeremy Hill was out of the backfield.  But Pittsburgh has been coming on strong of late, and their run game is even more dangerous with Le’veon Bell in the backfield.  Ben Rothelisberger looks like his old self, and with this game in front of the black-and-yellow, I’m taking the Steelers to win the most competitive division in football.  Though as I said last week when I picked against the Bengals, I wouldn’t be surprised if Cincy pulls the upset.  I had them finally breaking their 1-and-done playoff streak this season prior to the start of the year, so a huge road in against their division foe wouldn’t shock me at all. PITTSBURGH WINS
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NFL: Week 6 Picks

Week 5 was nothing short of interesting with it’s blowouts and come-from-behind victories.  We still aren’t at the point where too many teams have separated themselves from the pack as the league’s best and worst, but we are getting there.

We’ve got another nearly full slate with just two teams on byes this week in the Kansas City Chiefs and the New Orleans Saints.

I had a good week 5, going 12-3 to improve to 48-28 on the season (not to shabby if I do say so myself).  Now here are my week 6 picks.

Thursday Night Football

  • Colts @ Texans: How about a close Thursday Night game for once? I do think we finally get one with this AFC South match-up.  It’s an early battle for the division.  The Colts have been led by their offense this season, the Texans by their defense.  Which wins out?  I think Andrew Luck does. INDIANAPOLIS WINS

Sunday 1PM Games

  • Steelers @ Browns: Ben Tate is back and looked good in week 5.  The Browns are finding ways to win, even when they don’t make it easy for themselves.  But it’s hard to win in the NFL, and they’re already half way to their 2013 win total.  As for the Steelers, they moved above .500 last week, but it wasn’t a pretty 17-9 game against the 0-5 Jaguars.  So I think Cleveland finds a way to get themselves above .500 at home. CLEVELAND WINS
  • Patriots @ Bills: It’s the final regular season match-up between the AFC East rivals, and New England is in Buffalo looking for revenge.  It’s also a game that could very well determine the division.  The Pats had their best game of the season last week against a very good team in Cincinnati.  But the Bills are also coming off a good road win over Detroit.  So which team keeps the good feelings going and stays above .500?  I think Tom Brady and company find a way to build off their drubbing of the Bengals and get a big road victory. NEW ENGLAND WINS
  • Panthers @ Bengals: The Bengals didn’t come out of their bye week like a team that had been previously undefeated and making other teams look silly.  They came out and let a struggling Patriots team walk all over them. As for the Panthers, they eked out a good win over a strong Ravens squad.  If this were a home game for Carolina, I might choose them, but I think Cincy rights the ship in front of their fans to improve to 4-1. (though they could be without AJ Green along with Marvin Jones, meaning the run game MUST step up for my prediction to come true) CINCINNATI WINS
  • Jaguars @ Titans: The Jaguars are bad enough to continue their 0-fer of a season.  But this might be one of their only good chances for a win. Tennessee blew a 25-point lead to the Browns last week.  And Jacksonville should feel good about holding Pittsburgh to 17 points in week 5.  Let’s see what Blake Bortles can do against a porous Titans defense on the road. JACKSONVILLE WINS
  • Packers @ Dolphins: Ryan Tannehill has started to show Miami fans what they’ve wanted to see for a few years now. But with the pats and bills having strong years, it’s going to be hard to make noise in the AFC East. As for the Packers, they are starting to round into shape after a shaky start. I like Aaron Rodgers on the road here. GREEN BAY WINS
  • Lions @ Vikings: Detroit was less than impressive at home a week ago, and continue to get little from the injured Calvin Johnson.  But the defense was still solid, and I think they can continue this on the road against the overachieving Vikings. DETROIT WINS
  • Broncos @ Jets: Rex Ryan’s team is in shambles. And now they have the defending AFC Champs coming to MetLife. Yikes. No cornerbacks against Peyton Manning, a struggling quarterback and an improperly used running game. Triple yikes. I though New York would be good this season, but unless a lot goes wrong fro a Denver, I just don’t see them breaking their skid. >DENVER WINS
  • Ravens @ Buccaneers: Baltimore is coming off a tough loss to Indianapolis, but it’s not as bad a loss as Tampa suffered to the Saints. There are just too many questions on defense for this Bucs team. BALTIMORE WINS

Sunday 4/4:25PM Games

  • Chargers @ Raiders: Sure there is a chance Oakland upsets the streaking Chargers at home, I just don’t see it happening. SAN DIEGO WINS
  • Bears @ Falcons: This might be the most intriguing matchup outside of Giants-Eagles for me. Two high powered offenses with questions on defenses that need to get back on track. Both squads surrendered 30-plus points on the road in week 5, so expect a shootout. I’m taking the home team here behind a big performance by Matt Ryan. ATLANTA WINS
  • Cowboys @ Seahawks: The Boys passed their first real test a week ago against Houston. Tony Romo and Dez Bryant found a way around the ferocious JJ Watt. But now they’re in 12th man territory taking on the still hungry and explosive Super Bowl Champions. DeMarco Murray is on pace for a record season on the ground, and Dallas will need a huge day from him if they’re to have any chance in Seattle. And even that might not be enough. SEATTLE WINS
  • Redskins @ Cardinals: Washington gave themselves a chance against the Seahawks, but couldn’t convert. Things don’t get any Easter on the road this week. Arizona has been a surprise after losing Carson Palmer, mostly on the strength of their defense. Until Kirk Cousins can get better on 3rd down, and until the Skins can stop the run, I can’t pick them consistently. ARIZONA WINS

Sunday Night Football

  • Giants @ Eagles: Talk about a big game! Philly has been atop the division all season, while the Giants are making a surge after an 0-2 start.  I haven’t been too impressed with Philly of late, especially when they almost blew a big lead to the lowly rams a week ago.  Their run game isn’t as potent as we thought going into the season.  But they are still a 4-1 football team.  That being said, I think Eli Manning and the offense are clicking and the defense has been stout in the 2nd half f games.  To me, this might come down to special teams.  The Eagles have been forcing turnovers galore, and New York has been having issues in the return game.  NEW YORK WINS

Monday Night Football

  • 49ers @ Rams: An NFC West clash caps off Week 6. While The Niners haven’t been nearly as impressive as I thought they’d be this year, they’re better than the Rams on both sides of the football. And that’s why I think they pick up their 4th win of the season.
    SAN FRANCISCO WINS

NFL: What We Know at the Season’s Quarter Pole

4 weeks down.  Time flies when we’re having fun watching games doesn’t it?

So what do we know?  Here is a breakdown by division of how all 32 teams look one month in.

AFC EAST

  1. New England Patriots (2-2): So this team hasn’t been good at all, with Monday Night being the ugly icing on the early season cake.  Sure they’ve won 2, but they weren’t impressive wins.  Tom Brady and the offense have not looked good at all.  The only receiver that has looked good has been Julian Edelman, and that ended Monday as well.  Not to mention how terrible the defense looked on the road in Kansas City.  They couldn’t defend the run or pass.  Makes it kind of hard to win when you can’t do much in any phase of the game. They’re lucky to be tied for first.
  2. Buffalo Bills (2-2): Kyle Orton is in at quarter, E.J. Manuel is out despite the .500 record.  This team got off to a fast start, mostly on the strength of their run game and defense.  And while neither of those phases has dropped off much in weeks 3 and 4, Manuel hasn’t helped, hence the change.  That being said, I don’t think Orton makes this team any better.  But hey, with how even these teams seem early on, maybe the run game and defense can keep them in the race for the long haul.
  3. Miami Dolphins (2-2): Joe Philbin has been reluctant to name Ryan Tannehill the starting quarterback early in the week.  And this week, Tannehill showed him why it shouldn’t even be a question. Sure they played the Raiders, but if you simply look at Tannehill’s decision making and throws, you saw the guy Miami has been waiting for; completing 23-of-31 passes for 278 yards and 2 touchdowns.
  4. New York Jets (1-3): Could it be time for a quarterback change? I don’t think so, but it’s not long off.  Geno Smith has had moments of greatest, but this team continues to shoot themselves in the foot.  New York should really be no worse than 2-2.  But between poorly called timeouts, 2nd year QB growing pains, no secondary and not using their running backs properly, they sit at the bottom of the East.

AFC NORTH

  1. Cincinnati Bengals (3-0): Talk about a team that got the bye way too early. They’ve made the start of their season look easy.  Andy Dalton is earning his new contract, even catching a TD pass in their week 3 victory.  This is a team that has made the playoffs each of the last 3 seasons, but were knocked out in the first round every time.  If they continue to play like this all season, and can stay relatively healthy, Cincy is poised to not only challenge for a first round bye, but make a deep playoff run.
  2. Baltimore Ravens (3-1): A perennial playoff team, this week they put everything together to look like a playoff contender once again.  What a game for veteran wide-receiver Steve Smith against his former Panthers team! Not to mention how well the defense kept down Cam Newton.  And to be succeeding despite all the off-the-field drama revolving around Ray Rice, shows the strength of the guys in the locker room to put all outside issues out of their mind between the lines.
  3. Pittsburgh Steelers (2-2): This team has been hard to figure out for a few years now, and the start to this season is no different.  Blowing leads to bad teams left and right, the steel curtain looked more like a bead curtain as they allowed the win-less Bucs comeback in grand fashion.  They have the running back and they have the quarterback to get back in this.
  4. Cleveland Browns (1-2): They’ve had their bye, and get two of their injured stars back thanks to it.  Jordan Cameron and Ben Tate will play Sunday, and that should help their struggling offense.  The defense was the highlight to start the season, and Brian Hoyer has shown he can lead this team to victory.  Improvement is what this team is looking for, not a playoff berth this season.

AFC SOUTH

  1. Houston Texans (3-1): Remember when this team finished 2013-14 on a 14-game losing streak?  Well talk about a turnaround!  The defense was pretty good last season, and this year is no different.  Other than laying an egg against the Giants in week 3, they’ve been stout, led by early MVP candidate JJ Watt.  A former Defensive Player of the Year, Watt has scored on a pick 6, continues to sack at will, as well lined up at tight-end more than once. It also helps that Ryan Fitzpatrick has brought stability to the quarterback position.
  2. Indianapolis Colts (2-2): The first two weeks were very different than the next two.  But that isn’t something to be too happy about, as  they’ve shown they can beat the bad teams, not the good teams.  Last season Andrew Luck was able to lead this team to big wins over the Seahawks and Broncos.  So we know he can lead this team, now we just need to see it this season.  Their first test comes against the red-hot Ravens in week 5.
  3. Tennessee Titans (1-3): Defense has been an issue, offense has been an issue.  Only two teams have allowed more points than the Titans, while only three others have scored fewer.  Not the recipe for success.  Tight-end Delanie Walker, despite an injury, has been a bright spot.  The good news, they’ve played just one home game, so there’s room for improvement.
  4. Jacksonville Jaguars (0-4): They’re heading straight for another number 1 pick in the draft.  It’s a young team that I think made a mistake not starting QB Blake Bortles out of the gate.  Jacksonville had to know that they weren’t going to compete for a playoff spot, and needs to get their young pieces as many reps together as possible.  At this rate, you’re looking for some sort of improvement as the season wears on.

AFC WEST

  1. San Diego Chargers (3-1): They snuck into the playoffs a season ago thanks to a 2nd half surge.  The way they’re playing so far suggests there will be no sneaking necessary.  Only 3 teams have allowed fewer points, while QB Philip Rivers is 6th in passing yards, 1st in completion percentage and has thrown just 1 interception.  The only negative was the loss of Danny Woodhead, leading to a running back by committee situation.
  2. Denver Broncos (2-1): The 2013 runner-ups have had two weeks to think about their first loss of the season, an OT loss to the Seahawks in week 3.  The time should have helped Wes Welker get back on track, after a pre-season injury and two game suspension limited him.  The defense has been solid, but they need more out of the run game in order to be a balanced team.  If Peyton Manning continues to be Peyton Manning, and stays healthy, a deep postseason run is in the cards again.
  3. Kansas City Chiefs (2-2): Just when you thought this team might take a step back from last season, they completely dominate the Patriots on Monday Night Football. Jamaal Charles was impossible to stop. Alex Smith helped eat clock with short completion passes.  And the defense was relentless.  They’re in a tough division, but they can definitely make some noise if they play close to how they looked in week 4 on a consistent basis.
  4. Oakland Raiders (0-4): Head coach Dennis Allen barely survived the flight back from London.  Charles Woodson called out the team early on.  The worst scoring team in the league, Maruice Jones-Drew has been a serious downgrade at running back from Rashad Jennings.  Derek Carr has taken over at QB and is showing rookie growing pains. New Head Coach Tony Sparano thinks the team can turn things around, I just think he’s spouting lines you say when you get a new job.

NFC EAST 

  1. Philadelphia Eagles (3-1): Despite the run game not being what we thought it would be, this team finds itself amongst the NFL’s best through the first quarter of the season.  Nick Foles has done a good job making last season not look like a fluke.  The defense has been pretty good, and they were one of the 3 teams to start the season 3-0.  But they have shown vulnerability, and with the Boys and Giants looking stronger than a year ago, a repeat as East champs isn’t a given.
  2. Dallas Cowboys (3-1): Remember when we all thought this team was going to have a historically bad defense? Well, that hasn’t been the case.  They aren’t the leagues best either, but the offense is starting fire on all cylinders after a rocky start.  DeMarco Murray is getting back to being an elite back, leading the league by more than a 100 rushing yardsm while Tony Romo continues to look horrible one day, spectacular the next.  They’re in good shape to at least give themselves a good shot at breaking a 3-year string of finishing the season at 808.
  3. New York Giants (2-2): For as bad as this offense looked the first 6 quarters of the season, this team could be 3-1.  Eli Manning has never been a high completion percentage guy, but the past two weeks he has been on point like few others.  Much like his postseason stats, in wins, he has a 6-1 touchdown to interception ratio.  Add to that a good defensive effort all year, a run game that’s coming on and a breakout from tight-end Larry Donnell, this team looks poised to prove some people wrong.
  4. Washington Redskins (1-3): Their point differential doesn’t tell the whole story.  Kirk Cousins has looked out-of-sorts at times, especially in week 4 against the Giants.  DeSean Jackson hasn’t been the play-maker they thought they were getting.  They put up a good fight against the Eagles, but the defense couldn’t make the stops needed.  RGIII continues to be hurt, and if they can’t get production from the former Rookie of the Year, they’re not going far, no matter how adequate Cousins can be.

NFC NORTH

  1. Detroit Lions (3-1): Boy is this team putting something together! They’ve had the talent for years, but now everyone is living up to it, particularly on defense.  I mean they’ve already made the Packers offense look terrible. The offense has always been sharp, led by Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson.  This could be the year they get to, and advance in the playoffs.
  2. Green Bay Packers (2-2): I laughed when people said Olivia Munn was why Aaron Rodgers and offense have looked off early.  If completing nearly 67% of your passes for 9 touchdowns to 1 interception is off, than I think he’ll be okay.  They haven’t looked good on the road, but still have 7 home games to come, meaning many of them will be in the cold, adding to the home field advantage that is Lambeau Field.
  3. Minnesota Vikings (2-2): Adrian Peterson and his off-the-field issues have left a gaping hole on offense.  But Teddy Bridgewater got off to quite the start.  The defense has been pretty good, and to be 2-2 without Peterson, in a balanced division, is pretty impressive.  I don’t know how long it can last, but you’ve gotta be happy with how the on-the-field product has looked.
  4. Chicago Bears (2-2): It’s not easy to go 2-0 on the road.  It’s also not easy to go 0-2 at home.  The up-and-down Bears have a fairly even points allowed to points scored ratio.  Jay Cutler has been pretty good getting his team into the endzone, but as a whole the offense is in the middle of the pack.  As is the defense, hence the 2-2 record putting them at the bottom of the division early.

NFC SOUTH

  1. Atlanta Falcons (2-2): Their best game came in week 1 when they took down the Saints at home.  They’ve been a different team on the road.  Good teams win at home, great ones win everywhere.  Matt Ryan has the weapons but the defense has been too inconsistent.  A road win would boost this teams confidence, but heading to New York in Week 5 to take on an invigorated Giants team might be too much to overcome.
  2. Carolina Panthers (2-2): If you asked me if the defense would be the problem early on, I’d think you were crazy.  If anything, I’d have thought Cam Newton’s injury concerns would slow down Carolina.  It has, but allowing nearly 20 more points than you’ve scored doesn’t help.  This team got a taste of success last season, so look for them to look to that feeling to help propel them going forward.
  3. New Orleans Saints (1-3): I did not see this start coming for Drew Brees and company.  The defense has looked awful, the offense not much better.  They’re first two losses were late game collapses, their 3rd an ugly blowout from the Cowboys on Sunday Night.  If there’s anyone who can get his team turned around it’s Brees, but in a conference that has seen the NFC East get off to a better start overall than expected, coupled with a tough Western division, you’re only guaranteed one spot coming out of the South.
  4. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-3): A change back to Mike Glennon under center, and a porous Steelers defense helped them avoid an 0-4 start.  But if they want to be success going forward, the run game needs to get involved, as well as more consistency from their defense.  Many thought they’d be good this season because of their defense, and there’s still time for them to be respectable thanks to it.

NFC WEST

  1. Arizona Cardinals (3-0): Carlson Palmer goes down, and Drew Stanton picks up the slack.  The defense has been the best in the league through 4 games, allowing just 11 points a game.  They’re not the most impressive undefeated team ever, but it’s hard to win games in the National Football League, and they’ve managed to win all 3 this season.  If they can find a way to split with the Seahawks and 49ers, they could steal a Wild Card spot, or even the division.  To me, it all hinges on the quarterback play.  We know the team can play defense.
  2. Seattle Seahawks (2-1): Despite a loss to San Diego, this team looks like one ready to repeat.  They’ve had their bye, so it will be interesting to see if conditioning comes into play late.  You could be concerned about blowing a big lead late to the Broncos in week 3, or you can focus on the championship type drive Russell Wilson orchestrated in overtime.  Marshawn Lynch is still a beast.  Richard Sherman doesn’t get challenged.  This team is good. Simple as that.
  3. San Francisco 49ers: (2-2)  Colin Kaepernick’s TD to interception ratio is nothing to write home about at 6 to 4. They’re playing close games, leaving no room for error.  A loss in division puts them behind the 8 ball, but of course they have 5 more chances to get back on track. The Niners defense is in the top half in points allowed per game.  If they want to get past the Cards and Hawks, they need to get more consistent on both sides of the football.
  4. St. Louis Rams (1-2): Losing Sam Bradford before the season began put this team back.  I thought they’d make improvements this season, and of course they still can.  Their defense is pretty good, something I am not surprised about.  Hard to place the offense, as they’ve only played three games, but I can say it’s not a competitive offense, and therefore not a competitive team.  Another top pick in the draft awaits St. Louis.

NFL: Week 2 Picks

How great is it to have football back?  And how entertaining were those games?  Answer: VERY.

Huge comebacks, blowouts and injuries galore.  So basically everything happened in week one.

10-6 to start my season.  Not too shabby.  Here’s what I’m thinking goes down in week 2.

Thursday Night Football

  • Steelers @ Ravens: With all the bad press surrounding the Ravens, look for the team on the field to rally together and pick up their first win.  Not to mention Pittsburgh was not impressive in their win over the Browns.  So give me a defensive struggle ending in a home victory. BALTIMORE WINS

Sunday 1PM Games

  • Dolphins @ Bills: An AFC match-up of two teams I thought would be 0-1 for, yet here we are, with one team set to move to 2-0.  Buffalo’s success hinges on their run game, while the Dolphins pass attack is key.  Neither starting quarterback is proven, but right now, give me Ryan Tannehill to lead his squad to a road win, and a perch atop the AFC for another week. MIAMI WINS
  • Lions @ Panthers: Still no word as to whether the Panthers will have starting QB Cam Newton back.  But they’ve shown they can win without him.  However, the Detroit Lions looked like a team ready to finally take the next step in week 1.  They’re healthy and Matthew Stafford played a smart, mistake free game. I’m thinking Detroit moves to 2-0, even if Newton is healthy and on the field. DETROIT WINS
  • Falcons @ Bengals: Both teams looked pretty good on Sunday.  Matt Ryan had maybe the best game of his career in the come-from-behind win over the Saints, while Andy Dalton looked solid.  The difference was the play of the defenses.  Sure Atlanta made the plays to win the game, but the Bengals front-seven were on point from the jump against Baltimore.  Look for Cincy to get their first of many wins at home. CINCINNATI WINS
  • Patriots @ Vikings: Sunday was one of the single worst performances I’ve ever seen out of Tom Brady and the Pats.  And I don’t think the Vikings are as good as they looked.  So what gives?  It’s not often New England has two bad games in a row.  So as long as Brady is healthy, I’m taking the Patriots. NEW ENGLAND WINS
  • Saints @ Browns: The offense was great, the defense not so much for New Orleans a week ago.  But expect better things at home, where it’s tough for opponents in the Superdome.  Cleveland looked good in the 2nd half last week, but are without starting running back Ben Tate, and could be without superstar in the making, tight-end Jordan Cameron. Look out for a big day from wide-out Marques Colston for the Saints following a rare fumble that led to the Falcons game-winner last week. NEW ORLEANS WINS
  • Cowboys @ Titans: Dallas’ defense looked as good as expected… note the sarcasm.  But the real concern is Tony Romo and the offense.  There were no positives, and the Titans at home could prove to be too much to handle.  Give me another win-less week for the NFC East squad. TENNESSEE WINS
  • Cardinals @ Giants: This is a tough one.  The Cardinals offense wasn’t great in week 1.  And the Giants defense, after the 1st quarter, did all it could to keep New York in the game against Detroit.  But the G-Men’s offense looked bad and the Cardinals defense could have a field day. I wouldn’t be surprised if New York finds a way at home, but I’m still taking the Cards in this one. ARIZONA WINS
  • Jaguars @ Redskins:  Eventually Washington will win again.  But I don’t think it happens this week.  Until they figure out how to get RGIII going on the ground again, this offense just isn’t the same as it was a couple years ago.  The Jags defense is much improved and their young guys on offense showed something in week 1, despite losing. JACKSONVILLE WINS

Sunday 4:05/4:25PM Games

  • Seahawks @ Chargers: It would be weird for San Diego to start out 0-2, even after their slow start a year ago.  But the Hawks are just too good.  I would be very surprised if the reigning champs don’t start 2-0 this year.  SEATTLE WINS
  • Rams @ Buccaneers: Before the season started, I would’ve said this game would be won by the team who makes the fewest mistakes.  Two very good defenses, but two teams with new QBs.  But the Rams are already in a downfall as they could start their 3rd string quarterback on the road in week 2.  So give me a fairly easy victory for the Bucs, who could be 2-0 by weeks end.  TAMPA BAY WINS
  • Chiefs @ Broncos: Kansas City isn’t as bad as they were good last season, so if this weren’t a road game for them, I’d give them a chance in this one.  But despite almost blowing a 24-0 lead to Indianapolis, the Broncos are too good at home to pick against.  DENVER WINS
  • Jets @ Packers: New York got a huge boost from the run game in their season opening win.  The Packers were blown out by the Seahawks, but they didn’t look horrible doing so.  So as good as the Jets defense is, I can’t go against Aaron Rodgers at home here. GREEN BAY WINS

Sunday Night Football

  • Texans @ Raiders: So JJ Watt is still really good.  The Texans offense wasn’t spectacular in week 1, but it didn’t need to be.  Oakland was okay on both ends to open up their season on the road.  But Houston’s defense is better than the Jets, so despite being around their silver and black faithful, give me Houston to start another season 2-0. HOUSTON WINS
  • Bears @ 49ers: Chicago lost a heart-breaker in overtime, while the Niners defense had some fun against Dallas to open their seasons.  San Fran is going to be near the top of the league all season, so give me them to keep pace with the defending champs and move to 2-0. SAN FRANCISCO WINS

Monday Night Football

  • Eagles @ Colts: It took a half for both of these teams to wake up from the off-season.  Luckily for Philly, they were able to recover for a win, while Indy was facing the AFC Champs.  Neither defense showed much in week 1, but at home, Andrew Luck has been great in his young career, so I’m looking for both sides to be 1-1 on the young season by Tuesday morning.  INDIANAPOLIS WINS

 

NFL: Week 17 Predictions

Here we are, the final week of the regular season.  Time really flies when you’re having fun.

Still a lot to be decided, a football fans dream scenario.

1PM Games

  • Cleveland @ Pittsburgh: Two non-playoff AFC North teams. So give me the home team in a defensive struggle. PITTSBURGH WINS
  • Washington @ New York Giants: The Skins won the East last season, and the Giants miss the playoffs yet again.  Give me New York to end their season better than it started. NEW YORK WINS
  • Baltimore @ Cincinnati:  The Bengals are already in, the Ravens are on the fringe.  This is going to be a very good game, but I think the defending champs find a way. BALTIMORE WINS
  • Houston @ Tennessee:  One of the few games that hold no playoff implications.  The Titans had a pretty good season, but fell off at the end. Let’s just say the Texans finish the season on a 14 game slide and go from there. TENNESSEE WINS
  • Jacksonville @ Indianapolis:  The Colts can improve their seeding, and the Jags have been very good in the 2nd half of the season.  But Indy needs to head into the playoffs feeling good after a sub-par 2nd half, so I think they respond in the season finale. INDY WINS
  • New York Jets @ Miami:  The Jets are done, the Fins still have a shot.  I can see New York playing spoiler, and  I can see the Dolphins not knocking themselves out.  I’ll go with the northern inconsistent team in this one. NEW YORK WINS
  • Detroit @ Minnesota: The Lions continue to falter in big games, and now they could end up out of the playoffs.  I think the Vikings good 2nd half of the year ends on a high note. MINNESOTA WINS
  • Carolina @ Atlanta: A Panthers win wraps up a 1st round bye and the Southern division.  The Falcons are looking to end a very disappointing season.  Give me the Panthers. CAROLINA WINS

4:25PM Games

  • Tampa Bay @ New Orleans: The Bucs played well following an 0-8 start.  But the Saints don’t lose at home, and they need this to ensure their spot in the playoffs.  Drew Brees and the Superdome faithful get it done. NEW ORLEANS WINS
  • Buffalo @ New England:  All pats. That is all. NEW ENGLAND WINS
  • St Louis @ Seattle:  The division and number 1 seed isn’t locked up for the Seahawks.  The Rams defense has been very good all year, and I expect them to make things hard on the Hawks, but I think the run to the Superbowl goes through the rain. SEATTLE WINS
  • Green Bay @ Chicago: The Packers losing Aaron Rodgers derailed their season, and the Bears found a way to take advantage, despite their porous defense and rotating QB.  Give me the home team. CHICAGO WINS
  • San Francisco @ Arizona: This is a big game for both teams. The 49ers have a shot at the 1st round bye, the Cardinals are looking for a wild card spot.  Arizona has been a surprise all year, but can they win this big game?  It helps that it’s home.  But give me the road team. SAN FRANCISCO WINS
  • Denver @ Oakland: This is a crazy game to have in the final week of the season.  A win secures the number 1 seed for the Broncos, while the Raiders are just finishing out the season. I can’t see the Raiders playing spoiler.  DENVER WINS
  • Kansas City @ San Diego:

Sunday Night Football

  • Philadelphia @ Dallas: It’s a win and in, lose and out for the NFC East foes.  The Eagles are healthier, as the Cowboys lost starter Tony Romo in their win last week.  And for that reason, give me Philly to take the division. PHILADELPHIA WINS

Enjoy the first week of the playoffs!

NFL: Week 13 Thoughts

13 down. 4 to go.

It’s not often that 1 player goes off for 200+ yards on either the ground or in the receiving game.  But this week we saw 3 players have exception games.  How about 3 to 4 touchdowns for one player?  There were a few of those as well.

NFC EAST (This One’s Going Down to the Wire)

  • Cowboys: They got off to a slow start, but were able to come back from a 21-7 deficit to maintain their tie atop the division. An opening kick-off fumble by Terrence Williams was returned for a score, putting them down as quick as you can be down.  DeMarco Murray was huge in the redzone, scoring 3 rushing touchdowns, adding a number of big catches to help lead the comeback. Tony Romo managed the game well, finishing with 235-passing yards and a touchdown pass to Dez Bryant.  Back-up rusher Lance Dunbar added a career-high 82 yards in the ground game.  It’s the first time all season Dallas is 2 games over .500.  (7-5)
  • Eagles: Make it 19 touchdown passes with no interceptions for Philly savior Nick Foles. Though he did throw a pick in the game, it didn’t go against him as it was called back on a defensive penalty.  No matter what, Foles continued to shine against a very good Arizona defense, throwing 3 touchdown passes for 237-yards in their 4th straight victory.  He also set an Eagles record for most passes without an interception (233), breaking Michael Vick’s mark of 224 set in 2010. DeSean Jackson went over the 1,000 yard mark for the season.  Rookie receiver Zach Ertz on 2 of his 5 catches on the day.  The only concern is this team continues to be shutdown in the 4th quarter, something that gave Arizona multiple chances to steal a win on the road.  But the defense held, and the division crown still remains in play. (7-5)
  • Giants: Big Blue rallied from 14-0 down to at least keep their slim playoff chances alive, thanks in big part to their run game in the red-zone, and their defense.  Justin Tuck looked like his old self, racking up a career high 4 sacks, and after a bad start, the defense held the Skins to just 95 2nd half yards.  The run game overall wasn’t spectacular, but Andre Brown made his 35-yards count, scoring two touchdowns including the go-ahead score.  Eli Manning threw touchdown, and one interception, the Giants lone turnover of the game.  They’re the only team with at least 1 turnover in every game this season. (5-7)
  • Redskins: RG-still-stuck-at-3-wins and company got off to a very hot start Sunday night, but cooled off late.  Griffin was 16-for-17 at halftime, but went just 8-for-15 in the second half, and was dropped 5 times.  Washington had a chance to go the length of the field in the final minutes to try and tie. But a mix-up by officials with a 1st down being called a second with no measurement, the Skins play calling suffered and ultimately resulted in having to go for it on 4th down, and not converting.  The loss officially eliminates them from the playoffs.  (3-9)

NFC NORTH (Detroit Puts Some Separation Between Themselves and the Rest of the Division)

  • Lions: The Thanksgiving Day skid came to an end at 9 thanks to a big day from just about everyone.  Matt Stafford got off to a shake start, but he finished with over 300-yards passing, 3 touchdowns and 2 interceptions.  Calvin Johnson caught one of those TDs, his 5th straight Turkey day score, as well as his 5th straight game this season.  Reggie Bush put an opening drive red-zone fumble behind him, rushing for 117-yards and a score in the rout.  The win helps put them in the driver’s seat for the division title. (7-5)
  • Bears: Matt Forte finished with 120-yards on the ground, and that wasn’t even the best total on the ground in the game, let alone the best from scrimmage total on his team.  Rookie wide-out Alshon Jeffery went off for two touchdowns and 249-yards receiving, giving him the two best receiving games in Bears history, ever.  The usually sure-footed Robbie Gould wasn’t so on point though, missing 2-of-4 field-goal attempts, including a 47-yard attempt that would’ve won it in overtime. (6-6) 
  • Packers: Matt Flynn “savior” wasn’t to be this week.  After a 10-3 start, the Pack were completely shut down by the Lions.  The defense did all it could, forcing 3 turnovers, including the early fumble they returned for Green Bay’s lone touchdown of the game.  But they couldn’t outplay their quarterback. Flynn threw a pick, lost two fumbles and was sacked in for a safety in the 3rd quarter.  The loss doesn’t put them out of contention for a wildcard spot or the division title, with a game against Chicago left.  But it does make things harder.  Aaron Rodgers could be back in week 14.  (5-6-1)
  • Vikings: Down 20-10 after 3 quarters, 10 unanswered in the 4th forced overtime for the second straight week.  The Vikings were 1:43 away from their second straight tie, but a Blair Walsh 34-yarder gave them the win instead. Walsh missed a 57-yarder earlier in overtime but Minnesota was given new life after the Chicago miss. Oh and in case you forgot, Adrian Peterson is really, really good.  Peterson ran for 211-yards on 35 carries for a 6-yard-per-attempt average.  Christian Ponder went down with an injury early in the game, and Matt Cassel came in and did a good job in his place.  Cassel threw 1 touchdown to Greg Jennings, a pick and finished with 243-yards in the air. (3-8-1)

NFC SOUTH (We Have a Battle For 1st Place on our Hands)

  • Saints: Other than one long drive in the 1st to cut the deficit to 17-7, the Saints offense looked like a shell of themselves. The one touchdown went to Jimmy Graham.  Drew Brees was held under 200-yards passing, and the run game was non-existent.  Just one turnover, but it was recovered for a touchdown early. Those 7 points scored by New Orleans, according to NFL.com, are the lowest scored by the Saints since Sean Payton became headcoach in 2006.  Making things worse, plane troubles kept them in Seattle overnight. (9-3)
  • Panthers: 8 straight wins and this time around, it was never in doubt.  The defense ravaged Tampa’s offense, holding them to just 2 field-goals, recording 5 sacks and forcing two turnovers.  Cam Newton did throw 2 picks, but he also threw for 263-yards and two touchdowns to go with 68-yards on the ground and a rushing score.  5 receivers finished with at least 35-yards, with Brian LaFell and Ted Ginn Jr each finding the end-zone.  Now they sit tied for 1st, with 2 games to go against New Orleans. (9-3)
  • Buccaneers:  They actually led the Panthers, not for long and not by much, but in a 21-point loss, I guess you take any positives you can find.  Mike Glennon has been very good for Tampa, but not this week as Tampa saw their win streak snapped at 3 games.  Glennon went on to post 14-21 completions, 180-yards, no touchdowns and an interception in the loss.  The defense did all it could, forcing a couple turnovers, but they had no real answer for Newton short of those takeaways. (3-9)
  • Falcons: It took overtime, but the skid ends at 5 for Atlanta.  Steven Jackson had his first multi-touchdown day as a Falcon as a part of an 84-yard rushing performance.  Matt Ryan didn’t throw any interceptions, something foreign to him this season, but he did lose one fumble.  Ryan was good throwing the rock though, finishing with 311-yards passing and a touchdown pass to Tony Gonzalez.  Roddy White had nearly 150-yards receiving. They never led in regulation, and won it thanks to Matt Bryant’s 2nd field-goal of the game in the extra frame. (3-9)

NFC WEST (Seattle Just Continues to Fly Higher)

  • Seahawks: It was all Seattle early, thanks to a fumble recovery for a score for Michael Bennett, his first careers touchdown.  And it stayed Seattle’s night, thanks to Russell Wilson, whose throws we’re on point all game long.  The 2nd year quarterback threw for 310-yards, 3 touchdowns and added another 47-yards on the ground.  The defense was huge against a potent Saints offense, holding them to under 50-yards rushing and Brees to under 200-yards passing, a rare feat. Home field throughout the playoffs looks way more likely now with a 2-game lead over the rest of the NFC. (11-1)
  • 49ers: There was a big time Anquan Boldin sighting in week 13, as the wide-out caught 9 passes for 98-yards.  Tight-end Vernon Davis added an athletic leap over a defender, 82-yards and a score to San Fran’s 10-point division win. Colin Kaepernick threw for nearly 300-yards and a score. 3 Phil Dawson field-goals and a Frank Gore rushing touchdown was the rest of the niners offense as they put a game between themselves and Arizona.  They never trailed, and currently hold the 6th and final playoff spot in the NFC. (8-4)
  • Cardinals: They put themselves in a 21-7 hole early, and they were never able to fully recover.  Carson Palmer threw 3 touchdown passes, but also threw 2 interceptions, as well as lost a fumble.  Those 3 turnovers proved costly in a 3-point game.  Rashard Mendenhall had one of his better games of the year, picking up 79-yards on the ground, but it wasn’t enough.  Michael Floyd came up just short of the 100-yard receiving mark, while Larry Fitzgerald added another 72 in the passing game.  Both scored touchdowns.  The loss hurts drops them back in the hunt for a wildcard spot, but they still have a better shot than most.  (7-5)
  • Rams: They did a decent job of holding down the 49ers early, but the offense couldn’t do much against San Fran.  Kellen Clemens finished with over 200-yards passing, a touchdown and an interception, while Zac Stacy gained 72 on the ground.  But drives stalled, and they had to settle for field-goals rather than touchdowns on 2 of them.  They are still much improved over last season, but with 3 teams to jump in their own division, the playoffs aren’t realistic.  (5-7)

AFC EAST (It’s Still The Pats Division)

  • Patriots: They won, but I wouldn’t be too proud of myself if I was a Patriots player after Sunday’s performance  Down 17-7 at the half to a 2 win Houston team, they needed a big 2nd half to save themselves from a bad loss.  The game saw 5 lead changes as Tom Brady finished with 371-yards passing, 2 touchdowns and an interception. Both Rob Gronkowski and Julian Edelman finished with over 100-yards receiving.  LeGarrett Blount added a score in the run game.  But they couldn’t stop the run in the red-zone, allowing 4 rushing touchdowns.  They rallied again, but the defense was suspect and their run game wasn’t great. (9-3)
  • Dolphins: Ryan Tannehill finished the must-win game completing 28-of-43 passes for 331-yards, 2 touchdowns and an interception.  4 players combined for over 120-yards on the ground, including 22 from Tannehill.  The defense took advantage of a down New York offense, holding them to just 3-points. Brian Hartline and Mike Wallace combined for over 200-yards and 2 scores while  3 Caleb Strugis field-goals book-ended the scoring for Miami, who keeps playoff hopes alive.  (6-6)
  • Jets: Well, they’re in a free-fall now.  Geno Smith hasn’t thrown a touchdown pass since before the World Series began, and was finally benched in favor of Matt Simms. not that it made a difference.  Smith went 4-for-10 for 29-yards with an INT before being replaced by Simms, who completed 50% of his passes for 79-yards, a fumble lost and a pick. The only offense New York could muster was a 2nd half Nick Folk field-goal.  After not winning or losing 2 straight, the Jets are now on 3-game losing streak, and see their playoff hopes die  with each loss. (5-7)
  • Bills: They had their chance to win in regulation on a possible game winning drive, but a lost fumble ended those hopes, and they eventually fell in overtime.  It was a good day for the running backs, with CJ Spiller nearing the 150-yard mark, while Fred Jackson scored a rushing and receiving touchdown.  But a couple lost fumbles, and their defense’s inability to stop Atlanta, meant disaster. (4-8)

AFC NORTH (The Ravens are Trying to Fly Back into the Race)

  • Bengals: Andy Dalton’s 190-yards passing put him over 3,000 for the season, making him just the second quarterback in NFL history to throw for at least 3,000 in each of his first 3 seasons.  Peyton Manning is the other.  Ben Jarvis Green-Ellis had one of his better games of the season, picking up 92-yards and finding the end-zone for the games first score. The defense showed up big time, forcing 3 turnovers, and 2 sacks to help maintain their 2 game division lead. (8-4) 
  • Ravens: It was close throughout on Thanksgiving night, but Baltimore held on in the end, stopping Pittsburgh on a late 2-point conversion to hold on and keep playoff hopes alive. It was a first quarter Joe Flacco to Torrey Smith 7-yard touchdown pass that put Baltimore up for good.  And then it was the Justin Tucker, who continues to have a monster season, hitting on all 5 of his field-goal attempts. (6-6)
  • Steelers: Jerricho Cotchery’s 1-yard touchdown catch with a minute left in regulation looked like it might force overtime, but a failed 2-point conversion meant a loss.  The Steelers couldn’t recover from an early 13-0 deficit, despite 73-yards and a rushing touchdown by Le’Veon Bell.  Ben Roethlisberger did everything he could to help lead his team to a comeback win on Thanksgiving, throwing for over 250-yards, 2 touchdowns and no turnovers.  But the road win and a .500 record wasn’t to be. (5-7)
  • Browns: Cleveland scored a touchdown in every quarter, but it wasn’t enough as they allowed a late score to Jacksonville.  The loss spoiled a historic effort from wide-receiver Josh Gordon, whose team record 261-receiving-yards made him the first player in NFL history to have back-to-back 200-yard receiving games.  Gordon also had 2 touchdowns, including one late in the 4th that looked like it might be the game-winner.  Brandon Weedon had a very up and down day in his return to the starting lineup.  He threw for 370 and 3 scores, but also threw two picks, lost a fumble and took a 4th quarter safety. The loss brings their losing streak to 3 games.  (4-8)

AFC South (Indy on the Verge of Wrapping This One Up)

  • Colts: 1 more win, another Titans loss, or a tie would give them the AFC South crown thanks to their 8-point victory over Tennessee.  It wasn’t an impressive win for the offense, but sometimes you have to win ugly.  Adam Vinatieri continues to show why he’s one of the best kickers to ever play the game, hitting all 5 of his field-goal attempts, including a go-ahead 49-yarder in the 3rd quarter.  Andrew Luck struggled again, finishing with just 200-yards passing, no touchdowns and an interception.  Donald Brown’s touchdown run in the 4th sealed the victory. (8-4)
  • Titans: They held in there against Indy, even taking a 14-12 lead in the 3rd quarter, but the Colts defense got to Ryan Fitzpatrick.  Tennessee’s quarterback finished with 201-yards passing, a touchdown, 54-yards rushing, but 3 interceptions and a fumble loss.  Those turnovers helped a struggling Colts offense to set up those 5 Vinatieri field-goals. The loss basically puts them out of range of a division crown, but they are still in the hunt for a wildcard. (5-7)
  • Jaguars: Dont look now, but the Jags are on a winning streak, and no longer have the worst record in the league.  Their 2nd straight win came in comeback fashion, capped off by a 20-yard touchdown pass from Chad Henne to Cecil Shorts with just 40-seconds left in regulation.  Maurice Jones-Drew had himself a day, picking up 77-yards on the ground, and throwing an 8-yard touchdown, his first (you know because he’s a runningback). The defense wasn’t great, but they got the win anyway. (3-9)
  • Texans: Early on, it looked like they might snap their skid, instead the losing streak hit 10 thanks to a 3-point loss to New England. Ben Tate was huge in the red-zone, scoring 3 touchdowns of 20, 10 and 8 yards.  Case Keenum added a rushing score of his own, to go along with his 270-yards passing and 1 interception. Andre Johsnon finished with over 100-yards receiving. They put up a good fight against a very good team, but a final game-winning drive stalled and they couldn’t get that 6th lead change for-the-win. (2-10)

AFC WEST (The Chiefs Picked the Wrong Time to Start Losing)

  • Broncos: They put themselves in a touch position early against a good team, but for the 3rd straight game KC’s defense was lacking, and Peyton Manning took advantage.  After 2 early interceptions, Manning went on to throw for 400 yards and 5 touchdown passes. Eric Decker was the beneficiary, registering a career day 174-yards and 4 touchdown passes. Rookie running back Montee Ball added a career high 103-yards on just 4 carries.  One concern was the fact that Von Miller went down twice in the game, though he would continue both times. The win all but ensures them the AFC West crown after taking both games of the season series against Kansas City.  (10-2)
  • Chiefs: From 9 wins in a row, to 3 losses in a row.  The offense did all it could, picking up over 400-yards of total offense, and going up 21-7 in the 1st half.  Add to that a franchise record 108-yard kick-off return touchdown  from rookie Knile Davis, and it looked like it might be their day. But the Chiefs defense betrayed them again, allowing Eric Decker to run circles around Champ Bailey all day. They’re lucky the AFC wildcard isn’t as tightly bunched as the NFC, as they have a 3 game lead over the 6th seed, so their playoff dreams are still very much in tact.  (9-3)
  • Chargers: The defense wasn’t the problem, it was the offense against a good Cincinnati squad.  Their lone touchdown was scored by tight-end Ladarius Green, in the 2nd quarter.  San Diego was held to just 1 field-goal in the 2nd half.  Keenan Allen found a way to have another good day, catching 8 Philip Rivers passes for 106-yards.  Rivers finished the loss with 252-passing-yards, the Green TD pass, and an interception.  This team has been inconsistent all year, and Sunday was just another example of that. (5-7)
  • Raiders: They returned the opening kick-off fumble for a touchdown.  And gave themselves a nice 2-score cushion on Thanksgiving, but the Cowboys are just a better team.  After those 21 first half points, they managed just 1 field-goal in the 2nd half.  2nd year wide-out Andre Holmes had a nice game, 5 catches for 136-yards, but that’s where the good days ended.  Sure, Rashard Jennings found the end zone twice, but only had 35-yards rushing.  Matt McGloin threw a pick, and no touchdowns as a part of his 255-yard passing performance. (4-8)

There you have it.  If week 13 wasn’t fun enough for you, week 14 promises to be even more eventful as the playoffs inch closer.

Enjoy.

NFL: Week 12 Thoughts

12 down. 5 to go.  Divisions have tightened up, making for a fun last month of the season.

How do I sum up week 12? Big Losses, Bad Losses, and a tie… oh my god football is great.

NFC EAST (It’s Officially a Two Horse Race)

  • Eagles: Bye Week. (6-5)
  • Cowboys: Tony Romo has been exceptional in the 4th quarter this season, and showed it once again.  Big 3rd down conversions helped set up a Dan Carpenter game winning 35-yard field goal.  Romo finished with 2 touchdown passes, both to Jason Witten.  Dez Bryant finished with 102-yards, and DeMarco Murray ran for 86-yards on just 14 carries.  A big fumble recovery for a touchdown helped get the Boys the win.  Now the fate of the division lies in two match-ups with Philly starting next week.  (6-5)
  • Giants: A late second field-goal sunk any hopes they had of completing a huge playoff resurgence.  First half struggles included Victor Cruz’s first fumble returned for a score, and an inability to get into the end-zone.  They ran the ball effectively with Brandon Jacobs and Andre Brown combining for nearly 200-yards, but abandoned the run in the red-zone. Eli Manning finished completing just 50% of his passes, but threw 2 touchdowns and no turnovers.  They managed to score 15 unanswered to tie the score late at 21, but the defense struggled to stop Tony Romo on 3rd down in what became the Cowboys game winning drive.  Strange play-calling and penalties are the biggest reason for their 4 game win streak coming to end. They lost both games to Dallas by a combined 8 points. (4-7)
  • Redskins: He’s not the same guy as the Robert Griffin III that own rookie of the year last season. RGIII finished with just 127-yards on 17-27 passing.  THe offense couldn’t muster anything more than a couple Kyle Forbath field goals, both coming in the 2nd quarter.  There won’t be a 7-game win streak to propel them into the playoffs this season. Now they have to hope they can beat the giants to stay out of last place, and not go from first-to-worst. (3-8)

NFC NORTH (A Tie Means Nobody Won this week)

  • Lions: They had a chance to get a last second win, instead Matthew Stafford threw his 4th interception of the game, sealing their fate. Stafford threw 3 touchdowns to go with those 4 turnovers.  Calvin Johnson went over 100-yards again, while Nate Burleson had a good day in his return from injury, catching 7 passes for 77-yards and a score.  This team continues to show potential, then have let-down games like this against bad teams. (6-5)
  • Bears: Josh McGown passed for 352-yards and two touchdowns with an interception.  Chicago had a Devin Hester 62-yard punt return for a touchdown nullified by a holding penalty in the fourth quarter.  But it didn’t matter, since the defense couldn’t stop the Rams offense.  That’s nothing new for a defense that has struggled since their 3-0 start.  Lucky for them, Detroit couldn’t put any separation between them. (6-5) 
  • Packers: After an early touchdown, Green Bay couldn’t do anything on offense.  That is until Matt Flynn came to the rescue, bringing them back to tie the game at 23 in the 4th quarter.  But didn’t do it alone, getting a lot of help from running back Eddie Lacy, who got back over the 100-yard mark and found the end-zone. Scott Tolzien wasn’t horrible, scoring a touchdown on the ground, but he was just 7-of-17 before his benching. They forced overtime, and kicked a field-goal to take the lead, but because of the new overtime rules, Minnesota tied, and that’s how it ended.  It was the first tie in the league since November of last season. (5-5-1)
  • Vikings: For 3 quarters, they shined. Adrian Peterson led the way with 146-yards rushing and a score, though he did lose a fumble.  Blair Walsh continues to show why he’s one of the top kickers in the league, hitting on all four of his attempts.  Christian Ponder threw 2 touchdowns and didn’t turn the ball over.  But the defense wavered in the 2nd half, and nothing good happened in overtime.  A tie for this team is better than nothing, but they had a 3rd win in sight and let it slip away. (2-8-1)

NFC SOUTH (The Final 4 Weeks are Going to be Fun)

  • Saints: They weren’t sharp, but they made the plays when they had to in order to get the 4-point road win.  Drew Brees threw his two touchdowns to his tight-ends Jimmy Graham and Benjamin Watson.  Pierre Thomas led the way on the ground with 73-yards on just 10 carries.  All that damage came in the 1st half, with a Garrett Hartley field-goal the only New Orleans scoring of the 2nd half.  But the defense pitched a shutout in the 2nd half, giving this team just enough for the win.  (9-2)
  • Panthers: More late game heroics for Cam Newton, who engineered a game winning drive capped by a Greg Olsen touchdown with 43-seconds left in regulation.  It was a rare slow start, 16 points allowed in the 1st half that made the comeback necessary.  The game winner was Newton’s lone touchdown pass, though he did find pay dirt on the ground.  Other than that rushing TD, Carolina had no real success on the ground. But the defense showed up in the 2nd half, pitching a shutout.  The 7-game win streak is their longest in a decade.  They kept pace with New Orleans ahead of their first match-up of the season next week, a game that becomes a battle for first.  (8-3)
  • Buccaneers: Three straight wins, and they took down their best opponent in Detroit this time around. According to NFL.com, their 3 game win streak after losing the first eight of the season puts them in rare company, joining the 1978 St. Louis Cardinals as the only teams to do so.  Mike Glennon continues to show he can win in this league, completing 14-of-21 passes for 247-yards and 2 touchdowns.  Bobby Rainey didn’t come close to his break out performance from a week ago on the ground, but it didn’t matter.  It was Tiquan Underwood that had the break out week.  The 5th year wide-out went for 108 and 2 scores on the day. And obviously the defense did a good job turning Stafford over 4 times to help hold on in the end. (3-8)
  • Falcons: A loss on Thursday Night meant a lot of bad things for Atlanta.  Their 5th straight defeat ensured their first losing season since 2008, and eliminated them from playoff contention.  This is not how anyone saw a Superbowl favorite showing up this season.  Not saying much, but Matt Ryan had one of his best performances of the season, completing 30 of 39 passes for 292 yards with no interceptions, but no touchdowns either.  Steven Jackson ran one in for his first rushing score as a Falcon.  2 Matt Bryant field goals made up the rest of the lack luster offense.  The defense did a pretty good job holding a good New Orleans team to 17 points.  (2-9)

NFC WEST (The Race For 2nd is On)

  • Seahawks: Bye Week. (10-1)
  • 49ers: It’s always a good day when your defense holds the opponent to field goals.  And he wasn’t good last week, but boy did Colin Kaepernick look good this week. San Fran’s man under center threw 3 touchdowns, finished with a total of 255-yards and no turnovers.  Anquan Boldin was the recipient of two of those touchdown passes, with the other going to Vernon Davis.  The run game was lacking, but they did enough to win and keep pace with the cards.  (7-4)
  • Cardinals: This team continues to win, and this week they made a statement against a very good team. Carson Palmer threw for 2 scores and over 300-yards. Larry Fitzgerald caught five passes for 52-yards and 2 touchdowns, and according to NFL.com, become the youngest player in NFL history to reach 11,000 yards receiving.  Jay Feely added 4 field-goals to the 40-point effort. The defense shut down the Colts offense, including a Karlos Dansby pick 6 in their 20-point 2nd quarter.  Head Coach Bruce Arians beat the team that he was the interim head coach for a year ago when Chuck Pagano fought leukemia.  They’ve moved themselves into playoff contention. (7-4)
  • Rams: I’ve said it all year, this defense is for real.  And this week, the offense matched their greatness with a season high 42 points.  It’s their 2nd game in a row where they’ve looked unstoppable on offense, and against good teams.  21 in the 1st quarter made it an uphill battle all game for Chicago, and they couldn’t recover.  Kellen Clemens’ performance wasn’t anything to write home about, 167-yards, and a touchdown.  The story was the run game.  For a team that took til week 9 to drive it in on the ground, the Rams picked up rushing touchdowns from 3 different players.  Rookie rushers Billy Cunningham and Zac Stacy each found the end zone, as did rookie wide-receiver Tavon Austin.  The defense got a pick and forced 2 fumbles. (5-6)

AFC EAST (A Big Win All But Ensures New England’s Division Championship)

  • Patriots: An atrocious 1st half was followed up by an incredible 2nd half.  Two early fumbles which led to 2 touchdowns put New England down 14-0 quick.  Down 24-0 at the half, 31 unanswered points in the 2nd half to take a 1-score lead in the 4th quarter.  Tom Brady was brilliant after early struggles, finishing with 344-yards passing and 3 touchdowns.  Julian Edelman had a huge night, finishing with 9 catches for 110-yards and two touchdowns.  After the defense allowed Denver to tie the score forcing overtime, Stephen Gostkowski hit his 21st straight to give them the big come-from-behind victory(8-3)
  • Jets: It was all bad on Sunday, leading to their first 2-game losing streak of the season.  Geno Smith was as bad as he’s been all season, completing just 9 of 22 passes along with committing 3 turnovers.  The run game didn’t help, low-lighted by a Chris Ivory ankle sprain. It doesn’t help when the offense finishes just 1-for-12 on 3rd down conversions either. The defense wasn’t terrible, but they did lose Antonio Cromartie to a hip injury. (5-6)
  • Dolphins: They got off to a hot start against one of the hottest teams in the league, but then the Panthers defense tightened up, and the Miami offense had no answer. The run game continues to suffer following the bully scandal and the loss of two key offensive linemen.  Ryan Tannehill passed for over 300-yards and threw a touchdown, while Caleb Sturgis hit 3 of his 4 field goal attempts.  But all the good came in the 1st half before they could do nothing right in the 2nd half.  Mike Wallace had 127-yards receiving and a touchdown, but missed on a possible game-winner from Tannehill. (5-6)
  • Bills: Bye Week. (4-7)

AFC NORTH (The Cats are Still Sitting Pretty, but Things Are Tightening Up)

  • Bengals: Bye Week. (7-4) 
  • Steelers: The comeback from an 0-4 start continues.  Ben Roethlisberger threw 2 touchdowns, to Antonio Brown in the 1st half, and Emmanuel Sanders in the 2nd half to keep playoff hopes alive.  Le’Veon Bell added 80-yards on the ground to Big Ben’s 217 passing. 4 forced turnovers didn’t hurt either. It’s Roethlisberger’s 16th win over Cleveland in 17 career starts, and gives Pittsburgh the season sweep over their division foes. (5-6)
  • Ravens: Jacoby Jones has a big day receiving, finishing with 103-yards on just 4 catches.  Joe Flacco finished with 1 touchdown thrown to Jones, 1 pick and 273-yards passing. Justin Tucker continues to come up big, hitting all 4 of his field-goal attempts, including a 53-yarder.  The run game disappeared again, but it didn’t matter with how the defense played.  They didn’t allow the Jets to sustain drives, while recording 3 sacks and forcing 3 turnovers.  The win puts Baltimore back in contention for a wildcard spot(5-6)
  • Browns: The season got off to a promising start, but losing 6-of-7 have turned it into another season that could end at the bottom of the division.  Injuries at quarterback have defined the season, and their 3rd starter of the season went down, when Jason Campbell left with a head injury after being sacked.  Brandon Weedon came back in, but couldn’t help stop another loss.  4 turnovers, including 3 lost fumbles led to the two score loss.  Not even Josh Gordon’s 227-yards receiving could help stave off defeat. (4-7)

AFC South (Indy Running Out of Luck?)

  • Colts: This team can’t continue to get off to such bad starts.  After a strong 1st half of the season, this team is starting to show why a lack of a run game could hurt them in the playoffs. Andrew Luck came within 2-yards of being the team leader in rushing against Arizona, which can’t happen with a non-mobile quarterback.  Luck wasn’t good passing either, throwing a pick 6, and throwing a garbage time touchdown to Coby Fleener. At this point, they’re just lucky they built up a big lead in the division with Tennessee not going away. (7-4)
  • Titans: Don’t look now, but Tennessee is the number 6 seed in the AFC.  It took til the 2nd half to score a touchdown, but Ryan Fitzpatrick found the end-zone twice, including a game-winning strike to Kendall Wright with 10 seconds left in regulation.  The defense held Oakland to one touchdown and field-goal attempts, and they were helped out by a couple misses.  They also won the turnover battle, which was key in a 1 score game. (5-6) 
  • Jaguars: Maurice Jones-Drew continues his 2nd half resurgence, rushing for 84-yards on 14 carries including a touchdown. Chad Henne managed the game well, throwing for 239 with no touchdowns but no turnovers.  The defense held late as Houston drove down the field, when rookie Ryan Davis grabbed a deflected ball for the interception to seal the victory. (2-9)
  • Texans: Things went from bad to worst for a once highly thought of Houston squad.  Make it 9 straight losses,dropping them into a tie for last place after the home loss to the Jaguars. Case Keenum was back under center after being benched in the 2nd half last week in favor of Matt Schaub.  Keenum with his worst performance of his young career, completing just 18 of 34 passes for 169-yards and an interception. It’s hard to win when you can’t do anything but kick field-goals, no matter who you’re playing. (2-9)

AFC WEST (Denver Blows Opportunity to take a lead in the Division)

  • Broncos: A week after coming up big, Peyton Manning came up small on the road against New England.  A season low 150-yards, two touchdowns and a pick, Manning couldn’t pick up a big road win despite being spotted a defensive touchdown and good field position on another early turnover.  Knowshon Moreno did his best to save Denver, rushing for a career high 224-yards and a score.  Bad news on Moreno, he as found on crutches after the game.  The defense couldn’t do anything in the 2nd half, allowing the Pats to score on  their first 5 drives of the 2nd half. (9-2)
  • Chiefs: Defensive injuries are piling up at the wrong time, leading to their 2nd straight loss.  Both Tamba Hali and Justin Houston left in the 1st half with bad injuries.  Alex Smith threw the ball as good as he has all year, going for nearly 300-yards, 3 scores and 1 pick.  Jamaal Charles added his 7th and 8th rushing scores on the year as apart of a 115-yard performance.  Dwayne Bowe’s touchdown catch with under 3 to play looked to be the dagger to help overcome their injuries, but it wasn’t to be. (9-2)
  • Chargers: Make it 11 wins versus the Chiefs for Philip Rivers. San Diego’s QB took advantage of Kansas City’s defensive injuries, torching the depleted secondary for  392-yards and three touchdowns, the final one a 26-yarder to Seyi Ajirotutu with 24 seconds remaining to snap their 3-game losing streak.  Ryan Matthews and Danny Woodhead added scores on the ground.  Their defense wasn’t great, but they were lucky Kansas City was so banged up, and that the offense clicked on all cylinders. (5-6)
  • Raiders: Sebastian Janikowski doesn’t miss many, but he missed two on Sunday, in a 3-point loss.  Matt McGloin wasn’t too bad, throwing for 260, a score and a pick.  Rashad Jennings couldn’t crack the 100-yard mark again, but it wasn’t a bad effort by Oakland.  A win would’ve put them in the 6 seed in the AFC, instead they fall further down in the playoff hunt, and drop to the bottom of the West. (4-7)

That’s it.  Week 13 approaches as division foes square off to better their playoff standings, play spoiler and pick up as many wins as possible.

Enjoy.