Like most people, I was surprised that Mike Ditka’s number was being retired during halftime of last night’s game between the Cowboys and Bears. Not being Ditka doesn’t deserve it. I was just surprised that it had taken this long for the Bears to do so. Just a great night for Bears fans because not only did they honor one of their most important figures but their team also dominated an overwhelmed Cowboys team. Chicago’s offense was completely dominant from start to finish, as the Cowboys had no answer to any part of their attack. The first half was fairly even, both teams trading blows up until halfway through the second quarter. That was when the Bears made some big plays and things started to go downhill for Dallas. John McCown’s pass to Alshon Jefferey to end the half was very indicative of how bad the Cowboys defense has been throughout the season, particularly the secondary. Anytime the Cowboys were able to get Chicago in a 3rd & long, there was Brandon Marshall to combo with Jefferey and get the first down. Did I forget to mention that the Bears running game did it’s job? Chicago also held the ball for what seemed like the entire 3rd quarter where they took a lead that was too much for the Cowboys to come back from. It’s just another game that proves that the Cowboys always zig when everyone expects them to zag. Last night’s cold temperatures clearly favored the Bears, overwhelming the Cowboys in every facet of the game. What’s next for the Bears? Well they’re tied with Lions atop their division but because of losses to Detroit this season, they’re going to need the Lions to slip. The Cowboys essentially lose all possibilities of a wild card berth so it’s time for Dallas to hope for an Eagles loss to back the division lead.
Last night’s teams are fighting for a spot in the postseason but there is also a battle between some of the worst teams in the league. Normally i’m not that into the draft, mostly because the Cowboys always have a middle of the road pic that they manage to screw up. Enough about my sorrows because there are teams racing for a franchise guy this season. Right now the Texans, at 2-11, are in the driver’s seat to land the first pick in the draft and acquire a big player in what looks to be a loaded draft. But will they finish in last place? All signs point to yes. This weekend they’re Indy, playing against a Colts team that’s out to prove that they’re worthy of being in the playoffs. This it’s Denver, where Manning and friends could be trying to clinch home field throughout the playoffs. Second worst team in the league right now are the Redskins, who are a franchise in shambles. The only problem is that they don’t get their pick this season because of the trade they made with the Rams for RG3. Their opponent this weekend? The Falcons, who, for whatever reason, are still trying to compete in games. Despite the fact that they’re in prime position to land the second pick of the draft. Hey Atlanta, after being so bad for your fans all season long, try doing something for them this weekend just take the loss. The Jaguars are next up but all of a sudden, they’re winning 3 of 4 with a real shot to finish the season with 6 wins. Who could have predicted that? By the end of the season I expect the Raiders and Vikings to be rounding out the bottom 5.
What a great Sunday of NFL Football. I wasn’t able to preview it on Friday because like most of the country, Dallas was dealing their own ice storm, leaving my house powerless for most of the day and randomly all the way through Saturday night. But luckily for myself, my house was with steady power all of yesterday so I was able to catch all the action. What stood out to me the most was that all of the teams dealing with crazy weather conditions (particularly the Lions-Eagles) almost none of them created a bad game. Sure, the Lions in Philly had a stagnant start but once the players got used to the situation, it created an exciting game. The Vikings and Ravens game came down to some ridiculous final minutes, as did the Dolphins in Pittsburgh where the Steelers were the length of Antonio Brown’s toes from winning the game. In fact the only game that wasn’t great in bad weather was the absolute dominance that Chiefs had over the Redskins in the nation’s capital. Who did it best in the worst of conditions? Well that title has to go to LeSean McCoy (pictured above on the right) who set a Eagles’ franchise high for rushing yards in game, notching 217 yds a TD as well. Watching McCoy do his Barry Sanders impression on 6 inches of snow was impressive and as a Cowboys fan, it actually scares me a bit. The Eagles have officially taken the “hottest team in the conference” title from the Panthers. Do I want to a see a “SnowBowl” every weekend? Not at all. Despite it being very entertaining, it feels like the conditions would get old halfway through the second week. There was still plenty of sloppy play and weird scenario’s because of the conditions. It was also a weekend of unfortunate injuries to some key players around the league. It’s impossible to say whether or not the weather had the majority factor in deciding this but we hope for a quick recover for Adrian Peterson, Rob Gronkowski, Tyrann Mathieu and all other players suffering injuries yesterday.
Stock UP: with a bit of help from officials, Tom Brady still being the most clutch QB in the league; now that Peterson is out, LeSean McCoy’s chances of being the best RB in the league; Matt Prater’s right leg breaking records; despite the Ravens winning, Cincinnatti’s chances or winning their division; the Packers somehow still in the play to win the NFC North; the Jets’ offense, back to their zig-zag ways; Kansas City defense and specials teams against a bad team; Arizona’s defense; anything have to do with the 49ers victory over the Seahawks.
Stock DOWN: the Colts first half and losing effort while winning their bad division; anyone doubting Peyton Manning’s abilities in cold weather; the Redskins organization as a whole, in particular their fans at yesterday’s game; Minnesota’s offense now that Peterson is out; the offensive weapons on the Patriots now that Gronk is out; Matt Stafford’s hands in cold weather; the Rams offense on the road or against a solid defense; Atlanta’s tanking technique when they’re in the driver’s seat; the Panthers hot streak.
It feels like forever since the Cowboys (-1) last played but at last, they’re in Chicago to take on the Bears. The Bears have lost two straight and will once again be without Cutler. Chicago needs this win if they hope to stay in contention in the NFC North, a division that is now surprisingly bad. The Cowboys have won two games in row and need a victory tonight to stay in the driver’s seat for the NFC East lead and a shot for a wild card spot. It’s going to be a classic cold game at Soldier Field and I expect it to be close. Cowboys get the narrow victory over the Bears.
Who could have predicted this? Portland’s combo of LaMarcus Aldridge and Damian Lillard with some pieces around them is enough to contend for a playoff position, even in one of the toughest western conferences NBA fans have seen in a long time. Just check out the standings: only three teams in the west are below .500 but one of them is Minnesota, only 1 game under. Quick shout out to Utah and Sacramento for not shying away from the tanking sweepstakes this season. But we’re talking about the other side of the standing. Right now Portland, San Antonio and Oklahoma City city lead the conference, all with 3 losses each but Portland and SA have the slight edge with two more wins than OKC. The first couple of weeks Portland seemed a bit like one of those lucky teams, getting their difficult games when it’s in a favorable situation due to injuries or other factors. As the days went on and the sample size grew, Portland kept chugging out their wins and a month’s worth of games proved that their hot start wasn’t a fluke at all. I’m actually still finding it hard to believe that two of Porland’s three losses have come at the hands of the Phoenix Suns. Yes, the Suns are performing much better than most have predicted but they’re not even a playoff team in the western conference. Portland’s losses have been somewhat forgotten because they have had some big statement wins. The last of which came against Indiana just a couple of days ago. How is Portland doing so well? Like I stated previously, it starts with Aldridge and Lillard, who seem to compliment each other so well on offense. Feeding off of each other for a great 1-2 punch. I like how fearless Lillard is and if Aldridge keeps shooting this well from outside, watch out. Let’s not forget about the rest of the cast because Wesley Matthew’s hot shooting (.546 from the field, .510 from 3) has been critical. Nicholas Batum has also been solid while Robin Lopez was a sneaky-good signing this summer. Their defense still has plenty of questions but right now it’s doing enough. Tonight’s game against the Thunder should be a good test for both teams. I’m just upset that this game isn’t being broadcast nationally.
What else is going on around the NBA? I’d just like to say that as well as Paul George has been playing, there’s no reason for anyone to start making claims that he’s on LeBron’s level and should be seriously considered for MVP. Don’t get me wrong, I love George’s game and I think he’s proven that he’s a top 3 forward in the league. Carmelo Anthony has been booted out of contention. But is Paul George a better MVP candidate than even Kevin Durant? Durant has been the consensus #2 for a couple of years now so for George to be on LeBron’s level, he first has to have passed Durant. I don’t feel that he has but so far this season, it’s definitely a real debate. George defense and his team’s record give him the upper hand but if were my team, i’d rather have Kevin Durant. Meanwhile LeBron is just chugging along, shooting nearly 60 percent from the field (60!) while he leads Miami through the drone of the regular season. Can both Indiana and Miami break the record for most wins in a regular season? Just take a look at the eastern conference. Only three teams above .500 with the Celtics, who are supposed to be in rebuilding mode, are in the top half the of the conference. That’s partly due to the NBA terrible division leader position rules. Out west the battle for the 4-8 seeds gets better everyday but each of those teams seem to have a glaring problem. The Clippers and Rockets have chemistry issues, the Nuggest don’t seem to have a “best player” consistently, my Mavericks are inconsistent on offense and the Warriors have lost some of their key players to injuries. Right now those are the remaining playoff teams in the west and I don’t see any of those making a real run to challenge Portland, San Antonio or OKC for a spot in the Finals come summertime.
By the way, why is TNT showing the Knicks at Nets game on Thursday night? I know this was all scheduled before the season started but couldn’t the NBA flex it two weeks ago when we knew these teams weren’t going to get better anytime soon? Maybe Jabari Parker, Andrew Wiggins and Marcus Smart all have court side seats for the game and i’m not aware. Either way, i’d rather be watching the Clippers in Memphis during that time slot. Same goes for Friday night when ESPN is showing the Nuggets in Boston. Let’s flex that to the Warriors in Houston and go about our day.
Going into last night’s game everyone knew one thing: the Seattle Seahawks are a good team but when they’re at home, they’re an elite team. Probably the best in the entire league. It’s impossible to tell because they don’t go up against the Patriots or Broncos this season but at least we know they’re on top of the NFC without a shred out doubt. While completely dominating the Saints last night, Seattle also clinched a spot in the postseason during their most impressive win of the season. The final score was 34-7 and that was very indicative of how the game played out. From start to finish the Seahawks were doing what they wanted on offense and defense. If Seattle’s secondary was supposed to be depleted, no one told them and the Saints weren’t able to take advantage of it. Drew Brees started the game with a 3 and out, followed by a fumble that was returned for a TD by the home team. The Saints managed to score in the 2nd quarter but it took a nearly perfect drive to do so. Things continued to favor Seattle when the ball was switched to them on offense, led by an MVP-like performance from Russell Wilson. Normally the tough Seahawks running game leads the way but it’s the only thing the Saints defense was able to control, limiting Marshawn Lynch to only 45 yards. No matter. Wilson was picking up the slack left and right, looking every bit like a veteran QB who just saw this as any other regular season game. Once Seattle scored another TD just before the second half was over, the game felt all but over from that point on. So where does this leave these two teams heading forward?
The Saints are still on top of their division due to tie breakers but now they’re really feeling the heat from Carolina, making their game this week that much bigger. New Orleans also goes up against the Panthers two weeks after that so that could very well decide not only the second seed in the NFC but also the 5th seed in the playoffs. Or could the 49ers even sneak in and take the 5th seed? San Francisco is beginning to look really solid once again, getting healthier as the weeks go by. But their next opponent is Seattle, a team that only needs one more win to clinch the NFC West and home field advantage throughout the playoffs. There’s very little chance of Seattle losing three of their last four to allow another team to slip into first so every other team in the NFC better get used to the idea that the road to the Super Bowl is going through Seattle. Could the Niners make things a little interesting with a win on Sunday? Yes but after that it’s out of their hands. Then there are the East and North divisions. Right now the Cowboys and Lions lead their respective divisions but the Eagles and Bears are right on their heels. Hey, what do you know, those teams play each other this weekend. The Lions are in Philadelphia on Sunday and the Cowboys are in Chicago on Monday. Both divisions could very well come down to the final game of the season but we’ll learn plenty from the results of those two games. It’s time for the homestretch people.
Taking a look back at what’s happened so far in this NFL season one can’t help but think that we’re closer to the end than we are to the start. It’s been like that since week 9, but now it’s becoming a reality. After tonight’s Monday night game, there are only 4 full weekends left of the NFL football. Tragic if you ask me. But before I zone out thinking about what i’m going to do after football is over, let’s get back to what happened yesterday. We saw some big performances on offense and some big statement wins. We also began to see the playoff picture really take shape, particularly in the AFC. Denver’s big win at Kansas City essentially cements the top five teams in the conference. Those five teams could shuffle around in terms of seeding but I find it pretty impossible to not have the Broncos, Patriots, Colts, Bengals and Chiefs as locks for the postseason. I know people might be a little down on the Chiefs right now, losing three straight, but take a look at their next couple of games. Take care of business, fix the mistakes from the past games all while locking up a spot in the playoffs. The NFC isn’t as simple because, unlike the AFC, none of the divisions are locks. Seattle is most likely going to win their division but back to back games against two of the better teams in the conference aren’t going to make it easy for Russell Wilson and co. Other than that, every division leader (Saints, Lions and Cowboys) is feeling pressure from the team right below them in the standings. These next few weeks are going to be very interesting but let’s figure out who’s hot and who’s not from yesterday’s games.
Stock UP: WRs with the last name of Decker, Gordon or Jeffery; Adrian’s Peterson big day to reach 10,000 career rushing yards; kickers named Tucker, Vinatieri or Gostkowski; Knowshon Moreno’s ridiculous tear ducts; Jags clutch gene keeping their minuscule playoff hopes alive; once again, Nick Foles and anytime the Eagles offense in running on all cylinders; Miami taking care of business to keep their playoff hopes alive; Cam Newton continuing to lead Carolina’s scorching streak; San Francisco’s offense now that Crabtree is back; the Bengals division title hopes; the ending of Alabama-Auburn.
Stock DOWN: Browns players not named Josh Gordon; anything having to do with the Jets, especially on offense; the Colts continuing their streak of notoriously slow starts; Chicago’s inability to convert twice with a chance to win the game; Arizona’s defense getting a wake up call in Philadelphia; Tampa Bay’s “hot” streak coming to a massive halt; Houston making New England work for a win when they should be in full tank mode; the Bills ability to close out games; the Chargers’ sloppy play when it’s a “must win” game; the Redskins’ 4th quarter last night.
Huge, massive, monumental game in Seattle tonight when the Saints come to town. Overall seed in the conference is on the line. Meaning that the winner gets home field advantage throughout the postseason. Something that is essential to both of these team’s success. Right now the line is Seattle (-6) but i’m going to take the Saints on that line. I’m betting that this is a very close game from start to finish, hopefully one of the best and most entertaining that we’ve seen all season. Lots of questions will be answered tonight.
It’s always a good day when we can enjoy lots of Thanksgiving food (whatever time every person does it) while having football on the TV for the entire time. I don’t know if we hit the 12 hour mark last night but football fans were pretty close to have 12 straight hours of football. Minus the hour or so of pre-game and halftime shows. The day started off with the Lions and Packers, an NFC North rivalry that goes back a long time but just doesn’t have the same impact without Aaron Rodgers. Back up Matt Flynn was over matched the entire game, sacked 7 times while only throwing 139 yards, no touchdowns and an interception. Credit to the Lions defense as well because they had as big of an impact on this game as some of the best defenses in the league. On offense everything was clicking with Detroit, from top to bottom. Matt Stafford had a couple of turnovers to begin the game (one going back for a score) but towards the end of the second quarter, everything was smooth sailing for the Lions. Megatron was Megatron and their combo running game of Reggie Bush and Joique Bell really brought the offense to another level, much more balanced. Not that anyone felt different but every week confirms that Aaron Rodgers means more to the Packers success than probably any other team in the league. Right now it’s uncertain if he’ll return next week. Now the Lions are back in the driver’s seat for the division as they await this Sunday’s results.
Our second helping of the day featured an odd game between the Cowboys and Raiders. It’s odd because on the very first play of the game the Raiders caused a fumble that was returned for a touchdown. So we’re 12 seconds into the game and the Raiders are up by a touchdown. Things continued to favor the Raiders for rest of the half, doing all the right things on offense. Sure, the Cowboys defense is among the worst of the league but it’s not like the Raiders offense had been lighting it up. At halftime the teams completely switched and the Cowboys nearly dominated the second half from start to finish. The Raiders made things interesting late in the game by getting within one score but without any of their timeouts, it was difficult for Oakland to get the plays they needed. DeMarco Murray led the way in terms of stats (3 rush TDs) but it was a combination of different players on the Cowboys offense that engineered their drives. The Raiders on the other hand didn’t do well against the Cowboys halftime adjustments, showing little signs of what they had done in the first half. Another bad season for the Raiders as they look at making changes and the coming draft. The Cowboys, like the Lions, take hold of the division lead as they await results. Quick shout out to Selena Gomez for looking good during the halftime show.
Things wrapped up in Baltimore with the heated rival Pittsburgh Steelers in town. Normally this is a must watch for any football fan but this season the teams aren’t doing as well as we’re used to. Did they still provide from of the same hard-hitting entertainment? There were some big hits to go with a few scuffles but there were also a lot of odd occurrences. The game came down to an unsuccessful two-point conversion but from the botched field goal to Mike Tomlin’s on the field interference, it was a weird game. But a win is a win and for Baltimore, it keeps them alive in the heated race for the second wild card spot in the conference. All the white keeping the pressure on the Bengals, who are in San Diego this weekend, for the division lead. It was maddening to watch how long it took Pittsburgh to get some offense going, not being able to find the scoreboard until halfway through the 3rd quarter. An offense that looked so good the past couple of weeks sputtered out of the gate and played catch up the entire game. It’s not the type of game that the Steelers want to play when they’re fighting to stay alive for a spot in the postseason. On a side note, the league is looking into Tomlin’s interference on that kick return.
Anyone else riding the Buccaneers (-8) in Carolina this weekend? The Panthers are on a big streak right now but it’s not a streak where they blow teams out as of late. This is a completely different Bucs team from the one the Panthers beat handily about a month ago. The Bucs are playing solid football and I see them keeping it close in Carolina on Sunday.
News hit a couple of days ago that Derrick Rose would once again need knee surgery and once again would miss the entire season. It’s a tragic story that can’t help but make basketball fans feel bad for Rose, the Bulls and their fanbase. Even the biggest Rose critic can admit that the NBA is better with him in the league. It’s still questionable how Rose, out for basically two years straight, will be able to perform once he’s completely healed again. Will he ever get back to his MVP level? Will he even get to 80% of that form? It’s a gloomy situation in Chicago but despite missing their franchise player, their season and the rest of league must move on. The show must go on, as they say. But what kind of show will we be watching? The western conference is as good as ever but aside from the Heat and Pacers, is any other franchise in the east worth watching on a regular basis? Every team is going to one of “those nights” where they play well enough to upset a superior opponent, that’s just the way the league is. Aside from those nights is where the problem arises. Can fans rely on quality basketball on a regular basis knowing that the eastern conference has very much turned into a two-team race? It’s almost astounding how much better the Pacers and Heat (1 and 2 in the conference) are than the rest of the conference. If the playoffs were to start right now, I don’t see any team giving Indiana or Miami more than a five game series. A lot of the problem lies with the New York teams. The Knicks are usually towards the top of the conference and the new-look Nets were supposed to contend for the top spot in the conference. Right now the Knicks and Nets are a combined 7-20. Astonishing. Could they turn things around? Well they’re going to have to get 100% healthy before their fans can get excited.
On the other side of the country, things are more competitive. The Spurs are doing their usual thing of playing fundamental basketball while taking care of business. Portland, surprisingly enough, is still staying among the best in the west. The Thunder, Clippers and Rockets are fighting to keep up with the elites and then there’s the dogfight for the rest of the spots in the west. But the biggest news around the conference this week was Kobe signing another contract extension to essentially stay with the Lakers for the remainder or his career. The Lakers didn’t officially announce the exact details of the deal but plenty of sources have suggested that it’s an extra two years for $48.5 million. Those details bring up some inevitable questions. If all Kobe really does care about is more championships, why sign for that much money? Yes, we all know that Kobe means much more to the Lakers than what he earns, but does that leave room for anyone else? Most superstars that are hitting tail-end of their careers tend to take less money, knowing that it’s best possible way that they will continue to be on a championship level team. Can Kobe lead another team to a title? Well, i’m not so sure anymore. I’m skeptical because of his age and because of the severity of the injury that’s he is coming back from. That’s taking into consideration that Kobe is a machine and the hardest working player in the league. It wouldn’t surprise me if he reached the same level he left off at but I also wouldn’t be shocked if Kobe only reaches about 75-80% of what he used to be. And if it’s the latter, how room does Kobe’s contract leave for another big free agent to come join him?
Key games this weekend: (tonight) Lakers at Nets; Heat at Cavs; Nuggets at Wolves; Spurs at Thunder; Warriors at Mavs (Friday) Nets at Rockets; Warriors at Thunder; Wizards at Pacers (Saturday) Bulls at Cavs; Wolves at Mavs; Rockets at Spurs.
It was only a matter of time before San Francisco bounced back from their recent two-game skid. Last night was the perfect opportunity for the 49ers to get back on track and they did just that, overwhelming the Redskins for the entire game. Colin Kaepernick was on point for much of the game, finding Boldin and Davis for the big plays and scores. The running game wasn’t especially impressive but Gore and Kaepernick did enough to keep the Washington defense on it’s heels. The Redskins were able to keep up with the Niners in the first half but their inability to make plays happen in the red zone really hurt them. That and the pass rush of the 49ers, keeping the pressure dialed up on RG3 for pretty much the entire game. It was seemed like every other play on offense featured RG3 on the ground or taking unnecessary hits. When you mix a bad offensive line with a QB that’s going to give up his body to make plays, that’s what the Redskins offense is. RG3 is going to have to learn sooner or later that getting a first down for a regular season game isn’t worth risking an injury that could set him back for an entire year. So this guarantees a .500 or worse record for Washington while the 49ers are back in the driver’s seat for the second wild card spot in the NFC. It’s going to be interesting battle between the Cardinals and Niners for that second spot, assuming they both don’t slip enough for the Eagles/Cowboys or a North team to take the spot. It could very well come down to the final game of the season with the 49ers in Arizona but there’s still plenty of football to played before that.
While there’s still a lot of football to play, there isn’t a more interesting race than the race for the second wild card spot in the AFC. Barring a catastrophic injury or crazy meltdown, it’s pretty much a sure thing that either Denver or Kansas City will take first wild card. But the other wild card spot, well, every other team in the conference is mathematically in the hunt. We’ll spare the bottom five teams (Texans, Jaguars, Bills, Browns and Raiders) because I don’t see any of those teams reeling of winning streaks while the other teams lose enough games. So that leaves us with the Titans (pole position), Steelers, Ravens, Chargers, Jets and Dolphins all at 5-6. The best shot obviously being the Titans as they own various tiebreakers over the other teams. Miami has the easiest of the schedules but have looked very shaky when they have the lead in a game. The Steelers and Ravens are clashing on Thanksgiving and I have a feeling that the loser has their chances minimized to almost zero. The Jets are impossible to predict but Geno Smith’s play as of late doesn’t indicate that any sort of progress is in the near future. So that leaves the Chargers. Usually a team with so much potential that just seems to lose games that they’re supposed to win and win games that they’re supposed to lose. Their victory in Kansas City was certainly the most impressive out of any of the wins all these teams have. It’s going to be interesting to see how it all shakes out with only five weeks left in the season.