Tag Archives: AFC

Wrapping up week 5 in the NFL

10-6

With only two teams on bye, fans of the NFL were treated to a massive slate of games that included plenty of surprising results along with some big wins. Statement wins by the Cowboys, Broncos, Chargers and Patriots highlighted yesterday’s action around the NFL. I zoned in on those four teams because they’re the four victories that stuck out to me as most impressive or most significant. Dallas was at home (“home”) against the Texans, battling to be 4-1 for the first time in I don’t know how long. Despite a bit of sloppy play that included multiple turnovers, the Cowboys were able to redeem themselves in overtime to take home the victory over their in-state rivals. How crazy is it to think that the Cowboys have one of the best records in the league built off a solid running game and defensive stops? Also, how crazy is it to think that Peyton Manning now has 500 (yes, five hundred) touchdown passes for his career? But more importantly, the Broncos bounced back from their loss to Seattle and won impressively over the Cardinals, who were undefeated before the game took place. Surprisingly enough it was Denver’s first impressive win of the season, something that the rest of the AFC needs to fear going forward. How much momentum can the Broncos gain? Speaking of momentum, how about the Chargers? If the game were played on a neutral field, I would take the San Diego Chargers over any other team right now. Yes, that’s right, the Chargers are the best team in football right now. The latest victims are the Jets, who were on the wrong side of a lopsided shutout yesterday. Speaking of victims, what about anyone who was doubting Tom Brady or the Patriots? Scrutinized to no end for the entire week, New England responded in great fashion against the Bengals in front of the home crowd. And it was a surprisingly raucous crowd and a Patriots team that was fired up from start to finish.

Of course we have to specify which players stood out the most yesterday. It’s an easy week for me, partly because records were achieved and partly because i’m going to use this platform to be a bit of a homer. I attended Cowboys-Texans game and was fortunate enough to sit next to some particularly obnoxious Texans fans. It felt very good to gloat after the Cowboys won the game but first things first. Peyton Manning’s day as a whole wasn’t that impressive but he did record his 500th TD pass so he gets the performance of the day award; Romo dodging JJ Watt followed by a huge TD pass gets the play of the day. Romo’s Houdini-like skills highlighted the game for me and made the price of admission worth it. But that wasn’t the only impressive play of the day as we have tons of honorable mentions form yesterday’s games. Logan Thomas’ pass to Andre Ellington was about the most impressive throw of the day and the run afterwards was also nice. If this Panthers reverse goes for a score, then it gets play of the day but I still love it just for the block by Cam Newton. Antone Smith appeared the break the sound barrier after his catch and run against the Giants. Plenty of impressive catches highlighted by Julio Jones, Dez Bryant, Travis Benjamin and Brandon Lloyd all deserve praise as they are some of the best plays that we saw yesterday. Can’t forget to mention Khiry Robinson’s run as he bowled over some Buccaneers players to win the game in overtime. Lots and lots of big plays in an entertaining day of NFL action that was overall good television.

Tonight we have the Seahawks (-7) in the nation’s capital to take on the Redskins. Washington looked terrible against the Giants last week, but it was a Thursday night game and those tend to exaggerate bad teams looking a bit worse than they really are. But still, all signs point towards a rout by Seattle as they are coming off a bye week.

Packers dominate Vikings; what to watch for on Sunday

Minnesota Vikings v Green Bay Packers

Before last night’s game between the Vikings and Packers started, I already had a feeling that it could go south pretty quickly for the visiting team. For one, the Minnesota hasn’t had any success in the past few years when they’re at Lambeau Field. I’m pretty sure it’s been since Brett Favre was on the Vikings since their last win. Anyways, more of the same last night. Green Bay struck early and often, turning their game against the Vikings into a rout and now the Packers are on a nice stretch of a back-to-back wins. Remember just a couple of weeks ago, after their loss to the Lions, when many were wondering if the Packers were in some serious trouble? Aaron Rodgers doesn’t. Rodgers didn’t need a monster game but he was efficient (12-17, 156 yds, 3 TDs) and teamed with a big bounce back game from Eddie Lacy (105 yds, 2 TDs) it was smooth sailing for Green Bay. The game was over by halftime. In fact, once it was reported that most the game would be played in the rain, it felt like a large task for the Vikings. Christian Ponder (instead of Bridgewater) playing on the road against the Packers, in the rain, isn’t something that seems prosperous. By the third quarter, a couple of Lacy touchdowns put the game out of reach and despite some late efforts by Minnesota, the game was in the books. Now it’s time for the Vikings to try and get things back on track. But a lot of that is going to depend on their health because if Teddy Bridgewater’s injury lingers longer than expected, it could be a very bleak season. They’re at home against the Lions and then head to Buffalo, so a couple of key games for them. Same for the Packers, as they try to continue their momentum. They’re in Miami next, Panthers at home and then head to New Orleans. Those are three games that could vault them into one of the best teams in the conference.

Sunday’s games have plenty of potential. I guess that’s what happens with only two teams are on bye and one of them happens to be the Oakland Raiders. Nine games for the early slate, and we have some very intriguing teams going head-to-head. The Bears are in Carolina in a battle for two of the toughest teams to figure out. Speaking of tough to figure out, the Falcons are in New York to take on the Giants. Atlanta looked good after they dismantled the Bucs but then tripped in Minnesota. The G-men started abysmally but have won big in two straight games now. We also have the battle of Texas, with the Texans coming into my neck of the woods to take on the Cowboys. I’ll be attending this game and, like many others, will be watching to see which of the teams is for real. The Bills are in Detroit, setting up a nice game between two division leaders. Which team stays atop their division? As far as non-Dallas games go, i’ll be interested to see what happens when the Ravens are in Indianapolis. The Colts have been trending up but so have the Ravens, and it should be one of the best games of the week. The day gets better as we have the Cardinals in Denver for the game of the week. For some reason people have forgotten that the Cardinals are still undefeated and they put that on the line against Manning and co. The Chiefs in San Francisco should be nice and the Jets in San Diego should give us a gauge on both of those teams. The day ends with the Bengals in New England. If the Patriots want to shut everyone up, this is the game to do so because the Bengals might be the best team in the league.

Lots and lots of home favorites this weekend. I like Arizona (+6.5) and San Diego (-6.5) this weekend.

Chiefs rout the Patriots; lingering thoughts from Sunday

NFL: New England Patriots at Kansas City Chiefs

There’s still a little part me that is trying to figure exactly what happened last night. Before last night’s game, the Chiefs were in an upswing while the Patriots were trending in the opposite direction. But last night’s game pushed both teams in the same direction at an exponential rate, something few could have seen coming. The Chiefs, in front of their raucous crowd, completely dominated the Patriots from start to finish last night. At halftime it was conceivable that Kansas City, shutting out Tom Brady and co, could hold the Patriots to a zero on the scoreboard. Nothing was working for New England on offense, nothing. The Chiefs did a nice job of completely eliminating New England’s running game, forcing the Brady to make throws that he didn’t seem comfortable making. The Patriots QB was abysmal (11.6 total QBR) as he was picked off twice and fumbled the ball. The stellar defense by Kansas City was matched only by their offense, led by pro-bowl running back Jamaal Charles. Wait, wasn’t #25 on the Chiefs supposed to be hurt? You wouldn’t think after Charles ran for a score and caught two more touchdown passes with some nice red zone plays by Kansas City. Alex Smith looked sharp (20-26, 248 yds, 3 TDs) as he spread the ball nicely among his weapons, executing an effective game plan that the Patriots defense had no answer for. It doesn’t hurt when the home crowd (record breaking atmosphere) is given reason, after reason, to becoming louder and louder. What now for these teams? Well, the Chiefs are trending in the right direction and are in San Francisco this weekend. Should be a great game. The Patriots though, might be in some real trouble. The Brady “elite” questions are a hot topic right now but if I were a Patriots fan, I’d be more worried about the coming schedule. Things might get worse before they get better in New England.

I’m tempted to make some power rankings right now, but seeing as four of the teams that would probably be in the top five (Denver, Seattle, Arizona and Cincinnati) were on bye week, it seems kind of pointless. We’ll leave the lists for next week. The latest breaking “news” coming out of the league right now if the firing of Dennis Allen, who is now the former head coach of the Oakland Raiders. I put the word news in quotation marks because it’s nothing unexpected. Rumors of Allen being fired this season were swirling before the season started and after an abysmal 0-4 start, it was only time until the Raiders made it official. Normally i’m not a fan of mid-season firing but considering that Oakland is the worst team in the league (I’d take the Jaguars on a neutral field) there had to be something done. Cue the Jon Gruden rumors everyone! Alright, so lingering thoughts from Sunday’s games. Is the NFC East all of a sudden one of the stronger divisions? Unfathomable before the season started. The NFC West will hold the title but the East is right up there with them, the AFC North and AFC West, as a strong division. Worst divisions in the league? The AFC South is the clear contender but I think the AFC East is giving them some real competition; the NFC South is heading towards that zone. The NFC is slightly ahead of AFC in terms of overall wins but it’s a little early to try and determine which conference. That’s the thing about the NFL, your first two weeks or your first month might set the trend for the season but it’s not an ultimatum. There’s still a lot of football to be played and much will be determined as we get into the real meaty part of the season. Let’s just hope the negative headlines don’t resurface.

What we learned from Week 4 in the NFL

AP FALCONS VIKINGS FOOTBALL S FBN USA MN

With plenty of good teams missing because of their bye week, yesterday had the potential to be a very stale day in the NFL. Blowout wins were predicted throughout the set and we got plenty of those games, but we also got some very close games that came down to the final minutes of the 4th quarter along with some surprising results. Who could have predicted the Buccaneers incredible comeback against the Steelers? I think Pittsburgh lost that game more than the Bucs won it, but it was still an impressive drive by Mike Glennon to win the game with only seconds left on the lock. If not for Tampa Bay’s win, the entire NFC South loses yesterday, something that seemed crazy since it’s supposed to be one of the stronger divisions in the league. Staying in the NFC South, the Falcons were victims of Teddy Bridgewater’s first game as a starter with the Vikings. How amazing was Bridgewater? Sure, he wasn’t world-class with his passing but his dazzling plays throughout the game gave hope to Minnesota of a bright future with a young quarterback. Now let’s just hope his ankle injury isn’t anything too serious. What other teams dazzled yesterday? The Packers went into Chicago, one week after panic spread throughout Wisconsin, and routed the Bears built off of a huge second half. The Colts have climbed back to .500 after another huge win led by another huge performance by one Andrew Luck, who continues to be the biggest revelation in fantasy football this season. What about the Ravens? We’ll get to Steve Smith a little later but Baltimore was very impressive at home against the Panthers yesterday. Carolina had no response on defense and all of a sudden, the Ravens have some real pressure on the Bengals and makes the AFC North much more interesting. Don’t worry, I left my Cowboys for the end to save the best for last. Dallas had a very impressive win last night, routing the Saints in the spotlight of the final game of the day. I predicted a competitive game, but if anyone had predicted a lopsided win, it was in favor of New Orleans. Excellent win for the Cowboys.

So we know who impressed us as a unit, but which players are stealing the headlines? Which players are being features in “Top 10” lists around the sports world? And, more importantly, which players deserve the honor and distinction of being recognized as the performance of the day or my favorite play of the day? Well, if you know what i’m a fan of, you probably have an idea of who will get the honors. Unfortunately, I only have Steve Smith on one of my fantasy teams but I was very quick to put him as one of my starters. I had anticipated Smith playing against the Panthers from the start of the season and boy, oh boy, did he deliver. Yes, he had some luck with his first TD catch (or was it planned?) but it was just that kind of day for #89 of the Ravens. Smith’s “revengebig game yesterday gets honors for my performance of the day while Antonio Brown’s WR pass to Le’Veon Bell is my favorite play of the day. It was pretty obvious from the get-go that those would be my two choices but I have to recognize other players who performed well. I mentioned Andrew Luck (393 yds, 4 TDs) but have to include Aaron Rodgers (302 yds, 4 TDs) and Philip Rivers (377 yds, 3 TDs) as other quarterbacks who led their teams to victories with impressive performances. From the back field it was DeMarco Murray (149 yds, 2 TDs) who led the Cowboys to another impressive performance based off the running game. Let’s not forget about Matt Asiata (100 scrimmage yards, 3 TDs) who was very impressive in the red zone, scoring three times and racking up the fantasy points. One thing is for sure about this season, the Seahawks and Broncos might still be the favorites to return to the Super Bowl but they aren’t glaring favorites so that sets up for an exciting rest of the season now that we’re a quarter of the way into it.

Tonight’s game features the Patriots (-3) in Kansas City to take on the Chiefs. Normally i’d jump on the Patriots in a heartbeat but New England, despite winning, did not look impressive last week. The Chiefs, on the other hand, were thought to be pretty much done before their impressive win in Miami last week. The way these teams are trending, it’s temping to go with Kansas City. But I can’t bet on Tom Brady and co having back-to-back unimpressive performances. I like the Patriots but the Chiefs are certainly playing well enough to make tonight’s game very interesting.

Giants rout the Redskins; what to look for in Sunday's game

CORRECTED VERSION: New York Giants v Washington Redskins

Was anyone in New York watching the Giants-Redskins game last night? NY is, and always will be, a baseball town and last night all the attention was on Derek Jeter and his storybook ending at Yankee Stadium. It was a great story that will continue to fill headlines; much congratulations to Jeter, a class act and the model for not only being a professional athlete, but juggling world-class girlfriends. But this will be about football and there was a game last night. The Giants took advantage of Washington’s turnovers and routed their division rival last night. How many fantasy football games around the world did Kirk Cousins ruin last night? Six total turnovers for Washington but Cousins, accounting for five, threw four interceptions and also fumbled the ball in a nightmare game for the Redskins quarterback. It seemed like every time I looked up at my television, it was either an interception by Cousins or Eli Manning throwing a touchdown pass to TE Larry Donnell. Manning had five total TDs (one rush) and his favorite target was the young, relatively unknown, tight end Donnell who accounted for three scores. Donnell flourishes in the Giants style of offense and all of a sudden, the G-men have looked impressive for a couple games straight. The Giants have picked up steam and with two big games against the Eagles and Cowboys in October, next month could very well determine how much success they have. Washington is looking less impressive, still in the hunt but their last two losses have been against division rivals. With a sole win coming against the Jaguars, the feeling around the nation’s capital for their football team is looking pretty bleak right now.

It’s one thing to have six teams on bye (why not four every time?) but it’s another thing to have four of the best 5 or 6 teams in the league on bye, depending on how high one rates the Cardinals. I like them and along with Arizona, we have Seattle, Denver, Cincinnati, St. Louis and Cleveland on bye week. Good luck to everyone in starting less-than-stellar players on their fantasy teams this week. So technically, if you wanted to avoid divorce from your wife or breaking up with your girlfriend, this Sunday would be the ideal day to not watch football for an entire day. I’m not in that camp because this weekend, we have the Panthers going to Baltimore and facing the wrath of Steve Smith. Why would you focus on any other game for the noon slate? Luckily my Cowboys are playing at night so i’ll be able to focus on Ravens-Panthers. But there are other interesting games, even if they don’t jump off the page immediately. Normally Bears-Packers is a great watch but Green Bay has been underwhelming and many are wondering what is wrong with the Packers. Can they bounce back? The Dolpins and Raiders are in England. What a treat for the British, huh? The Eagles are in San Francisco in the late afternoon games and i’m very interested in this game. Can the 49ers bounce back? How will Philadelphia deal with their lack of running game and injuries? Should be a good one. Things end in my neck of the woods as the Saints are in “JerryWorld” to take on the Cowboys. Can the Saints continue their momentum after their first win of the season last week? Remember, last year the Saints embarrassed the Cowboys in the night game with the number of first downs they were able to record. I’m nervous but expect it to be a competitive game this time.

Just because I feel so strongly about this subject, i’d like to claim my full support to Bill Simmons. #FreeSimmons

Fourth Sunday of the NFL season stays at high level

9-22

The NFL as a whole is getting a lot of negative attention right now; a midst all of the actual football headlines the league is dealing with what seems to be an endless amount of off-the-field activity. But that’s just the nature of the NFL beast these days. How goes the league redeem itself? Whatever Roger Goodell is doing right now to fix his league’s problems, it’s not very effective. I’d like to think that he’s just a puppet with the NFL owners right above him, pulling the strings. Alas, that’s another topic for another time. What can the players do? Aside from “simply” staying out of trouble, the players have to go out on the field and perform. The NFL at it’s best is when they let the games do the talking and we got plenty of that yesterday, overshadowing, at least for one day, all the negative press surrounding the league. Just like my good buddy Colin Cowherd said in this tweet. As Denver was driving against Seattle to try and tie the game, could anyone look away? It’s just a shame that we didn’t get to see Denver have an opportunity to score in overtime. Or what about the Cowboys, down 21-0 at one point, coming back to stun the Rams? Don’t tell me that the Romo haters weren’t waiting, eager to express their opinion as they waited for the inevitable interception that never happened. Did anyone watch Eagles-Redskins and have no idea who was going to win? Aside from the fight, that was the type of game the NFL hopes to showcase. Back and forth action between two bitter rivals where the losing team feels that they deserved to win just as much as their opponent.

Throughout all the chaos and action sits Cincinnati, winning another game convincingly and sitting alone at the top of the AFC mountain as the only undefeated team in the conference. AJ Green is limited because of injuries? No problem, they’ll just have Andy Dalton catch the passes and score their first touchdown of the game. Mohamed Sanu’s touchdown pass to his QB is my favorite play of the week, edging out Russell Wilson’s catch on a similar play. If the Seahawks’ play scores a touchdown, it’s a tie but simply because the Benagals’ play was for a touchdown, it gets the nod. What else impressed me yesterday? The Chargers going into Buffalo and getting a big win. I thought San Diego looked efficient and very much in sync as they carried their momentum from last week’s win over Seattle. The Giants, who looked really bad in their first two games, bounced back nicely against the Texans. The G-Men were able to take advantage of Houston’s mistakes to win big in front of their home crowd. The Chiefs, without Jamaal Charles, looked really good in Miami as they got their first win of the season. What about another road warrior? The Steelers were in Carolina and facing a tough defense but it didn’t appear tough last night as Pittsburgh put up 37 points, improving to 2-1 and making the AFC North a very interesting division heading forward.

The Bears are in New York tonight to take on the Jets (-2) and i’ll be watching this game pretty closely. I’m most interested to see Bears RB Matt Forte against the Jets’ run defense. Should be close early but I have a feeling that Chicago’s efficiency in the red zone is the difference and Bears pull away late.

Eagles rally in the 4th to take down Colts

Philadelphia Eagles v Indianapolis Colts

Last night I predicted that it would be Andrew Luck leading the Colts to a 4th quarter rally. He almost did, with a chance to drive his team to a game-winning score, the Colts and Luck weren’t able to it happen. The play calling was terrible and thus the Eagles got the ball back with a chance to win the game. Various Philadelphia players stepped it up during the 4th quarter and rallied to win in Indianapolis, winning big on the road to stay undefeated and atop the NFC East. Just when the Eagles looked like they were going to be out of the game, their three best players made the plays necessary to stay in the game. Simply put: it was a back-and-forth game and when it mattered the most, Eagles’ players Nick Foles, LeSean McCoy and Darren Sproles were the difference for their offense. When 3rd and long came around, it was the Philadelphia running game that converted, uncharacteristically with the type of high-octane offense that head coach Chip Kelly typically runs. What a game for Sproles, who looked like a young running back trying to earn his spot on the team and not a veteran who is backing up one of the best backs in the league. Let’s not ignore that the Eagles did have a bit of help from two different sources. The first was the Colts and their turnovers, both of which came at the hands of their running back Trent Richardson. Richardson actually had some good runs but because of those two fumbles, teamed with how back up Ahmad Bradshaw played, it’s very likely that Richardson will see his carries decline as the season progresses.

Now, it’s impossible to ignore the officiating late in the game. In every single game there are calls deemed “questionable” but it’s very rare that we get two calls around the same critical point in the game that fit the category. A key interception teamed with a key “horse collar” penalty favored Philadelphia, putting them in position for their game-tying drive in the fourth quarter. On the interception, it was clear that Colts’ T.Y. Hilton received some contact by the Eagles’ defender before his teammate came and intercepted the ball. Indianapolis protested but nothing came from it. Not too long after that, the Colts had the Eagles in a 3rd and long and tackled McCoy much before the first down line but were flagged for a personal foul. The replay clearly showed that McCoy was taken down by his jersey and not his collar. Eagles get a fresh set of downs and continue their drive to tie the game. But let’s not place the blame complete on the officiating because the Colts had their chances to keep their lead and overtake it late in the game. Sure, the calls went Philadelphia’s way but they still deserve praise for taking advantage of the situation. The Colts are 0-2, something that no one predicted before the season started. Luckily for them, they play in a bad division and their schedule doesn’t look too tough heading forward. The Eagles on the other hand sit 2-0 with some important games coming up so that will make a big difference if they hope to stay atop the NFC East.

Second Sunday of NFL season brings more surprises

AP SEAHAWKS CHARGERS FOOTBALL S FBN USA CA

AP SEAHAWKS CHARGERS FOOTBALL S FBN USA CA

Gotta love the NFL. After the first Sunday of action brought plenty of surprises, week 2 followed suit with it’s own shocking results and impressive performances. Where do I even start? The logical direction is to just go through the more notable games in the order in which they happened, but i’d to discuss them in most expected to least expected.

Although these games were closer than expected, we knew that the Broncos would beat the Chiefs, the Packers would beat the Jets. More lopsided victories include the Redskins over the Jaguars, Texans over Raiders (back to them a little later) and the Patriots over the Vikings. My Cowboys, with running and defense, got an impressive victory on the road but they aren’t even the toughest team to figure out. The Bills, with two impressive victories to start the season, rolled over the Dolphins and are leading the division. Or even the Panthers, one of the two hot picks for a regression year, shut down a potent Detroit offense and won convincingly at home. In the end, i’m torn between three games for most impressive victory of the day. Cleveland rallied to beat the Saints at home, getting their first win of the season and the first win for new head coach Mike Pettine. But we all know that the Saints can be very shaky on the road, and yesterday proved that home field will matter a lot to their success. The same goes for Seattle, who haven’t been world-beaters when it comes to their road tendencies. The Chargers, who always seem poised for a big win, scored all over the Seahawks defense and probably had the biggest win of the day. Then I remember last night’s final game between the Bears and 49ers. And how deep the Chicago had to dig in order to get a gritty, 4th quarter comeback victory in San Francisco on opening night of their shiny new stadium. The Bears get this round slightly over the Chargers. After their stunning lost to the Bills last week, Jay Cutler and co had no choice but to bounce back in incredible fashion. Success for them as the standings get more and more interesting to start the season off.

So now that we’ve quickly gone through the most impressive win of the game, what about individual players themselves? Well I talked about how impressive Jay Cutler (23-34, 167, 4 TDs) was, especially in the 4th quarter where he showed plenty of poise and leadership. Fellow NFC North quarterback Aaron Rodgers (346 yds, 3 TDs, 38 yds rush) was also impressive, most of his big plays going to Jordy Nelson (209 yds, 1 TD) and most of them coming in the second half. What other pairing could challenge them? Philip Rivers (284 yds, 3 TDs, 17 yds rush) making it rain all over the Seahawks, with the touchdown catches going to his TE Antonio Gates (96 yds, 3 TDs) is strong candidate. Because of how many pure yards he got, partnered with his big 80-yard touchdown reception, Jordy Nelson gets performance of the day but play of the day clearly goes to J.J. Watt. If anyone has ever read  about my favorite plays that happen in the NFL, they know that obscure or bizarre plays are my absolute favorite. Fake field goals, fake punts, reverses, direct snaps etc. And although my number one favorite play is a TD pass by a half-back or running back, i’m also a big fan of when a defensive player scores a touchdown on offense. Sure, it was an easy wide-open catch by Watt, but when’s the next time we’re going to see something like that? Big ups to the Texans for that play.

For a couple of different reasons, i’ll be watching tonight’s game between the Eagles and Colts pretty closely. I expect for Philadelphia, who can be deadly inside of a dome, to race out to an early lead before Andrew Luck does his thing and makes it close late. Close game that either team could win. Should be a fun one.

Ravens win big over Steelers; previewing Sunday's games

9-12

The Ravens have been in a non-stop spotlight for several days now. The cameras, the reporters and the unwanted attention stemmed from Monday, and i’m sure that I don’t need to talk about why. But interestingly enough, none of the attention that the pro football team in Baltimore has received involves football. Only in the sense that the “How will the Ravens respond?” questions became endless. Theories and predictions about whether or not this would be a bad thing were hot topics in most sports circles. Pointless in my opinion. It was going to be Baltimore, and them only, who would ultimately decide how they would perform after a circus-like week. The Ravens put distractions aside last night and with their rout over the Steelers, they let everyone know that football is the only thing on their minds. After losing their opening game to the Bengals, the Ravens were in need of a division win and they got one last night, controlling the game in the second half and putting a Steelers’ comeback out of reach. Joe Flacco had a couple of touchdown passes to TE Owen Daniels (pictured above) and the rest was left to the foot of kicker Justin Tucker. Baltimore didn’t jump off the page with lots of spectacular plays (Steve Smith had a couple) but they didn’t make any mistakes. That’s something the Steelers can’t say, who doomed three drives with costly turnovers. Just as Ben Roethlisberger was mounting another drive, either he or one of his teammates turned the ball over. Now both teams are 1-1 and looking up at Cincinnati. Baltimore has the upper hand right now but I have a feeling these two teams will be battling pretty close to each other for most of the season.

So what’s in store for Sunday? Plenty of interesting games and things to watch out for. What sticks out at me is that there are several good teams who have a good chance of starting their season off with two losses. The Patriots are in Minnesota this weekend, and I could very much see the Vikings taking that game after how good they looked last weekend. But was it more that the Rams are bad? That’s the thing about week 2: there’s no need to overreact to a week 1 peformance. Still, the Vikings-Patriots game should be a good one. The Saints are Cleveland as Drew Brees and co try and bounce back. And for the Browns, the Johnny Football watch continues. The Chargers are getting the Seahawks at home, should be a nice battle for both teams. The Packers are getting the Jets and all signs point to a massive game from Green Bay, who are on 10 days rest and very eager to get their first win. The day ends with the Bears in San Francisco in what should be a pretty great game. It’s impossible to tell how good the 49ers are after going against my Cowboys and their defense. But the game of the day goes to, well, there are two games that stand out to me. I really want to pay attention to the Falcons in Cincinnati and the Lions in Carolina. Particularly, two good offenses (Det and Atl) against two good defenses (Cin and Car) as all these teams will try and make a statement on Sunday. Game to avoid on Sunday? Without a doubt, the Jaguars in Washington.

If betting were legal here where I live, I’d take the Packers (-8.5) against the Jets and the Falcons (+5.5) against the Bengals.

Lions and Cardinals victorious in Monday Night Football's opening night

New York Giants v Detroit Lions

For those who didn’t get enough football on Sunday, last night provided a big helping of dessert with two games on ESPN for their first edition of Monday Night Football. I’ve always enjoyed having a second game on the opening night, even if it is a pretty late start for the second game. Not just because it’s more NFL but also because the second game always seems to be worth (remember this game?) staying up for. Last night was no different as the game, after a very slow start, came down to the final quarter. But first, we have to take care of discussion the lopsided game between the Lions and Giants.

For a second there, I thought that Calvin Johnson (164 yds, 2 TDs) would end up with something like 400 yards and 5 touchdowns after what we saw in the first quarter last night. The Lions struck early against the Giants who, for whatever reason, decided to leave Johnson open for two scores. Megatron is actually the last receiver on the planet that one would want to give space to. That’s just the way the night went for the Giants. Because they fell into an early deficit, the Giants were trying to fix their mistakes and at the same time, make some sort of comeback. The Giants managed to hang around after a good 2nd quarter but after the third quarter was dominated by the Lions, the game was out of reach. My favorite play of the night goes to Matt Stafford and his 5-yard run for the score in the 3rd quarter. The play essentially put the game out of reach and Detroit was on their way to getting their first victory of the season. New York has plenty to work on after yesterday’s game. Eli Manning couldn’t avoid getting another multi-interception game, and now the questions about his status as a Giant begin early. On thing is for sure after this weekend: the NFC East can officially be named as the worst division in the league. Detroit, on the other hand, finds itself in tied for first place along with the Vikings in the North. Crazy!

Another Monday night game and another 4th quarter meltdown by the Chargers. Maybe San Diego should just say “no” to all games that feature them in front of a national audience. But in all honesty, the Chargers were a bit fortunate to be ahead in this game when the 4th quarter rolled around. They had some nice plays here and there, but when one looks back at the game a little bit, one can clearly see that “fortunate bounces” went their way. Every team has those nights and the luck stopped in the 4th quarter. The Chargers were mounting a nice drive, with at least a field goal in their pocket (to put them up by 8) but a botched snapped forced them to punt. Arizona gets the ball back, mounts an impressive drive from their own 9-yard line, and eventually scores with only a few minutes left. San Diego was charging to try and win the game but fell short on a 4th down attempt. Props to the Cardinals defense. They weren’t great by any means last night but made some nice plays when they needed it. It was a sloppy, but entertaining game. The early win for Arizona is key if they want to compete with the rest of the NFC West. And meanwhile, San Diego stumbles in their opening game before they get the Seahawks at home next week.

NFL's first Sunday filled with surprises and drama

NFL: Buffalo Bills at Chicago Bears

The ritual on Sunday morning was different yesterday. Whether you were trying to get rid of your hangover or trying to get rid of those pesky weeds in the backyard, NFL fans finished their chores post-haste. Because they, like myself, knew that the rest of the day would be dedicated to watching football. But what kind of day would the league produce? The NFL season is a roller coaster, a very long one, filled with plenty of turns, twists and loops. Depending on which team one is supporting will determine what kind of ride is expected. The highs will be high, and the lows will be low. Despite those risks, fans of the NFL know what they’re getting themselves into and Sunday morning was filled with aspirations and anxiousness. So, what went down yesterday in the National Football League?

Since CBS decided to dedicate part of their afternoon to the US Open, the early slate of NFL games was pretty massive. Ten games going on and there was plenty of drama early. Some of the games turned into lopsided affairs (Vikings-Rams, Eagles-Jaguars, Dolphins-Patriots) but some nice finishes kept the watchers on the edge of their seats. Which team was most impressive yesterday? I’m torn between a few teams. Initially I thought to go with the Vikings, who were on the road in St. Louis and completely destroyed a stout Rams’ defense. With respect to anyone else who made some magic happen yesterday, Cordarrelle Patterson had my favorite play of day with his 67-yard run. Then I remembered the Rams offense will be mediocre at best this season. What about the Dolphins? At home, going up against the untouchable Tom Brady is no easy task for any team. Miami dominated the second half with their running game, using a nice combination of Lamar Miller and Knowshon Moreno to control the pace of the game. But as I’ve said in the past, weird stuff happens when the Patriots are in Miami every season. So that leaves me with the Bills (pictured above) in Chicago, impressing the hell out of everyone and beating the Bears in overtime. I think the line for that game was Bears by 8 or something close to it. So it’s safe to say that nobody had Buffalo winning that game and because of what they showed me, they were the most impressive team yesterday.

Unfortunately for fans of other teams (myself included) it can’t all be rainbows and sunshine. Half of the teams participating in yesterday’s games saw their game finish in a loss. Fans of those on the losing side will overreact today, pointing fingers and looking for someone to blame for their misery. Fair enough, but for anyone who has been following this league knows that the first game of the season won’t determine that team’s fate. Or does it? The stats can prove part of the argument but after watching a losing side, which are the teams that are in real trouble? There are three obvious candidates. We can go ahead and start things off with my Dallas Cowboys, who were on the wrong end of a spanking at home against the 49ers. The Cowboys went away from what was working and that result in three picks from Tony Romo. Let’s also add that the Niners offense did what they wanted with their passing game. But we knew the Cowboys and their defense would be bad. What about their division rival Washington? The Redskins were victims of one JJ Watt, who lived up to his massive contract and hounded RG3 and his offensive line. But we knew that Watt is a beast and we knew that the Redskins questions on offense. Now we have the Chiefs, with the biggest opportunity to silence there doubters, they fell flat in Tennessee. The Chiefs are in for a really, really long season and their season debut might have indicated exactly how their season will go.

What’s better than football on Monday night? Even more football on Monday night. That’s right, we’re getting two games tonight ladies and gentlemen. The Giants are in Detroit (7:10 ET) and then we have the late night game that will feature the Chargers in Arizona (10:20 ET) to finish things off. Plan on staying up nice and late!

NFL Playoffs preview: Divisional Round

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We’re officially at the apex of the football season. I know the ratings will continue to climb until we finally get to the Super Bowl, but in terms of amount of quality football that we’re going to watch, the divisional round provides the best and the brightest. Just look at the QBs we’re going to be seeing this weekend. One could argue that if you assume Aaron Rodgers also belongs, the remaining eight quarterbacks are the best in the league right now. There’s a combination of veterans with postseason experience mixed with the young, up and coming future faces of the league. What more could a football fan as for? But as the games gets tighter, it gets more and more difficult to predict. From past experience, I’ve always realized two things about the second round. The first is to never overreact after a first round victory. The second is that there’s always a home team that gets upset in the divisional round.

The divisional festivities begin with the Saints in Seattle, a rematch from Week 13. In fact, all but one of this weekend’s games are rematches. Last time these two teams squared off, it was completely dominated by the Seahawks from start to finish. Do the Saints have a realistic shot to win in Seattle? Right now, Seattle (-8) is a heavy favorite and most people don’t give New Orleans a realistic shot at winning the game. I’m not in that camp. First of all, the Saints have clear advantages in two key positions: quarterback and head coach. Drew Brees didn’t need a heroic effort last week as the Saints had a solid running game. If that stays true, New Orleans has a shot to control the clock and minimize the crowd noise by getting constant first downs. Despite some of the advantage the Saints might have, i’m not going to pick them to win this game. Seattle’s pass defense is just too good and they’ve been nearly unstoppable at home. Saints give a good fight but the Seahawks move on the NFC title game.

Prime time Saturday features the most eye-catching quarterback match up. All-American hero and poster boy Tom Brady is looking to further improve his postseason resume when future great Andrew Luck visits the Patriots (-7) in Foxborough. The Colts are firing on all cylinders after their second half comeback over the Chiefs but is that enough to get them going in the first half of this game, given their season trend of slow starts? The Patriots aren’t the type of team that gives up big leads. In fact, Belichick and Brady are well known for running up the score, showing no mercy when it comes to putting their opponents away. If i’m a Colts fan, that’s what fears me the most. Aside from the QB battle, the Colts pass offense against the Patriots defense is the match up that intrigues me the most. Can Indianapolis take advantage of a porous New England secondary? Luck will most likely be great and continue to fight, no matter what the score is, but I feel the Patriots will get off to a fast start that they won’t give up.

Sunday begins with what I believe to be the most competitive game of the weekend. What baffles me about this game is that the 49ers (-1) are favorites on the road, against the Panthers, who beat them previously in SF exactly two months ago. I know, I know, the Niners were missing some key players but it feels slightly disrespectful to Cam Newton and co to be underdogs. These two teams play a very similar style. Both have excellent defenses and an excellent running game, led by their dual-threat QBs. It’ll be interesting to see how well Kaepernick’s connection with Michael Crabtree continues after a great performance last week. Not having Steve Smith at 100% will hurt the Panthers’ offense but I expect the Carolina defense to do well in limiting the 49ers attack. Even as I write this, i’m still not sure who is going to win this game. In all honesty, it will come down to who has the ball last in scoring position. Carolina’s only loss at home this season was to Seattle, in the first game of the season. Panthers edge out the Niners.

We’ll know three of the four teams left by the time the Chargers visit Denver (-9.5) to take on Peyton Manning and his arsenal of weapons. Last time around in Denver, Phil Rivers (Mr Bolo tie) and the Chargers surprised the Broncos on a Thursday night. How much do we take from that game? Thursday night games are always wonky but the Chargers presented some real problems for the Broncos. San Diego is showing all the signs of the Super Bowl champs of the past few years, catching breaks and gaining momentum at the games go on. This time around the Chargers defense won’t have Andy Dalton’s mistakes to take advantage of. Or will they? Manning’s “cold weather woes” will unlikely be in play but his “Chargers woes” will be. Yes, i’m going for it. The Chargers will control the clock with long drives, get enough pressure on Manning and upset the Broncos. Because of the way the league has been going all season long, i’m going with the possible over the probable in this game. Chargers upset the Broncos.

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