Posts about AFC

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.

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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.

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Second Sunday of NFL season brings more surprises

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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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NFL Playoffs preview: Divisional Round

1-10

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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Wrapping up the NFL’s final week of the regular season

12-30

In a season full of surprising results, week 17 actually provided some stability from the top tier teams around the league. Aside from the Panthers, every team that was supposed to dominate went out took care of business. The Seahawks, Broncos, Patriots, Bengals, Saints were favored by plenty of points and went out on the field, performing like a good team should heading into the playoffs. I don’t count the 49ers close win over the Cardinals as surprising because Arizona is a playoff caliber team that was expected to keep the game close. Same doesn’t go for the Panthers, who got off to a slow start against a Falcons that didn’t have anything to play for other than Tony Gonzalez’s final game. It’s sad to see Gonzalez go but he’s a guaranteed HOF’er and the undisputed greatest tight end of all time. Despite some order around the league, the NFL still provided it’s fans with plenty of close games and plenty of drama. Things broke well for the Chargers, so well that Ryan Succop’s missed field goal (would put the Steelers in) is now a controversial field goal that should have been replayed due to an officiating error that was missed. Despite the amount of breaks the Chargers have received, San Diego won four straight games in the most important part of the season and deserves a spot in the playoffs. So do the Packers because despite missing their star QB for most the second half of this season, Green Bay still went into Chicago and became “kings of the north” for this season. Some of the blame should go to the Lions, who were the healthiest team in the division but still managed to collapse in the second part of the season. Let’s get to the stocks for this week:

Stock UP: Peyton Manning and any offensive play he’s involved with; Matt Forte’s running style despite being on the losing side; the Steelers, for taking care of business despite having a slim chance for the postseason that nearly panned out; Seattle’s bounce back victory after getting knocked down last week; the Bengals offense despite Dalton’s four picks; Justin Tucker cementing his post as the best kicker in the league; LeSean McCoy’s running style and ball protection; the Saints offense all of sudden looking scary again; the Patriots continuing to win despite key injuries.

Stock DOWN: the Cowboys, for the third straight year, in do-or-die games in week 17; Baltimore and Miami for not taking advantage of controlling their own destiny; Jim Shwartz and his tenure in Detroit that is now over; the Oakland Raiders in the first half of yesterday’s game against the Broncos; Joe Flacco’s mega contract reflecting on to this season; the Redskins who don’t own their top 2 pick this year; Chicago’s defensive inability to make a stop when it mattered most against the Packers; trying to figure out the Rams at all this season.

One last mini-rant about my Cowboys: i’m tired of the same old story. I gotta give some props to Kyle Orton, who played well despite the fact that everyone, including myself, had written off the Cowboys since the star of the week. But despite the defense playing well for once. Despite Jason Witten’s sneaky good game. Despite Dez and Escobar’s great touchdown catch and runs. Despite having the ball with enough time to drive down the field, the Cowboys manage to break hearts. Was there a more fitting way to end the season for Dallas last night? Another 8-8 season and another heartbreaking roller coaster ride.

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