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Seahawks hold off Redskins; lingering thoughts from week 5

10-7

After their win over Denver, the Seahawks were looking to use their bye week to focus up on the rest of the season which lies ahead. Their journey to try and repeat as champions got going again in our nation’s capital, taking on a Redskins team that was trending in the wrong direction. Washington isn’t as bad as they looked on Thursday night almost two weeks ago, but no one was expecting them to provide Seattle with some real competition. At least for myself, last night’s game was more competitive than expected but we did get the end result that was anticipated. Carried by Russell Wilson’s big game, the Seahawks went into DC and took down the Redskins, holding them off for most of the game and eventually closing the game out with a strong 4th quarter finish. Wilson finished with a career-high 122 yards on the ground, to go along with a score, and also paired that with 201 yards and two scores through the air. An all around, excellent performance from #3 on Seattle. Early on, it appeared that this would be a rout in favor of the Seahawks as they led 17-0 at halftime. But Washington fought their way back into the game with some big plays (Kirk Cousins to DeSean Jackson) and got within one score twice in the second half. Washington had the ball multiple times with a chance to drive and tie the game, but Seattle’s defense stepped it up. Let’s also remember that Seattle’s punting unit did an excellent job pinning the Redskins deep into their own territory, allowing Seattle to play the more risky style of defense that they flourish in. And of course, my favorite play of the night was Seattle’s fake field goal early in the forth quarter that successfully got them the first down. Now the Redskins try and save their season but with injury and off-the-field issues continuing to linger, they might be looking at early hope in next year’s draft. Seattle is now tied with Arizona atop their division and have a big game this weekend when my Cowboys are in Seattle for what (I hope) is a great game.

First off all, i’d like to apologize to a couple of players for not included them in “plays of the week” yesterday. So Sammy Watkins and Riley Cooper, you both made catches worthy of being some of the best plays of the week. Also, I can’t believe I completely missed on Philly Brown’s punt return for a touchdown. It was a great run but what made it special for me is the abundance of flags on the play and how obscure the entire series was. Just goes to show that playing until the whistle will usually result in something good. So tomorrow, now that we’re over a month into the season, i’ll be ranking the best five teams in the league. I’m torn on a few teams (one that includes the one I support) and whether or not their record, as a opposed to their actually strength of schedule, should be the stronger determinant. The debate rages on and on of which factor should determine which team is doing best right now. Remember, it’s more a ranking of if all these teams were to play on a neutral field this weekend, which would have the bench chance to come out on top. And it’s not a probability ranking, so things like a team’s momentum and current injuries (or lack thereof) both come into play, among other factors. Then on Thursday i’ll be going through the dregs of the league.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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Bears hold off Jets’ rally; lingering thoughts from week 3

ct-spt-0923-bears-jets-chicago

It was difficult to figure out what to expect from last night’s game. The Jets were lukewarm at best, their only victory coming in week 1 against the Raiders, who are fighting against the Bucs for the title of “worst team in the league” right now. Then we have the Bears who were coming off a very impressive second half, and fourth quarter, against San Francisco just a week ago in a night game. We didn’t know what Chicago team we would get and because of that, we didn’t know what kind of response the Jets would come out with. The Bears held off a late Jets’ rally that fell short as Chicago took the victory on the road, taking advantage of their opponent’s mistakes and inefficiency in the red zone. We were less than a minute into the game and the Bears already had a score coming off a “pick-six” thrown by Geno Smith. Bad start for the young quarterback and while Smith was better as the game went on, he really struggled to find his form up to that point. Geno’s TD pass to Kerley was nice but he had to go through another interception and the Jets were bad in the red zone. Praise Nick Folk for making his field goals but if they get into the end zone at least one of those times, there isn’t desperation at the end of the game. But credit Chicago for taking advantage of the situation and holding to their lead that they established early on. The Bears had a scare when star receiver Brandon Marshall but he returned; by that time Jay Cutler had turned his TE Martellus Bennett for the scoring in the end zone. The Jets might be in trouble. After their Lions game this coming weekend, they have a three game stretch where they face the Chargers, Broncos and Patriots all in a row. It’s not as tough for Chicago but if they want to establish themselves as the sole leaders of a division they need to win at home against the Packers this weekend, a game that doesn’t seem as daunting as it did before the season started.

So I’ve had a chance to look at the scores and take a deeper look at the scores from this past weekend; there’s also the surprising standings. Does anyone realize that we’re left with only three undefeated teams in the league? I know, kind of a silly statement. But, it’s surprising to think since it seems like by week 5 or 6, there are still two or three teams left. Because the Cardinals and Bengals are on byes this week, it’s the Eagles have the biggest opportunity to be the first undefeated team to go down. They’re in San Francisco this weekend in a very interesting game. Meanwhile, the other teams are in a good position to take their bye weekend because both have a tough road game in the fifth week. The Cardinals are in Denver (tough) and the Bengals are in New England (not as tough) for week 5. Can’t wait for either of those games. The NFC is wide open, partly because three teams that were supposed to be early favorites (Saints, 49ers and Packers) have only combined for three wins. Crazy. The AFC is more in order, because even though Patriots (specifically the offense) have been underwhelming, only the Colts have caused confusion. Indianapolis has started slow but with their schedule, they should be back in order soon enough. Aside from that everything else in the conference seems to be in order. After this weekend we’ll be a quarter of the way through the season but since so many good teams are in their bye week, i’ll wait until after week 5 to do a power ranking of the best five teams in the league.

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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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Falcons destroy the Buccaneers; questions for Sunday’s games

9-19

Don’t let the final score fool you. A 56-14 win by Atlanta over Tampa Bay isn’t indicative of how lop-sided last night’s game was. In fact, it was worse. If the Falcons continue to play at full strength, they definitely break the NFL record for biggest shutout and most points scored by a winning team (73-0) in an NFL game. After scoring 56 unanswered points from the start of the game, the Falcons pulled some of their starters and the Buccaneers scored a couple of touchdowns to save some of their dignity and avoid being shutout. Like I said, it was as bad as the score shows or worse. The first drive showed it all. The Falcons started the game at their own 30-yard line and marched down the field with little to no resistance, taking less than three minutes to score their first touchdown of the game. From there, it was a snowball effect against the Buccaneers. Atlanta started the game with two passing TDs by Matt Ryan but after that it was more of a “pick your poison” style of scoring for Atlanta. Fumble recoveries, interceptions, sacks, punt returns etc. Anything and everything was working for the Falcons and it was the most lopsided NFL game that I’ve seen in a while. Atlanta’s Devin Hester gets most of the headlines, breaking the NFL’s record for return TDs and now holds the top spot by himself with 20 scored. Normally i’m against celebrating before you get into the end zone, but its not every single day you get to break a record set by Deion Sanders so i’ll let it slide. So what’s next for these teams? Atlanta can hold the top spot of the division, depending on what happens with the Panthers so they’re looking alright with a somewhat favorable schedule coming up. And for Tampa Bay, things can only go up from here.

Now that last night’s game is over, we’re going to get better games on Sunday, right? It appears so. Just like in week 1, we’re getting a massive early slate of games. Only a couple of those ten games immediately jump off the page but all-in-all, there are plenty of games that should be very interesting. Can’t wait to see the Chargers in Buffalo, a good test for both of these teams that should reveal how good they are. What about all these early division games? Can Kirk Cousins continue good play when they’re in Philadelphia? Ravens in Cleveland should be fun. Is the Browns defense, specifically the front part, one of the best in the league? With the Packers at the Lions in a dome, how high can the score be? Over/under is 53 points for that game and I love the over. Also, people are underestimating the Jaguars and with the Colts in town, what’s stopping them from having an exciting game? There are only three late afternoon games but two are very good and the other one probably won’t be as great. I’ll have the 49ers in Arizona on a side screen but of course everyone will be tuning into the Broncos in Seattle. Super Bowl re-match…blah blah blah. We know the headlines and all the possible talking points. Just watch the game. The Steelers are in Carolina to finish things off and a part of me wants to pick Pittsburgh but I have to stop doubting the Panthers and their stellar defense.

My two picks were terrible last weekend. I’m going with the big spreads this weekend. The Patriots (+14) against the Raiders and the Saints (+10) against the Vikings. Betting against the Raiders and betting the Saints at home seem like the logical way to go. Enjoy the games everyone.

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