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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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2014 NFL season preview: AFC West

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One of the most interesting divisions in the NFL. The AFC West has always been intriguing because of whatever the Raiders and Chargers are doing, but with the addition of Peyton Manning and a Chiefs resurgence, this is a division that will not lack headlines. Obviously, things revolve around the Broncos and their quest to return to the Super Bowl. But what about the Chiefs? They’ve been getting LOTS of attention for a specific reason but we’ll get to them eventually. The Chargers always being the dark horse and whatever nonsense the Raiders are up to.

Denver Broncos: After their blowout loss in the Super Bowl, how does Denver respond this season. People are penciling them in for at least 11 or 12 wins but is it going to be that easy? Other teams will be trying to emulate the Seahawks’ game plan from the Super Bowl when they’re up against the Broncos this season. Peyton Manning is a year older and as we know with pro athletes that are in an advanced age, when it’s starts to go, it goes very fast. But Denver did well in their offseason on defense, signing Demarcus Ware, Aqib Talib and TJ Ward. All players should help them immensely, especially with Manning losing Eric Decker and transitioning to Emmanuel Sanders in that same role. The offense won’t break records this season but they’ll do damage. Denver regresses, just a bit, but still wins the division.

Kansas City Chiefs: This is, without a doubt, one of the most talked about teams prior to the start of the season. Why? They have the word “regression” written all over them. Pick your topic: over achievers last season, a really tough schedule, key losses on defense and no additions on offense. Let’s just add the fact that they suffered a really bad playoff defeat to the Colts last season. Also, no one respects Alex Smith as he can’t shed the label of “game manager” unless he has some sort of other-worldly season. Are people doubting this team a little too much? One of my good friends is a Chiefs fan and he said “The Chiefs won’t do as well as last season but they won’t be as bad as everyone thinks they’ll be.” I just look at their schedule and wonder how they’re going to be more than 7 or 8 wins this season.

San Diego Chargers: Could this finally be the Chargers year? They made the playoffs last season by finishing their season on a winning streak and with the help of some other teams losing. But can the momentum continue? Their potent offense carried the way but can Phillip Rivers and his weapons be as effective? Some point to their lack of weapons. I’m in the camp that doesn’t think they’ll need to score that many points to win games this season. They addressed their defensive woes in the offseason through the draft and free agency signings. Their schedule starts off and finishes pretty tough, but it they can take care of business against the easier teams, I can see San Diego doing well and challenging not only for a spot in the playoffs, but also challenging Denver for the division title.

Oakland Raiders: What is this team doing? They’ve added some nice young players to build for the future but with head coach Dennis Allen still there, I can’t see the team doing anything but staying in the same spot. Does Matt Schaub have anything left after leaving Houston in the worst possible way? Will he break his own “pick-6” record with a Raiders helmet on? Can Darren McFadden stay healthy after signing another contract with Oakland? The Raiders acquired Maurice Jones-Drew to help with the ball carries but who knows how much he has left in the tank. Both the head coach and GM seem to be “hot seat” candidates and all signs point to them not being with the franchise next season. At best, I can see this as a .500 team but nowhere near contention for division or the playoffs.

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Looking back at the NFL’s Wild Card weekend

For a second, things seemed very bleak for me. After the Colts managed a ridiculous comeback to get my picks going in the right direction, things went south very quickly for me. Unconventional things started happening and all of a sudden I was fighting just to stay above .500 for the weekend. San Francisco made sure of that with their win but then I began to think. I have no rooting interest since the Cowboys aren’t participating but i’m still a fan of football and i’m still a fan of great games mixed with exciting finishes. And that’s what we got this weekend. Aside from San Diego’s semi-dominant victory over the Bengals, the other three games were decided by a total of six points. What more could a football fan ask for? Let’s start in chronological order:

There’s one obvious question to ask here: was it a Chiefs meltdown or a Colts comeback? It’s always going to be impossible to predict 100% whether it was one or the other but watching the game, it felt more like an Indianapolis comeback than it did a Kansas City meltdown. We’ve seen all season long that Andrew Luck and co are a second half team. Known for their notoriously slow starts, but somehow still managing to be at their best when it matters most. It’s all led by Luck, of course, who continues to be so impressive in his infant career. Sure, the Colts caught some breaks but despite Luck’s three interceptions, they managed to fight back from a 38-10 deficit in the 3rd quarter. Things bounced their way the entire second half, literally. And to be quite honest, I’m still not sure how the Chiefs were able to amount such a large lead. It seemed like every other play, starting with Jamal Charles, a different Chiefs player was going down injured. Play calling, time management and injuries were all deciding factors for the Chiefs.

Saturday night continued to have surprising results. The game had the Saints in Philadelphia and while it didn’t have the scoring barrage that the previous game did, it was still just as entertaining and captivating. More of a classic, grind-out playoff style game that included four lead changes. What’s more surprising: that the Saints won a playoff game on the road or that they used a potent running game mixed with solid defense to do so? Normally the Eagles don’t get out-played on the ground seeing that they have LeSean McCoy, the rushing title champion for this season. It felt like the Eagles start was just a little too slow. Even though they managed to take lead after being down 20-7 in the 3rd quarter, it seemed to take everything they had to do so. The Saints countered with a nice return and drive to set up a game winning field goal as time expired. The Saints win a playoff game on the road, without hero-ball from Drew Brees. What could be more surprising than that?

It’s certainly not Andy Dalton’s multiple interceptions in a playoff game. Dalton had plenty of yards against the Chargers but his three turnovers (all in the second half) haunted the Bengals as they were trying to rally for pretty much the entire second half. Just like the Saints, San Diego used a strong running game along with some strong pressure defense to anchor their road playoff win. Do people realize that Phillip Rivers only completed 12 passes for 128 yards during yesterday’s game? That’s not to say that Rivers wasn’t impressive. When he was needed, number 17 on the Chargers make some crisp passes to his multiple weapons. Quick shout out to Danny Woodhead (pictured above) who might be my favorite non-Cowboys player. For the Cincinnati, it’s another season without a win in the postseason and another bad performance by Andy Dalton. It’s scary to say but the Chargers are showing all the signs of three previous Super Bowl winners as they head into Denver this weekend.

The most anticipated game of the season lived up to the hype. Was yesterday’s game between the 49ers and Packers the coldest postseason game in recent memory? The only other one that comes to mind is the Giants-Packers game back in the 07 season. To sum up yesterday’s game: Aaron Rodgers won the battle but Colin Kaepernick won the war. Of course both QBs had a good team performance surrounding them but #12 and #7 were both part of the two most impressive plays that we’ve seen in the playoffs so far. Rodgers’ escape was mind-boggling but Kaepernick’s clutch run pretty much sealed the win for the Niners. In all honesty, I wish I could watch that game again. It was slow at times but freezing weather does that. It looked like the 49ers were going to dominate because their defense wasn’t letting Green Bay do anything but the Packers responded nicely. From there it was both teams trading punches with neither ever leading by more than one score. Great game to end a great weekend of NFL playoff football.

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Previewing the NFL Playoffs Wild Card weekend

 

For most of the worldWild-card playoffs: Nick Foles, Aaron Rodgers, Jamaal Charles, Andy DaltonThe the holiday season has officially ended. The clock struck midnight at the respective time zone and just like that, New Year’s was over and back to the real world. Not so much for NFL fans because this weekend starts the biggest celebration of the season that culminates with Super Bowl XLVII. Even though the SB seems like an eternity away, for teams beginning their journey this weekend, it’s only three wins away. But will any of these teams be participating in the biggest game of the season? Recent history says so: the last three Super Bowl winners all begun their title runs in the wild card round. First we have to see who comes out on top this weekend. Jay Cutler contract jokes aside, of course.

Chiefs at Colts (Sat 4:15 ET): Normally the least interesting game of the four gets this spot. Sure, it might get the lowest ratings but that doesn’t mean the game won’t be good. These teams faced each other just two weeks ago in Kansas City and in all honesty, the Colts gave the Chiefs a good old fashioned  ass-kicking. There’s nothing to indicate that this time around, with the game in Indianapolis, that the result will be any different. The Colts are playing good football right now, winners of three straight led by some stellar play by Andrew Luck. The Chiefs have been surprisingly bad as of late, losing a couple in a row and overall since their by week, they’re only won two games out of seven. Oh yeah, those two wins came against Washington and Oakland. In fact the only playoff team the Chiefs beat this season were the Eagles back in mid-September. Do the Chiefs have the talent and coaching to win the game? Certainly but i’m going with the hotter team and the better QB. Colts edge out the Chiefs.

Saints at Eagles (Sat 8:10 ET): This was the toughest game for me to figure out. And in to be frank, i’m still hesitant to try and predict what’s going to happen. The Eagles and Saints have some of the most prolific and high-scoring offenses in the entire league. Which one will reign supreme? If you go by the way their last game was played, the edge goes to the Saints because they looked unbeatable. Then again, it was against the Buccaneers. The Eagles beat the Cowboys (better than TB) on the road but Dallas had Kyle Orton as their starting QB. My biggest problem with taking the Saints is how shaky they’ve looked on the road all season long. New Orleans’ last non-dome road win was against the Bears back in mid-October. The Eagles on the other hand, have won four straight at home and every win has been impressive. It’s probably going to come down to which offense gets going first and sets the tempo. The Eagles are just better at home than the Saints are on the road. Eagles advance to the next round.

Chargers at Bengals (Sun 1:05 ET): Sunday starts off with a match up between two of the hottest teams in the conference and the league in general. The Chargers were a bit hotter (or luckier, if you will) as they finished the season winning four straight while catching all sorts of breaks. Is it better to be good or lucky in the NFL? Well as much as the Chargers have had fortunes go their way, Cincinnati was no stranger to the football bouncing their way. The Bengals’ offense, despite some erratic play for Andy Dalton, has been on fire as of late. The Chargers offense on the other hand, changes from game to game and at times, can feel downright frustrating. San Diego has the talent and the better QB to win game. The Chargers also have all the momentum in their favor, a sign of success in recent years during the playoffs. One thing sticks out at me though: the Bengals did not lose a home game this season. Is this where the Bengals end their drought of playoff wins? I think so. Bengals get a close victory over the Chargers.

49ers at Packers (Sun 4:40 ET): It’s hard to see how this isn’t the biggest game of the weekend. These teams have faced each other three times in less than a year and while the Niners have come out on top all three times, it’s been very fun to watch. How much will the weather affect this game? Right now the weather is predicted as a high of ZERO degrees. Both teams have a strong running game that will likely be in full display because of the conditions. Aaron Rodgers is back but is he back to his championship-level form? His first half back was rusty but some of the plays that Rodgers made in the second half indicate that he’s nearly back to his 100% form. The Packers will need a big performance from their offensive weapons if they hope to change the recent trend of San Francisco victories. The 49ers are winners of six straight and Colin Kaepernick seems to be a good groove. Remember, Kaepernick has looked like the best football player of all time when facing the Packers. 49ers win a hard fought game in Green Bay.

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Colts rally past Titans; previewing a big Sunday in the NFL

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What a chance of pace during last night’s game. The Colts, notorious for their slow starts lately, once again fell into an early hole. Tennessee took advantage of ball possession, riding a couple of nice runs by Chris Johnson to take the early lead. Once again it looked like the Colts were going to have to rally after only managing to score two touchdowns in the first half. Apparently Andrew Luck gave some sort of speech to his teammates at halftime, trying to rally everyone to perform better in the second half. The 3rd quarter proved to be a direct result because it was all Colts. After taking a 30-20 lead with only 3 minutes left, the Colts were able to last a rally attempt from the Titans that came a little too late. For Tennessee is looks like a mediocre season is inevitable. Their schedule still has the Colts again and the Broncos so I don’t see them recovering from a 4-6 record to make some kind off playoff buzz. And because their best chance to catch up in the division was to win last night’s game, that might have been enough to pretty much give the division title to Indianapolis. The Colts are now sitting comfortably in first place in the AFC South with a nice shot to take the second seed from the Patriots. Then again, this is the NFL and nothing is for certain. Don’t forget how bad the Colts looked less than a week ago against the Rams. Some might think it was just a fluke game but others worry that there might be some real holes on the team. At least we can keep confirming that Andrew Luck has the clutch gene in him.

Only two teams on bye this week (Cowboys and Rams) so there are lots of early game this Sunday. Unfortunately out of the eight games that are being played early, only a couple look good on paper. So unless your team is playing, just keep one the Red Zone channel for the early slate. Believe it or not, the Browns taking on the Bengals is the most interesting early game. Cincinnati has been looking stale as of late, fortunate to be in games while Cleveland seem to be gaining some momentum. If the Browns are able to pull out a victory, there are some real chances for the division. Ravens in Chicago could get interesting and even Redskins at Eagles because division games always turn it up a notch. Then come the good games. Starting off with the Chargers in Miami. If either of these teams want a shot for a wild card spot, this is the game to prove it. 49ers in New Orleans to take on the Saints is a mammoth of a game that has lots of playoff implications in the NFC. The Saints have looked nearly perfect at home but we’ll see how the Niners bounce back from last week’s loss. Then at night comes the biggest game of the season. Undefeated Chiefs head into Denver to take on Peyton Manning. Is Manning completely healthy? Are the Chiefs the least respected 9-0 team of all time? Too many questions for this game but they will all be answered in what should be a great ending to a Sunday of football.

Upset pick of the week? I like the Browns (+6). The Bengals have had so many injuries that it’s starting to catch up them. The good luck can’t last forever, can it? I also think Jason Campbell has been good enough for the Browns, not making those critical mistakes that usually doom Cleveland QBs. Browns win and make the AFC North a lot more interesting.

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Chiefs win in Reid’s return to Philly; looking forward to Sunday’s games

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As it turns out, the Chiefs have a pretty good defense and Andy Reid knows the Eagles very well. The Chiefs went into Philly last night, Andy Reid’s first visit since leaving, stepped up their defense and controlling the game for the most part to take home the victory. The game had some sloppy moments. Most Thursday night games do but it was definitely an improvement  from the previous two weeks. What really surprised me about last night was that Andy Reid actually received more cheers than boos from the crowd. Boos will always be heard when it comes to Philadelphia crowds but when the majority of the crowd stands and cheers, you know there’s real respect for someone there. With reason too. Reid had a great tenure there but now he’s with the Chiefs where believe it or not, Kansas City has already surpassed their win total from last season in only three weeks. So everyone’s prediction of Chiefs being much improved this season are panning out, we’ll just have to see if can hold up for the rest of the season. As far as the Eagles go, maybe their super-fast offense isn’t all that it’s cut out to be. Or maybe the Chiefs defense is just that good. Vick had a quick interception returned for a score, was sacked five times and aside from a couple of runs by Vick, he didn’t have a great game. Despite what seemed like a season-ending injury to LeSean McCoy, he was able to have a solid game. As a matter of fact, Jamaal Charles also had a great game, powering the Chiefs offense.

We’re now entering the 3rd Sunday of this young NFL season and I think this is when teams really start to show whether they’re going to be contending for the playoffs or not. We already know about the teams that will almost definitely participate in the postseason (Broncos, Seahawks, Chiefs, 49ers etc.) but what happens to those still shaking things out? I’m still on the Bengals wagon but as they’re set to take on a good Packers team this week, will they still be leading the division with a 1-2 record. Remember the Ravens are getting the Texans at some this weekend so that’s a real possibility. Speaking of bad divisions, does any team want to win the NFC East? I certainly hope it’s the Cowboys but the things have been going for all the teams so far, anything is possible. Surprisingly enough, the (non-Cowboys) game i’m looking forward to this Sunday is actually the Chargers at the Titans. Crazy! One of teams, along with the Dolphins, is a the real deal and going to make the playoffs. Maybe two of them. The schedule favors Miami but I want to see how well they do against the Falcons on Sunday before I make any big conclusions. Game to avoid completely this Sunday? No doubt it’s the Jaguars in Seattle. I could see the Seahawks winning that game by 60 points.

Enjoy the games everyone!

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Playoff picture begins to take shape after week 13 in the NFL

Carolina Panthers v Kansas City Chiefs

Amid impossible circumstances, the Kansas City Chiefs were able to take the field and come out with a victory. There was a question of whether or not the game would even be played but coaches and players decided among themselves that it would be best to play. If only to take their minds off the tragic circumstances even for a few hours. The Chiefs handled and responded as well as anyone could ask for but as always, the show must go on. This weekend featured upsets, great rookie performances and some of the more elite teams clinching division titles along with playoffs berths. We’ll start with the rookies because Andrew Luck and Russell Wilson were the the definition of clutch when their teams needed them the most, on the road. Both rookies weren’t exactly lighting it up but they were both able to manage the game and made the plays, both executing on the last play of their respective game. Of course, last night featured RG3 and while he didn’t dazzle by his terms, Griffin did enough to take a key divisional victory to keep the Redskins playoff hopes alive.

Teams that are officially in the playoffs (Falcons, Patriots, Texans and Broncos) with the Texans being the only one that didn’t clinch their division but odds are they will clinch eventually. Although, if you look at their schedule (Pats, Colts, Vikings and Colts again) there’s an outside shot that the Texans don’t win their division. However unlikely, it’s amazing that the possibility of the Colts winning the AFC south is out there. With the surprising victory of the Steelers, the AFC north just got much more interesting and even more so because out of the three contenders, the Ravens have the toughest schedule. The NFC north is just as interesting after Bears were upset at home and gave the division lead to the Packers so anything is possible with those two teams. And of course the Redskins won last night, making the NFC east a tighter race and giving Cowboys fans like myself false hope of making the playoffs. 

I fully expect the Broncos (-10) to annihilate the Raiders on Thursday. The Broncos continue to roll and the Raiders are one of the five worst teams in league with little improvement in sight.

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