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In an NFL season full of chaos, the Divisional Playoff games provided stability

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Every single team that won this weekend, was favored by the fans, analysts and whatever legal (illegal) betting lines one looks at. Who could have predicted that? For this entire NFL season, there seemed to be some sort of surprise, lurking behind every game that came out to surprise us before the final whistle was blown. That’s the main reason that I went ahead and picked the Chargers to upset the Broncos. Did I really think San Diego would go into Denver and take down the most successful offense in the league’s history? Not necessarily, but judging by this season, it would not have surprised me. The Chargers, showing all the signs of past Super Bowl winners, almost tied the game near the end but Denver played sound football to close out the game. So did New England, Seattle and San Francisco. Maybe that’s what was so chaotic about this weekend: the fact that in a season full of surprises, the teams that were “supposed to win” actually went out and did just that. It sets up for some really good conference title games, with endless story lines, but first let’s just take a quick look at how these teams got in to the final four.

As most people (social media) have made fun of by now, it’s baffling to think about what Marquis Colston was doing at the end of the Saints-Seahawks game. My only guess is that he assumed there wasn’t any time left on the clock but even then, no matter what your position, an NFL-level player should now how to properly execute a lateral. What’s most surprising than that bizarre play is that despite New Orleans not playing all that well, they were still in the game until the final minute. Lots of that goes to Seattle’s defense, who deserve tons of credit for shutting down the Saints the entire first half. Think about this: Drew Brees didn’t find Jimmy Graham until less than a minute was left in the game. Maybe that’s what happens when Richard Sherman decides to follow and hound Graham for the entire game. Marshawn Lynch was the main weapon for the Seahawks (130 yds, 1 TD) and his power running led the way on the offensive side for Seattle.

Things weren’t so close on Saturday night with the Colts taking on the Patriots in Foxborough. I wasn’t surprised about the Patriots coming out with such a dominant win, scoring at will against a Colts defense that just seemed overwhelmed. Who could have predicted that the Patriots would score over 40 points in the playoffs without any of those scores coming from Tom Brady but instead, a power running game? LeGarrette Blount was the feature back for New England, scoring four TDs on the ground as he led the Patriots’ offense. How crazy is that? For the Colts and Andrew Luck, it’s growing pains as this young team continues to progress. Luck’s second year brings him a bit further in the playoffs but his errors (4 INTs) show that he still a lot of time to grow in his young career. The Patriots now advance to their third straight title game against a familiar opponent.

Speaking of third straight conference title games, how impressive were the 49ers yesterday? Out of all teams that won this weekend, San Francisco looked the most impressive, on the road and heading to their 3rd straight NFC title game. It’s a run that also includes a Super Bowl berth and the most impressive stretch for any team in recent years. Even though Carolina led for most of the 2nd quarter, San Francisco just kept playing their style of football and took back control of the game. Kaepernick’s stat sheet didn’t particularly stick out but he played sound football and made the right plays. His main target was Anquan Boldin, who continues to come up big when his team needs it the most. The Panthers were a bit disappointing but when looking at their team, it’s difficult for a team with lack of experience to come out on top against an experienced team like the Niners. Panthers have a nice future but right now, it’s the 49ers time.

Things ended in Denver, where the Broncos took a big lead over San Diego and did enough to fight off a late Chargers comeback that fell short. Peyton Manning led the Broncos, as usual, as they dominated the first half. Not just on the offense but Denver shutdown San Diego’s offense for three quarters, not allowing a score until a couple of minutes into the 4th quarter. It was impressive but as San Diego started to make a comeback, things started to get really interesting. But unfortunately for Philip Rivers and co, they did not get a final attempt to tie the game as the Broncos played very well in controlling the clock and getting key first downs. From there it was a just a couple of kneel downs by Manning, and the Broncos move on to face the Patriots in what should be a great AFC conference title game.

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

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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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Previewing the final week in the NFL regular season

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For most of the season I was complaining about Thursday games and their lack of quality but I must admit, I’ve missed them since they’ve been gone. Or maybe i’m just slowly realizing that football is coming to an end sooner than later. At least the regular season is. Only one more week of regular season football but i’m hoping that it’s a good one. There’s a lot on the line for several teams. Division titles and playoff positions are still going to be decided. Most of the attention will be on the NFC as only three teams (Sea, Car and SF) have secured their spot in the postseason. We’ll get to them in the next paragraph because first we have to discuss the AFC and it’s second wild card spot. Let’s just assume that the Patriots and Broncos won’t slip up this weekend, each facing inferior opponents, to give up their top spots. The Ravens are fighting to land the wild card spot and are playing in Cincy this weekend, who is trying to stay in their position as a 3rd seed. Here’s the sneaky fact: Baltimore doesn’t need to win this weekend to make the playoffs. Of course they’re still going to try and win their game because the Dolphins, Chargers and even the Steelers all have chances of snatching up their spot. On a more personal note, i’d much rather see either Phil Rivers in the playoffs more than any of the other quarterbacks in contention. But the odds are stacked against San Diego and i’m afraid that they’re stacked a little too high. If I were a betting man (i’m not…that much) then I would probably put my money on the Dolphins mostly because they have the most favorable opponent and are in the best position when it comes to tie breakers. Then I think about their game last weekend and how they got shut out in Buffalo. I also think about how unpredictable this season has been. My money is still on the Dolphins but I fully expect anything and everything to happen with that 6th seed in the AFC.

So what’s going on in the NFC this Sunday? One almost has to feel bad for the Cardinals and their fanbase. A playoff caliber team competing in the best division in football. Does everyone realize that Arizona would be leading and/or tied for first place in four other divisions but because they’re in the NFC West, they’re in 3rd place and on the outside looking in? They would also be within one game of leading every other division remaining that’s not the AFC West. Then again, if the Cowboys were to somehow make the playoffs, I would not give up their spot to the Cardinals just because they have the better record. Arizona still has a shot but it would need to beat the 49ers (still with a lot at stake) and also need the Saints to lose against a mediocre Buccaneers team. There could be a lot shuffling between the top two spots in the conference along with the Niners but with Seahawks and Panthers both facing less than stellar teams, I don’t see much happening. Then come the biggest games of the day. At least, in terms of the attention that both games are getting and what’s at stake. First the Packers are Chicago to decide who wins the NFC North and who goes to the playoffs. News broke yesterday and Aaron Rodgers is in fact going to start on Sunday. Scary thought for Chicago and scary for anyone facing the Packers going forward, should they make the playoffs. I expect the Packers to win the game on Sunday mostly because Rodgers makes that much a difference for Green Bay. As does Tony Romo for the Cowboys. But unfortunately for Cowboys like myself around the country, it was confirmed about an hour ago that Romo did undergo (successfulback surgery and will miss Sunday’s do-or-die game against the Eagles for the division title. I’m hoping the Cowboys play with heart against an Eagles team that looked unstoppable last weekend but I expect Philadelphia to come out on top after Sunday night’s game ends.

Enjoy the action packed Sunday everyone because it will be while before we have all the teams playing again.

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49ers get big win over Falcons; putting the Romo injury in prespective.

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For a second there, it really looked like the Falcons were going to be a big spoiler to the 49ers’ party last night. The party had a slow start and really didn’t favor the home supporters until the 3rd quarter got rolling. Atlanta used a nice balance of attack to control most of the first half, taking a lead into the locker room as both team made adjustments. San Francisco came out much better in the second half, controlling the football and going for three straight scores that included to two touchdowns formulated by Colin Kaepernick. Atlanta responded with a big TD pass by Matt Ryan and the 49ers had a nice drive to respond, led by Frank Gore’s running. That’s when things got interesting. Atlanta got another score with a vintage Tony Gonzalez catch, followed by a pretty good onside kick conversion. Right there, the game looked like it would at least go into overtime but then came a really nice play by Tramaine Brock and NaVorro Bowman. Brock broke up the pass and Bowman took advantage of the play, returning the interception (pictured above) to the opposite side of the field, sealing the win. It was a crazy couple of minutes of football. The victory over the Falcons secured the 49ers of a spot in the playoffs, with an outside shot at the division title and the top overall seed in the conference. Chances are that the Niners won’t get the top seed (need both the Panthers and Seahawks to lose) but all of a sudden San Francisco has won five straight, becoming the hottest team in the league with only one week left in the regular season. I would not want to face the 49ers right now. For Atlanta things are very much on the other side of the spectrum, a season of disappointment continues to plague this team. Sure, this means that they get a better draft pick come June but after what they did last season, this will always be a regrettable season for the Falcons.

The news about Tony Romo’s season-ending back injury came about an hour after I finished making my post here. At first I thought it was a couple reporters jumping the gun but rumors continued to swirl around the social that it was true: Romo had suffered a back injury that would end his season for the Cowboys. In all honesty, I didn’t know how to feel immediately. I’ve always been a Romo supporter, quick to point out that for all the scrutiny he receives, #9 of the Dallas Cowboys does just as much good, if not more, for the Cowboys. But even the biggest Romo haters on the planet will agree that the Cowboys aren’t a better team without him. His injury in the 2010 season proves just that. Just as things were starting to go well for Dallas this season, the injury to their franchise QB pretty much eliminates any hopes of a postseason berth for the Cowboys. Chances are that because of their terrible defense Dallas wasn’t going to win either way but at least there was a legitimate shot. Romo hasn’t been ruled by Jason Garrett, doing his robot thing at yesterday’s press conference, but there have been reports of a herniated disk among other medical diagnostics and treatment. It’s just a shame that the Cowboys won’t at least get real shot for the division title. How does NBC feel right now? Quickly flexing this game to prime time, now knowing that it might just feature Kyle Orton as one of the starters. Who knows, maybe Romo will play and this entire fiasco has all been smoke and mirrors. Cowboys fans around the country like myself won’t know until there’s an official statement released but for now, it’s a bleak outlook to what has a been a roller coaster of a season.

Merry Christmas everyone. Or whatever holiday you celebrate or don’t celebrate, I hope it’s an enjoyable next couple of a days for you and your loved ones.

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Looking back at the week 16 games; NFL stocks for this week

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The 2013 NFL season has involved a series of intersecting story lines, from game to game, teams adjust to each and every one of them. If there’s been one theme or story line that seems to arise every week, it’s how unpredictable the league has become. Playoff bound teams lose to less than stellar opponents (Bills over Dolphins), evenly matched games result is blowout victories (Patriots and Eagles) when neither result could not have been expected, much less predicted. Arizona’s victory in Seattle didn’t shock me because the Cardinals defense has been among the league’s best and their team as a whole has been grossly underrated. Yes, CenturyLink Field is the hardest place to play as a road team but the Cardinals visit at least once a season. If any team is capable of breaking a home streak, like the one Seattle had before yesterday’s loss, it’s going to be a division opponent who knows that team well enough. The Cardinals weren’t the only team with an impressive victory yesterday. In fact, several playoff bound teams looked great yesterday. Peyton Manning’s record breaking performance led the Broncos to an impressive win over a bad Texans team while the Patriots somehow keep winning. Am I the only who thinks Tom Brady deserves the MVP this season? Manning will most likely get the award but put me in the Brady camp because I don’t even recognize half of the guys that the Patriots are playing with. Surprisingly enough, the Patriots 41 points on the Ravens were only the 3rd highest points from yesterday’s games. Andy Dalton and Bengals had the type of dominant win that injects confidence into a team now that they’ve officially clinched a playoff spot. But even they weren’t the most potent offense yesterday. That title goes to the Eagles, who scored 54 points in what was a beat down on the Chicago Bears. Is anyone surprised that the Eagles-Cowboys game next week was flexed to Sunday night? Let’s move on to the little things that stuck out to me yesterday:

Stock UP: Tony Romo’s clutch gene on the road; Mat McBriar (former Cowboy) because I love trick plays; the Bills giving it 100% for their fans in the final home game for Buffalo this season; Andy Dalton’s monster (4 TDs) performance yesterday; the Colts’ statement win in Arrowhead; the Jets continuing their flip-flop season; Carolina’s impressive win over New Orleans to clinch a playoff spot; Zac Stacy’s chances of being an elite running back for the future; Tom Brady’s road “shakyness”; LeSean McCoy and the Philly offense in general.

Stock DOWN: the Dolphins and Ravens, unable to take a stronghold of the second AFC wild card; Redskins special teams and their home crowd; Kansas City’s offense after their first drive; the Saints offense on the road; Cleveland’s underrated defense (at least I thought they were); Seattle’s home field advantage being a sure thing; Miami’s offensive line; Baltimore’s defensive front against a good QB; Detriot’s tailspin, stemming from the second week of November; Jay Cutler’s chances of getting a huge contract from the Bears.

Sorry fans of the Atlanta Falcons, tonight is not about your team. Final regular-season home game for the 49ers in Candlestick Park. A place with filled with history and tradition. Lots of 49ers greats will be there tonight (Montana, Rice etc.) as the Niners players and fanbase bid farewell to their stadium. I expect the 49ers to roll all over a bad Falcons team and secure their spot in the postseason.

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