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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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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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2014 NFL season preview: NFC East

8-29

In the Super Bowl era, the NFC East is the most successful division, accumulating 12 titles in the past 43 years. But in the past decade it’s only been the Giants who have tasted glory, winning two Super Bowls since 2007 with the Eagles also tasting a bit of success in the postseason. Other than that, this division has been very underwhelming. Right now the debate is whether or not this is the worst division in the league. The defenses are among the worst in the league but can more than team overcome their shortcomings and advance into the playoffs?

Philadelphia Eagles: Teams don’t repeat as champions in this division. Although, the last team to do so was Philadelphia but that was a decade ago. Does this team have a good shot to hold the division crown? Well they are a good team but it’s also because the division is so terrible that the consensus is that, yes, the Eagles will repeat. I’m in the same camp. Defense was their biggest issue last season but with a new coordinator and some nice acquisitions, we could see a vast improvement in their defensive numbers. Of course, this team revolves around the offense that Chip Kelly designs and there’s no doubt that Nick Foles and LeSean McCoy have potential to be the biggest QB-RB combo in the league. McCoy could repeat as the rushing title champion. Schedule is a bit tough but this team has all the tools to win the division once again.

Washington Redskins: Headlines over the name of their franchise have been swirling around them for pretty much the entire offseason. If changes aren’t made quickly, the attention will only continue to increase as the season progresses. Whatever one’s stance is on the issue, it’s evident that changes should be made if only to avoid the negative press. Anyways, this team’s season will rely heavily, more than most teams, on the health of their quarterback. Will we see 2012 RG3 once again? Adding DeSean Jackson as a big-play receiver should help but more will hinge on Griffin’s decisions when it comes to his body. And unless their secondary improves in a big way, Washington will have to score plenty of points in order to win games. This team has below-.500 written all over them.

Dallas Cowboys: As much as I have tried since first posting on this website, it’s nearly impossible for me to be completely objective about this team. The Cowboys took me on an emotional roller coaster last season and I have a feeling it’s going to be more of the same this season. Jerry Jones is still the owner and Jason Garrett is still the head coach. I like the bolstering off the offensive line, especially with Romo’s back issues, but I would’ve been more satisfied is they addressed the terrible defense a bit better. The Cowboys did excellent against the division last season (5-1) but this time things won’t be as fortunate. The schedule is a toss up with the NFC West opponents being somewhat balanced out with the AFC opponents. Serious chance of Dallas finishing 8-8 for the fourth straight season.

New York Giants: Can anyone predict what’s going to happen with the Giants this season? After Eli Manning’s abysmal season in 2013 (27 INTs) and their issues all over field, the Giants are looking to bounce back in a big way. They certainly made the moves during the offseason to address their issues but it’s going to take time for that many players to adjust to a new team and system. The offensive line was among the worst last season to go along with their less-than-stellar running game. Can Manning carry the offense despite losing some of his weapons? If the defense wants to make an impact, it’s going to have to do it with their improved secondary because their defensive front doesn’t look like it’s going to make much damage. Much like the rest of the division, most likely a mediocre season.

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49ers take down the Redskins; figuring out the AFC’s second wild card spot

11-26

It was only a matter of time before San Francisco bounced back from their recent two-game skid. Last night was the perfect opportunity for the 49ers to get back on track and they did just that, overwhelming the Redskins for the entire game. Colin Kaepernick was on point for much of the game, finding Boldin and Davis for the big plays and scores. The running game wasn’t especially impressive but Gore and Kaepernick did enough to keep the Washington defense on it’s heels. The Redskins were able to keep up with the Niners in the first half but their inability to make plays happen in the red zone really hurt them. That and the pass rush of the 49ers, keeping the pressure dialed up on RG3 for pretty much the entire game. It was seemed like every other play on offense featured RG3 on the ground or taking unnecessary hits. When you mix a bad offensive line with a QB that’s going to give up his body to make plays, that’s what the Redskins offense is. RG3 is going to have to learn sooner or later that getting a first down for a regular season game isn’t worth risking an injury that could set him back for an entire year. So this guarantees a .500 or worse record for Washington while the 49ers are back in the driver’s seat for the second wild card spot in the NFC. It’s going to be interesting battle between the Cardinals and Niners for that second spot, assuming they both don’t slip enough for the Eagles/Cowboys or a North team to take the spot. It could very well come down to the final game of the season with the 49ers in Arizona but there’s still plenty of football to played before that.

While there’s still a lot of football to play, there isn’t a more interesting race than the race for the second wild card spot in the AFC. Barring a catastrophic injury or crazy meltdown, it’s pretty much a sure thing that either Denver or Kansas City will take first wild card. But the other wild card spot, well, every other team in the conference is mathematically in the hunt. We’ll spare the bottom five teams (Texans, Jaguars, Bills, Browns and Raiders) because I don’t see any of those teams reeling of winning streaks while the other teams lose enough games. So that leaves us with the Titans (pole position), Steelers, Ravens, Chargers, Jets and Dolphins all at 5-6. The best shot obviously being the Titans as they own various tiebreakers over the other teams. Miami has the easiest of the schedules but have looked very shaky when they have the lead in a game. The Steelers and Ravens are clashing on Thanksgiving and I have a feeling that the loser has their chances minimized to almost zero. The Jets are impossible to predict but Geno Smith’s play as of late doesn’t indicate that any sort of progress is in the near future. So that leaves the Chargers. Usually a team with so much potential that just seems to lose games that they’re supposed to win and win games that they’re supposed to lose. Their victory in Kansas City was certainly the most impressive out of any of the wins all these teams have. It’s going to be interesting to see how it all shakes out with only five weeks left in the season.

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Vikings hold off the Redskins; what to look for on Sunday

11-8

What a good Thursday night game and what a good night for sports in general. The Redskins were in Minnesota to take on the Vikings but it wasn’t supposed to be a good game. The Vikings only had one win to date and questions loomed around the Redskins and RG3 about their consistency from game to game. By looking at the box score, you would think the Redskins came out on top. Washington had more possession, more yards both rushing and passing, didn’t have a turnover and so forth. Not the case as the Vikings not only rallied from behind but were actually able to hold on to their lead for the remainder of the game. It’s something that has been a problem for Minnesota all season but behind Peterson’s running (75 yds, 2 TDs) and their defense, they were able to do finish strong last night. Washington had a chance to send the game into overtime late in the 4th quarter but were unable to convert on three straight attempts from the 4 yard line. The only downside from last night’s game for Minnesota is that QB Christian Ponder had to leave the game late in the 3rd quarter due to a separated shoulder. I haven’t seen a credible report as to the extent of the his injury so i’m assuming he’s still getting test done by team doctors. It feels like that loss might have been one that Washington can’t recover from but since they’re in the NFC East, they still have some life this season.

Lots and lots of early games this Sunday. There are 8 total and since my Cowboys are playing at night, it’s definitely going to be a red zone channel afternoon for myself. But if I were to pick one game from the early slate to watch, it would definitely have to be Lions-Bears. Jay Cutler is back for the Bears and the division lead is on the line when they square off in Chicago on Sunday afternoon. The Eagles in Green Bay could get interesting but without Rodgers, it just doesn’t have the same potential. It’ll be interesting to see how Nick Foles does after last week’s performance. I also like Bengals at Ravens because for whatever reason the AFC North’s division game always provide some drama, especially in Baltimore. Game to avoid? I don’t know of a non-fantasy football reason for a neutral fan to watch the Jaguars in Tennessee. While there are only three games in the later slate, two of them are great and one has the potential to be great. The Broncos in San Diego always provides great entertainment while the Texans in Arizona should also be good. Case Keenum seems to have that football gene in his game that make any of his games interesting. Both solid games but i’m most interested in Panthers at 49ers. Both have teams have been red hot for the past few weeks, beating up on some bad teams in an impressive fashion. There’s also the “dual threat” capabilities for both QBs. Should be a great game and a solid test for both teams.

No mention of the Cowboys-Saints game? Well, I saved it for last because it’s my upset pick of the week. Call me a homer but I really think the Cowboys are going to win Sunday night. The Saints are dealing with just the right amount injuries that the Cowboys can take advantage of it. Cowboys over the Saints 31-28.

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More surprises and more close games in NFL’s second Sunday

9-16
As usual, the first Sunday had people jumping to conclusions left and right. Teams are too hyped up, losses feel like the end of the world and most notably, they affect how everyone predicts week 2 of the NFL season. It’s probably the hardest weekend to prepare for and that’s why the second week of the season brings so many surprising results. I have to say, I did see the Dolphins-Colts game going that way and I almost nailed the Titans pick as well. But aside from Arizona handling Detroit and the 49ers completely face-planting in Seattle, the game that surprised me the most was the Chargers and Eagles. Fresh off their Monday night meltdown, the Chargers basically turned the table on the Eagles. San Diego was able to control the ball and the clock, keeping the Eagles offense that dazzled everyone last week off the field. The Eagles offensive weapons (Vick, McCoy, Jackson) all had nice games but their defense wasn’t able to control Philip Rivers and the rest of the Chargers offense. Who knows, maybe the Chargers are a solid team and their meltdown was just a prime time anomaly. Along with the Chargers, I was most impressed by the Packers, Broncos, Bears and Seahawks.

So while I feel that Aaron Rodgers had the best performance of the day (34-42, 480 yds, 4 TDs) there were some teams that were not so impressive. We’ll begin with the team that Rodgers beat handily, the Washington Redskins. Not being able to score until 4 minutes left in the 3rd quarter? That’s signs of a team that doesn’t know what they’re doing on offense and are not on the same page. Which is weird to say because offense shouldn’t be that big of a problem when you have a young star like RG3 at quarterback. Despite only loosing by 2 points, I thought the Bucs looked very underwhelming and as a matter of fact, that game was very boring to watch. It wasn’t on the level of Raiders-Jaguars (felt like every other play was a punt with them) but I figured it would be better. At least from the Saints on offense because Drew Brees with only 1 TD pass is very weird. I know the Jaguars are the clear favorite for worst team in the league but the Panthers are very frustrating to watch, especially when they’re trying to close out a game with the lead. Yes, I loved EJ Manuel leading a game winning drive. It was exciting to watch but the Panthers can’t let a rookie QB beat you like that.

Tonight’s edition of Monday Night Football has the Steelers in Cincinnati to take on the Bengals. The Steelers looked REALLY bad last week and we’ll have to see how much the injuries they suffered will affect them even further. Despite being 0-1, I’m expecting a big win from Cincy tonight as they play their first game on their home turf. I’m still on the Bengals wagon and believe they will win their division.

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Eagles and Texans victorious in season’s first Monday Night Football

9-10

Exciting starts for both games but depending on which team you were rooting for, this was either a really good thing or a really bad thing. Fortunately for the Eagles, they were able to play well enough in the second half and hold off whatever rally the Redskins had going. It wasn’t the case in San Diego where the Chargers took a very surprising lead only to have a classic Chargers-like meltdown and it enabled the Texans to win on a field goal as time expired. We’ll get to the second game in the next paragraph. First, of course, there has to be talk about this Eagles team and how head coach Chip Kelly is all the rave this morning because of how his offense performed last night. The Eagles’ offense impressive, especially in the first half when the Redskins defense looked like they had concrete shoes on. With the types of athletes that Philly has (Vick, McCoy etc.) this might be the style of offense that will have opponents taking at least a half to learn to adjust to. Obviously Washington did a much better job in the second half but that was crazy to watch how well the Eagles moved the ball. Personally I was impressed by LeSean McCoy, who had a great night (31 car, 184yds and 1 TD) that was highlighted by this great run. As far as the Redskins go, their offense got off to an abysmal start and RG3 looked very rusty. They’re going to get better but there’s certainly a bit of concern in Washington right now.

Can we just assume that the Chargers are going to have some sort of meltdown whenever they’re on national television during prime time? Well, 10pm (ET) isn’t exactly prime time for most of the country but it’s still a feature game that most people were watching. And if you were only able to stay up for the first half, you would wonder how the Texans were able to win the game after what happened in the first half. Things got started off kind of weird, the Texans turning the ball over on basically the first play of the game that resulted in a Chargers touchdown on the very next play. So 15 seconds in and the Chargers are up 7-0. All of a sudden they’re up two scores at halftime and with just over 10 minutes left in the 3rd quarter, the Chargers are up 28-7. I don’t think anyone could have predicted what was coming but when it comes to the Chargers, no lead is ever safe. The Texans stuck to their game plan, took advantage of a couple of mistakes by San Diego (inevitable Rivers pick) and with a couple minutes to go, they’re in position win the game. Texans execute a game-winning field goal and thus the Chargers meltdown is complete. The one against Denver last season was a larger margin but i’m sure Chargers’ fans can say that this one hurt just as much.

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Leftovers after a crazy Thanksgiving day in the NFL

 

Depending on how your team performed yesterday, you were either thankful they played or thankful that they were finally off your TV screen. Unfortunately I was part of the latter as my Cowboys decided to participate in their game until after halftime but we’ll get to that. First things first:

What was Jim Schwartz thinking when he threw the challenge flag? I understand that emotions sometimes make you do things that aren’t entirely logical but everyone knows that every scoring play in the NFL is reviewed. Even plays that are clearly TDs are looked at a couple of times over. The Texans took advantage of the break and rallied to tie the game late and take the victory 34-31 in OT against the Lions. The controversial scoring play didn’t doom the Lions, they actually scored another TD after that but it still lingered throughout the rest of the game and was one those obvious “what if?” plays. This loss essentially eliminates any realistic chances of the Lions participating in the postseason and it puts Houston one step closer to securing  the best record in the AFC.

The second game brought forth another classic NFC East rivalry game between the Redskins and Cowboys (isn’t that kind of ironic considering the holiday? Redskins against America’s Team?) but it can only be considered a game if both teams play in the first half. RG3 was spectacular (20-28, 311 yds, 4 TDs, 1 int, 29 rush yds) to lead the Redskins in beating the Cowboys 38-31 and suddenly put them in the running to win the NFC East. The Cowboys looked like a different team in the second half and rallied within one score but once again it was too big a hole that they’d dug themselves into. Both teams are now looking at Sunday night’s game, hoping for a Giants loss.

The final game on Thanksgiving between the Patriots and Jets was one-sided to say the least. How did the night go for the Jets? Well if Mark Sanchez getting tackled and fumbling because of his lineman’s ass (pictured above) doesn’t tell you, I don’t know what can. The game was over by halftime but particularly in the 2nd quarter when the Patriots scored 35 points, including 3 TDs in a span of 53 seconds. Tom Brady was crisp and the Patriots offense didn’t miss a beat even though they’re without Gronkowski, easily the best tight end in the league. As the Patriots finished the 49-19 victory many Tebow chants were heard from the crowd but once again, number 15 was not seen taking a snap.

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