OK Chilluns gather Ďround for a story. Weíll go way back to 1959 when the NFL consisted of 12 teams in 11 cities and was just starting to emerge as a force on the sporting landscape.† The Colts (who were playing happily in Baltimore) would defeat the New York Giants for the second time in as many seasons to win the NFL title. The NFL landscape was primarily a northern and eastern entity the most southern team in 1959 was Washington with the Rams and Niners being the only teams west of the Mississippi. The Cardinals franchise played in Chicago, and was the poor south side cousins in Comiskey Park to the more affluent and popular Bears who played in Wrigley Field. The Cards were owned by Violet Bidwell-Wolfner widow of Charles Bidwell one of the more senior owners in the NFL. She was besieged by suitors for her ball club who was losing money. The Bidwell family decided to spurn all the suitors and not sell, and instead moved to St. Louis where for 27 years they would be the football counterpart to a more famous (and more successful) baseball team of the same name. The Bidwell family still owns the Cards to this day and have since moved on to Arizona where they are the host team for this yearís title tilt.
One of those spurned suitors was Lamar Hunt, heir to an oil tycoon fortune. Hunt was frustrated in his bid to buy the Cardinals and annoyed that the NFL showed no signs of expanding beyond its 12 team, soon to be 12 city base. Hunt contacted another Texas oil tycoon, Bud Adams as well as 6 other high dollar men, would be owners including Barron Hilton (yeah the hotel owner and Parisí grandfather) Bob Howsam in Denver, Billy Sullivan in Boston and Detroit insurance magnate Ralph Wilson (who was considering Miami, then chose to go to Buffalo because it had a stadium to join his ďfoolish clubĒ which would become the American Football League.
Now at first the NFL was helpful, then commissioner Bert Bell gave Hunt a copy of the NFLís constitution and by-laws to give a framework of a setup. Bell seemed to be at the very least indifferent to the idea of a new league but wasnít openly hostile at first. Unfortunately Bell passed away during the 1959 season at a game and the NFL took its time about naming a new commissioner. The 12 owners of the NFL in contrast were openly hostile to the thought of a competing league and tried to take steps to kill the league before it got off the ground, creating expansion teams in Dallas and Minneapolis the former was where Hunt was creating a team and the latter awarded to owners who were going to create an AFL in the Twin Cities. They also approved the Cards move to St. Louis to keep them out of that city as well. The preemptive strikes shut the AFL out of two potential markets and made the third a tough go for the founder of the new league. The AFL had to scramble to find a new owner and market and settled on Oakland whose initial owner the enigmatic Chet Soda who had to be talked out of naming the team the SeŮors, he settled on Raiders instead. That team would struggle for the first couple years and the soon to be iconoclastic Al Davis would join the team as a coach in 1963, turning the doormat to powerhouse† In any case the AFL launched with 8 teams and though at times unsteady developed as a pro league with teams in new cities with Boston, Buffalo, Denver and Houston and teams in established NFL cities of New York, Los Angeles. Dallas was a newly created NFL City and Oakland was just across the bay from the 49ers who had been in the NFL a decade.† Though wobbly, with the Chargers having to move downstate to San Diego after one season and the Texans having to relocate Kansas City and rebrand as the Chiefs in 1963, The league began to establish itself as solid pro league despite the shaky status of the Raiders, the ineptness of the Titans ownership (who would later become the Jets) and the hideousness of the Broncos brown and yellow vertically striped socks. After gaining a TV contract with NBC in 1965 that added a nice cash infusion to the teams, the AFL stepped up its pursuit of the best college players. The problem started when Giants kicker Charlie Gogolak played out his option with the New York Giants and signed with the Buffalo Bills becoming the first NFL player to ďjump leaguesĒ. This enraged the NFL who then went about trying to destroy the AFL with a big money bidding war. But the AFL hung in and the number of players were drafted by teams in both leagues increased dramatically, when Raiders GM Al Davis became commissioner of the AFL in 1966 and openly tried to recruit established NFL stars to jump to the AFL this started a series of negotiations that would end the bidding war and merge the two leagues. Not only did this bring about a merger, both leagues were creating teams that would bring pro football to what was once considered far flung outposts like Atlanta, Miami, New Orleans and Cincinnati. In June 1966 a merger between the AFL and NFL was announced for 1970 and creation of a World Championship game between the two leagues in January, 1967. Initially called the AFL-NFL Championship game, the first matchup between the Packers and Chiefs† was a 35-10 rout in favor of the Packers and to some confirmation that the AFL was still out of their league. Although what many overlook was that the game was only 14-10 at the half and a Packers interception in the 3rd quarter that set up a score making it 21-10 was the key point in the game.† The game was nicknamed the Super Bowl but NFL commissioner Pete Rozelle hated the name. He wanted to initially call the game the Pro Bowl but that was already in use as the NFLís All-Star game, with no workable alternatives eventually the name became official with the 3rd game. That game was the historic Jets upset of the seemingly invincible 13-1, 18 point favorite Colts that gave the AFL more credibility and with the Chiefs thumping the Vikings in the 4th Super Bowl, the last game for an AFL team as its own league, the game was seen more and more as the crown jewel of the pro game. The NFL went on as a 26 team, 2 conference entity with the Super Bowl as its championship game and has grown to the 32 team behemoth.† The game has grown in stature being the most watched sporting event every year with the top four most watched broadcasts in US history are Super Bowl game with the broadcast rights and commercial spots being highly coveted as it rotates among the networks. How much food is consumed? Only Thanksgiving ranks higher in consumption. Fast forward back to present day where the Super Bowl is the crown jewel of football and the dream of every football player. The winning team will get a $92K payday but itís the foot high 7 pound Tiffany Silver Trophy that is the desire. The best quote is from Johnny Davis who was a reserve running back for the Niners in their first Super Bowl win. "The money is nice, but I'll spend that itís the ring that lasts forever" So now you have a bit of insight on how we have come to know as the defacto sporting holiday as Super Bowl Sunday.
SUPER BOWL 49 (XLIX)
New England Patriots (14-4, #1 AFC Seed) vs Seattle Seahawks (14-4, #1 NFC Seed)
For the NFL Championship and the Vince Lombardi Trophy
University of Phoenix Stadium; Glendale, AZ 6:30 (NBC- Al Michaels, Cris Collinsworth, Michelle Tafoya)
Favorite: Pick ĎEm
Fast Facts on the Game:
Second Super Bowl played in this venue, the third played in the greater Phoenix area (Super Bowl 30 played in Tempe)
Fifth time since the current playoff format was implemented in 1990 that the conferences #1 seeds made it to the Super Bowl. With both teams sporting 14-4 records the winning team will have the NFLís best record
There has yet to be a shutout or overtime in the Super Bowl
Pete Carroll coached the Patriots from 1997-1999 and was succeeded by Bill Belichick whom had just resigned from the Jets a day after taking the position. The Patriots had to pay the Jets a first round pick as compensation. Carroll also coached the Jets briefly for a season.
Carroll and Belichick join Don Shula, George Allen, Forrest Gregg, Marv Levy, Bill Parcells, Dan Reeves, Mike Holmgren, Jon Gruden, Tony Dungy and John Fox to take a team to a Super Bowl in their 2nd or 3rd coaching stop
With a win: Carroll becomes first coach to win multiple college titles and Super Bowl Titles. Belichick becomes only second coach to win four Super Bowls (Noll)
Last Meeting Seahawks won 24-23 in 2012
NFC Champion Seattle Seahawks
Regular Season: 12-4 NFC West Champions
Head Coach Pete Carroll 50-30 in 5 seasons in SEA; 83-61 in 9 seasons with NYJ, NE & SEA; 91-65 overall
Earned First Round Bye as NFC #1 Seed
Defeated NFC South Champion Carolina 31-17 in NFC Divisional Round
Defeated NFC North Champion Green Bay in OT 28-22 in NFC Championship
Team Leaders Russell Wilson 3475 Yards 20 TDs Marshawn Lynch 1306 Yards 13 TDs Doug Baldwin 66 Rec 825 Yds 3 TDs NFL #1 Defense by yards and points allowed
1-1in the Super Bowl (Defending Super Bowl Champs, lost in SB 40)
SEA Fast Fact: First team since 2004 Patriots to win a playoff game the year after winning a Super Bowl
AFC Champion New England Patriots
Regular Season 13-3 AFC West Champions
Head Coach Bill Belichick 175-65 in 15 Seasons in NE; 211-109 in 20 overall season in CLE & NE; 232-118 overall.
Earned 1st Round Bye as AFC #1 Seed
Defeated AFC #2 Wild Card Baltimore 35-31 in AFC Divisional Round
Defeated AFC East Champion Indianapolis 45-7 in AFC Championship Game
Team Leaders Tom Brady 4109 Yards 33 TDs, Rob Gronkowski 82 Rec 1124 yds 12 TDs
3-4 in the Super Bowl Wins (35, 37, 38) Losses (20, 31, 42, 46)
NE Fast Fact The Patriots are part of an AFC monopoly over the last 18 Super Bowls, the Steelers, Broncos , Colts and Ravens have all been to multiple Super Bowls 16 of 18 in that span and all the wins have been by these five franchises (Raiders and Titans the only single game interlopers who both lost)
When the Seahawks have the ball
The Seahawks are a run to set up the pass type of team. Marshawn Lynch is a media sphinx who frustrates reporters with his monotone repetitive answers and defense bruising yet deceptively quick running back that is capable of breaking a long run as well as running through and over tacklers, sometimes on the same play. Russell Wilson has grown into the big time and has the mobility enough to make defenses respect his scrambling. Wilson and Lynch run the read-option offense to near flawless execution. The Patriots defense relies on the fact that most teams have a hard time keeping up with their offense so a bend but donít break mentality often is the rule here. Vince Willfork is the veteran anchor here and it will be interesting to see the first couple meetings between these players.
When The Patriots have the ball
Start with Tom Brady who went from 6th round afterthought pick in 2000 to Hall of Fame lock today, he runs an offense that lacks name talent but can score and score often. Rob Gronkowski is a goof off the field but on it is a matchup nightmare on the field, a big talented target that can outrun a linebacker and run over a cover corner or safety. Underrated Julian Edelman and Danny Amendola are complementary receivers that are very dependable in their own right. They face the ferociously nicknamed the Legion of Boom, the Seahawk defense led by the ever loquacious Richard Sherman who is the standard bearer of shutdown corners in the NFL. Calling his defensive backfield mates Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor very underrated or lesser heralded would be quite the misnomer now as few offenses are foolish enough to test them often. The Seahawks secondary is as tough as they come and will be a handful to avoid. Add in free agent pick up Cliff Avril as a good pass rusher and Brady might have a harder time than the experts think he will. To gain a decided edge the onus will be on the Seahawks defensive line to get a push up front and hit Brady early and often.
Pete Carroll is a playerís coach, his unbridled enthusiasm is no act heís a coach that brings an energy that his player feed off of and mirror. He runs a tight ship but is loose enough where the players play hard for him. Bill Belichick is monkish, wonkish and the definition of a grumpy frumpy coach but his businesslike mantra has made the Patriots the 21st centuryís dominant team that has missed the playoffs only twice in his tenure with 14 consecutive winning and double digit win seasons. Both coaches get the most out of hidden gems and underrated talent.
On paper this looks to be an even game, the Pats high powered offense against the defending champsí rugged defense. But the real game will be on the other side. If Russell Wilson shakes off his yips from the NFC championship and is the mobile whirling dervish that he can be, the Pats are in trouble. Marshawn Lynch is the key, when he gets rolling, he seems to get stronger as the game goes on and his punishing run style is known to wear defenses down to the point where he can break a long run. It will be a tight game all the way through but the Seahawks defense can run the best known policy on to beat the Patriots: Hit Tom Brady early and often. I think Sherman or Thomas makes a big enough hit on Gronkowski to tip the scales enough to get the win and the Seahawks become only the 9th team to repeat as Super Bowl titlists
Pick†Seahawks 33 Patriots 24
lege Football, Rankings Commentary on January 24, 2015 at 4:38 PM
The Broncos were the highest finishers among unranked teams in pre-season.
Iím including the Horned Frogs since most people had them even higher at the end.
I havenít noticed any major media organization that does this. I guess they just want to be able to come out with new preseason rankings in six or seven months and have people accept them. Surely, I suppose they think, people will have forgotten last summer by then; but they might not forget something six months before, so best not to remind them. I think itís fun though, so Iím doing it.
Some of these differences are owing to differing philosophies. I think Sagarin is just based on accumulating recent rankings. Sports Illustrated and the polls are mostly based on predictions; but sometimes there is deference to teams that did well last year even if maybe they shouldnít be expected to do well in the coming year.
What I mostly do is look at who I think will be the best teams right away, so Iím a little more interested in returning starters, and of course I also take into account last season. If a 1-win team has 23 returning starters next season, you wouldnít expect them to finish with a winning record; and if one of the top teams this year had only 10, they might finish in the top 10 again. But when in doubt, Iím going to go with the team that has proven more in the last year or two and has more returning starters. If a team has very few, I count recent seasons for less. Thatís why Oklahoma St., for instance, was not a team I ranked.
Final Top 25
Here are my Preseason Rankings. I also did an SEC West Preview.
The teams are listed in order of how they finished in my final rankings.
Preseason ranks: mine, Sports Illustrated, Sagarin, AP, Coachesí
1. Ohio St. 9, 4, 10, 5, 6
Even when I heard about Braxton Miller, I didnít move the Buckeyes down. I had a feeling this would be a very good team with 12 returning starters and one or two players wouldnít make a difference. So even though I didnít put them very high, I think I used sound reasoning. Also, when I do preseason rankings, I have a skeptical stance toward untested players, and itís not quite as much about potential as how much they have to start the season. The loss came pretty early.
2. Florida St. 1, 1, 3, 1, 1
There just wasnít a compelling case to drop FSU down after last season. None of the other contenders stood out, and there really wasnít an impressive team overall on the field either.
3. Oregon 3, 8, 2, 3, 4
I canít complain about my pick here. The Ducks had the highest number of returning starters among teams that were ranked after 2013, so I was not shocked to see them in the title game.
4. Alabama 4, 2, 1, 2, 2
I didnít have Alabama first in the SEC, I had Auburn. Thatís not how it worked out, but Alabama was actually less dominating in most games than I thought they would be. They just won all but one in conference.
5. Boise St. NR, NR, NR, NR, NR
I thought the Broncos might be done with these seasons given the fact that coaches keep leaving, but few apart from maybe some Marshall fans can argue they werenít the best non-P5 team this year.
6. TCU NR, NR, NR, NR, NR
I thought the Horned Frogs might bounce back, but I was thinking maybe 7-5 or 8-4 instead. Iím not sure whether to give them credit or the rest of the conference blame.
7. UCLA 7, 5, 21, 7, 7
The Bruins finally had the top-10 season weíve been promised a few times in the past. I mostly only put them this high because I couldnít find other teams that were very compelling, but like I said earlier, that turned out to be the case in reality, so thatís why I got this one right.
8. Michigan St. 13, 6, 19, 8, 8
I couldnít tell how much of the preseason buzz was based on the previous year or based on how good they really seemed. Looking back though, none of the results of their games were different than I projected based on my ratings. I did think they might lose to some lesser team, so I guess Iíll give them credit for surpassing my expectations in that regard.
9. Marshall NR, 25, NR, NR, NR
Credit to SI here for ranking them at all. It didnít even occur to me to rank a CUSA team, to be honest.
10. Georgia Tech NR, NR, NR, NR, NR
Like I had started to explain with Ohio St., I think to an extent, you have to look at how good teams likely are relative to one another at that point. Georgia Tech really wasnít that good early in the season. They struggled with Tulane (early on anyway) and Georgia Southern and seemed dead in the water against Virginia Tech, but they kept getting better, and it seemed like they were a much better late-game team than they possibly ever were before under Paul Johnson.
11. Missouri NR, 22, 13, 24, NR
12. Baylor 22, 10, 15, 10, 10
These two are pretty much the same for me, so Iíll cover them together. I just thought they had one-off seasons in 2013. I didnít anticipate that the two coaches would be able to ďreloadĒ so well. Missouri did lose the early game to Indiana and got blown out by Georgia, but they matured in a hurry after those setbacks. Baylor didnít have early losses like that, but they did only have 9 returning starters, so 22 was high in light of that, at least from my perspective. Usually teams like that donít come anywhere close to the successes of the previous version even though they get preseason rankings elsewhere.
13. Georgia 6. 12, 16, 12. 12
All the people who had them #12 did pretty well. I was right about how good they could be but wrong about how bad they could be. I would have never expected them to lose to South Carolina and Florida knowing about those two teams what I know now. Even though I had Auburn so high, I mentioned in the preseason that this was one of the games that might cause Auburn to have trouble winning the SEC West. I mentioned the Missouri game, but Auburn was an even more impressive big win at the time.
14. Wisconsin NR, 15, 9, 14, 14
I was surprised that Wisconsin ended up so high. I thought they would be more similar to last yearís team. But in my defense, they didnít start out so well. On paper, they didnít have much to start the season, which I think was an accurate understanding.
15. Ole Miss 16, 18, NR, 18, 19
I did a good job on this one. I didnít expect them to make an appearance in the top 5 in the first place. This is an improving program though, so I donít expect them to be an easy win in the SEC very often going forward either.
16. Mississippi St. NR, NR, NR, NR, NR
They were too mediocre in 2013 for me to seriously consider them for the top 25, but as I had mentioned in my SEC West preview, I thought they could beat some of the better SEC teams, which they did. So I wouldnít say I was shocked here, I was just more reserved in the preseason.
17. Arizona NR, NR, NR, NR, NR
I honestly didnít even consider the Wildcats. They had a number of teams with potential in the recent past and they all tended to fizzle, so I was most surprised to see them in the top 20.
18. Clemson 12, 16, 17, 16, 16
I thought there would be a second ACC team in or near the top 10, but I was wrong about which one.
19. Arizona St. NR, 19, 14, 19, 18
I remained skeptical about the Sun Devils based on so many seasons where they were supposed to have a good team and either didnít at all or were wildly inconsistent. They were among the last teams I eliminated though.
20. USC 11, 17, 12, 15, 15
Where I picked them was a little ambitious, but where I dismissed teams with potential before, I thought USC would be more immediately good. This was not a good team to start the year though.
21. Auburn 2, 7, 24, 6, 5
Auburn was a disappointment in the end, but they were one of the best teams in the early going. They really should have beaten Alabama and Wisconsin later in the year. I think sometimes what happens is a team goes from competing for a national title to just trying to make a decent bowl and itís deflating. Whereas another team that was mediocre the previous season would be excited to be ranked and so forth.
22. Colorado St. NR, NR, NR, NR, NR
Like Marshall, this wasnít a team I looked at or considered.
23. Kansas St. NR, 21, 18, 20, 21
I think I was justifiably cautious about the Wildcats. Had the Big XII been more than a couple of teams deep, I donít think they would have finished this high.
24. Northern Illinois 25, NR, NR, NR, NR
For some reason, you get a bunch of flak for picking a small-conference team to perform similarly as in recent years, whereas other teams who have very little coming back are ranked with no one batting an eye. I have to admit I feel somewhat vindicated here.
25. Memphis NR, NR, NR, NR, NR
See Marshall and Colorado St.
Top 5 Unranked Busts
36. Oklahoma 5, 3, 6, 4, 3
The Sooners made the cover of Sports Illustrated for the preview issue and received 4 first-place votes between the two major polls. They did look a little bit better early, but they just didnít seem to improve from how good they were in September.
49. South Carolina 8, 11, 8, 9, 9
They only showed a glimpse of the team they were supposed to be when they beat Georgia. This is a reminder going into next season that if you donít have leadership (they lost their top defensive and offensive players after 2013), you donít have much.
32. Stanford 15, 9, 4, 11, 11
Maybe I should have been more pessimistic here, but they didnít finish that far outside the top 25. Still, Iím glad I wasnít tempted to rank the Cardinal in the top 10. I looked at them as a similar team to Baylor, and for whatever reason, Baylor had a great season and Stanford didnít.
30. LSU 10, 14, 7, 13, 13
In my defense, I had LSU fifth in the conference. I had trouble judging which SEC teams would be better than which other teams. I was very disappointed with both coordinators overall. I donít want to be sour grapes about former DC Chavis, but I expected better based on his very good years at LSU, especially before 2013. I think OC Cam Cameron may have forgotten how to develop a teenage quarterback rather than one well into his 20s as NFL starting quarterbacks typically are. LSU could have very easily won 11 games this year based on talent, but they also could have missed out on a bowl game entirely due to failures to close out games. I said the winner of LSU/Alabama would be the most likely SEC champion, so at least that part was true. Had LSU closed out that one and beaten Arkansas, they would have at least tied for the West title.
33. Notre Dame NR, 13, 20, 17, 17
I havenít addressed the Music City Bowl in depth yet, but people who think that justified a top-25 ranking for the Irish are insane. Arkansas beat LSU 17-0 late in the season and since then beat up on Ole Miss and Texas, losing only to Missouri in a close game. Arkansas didnít have a defensive stop over a touchdown gifted to them against LSU, and LSUís defense didnít just roll over on third downs time and time again. Also, somehow, Notre Dame made LSU look like a point-scoring machine at times. Anyway, I feel very justified in not ranking the Irish in preseason and in recognizing them as a bust now.
Mine: (14) Central Florida, (19) Texas, (20) Michigan, (21) Louisville, (23) Florida, (24) Duke
Michigan was the only bad team of the group, but they shouldnít have been a bad team at all. I think Texas is improving but will take another year. Florida and Duke were good teams at times but inconsistent. Central Florida nearly beat Penn St. for the second consecutive season but somehow lost to Connecticut for their only conference loss. Louisville may have been about right had they won the bowl game.
SI: (20) Texas A&M, (23) Oregon St., (24) Nebraska
Nebraska and Texas A&M were by no means horrible and might have been a couple of bounces of the ball from being ranked, but I donít know where Oregon St. came from. I know they beat Arizona St., but that was one bright spot in dismal year. In fact, it was the Beaversí only win of their last 7 games. Their BEST win was at home over San Diego St. I still donít understand Nebraskaís hiring of Mike Riley, by the way.
Sagarin: (5) Oklahoma St., (11) Texas A&M, (22) Washington, (23) Texas, (25) Florida
Iím not sure how Saraginís preseason rankings work, but I think itís mostly based on performances in recent years. Texas and Florida in particular would not have been surprising had the finished with those rankings. Oklahoma St. of course is ridiculous looking back, but it wasnít too long ago that the Cowboys nearly made the title game, and in 2013 they were again one of the best teams in the country before dropping the last two games (Bedlam and the Cotton against Missouri). Like I said above, having A&M ranked wasnít far-fetched, but of course #11 was a bit high to say the least. Washington never really clicked, but there was no shame in having them near the bottom of the top 25 in preseason. They made a bowl at least and played some competitive games against good teams. In fact, their only regular-season losses were to teams that were ranked at the time. Among those, only Stanford finished unranked.
Polls: (21, 20) Texas A&M, (22, 22) Nebraska, (23, 23) North Carolina, (25, 25) Washington, (NR, 24) Texas
I covered everyone but North Carolina above. I have no idea why they were ranked.
For the record, here are my final rankings of the teams in this section:
31. Texas A&M
58. Oklahoma St.
59. Central Florida
70. North Carolina
89. Oregon St.
Anyway, Iím sure Iíll have upcoming posts about other sports and sporadically football, but like I referenced above, weíre about halfway to the next preseason rankings, so I plan to have a lot to say then.
Just as a reminder, my blog homepage †(where I first post my blogs) can be found above and I'm also on Facebook†and Twitter @TheBayouBlogger.
Cue up the old Kenny Loggins tune ďThis is itĒ Because this is it. 20 NFL teams have been excused from the conversation and there are 12 teams that are left. Now the Patriots, Packers, Broncos and Seahawks are sitting out the weekend watching with detached interest as they will join the fray next weekend. The wild card round have produced a fair share of Super Bowl winners since this format was introduced in 1990, so these games could realistically produce this years champ. 11 of the 12 teams are trying to get to the final game and Arizona wants to get home and be the first Super Bowl team to play the title game in its home venue. There have been two teams that have been the ďhost cityĒ and made it but the then LA Rams were better than an hour away from Pasadena for the 14th Super Bowl, and Palo Alto was in the same area that the Niners were for their Super Bowl win in the 19th game. This year all four networks are involved this time around with ESPN getting in the action instead of ABC. The #1 Broadcast teams are doing the games this round and the game. So this is the playoffs and these are the picks. Odds are provided by ESPN and are for comparison and entertainment purposes and if you take the lines and get took, its nobodys fault but your own.
NFL SCHEDULE Ė WILD CARD WEEKEND
†Saturday, January 3
NFC WILD CARD PLAYOFF
#5 Arizona Cardinals (11-5 #1 NFC Wild Card) @†#4 Carolina Panthers (7-8-1 NFC South Champ)
Bank of America Stadium, Charlotte 4:30 (ESPN, Mike Tirico, Jon Gruden)
Favorite Panthers by 5Ĺ
Playoff History Cardinals defeated Panthers 33-13 in the 2008 Wild Card round (Jan 2009)
Fast Facts: AZ: 11 Wins ties a franchise high set in 1975 CAR: 2nd losing season team to win their division
The Cards started as one of the hottest teams in the NFL, but cooled off seriously over the back quarter of the season to fall out of the NFC West lead. The Panthers were just about done at the start of December but came on strong late and routed the Saints and Falcons to take the otherwise woeful NFC South and garner a home playoff game. The Cards have a rugged defense but are painfully inexperienced at QB and that will be their downfall. As much as I would like to see the Cards make a run home to the Super Bowl. I cant see them doing it with a QB that has yet to throw an NFL TD.
†Sunday, January 4
AFC WILD CARD PLAYOFF Ė
#5 Cincinnati Bengals (10-5-1 #1 AFC Wild Card) @†#4 Indianapolis Colts (11-5 AFC South Champion)
Lucas Oil Stadium, Indianapolis 1:00 (CBS Jim Nantz, Phil Simms)
Favorite Colts by 4
Previous Playoff Meeting 1970 AFC Divisional Playoff Colts (Then in Baltimore) defeated Bengals 17-0
Fast Facts: These are the closest conference foes in distance (110 miles) CIN: Has NFLís longest playoff drought (24 years, 0-6) IND: The last meeting with CIN resulted in the franchises 500th victory
The Colts have more or less sailed into the playoff after dominating the woeful AFC South, the Bengals led the AFC North till losing to Pittsburgh on the last day of the season. The Colts have Andrew Luck and a bevy of talented receivers but almost no running game, the Bengals have a solid running game but a scattershot talent at QB in Andy Dalton who will be lacking AJ Green as was the case in their first meeting. But for some reason I think the Bengals are different in this meeting. I think the Bengals will use the rugged running of Jeremy Hill to control the clock and make the Colts even more one dimensional. They set the blueprint with their win over the Broncos before Christmas. I have a funny feeling that they might use that blueprint to win here.
NFC WILD CARD PLAYOFF
#6 Detroit Lions (11-5 #1 NFC Wild Card) @#3 Dallas Cowboys (12-4 NFC East Champs)
AT&T Stadium; Arlington, TX 4:40 (FOX- Joe Buck, Troy Aikman, Pam Oliver)
Favorite: Cowboys by 6Ĺ
Playoff History. The Teams have split their 2 meetings. Cowboys winning 5-0 in 1970 NFC Divisional round, the Lions winning 38-6 in the1991 Divisional Round
Fast Facts DET: Last playoff win was against Dallas and holds the NFCís longest playoff at drought 23 years DAL: Have yet to score a touchdown in two playoff meetings
The Lions rolled to an impressive 11 win season and will have enigmatic defensive standout Ndomakung Suh who won his appeal of his suspension, but this is the arguably the most complete Pokes team that has been fielded this century. Tony Romo throwing to Dez Bryant is only one facet of this team that also has the dynamic running of DeMarco Murray. Matthew Stafford will test the Pokes often suspect secondary and you can bet that Megatron Johnson will get his, but I think in this game the Pokes are just plain better on both sides of the ball. Will this translate into a roll to Arizona on the first of February? Ill get back to you on that, but on this day. I see the home team winning.
Regular Season Final Totals
Week 17: 9-7
AFC WILD CARD PLAYOFF Ė
#6 Baltimore Ravens (10-6 AFC #2 Wild Card)† @†#3 Pittsburgh Steelers (11-5, AFC North Champ)
Heinz Field, Pittsburgh 8:15 †(NBC- Al Michaels, Cris Collinsworth, Michelle Tafoya)
Favorite Steelers by 3
Playoff History †This will be the fourth playoff meeting, with the Steelers winning all three previous meetings. The last meeting in 2011 AFC divisional round by a 34-31 score
Fast Fact All the playoff meetings have been in Pittsburgh
First meeting of two Super Bowl Winning QBís in the playoffs since the 2011 NFC title game
The Steelers hanging around like a cloud came on strong late to take the AFC North title in the seasonís last day and the Ravens loitered long enough but put together a strong enough finish to make it back to the playoffs. Without strong runner LeVeon Bell the Steelers are missing a key cog in their running game and hope that Ben Tate will be able to cover some of the slack. I really donít trust Joe Flacco and the Baltimore offense to be consistent enough to put points up. The Steelers are awfully tough in their home venue especially in the playoffs.
Cue up the old Kenny Loggins song ďThis is itĒ Because to be sure, this is it. The 2014 season draws to a close and for 20 teams this will be the final game. Of the 12 playoff slots, 10 have already been claimed. But that doesnít mean that there is no drama or storylines for this weekís games, only the Patriots as the AFC #1 seed knows where they will be, on a bye and waiting in their formidable Gillette Stadium lair for the lowest wild card round winner. Other than that a division title, a wild card and a bye in the AFC & 3 of the four division titles and a bye in the NFC have yet to be determined.† So you could say that this is a playoff round in itself. Cool thing is this week, all the games are on Sunday, and both networks are showing doubleheaders so there is wall to wall football. For the final time in the regular season, I present to you my picks for your perusal, review and approval. Odds are provided by ESPN.com strictly for entertainment and comparison purposes only. If I have to explain why by now, you deserve to get your legs broke by No-Neck Vinny and his enforcer crew. Playoff implications are noted where applicable.
Sunday December 28
Browns (7-8) @ Ravens (9-6)
M&T Bank Stadium, Baltimore 1:00 (CBS)
Favorite Ravens by 13
Last Week Browns lost to Panthers 17-13, Ravens lost to Texans 25-13
Playoff Implications BAL clinches playoff spot with win and SD loss
Fast Fact CLE: Gave up 453 rushing yards in the past two weeks both losses. BAL: Gained a season low 211 yards last week
The Browns have to sheepishly turn back to Brian Hoyer with franchise savior Johnny Manziel out with a bad hammy in their loss last week against the Panthers.† They face a Ravens team that has just about spent every mulligan that they have after losing badly to the Texans and now need to win and get help. Joe Flacco is 12-1 against the Browns and I see no reason why that wonít be 13-1 after 4p Sunday. The Ravens will spare the Browns no quarter as they will be scoreboard watching most of the day.
Colts (10-5) @ Titans (2-13)
LP Field, Nashville 1:00 (CBS)
Favorite Colts by 7Ĺ
Last Week Colts lost to Cowboys 42-7, Titans lost to Jaguars 27-13
Playoff Implications: IND has clinched AFC South title and #4 position
Fast Fact IND: Have committed 15 turnovers in past five games TEN: Loss would match their worst record in franchise history and worst finish in Tennessee
The Colts took an awful beating in Jerry World and look more and more suspect heading into the playoffs, locked into the #4 seed and a home playoff game next week, look for them to play their starters sparingly against the horrid Titans who have been more or less mailing it in for weeks as evident in their lackluster loss in Jacksonville. The Colts B squad beats the best squad that this Titans squad could roll out.
Saints (6-9) @ Buccaneers (2-13)
Raymond James Stadium, Tampa 1:00 (FOX)
Favorite Saints by 4
Last Week Saints lost to Falcons 30-14, Buccaneers lost to Packers 20-3
Fast Fact NO: Have won six straight in the series TB: Only team in NFL that is winless at home and only have finished winless at home for a season in their inaugural campaign in 1976
The Saints were humiliated at home against the Falcons and will be headed home, the Bucs are looking at gaining the #1 pick. The Saints have been playing mystifyingly bad as of late and blew what looked to be an easy road to the playoffs. The Saints should be able to roll easily here
Eagles (9-6) @ Giants (6-9)
MetLife Stadium; East Rutherford, NJ 1:00 (FOX)
Favorite Giants by 2Ĺ
Last Week Eagles lost to Washington 27-24, Giants defeated Rams 37-27
Fast Facts PHI: Mark Sanchez will be making his first start in Met Life Stadium since being released by the Jets† NY: Next win will be Eli Manningís 100th
The Eagles crash and burn reached an appalling nadir with an embarrassing loss to Washington that destroyed their dwindling playoff hopes. The G-Men have apparently saved Tom Coughlinís job (again) with a rollicking win over the Rams and look to end their season on an upswing and revenge for a 27-0 whitewash in Philly back in October. As much as I like Phillyís fast break offense, I canít trust Mark Sanchez and as much as I loathe Eli and the G-Men. Odell Beckham is a beast and will get his.
Pick-New York Giants (Upset of the Week)
Bills (8-7) @ Patriots (12-3)
Gillette Stadium; Foxboro, MA 1:00 (CBS)
Favorite Patriots by 5
Last Week Bills lost to Raiders 26-24, Patriots defeated Jets 17-16
Playoff Implications: NE has clinched home field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs
Fast Fact BUF: NE: Patriots are 99-18 at home since the 2002 season, best in the NFL in that span
The Bills looked like they were serious after stunning the Pack but their fledgling playoff hopes died in a shocking loss to the inept Raiders. The Bills now have to face a surging Pats squad that might be resting a ton of their starters in light of an already earned first round bye secured with a tighter than expected win over the Jets.† I think the Bills may give the Pats B squad a decent fight but the Pats donít lose at home, especially this late in the season.
Jaguars (3-12) @ Texans (8-7)
NRG Stadium, Houston 1:00 (FOX)
Favorite Texans by 10
Last Week Jaguars defeated Titans 27-17, Texans defeated Ravens 25-13
Playoff Implications: HOU clinches with win plus losses by BAL AND SD
Fast Fact JAX: A loss here would clinch their second winless road schedule in franchise history HOU Have forced 34 turnovers that they turned into 123 points, both team records
The Texans needs to win and get some help to make the playoffs getting the win over the hapless Jags though they are coming in off a solid win but they need a bunch of other things to go right for them to sneak in. I think the Texans play this like a happy homecoming and pummel the Jags to finish over .500
Chargers (9-6) @ Chiefs (8-7)
Arrowhead Stadium, Kansas City (FOX, CBS, NBC, ESPN)
Favorite Chiefs by 1
Last Week Chargers defeated 49ers 38-35 in OT, Chiefs lost to Steelers 20-12
Playoff Implications: SD clinches playoff spot with win, KC clinches with win and losses by BAL ANDHOU
Fast Fact SD: 21 point comeback against SF was biggest in team history. KC: Seeking first season sweep since 2003
The Chargers have the simplest playoff path, win and they are in, though itís a fairly tough assignment in KC who needs to win and get almost improbable help to make the postseason in back to back years for the first time in 20 years. Philip Rivers is hurting with a bulging disk in his back, but will play. The same canít be said for Alex Smith who will be out with a lacerated spleen. I think the Chiefs will keep it close with the running of Jamaal Charles but I think the Chargers will be able to get enough to punch a playoff ticket
Jets (3-12) @ Dolphins (8-7)
SunLife Stadium, Miami 1:00 (CBS)
Favorite Dolphins by 6
Last Week Jets lost to Patriots 17-16, Dolphins defeated Vikings 37-35
Fast Fact NYJ: Geno Smith ranks third worst in passer rating behind only Bortles and McCown MIA: A win clinches their first winning season since 2008
The grins and jeers of Rex Ryan could be over in Gotham after this week, though they played bravely against the Pats they still lost. The Fins needed miracle to stay alive in the playoff race and didnít get them though they won a wild one against the Vikes. The Dolphins look like they are slowly improving while the Jets are cratering badly and Ryan has had little to grin or jeer about in recent memory, they NY fans wonder where all the good times wentÖ
Bears (5-10) @ Vikings (6-9)
TCF Bank Stadium, Minneapolis 1:00 (FOX)
Favorite Vikings by 6
Last Week Bears lost to Lions 20-14, Vikings lost to Dolphins 37-35
The Bears benched Jay Cutler but have to turn to him again after Jimmy Clausen suffered a concussion and straggle into the finale against the Vikings who lost a painful one to the Dolphins after rallying back from 14 down to tie the game only to lose on a safety off a blocked punt. The Bears will likely clean house and Vikes want to make sure that they are sent out with a revenge win. The Vikes improved off their disastrous 3-13 season of 2013 but have a long way to go and lots of questions still unanswered.† In reality, itís a coin toss game, but I think the Bears have quit and the Vikes are looking for a positive coda to a mediocre season.
Raiders (3-12) @ Broncos (11-4)
Sports Authority Field @ Mile High, Denver 4:25 (CBS)
Favorite Broncos by 14
Last Week Raiders defeated Bills 26-24, Broncos lost to Bengals 37-28
Playoff Implications: DEN clinches #2 slot and first round bye with win
Fast Facts: OAK is 0-7 on the road while DEN is 7-0 at home
The Raiders got a stunning win in their home finale but have the misfortune of crossing the path of an angry Broncos squad, stung by an unexpected fight in Cincy and handed an ill-timed loss spearheaded by an unusually poor performance by Peyton Manning. The Raiders are winless on the road and the Broncos are unbeaten at home. You actually think the Raiders are going to spring the upset? I didnít think so
Pick-Denver (Lock of the Week)
Cardinals (11-4) @ 49ers (7-8)
Leviís Stadium; Santa Clara, CA 4:25 (FOX)
Favorite 49ers by 6 Ĺ
Last Week Cardinals lost to Seahawks 35-6, 49ers lost to Chargers 38-35 in OT
Playoff Implications: AZ win with SEA loss clinches NFC West Championship, win with losses by Sea AND GB give Cardinals home field advantage
Fast Facts: AZ: Win would set franchise record for wins SF: RB Frank Gore needs 38 yards to log his fourth straight 1000 yard season.
The Cards got housed by the Seahawks and likely saw any chance of riding home field all the way to the Super Bowl die with it. The Niners folded last Saturday night and are likely seeing the last of Jim Harbaugh on their sideline. The Cards are scrambling for a QB after the ineffective play of Ryan Lindley who failed miserably in his primetime debut. I think the Niners are a shell of the once proud and fierce team they were at the beginning of the year and are about to hit the reset button. I think the Cards can grind out a win and head into the playoffs on a positive note. Though they may not likely be heading home.
Lions (11-4) @ Packers (11-4)
Lambeau Field, Green Bay 4:25 (FOX)
Favorite Packers by 7Ĺ
Last Week Lions defeated Bears 20-14, Packers defeated Buccaneers 20-3
Playoff Implications: Winner is NFC North Champion, both teams have clinched playoff berths.
Fast Facts: DET has not won at Lambeau since 1991 (0-22, regular season 0-1 playoffs) GB: Aaron Rodgers has not had a turnover at home this season (0 interceptions, 0 fumbles)
Itís almost unfair, the Lions who have been playing lights out for the better part of a month, have to go to Green Bay where they have won since the Bush administration (Thatís the elder Bush) to try to win their first division title since 1993. The Packers recovered from a poor performance to smash the Bucs and are relishing the opportunity to deny the Lions. I am worried that Aaron Rodgers who has played rather uneven as of late will struggle against the withering and relentless rush of the Lions. But who am I kidding, the Lions though good are just not ready to win in Lambeau. They will push the Pack but the home team will prevail
Rams (6-9) @ Seahawks (11-4)
CenturyLink Field, Seattle 4:25 (FOX)
Favorite Seahawks by 13
Last Week Rams lost to Giants 37-27, Seahawks defeated Cardinals 35-6
Playoff Implications: SEA wins NFC West with win, gets home field advantage with win and DAL loss
Fast Fact STL: Have not won in Seattle since Jan 2005 SEA: Gained a franchise record 596 yards in win over AZ
The Rams got outslugged by the G-Men and limp into the finale against a surging Seahawks squad fresh off a primetime pounding of Arizona. The Rams upset the Seahawks in October but the Seahawks are a vastly different team and have only lost once since then and only once at home. With the serious challenge by the Cards put down the Seahawks look ready to defend their crown and will start with a win here to win the NFC West
Panthers (6-8-1) @ Falcons (6-9)
Georgia Dome, Atlanta 4:25 (CBS)
Playoff Implications: Winner is NFC South Champion and #4 seed
Last Week Panthers defeated Browns 17-13, Falcons defeated Saints 30-14
Both these teams are looking to finish out as strong despite their mediocre records to win the NFC South, the Panthers edged the Browns as Cam Newton returned to action after his car accident, the Falcons stunned the Saints to kill their playoff hopes and set up this winner take all showdown. Iím not real sold on either team, but the Falcons offense has been playing better as of late and I think being at home gives them the edge to win
Bengals (10-4-1) @ Steelers (10-5)
Heinz Field, Pittsburgh 8:30 (NBC)
Favorite Steelers by 3Ĺ
Playoff Implications: Winner is AFC North Champion, Bengals win with Denver loss clinches #2 seed and 1st round bye.
Fast Fact CIN; Continues their franchise best string of playoff berths with their fourth PIT: Are 7 points shy of matching team record for points of 416 set in 1979.
Last Week Bengals defeated Broncos 37-28, Steelers defeated Chiefs 20-12
The regular season finale is a game for a division title, though both teams are playoff bound, the Bengals stunned the Broncos to gain their playoff berth while the Steelers ground the Chiefs up to secure theirs. Your humble scribe was at the first meeting of these heated rivals and watched a tight game turn into a rout as the Steelers dropped 25 unanswered 4th quarter points. The Bengals used a career game by AJ Green in the first 3 quarters to hold the lead but Green is not totally healthy for the rematch. The Steelers used LeVeon Bell to devastating efficiency to wear the Bengals down in the first match and I really donít see why they wonít use what works again. The Bengals snapped a bit of a primetime jinx with a rollicking win in their home finale, but I just canít see them turning the trick at one of their primary tormenters. As much as I would love to be wrong, Iím just seeing Andy Dalton fold (again) under the primetime lights
Last Week: 8-8 (Lock correct /Upset incorrect)
Thursday December 18
Titans (2-12) @ Jaguars (2-12)
EverBank Field, Jacksonville 8:25 (NFLN)
Favorite Jags by 3 Ĺ
Last Week Titans lost to Jets 16-11, Jags lost to Ravens 20-12
Fast Facts TEN: Titans are allowing league worst 139.6 yards rushing a game.† JAX: QB Bortles has been sacked a league high 41 times since
The last Thursday night game of the year is a real snoozer. Neither team going anywhere but home after next week. The Titans lost a sloppy ugly game to the equally woeful Jets and while Jacksonville got beat beat by the Ravens last they are at the very least playing competitive and pushing their opponents, the Titans have been getting housed on a weekly basis. The Titans havenít won since they last played these same Jags in week 6. Im thinking that the Jags get some get back here.
Saturday December 20
Eagles (9-5) @ Washington (3-11)
FedEx Field; Landover, MD 4:30 (NFLN)
Favorite Eagles by 7 Ĺ
Last Week Eagles lost to Cowboys 38-27, Washington lost to Giants 24-13
Fast Facts PHI: Ranked second in QB sacks WAS: Allowed second most †sacks in NFL
Stung by a second straight home loss the Eagles now need help to return to the playoffs they head to DC to face a Washington team that is light years away from contention. The Eagles allow way too many points on defense primarily because their high speed offense isnít on the field long enough to give a proper rest, but the anemic Washington offense should not give them that much trouble. Mark Sanchez should be able to get enough time to pick on the soft Washington secondary to make the road to victory pretty easy.
Chargers (8-6) @ 49ers (7-7)
Leviís Stadium; Santa Clara, CA 8:25 (CBS)
Favorite 49ers by 1
Last Week Chargers lost to Broncos 22-10 49ers lost to Seahawks 17-7
Fast Facts SD: Have won the last three meetings† SF: The 49ers 3 game losing skid is the longest in the Jim Harbaugh Era
The Chargers are on playoff life support after their lackluster loss against the Broncos while the 49ers are dealing with the cold fact that for the first time since 2010 they will not be going to the playoffs after being dominated by another despised rival. The Chargers will be without leading receiver Keenan Allen who broke his collarbone but the Niners are a virtual MASH unit in comparison Patrick Willis, NaVorro Bowman , Ahmad Brooks, Frank Gore and standout rookie Chris Borland all either out or uncertain with injuries. Combine that and the growing ineptitude of the Niners offense. I think the Chargers are good enough to keep their feeble playoff hopes alive with a win and further fuel speculation of Harbaugh's exit
Sunday December 21
Lions (10-4) @ Bears (5-9)
Soldier Field, Chicago 1:00 (FOX)
Favorite Lions by 8Ĺ
Last Week Lions defeated Vikings 16-14, Bears lost to Saints 31-15
The Lions are gunning for a playoff spot and have no time to trifile with the train wreck that the Bears have become. Jimmy Clausen takes the quarterback reigns over Jay Cutler who I think has seen his last playing days in the windy city and Marc Trestman is about two games from being an out of work head coach
Vikings (6-8) @ Dolphins (7-7)
SunLife Stadium, Miami 1:00 (FOX)
Favorite Dolphins by 4
Last Week Vikings lost to Lions 16-14, Dolphins lost to Patriots 41-13
The Vikings lost a heartbreaker to the Lions and are playing out the string. Meanwhile the Dolphins got pounded by the Pats and are just about done in the AFC playoff race. Im not real solid on both teams, but as much as I want to pick the Vikings something tells me that would be a bad idea.
Packers (10-4) @ Buccaneers (2-12)
Raymond James Stadium, Tampa 1:00 (FOX)
Favorite Packers by 11Ĺ †
Last Week Packers lost to Bills 21-13, Buccaneers lost to Panthers 19-17
The Packers were breezing along until they got stung by the Bills when Aaron Rodgers got every bad break in the world. They now face a horrid Bucs team but need to play on point to set up a winner take all showdown with the Lions. I just cant see Rodgers and the Pack having back to back bad games.
Pick-Green Bay (Lock of the Week)
Patriots (11-3) @ Jets (3-11)
MetLife Stadium, East Rutherford, NJ 1:00 (CBS)
Favorite† Patriots by 10
Last Week Patriots defeated Jets 41-13, Jets defeated 16-11
The Pats are rolling and trying to secure one of the coveted first round byes and are closer to that after blasting the Dolphins while the Jets are headed on a slow train to nowhere despite a messy win against the Titans. The Pats always seem to have trouble with the Jets. The game will be closer than it should be but the Pats should pull it out
Browns (7-7) @ Panthers (5-8-1)
Bank of America Stadium, Charlotte 1:00 (FOX)
Favorite Panthers by 5
Last Week Browns lost to Bengals 30-0, Panthers defeated Buccaneers 19-17
Fast Fact This is the first matchup of Heisman winning QBís since
Johnny Manzielís debut was as big a dud as a Broadway flop, and they are just about done as a playoff contenders. The Panthers are hanging on tight to their playoff dreams after edging the Bucs. Manziel will again have his hands full with the capable though highly inconsistent defense. This is an upset waiting to happen and I see the Panthers staying in the playoff hunt with the win.
Falcons (5-9) @ Saints (6-8)
Mercedes-Benz Superdome, New Orleans 1:00 (FOX)
Favorite Saints by 5Ĺ
Last Week Falcons lost to Steelers 27-20, Saints defeated Bears 31-15
The Falcons are all but done in the NFC south race after losing to the Steelers while the Saints claimed a badly needed win against the Bears and pushed into the lead of the weak NFC South. The Falcons are just good enough to give the Saints a go, but I think the home team gets the win.
Ravens (9-5) @ Texans (7-7)
NRG Stadium, Houston 1:00 (CBS)
Favorite Ravens by 6Ĺ
Last Week Ravens defeated Jaguars 20-12, Texans lost to Colts 17-10
A good matchup, I still donít think that despite still being in firm control of their playoff destiny are a solid playoff team, still they are in better shape than the fading Texans who are just about finished after losing to the Colts. If the Texans were better on offense, I would like them better. I think the Ravens win to keep the pressure on the Bengals and Steelers in the AFC North
Chiefs (8-6) @ Steelers (9-5)
Heinz Field, Pittsburgh 1:00 (CBS)
Favorite Steelers by 2Ĺ
Last Week Chiefs defeated Raiders 31-13, Steelers defeated Falcons 27-20
The Chiefs are still in the AFC playoff race and got revenge on the Raiders, while the Steelers held of the Falcons. Here is the funny thing, the Steelers seem to play better on the road, having lost to the Bucs and the Saints at home. Why does this game bug me so much? I just see the Chiefs grinding out a win behind the rugged running of Jamal Charles and I think Big Ben is overdue for one of those make no sense games heíll play once on a while.
Pick-Kansas City (Upset of the Week)
Giants (5-9) @ Rams (6-8)
Venue, City Time (FOX, CBS, NBC, ESPN)
Favorite Rams by 6Ĺ
Last Week Giants defeated 24-13, Rams lost to Cardinals 12-6
Both teams are going nowhere but the Rams are playing better despite a tough tight loss to the Cards, the G-Men knocked off Washington last week but have a litany of problems on both sides of the ball. The Rams are playing solid at home and I think that the Giants are not good enough to take this one
Colts (10-4) @ Cowboys (10-4)
AT&T Stadium; Arlington, TX 4:25 (CBS)
Favorite Cowboys by 3Ĺ
Last Week Colts defeated Texans 17-10, Cowboys defeated Eagles 38-27
Fast Fact Cowboys are 20-2 when Demarco Murray carries the ball 20 or more times
This is a heavyweight matchup, the Colts are playoff bound after downing the Texans. The Pokes continue to be road warriors after pounding the Eagles in primetime. I think the Colts are so much better on both sides of the ball, I just donít trust Tony Romo though he has had good games as of late. DeMarco Murray looks to be a go despite nursing a bad hand that just had surgery. I like Colts to roll in and steal a game
Bills (8-6) @ Raiders (2-12)
O.co Stadium, Oakland 4:25 (FOX, CBS, NBC, ESPN)
Favorite Bills by 7
Last Week Bills defeated Packers 21-13, Raiders lost to Chiefs 31-13
The Bills sprung an serious upset, but still are on the fringes of the playoff picture. The Raiders have been done since before fall. The Bills are a good rugged defensive team and the Raiders are just nowhere in the same class. Hey they will play them tough to be sure but they wont finish the job.
Seahawks (10-4) @ Cardinals (11-3)
University of Phoenix Stadium; Glendale, AZ 8:25 (NBC)
Favorite Seattle by 8Ĺ
Last Week Seahawks defeated 49ers 17-7 Cardinals defeated Rams 12-6
Fast Fact Seahawks have won their last 8 primetime games
Another mega heavyweight game here, the Seahawks won a critical matchup with Niners while the Cards ground out an ugly win against the Rams. Ryan Lindley has the uneviable task of facing the rugged Seattle defense. The Cards are more than capable of slowing down Seattleís inconsistent offense. This game will be a slugfest to be sure. I think the Seahawks can steal this.
Monday December 22
Broncos (11-3) @ Bengals (9-4-1)
Paul Brown Stadium, Cincinnati 8:30 (ESPN)
Favorite Broncos by 3
Playoff Implications: DEN: Clinches a first round bye with win CIN: Clinches playoff berth with win
Last Week: Broncos defeated Chargers 22-10, Bengals defeated Browns 30-0
Fast Facts: DEN: Peyton Manning has never lost to the Bengals (8-0) CIN:
Both teams scored solid wins, The Broncos locked down their 4th consecutive division title by beating the Chargers while the Bengals scored a satisfying revenge win over their upstate rivals. The Broncos have suddenly become a running team (to my fantasy teams chagrin) and have not needed Peyton Manningís increasingly erratic throwing to lead them. Meanwhile the Bengals have had much success when they run heavy to set up their decent passing game. As much as I would love to see the Bengals spring the upset, I cant see it happening. The Bengals shrink in the harsh primetime light and the loss will set up a likely primetime showdown with the Steelers next week. This does not look like it will end well for the home team
Last Week: 13-3† (Lock Correct/Upset Incorrect)