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Archive for December, 2010

With NFL playoff berths on the line, week 16 was absolutely critical for teams that hoped to compete in the postseason.  Some squads stepped up (Packers, Bears, Chiefs and Rams) and others fell on their face (Chargers and Jaguars).  Let’s take a look at the performances I thought were most noteworthy.

Here are the Average Guy NFL Week 16 Awards:

Most Impressive Win

Green Bay Packers – 45-17 over the New York Giants

Lambeau Field

The Packers need to beat the Bears in Lambeau next week to sew up a playoff berth.

Most Important Win

St. Louis Rams – 25-17 over their division rival San Francisco 49ers

Worst Loss

San Diego Chargers – 20-34 at Cincinnati Bengals

Biggest Surprise

Detroit Lions

Biggest Disappointment

Jacksonville Jaguars

Offensive MVP

Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers – 25 completions 37 attempts 404 yards 4 TDs 139.9 QB rating 2 carries 26 yards

Defensive MVP

Chris Harris, Chicago Bears – 1 interception 1 fumble recovery 11 tackles

Special Teams MVP

Jacoby Ford, Oakland Raiders – 99-yard kickoff return for TD 5 kickoff returns 188 yards

Most Surprising Performance

Carson Palmer, Cincinnati Bengals – 16 completions 21 attempts 269 yards 4 TDs 157.2 QB rating

Most Disappointing Performance

Eli Manning, New York Giants – 17 completions 33 attempts 301 yards 2 TDs 4 interceptions 63.6 QB rating

Offensive Rookie

Sam Bradford, St. Louis Rams – 28 completions 37 attempts 292 yards 1 TD 107.0 QB rating fumble lost

Defensive Rookie

Eric Berry, Kansas City Chiefs – 54-yard interception return for a TD 4 tackles

Most Impressive Performance in a Loss

Michael Crabtree, San Francisco 49ers – 6 receptions 122 yards 1 TD

Quick Takes

  • I watched the entire Jets-Bears game today.  It was an excellent matchup but I was surprised that it turned into shootout.  I expected much more of a defensive battle. 
  • The Bears started with a lot of momentum and took a 10-0 lead in the first quarter.  The Jets owned the second quarter, scoring 24 points and taking a 24-17 lead into halftime.
  • Jay Cutler was on fire in the third quarter, throwing three touchdowns and propelling the Bears to a 38-31 lead.  But then the defenses stepped up in the fourth quarter.  The only scoring was a field goal by the Jets.  It wasn’t enough, and the Bears got a big victory over the team that just won in Pittsburgh last week.
  • Mark Sanchez looked good today.  His throws were crisp and he was making good, quick decisions.  The Jets also did a good job integrating the Wildcat into the offensive game plan.  On defense, they really struggled to generate a pass rush without major blitzes.
  • The Bears offensive line has really improved.  They did a good job of protecting Cutler and giving him time to make his throws.
  • Of course, while I was watching that game I was tracking the 49ers-Rams game on the computer.  I was psyched when the Rams got off to a good start but they let up the two big plays and made it too close.  It’s always great to beat the Niners, but especially today with everything that was on the line. 
  • I really hope the Rams can win in Seattle next weekend for the obvious reason that I’d love to see them win the division and make the playoffs but also because I think it’s important for the NFC West winner to at least have a .500 record.
  • What a strange week this will be – with the rescheduling of the Vikings-Eagles game there will be NFL games on five days in week 16 – Thursday, Saturday, Sunday, Monday and Tuesday.
  • Couldn’t believe it when I heard on the Giants-Packers telecast that Eli Manning has 29 turnovers this season.
  • A couple of other considerations for Offensive MVP this week – Matt Cassel and Matt Forte were also very impressive – but I had to go with Rodgers.
  • Jeez, the Patriots are good enough, but when you give up seven turnovers how in the world can you expect to compete Buffalo?

One BIG Question

After the last two weeks will the Giants have anything left to give next Sunday?

Let me know what sticks out to you about week 16 by posting a comment below.

Photo source: Brian Giesen

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With just two weeks left in the NFL season many teams are out of the running for the playoffs, others have all but clinched a berth, while a few face critical games in week 16.  There are not as many huge matchups in week 16 as there was last weekend, but there are still some very important battles that feature teams fighting for playoff positioning. 

New York Jets at Chicago Bears
Sunday, 1:00 pm

Both of these teams grabbed impressive road wins last week.  The Bears have a chance to earn the #2 seed in the NFC and the bye and home-field advantage that comes with it.

Key to the game: Chicago’s pass-blocking, which ranks as the worst in the NFL, against the 10th ranked Jets pass rush.

Who do I like: I think last week’s win at Pittsburgh reinvigorated the confidence of the Jets.  Mark Sanchez also proved he can win a game in the elements.  I’m going with the Jets because I don’t believe the Bears will be able to generate enough offense.  Look out for the special teams play in this one.

Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum

Raider Nation will be ready to terrorize Peyton Manning and the Colts on Sunday

Indianapolis Colts at Oakland Raiders
Sunday, 4:05 pm

The Colts fended off the Jaguars last Sunday to take back control of the AFC South, but they need to continue to win to keep that control.  Oakland lost at Jacksonville two weeks ago in a barn-burner.

Key to the game: The Raiders second ranked rushing attack versus the Colts run D, which ranks 28th in the NFL.  Indianapolis did an excellent job of bottling up the Jaguars running backs last week.  They’ll have to bring that same intensity on Sunday.

Who do I like: I’m going out on a limb here and picking the Raiders.  There was a clear difference in the Colts passing game last week after Austin Collie went out.  And I don’t think that the Colts will find the yards on the ground like they did against Jacksonville.  Indianapolis will also not have the same defensive advantage they had last week when they played on their home turf and instead will be playing on Oakland’s grass.  As a result, the Raiders should be able to run the ball with success.

New York Giants at Green Bay Packers
Sunday, 4:15 pm

It’s kill or be killed in this game.  After last week’s crushing loss to the Eagles the Giants can still clinch a playoff berth by beating the Packers on Sunday.  Green Bay can earn a playoff spot by winning their last two games.

Key to the game: The ability of Aaron Rodgers to advance the ball through the air against the Giants’ second ranked passing defense.

Who do I like: This is really a must win for both teams.  You can expect the Lambeau crowd to be electric.  With a healthy Rodgers the Packers have lost only four games – each one by three points and two of them were overtime defeats.  I’ve got to go with Green Bay at home here.

New Orleans Saints at Atlanta Falcons
Monday, 8:30 pm

The Falcons can clinch homefield advantage in the NFC with a win.  The Saints will earn a playoff spot with a win on enemy turf.  Atlanta won in New Orleans during week three.

Key to the game: Turnovers – the Saints turned the ball over 13 times in their four losses.

Who do I like: New Orleans may have been caught looking forward to this game while losing last Sunday in Baltimore.  I think the Saints have really had their eye on getting back at the Falcons since they lost in week three.  They have the perfect opportunity to do so in week 16.  I think New Orleans will come out very focused on Monday night and beat Atlanta.  It will only delay the inevitable division championship for the Falcons, but it will send a message heading into the playoffs where they may meet for a third time.

Who do you think will win these four big games?  Share your predictions by posting a comment below.

Photo source: leduardo

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Week 15 was critical for a number of teams in the NFL as many were jockeying to stay in the playoff hunt or secure their position.  There were some excellent individual offensive performances and spectacular special teams plays.

Here are the Average Guy NFL Week 15 Awards (with the Packers-Patriots game still being played):

Fireman Ed

Fireman Ed was in Pittsburgh and he was fired up!

Most Impressive Win

New York Jets – 22-17 at Pittsburgh Steelers

Most Important Win

Indianapolis Colts – 34-24 over the Jacksonville Jaguars

Worst Loss

Tampa Bay Buccaneers – 20-23 to the Detroit Lions

Biggest Surprise

Baltimore Ravens

Biggest Disappointment

Miami Dolphins

Offensive MVP

Ray Rice, Baltimore Ravens – 31 carries 153 yards 1 TD 5 receptions 80 yards 1 TD

Defensive MVP

Wallace Gilberry, Kansas City Chiefs – 3 sacks

Special Teams MVP

DeSean Jackson, Philadelphia Eagles – 65-yard punt return for TD

Most Surprising Performance

Donald Brown, Indianapolis Colts – 14 carries 129 yards 1 TD 1 reception 4 yards

Most Disappointing Performance

Matt Hasselbeck, Seattle Seahawks – 10 completions 17 attempts 71 yards 2 interceptions 28.9 QB rating Lost fumble

Offensive Rookie

Colt McCoy, Cleveland Browns – 19 completions 25 attempts 243 yards 2 TDs 132.6 QB rating

Defensive Rookie

Kendrick Lewis, Kansas City Chiefs – 2 interceptions

Most Impressive Performance in a Loss

Eli Manning, New York Giants – 23 completions 39 attempts 289 yards 4 TDs 1 interception 105.6 QB rating

Quick Takes

  • I was extremely happy to see that we would have a good 1:00 game to watch – the Jaguars at the Colts.  It was one of those games where the scoreboard does not seem to tell the real story.  The Colts dominated the first half but went into the locker room up only 14-10.
  • The Jaguars had plenty of opportunities to make a run and claim the game but they could not.  They looked awful in the first half of the third quarter.
  • Indianapolis was really impressive in two areas where they’ve struggled mightily this season – running the ball and stopping the run.  Donald Brown was their first 100-yard rusher in 36 games.  That’s an astounding stat.
  • The Jags self-destructed every time they got close in the second half – David Garrard threw an interception, Greg Jones got called for a chop block and then they gave up the fluke onside kick return for a touchdown.
  • I also watched much of the Jets-Steelers game.  I gave DeSean Jackson the Special Teams MVP award above but I definitely want to acknowledge the boost that Brad Smith gave the Jets with his kickoff return touchdown to open the game in Pittsburgh.
  • The end of the game was absolutely thrilling.  When Jason Taylor busted through the Pittsburgh line for the safety I thought it was over.  But the Steelers found a way to stay alive until the very last second.  In the end it was a HUGE win for the Jets.
  • The Ravens made a statement in their win over the Saints.  The defense tightened up and the running game was ferocious.  I said that I keep waiting for the Ravens to reach their potential.  Maybe they are getting there.

One BIG Question

Will a team with a record below .500 make the playoffs?  Or will the Rams or Seahawks win their last two games?

Whose performance stuck out to you in week 15?  Let me know by posting a comment below.

Photo source: GMO66

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There’s a lot on the line in the NFL in week 15 including the AFC South and NFC East, as well as the playoff hopes of the Jets and Packers.  Injuries may further complicate things, especially in the cases of Aaron Rodgers and David Garrard.  Here’s a look at the big games, with my picks:

Peyton Manning in the pocket

Peyton Manning will be looking to gain back control of the AFC South.

Jacksonville Jaguars at Indianapolis Colts
Sunday, 1:00 pm

The Jaguars can clinch the AFC South division title with a win in Indianapolis.  You may think Jacksonville is not capable of pulling off this upset on enemy turf.  But you’d be wrong.  The Jaguars last victory in Indianapolis – just two short years ago.

Key to the game: The Colts’ #1 ranked NFL passing offense against the Jaguars’ 28th ranked passing defense.  Jacksonville is going to have to get some stops.

Who do I like: With a healthy Garrard, I would highly consider taking the Jaguars.  This will be a game of strengths against weaknesses.  I think the Colts strong passing game will exploit the Jaguars bad pass defense more than the Jaguars powerful rushing offense will be able to take advantage of the weak Colts run defense.

New Orleans Saints at Baltimore Ravens
Sunday, 1:00 pm

The defending champions are on a roll having won six in a row.  The Ravens are not nearly as hot but need a win to maintain playoff positioning.

Key to the game: The Ravens pass rush against the Saints pass blocking.  If the Ravens allow Drew Brees to sit back and pick his spots he will light them up, just like Matt Schaub did last week.

Who do I like: I keep waiting for the Ravens to really turn it on.  I think I may be waiting until next season.  I’m going with the Saints and their explosive offensive and solidifying defense.

Philadelphia Eagles at New York Giants
Sunday, 1:00 pm

Tied atop the NFC East at 9-4 the Eagles and Giants will battle in the New Meadowlands early Sunday afternoon.  They met just four weeks ago with Philly winning at home 27-17.

Key to the game: The Giants fifth ranked rushing defense against the fifth ranked rushing offense of the Eagles.  In the first meeting Philadelphia gained 148 yards on the ground including the game winning 50-yard touchdown run by LeSean McCoy.

Who do I like: Since losing to the Eagles the Giants have found their running game and have averaged more than 200 yards on the ground in three games.  I think that the Giants will get good yardage in the running game and slow Michael Vick and company down just enough to get the win.

New York Jets at Pittsburgh Steelers
Sunday, 4:15 pm

After dropping two in a row, and looking really bad doing it, the Jets appear to be in disarray.  The Steelers haven’t played great but have won four in a row.

Key to the game: Mark Sanchez against the Steelers defense.  Sanchez has to find some magic in Pittsburgh if the Jets are going to have any chance in this one.

Who do I like: The Steelers.  Period.  I don’t expect the Jets to be able to move the ball at all.

Green Bay Packers at New England Patriots
Sunday, 8:20 pm

This game shouldn’t be close because Aaron Rodgers shouldn’t play.  The Patriots have staked their claim as the best team in the NFL.

Key to the game: Whether Rodgers plays or not.  If he doesn’t, I don’t give the Packers any chance to win.  Even if he does, I’d only give them about a 15% chance to win.

Who do I like:  I wish Rodgers was healthy and ready to play because this would be a really interesting matchup.  I’m going with the Patriots for the victory – by a big margin.

Who do you like in these games?  What game are you most looking forward to in week 15?  Let me know by posting a comment below.

Photo source: muohace_dc

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NFL Week 14 has been marked by teams reasserting themselves into the playoff conversation after stumbling last week (Colts, Chargers and Bucs) and by the absolute dominance of the New England Patriots.  The two other big stories concern the New York teams.  The Jets fell on their face in a loss to the Dolphins.  And the Giants escaped getting buried by snow and will play the Vikings in Detroit tomorrow night.

Here are the Average Guy NFL Week 14 Awards:

Most Impressive Win

New England Patriots – 36-7 at Chicago Bears

Larry English

Larry English was one of the Chargers turning in impressive performances in Week 14.

Most Important Win

San Diego Chargers – 31-0 over their division rival Kansas City Chiefs

Worst Loss

Green Bay Packers – 3-7 at Detroit Lions

Biggest Surprise

San Francisco 49ers

Biggest Disappointment

New York Jets

Offensive MVP

Tom Brady, New England Patriots – 27 completions 40 attempts 369 yards 2 TDs 113.4 QB rating

Defensive MVP

Troy Polamalu, Pittsburgh Steelers – 2 interceptions (one returned 45 yards for a TD) 2 tackles

Special Teams MVP

Jay Feely, Arizona Cardinals – 5-yard fake kick run for TD 5 FGs

Most Surprising Performance

Alex Smith, San Francisco 49ers – 17 completions 27 attempts 255 yards 3 TDs 130.9 QB rating

Most Disappointing Performance

Matt Hasselbeck, Seattle Seahawks – 27 completions 42 attempts 285 yards 2 TDs 4 interceptions 60.2 QB rating Lost fumble

Offensive Rookie

Arrelious Benn, Tampa Bay Buccaneers – 4 receptions 122 yards 1 carry 17 yards

Defensive Rookie

Daryl Washington, Arizona Cardinals – 40-yard interception return for a TD 8 tackles

Most Impressive Performance in a Loss

Darren McFadden, Oakland Raiders – 16 carries 123 yards 2 TDs 3 receptions 86 yards 1 TD

Quick Takes

  • I am shocked at how quickly the Patriots absolutely dismantled the Bears.  Coming off the dominant win on a Monday night and having to go to Chicago in a snowstorm I thought New England might at least start slow.
  • The Bills could have packed things up long ago.  The fact that they are still fighting for wins is impressive and bodes well for Chan Gailey in the future.  Now they just need a lot more talent.
  • What has happened to the Jets?  Their offensive line looks nowhere near as strong as it was.  Their passing game is almost completely out of sync.  Mark Sanchez looks bad much of the time, but when he does make good throws his receivers are dropping the balls.  With their next two games at Pittsburgh and at Chicago the Jets better find their rhythm fast.
  • Adding insult to injury – the Dolphins only had 30 yards net passing and still beat the Jets.
  • The Jaguars scored another impressive win today over the Raiders.  They can clinch the division next week by going into Indianapolis and beating the Colts.

One BIG Question

Is there an NFL team that can hang with the Patriots?

I’d love to hear your thoughts on week 14.  Post a comment below and let me know what surprised and disappointed you.

Photo source:  SD Dirk

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With only four weeks left in the 2010 NFL season it’s time for the cream to rise to the top.  Last week it was the Steelers and Patriots making statements with huge wins over division rivals.  Who will step up in week 14?  Let’s take a look at the big matchups.

New York Giants at Minnesota Vikings
Sunday, 1:00 pm

Left for dead, the Vikings have gotten a couple of nice wins since the firing of Brad Childress.  The Giants need the victory to stay in contention for the NFC East and maintain playoff positioning.

Key to the game: New York’s sixth ranked rushing offense against Minnesota’s fourth ranked rushing defense.

Who do I like: With Hakeem Nicks and Steve Smith back in the mix and Eli Manning protected by the controlled confines of a dome, I’m going with the Giants

Eli Manning discussing alignments

Eli and the Giants need a big W in Minnesota

Oakland Raiders at Jacksonville Jaguars
Sunday, 1:00 pm

Yes, this is a big game.  The Jaguars currently lead the AFC South while the Raiders are two games behind the Chiefs, have a game remaining against them and have already beaten them once.

Key to the game: Jacksonville’s second ranked rushing offense against Oakland’s 23rd ranked rushing defense.  All of the Jaguars offensive success starts with the running game.

Who do I like: I’ve got to go with Jacksonville and the East Coast 1:00 advantage.

Kansas City Chiefs at San Diego Chargers
Sunday, 4:15 pm

A rematch from week one and unfortunately it looks very likely that the Chiefs will be without Matt Cassel.  Brodie Croyle has started nine games in his NFL career and has zero wins.

Key to the game: San Diego’s second ranked passing game against the 21st ranked passing defense of Kansas City.  The Chiefs have to stop Philip Rivers.  They’ll have no chance in a scoring battle.

Who do I like: Without Cassel, picking the Chargers is a no-brainer.

New England Patriots at Chicago Bears
Sunday, 4:15 pm

The Patriots put their four game winning streak on the line in Chicago against the Bears’ five game winning streak.

Key to the game: Chicago’s pass rush against New England’s offensive line.  To win the game the Bears must not allow Tom Brady to have time to throw.

Who do I like: I can see the Bears winning this game, but I’m not going to make that pick.  The Patriots are rolling.  I’m going with them to get the victory.

Philadelphia Eagles at Dallas Cowboys
Sunday, 8:20 pm

A few weeks ago this wasn’t a game.  It is now.  The Cowboys have won three of four in impressive fashion since Jason Garrett became coach.

Key to the game: The Eagles stopping the suddenly hot Dallas running game.  The Cowboys have 134, 144 and 217 yards rushing in their last three games.

Who do I like: Despite the solid play by Dallas recently I’m still going with Philadelphia.  I think Michael Vick will be the difference maker through the air.

Who do you like in these games?  Let me know your thoughts by posting a comment below.

Photo source: AJ Guel Photography

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College football bowl season is nearly upon us.  It’s always a fun time and there are a number of matchups I’m excited to see.  Here are my top five:

5.  New Era Pinstripe Bowl – Kansas State vs. Syracuse
December 30

Okay, okay, so I’m a little biased here.  Sure the football may be near unwatchable but the Orange are back in a bowl!  Kudos to Coach Marrone for the job he’s done in turning around the program.  I look forward to watching the future progress.

4.  Capital One Bowl – Alabama vs. Michigan St.
January 1

It’s hard to believe that the Crimson Tide lost three games this season.  I expected their running game to dominate everybody but it certainly did not.  The Spartans are a great surprise story who really rallied around their coach.

3.  Allstate Sugar Bowl – Ohio St. vs. Arkansas
January 4

Two of the best college quarterbacks face off in this one with Terrelle Pryor leading the Buckeyes against Ryan Mallett and the Razorbacks.

2.  Rose Bowl – Wisconsin vs. TCU
January 1

TCU takes the Pac-10’s spot in the granddaddy of them all.  This will be the Horned Frogs chance to prove they belong in the discussion about the best teams in college football.  It certainly won’t be easy.  Wisconsin has destroyed their opponents in the last month of the season.

University of Phoenix Stadium

The biggest game of the college football season will take place here at University of Phoenix Stadium

1.  National Championship Game – Oregon vs. Auburn
January 10

This should be a very exciting, fast-paced game.  Soon-to-be Heisman Trophy winner Cam Newton looks to continue his dream season against the Ducks.  Oregon is first in scoring and Auburn is sixth – I hope the scoreboard operator is ready.

What bowl games are you most looking forward to?  Post a comment below and let’s discuss.

Photo source: purpcheese

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