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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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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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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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So far in NFL Week 13 we’ve seen the Falcons and Jaguars step up to take control of their divisions, strong efforts by playoff contenders (Eagles, Packers, Giants and Chiefs) and the resurgence of two expected powers (Vikings and Cowboys).  As interesting as it has all been, it’s now time for the heavyweights to battle and determine what the major storylines of the first weekend in December will be.

But before that happens, here are the Average Guy NFL Week 13 Awards:

Most Impressive Win

Atlanta Falcons – 28-24 at Tampa Bay

Most Important Win

Jacksonville Jaguars – 17-6 at division rival Tennessee

Worst Loss

Indianapolis Colts – 35-38 to the Dallas Cowboys at home

Biggest Surprise

Oakland Raiders

Biggest Disappointment

Miami Dolphins

Offensive MVP

Maurice Jones-Drew, Jacksonville Jaguars – 31 carries 186 yards 1 reception 4 yards

Defensive MVP

Sean Lee, Dallas Cowboys – 2 interceptions (one returned 31 yards for a TD) 4 tackles

Special Teams MVP

Eric Weems, Atlanta Falcons – 102-yard kickoff return TD 4 kick returns 163 yards 1 punt return 10 yards

Most Surprising Performance

Benjamin Watson, Cleveland Browns – 10 receptions 100 yards 1 TD

Most Disappointing Performance

Kerry Collins, Tennessee Titans – 14 completions 32 attempts 169 yards 2 interceptions 34.5 QB rating

Offensive Rookie

Chris Ivory, New Orleans Saints – 15 carries 117 yards 2 TDs

Defensive Rookie

(beyond Sean Lee) Jason Pierre-Paul, New York Giants – 2 sacks, 3 tackles

Most Impressive Performance in a Loss

Knowshon Moreno, Denver Broncos – 23 carries 161 yards 1 reception 14 yards

Quick Takes

  • I expected Jacksonville to win but I am surprised at the way they dominated Tennessee on both sides of the ball.  It’s looking more and more like the Jags have a legitimate shot to win the AFC South.
  • Drew Stanton played much better than I expected against the Bears.  He was 16 of 24 for 178 yards and a touchdown for a 102.4 QB rating.  He also had a rushing touchdown.
  • Because his team lost he doesn’t qualify for my Defensive MVP but Cliff Avril was tremendous today with three sacks.
  • Looks like the Chiefs did an incredible job against the usually potent Broncos passing game.  They held Kyle Orton to just 117 yards passing and nine completions on 28 attempts.  Wow!
  • Not often you see a team lose four fumbles – but today two teams, the Bills and Redskins, each lost four fumbles.
  • I’m shocked that the Raiders handled the Chargers the way they did.  With both teams heading in opposite directions and the Chargers at home it seemed clear that they would handle their business.  But Oakland came in and ran all over the San Diego defense.
  • We had the privilege of viewing the mostly irrelevant Panthers-Seahawks game so I could not watch the Falcons-Buccaneers matchup.  I’ve got to say I’m impressed with the run Tampa Bay gave Atlanta.  I expected the Falcons to handle them by a couple of scores.

One BIG Question

Which 6-6 team is more disappointing – Colts, Chargers or Dolphins?

What are your thoughts on Week 13?  Let me know by posting a comment below.

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The Sunday portion of NFL week 12 has been thrilling.  Through the first 11 games of the day (with Chargers-Colts being played), eight games have ended with a score differential of a touchdown or less.  Five of the six early games are included in that total.  This is what the NFL is all about.  I guess it makes up for a rather ho-hum Thanksgiving slate.

With the Sunday and Monday night games still to be played, here are the Average Guy NFL Week 12 Awards:

Most Impressive Win

Chicago Bears – 31-26 over the Philadelphia Eagles

Eli Manning Warming Up

Eli Manning and the Giants rallied for a critical win on Sunday

Most Important Win

New York Giants – 24-20 over the Jacksonville Jaguars

Worst Loss

Tennessee Titans – 20-0 at the Houston Texans

Biggest Surprise

St. Louis Rams

Biggest Disappointment

Oakland Raiders

Offensive MVP

Jay Cutler, Chicago Bears – 14 completions 21 attempts 247 yards 4 TDs 146.2 QB rating 7 carries 17 yards

Defensive MVP

Terrell Thomas, New York Giants – 1 interception 1 sack 6 tackles

Special Teams MVP

Brad Smith, New York Jets – 89-yard kickoff return TD

Most Surprising Performance

Chad Henne, Miami Dolphins – 17 completions 30 attempts 307 yards 2 TDs 1 interception 100.3 QB rating

Most Disappointing Performance

Chris Johnson, Tennessee Titans – 7 carries 5 yards 2 receptions 2 yards

Offensive Rookie

Sam Bradford, St. Louis Rams – 22 completions 37 attempts 308 yards 3 TDs 113.3 QB rating

Defensive Rookie

Jason Pierre-Paul, New York Giants – 2 sacks, 8 tackles

Most Impressive Performance in a Loss

Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers – 26 completions 35 attempts 344 yards 1 TD 114.5 QB rating 12 carries 51 yards 1 TD

Quick Takes

  • The local FOX affiliate had to show the Panthers-Browns game so there was no watching the Packers-Falcons matchup.  So instead I tuned in for the whole Jaguars-Giants game and it was a good one.
  • Jacksonville had complete control in the first half.  David Garrard excelled and the Jaguars O-line opened up hole after hole for the backs while the New York defense seemed to have missed their wake up call.  Jacksonville piled up 145 yards on the ground through the first two quarters.
  • The second half was a different story.  The Giants defense caught a lucky break early with the Terrell Thomas interception and showed a much greater sense of urgency.  They blitzed quite a bit and it was particularly successful in the last few minutes of the game as they repeatedly hit Garrard.
  • One Jacksonville player I was really impressed with who doesn’t get much PT was the running back Rashad Jennings.  He has the patience to let the blocking develop and then explode.  That is a skill that is not often seen at that level in such a young ball carrier.
  • The absolute key to the Giants win? Zero turnovers.
  • Of course I’m very excited that the Rams beat the Broncos in Denver, but boy it was nerve racking. I was following the game online as the Rams let the Broncos get closer and closer and closer.  I was sure they were going to fold like they did in San Francisco.  Then FOX switched to live coverage after the Eagles-Bears game was over.  I was thrilled to see the defense finally get the stop they needed.  Now the Rams are back in first place in the NFC West.
  • Miami really stopped Oakland’s running game.  If you take away Jacoby Ford’s 13-yard run the Dolphins held the Raiders to just three yards on 11 carries…hard to believe.
  • I predicted the Chiefs would fall in Seattle.  I was clearly wrong.  What a game for Matt Cassel, Jamaal Charles and Dwayne Bowe.

One BIG Question

Which game is bigger next week – Steelers at Ravens on Sunday night or Jets at Patriots on Monday night?  Let me know which one you are looking forward to more.

Photo source: Marianne O’Leary

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With the three Thanksgiving games behind us, it’s time to start getting fired up for week 12’s 12 Sunday matchups.  I’ve already individually previewed the two games I think are the most important, the Packers visiting Atlanta to play the Falcons and the Eagles taking on the Bears in Chicago.  As the playoff picture is becoming clearer there are a number of games that have important implications.  Instead of just tackling one more in-depth, I’m going to take the approach of asking one big question and providing an answer that I think will determine the result.

Air Force Honor Guard

It's almost time for NFL Week 12 to begin

Jacksonville Jaguars @ New York Giants

Q: Will the Giants and Jags set an NFL record for most combined turnovers in a game?

A: No.  While Jacksonville is currently ranked 28th in the NFL in turnovers and New York is dead last, I think the Giants will finally right the ship, cut down the turnovers and get a much needed win.

Minnesota Vikings @ Washington Redskins

Q: Will the brand new head coach phenomenon propel the Vikings to victory in Washington?

A: Yes.  The Redskins really should have lost last week to the Titans but Rusty Smith was completely imcompetent.  With Leslie Frazier now at the helm, a steady dose of Adrian Peterson should be enough for the Vikings to get the W.

Kansas City Chiefs @ Seattle Seahawks

Q: Can the Chiefs steal a win in one of the toughest places to play in the NFL?

A: No.  Kansas City is 1-4 on the road while the Seahawks are 3-1 at home.  Seattle needs this game to stay on top of the NFC West and I believe the 12th man will help them get it.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers @ Baltimore Ravens

Q: Are the Bucs legitimate contenders?

A: No, and the Ravens will handle them easily.  Tampa Bay has built up its 7-3 record against the eighth easiest schedule in the NFL.

San Diego Chargers @ Indianapolis Colts

Q: Will Philip Rivers further solidify his MVP candidacy with a win in Indianapolis on Sunday night?

A: Yes.  It surprises even me to say this but I’m taking the Chargers to beat the Colts.  San Diego is making its late season run and Rivers has been incredible with a receiving unit made up of castoffs.  With Vincent Jackson back and Ryan Mathews healthy the Chargers are very well positioned.

What are your thoughts on these five games?  Do you agree with my answers?  Am I asking the right question?  Let me know what you think by posting a comment below.

Photo source: NYCMarines

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