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Sunday’s NFL playoff undercard is a matchup that you immediately want to write off as one-sided.  The Seahawks, who still don’t have a .500 record after winning a playoff game, travel to Chicago to face the Bears, who finished the season 11-5 and had a bye last week.  But after what the Seahawks were able to do against the defending champion Saints in the Wild Card round you cannot write them off.  Add to that the fact that Seattle has already won in Chicago this year, 23-20 in week six, and this game becomes a whole lot more interesting.

Cedric Tillman at snowy Soldier Field

Cedric Tillman and the Bears defense will not be the pushovers that the Saints were.

The Seahawks have demonstrated a lot of resolve by beating the Rams and Saints in consecutive weeks with their backs against the wall.  Very few NFL observers picked them to win either game.  Last Saturday night against New Orleans it was Matt Hasselbeck who had one of the finest games of his career, completing 22 of 35 passes for 272 yards and four touchdowns.  And it was Buffalo castoff Marshawn Lynch who clinched the game with a determined 67-yard touchdown run that thwarted the Saints fourth quarter comeback attempt.

Chicago had its doubters throughout the season, especially after that home loss to Seattle was followed by another home loss to Washington.  But they solidified their need areas during the bye week and finished the season winning seven of their last nine games against a tough schedule. 

The Seahawks win if: They can exploit the Bears’ formerly struggling offensive line to sack Jay Cutler and force him to rush his passes.  The Bears allowed 56 sacks this season, more than any other team in the NFL.  The Seahawks defense was in the top half of the league with 37 sacks and were led by Chris Clemons who had 11.  Seattle had six sacks in the first matchup.

The Bears win if: They take care of the ball and do not turn it over.

Who do I like: Bears 27-13

Why: The Bears team the Seahawks will play in this game is not the same team they matched up with in week six.  Chicago has solidified its offensive line and worked the running game into its offense more.  The Bears should completely shut down the Seahawks running game forcing Hasselbeck into third-and-longs that will enable their pass rush to get good pressure.  I expect the Bears to build a safe lead and cruise to the victory.

Photo source: The U.S. Army

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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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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 all the byes behind us, all 32 NFL teams are playing in week 11.  It got off to a surprising start, at least to me, with the Bears dominating the Dolphins in Miami.  With a packed slate, the action on Sunday was happening fast and furiously. There were some big matchups and some telling results.

Devin Hester

The Bears are finding more ways to make their opponents worry

With the very important Giants-Eagles game currently being played, here are the Average Guy NFL Week 11 Awards:

Most Impressive Win

Green Bay Packers – 31-3 at the Minnesota Vikings

Most Important Win

Chicago Bears – 16-0 at the Miami Dolphins

Worst Loss

Cincinnati Bengals – 31-49 to the Buffalo Bills

Biggest Surprise

Washington Redskins

Biggest Disappointment

San Francisco 49ers

Offensive MVP

Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers – 22 completions 31 attempts 301 yards 4 TDs 141.3 QB rating 3 carries 21 yards

Defensive MVP

Julius Peppers, Chicago Bears – 3 sacks 6 tackles

Special Teams MVP

Bryan McCann, Dallas Cowboys – 97-yard punt return TD, 2 kickoff returns for 55 yards

Most Surprising Performance

Jacksonville Jaguars Defense – held Browns to 88 yards on 27 carries

Most Disappointing Performance

Brandon Marshall, Miami Dolphins – 3 receptions 41 yards (+ penalties and dropped passes)

Offensive Rookie

Chris Ivory, New Orleans Saints – 23 carries 99 yards 1 TD

Defensive Rookie

T.J. Ward, Cleveland Browns – 2 interceptions, 5 tackles

Most Impressive Performance in a Loss

Matt Hasselbeck, Seattle Seahawks – 32 completions 44 attempts 366 yards 1 TD 104.9 QB rating

Welcome Back Mike Williams

Mike Williams, Seattle Seahawks – 6 receptions 109 yards

Quick Takes

  • I watched the bulk of the Redskins-Titans game.  I was really impressed with the play of the Redskins offensive line, especially because injuries led to a patchwork group.  They did a very good job of protecting Donovan McNabb and opening up holes for the running backs.  Kyle Shanahan clearly put together an excellent offensive game plan.
  • It was a real shame that Vince Young got hurt.  He was throwing a good ball before the injury.  I don’t know what the heck happend after that though.
  • Rusty Smith is not ready for primetime.  Not even close.
  • Of course, a stat that I always like to look at is third down conversions.  Coming into the game in Tennessee, Washington was last in the NFL on third down conversions at 22%.  In today’s win they converted 50% and it made a big difference in the game.
  • On the topic of third down conversions – they were definitely a factor in the Falcons-Rams game.  Atlanta converted nine of 17, while St. Louis was only one of 10.
  • I was glad to hear some NFL pundits considering a pick of the Rams.  It shows the progress the franchise has made this season.  But the Falcons are just too good to lose that game.
  • The Steelers showed that they truly do have one of the best defenses in the NFL, holding the recently explosive Raiders to just 182 total yards.
  • I was definitely impressed by the Bears and Bucs this week who showed that they are for real by posting shutouts on somebody else’s turf.
  • The Chiefs, Jaguars and Redskins all sent a message not to count them out yet.
  • Shovel the dirt on the Bengals and Vikings.  They are done.

One BIG Question

Can the Dolphins and Titans climb back into the playoff race?  Or are they done now too?

Let me know your week 11 thoughts by posting a comment below.

Photo source: Monica’s Dad

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The NFL is a quarterback-driven league.  Most often, the teams with the best quarterbacks are the teams that have the best records.  This is especially true in today’s pass happy NFL.  In the past couple of decades it has been a very rare occasion that a team without a star quarterback has won the Super Bowl.

Lombardi Trophies

You need a great QB to win one of these

So at the halfway point of the 2010 NFL season what teams have gotten the most out of the quarterback position?

  1. Indianapolis Colts – Peyton Manning
    Without much run support and with an average offensive line at best, Manning has led the Colts to a 5-2 record while throwing 15 touchdowns and only two interceptions.  He’s also made the most of an injury-plagued receiving corps.  Even though he may have lost a tick he’s still the elite quarterback in the NFL.
  2. San Diego Chargers – Philip Rivers
    Although he’s not one of my favorites, Rivers deserves his props.  While his team has struggled to a 3-5 start he’s been steady, leading the NFL with an average of 331 yards passing per game.  Like Manning, he’s had to deal with a receiving corps that’s been decimated by injury.  Still, he’s put up the third best quarterback rating (98.9) in the NFL through the first eight weeks.
  3. Denver Broncos – Kyle Orton
    Orton’s been nothing less than spectacular for the Broncos.  He’s second to Rivers in averaging 314 yards per game.  He’s thrown 12 touchdowns with only five interceptions against defenses that have not had to respect the Denver running game at all.
  4. New England Patriots – Tom Brady
    Efficiency is the key for Brady.  He’s completed 65% of his passes.  He’s thrown 12 touchdowns with only four interceptions.  But, he’s averaging only 229 yards passing per game.  Maybe most importantly though he’s led New England to the best record in the NFL.
  5. New Orleans Saints – Drew Brees
    He’s thrown a frightening 11 interceptions but Brees has also completed 71% of his passes and has thrown a league leading 16 touchdowns while trying to make up for the loss of the Saints top two running backs.
  6. Atlanta Falcons – Matt Ryan
    Ryan’s quiet consistency has been a key to Atlanta’s 5-2 start.  He’s thrown 12 touchdowns and five interceptions while completing 62% of his passes for an average of 245 yards per game.
  7. Philadelphia Eagles – Michael Vick and Kevin Kolb
    Combined Vick and Kolb have thrown for 12 touchdowns with only four interceptions.  They’ve completed nearly 63% of their passes.  Two of the Eagles three losses have come when one of the quarterbacks were knocked out of the game.  With two quarterbacks with such differing skill sets as Vick and Kolb it is hard to adjust the game plan on the fly if one has to substitute for the other.
  8. Tennessee Titans – Vince Young and Kerry Collins
    The Titans have not exactly been racking up the yards through the air.  They rank 24th in the NFL at 187.6 yards passing per game.  But Young and Collins have combined for 14 touchdowns and five interceptions while helping Tennessee start the season at 5-3.
  9. Houston Texans – Matt Schaub
    Schaub has been steady but not spectacular and has not matched up to his 2009 season.  He’s completing 63% of his passes but only has 10 touchdowns compared to six interceptions.
  10. Baltimore Ravens – Joe Flacco
    Playing against top competition gets Flacco the benefit of the doubt.  His numbers are just okay – 59% completion percentage, 10 touchdowns, six interceptions and 236 yards passing per game.
  11. New York Giants – Eli Manning
    His 11 interceptions send off sirens, but in fairness to Manning many of them went through his receivers hands or were tipped.  Otherwise, he’s completing an excellent 66% of his passes while throwing 14 touchdowns and averaging 255 yards per game.
  12. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Josh Freeman and Josh Johnson
    Freeman has a very impressive six 4th quarter comebacks in just 16 starts, including two in a row.  He’s only thrown three interceptions to eight touchdowns while leading the Bucs to a 5-2 record.
  13. Kansas City Chiefs – Matt Cassel
    He hasn’t lost games for the Chiefs but he really hasn’t won games for them either.  He does have a respectable 10 touchdowns and three interceptions.  He’s only completing 59% of his passes though while throwing for 171 yards per game.
  14. Detroit Lions – Shaun Hill, Matthew Stafford and Drew Stanton
    The trio has combined for 14 touchdowns and an average of more than 250 yards per game.  To the negative they’ve thrown nine interceptions.
  15. Green Bay Packers – Aaron Rodgers
    It’s hard to believe that Rodgers could be this low but he’s thrown nine interceptions to only 12 touchdowns while completing 61% of his passes for an average of 251 yards per game.
  16. Cincinnati Bengals – Carson Palmer
    He was pretty atrocious early on but Palmer has rallied some through the middle of the season.  He has 12 touchdowns and seven interceptions.
  17. Pittsburgh Steelers – Ben Roethlisberger, Charlie Batch and Dennis Dixon
    Roethlisberger’s four game suspension necessitated the starts for Batch and Dixon.  Roethlisberger has played quite well but their production at the position in the first four games was putrid.
  18. Jacksonville Jaguars – David Garrard, Todd Bouman, Trent Edwards and Luke McCown
    This foursome has thrown 15 touchdowns while completing nearly 64% of their passes.  The key contributor of course has been Garrard who has completed 68% of his passes for 13 touchdowns.  But his interceptions are high (7) and his yards per game are low (157).
  19. Miami Dolphins – Chad Henne
    As he continues to find his rhythm with Brandon Marshall, Henne is developing into a solid NFL quarterback.  He’s completed 63% of his passes for an average of 238 yards per game.  Interceptions have been his achilles heel.  He has seven, compared to eight touchdowns.
  20. New York Jets – Mark Sanchez
    He’s a polarizing figure among NFL talking heads and Sanchez has probably seen more ups and downs than any other quarterback in the league.  His nine touchdowns to four interceptions ratio is good but he’s only completed 53% of his throws for an average of 194 yards per game.
  21. St. Louis Rams – Sam Bradford
    As I’ve written before, one thing is for sure, when he actually has some weapons Bradford is going to be nasty.  The fact that he’s led the Rams to four wins in eight games counts for a lot.  He’s already thrown 11 touchdowns.  His eight interceptions are not good nor is his 59% completion percentage.  However, much of that can be put on that receiving corps.
  22. Buffalo Bills – Ryan Fitzpatrick and Trent Edwards
    There’s a lot to like about Fitzpatrick.  He’s thrown 12 touchdowns to just five interceptions.  He’s completed 60% of his passes for 240 yards per game.  But the outings of Edwards have to count here and so does the Bills 0-7 record.
  23. Dallas Cowboys – Tony Romo and Jon Kitna
    Maybe this isn’t fair to Romo.  After all he did complete nearly 70% of his passes, threw 11 touchdowns and had numerous drops by receivers.  But Romo also threw some critical interceptions, Kitna has been less than mediocre and the Cowboys are 1-6.
  24. Oakland Raiders – Jason Campbell and Bruce Gradkowski
    Campbell and Gradkowski have combined to throw 10 touchdowns and average 197.5 passing yards per game.  Their interceptions are high (8) and their completion percentage is low (54.8) but they have led the Raiders to four wins.
  25. Washington Redskins – Donovan McNabb
    It pains me to put McNabb this low but the stats are the stats.  He’s only completing 57% of his passes and has thrown eight interception to seven touchdowns.
  26. San Francisco 49ers – Alex Smith, Troy Smith and David Carr
    Across the pond the 49ers got a good performance from Troy Smith.  Alex Smith has been mediocre at best, completing 59% of his throws for nine touchdowns and nine interceptions.  Carr was predictably awful in a short relief stint.
  27. Seattle Seahawks – Matt Hasselbeck
    The Seahawks are 4-3 but Hasselbeck has played predominantly poorly.  He’s completed only 57% of his passes.  He also has seven interceptions to just six touchdowns.
  28. Minnesota Vikings – Brett Favre and Tavaris Jackson
    It’s hard to believe Favre is the same guy who threw 33 touchdowns and only seven interceptions last season.  He’s already thrown 11 interceptions through seven games with only seven touchdowns.
  29. Cleveland Browns – Colt McCoy, Seneca Wallace and Jake Delhomme
    I’ve been saying this for years – Delhomme is just plain awful.  Wallace has been decent and McCoy has been okay in managing games.
  30. Chicago Bears – Jay Cutler and Todd Collins
    Collins set quarterback play back centuries in just one game.  Cutler has been brutalized but is completing 61% of his passes and averaging 247 yards through the air per game.  He’s evened up at seven touchdowns and seven interceptions.
  31. Arizona Cardinals – Derek Anderson and Max Hall
    These two have been atrocious.  They’ve combined to complete less than 53% of their passes and have thrown 12 interceptions with five touchdowns.
  32. Carolina Panthers – Matt Moore and Jimmy Clausen
    After the past few years Panthers fans are used to poor performances at quarterback.  This season they are at an all time low though.  Moore and Clausen have thrown a league-worst 13 interceptions and have completed 52.2% of their passes, also worst in the NFL. 

What do you think of my list?  Who would you rank higher and who would you rank lower?  Let me know in the comments section below.

Photo source: daveynin

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