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It’s always fun to make preseason predictions and it’s usually a nightmare to go back and look at them. 

Fortune teller with crystal ball

I don't think I've quite figured out how to interpret my crystal ball yet.

With a quick glance I can tell that I wasn’t very creative with my 2010 NFL predictions.  Here they are with the actual records next to them in parentheses:

NFC East

Cowboys   11-5 (6-10)
Giants   10-6 (10-6)
Redskins   9-7 (6-10)
Eagles   8-8 (10-6)

My shining jewel in the NFC East – my New York Giants prediction.  I also picked Tono Romo to be division MVP, Donovan McNabb to be the Top Newcomer in the division, Linval Joseph to be the Top Rookie (he did make six tackles!) and Malcolm Kelly to be the Most Improved.  Ugh!

NFC North

Packers   12-4 (10-6)
Vikings   10-6 (6-10)
Bears   5-11 (11-5)
Lions   2-14 (6-10)

Not too bad with the Packers but I was off by at least four games with the three other teams in the NFC North.  I did better in the individual categories.  I picked Aaron Rodgers to be the NFC North MVP, Clay Matthews as the division Defensive Player of the Year and Julius Peppers to be the Top Newcomer.

NFC South

Saints   12-4 (11-5)
Falcons   11-5 (13-3)
Panthers   5-11 (1-15)
Buccaneers   4-12 (10-6)

Let me first apologize to Tampa Bay for being so far off.  I’d like to apologize to myself next for giving the Panthers too much credit even though I wanted to pick them to have far fewer wins.  My individual award picks for the NFC South were a Saints and Falcons lovefest.

NFC West

49ers   10-6 (6-10)
Cardinals   6-10 (5-11)
Rams   4-12 (7-9)
Seahawks   4-12 (7-9)

The Rams definitely surpassed my expectations, which was exciting – well at least up to last night.  I expected big things from Frank Gore, Alex Smith and Beanie Wells.  Oops.

AFC East

Patriots   13-3 (14-2)
Jets   12-4 (11-5)
Dolphins   8-8 (7-9)
Bills   3-13 (4-12)
 
I was pretty good in the AFC East just missing each team by one game and calling the order of finish.  While I did pick Tom Brady to be the AFC East MVP, I also picked Shonn Greene to be Offensive Player of the Year, C.J. Spiller to be the Top Rookie and Aaron Maybin to be Most Improved.

AFC North

Ravens   11-5 (12-4)
Steelers   10-6 (12-4)
Bengals   10-6 (4-12)
Browns   2-14 (5-11)

I thought the suspension of Ben Roethlisberger would hurt the Steelers a lot more than it did.  I also blew it on the Bengals.  I expected Joe Flacco to really turn it up and be the AFC North MVP.  That did not happen either.

AFC South

Colts   12-4 (10-6)
Titans   11-5 (6-10)
Texans   9-7 (6-10)
Jaguars   5-11 (8-8)

Other than the Colts I got this division all wrong.  I did call Arian Foster as the Most Improved Player in the AFC South.

AFC West

Chargers   12-4 (9-7)
Chiefs   8-8 (10-6)
Raiders   5-11 (8-8)
Broncos   3-13 (4-12)

I clearly trusted the Chargers too much.  I wanted to buy more into the Raiders but I couldn’t find the wins.  I did say that Vincent Jackson was the Most Important Player in the AFC West because of his holdout.  That may have proven to be true.

So another NFL regular season is in the books and my predictions mostly stunk.  I only predicted one team’s record correctly.  I’m pretty sure you could randomly generate records and get one right.  But don’t worry fearless readers it won’t stop me from making more predictions!

Photo source: Steve Snodgrass

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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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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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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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At 6-3 the Giants and Eagles are tied atop the NFC East, but after last weekend they seem to be going in completely opposite directions.

After winning five in a row the Giants crashed and burned against a left-for-dead Dallas Cowboys team.  The Cowboys had a number of big plays and forced the Giants into three turnovers.  The game changed on a red zone interception Eli Manning threw that was returned 101 yards for a touchdown.  The Giants defense, which has been very dependable while ranking fourth in the NFL against the pass and third against the rush, gave up more than 300 yards passing and 100 yards rushing.

Eli Manning Throwing vs. Texans

Will Eli Manning have enough time to exploit a weak Eagles secondary?

Led by Michael Vick, the Eagles had a phenomenal Monday night performance, beating the Redskins 59-28.  Vick was 20 of 28 for 333 yards and four touchdowns.  He also ran for 80 yards and two touchdowns on eight carries.  With Vick at the helm Philadelphia has proven to be one of the most dynamic offenses in the NFL. 

The Giants win if:  They can stop the Eagles early.  In their last four wins Philadelphia has scored in at least their first two possessions.  Against Indianapolis they scored on their first three possessions.  Last week against the Redskins they scored touchdowns on their first five possessions.  New York must do whatever it takes to prevent the Eagles from scoring early.

The Eagles win if:  They win the battle of the trenches, especially on offense.  They’ve used a lot of max protect schemes to give Vick time and/or holes to find for the run.  They must continue to provide that time for Vick and to open up running lanes for LaSean McCoy.

Who do I like: Giants 27-24

Why: Mostly because of this – every time this season seems to start making sense, something crazy happens.  Everything points to the Eagles winning this game.  Yet, just two weeks ago, many were considering whether the Giants were the best team in the NFL.  Now, the same is being said of the Eagles.  I think the Giants D-line can force some chaos that slows Vick down.  When the Giants have the ball I expect the offensive line to give Manning just enough time to take advantage of a poor Philadelphia secondary.

Let me know who you think is going to win this huge NFC East matchup and why by posting a comment below.

Photo source: AJ Guel Photography

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