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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 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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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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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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Halloween was all treats and no tricks for me as I got to watch the Rams beat the Panthers.  It was the first time I’ve watched them since they beat the Redskins.  I saw a lot of positives and will share my observations below in the Quick Takes.

Let’s get right to the Average Guy’s NFL Week Eight Awards:

Waving the Packers flag

The Packers got a huge win on Sunday

Most Impressive Win

Green Bay Packers – 9-0 over the New York Jets

Most Important Win

San Diego Chargers – 33-25 over the Tennessee Titans

Worst Loss

Dallas Cowboys – 17-35 to the Jacksonville Jaguars in Dallas

Biggest Surprise

Oakland Raiders

Biggest Disappointment

Washington Redskins

They Are Who We Thought They Were

Arizona Cardinals

Offensive MVP

Calvin Johnson, Detroit Lions – 9 receptions 101 yards 3 TDs

Defensive MVP

Aqib Talib, Tampa Bay Buccaneers – 45-yard interception return for TD 2 interceptions 5 tackles

Special Teams MVP

Dan Carpenter, Miami Dolphins – 5 field goals

Most Surprising Performance

Jason Campbell, Oakland Raiders – 15 completions 27 attempts 310 yards 2 TDs 120.9 QB rating

Most Disappointing Performance

Seattle Seahawks offensive line

Offensive Rookie

Sam Bradford, St. Louis Rams – 25 completions 32 attempts 191 yards  TDs 112.4 QB rating

Defensive Rookie

Ndamukong Suh, Detroit Lions – 17-yard fumble recovery return for TD 2 sacks 5 tackles

Most Impressive Performance in a Loss

Brandon Lloyd, Denver Broncos – 7 receptions 169 yards 1 TD

Welcome Back Mike Williams

Mike Williams, Tampa Bay Buccaneers – 4 receptions 105 yards 1 TD

Quick Takes

  • From watching the Rams I can tell you that when he gets some more talented receivers around him, Sam Bradford is going to be unbelievable.  He makes good decisions, puts the ball where it needs to be, buys time by scrambling and exhibits strong leadership.
  • I was really impressed with the Rams defense.  It has improved quite a bit just in the weeks since the win over the Redskins.  Chris Long and James Hall are getting good pressure, the linebackers are reading plays quickly and the secondary showed some good one-on-one skill and an eye for the ball.  The only concerning thing was their two-minute defense, which gave up some big plays.
  • The tackling from both the Rams and Panthers was excellent.
  • Today was Isaac Bruce day in St. Louis.  It was great to a see a player who was one of my favorites for about a decade back on the Rams’ sideline.
  • This is now almost a weekly thing – I have to give big props to Steven Jackson for being out on the field and turning in an inspired performance just four days after having surgery on his left ring finger.
  • The two games that shocked me the most – Green Bay shutting out the Jets and Oakland blowing out Seattle.
  • I think the third down conversion statistic is one of the most important stats in the game.  Consider: Buffalo converted 11 of 23 third downs and almost beat Kansas City; San Diego converted on 12 of 18 third downs and beat Tennessee; and Seattle was one of 16 on third downs and lost to Oakland.

One BIG Question

Can Mark Sanchez find the form that helped him lead the Jets to wins over the Patriots and Dolphins?

What performances did you think were Sunday’s best?  Let me know by posting a comment below.

Photo source: Paul Kehrer

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Let’s get right to my fifth most important game of NFL week seven:

New England Patriots at San Diego Chargers
Sunday, 4:15 pm

Despite having both the number one passing offense and number one passing defense in the NFL, the Chargers find themselves with a 2-4 record at the bottom of the AFC West.  Every week they seem to find a way to lose, often via special teams.  Pass protection was an issue last week as they gave up seven sacks and lost to the Rams.  Losing this week and dropping to 2-5 would make the Chargers absolutely desperate for wins.

San Diego Charger Power

Can Charger Power slow the precise Patriots offense?

New England is on the opposite side of the spectrum.  They got a huge win over the Ravens last week.  Deion Branch fit back into the offense just like he had never left.  While not spectacular, the Patriots young defense played very well after halftime and held the Ravens to just 99 yards on 34 carries.  They have struggled throughout the season on pass defense and currently rank 29th in the NFL.

The Patriots win if: The defense stops the San Diego run game and forces them to be one dimensional.

The Chargers win if: They can take away the medium pass routes.  The Ravens committed to stopping the short passing game and did a pretty good job but it was Branch and his medium routes that really hurt them.

Seeing how the Patriots beat the Dolphins on special teams play and the way the Chargers have repeatedly cracked on special teams, the San Diego coaching staff must be paying special attention to that area this week.  Another problem for the Chargers is the health of Antonio Gates.  Right now he is questionable and missed Wednesday’s practice.  Still I like the Chargers in this game.  One reason is that this is pretty close to a must win game for them.  They should also be able to generate enough offense to get the win, especially with New England being an east coast team that’s traveling to the west coast for the game.

Do you like my pick of the Chargers?  Or do you think the Patriots will get the W?  Let me know your thoughts on this game in the comments section below.

Photo source: Ryan Leighty

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