NFL Week-by-Week Preview: The Playoffs

The year 2012 has ended and so has the NFL regular season.  Twenty teams are now thinking about what to do in the offseason, while twelve are dreaming of the Lombardi Trophy.  The Packers and Patriots each won themselves homefield advantage throughout the playoffs.  The 49ers and Steelers earned themselves a week off and a bye into the divisional round.  The Falcons, Eagles, Texans, and Broncos all won their divisions and will play host during Wild Card weekend.  The Saints, Bears, Ravens, and Bills all eanred themselves a wild card into the playoffs.  Let the second season begin…

Wild Card Weekend

Saturday, January 5, 4:30#6 Buffalo Bills at #3 Houston Texans
The playoffs kick off with this year’s AFC regular season surprise taking on last year’s AFC regular season surprise.  The Bills faded down the stretch and lost some head-scratching games, but still managed to get to 9 wins and beat out the Chargers and Bengals on a tiebreaker.  If it’s possible for a team that has only won one playoff game (last  year) to underachieve by getting 11 wins, the Texans did that.  But, they have a shot to erase it all and go for the title which many thought them capable.  They should be able to handle the Bills here at home, sending them to the Steel City for the divisional round.  Texans 27 – Bills 10

Saturday, January 5, 8:00#5 New Orleans Saints at #4 Philadelphia Eagles
Despite all the distractions of this offseason, the Saints and all of their offensive talent still put together a terrific season, missing out on winning the division on a conference record tiebreaker.  The Eagles bounced back from a terrible 2011 to return to the top of the NFC East, with an 11-5 record.  They lost to the Giants in Week 17, costing themselves a first-round bye.  Now, they are stuck with a wild card game against a very good team and a road game in the divisional round.  In this one, I think the much maligned Eagles defense comes up big, while the offense does what it always does.  The Eagles run away with this one to avenge the playoff loss in 2007 and send them to the divisional round against either Green Bay or San Francisco, depending on the outcome of the early game tomorrow.  Eagles 34 – Saints 20

Sunday, January 6, 1:00#6 Chicago Bears at #3 Atlanta Falcons
The Falcons had another very good season under Matt Ryan and Mike Smith, but it’s not about the regular season anymore for this team.  It’s all about what they do in the postseason.  And, they didn’t get a great draw here, as the Bears, an 11-win 6-seed are really tough.  The addition of Brandan Marshall pushed this offense to new levels, while the defense is its consistent self.  Now that the defense doesn’t have to carry this Bears team, they are very dangerous.  Once again, I think this Falcons team falls short at the worst time, as the Bears go into the Georgia Dome and upset the Dirty Birds, setting up a bitter matchup with their longtime rivals.  This Bears win sends Philly to San Francisco next week.  Bears 21 – Falcons 17

Sunday, January 6, 4:30#5 Baltimore Ravens at #4 Denver Broncos
Peyton Manning is back in the playoffs.  After a tough 1-4 start, the Broncos rallied to win 8 of their last 11 games, winning the AFC West on the strength of their season sweep of the Chargers.  The Ravens also started slowly, winning just 3 of their first 7, before ripping off 8 wins in 9 games, including two over the hated rival Steelers.  The red hot Ravens offense is rolling, while the defense is digging in for one last stand.  The season in Denver has to be deemed a success, but it will, most likely, end here, as the Ravens earn themselves a chance at redemption against the team that beat them in the AFC Championship last year.  Ravens 31 – Broncos 13

Divisional Weekend

Saturday, January 12, 4:30#4 Philadelphia Eagles at #2 San Francisco 49ers
After a thorough beatdown of a really good Saints team, the Eagles are really rolling.  The 49ers won the NFC West and, for the second straight year, earned themselves a first-round bye.  And, like last year, they welcome in a team that has a terrific offense and very big aspirations.  But, unlike last year, this team can also play defense.  The Eagles d-line should abuse Alex Smith all day, and the Niners receivers will have a miserable time getting open on Nnamdhi and DRC.  It will be a frustrating day by the bay for the red and gold.  Eagles 23 – 49ers 6

Saturday, January 12, 8:00#3 Houston Texans at #2 Pittsburgh Steelers
Ho-hum, another 12-win season for the black and gold.  They have o-line issues and potentially huge running back issues.  But, their receiving corps is elite, the defense is legendary, and their QB knows how to do nothing else in this world other than winning football games.  The Texans have a ton of talent, but they are a bit top-heavy, and this is where that shows up.  Their penny-pinching on the offensive line will haunt them in this one.  Steelers 20 – Texans 14

Sunday, January 13, 1:00#5 Baltimore Ravens at #1 New England Patriots
The Pats are loaded, yet again, this year.  They are revolutionizing the offensive game with their 2- and 3-tight end sets, and their defense is a LOT better than it was a year ago.  They cruised to 14 wins this year and did it rather easily.  The Ravens have been rolling recently and will be trying to avenge a home loss in Week 3 and, more importantly, a crushing loss in the AFC Championship Game last year.  But, the Pats are just too good right now, and the Ravens defense will really miss Terrell Suggs in this one.  Barring a superhuman performance by Ray Rice, the Pats should eliminate the Ravens yet again, setting up another showdown with those Pittsburgh Steelers.  Patriots 28 – Ravens 14

Sunday, January 13, 4:30#6 Chicago Bears at #1 Green Bay Packers
The oldest and best rivalry in football rekindles itself here in the divisional round on the frozen tundra of Lambeau Field.  The Packers followed up their 15-1 season last year with a 14-2 season and another #1-seed this year.  Their defense was a little better than last year (and, how could it be worse?), and their offense was just as potent.  The Bears picked up a big upset win in Atlanta last week to get them here, but they are a bit overmatched in this one.  Packers 30 – Bears 21

Conference Championship Sunday

Sunday, January 20, 1:00#2 Pittsburgh Steelers at #1 New England Patriots
The Pats made quick work of a good, experienced Ravens defense, and they are poised to do the same here.  The Steelers probably just don’t have the horses on either side of the ball to run with this loaded Pats team.  Yet again, we have to live with two weeks of media coronation of the Belichick-Brady Era.  Patriots 35 – Steelers 17

Sunday, January 20, 4:30#4 Philadelphia Eagles at #1 Green Bay Packers
What is the Packers biggest weakness of offense?  They have a very shaky offensive line.  What do the Eagles do better than any other team in the NFL?  Rush the passer.  What is the Packers biggest weakness of defense?  An shaky secondary.  What do the Eagles have more of than – just about – any other team in the NFL?  Speed, speed, and more speed on the outside.  The front four of the Eagles will live in the Packers backfield all game, while the speed merchants of Maclin, McCoy, and Jackson will abuse the Packers secondary all game.  The Pack will get theirs, but this smells like an upset.  Eagles 34 – Packers 30

Super Bowl XLVII

Sunday, February 3, approximately 6:48Philadelphia Eagles vs. New England Patriots
A rematch of Super Bowl XXXIX, except that I will actually get to watch it in English in a country that is not (most likely) 36 hours into a military coup d’etat.  These two teams are both loaded.  The problem (if you’re an Eagles fan) is that one of teams has actually won with this group and the other may still be trying to put the right pieces in the right places.  Furthermore, the matchups  in this game are absolutely terrible for the Birds.  They have two physical man corners, but who in the hell is gonna cover those two tight ends?  Unless Nate Allen or Michael Kendriks plays the game of their lives, this Pats team might march up and down the field on the Eagles because the pass rush can be rendered ineffective against the quick passes to the tight ends and Welker.  I like the Eagles offense to put up some points, but probably not nearly enough, as Belichich and Brady get yet another one…  Patriots 38 – Eagles 27

NFL Week-by-Week Preview: Week Seventeen

And, here it is – the final day of the NFL regular season.  With two days left in 2012, we have got ourselves a full slate of nothing but intra-division games.  Sit back and enjoy!  Unfortunately, Vegas doesn’t come out with Week 17 lines because of the ridiculousness with which Week 17 is now treated by the teams with a spot locked up.  Later today, at 3:00, we will run through our playoff predictions (final seedings at bottom of this post).

Sunday, Early Afternoon

Tampa Bay (5-10) at ATLANTA (10-5)
The Falcons get the extra day of rest from playing on Saturday last week, and they get the Bucs at home.  This is a little scary for them, but they shouldn’t really have any problems if this game means anything to them.  Falcons (moderate)

N.Y. Jets (8-7) at BUFFALO (8-7)
A cold, blustery day in Buffalo is no fun for anyone.  The Jets may have saved their season with a Monday Night win over San Diego last week, but it most likely ends here.  Bills (moderate)

Baltimore (10-5) at CINCINNATI (9-6)
Who is going to want it more?  This might the a swan song for Ed Reed and possibly even Ray Lewis.  They have one last surge left in them.  Ravens (close)

Chicago (11-4) at DETROIT (9-6)
With the season on the line, I think the Lions, especially with that extra day’s rest, can find that last gear to win a big one…but will it be enough to get them in?  Lions (close)

Jacksonville (4-11) at TENNESSEE (7-8)
The Titans are the better team and are at home.  Remember when the Jags were 4-5?  Titans (moderate)

Houston (10-5) at INDIANAPOLIS (2-13)
Pride is big in professional sports, but it probably won’t be enough for Andrew Luck and company, as they finish a tough rookie year – with more bright spots to come.  Texans (moderate)

Green Bay (13-2) at MINNESOTA (4-11)
There is a good chance that the Pack won’t need this game (as is the scenario here), but remember what happened when Rodgers didn’t play in Week 17 last year?  Matt Flynn threw for like 8,000 yards and 57 touchdowns.  Now, he’s run off to be the highest-paid backup QB in the league, but remember what also happened last year?  The Packers lost their first playoff game two weeks later, so they may not make the same decision again this year.  Packers (close)

Miami (8-7) at NEW ENGLAND (13-2)
I still don’t know how I got Miami to 8 wins, but you can be sure I didn’t even consider giving them #9 here, whether the Pats need this game or not.  Patriots (easy)

Carolina (5-10) at NEW ORLEANS (10-5)
The natives in Carolina won’t be happy if the Panthers actually lose more games than they did last year, but I can’t see them winning in New Orleans here, so that’s what I’m going with.  Saints (moderate)

Philadelphia (11-4) at N.Y. GIANTS (7-8)
Last game of the year.  If this matters, it’s going to be an all-out WAR.  And, even if it doesn’t, these teams flat-out don’t like each other.  Gimme the home team here.  Giants (close)

Cleveland (1-14) at PITTSBURGH (11-4)
Nice way for the Steelers to end the season, especially if these races are close.  Steelers (easy)

Dallas (8-7) at WASHINGTON (5-10)
The RG3 Era: Year One comes to a close here in the Landover, as I think the ‘Boys, whether they need the game or not, should be able to beat this ‘Skins team.  Cowboys (close)

Sunday, Late Afternoon

Oakland (3-12) at SAN DIEGO (8-7)
A short week for the Chargers and a really bad track record in games they should win, but I can’t see them dropping this on when it really matters.  Chargers (moderate)

Arizona (4-11) at SAN FRANCISCO (10-5)
The Niners may be fighting for positioning here and should have no trouble with a bad Cardinals team.  49ers (easy)

St. Louis (4-11) at SEATTLE (6-9)
What this whole exercise tells me about the Seahawks is:  if they can get through the first 11 games of their schedule around .500 (I had them 3-8), then they have a real shot because the back end is pretty soft.  Seahawks (easy)

Kansas City (8-7) at DENVER (8-7)
This is a HUGE game and just might be that flexed Sunday Night game.  If so, I really like the Broncos, but if not, I still like them at home to get a gigantic win.  Either way, if this matters, it will be must-see TV.  Broncos (close)

Final Regular Season Standings

NFC EAST:
The Eagles take another NFC East crown, while the season ends in utter disappointment for all three of the other teams in this division
11-5 Eagles
9-7 Cowboys
8-8 Giants
5-11 Redskins

NFC NORTH:
Another great year in Green Bay, a bounceback year in Chicago, and another 10-win season in Detroit looks good for, maybe, the best division in the game
14-2 Packers
11-5 Bears
10-6 Lions
4-12 Vikings

NFC SOUTH:
A couple of 11-win teams and a couple of 11-loss teams in the South
11-5 Falcons
11-5 Saints
5-11 Panthers
5-11 Bucs

NFC WEST:
The 3-8 start just crippled the Seahawks and allowed San Fran to waltz to a second straight division title
11-5 49ers
7-9 Seahawks
4-12 Cardinals
4-12 Rams

AFC EAST:
A fantastic 8-8 for the Dolphins, a catastrophic 8-8 for the Jets; the Bills are over .500, but they’re all chasing the Pats…as usual
14-2 Patriots
9-7 Bills
8-8 Dolphins
8-8 Jets

AFC NORTH:
The Bengals have a brutally tough back end of the schedule, and it showed, as the two stalwarts of this division rise again
12-4 Steelers
11-5 Ravens
9-7 Bengals
1-15 Browns

AFC SOUTH:
Two of the three or four worst teams in the league are in the same division, and the Texans and Titans still only win 19 games combined
11-5 Texans
8-8 Titans
4-12 Jaguars
2-14 Colts

AFC WEST:
A dead-heat with the Broncos and Chargers, with the Chiefs a game back – great race with mediocre teams
9-7 Broncos
9-7 Chargers
8-8 Chiefs
3-13 Raiders

Final NFC Playoff Seedings

#1 – Green Bay Packers
#2 – San Francisco 49ers
#3 – Atlanta Falcons
#4 – Philadelphia Eagles
#5 – New Orleans Saints
#6 – Chicago Bears

JUST MISSED: Detroit Lions

Tiebreakers:
-ATL wins NFC South tiebreaker over NO via conference record
-PHI loses seeding tiebreaker to ATL and SF via conference record
-SF wins seeding tiebreaker over ATL via record vs. common opponents
-NO wins seeding tiebreaker over CHI via record vs. common opponents

Final AFC Playoff Seedings

#1 – New England Patriots
#2 – Pittsburgh Steelers
#3 – Houston Texans
#4 – Denver Broncos
#5 – Baltimore Ravens
#6 – Buffalo Bills

JUST MISSED: San Diego Chargers, Cincinnati Bengals, Kansas City Chiefs, Miami Dolphins, New York Jets, Tennessee Titans

Tiebreakers:
-DEN wins AFC West tiebreaker over SD via head-to-head sweep
-BUF win wild card tiebreaker over SD and CIN via conference record

NFL Week-by-Week Preview: Week Sixteen

As everyone rushed to finish the Christmas shopping, the NFL season waits for no one.  15 of the 16 games are on Sunday this week (with the other on Saturday) to avoid a Christmas Eve Monday Night game.  The matchups here in Week 16 are not as good as they otherwise could be, but it’s still Week 16, so you can’t go wrong.  Sit back in your warm living room and watch NFL RedZone during the ELEVEN 1:00 games this week.

Saturday Night

Atlanta (10-4) at DETROIT (8-6) – Vegas: Lions -3.5
It’s time for the Lions to circle the wagons and make a statement on this season.  And, that time happens during this HUGE Thursday Night game.  Lions (close)

Sunday, Early Afternoon

New Orleans (10-4) at DALLAS (7-7) – Vegas: Saints -1
Another big road game for an NFC South leader, and another L.  Despite the Cowboys struggles in December, I think they can rally the troops for one last hurrah here.  Cowboys (close)

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NFL Week-by-Week Preview: Week Fifteen

The cold December is none better warmed than by meaningful NFL games.  With the defending champs, America’s team, and everybody’s 2011 darling all two games out of a playoff spot in the NFC, the field could become pared down to just the 6 qualifiers this week.  As for the AFC, we’ve got one crazy division up for grabs, as well as the wild card spots for which the other team in New Jersey has quietly (as quietly as they can do anything) come back to relevance.  A big week is about to unfold about as there are a whole slew of fantastic matchups.  Get your popcorn ready….the show all starts in the City of Brotherly Love.

Thursday Night

Cincinnati (9-4) at PHILADELPHIA (9-4) – Vegas: Eagles -7
I need a good reason to pick against the home team on a Thursday Night, and I can’t find one here.  Eagles (moderate)

Sunday, Early Afternoon

N.Y. Giants (7-6) at ATLANTA (9-4) – Vegas: Falcons -1.5
The Georgia Dome is a pretty tough place to play, even if you’re the Giants in desperation mode.  Falcons (close)

Continue reading “NFL Week-by-Week Preview: Week Fifteen”

NFL Week-by-Week Preview: Week Fourteen

After this week, there will only be three games left in the 2012 NFL season.  The plot thickens…

Thursday Night

Denver (6-6) at OAKLAND (2-10) – Vegas: Broncos -1.5
I think this is the first time in 14 weeks that I am going against the home team on Thursday Night.  But, I still believe in Peyton Manning in prime time…either that or I think the Raiders really stink.  Broncos (close)

Sunday, Early Afternoon

St. Louis (3-9) at BUFFALO (7-5) – Vegas: Bills -6
By this point, the Bills could be in the playoff hunt, and the Rams will probably be done.  Even if that wasn’t the case, the Bills are the better team – at home, in December, against a team with a dome.  I love Steven Jackson, but it would take a monumental performance from him here.  Bills (easy)

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NFL Week-by-Week Preview: Week Thirteen

December.  The final lap.  It’s time to put up or shut up, especially if you’re in the AFC Wild Card hunt, as 7 teams are fighting for one spot.  The interesting part of this week is the fact that there is a whole slew of mismatches.  So, either we will just carry on with our positioning into next week or someone will be kicking themselves for showing up flat.

Thurday Night

New Orleans (8-3) at ATLANTA (7-4) – Vegas: Falcons -2.5
A huge NFC South showdown in Hotlanta.  I think the Falcons are slightly better than the Saints, so to be at home, on a Thursday Night, with no other reason to pick against them, I am not going to.  Falcons (moderate)

Sunday, Early Afternoon

Jacksonville (4-7) at BUFFALO (6-5) – Vegas: Bills -5.5
The Bills are in the midst of an incredibly soft part of their schedule.  Bills (easy)

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NFL Week-by-Week Preview: Week Twelve

Gobble, gobble.  Another year to give thanks for, well, for football…oh and family and stuff like that.  But, really, Thanksgiving is a great signpost in the NFL season.  And, we’ve made it.

Thanksgiving Day

Houston (7-3) at DETROIT (5-5) – Vegas: Lions -2.5
Remember when there was talk that the Lions should be taken off of Thanksgiving because they “weren’t good enough?”  That was really dumb.  First of all, tradition is a good thing, and, second of all, it’s the NFL – no one stays terrible forever.  Now, the Lions are a big draw, and this should be a great before-dinner game.  Short week – take the home team, right?  Lions (close)

Washington (3-7) at DALLAS (5-5) – Vegas: Cowboys -6
The better team is at home here, so it’s not hard, though if RG3 develops the way he could by this point, it could be exciting.  Cowboys (moderate)

New England (9-1) at N.Y. JETS (4-6) – Vegas: Patriots -5
Call me crazy, but can’t you see Rex getting his boys fired up for this one and stealing it?  Jets (close)

Sunday, Early Afternoon

Minnesota (4-6) at CHICAGO (6-4) -Vegas: Bears -7.5
First of all, if you really look at the schedule, you will definitely take the Vikes and the points in this one.  Minnesota is coming off of a bye, while the Bears played on Monday Night in San Francisco.  This game is essentially a toss-up, but I just think the Bears are a good bit more talented, so should hold on.  But, honestly, this is a dream time for the Vikes to hit Soldier Field.  Bears (close)

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NFL Week-by-Week Preview: Week Eleven

The last of the byes, as after this week, we will all have played 10 games with 6 to go.  The official “stretch run” – and it’s always fun.

Thursday Night

Miami (5-4) at BUFFALO (4-5) – Vegas: Bills -2.5
A cold Thursday night in Buffalo is not exactly what the guys from South Beach are looking for on a short week.  Bills (moderate)

Sunday, Early Afternoon

Arizona (3-6) at ATLANTA (5-4) – Vegas: Falcons -6
The Cardinals do have two weeks to prepare for this game, and the Falcons are coming off a huge game against New Orleans, but it’s an early game against a much better team.  Falcons (moderate)

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NFL Week-by-Week Preview: Week Ten

Well, the American public has decided who they want as President for the next four years…now on to important stuff – Week Ten in the NFL!

Thursday Night

Indianapolis (2-7) at JACKSONVILLE (3-5) – Vegas: Jaguars -3
I feel like I have said this every week, but it’s been a strange Thursday lineup this year.  Every week it seems like (I’m sure by design) that this game is between two relatively evenly-matched teams where I have no reason not to pick the home team.  Well, this is another one.  Jaguars (close)

Sunday, Early Afternoon

N.Y. Giants (6-3) at CINCINNATI (6-2) – Vegas: Giants -1
The Giants are coming off of a tough, physical game with the Steelers and now they go on the road a week before their much-needed bye week.  The Bengals have their second straight home game.  Maybe I’m too high on the Bengals here (or too low on the Super Bowl champs, who were outscored on the season last year, were #32 in rushing, and were one play away from missing the playoffs), but it’s not like Vegas disagrees too much.  I like the home ‘dog to win outright here.  Bengals (close)

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NFL Week-by-Week Preview: Week Nine

Welcome to November!  After this week, everyone will have played at least 8 games, so we are officially entering the second half of the NFL season here.  I will start incorporating projected playoff seeds in the standings section.

Thursday Night

Kansas City (3-4) at SAN DIEGO (4-3) – Vegas: Chargers -5.5
Like usual, I need a good reason to pick the road team on Thursday Night, and I can’t find one good enough.  Chargers (moderate)

Sunday, Early Afternoon

Denver (3-4) at CINCINNATI (5-2) – Vegas: Pick ’em
I actually like the Broncos in this matchup, but coming off of a prime time game against New Orleans with an early game in Cincy against a Bengals team that is coming off of their bye, it’s just not a good spot for Peyton & Co.  Bengals (close)

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