Tuesday, September 16, 2014

NFL 2014: Week 2 Picks

Pittsburgh Steelers (1-0)  @  Baltimore Ravens (0-1)  (BAL -2.5)

Remember when this was the best rivalry in the NFL? From 2008-2011, it was what the 49ers and Seahawks is right now. The problem with both of these defense-first teams is their defensive leaders were old. Now, the Ravens have done a better job of replenishing, but the Steelers have the better QB (no matter what 4 games in January 2013 taught us). The Steelers are on the road here, and I can’t see Baltimore dropping another home game. Also, I think the players rally around the Ray Rice situation. Despite the amount of people who fucked up, I can say with moderate confidence that the 52 other Ravens players did not watch the video; they were straight lied to. They can rally around this. I think they do, and getting the Ravens under a field goal is good value.

Steelers 17  Ravens 23  (BAL -2.5)


Jacksonville Jaguars (0-1)  @  Washington Redskins (0-1)  (WAS -5.5)

Ugh, I don’t even want to talk about this game. You leave Week 1, and despite one team losing by 17 after leading by 17, and the other losing by 11 in a game when everything went wrong, I feel better about the team that lost by 17. I would have to think the Redskins can play better on offense at home, but the Jaguars defense has some ability and Gus Bradley can coach scheme. The line seems a little high, but I do think mentally the Redskins will be better off here, and teams on their 2nd straight road game are generally poor ATS. I’ll go with Washington, but I’m not confident about the pick at all.

Jaguars 20  Redskins 28  (WAS -5.5)


Arizona Cardinals (1-0)  @  New York Giants (0-1)  (ARZ -2.5)

I’m of two minds here. I think Arizona is definitely the better team, but here they’re on the road, playing east coast on a short week. The Giants offense looks awful, and that is not a good matchup when you are going up against a very good to great defense, but I do think the Giants defense is good enough to contain the Cardinals iffy offense. The Chargers are not a good defense and they held them down pretty well. All the indicators point to the Giants, so I’ll ride them.

Cardinals 16  Giants 20  (NYG +2.5)


New Orleans Saints (0-1)  @  Cleveland Browns (0-1)  (NO -6.5)

This is a high line for a team on the road, especially given the Saints so obvious issues on defense. The Browns offense even seemed competent last week (albeit when already down many points). Still, The Saints offense should travel reasonably well in September. Would it be that shocking for the Saints to have all the same problems on the road that they have always had? Sure, but I can’t really see it. I hate taking road favorites by this much. Just hate it. I probably shouldn’t do it. We’ll see if my gut works here, because by skill the Saints should be able to cover this line.

Saints 31  Browns 20  (NO -6.5)


Dallas Cowboys (0-1)  @  Tennessee Titans (1-0)  (TEN -3.5)

This is a line I really like. The Cowboys are a public team, but that performance was so abhorrent they are now being put down on the road against Tennessee. The Cowboys defense wasn’t really given a chance to show how bad it really is, but the offense surprisingly was average. Mainly, Romo looked old. Maybe it is the multiple back-surgeries, but his ball had no zip, he was throwing awful passes to covered receivers. That doesn’t just get fixed. I can easily see the Cowboys winning and getting love again, but the Titans offense played really well in Week 1 against a better defense.

Cowboys 20  Titans 27  (TEN -3.5)


Miami Dolphins (1-0)  @  Buffalo Bills (1-0)  (MIA -1)

I really like the Bills here, even though I think the Dolphins are the better team. The Bills are a good early-season home team over the past few years, there are some signs of optimism here, and the Dolphins are coming off of a ridiculous win. The Bills are Dolphins were viewed relatively even before the season started, and both had impressive wins. There’s really no good reason for the Bills to be underdogs here. The Bills pass rush will be a much better test of the Dolphins offense than the Patriots were. The Bills offense is also better set up to test the limited depth of the Dolphins back-7. I like the Bills here.

Dolphins 17  Bills 24  (BUF +1)


New England Patriots (0-1)  @  Minnesota Vikings (1-0)  (NE -3)

The Vikings can easily win this game. I would love for them to win this game. I would love to see the media swarm around an 0-2 Patriots team (of course, they would probably destroy Oakland 41-7 in Week 3 at home and everyone would act like Week 1&2 mean nothing). I think the case for Minnesota winning is actually quite easy. Their far better D-Line dominates against that mixed-up o-line of the Patriots. The Patriots porous rush defense can’t stop Adrian Peterson. The Patriots linebackers are way too slow to stop Cordarrelle Patterson. All of that could easily happen.  But I think it won’t. One reason is the Vikings now playing outdoors. Team’s don’t adjust quickly to new stadiums historically, and I think it happens here.

Patriots 30  Vikings 17  (NE -3)


Detroit Lions (1-0)  @  Carolina Panthers (1-0)  (CAR -2.5)

I like the Panthers here, and I’ll like them in every home game unless they get injured or prove that the defense has taken a step back (which it most certainly has not, yet). The offense does scare me, but the line is rather low, needing just a field goal to cover. I don’t know if Stafford is quite as good outside the dome (something lost considering mostly people care about Brees being good inside or outside the dome. Also, I think the public is getting a little too carried away with Detroit right now.

Lions 17  Panthers 23  (CAR -2.5)


Atlanta Falcons (1-0)  @  Cincinnati Bengals (1-0)  (CIN -5)

I’m terrified of Matt Ryan and that offense being great again, but I’m also terrified of picking against the Bengals in a regular season home game, considering they were 8-0 at home last year and fully dominant in most of those. They should win and cover, and I’ll take them before I have the chance to really think about the pick. Their secondary is set up well to slow down the Falcons passing attack. Their offense is great when Dalton isn’t pressured and he shouldn’t be against a woeful pass rush.

Falcons 17  Bengals 31  (CIN -5)


St. Louis Rams (0-1)  @  Tampa Bay Buccaneers (0-1)  (TB -6)

Another game I don’t really want to talk about. The Rams are getting decimated with injuries (Bradford, and now Chris Long), while the Buccaneers are getting decimated with Josh McCown still being their QB. The Buccaneers are getting no value here with that high of a line. It makes sense, I guess, but I can see St. Louis playing a lot better. I’m taking way too many favorites as well, which scares me. The Rams can easily cover this game, but I’m always afraid of taking an unsure QB against a good Bucs defense.

Rams 13  Buccaneers 20  (TB -6)


Houston Texans (1-0)  @  Oakland Raiders (0-1)  (HOU -3)

This is the 3rd awful game of the week, and another situation where I don’t even want to pick. The Texans should destroy the Raiders offense, but the Raiders offense might do well against the Texans defense as well. I still think the Texans are relatively overvalued (was not really that impressed with their win over the Redskins), so I’ll keep riding the team I think is relatively undervalued.

Texans 13  Raiders 16  (OAK +3)


New York Jets (1-0)  @  Green Bay Packers (0-1)  (GB -8.5)

Considering how bad the Packers looked in Week 1, this line might be a little high, but there are a lot of indicators to back the Packers winning comfortably. First, the Packers are desperate, at 0-1 at home. Then, the Jets have no secondary to speak of, which is a problem against the Packers. Also, the Packers rarely ever lose back to back games. Finally, this is going to be a tough environment for Geno. Add it all up and I like the Packers to cover a high line that is less than 10.

Jets 20  Packers 30  (GB -8.5)


Kansas City Chiefs (0-1)  @  Denver Broncos (1-0)  (DEN -13)

Go against 10 point lines. Of course, it didn’t work in Week 1 with the Jaguars not covering +10.5 despite going up 17-0, and I can see it so easily not working here, but it is a principle. I’ll ride the principle.

Chiefs 20  Broncos 31  (KC +13)


Seattle Seahawks (1-0)  @  San Diego Chargers (0-1)  (SEA -6)

Love San Diego here. They are built to hang with Seattle on offense, with a passing game dependent on swift short-route players like Keenan Allen and Danny Woodhead, and a QB that can hit some downfield throws as well. The Chargers defense is better than people think, and this team nearly beat a defense that is probably 85% as good as the Seahawks on the road. The only thing giving me pause is the Seahawks recent track record against great QBs and the Seahawks having 10 days to rest versus 5 for the Chargers. Still, I think the Chargers keep this close, and what they hell, I’ll pick them to sneak out the win.

Seahawks 20  Chargers 24  (SD +6)


Chicago Bears (0-1)  @  San Francisco 49ers (1-0)  (SF -7)

The fact that Marshall and Jeffery might be gimpy scares me. The fact that they might not be that gimpy against a bad secondary scares me the other way. This is the home opener for the 49ers, but teams rarely adjust too quickly to new stadiums. I can see the 49ers losing, but the Bears are also the more desperate team. I really have no idea. The 49ers pass rush probably won’t get to Cutler which will help. Gun to my head, I like the Bears to cover but not win.

Bears 23  49ers 28  (CHI +7)


Philadelphia Eagles (1-0)  @  Indianapolis Colts (0-1)  (IND -3)

The Colts have yet to lose back-to-back games in the Andrew Luck era, and they have been great over the years in primetime (last week notwithstanding), and Andrew Luck should be able to do well against that defense, but the other side of the ball terrifies me. The easiest way to get the Eagles off their game offensively is to get pressure on Nick Foles. He has bad pocket presence and is not accurate when pressured. Sadly, the Colts can’t really get pressure on Nick Foles given them not having Robert Mathis and coming in just hoping Bjoern Werner develops. Still, the Colts offense has a ton of matchup edges as well, and this is a proud team that won’t drop primetime home games too easily.


Eagles 24  Colts 30  (IND -3)

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

NFL 2014: Week 2 Power Rankings & The Rest

Reviewing Last Week's Picks:

Not a great week, let's just move on... 7-9



Power Rankings

32.) Oakland Raiders  (0-1  =  14-19)

I don’t expect them to be in last place all year, but when your QB can do nothing but throw checkdowns it is hard to put up even 150 yards of offense. Their running game is a no-show as well. If they have any hope, it is that their aging but skilled defense keeps them in enough games.


31.) Cleveland Browns  (0-1  =  27-30)

That was a spirited comeback against a team that can’t close, and Brian Hoyer played OK, and they were able to manufacture yards, but the part of their team that was supposed to help them (their defense) was awful much of the day. Sadly, I think their near ridiculous comeback will be one of the highpoints of the NFL season.


30.) Kansas City Chiefs  (0-1  =  10-26)

This is also about the injuries to Derrick Johnson and Mike DeVito (though one of those guys means a whole lot more than the other) hurting my perception of the team, and probably that no team looked worse than the Chiefs. Alex Smith couldn’t throw deep, the defense which still has a lot of talent had no answer for Jake Locker. This might be a long season in KC.


29.) St. Louis Rams  (0-1  =  6-34)

Back in June I thought they would win the NFC West. I still think they have a shot at going 7-9, but the QB situation is so much worse than even when Bradford was there. I don’t know how many of those guys can afford another lost season either. Austin Davis is just nowhere near ready to play in an NFL game. The defense was still good for most of the game, but you’ll give up plays to an explosive team when you’re on the field all the time.


28.) Tampa Bay Buccaneers  (0-1  =  14-20)

If you can’t beat the Panthers, everyone’s off-season regression team, when they aren’t playing their one competent offensive player under 30, then you probably shouldn’t be getting the love you are. I like Lovie Smith the coach and over time I think they’ll start doing some good things (should time to be right around when Drew Brees winds down) but they’re a ways away.


27.) Washington Redskins  (0-1  =  6-17)

RGIII looked awful, but that might have been more JJ Watt looking like the demon monster he is. What I really don’t get is despite all the talk of Jay Gruden’s new offense, it still looks like zone reads, swing and screen passes, and deep bombs. There’s nothing creative here, and while RGIII may not reach his rookie form, he’s better than this.


26.) Dallas Cowboys  (0-1  =  17-28)

The defense actually played reasonably well. Of course, the 49ers offense basically stopped trying in the 2nd half so it was hard to tell how well the defense played. What did not go well was the offense. Tony Romo was awful, there’s no way around it. He was reacting to pressure that wasn’t there, throwing passes that were absolutely Favre-ian at his worst.


25.) Jacksonville Jaguars  (0-1  =  17-34)

No team can go up 17-0 and lose by 17 and come out of the game thinking pretty well of themselves. The Jaguars have some players on that defense, and the Kurns guy might be something. Most likely he won’t, though, and that was them gashing a bad defense. The Jaguars shouldn’t take too much from Henne in that game and turn to Bortles sooner rather than later.


24.) Chicago Bears  (0-1  =  20-23)

The Bears might be better than this; they probably will end up better than this. Still, you can’t excuse that type of lackadaisical play against a seemingly poor team at home. The nicks to both Jeffery and Marshall don’t help either. The defense still can’t stop anyone, and their mediocre switching of personnel didn’t seem to help.


23.) Houston Texans  (1-0  =  17-6)

I’m not giving them too much credit for that win, because the Redskins did it to themselves, and if they’re relying on blocked punt TDs and 70-yard TDs to beat bad teams then they don’t really have much of a chance. Still… JJ Watt, presented without explanation.


22.) Baltimore Ravens  (0-1  =  16-23)

The Ravens are that team that can do nothing for three quarters, but somehow still force field goals the hold time and then be magically alive. This time they couldn’t finish the job, though. That defense is still very good, and Flacco got in some rhythm, but they will not having a run game this season at all.


21.) New York Giants  (0-1  =  14-35)

Should they be ranked lower? Probably, but I think that game was more about the Lions. Also, I have to imagine the offense will get more in sync as the season goes on. That defense played well, as odd as it sounds. Some of the scoring was on long drives or Calvin making Calvin plays.


20.) Buffalo Bills (1-0  =  23-20)

Here’s what we know. They were surprisingly good at defense last year behind an awesome pass rush, and that pass rush still seems to be very good. They have a bunch of small, shifty skill position players for the 10th straight year. What we don’t know is if EJ Manuel is any good. I still don’t think we know.



19.) Tennessee Titans  (1-0  =  26-10)

That was an impressive win, especially defensively. The Titans have obvious talent on offense and their success on that side comes down to Locker staying healthy. The defense, though, was a surprise. They switched pretty naturally to a 3-4, which is hard to with keeping the same personnel. If that holds, then they can be a threat.


18.) Minnesota Vikings  (1-0  =  34-6)

Great win, great performance. It took a while for them to get going, which is understandable against a good defense, but the Vikings dominated on both lines. They’ve rebuilt that o-line nicely, and man can they use Cordarrelle Patterson well. Mike Zimmer has that defense humming too. I can’t imagine them really doing well against New England, but who knows?


17.) Pittsburgh Steelers  (1-0  =  30-27)

That was the opposite of a great win. That was a terrible win. Through 30 minutes, the Steelers made it look like it was Week 1, 2008, all over again, dominating a team like no other. Then it all fell apart. Roethlisberger looks great, which is good for Pittsburgh since the rest of the team looks terrible.


16.) Atlanta Falcons  (1-0  =  37-34)

Great win, but I’m not hopping on that bandwagon yet as I’m still not confident at all in that defense, and the Falcons seem to play the Saints close no matter what. The offense looks great, but I’m worried about the state of the o-line.


15.) New York Jets  (1-0  =  19-14)

Really nice game, should have been a dominant 19-7 win, holding the Raiders to ~100 yards. That run defense is special, and their pass rush is quite good. They’ll have to put that secondary together with scotch tape for a while, but it all works in the end. They’ll get a real challenge with Green Bay coming up.


14.) Philadelphia Eagles  (1-0  =  34-17)

They seem like, and probably are, the class of the division. Still, it was nice to see Nick Foles struggle for a while. He reacted well, far better than in his previous bad starts. The defense looked awful, and they won’t be playing teams with Jacksonville’s limited weapons again for a while.


13.) San Diego Chargers  (0-1  =  17-18)

The defense looked a lot better than in the past, but that offensive performance was strange. They were able to get short, consistent gains last year, and didn’t try any of those at all, depending on mid to deep routes. Sure, the Cardinals defense is fantastic, but that was an odd offensive game.


12.) Arizona Cardinals  (1-0  =  18-17)

I went to bed with them down 6-17, despite their defense playing awesome and despite Carson Palmer having an OK game. I woke up with them winning the game 18-17 with their defense still playing awesome and Carson Palmer having a good game. Their defense is really built off their secondary, which allows them to blitz all the time. They’ll need that to continue without Dockett and now with John Abraham banged up.


11.) Miami Dolphins  (1-0  =  33-20)

That was impressive. I don’t want to overreact to Week 1, but man was that an awesome performance in the 2nd half. They were just dominant. They d-line was dominant. Their secondary covered well. But the real story was that offense. The only thing that stopped them in the 1st half was themselves, and their o-line, a giant problem all season long last year, was incredible. I don’t know if they can keep it up, but that was really good.


10.) New Orleans Saints  (0-1  =  34-37)

I’m not a fan of Rob Ryan, finding him and his defenses so overrated because of that last name ‘Ryan’. Well, they showed why. I have to admit Rob Ryan’s defense was very good last year, but that was an absolutely pathetic performance, the type that happened way too often with his defenses in Dallas and Cleveland. The offense remains great, though.


9.) New England Patriots  (0-1  =  20-33)

Would love to have them lower, but we’ve seen them have bad games before. Still, getting outscored 23-0 in the 2nd half was pretty shocking. Brady’s 2nd half stat-line was something out of JaMarcus Russell’s career, going 10-27 for 62 yards! Of course, everyone says that it was the receivers and the o-line, because it can never be Brady’s fault.


8.) Indianapolis Colts  (0-1  =  24-31)

The Robert Mathis injury is crushing. I really don’t know if their defense can recover as he was 50% of their sacks in 2013. Still, I think we’ll feel a lot better about that performance a few weeks from now. They played with Denver for a bit. Their defense was good against the run. Andrew Luck is still special and they let him rip it around which is good.


7.) Carolina Panthers  (1-0  =  20-14)

Let’s not brag too much. Guess what, haters, that defense is still pretty damn special.


6.) Detroit Lions  (1-0  =  35-14)

That was an impressive performance. The defense looks fast, especially at the linebacker position, and Caldwell has them playing more disciplined defensively. The offense looked more controlled as well. I like how they’re utilizing all those weapons, and Matt Stafford looks dedicated. This might be too high, but they’ve always had the talent.


5.) San Francisco 49ers  (1-0  =  28-17)

This also might be too high, but let’s be honest, not too many of the consensus top teams had very good Week 1’s. The 49ers defense was gifted some picks, but it still looked good given how many people are missing. The offense looks very good, though, but it helps when you score 14 points with 1 yard of offense.


4.) Green Bay Packers  (0-1  =  16-36)

That was not a good performance, but that was a tough position. The Seahawks are the league’s best team right now, in primetime, at home, in their celebration game. Only one team has ever lost their Opening Game at home following the Super Bowl win. The Packers have issues, but I’ll wait to really judge them.


3.) Cincinnati Bengals  (1-0  =  23-16)

Had the turned some of those 5 FGs into TDs, that would’ve been a dominant win. Still, that was a pretty impressive win in Baltimore. Their defense did not seem to miss Mike Zimmer much. It may be more apparent if they get injuries. Andy Dalton looked good, but they’ll have to start getting better performance in the red zone.


2.) Denver Broncos  (1-0  =  31-24)

Not a good 2nd half, but some of that is complacency, which can’t happen going forward. The team looked terrifying in the 1st half, but neither side looked great in the 2nd. To me, they’ll get better once Von Miller starts getting back to 100%, but it was good to see their secondary play tight again.


1.) Seattle Seahawks  (1-0  =  36-16)

The King Stay the King.


32.) Oakland Raiders  (0-1  =  14-19)

I don’t expect them to be in last place all year, but when your QB can do nothing but throw checkdowns it is hard to put up even 150 yards of offense. Their running game is a no-show as well. If they have any hope, it is that their aging but skilled defense keeps them in enough games.


31.) Cleveland Browns  (0-1  =  27-30)

That was a spirited comeback against a team that can’t close, and Brian Hoyer played OK, and they were able to manufacture yards, but the part of their team that was supposed to help them (their defense) was awful much of the day. Sadly, I think their near ridiculous comeback will be one of the highpoints of the NFL season.


30.) Kansas City Chiefs  (0-1  =  10-26)

This is also about the injuries to Derrick Johnson and Mike DeVito (though one of those guys means a whole lot more than the other) hurting my perception of the team, and probably that no team looked worse than the Chiefs. Alex Smith couldn’t throw deep, the defense which still has a lot of talent had no answer for Jake Locker. This might be a long season in KC.


29.) St. Louis Rams  (0-1  =  6-34)

Back in June I thought they would win the NFC West. I still think they have a shot at going 7-9, but the QB situation is so much worse than even when Bradford was there. I don’t know how many of those guys can afford another lost season either. Austin Davis is just nowhere near ready to play in an NFL game. The defense was still good for most of the game, but you’ll give up plays to an explosive team when you’re on the field all the time.


28.) Tampa Bay Buccaneers  (0-1  =  14-20)

If you can’t beat the Panthers, everyone’s off-season regression team, when they aren’t playing their one competent offensive player under 30, then you probably shouldn’t be getting the love you are. I like Lovie Smith the coach and over time I think they’ll start doing some good things (should time to be right around when Drew Brees winds down) but they’re a ways away.


27.) Washington Redskins  (0-1  =  6-17)

RGIII looked awful, but that might have been more JJ Watt looking like the demon monster he is. What I really don’t get is despite all the talk of Jay Gruden’s new offense, it still looks like zone reads, swing and screen passes, and deep bombs. There’s nothing creative here, and while RGIII may not reach his rookie form, he’s better than this.


26.) Dallas Cowboys  (0-1  =  17-28)

The defense actually played reasonably well. Of course, the 49ers offense basically stopped trying in the 2nd half so it was hard to tell how well the defense played. What did not go well was the offense. Tony Romo was awful, there’s no way around it. He was reacting to pressure that wasn’t there, throwing passes that were absolutely Favre-ian at his worst.


25.) Jacksonville Jaguars  (0-1  =  17-34)

No team can go up 17-0 and lose by 17 and come out of the game thinking pretty well of themselves. The Jaguars have some players on that defense, and the Kurns guy might be something. Most likely he won’t, though, and that was them gashing a bad defense. The Jaguars shouldn’t take too much from Henne in that game and turn to Bortles sooner rather than later.


24.) Chicago Bears  (0-1  =  20-23)

The Bears might be better than this; they probably will end up better than this. Still, you can’t excuse that type of lackadaisical play against a seemingly poor team at home. The nicks to both Jeffery and Marshall don’t help either. The defense still can’t stop anyone, and their mediocre switching of personnel didn’t seem to help.


23.) Houston Texans  (1-0  =  17-6)

I’m not giving them too much credit for that win, because the Redskins did it to themselves, and if they’re relying on blocked punt TDs and 70-yard TDs to beat bad teams then they don’t really have much of a chance. Still… JJ Watt, presented without explanation.


22.) Baltimore Ravens  (0-1  =  16-23)

The Ravens are that team that can do nothing for three quarters, but somehow still force field goals the hold time and then be magically alive. This time they couldn’t finish the job, though. That defense is still very good, and Flacco got in some rhythm, but they will not having a run game this season at all.


21.) New York Giants  (0-1  =  14-35)

Should they be ranked lower? Probably, but I think that game was more about the Lions. Also, I have to imagine the offense will get more in sync as the season goes on. That defense played well, as odd as it sounds. Some of the scoring was on long drives or Calvin making Calvin plays.


20.) Buffalo Bills (1-0  =  23-20)

Here’s what we know. They were surprisingly good at defense last year behind an awesome pass rush, and that pass rush still seems to be very good. They have a bunch of small, shifty skill position players for the 10th straight year. What we don’t know is if EJ Manuel is any good. I still don’t think we know.



19.) Tennessee Titans  (1-0  =  26-10)

That was an impressive win, especially defensively. The Titans have obvious talent on offense and their success on that side comes down to Locker staying healthy. The defense, though, was a surprise. They switched pretty naturally to a 3-4, which is hard to with keeping the same personnel. If that holds, then they can be a threat.


18.) Minnesota Vikings  (1-0  =  34-6)

Great win, great performance. It took a while for them to get going, which is understandable against a good defense, but the Vikings dominated on both lines. They’ve rebuilt that o-line nicely, and man can they use Cordarrelle Patterson well. Mike Zimmer has that defense humming too. I can’t imagine them really doing well against New England, but who knows?


17.) Pittsburgh Steelers  (1-0  =  30-27)

That was the opposite of a great win. That was a terrible win. Through 30 minutes, the Steelers made it look like it was Week 1, 2008, all over again, dominating a team like no other. Then it all fell apart. Roethlisberger looks great, which is good for Pittsburgh since the rest of the team looks terrible.


16.) Atlanta Falcons  (1-0  =  37-34)

Great win, but I’m not hopping on that bandwagon yet as I’m still not confident at all in that defense, and the Falcons seem to play the Saints close no matter what. The offense looks great, but I’m worried about the state of the o-line.


15.) New York Jets  (1-0  =  19-14)

Really nice game, should have been a dominant 19-7 win, holding the Raiders to ~100 yards. That run defense is special, and their pass rush is quite good. They’ll have to put that secondary together with scotch tape for a while, but it all works in the end. They’ll get a real challenge with Green Bay coming up.


14.) Philadelphia Eagles  (1-0  =  34-17)

They seem like, and probably are, the class of the division. Still, it was nice to see Nick Foles struggle for a while. He reacted well, far better than in his previous bad starts. The defense looked awful, and they won’t be playing teams with Jacksonville’s limited weapons again for a while.


13.) San Diego Chargers  (0-1  =  17-18)

The defense looked a lot better than in the past, but that offensive performance was strange. They were able to get short, consistent gains last year, and didn’t try any of those at all, depending on mid to deep routes. Sure, the Cardinals defense is fantastic, but that was an odd offensive game.


12.) Arizona Cardinals  (1-0  =  18-17)

I went to bed with them down 6-17, despite their defense playing awesome and despite Carson Palmer having an OK game. I woke up with them winning the game 18-17 with their defense still playing awesome and Carson Palmer having a good game. Their defense is really built off their secondary, which allows them to blitz all the time. They’ll need that to continue without Dockett and now with John Abraham banged up.


11.) Miami Dolphins  (1-0  =  33-20)

That was impressive. I don’t want to overreact to Week 1, but man was that an awesome performance in the 2nd half. They were just dominant. They d-line was dominant. Their secondary covered well. But the real story was that offense. The only thing that stopped them in the 1st half was themselves, and their o-line, a giant problem all season long last year, was incredible. I don’t know if they can keep it up, but that was really good.


10.) New Orleans Saints  (0-1  =  34-37)

I’m not a fan of Rob Ryan, finding him and his defenses so overrated because of that last name ‘Ryan’. Well, they showed why. I have to admit Rob Ryan’s defense was very good last year, but that was an absolutely pathetic performance, the type that happened way too often with his defenses in Dallas and Cleveland. The offense remains great, though.


9.) New England Patriots  (0-1  =  20-33)

Would love to have them lower, but we’ve seen them have bad games before. Still, getting outscored 23-0 in the 2nd half was pretty shocking. Brady’s 2nd half stat-line was something out of JaMarcus Russell’s career, going 10-27 for 62 yards! Of course, everyone says that it was the receivers and the o-line, because it can never be Brady’s fault.


8.) Indianapolis Colts  (0-1  =  24-31)

The Robert Mathis injury is crushing. I really don’t know if their defense can recover as he was 50% of their sacks in 2013. Still, I think we’ll feel a lot better about that performance a few weeks from now. They played with Denver for a bit. Their defense was good against the run. Andrew Luck is still special and they let him rip it around which is good.


7.) Carolina Panthers  (1-0  =  20-14)

Let’s not brag too much. Guess what, haters, that defense is still pretty damn special.


6.) Detroit Lions  (1-0  =  35-14)

That was an impressive performance. The defense looks fast, especially at the linebacker position, and Caldwell has them playing more disciplined defensively. The offense looked more controlled as well. I like how they’re utilizing all those weapons, and Matt Stafford looks dedicated. This might be too high, but they’ve always had the talent.


5.) San Francisco 49ers  (1-0  =  28-17)

This also might be too high, but let’s be honest, not too many of the consensus top teams had very good Week 1’s. The 49ers defense was gifted some picks, but it still looked good given how many people are missing. The offense looks very good, though, but it helps when you score 14 points with 1 yard of offense.


4.) Green Bay Packers  (0-1  =  16-36)

That was not a good performance, but that was a tough position. The Seahawks are the league’s best team right now, in primetime, at home, in their celebration game. Only one team has ever lost their Opening Game at home following the Super Bowl win. The Packers have issues, but I’ll wait to really judge them.


3.) Cincinnati Bengals  (1-0  =  23-16)

Had the turned some of those 5 FGs into TDs, that would’ve been a dominant win. Still, that was a pretty impressive win in Baltimore. Their defense did not seem to miss Mike Zimmer much. It may be more apparent if they get injuries. Andy Dalton looked good, but they’ll have to start getting better performance in the red zone.


2.) Denver Broncos  (1-0  =  31-24)

Not a good 2nd half, but some of that is complacency, which can’t happen going forward. The team looked terrifying in the 1st half, but neither side looked great in the 2nd. To me, they’ll get better once Von Miller starts getting back to 100%, but it was good to see their secondary play tight again.


1.) Seattle Seahawks  (1-0  =  36-16)

The King Stay the King.


Ranking Next Week’s Games

16.) St. Louis Rams (0-1)  @  Tampa Bay Buccaneers (0-1)  (4:05 – FOX)
15.) Jacksonville Jaguars (0-1)  @  Washington Redskins (0-1)  (1:00 – CBS)
14.) Houston Texans (1-0)  @  Oakland Raiders (0-1)  (4:25 – CBS)

I call it “Yes, you can have a trio of forgettable games in Week 2” Sunday, as all three of these games just seem awful. The Texans allow you to watch JJ Watt, I guess. Still, let’s move on to real games.


13.) New Orleans Saints (0-1)  @  Cleveland Browns (0-1)  (1:00 – FOX)
12.) Dallas Cowboys (0-1)  @  Tennessee Titans (1-0)  (1:00 – FOX)
11.) Kansas City Chiefs (0-1)  @  Denver Broncos (1-0)  (4:25 – CBS)
10.) New York Jets (1-0)  @  Green Bay Packers (0-1)  (4:25 – CBS)
9.) Arizona Cardinals (1-0)  @  New York Giants (0-1)  (1:00 – FOX)

I call it “Mildly Interesting Games that I won’t have to watch because I have Sunday Ticket” Sunday, as these games have some good teams and units (Denver offense, Green Bay offense, Jets’ run defense, Cards’ defense), and some awful units. I guess some could be close, but they probably won’t be top games.


8.) Pittsburgh Steelers (1-0)  @  Baltimore Ravens (0-1)  (TNF – CBS)

I call it “The Most Infamous Version of the Rivalry” Thursday, as what was once the league’s best rivalry gets played in a weird situation. First, we get our first Network TV TNF game, which should be interesting. The Ravens, though, are in turmoil right now. Teams react to these situations in different ways, so it should be interesting how the team plays, and how the crowd is.


7.) Miami Dolphins (1-0)  @  Buffalo Bills (1-0)  (1:00 – CBS)

I call it “How is this a big game?” Sunday, as one of these two teams will be 2-0, and unless the Jets upset the Packers, will be in 1st place all alone. Both teams have reasons to be excited, and this should be a fun early game.


6.) Chicago Bears (0-1)  @  San Francisco 49ers (1-0)  (SNF – NBC)
5.) New England Patriots (0-1)  @  Minnesota Vikings (1-0)  (1:00 – CBS)

I call it “Desperation vs. … well… non-Desperation” Sunday, as two early favorites try to avoid an 0-2 start on the road. On the other side, guess what? Both the 49ers and Vikings get to open new stadiums. For the 49ers, it is a triumphant first game in Levi’s Stadium. For the Vikings, it is Game 1 of their 16-game odyssey into playing outdoor home games while their new palace is getting built.


4.) Atlanta Falcons (1-0)  @  Cincinnati Bengals (1-0)  (1:00 – FOX)
3.) Detroit Lions (1-0)  @  Carolina Panthers (1-0)  (1:00 – FOX)

I call it “Good Teams, Good Stories, Good Early Season Tests” Sunday, both games have teams in that #5-#12 range, and are two of just three games pitting teams that are both 1-0. Falcons vs. Bengals should be a nice matchup of very good offense against very good defense. The Lions should be the same, but now make it a great defense and an incredible WR.


2.) Philadelphia Eagles (1-0)  @  Indianapolis Colts (0-1)  (MNF – ESPN)
1.) Seattle Seahawks (1-0)  @  San Diego Chargers (0-1)  (4:05 – FOX)

I call it “Desperation vs. non-Desperation, Primetime Edition” Sunday and Monday, as we get two very good games. The Colts need to win to avoid 0-2, as to the Chargers. Both are at home against NFC Division Winners. The Eagles didn’t look all too great in Week 1, but now they get another relatively soft defense. The Seahwks did look great, but the Chargers will be a nice test for their defense.


16.) St. Louis Rams (0-1)  @  Tampa Bay Buccaneers (0-1)  (4:05 – FOX)
15.) Jacksonville Jaguars (0-1)  @  Washington Redskins (0-1)  (1:00 – CBS)
14.) Houston Texans (1-0)  @  Oakland Raiders (0-1)  (4:25 – CBS)

I call it “Yes, you can have a trio of forgettable games in Week 2” Sunday, as all three of these games just seem awful. The Texans allow you to watch JJ Watt, I guess. Still, let’s move on to real games.


13.) New Orleans Saints (0-1)  @  Cleveland Browns (0-1)  (1:00 – FOX)
12.) Dallas Cowboys (0-1)  @  Tennessee Titans (1-0)  (1:00 – FOX)
11.) Kansas City Chiefs (0-1)  @  Denver Broncos (1-0)  (4:25 – CBS)
10.) New York Jets (1-0)  @  Green Bay Packers (0-1)  (4:25 – CBS)
9.) Arizona Cardinals (1-0)  @  New York Giants (0-1)  (1:00 – FOX)

I call it “Mildly Interesting Games that I won’t have to watch because I have Sunday Ticket” Sunday, as these games have some good teams and units (Denver offense, Green Bay offense, Jets’ run defense, Cards’ defense), and some awful units. I guess some could be close, but they probably won’t be top games.


8.) Pittsburgh Steelers (1-0)  @  Baltimore Ravens (0-1)  (TNF – CBS)

I call it “The Most Infamous Version of the Rivalry” Thursday, as what was once the league’s best rivalry gets played in a weird situation. First, we get our first Network TV TNF game, which should be interesting. The Ravens, though, are in turmoil right now. Teams react to these situations in different ways, so it should be interesting how the team plays, and how the crowd is.


7.) Miami Dolphins (1-0)  @  Buffalo Bills (1-0)  (1:00 – CBS)

I call it “How is this a big game?” Sunday, as one of these two teams will be 2-0, and unless the Jets upset the Packers, will be in 1st place all alone. Both teams have reasons to be excited, and this should be a fun early game.


6.) Chicago Bears (0-1)  @  San Francisco 49ers (1-0)  (SNF – NBC)
5.) New England Patriots (0-1)  @  Minnesota Vikings (1-0)  (1:00 – CBS)

I call it “Desperation vs. … well… non-Desperation” Sunday, as two early favorites try to avoid an 0-2 start on the road. On the other side, guess what? Both the 49ers and Vikings get to open new stadiums. For the 49ers, it is a triumphant first game in Levi’s Stadium. For the Vikings, it is Game 1 of their 16-game odyssey into playing outdoor home games while their new palace is getting built.


4.) Atlanta Falcons (1-0)  @  Cincinnati Bengals (1-0)  (1:00 – FOX)
3.) Detroit Lions (1-0)  @  Carolina Panthers (1-0)  (1:00 – FOX)

I call it “Good Teams, Good Stories, Good Early Season Tests” Sunday, both games have teams in that #5-#12 range, and are two of just three games pitting teams that are both 1-0. Falcons vs. Bengals should be a nice matchup of very good offense against very good defense. The Lions should be the same, but now make it a great defense and an incredible WR.


2.) Philadelphia Eagles (1-0)  @  Indianapolis Colts (0-1)  (MNF – ESPN)
1.) Seattle Seahawks (1-0)  @  San Diego Chargers (0-1)  (4:05 – FOX)


I call it “Desperation vs. non-Desperation, Primetime Edition” Sunday and Monday, as we get two very good games. The Colts need to win to avoid 0-2, as to the Chargers. Both are at home against NFC Division Winners. The Eagles didn’t look all too great in Week 1, but now they get another relatively soft defense. The Seahwks did look great, but the Chargers will be a nice test for their defense.

Friday, September 5, 2014

NFL 2014: Week 1 Picksline

Doing this quick for this week. I promise, I'll be back with a vengeance next week.


Green Bay Packers  @  Seattle Seahawks  (SEA -6.5)

The defending champ has only lost this game once at home (the Giants, two years ago to Dallas). The Seahawks are nearly unbeatable at home, especially at night where they've straight blown people out for years. I don't think they blow the Packers out, but they open their defense in good fashion.

Packers 17  Seahawks 27  (SEA -6.5)


Washington Redskins  @  Houston Texans  (HOU -3)

The Texans are getting way too much love for a team that really thinks that Ryan Mallett could be a reasonable option. The Redskins have done good this offseason and while they've looked quite bad in the preseason, the preseason means nothing. I can easily see the Texans winning, but I think there's a little too much value here for the Redskins.

Redskins 23  Texans 17  (WAS +3)


Tennessee Titans  @  Kansas City Chiefs  (KC -3)

The Chiefs are in no way starting 9-0 again, not after losing two-fifths of their o-line and key contributors on defense. The Titans don't really have the personnel to take advantage of those flaws anyway. The Chiefs are still at home, which is still a tough place to play. I think the Titans can get some points on offense, but this could be a rare shootout for the Chiefs this season.

Titans 24  Chiefs 31  (KC -3)


Minnesota Vikings  @  St. Louis Rams  (STL -3)

I don't think the dropoff from Sam Bradford circa 2010-2013 to Shaun Hill is huge, and I don't think it shows up here. The Rams should pressure Cassel into muy mistakes. They have the personnel to take advantage of a soft back-seven of the Vikings as well. The Rams are made to wallop these types of teams.

Vikings 13  Rams 27  (STL -3)


Cleveland Browns  @  Pittsburgh Steelers  (PIT -6.5)

This is a game Roethlisberger has won so many times in his career. I can see the Steelers defense overpowering Brian Hoyer who doesn't have a Josh Gordon to throw it to. The Steelers offense may not be great, and the Browns defense may be above average, but it still doesn't matter when the other side of the matchup is so one-sided.

Browns 13  Steelers 24  (PIT -6.5)


Buffalo Bills  @  Chicago Bears  (CHI -6.5)

Some mid-value underdogs have to cover, right? I like the Bears overall this season, but I could see their defense struggling against on offense that has as many interesting pieces as Buffalo. The Bears should be able to score a lot as well, but this is a renewed challenge for Jay Cutler against one of the best pass rushes in the NFL.

Bills 23  Bears 28  (BUF +6.5)


Oakland Raiders  @  New York Jets  (NYJ -5.5)

This could be closer than you would think, but the Jets should absolutely shut down the Raiders offense, especially any semblance of a running game from Jennings and MJD. The Raiders defense has some interesting pieces, but the Jets should give Geno good protection.

Raiders 14  Jets 21  (NYJ -5.5)


Jacksonville Jaguars  @  Philadelphia Eagles  (PHI -10.5)

Always pick the double digit underdog to cover. I'm going to roll that all year and see how it goes.

Jaguars 20  Eagles 30  (JAX +10.5)


Cincinnati Bengals  @  Baltimore Ravens  (BAL -1.5)

This is the first line I really disagree with. I realize the Ravens are at home, but I think on a neutral field these teams aren't that close. The Bengals have as much talent on defense, and loads more talent on offense. The Ravens HFA edge is less pronounced at 1 PM as well.

Bengals 24  Ravens 16  (CIN +1.5)


New Orleans Saints  @  Atlanta Falcons  (NO -3)

For the 2nd straight year these two meet in Week 1. Last year in New Orleans the Saints barely held on to win 23-17. The Saints then barely held on to win 17-13 in the return leg in Atlanta. No matter the talent difference, these two teams play close games. I see that happening again, and I can't imagine what the ATS record for teh Falcons are in the Ryan era as home dogs but it has to be good.

Saints 23  Falcons 27  (ATL +3)


New England Patriots  @  Miami Dolphins  (NE -3.5)

Would really like to pick Miami here, and I would not be the least bit shocked if they win, but this is a lower line than I would have liked. The Dolphins are missing guys from suspension and I can see the Pats coming out big in their first game with the new pieces.

Patriots 30  Dolphins 21  (NE -3.5)


Carolina Panthers  @  Tampa Bay Buccaneers  (TB -3)

Sure, the Panthers lost some random guys, and sure the Buccaneers are everyone's hot team for the 3rd time in four seasons (2011, 2013 and now this year). The Panthers, to me, are still appreciably better at a lot of positions. This line indicates these teams are even on a neutral field which seems like a stretch this early into a season.

Panthers 20  Buccaneers 10  (CAR +3)


San Francisco 49ers  @  Dallas Cowboys  (SF -4.5)

I think this is good value for Dallas, but Dallas is not the type of team to win this game. I can easily see them hanging with the 49ers for 50 minutes but just getting beat at the end. Still, I think Dallas is good value has a home dog here.

49ers 31  Cowboys 27  (DAL +4.5)


Indianapolis Colts  @  Denver Broncos  (-7.5)

This line might seem high, but with Robert Mathis out, I can't see the Colts getting to Manning, and I can't see the Colts offense keeping up. The Broncos defense has looked really good so far, and Von Miller might be ready to explode.

Colts 20  Broncos 38  (DEN -7.5)


New York Giants  @  Detroit Lions  (DET -6.5)

This is another line that seems really high. The Giants beat the Lions late last season. Both teams finished 7-9. Yet the Lions are seen as much better in this line? It isn't like the Lions play appreciably better at home, and a case can be made the Giants play better on the road. I don't know if they win, but this line is out of whack.

Giants 21  Lins 27  (NYG +6.5)



San Diego Chargers  @  Arizona Cardinals  (ARZ -3)

FInal game should be a really fun one. The line is perfect, though I think the Cards are getting a little undervalued. The crowd should be good, and I like home teams on Monday Night in general.

Chargers 21  Cardinals 28  (ARZ -3)


Wednesday, September 3, 2014

NFL 2014: Season Predictions

Work is busy, so I don't really have time to go in depth. I will have picks on Friday/Saturday, and will try to follow my normal schedule of Power Rankings on Tuesday/Wednesday and Picks.





Some notes: yes, I think the 4 AFC Division Winners repeat, and 5 overall. I see 8 teams going back to the playoffs. Carolina might be the most surprising, but I think people are way overstating the loss of marginal WR and DBs, and replacing them with marginal WR and DBs.


Playoff Preditions


Wild Card Round

(A3) Indianapolis  def  (A6) Pittsburgh  27-20
(A5) San Diego  def  (A4) New England  27-24

(N6) Arizona  def  (N3) Seattle  20-16
(N4) New York  def  (N5) Chicago  27-17


Divisional Round

(A1) Denver  def  (A5) San Diego  35-17
(A3) Indianapolis  def  (A2) Cincinnati  27-24

(N1) Green Bay  def  (N6) Arizona  24-16
(N2) Carolina  def  (N4) New York  24-21


Conference Title Games

(A1) Denver  def  (A3) Indianapolis  41-24

(N2) Carolina  def  (N1) Green Bay  23-20


Super Bowl XLIX

(A1) Denver  def  (N2) Carolina  27-13

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

A Decade (and Two Years) of NFL Playoffs: Ranking the Conference Title Games, Pt. 2

Tier IV – The Great Games


9.) 2008 AFC Championship – (A6) Ravens 14 @ (A2) Steelers 23


Review: In the first year of the newly-revived Steelers-Ravens rivalry, the Steelers beat the Ravens for a 3rd time after beating them 23-20 in Heinz and then 13-9 in a smashmouth game at M&T Bank capped with a 92-yard TD drive by Ben. This one wasn’t as close, but the hits were just as many. It started out in (smashmouth) style with two Ravens needing medical attention after the opening kickoff. It featured sacks by the usuals: Suggs, Woodley, Ngata, Polamalu, and great play by everyone around on both defenses. Every score seemed like a minor miracle. Any first down for the Ravens (198 yards in the game) seemed like a large miracle. The Steelers led 13-0 and 16-7, but both leads were answered with Ravens’ TD runs by Willis McGahee, keeping the Ravens in a game they were mostly outclassed in by a defense that was just 5% better. Flacco played like a rookie in a Conference Title Game, throwing three interceptions and going just 13-30, but timely red-zone defense kept the Ravens in the game. In the end, it ended the way any Ravens-Steelers slugfest should, with a dramatic pick-6 as the Ravens were driving for a potential game-winning field goal. Troy Polamalu did the honors, cutting in front of a Flacco pass and weaving his way to the house for the capper in a hard-hitting night in Heinz Field. 


Interesting/Memorable Play: Steelers 2nd round bust Limas Sweed had an interesting two plays. First, he dropped a walk-in touchdown and then, in what is mostly seen as an act of cowardly fright, faked being hurt so he could curry up some sympathy. Two plays later, he laid out Frank Walker with a massive, Hines-Ward-ian block.


Interesting/Memorable Play 2: The Steelers first touchdown came courtesy of one of the strangest plays you will ever see. Ben Roethlisberger, like he does, escaped a sack and spun and heaved a ball downfield off-balance. The Raven defender overran the ball, and Holmes came back and caught it, and then weaved his way for a 62-yard touchdown. The play really should have been a sack or an interception, but somehow, someway, Santonio Holmes did what he did constantly in the 2008 postseason.


8.) 2008 NFC Championship – (N6) Eagles 25 @ (N4) Cardinals 31



Review: The Colts comeback from 21-3 down in a game still to come on this list was as memorable as any in recent memory, but here, the Eagles came back from a 24-6 halftime deficit on the road and took a 25-24 lead after a 62-yard TD by DeSean Jackson. Too bad for the Eagles, though, as Kurt Warner and the Cardinals put together their only drive of note in the 2nd half just in time, with a 7:40 long, 14-play march to retake the lead for good. The drive featured a 4th and 1 pitch-out to Tim Hightower at midfield and a 3rd and Goal screen pass for a TD to Hightower again. The game itself was a wild affair, with Larry Fitzgerald scoring three 1st half TDs, including one on a end-around pitchback that I alluded to back in the description of the 2005 Wild Card Game between the Steelers and Bengals. Donovan McNabb and the Eagles answered with three straight TD drives of their own in the 2nd. In what was the final NFC Championship for both quarterbacks, McNabb was slightly erratic at times, but threw for 375 yards with 3 TDs and 1 INT, while Warner was brilliant, going 21-28 for 279 yards and 4 tds with no picks. Fitz, DeSean Jackson, Kevin Curtis and Brent Celek all had big games. It was a nice shootout that was never really boring (even as the Cards took that 24-6 lead). A nice precursor to the epic shootout that would be in that stadium 51 weeks later.


Interesting/Memorable Play: The game really turned on one brilliant pass. It was the Eagles 2nd drive of the 2nd half (after a fumble and then a Cardinals punt), and with 6:41 remaining in the quarter, still down 24-6, the Eagles faced a 3rd and 18 from their own 31. In what may have been his best pass as an Eagle, McNabb perfectly shot a 50-yard pass to Kevin Curtis, which changed the game completely. If the Eagles won, it might be remembered as one of the biggest plays of the 2000s.


Interesting/Memorable Fact: The Game set a couple records that aren’t exactly good ones. This game marked the first time that both Title Game participants won fewer than 10 games (not to mention the first time since the 2002 AFC Title Game where neither team won 12 or more games), with the Cardinals going 9-7 and the Eagles going 9-6-1. It also marked the lowest combined seeds for Title Game opponents, with the Cardinals being the NFC’s 4th seed and the Eagles the 6th.


7.) 2012 NFC Championship - (N2) 49ers 28 @ (N1) Falcons 24


Review: The 49ers did something amazing in this game. No, it wasn't just coming back from 17-0 on the road to win a Championship Game. That was incredible. What was better was doing it without really stopping the Falcons more than twice. The Falcons punted just twice in the game, and only once was in the half. Matt Ryan turned the ball over twice during the 2nd half, where once was when his receiver slipped and the other was a terrible snap. The 49ers, of course, played quite well on offense themselves, capitalizing on a soft run defense with a great game from Frank Gore, who had 90 yards on 21 carries with two TDs. The Falcons kept Kaepernick in the pocket, but he had his best game throwing of any in the playoffs, going 16-21 for 233 yards and a TD with no INTs. Of course, this wasn't close to Matt Ryan, who went 30-42 for 396 yards with three TDs and one pick. Matt Ryan's incredible statline just underscores what a strange comeback this was for the 49ers, who played terrible defense all day. The game actually mirrored the Super Bowl in that way, with the losing team having a large advantage in yardage (the Falcons outgained the 49ers by 104), but the 49ers, like the Ravens did to them, stopped the Falcons in the red zone with a controversial non-call on 4th down. It is hard to for 49ers fans to complain about the Super Bowl since they saw that exact same story play out two weeks earlier. It didn't stop them from complaining, but it happened.


Interesting/Memorable Fact: Another example of how well the Falcons played in a losing effort: against a top pass defense, all three of the Falcons main weapons went off. Julio Jones was the star with 11 catches for 182 yards and two TDs. Of course, Roddy White chipped in with 100 yards on 7 catches, and Gonzalez had 78 yards on 8 catches with a TD.


Interesting/Memorable Play: Another example of how the Falcons stopped the Falcons, and not the 49ers, was what happened a handful of plays before their incomplete on 4th down. Throwing from the 50 yard line, Ryan found Harry Douglas wide open on a wheel route near the 30, with absolutely no one inbetween him and the end zone. What did Douglas do? Fall down trying to catch the well thrown ball and turn a sure TD into a 22 yard gain.


6.) 2011 AFC Championship – (A2) Ravens 20 @ (A1) Patriots 23



Review: This game probably would go in the higher section if either Lee Evans gets that 2nd foot down in time (or holds onto the ball, but if he got the foot down a little sooner what Sterling Moore does becomes irrelevant) or Billy Cundiff makes his kick and it went overtime. Instead, we got merely a great game between the AFC’s best offense and best defense in 2011. The Ravens used every ounce of resourcefulness that they had to stay with the Pats, three times holding the Patriots to field goals and twice picking off Tom Brady (including a sweet pick that Bernard Pollard tipped to Jimmy Smith off of a ridiculously dumb deep pass by Brady to Matthew Slater). Joe Flacco, after a useless 1st quarter, got into a rhythm, and ended up with over 300 yards, largely to both Torrey Smith and Anquan Boldin had huge big days. In the end, the Patriots did what they used to do in 2001-2006, win a close game where they were possibly outplayed. The Patriots offense was able to run the ball better than what most would have expected, but their passing game was limited by a Ravens defense that tackled exceptionally well, making sure. The game featured everything, including a classic Brady drive (although it came quite early in the 4th) which ended with a Brady 4th and 1 QB-sneak for the game-winning touchdown, a weird matchup where the Patriots tried covering Anquan Boldin with Julian Edelman on their final drive, and in the end, some kicker-related luck bailing the Patriots out.. If not for that last part of that last sentence, this could have been the 1st of two classics on the best title game day in recent history.

Interesting/Memorable Play: Right before the Ravens last drive, the Patriots were in almost the exact same position they were in five yearas earlier. The Patriots had the ball with 4 minutes to go needing one first down to effectively ice the game. Just like last time, they couldn’t get it. Just like last time, it was a great safety defensing a pass on 3rd and 4. Last time it was Bob Sanders nearly pick-sixing Brady, here it was Ed Reed playing great coverage on Aaron Hernandez. Sad the similarities didn’t perfectly continue in the ensuing drives.


Interesting/Memorable Moment: After the game, Jim Nantz, before letting Tom Brady speak, rhapsed poetic about Brady being the 2nd QB to make it to 5 Super Bowls and basically stopped just short of giving Tommy a Happy Ending. Then, in one of my few favorite Brady moments, Tommy took the mike and immediately debunked Nantz’s shit, saying “I played like crap today.”


Interesting/Memorable Moment 2: One of the few memorable images of the end of the game situation that I like to see is that beautiful picture of Vince Wilfork (who played stellar) with his helmet off and steam rising from the top off his head.



Tier V – The Epics


5.) 2011 NFC Championship – (N4) Giants 20 @ (N2) 49ers 23 (OT)



Review: Other than Lambeau Field, no stadium in the NFL has as much 'mystique and aura' as Candlestick Park, and with the new stadium coming soon, this could easily be the last playoff game played in the 'Stick, and damn was it great. As the rain slowly went away, the game become more and more special, a truly awesome spectacle of defensive football played in a sparkling, dark night by the Bay. Both defenses dominated, with the Giants sacking Smith three times, and the 49ers repaying the favor six times. Justin Smith absolutely killed David Baas, Chris Snee and Kevin Booth. It was just staggering watching Eli Manning drop back 64 times and getting hit repeatedly, but keeping his team in the game just enough. For the 49ers, the story was, once again, Vernon Davis, who had three catches for 112 yards and a pair of scores. Alex Smith returned to mostly what we think of Alex Smith, going 12-26, but much of that has to do with the insane pressure he faced, and the incredible inability of any of his receivers to get open (The 49er receivers combined for one catch for three yards). Still, with the two Davis TDs (one catch and run for 72 yards and one 27-yard deep post), they led 14-10 midway through the 4th quarter. The 49ers forced a Giants' three-and-out capped with an Aldon Smith sack, when Kyle Williams went back to punt. Then, his name forever became etched in San Fran history right next to Roger Craig (at least when it comes to fumbling), as the punt bounced off of his knee. The Giants recovered, and six plays later, Manning fired a 17-yard TD to Manningham on 3rd and 15. The 49ers then proceeded to dominate the Giants offense the rest of the day, sacking Manning two more times, but only put up a field goal to tie the game. They almost got their fumble (in what would have been eerily similar to the Craig fumble scenario), but Bradshaw's fumble was ruled dead as forward progress was stopped. Then, to cap off this play was Act III: OT. The new rules were, again, deemed unnecessary, as both teams couldn't get anything going. But after the Giants second-punt of OT (set up by a Ahmad Brooks sack), Kyle Williams again fumbled, and the Giants recovered. The only drama left was Lawrence Tynes, who has a history of both huge makes and bad misses, but he nailed his 2nd NFC Championship Winning Field Goal in OT in 5 years, ending a game that no team deserved to lose.


Interesting/Memorable Play: Kyle Williams (who I learned later is the son of White Sox GM Kenny Williams) was only the main returner for the 49ers because Ted Ginn Jr. was hurt in the Saints game, and I'm sure he, more than anyone, would've wanted Ginn to play. That said, it was his 40-yard kick-off return that set up the 49ers at the 50 for their game-tying field goal in the 4th quarter.


Interesting/Memorable Moment: Before the OT coin-toss, the game ref does a little meet-and-great with the players, telling the rules, giving them the timeout and challenge scenarios, and all that generic garbage. Well, Ed Hochuli decided that instead of being rote, he would take the time to recite Shakespeare, giving us a 1 minute 11 second long introduction to OT. The best part of the moment was the audible groan that came on the crowd at about the 0:40 mark of the speech.



4.) 2013 NFC Championship - (N5) 49ers 17 @ (N1) Seahawks 23



I can't wait for the 2015 NFC Championship game. The last four times the NFC has had the late title game, they've been classics (spoiler, they rank #5-#2 on this list). This is the only one of the four to not end with a walk-off field goal in OT, but it didn't make it any less great. I still argue Carolina was as good as San Francisco, but this matchup seemed a little predestined. Thankfully, despite getting gutted the last two times traveling to Seattle (losing 42-14 and 26-3), the 49ers showed up and made this a game. They showed up from the first play, with Aldon Smith stripping Russell Wilson. The Seahawks defense held firm early on when Kaepernick looked like the only person on the field who could do anything, running peerlessly through the defense. Kaepernick racked up nearly 100 yards rushing in the first half. Of course, the Seahawks gave up just 10 points in that half. It took Seattle forever to get going on offense, but the Seahawks finally hit a play before the half when Wilson evaded a few sacks and launched a bomb. The 2nd half was a great Greek Play. First was Marshawn Lynch's great run to tie the game. Then a few defensive battles. Kaepernick threw a laser TD to Boldin right over Earl Thomas's head to take a 17-10 lead, but that would be all. A 4th down TD to Jermaine Kearse on a bomb tied it, and then Kaepernick fell apart. Three 4th-quarter turnovers ruined their chances. But still, after a goal line stand, the 49ers had a chance. Kaepernick was driving them. Crabtree was making a few catches. They had 30 seconds and 20 yards to go, and then Kaepernick decided to challenge the best corner in teh NFL. The best corner won, tipping it to Malcolm Smith, ending a classic in front of an awesome 12th man crowd. The best NFL games seem like events from a different world, a strange unique setting,. This was definitely one of them, taking place in the isolated Northwest. What a special game.



Interesting/Memorable Play: The play will be remembered for NaVarro Bowman's scary injury, but the reason the injury will be replayed and replayed was Bowman, after essentially tearing all the knee, recovering a fumble that was not given. The rule changed in the off-season, and the justly the Seahawks were stoned on the ensuing 4th down.



Interesting/Memorable Play 2: The last play was a great individual moment by Richard Sherman, but of course what is more notable was what happened after the interception, with Sherman and Crabtree getting into a little hissy fight and then Sherman's great interview with Erin Andrews. Sherman acted like a dick, but an awesome dick. Thing is, though, Crabtree had a pretty decent game.





3.) 2009 NFC Championship – (N2) Vikings 28 @ (N1) Saints 31 (OT)


Review: Well, what became maybe the 2nd most famous Championship Game of this era, has now become easily the most infamous. Truthfully, my opinion of this classic is skewed a little because of the events of 'BountyGate', but for this, I will try to forget what I now know. The game itself was a case of the Vikings doing everything in their power to both win and lose the game at the same time. It was a study in drama, with both teams having many moments where their fans must have felt it was all doomed. The 1st half was mostly normal, with the teams trading touchdowns, as the Vikings opened the game with back-to-back TD drives capped off by a 18-yard run by Peterson and a touchdown toss to Sidney Rice. The Saints got their two with a screen pass for 38-yards to Pierre Thomas and another TD pass to Devery Henderson. Then, on a seemingly innocous punt right before the half, the game became a greek tragedy. Reggie Bush muffed a punt. That set off a string of unlikely, and for most Minnesotans, harrowing events. Set up at the 5-yard line, the Vikings gave the ball right back as Favre and Peterson screwed up a handoff. The 2nd half was more of the same, with the Vikings thoroughly dominating play, outgaining the Saints 235-48 in the 2nd half. Yes, you read those numbers right. The more shocking side was the Vikings defense just swallowing up the Saints, forcing four three-and-outs in the Saints 6 possessions in the 2nd half. The Vikings themselves moved the ball right down the field on all but one of their six 2nd half drives, but other than two touchdowns on angry Peterson runs, they ended in infamy. Four 2nd half turnovers, including a fumble by Bernard Berrian at the Saints 5 yard line, and a fumble by Percy Harvin at the Vikings 10, and a interception by Brett Favre (on a play that should've been called roughing the passer) all played a part in the Vikings inability to win a game they absolutely deserved to. They still had a chance, though. After giving their win away, they had a chance to still win, despite losing the turnover battle four to one. On their last drive, the Vikings drove down to the Saints 33 with over a minute to go, when their true meltdown occurred. First, came a 12-men-in-the-huddle penalty, and then, on 3rd and 15 and the prospect of a 56-yard field goal, Favre rolled out and tried to make a play, but Tracy Porter undercut the route and picked it off. To OT it went, and a Saints drive that could've ended twice, but after a bad pass interference call gave the Saints a 1st and 10 at the Vikings 29, it was all over. Garrett Hartley nailed the 40-yarder to give the Saints a win they didn't really deserve, but considering the Vikings gave it away, it wasn't as if the Vikings deserved it any more.


Interesting/Memorable Play: Why did the Saints OT drive have controversy? First, on a 4th and 1 jump rush by Pierre Thomas, the ball appeared to be dislodged for Thomas's arm. He did 'recover' the ball, but by then he was back behind the yard line that he needed to get to. A case could be made it should've been a turnover on downs. Two plays before that, Brees (who was only 17-31 on the day - again, just a bad game for the Saitns offense) overshot Colston, but Ben Leber knocked the ball out of Asher Allen's hands. Even in OT, the Vikings had their chances.


Interesting/Memorable Play 2: That Favre interception resulted in over-criticism for Favre, because had he just thrown it away, it was still a 56-yard field goal, but I can understand why Favre didn't try to run the ball. He had been battered all day. BountyGate or not, it was a beating that elicited a response of "how mean the Saints are" from my Mom. Favre's ankle resembled a misshapen plum after the game. They beat him down, yet he still went 28-46 for 310 yards. It was, in all honesty, the last great game of Favre's career.




Tier VI - The Games that Defined the Decade


2.) 2007 NFC Championship – (N5) Giants 23 @ (N2) Packers 20 (OT)


Review: For one night, it seemed like nowhere in the world mattered as much as Green Bay, Wisconsin. During a asininely cold night in Green Bay (the temperature stayed steady between -1 and -3 degree, with the wind chill between -20 and -23) the Giants and Packers played out a true epic. The Giants set the tone early, with a field goal march to open the game, highlighted with Brandon Jacobs running over Charles Woodson, a pointed statement to the Packers that this would still be a highly physical fight despite the frozen conditions. The Giants added another field goal on a drive that, much like the rest of the game, featured a lot of Plaxico Burress. Matched up against bump-and-run extraordinaire Al Harris, Burress abused the pro-bowler, with 9 catches and 110 yards in the first half alone. The Packers offense was largely stagnant, but scored a dramatic 90-yard touchdown from Favre to Donal Driver: the longest touchdown in Packers playoff history. Then, despite the temperature still being low enough to make it the 3rd coldest NFL playoff game ever (behind the Ice Bowl and Freezer Bowl), the game itself heated up. The Giants and Packers and Giants again drove for touchdowns in a tightly played third quarter. The Giants first TD drive was the most memorable, as they got two straight 3rd Down conversions via penalties, as Harris was called for Pass Interference, and then Nick Collins called for roughing the passer. All this set up a 4th Quarter with the Giants leading 20-17. The Packers quickly tied the game with a field goal set up by a crazy play where Favre, after eluding a sack, blindly tossed one deep and was picked off by McQuarters, only for LT Mark Tauscher to force a fumble which was recovered by the Packers. From that moment on, the Giants dominated the game, but just couldn't put the Packers away. They stoned the Packers run game (Grant 11-19 on the day), and force Packers punt after punt, but the Giants couldn't capitalize. First, midway through the quarter, Tynes pushed a 43-yarder. They traded punts before the Giants forced another Packers 3-and-out, where the craziness reached its apex. On the punt return, McQuarters was stripped, and three Packers had a good chance to recover the ball around the 50. The Packers were that close to potentially stealing the game (they were outgained on the day 377-264), but Dominik Hixon jumped on the ball. After gaining two first downs, the Giants were in position to win the game, but on the last play of regulation Tynes shanked a 38-yarder giving the Packers one more chance. The Packers did win the toss, but on Favre's final throw as a Packer, he threw behind Donal Driver and Corey Webster picked him off. Three plays later, with the Giants now facing a field goal longer than either of the two 4th Quarter misses, Coughlin called on Tynes one more time. The third time really was the charm, and Tynes just nailed the 47-yarder. The Lambeau crowd that was loud throughout fell into an eery silence. They must all have felt that they waited out four hours of an epic football game in epic weather just to see the Giants come in and end Favre's dream season, and in the end, his Packer career.

Interesting/Memorable Play: Plaxico Burress was just insane. He caught every type of pass against  Harris. Quick posts, fade routes, fade stops, crossing routes, deep throws, quick outs. It was just masterful. During the game, after making his 8th catch, he went over the the Packers sideline and shouted "You Can't Cover Me! This Fucker Can't Cover Me!". And the Packers switched Woodson on him for a play, and Burress caught another one. Just an exceptional game.


Interesting/Memorable Moment: Lawrence Tynes would get his 15 minutes of fame, appearing on Dave Letterman the next week. He was, surprisingly, a good guest, quipping that after he missed the 2nd field goal he was "thinking what it would be like to live in Green Bay" in fear of what the NYC crowd would do to him.


Interesting/Memorable Moments: The cold did wreak havoc on the game, and it led to some great moments. First, was Michael Strahan's perfect speech before the game, where he stated "the past is the fucking past. This is the present. Cold is temporary, a Championship is Forever." The cold is probably best remembered, though, for what it did to Tom Coughlin's face, as he became as red and frozen as a strawberry popsicle.


Interesting/Memorable Fact: Something that really helps this game was just how aesthetically beautiful. The Packers green jersey is quite brilliant, and the Giants road uniforms (despite, oddly, not featuring blue) are the better of the two. Either way, with the uniforms, the almost white field and the  dark, isolating feel of Green Bay, the game itself just looked like you were watching an epic film more than a football game.





1.) 2006 AFC Championship – (A4) Patriots 34 @ (A3) Colts 38



Review: This might just go down as the most famous non-Super Bowl in the modern NFL. It was the game that best personified the Manning/Brady rivalry, as it was the first time both really played well in the same game, and that combined with a little comeback, some crazy scores and a great finish equated two the best Championship Game maybe ever. It all started out so normal for Colts fans, as the Patriots looked like the Patriots from their dynasty days, and the Colts looked like little sheep. After trading punts, the Patriots sandwiched a Colts field goal with two TDs that both featured 4th down conversions during the drive. Then, already up 14-3 midway through the 2nd, Asante Samuel picked off Manning and raced back for what looked to be a game-stopper. The Patriots compounded this dominance by sacking Manning twice on the next drive (although they nearly allowed a 97-yard TD to Marvin Harrison), and driving on their next possession inside the 20, until a little offensive-pass interference pushed that drive back. The Patriots had to punt, and the Colts put together their first real fluid drive of the game right before the half. They had to settle for a field goal, but the game was back to normal pace, and, as many Patriots would later attest, Manning had figured it out. 32 points in the 2nd Half later, that much was obvious. The Colts first scored TDs on back-to-back possessions to start the 3rd quarter, erasing the 15 point deficit in 11 minutes. The Patriots answered with a crazy scrambling TD toss after a long kick-off return by Hobbs. The Colts answered that with a TD drive that included a beautiful sideline post route to Dallas Clark. That score happened early in the 4th Quarter, which would prove to be among the most dramatic quarters in NFL history. First, the teams traded punts and then they traded field goals. The Patriots were aided by good special teams returns, but also didn't get what looked like a pass interference call which forced them to kick a field goal to make it 34-31. Then, looking at 80 yards to potentially change his whole career, with just 3:43 on teh clock, Manning threw three straight incompletions. It was Manning fulfilling so many's worst impressions, as he "failed in the clutch." Luckily for Manning, Brady and the Pats, for what would be the first time late in a close playoff game, choked harder. Needing just one first down to essentially wrap up the game, the Pats were first called for a 12-man in the huddle penalty (something completely forgotten about the game), then after two quick completions, the Pats had a 3rd and 4. Four yards away from another win against the Colts. Four yards away from beating the Colts in their own building, and a date with an eminently beatable Chicago team. The Pats went for the kill, as they spread the field and tried to hit Troy Brown on a route that he's run hundreds of times, but Sanders read it and nearly picked off Brady. Manning got one more chance to perform big in the clutch, and that he did. Against a furious pass rush, Manning completed a quick 11-yarder to Wayne, a deep post for 32 to Fletcher off his back foot and a 21-yarder to Wayne. Then, with 1st and 10 at the 11, the Colts did the most un-Colts-like thing: run three straight times, pounding it down the "physical" Pats. Addai scored on 3rd and 3, finally giving the Colts the lead. The Patriots would go as far as midfield on the next drive, but Brady finally threw a pick at a 'clutch' moment, as Marlin Jackson caught it and slid to the ground, hugging the ball. The RCA Dome exploded like never before, and the rivalry, and league in general (I'll get to this) was never the same.

Interesting/Memorable Plays: Three lineman scored touchdowns in this game. One was the Colts pulling a Belichick on the Pats, with Manning tossing a 1-yard pass to Dan Klecko, but the other two made for an eery coincidence, as both Logan Mankins and Jeff Saturday recovered fumbles by their running back in the end zone for touchdowns.



Interesting/Memorable Player: Reche Caldwell had a notoriously awful game. He had just two catches, and two infamous drops. One was a wide-open drop in the end zone. The other was more infamous, as the play started with teh Colts having only 10 guys on defense, and leaving Caldwell wide open. Caldwell furiously waved his arms trying to get Brady's attention, but never could. By the time the ball was snapped the Colts were racing over the Caldwell, but he dropped a simple catch. Of course, nothing is more memorable from Caldwell than his deer eyes.



Interesting/Memorable Fact: This was the largest comeback ever in a conference championship game, with the Colts coming down from 21-3. The Colts also set a record for most points in the 2nd Half of a Title Game, with 32. From the 2:00 Warning of the 1st to the end of the game, the Colts outscored the Pats 35-13, and outgained them 289-115.




Interesting/Memorable Fact: I'll write more about this later, but this game was arguably the game that started the NFL's paradigm shift to offense-first teams. The previous six teams to win teh Super Bowl before 2006 (Ravens, Pats, Bucs, Steelers) were all defense first teams that allowed under 300 points. Including the '06 Colts, the last six (Colts, Giants twice, Steelers, Saints, Packers) have been more mixed, with four allowing more than 300 points, including the three of the four highest totals for  Super Bowl winning teams. The game also signalled the end of the defense-first Patriots that won Super Bowls. Fuming over the offenses inability to put up more points in teh 2nd half, the Pats went out and traded for Stallworth, Welker and Moss and turned into an offensive juggernaut. The modern pass-happy NFL started that night, and all because Brady couldn't complete a simple 4-yard pass to Troy Brown.

About Me

I am a man who will go by the moniker dmstorm22, or StormyD, but not really StormyD. I'll talk about sports, mainly football, sometimes TV, sometimes other random things, sometimes even bring out some lists (a lot, lot, lot of lists). Enjoy.