NFL Tips: Week 3 – Final Week of 16.

First off, I’d just like to reiterate Sam’s comments about Steve Sabol. It’s an unbelievably great loss to the NFL and the Sports world as a whole, and it’d be nice if other sporting codes could take his vision(s) and apply them to their respective sport. So, RIP Steve Sabol, you’ll be truly missed.

So here we are in week 3, and this marks the final week of a 16 game schedule until week 11, amazingly. Week 4 only has 1 less game, but I’m still technically correct. Anyhow, let’s get on with the tipping.

New York at Carolina: This week’s Thursday Night Football gives us the intriguing match-up of the Giants vs. the Panthers, this storie…OK, so this game is somewhat of a rarity, but it doesn’t make it any less enjoyable or intriguing. And I’m definitely looking forward to watching it. Based on last week’s results, Eli’s arm didn’t fall off and Brees arm didn’t really work too well. The Panthers fought out a gutsy and convincing win over NFC South foes, the Saints. The other end was the Giants beating the Buccaneers, but still having a cry, anyway. Stupid East teams, right? Anyhow, I think Carolina’s Pass D has definitely improved this season, and if they can limit the Giants to a respectable rushing total, they could far alright. The Giants are off to a pretty poor start, despite being 1-1. They lost to the Cowboys, without really threatening and they barely got over the line in the touchdown for touchdown battle with the boys from Tampa. The Giants can still be lethal if they put it all together, but if the Panthers defensive backfield can keep it together, then I think the Panthers will, too. I’m actually going to give Carolina the slight edge, even though I think this will be a very tight contest, and either result wouldn’t surprise me.

Prediction: Carolina 30, New York 27

Unfortunately, I’ve left this a tad late, so will only give predictions.

St. Louis at Chicago –Prediction: Chicago 30, St. Louis 17

Buffalo at Cleveland – Prediction: Buffalo 27, Cleveland 24

Tampa Bay at Dallas – Prediction: Dallas 38, Tampa Bay 24

Detroit at Tennessee –Prediction: Detroit 45, Tennessee 17

Jacksonville at IndianapolisPrediction: Indianapolis 21, Jacksonville 18

New York at Miami – Prediction: New York 27, Miami 21

San Francisco at Minnesota – Prediction: San Francisco 24, Minnesota 10

Kansas City at New Orleans –Prediction: New Orleans 30, Kansas City 27

Cincinnati at Washington –Prediction: Cincinnati 20, Washington 16

Philadelphia at Arizona –Prediction: Arizona 24, Philadelphia 17

Atlanta at San Diego – Prediction: Atlanta 30, San Diego 26

Houston at Denver – Prediction: Houston 17, Denver 6

Pittsburgh at Oakland –Prediction: Pittsburgh 37, Oakland 14

And then there were two…

New England at Baltimore – Prediction: Baltimore 26, New England 21

Green Bay at Seattle –Prediction: Green Bay 24, Seattle 13
Have a great week of Football. :)

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313 NFL Awards: Week 2, 2012.

What a week of football and we’re only 2 weeks into the season. Just the tip of the iceberg my friends. A roller coaster start like many NFL seasons before.

Preseason predictions are already proven wrong, ideas of what was supposed to happen are long gone and new ideas on what could happen are forming. However, don’t count on anything just yet. No need to put 1k on the Niners for a SB win. Geez. Calm down, climb down from the roof, take a deep breath and maybe put some pants back on because you’ve still got 15 more weeks of this grey-hair producing NFL season to go.

And with that, here are my prestigious Week 2 NFL Awards.

QB of the Week:

Eli Manning, New York Giants.

Wow. Way to rebound son. You ever think about playing basketball?

The younger Manning was awful in the first half of the game vs. the Bucs, throwing 3 picks and struggling to get anything going offensively. Here we go again Giants fans thought as week 1, Eli was also sub-par vs. the Cowboys in the season opener.

But something at halftime vs. the Buccaneers must have clicked. Maybe something was said, maybe he just likes to idle the machine for a while before he can finally put it into drive. Either way fans rejoiced as he produced numbers in one half of football that most would take 60 minutes to produce and helped pave the way for an outstanding comeback win to lead his team to a 1-1 record before their Thursday Night game in Charlotte vs. the Panthers.

For the record, he finished with 510 yards passing, 3 TDs (to go with his 3 picks) and a passer rating of 89.5, with a 60.8 completion rate. In the 2nd half alone, he threw for 295 yards, tying for the eighth most in NFL history and coming up 3 yards short of Phil Simms’ club record. An impressive 80-yards in 4 plays won the game for the Giants, which featured a 2pt conversion for backup RB Andre Brown. The duo of Hakeem Nicks and Victor Cruz helped Eli, combining for 21 catches, 378 yards, 18.0 yards per catch & 2 TDs.

Offensive Player of the Week (Other than a QB.. and someone not named Manning):

Reggie Bush, RB, Miami Dolphins.

Wait.. did I just write that? Reggie Bush?!

Yep, Reggie Bush. The same Reggie Bush that we all thought was nothing more than a scat-back, change of pace back, pass-catching back, punt returning/kick returning special-play-making back. Not an every down back like he showed on Sunday. What is this crap? Is 2012 really coming to an end, because he can carry the ball more than 12 times a game in a starters role? Well.. we’ll have to wait and see about that but one thing is clear, he certainly proved for one game at least, that he has it in him to be what he believes he can be: A starting RB in the NFL who can rush for 1k yards.

He helped Miami to a pivotal win in an AFC home opener over the Raiders, finishing with 26 touches for 172 yards and 2 TDs, including a 60 yard TD run. With a 6.6 ypc average, if he can produce the kind of explosiveness like he showed on Sunday for 20+ carries, it will alleviate pressure from rookie QB Ryan Tannehill and help keep the opposing defence honest. Add in his ability in the screen game, and you have a RB like Matt Forte. How his knee holds up over the course of the season, depending if he carries it 300+ times, will be the real test as well.

Many running backs have tried and failed to hold down the starting role as a NFL RB.. but for week 2, he certainly looked like the player that was drafted 2nd overall in the 2006 NFL Draft. I for one, will jump on his bandwagon if he proves me and the rest of the NFL wrong.

Honourable Mentions: Marshawn Lynch, Danny Amendola,CJ. Spiller, Hakeem Nicks.  

Defensive Player of the Week:

Clay Matthews, LB, Green Bay Packers.

Those golden locks are flowin’.

The former Defensive Player of the Year had a monster night on Thursday Night Football vs. the Chicago Bears. What a start The Machine is off to in 2012. 2.5 sacks in week 1, 3.5 sacks against Jay Cutler to go with 7 tackles (4 solo) and constant pressure that rattled Cutler enough to force him into 4 interceptions and more excuses. Matthews is one of only 6 players in NFL history to record 6 sacks or more in the first two games of the season, and he is the only player to do it twice. With DJ Smith making his presence felt as the other OLB, the Packers may have the player they’ve been looking for to help Clay. If teams double Matthews they’ll have Smith to answer for, making the Packers D a scary force for teams to game plan against. At his current pace, Matthews has his sights on the single season sack record and most likely, another Defensive Player of the Year award.

Special Teams: Adam Jones, CB/PR, Cincinnati Bengals.

Pacman packs a punch against the Browns.

The former electrifying and controversial CB is still around, just for those who haven’t heard his name in a while. Blast from the past maybe, but the guy is still playing ball and provides solid depth for the Bengals secondary. After much turmoil, it’s clear he’s found a home and in week 2, he helped the Bengals to a W over the Browns by returning the first Cleveland punt 81 yards for a touchdown.

2 minutes into the game and the Browns were setting up to punt. Jones caught the ball at the 19 and as soon as he caught it, he evaded one Browns defender. Then he started up field and sidestepped about 4 Browns defenders before cutting to the sideline, all the while weaving around other Browns. By the time Jones was at the 50 yard line, he was home and the crowd was on their feet as Jones looked like the player the Titans drafted in the first round many years ago. As he crossed the goal line, he threw the ball into the stands, jumped onto the goalpost and hugged the padding like hugging an old friend he hadn’t seen in 10 years.

Say what you will about his past, but the guy knows how to make plays when the ball is in his hands and he has some room to move.

Coach of the Week: Ron Rivera

Carolina Love to Chico for his Week 2 W over the Saints.*

I know, I know. Of course, I could put any of the 16 winners from the weekend here. But I won’t. Not yet. The Panthers haven’t won a home opener since it seems forever and haven’t beaten the Saints* since 2009. Going into week 2, the Panthers were looking at an 0-2 start if they played the way they did in week 1 vs. the Buccaneers. Had they lost, they would’ve gone into week 3 with a short turnaround and potentially gone 0-3 and before you know it, season is pretty much over in September. Not many teams get to the Super Bowl or even playoffs after 0-2, let alone a 0-3 start.

But the Panthers took care of business, thanks largely to head coach Ron Rivera and his coordinators of Rob Chudzinski and Sean McDermott. The offense was able to get its mojo back, lead on the ground by Cam Newton with 71 yards rushing. Along with DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart both gaining 50+ yards on the ground, all 4 of the Panthers running threats of Newton, Williams, Stewart and FB Mike Tolbert, were able to score. On the day, the Panthers totalled 219 rushing yards and look to continue that on Thursday Night Football vs. the visiting Giants.

On defense, the Panthers were able to slowly strangle Drew Brees, pressuring him, disrupting him and forcing him into 2 interceptions; one of those a pick 6 to Panthers safety Charles Godfrey. The Panthers shut TE Jimmy Graham down in the 2nd half and held WR Marques Colston to 1 reception, late in the game. The only success Brees had was checking down to RB Darren Sproles, who finished with 10 receptions. The defence was able to help the offense take advantage of the field position and with the running game and read option working like a well oiled machine, the Panthers controlled the game at their tempo, keeping Brees on the sideline, worrying about where he was going to get hit from next. If the Panthers can consistent play solid D, the unit and team will go places.

Goat of the Week:

The NFL and their continuing effort to wreck the game’s integrity.

I could also put the replacement referee crew of week 2’s games here but I won’t because the referees themselves aren’t at fault. They’re doing the best they can, under extreme pressure and unbelievable circumstances where they just can’t keep up with the speed of a NFL game. Embarrassing for all to watch, if the NFL doesn’t feel red faced from MNF alone and the debacle that was the 3 & 1/2 hour game, then I don’t know what will force them to do something.

Honourable Mentions:

Jay Cutler. Stop pouting and take it like a leader and man should. Enough with the excuses.  

Josh Morgan: Seriously. You throw a football at a guys groin in front of the referee late in the game and exactly.. what were you thinking? How old are you again? And how are you not cut yet?!

Rookie of the Week:

Who needs Luck to get his first win?

Congrats rookie. Luck lead the rebuilding Colts to a 1-1 record with a win over the Vikings, throwing for 221 yards on 20/31 passes, 2 TDs and no picks for a passer rating of 107.5. It was Adam Vinateri that clinched the winner with a 53 yard FG, with 8 seconds left but it was the new face of the Indianapolis franchise that steered the new-look Colts to the W. After Minnesota had tied it up thanks to a 6 yard Kyle Rudolph score, Luck marched the Colts 45 yards in 23 seconds, with back to back 20-yard completions before drawing the defence off-side, and then spiking the ball. On a day when we wondered what RG3 would do, I was wondering what Luck would do and as luck would have it, the rookie certainly didn’t look like a player who had been drafted 1st overall in April. Most impressive was his ability to allude defenders and still be poised to make the play. Moving forward, it’ll be interesting to see which rookie QB fares better.

Quote of the Week:

Ray Lewis, on the passing of NFL Films legend Steve Sabol.

“I think young kids in this business … really need to understand the impact that Steve Sabol had. We lost a great pioneer a few days ago with Art Modell and now lose another one. These men had a vision to do something great. The beautiful thing about what they were doing is it wasn’t for them, they had a vision to expand our league to expand our game and to expand our brand.”

When Ray speaks, I listen. Kids of today, take note.

Upset of the Week:

Cardinals over Patriots, at Foxboro.

Quiz question for $200: When was the last time the Patriots lost a home opener? 2002. Bonus round. What year is it currently? 2012. Show them what they’ve won Doug.

That’s right, a fantastic upset in Boston. And what a bit of a snore-fest it was to begin with. New England QB Tom Brady struggled and the Cardinals did their usual thing of not scoring. Both defences were holding their own and looked to be a New England win after Cardinals RB Ryan Williams fumbled in the crucial stages of the 4th with the Pats recovering the fumble with 1 minute to play. However, TE Rob Gronkowski was called for holding on a Danny Woodhead 30 yard TD run. New England were able to gain 6 yards before Brady spiked it where the Pats would settle for the FG try. And that’s when kicker Stephen Gostkowski shanked the 42 yard attempt; his first missed FG of the day after going 4/4. The Cardinals had escaped victorious by 2 points and Ryan Williams breathed a sigh of relief. In all honesty, he could’ve gone in my GOAT column, and so could’ve Gostkowski.. but both teams made so many bad plays it’s hard to just pin it on the one mistake.

Disappointing Team of the Week:

Dallas Cowboys.

I expected better from you. Actually, not really. But I should’ve known better than to tip you. Kudos to the Hawks though, for taking care of business. Couldn’t be happier for Wilson and Lynch in Seattle, as well that fearsome defensive backfield.

Top Plays of the Week:

Eric Wright, Pick 6 vs. the Giants.

Bucs DB Eric Wright’s pick of Eli Manning’s pass with 20 seconds remaining in the first half was impressive enough as he caught the bullet from Manning from about 5 yards away. From there, it’s like watching a Div 1 player go against a Div III team as Wright makes some incredible moves to get down the sideline and score.

Tom Crabtree, Fake FG Reception vs. the Bears.

It was Thursday Night Football and both teams were struggling to get anything going offensively. Enter, Tom Crabtree. Backup TE. With punter Tim Masthay holding for kicker Mason Crosby, Masthay would take the snap and shovel pass to Crabtree who took it from the left guard to the right tackle, straight up and the gut of the Bears D for a 27 yard TD that would spark the Packers into a beating of Jay Cutler’s Bears.

Honorable Mentions: Eagles TE Brent Celek for his ‘white-men-CAN-jump’ leap over Ravens safety Ed Reed, Reggie Bush’s impressive 23 yard TD run & Bengals WR Andrew Hawkins’ 50 yard TD catch and evade vs. the Browns.  

(For more “Plays of the Week”, click here to go to NFL.com.)

Hardest Hit of the Week:

Golden Tate on Sean Lee, Seahawks vs. Cowboys.

Boom. Cowboys Sean Lee gets layed out by a WR. ..Wait, what?

WR takes out a LB. Golden Tate, take a bow. Hines Ward would be proud. That’s how I want my WR’s to block when or my Panthers RBs are running up-field. Way to help the team and fire up the crowd. Lights out.

Headline of the Week:

NFL Films President Steve Sabol Passes Away

Worst-Play-of-the-Week:

Phantom PI Call on Steelers DB Ike Taylor.

Seriously. How?

http://www.nfl.com/videos/nfl-game-highlights/0ap1000000062826/What-were-the-refs-calling

Ryan Clark comes in to lay Santonio Holmes out over the middle, like an safety should. The hit is clean, Taylor makes no contact and in fact loses Holmes before Holmes makes the catch and then proceeds to fall backwards, courtesy of Clark. It doesn’t take much for these replacement referees. Apparently asking for a penatly now results in the request being granted. Either way, you Mr. Ref get the Worst Play of the Week.

That’s it for Week 2 of the NFL Season already. Hard to believe but week 3 is just around the corner as we look towards Thursday night’s blockbuster NFC clash of the New York Giants visiting the Carolina Panthers.

Stay tuned for my preview of that game and more.

NFL Tips: Week 1 – Let’s Get It Started!

Oh, hello. I didn’t see you there. Well, guess what time it is? That’s right! 9pm! No, seriously, it’s the start of the fabled NFL season. It just feels like it’ll never get here. And this year, some people might have wished it didn’t after watching the Zebras in the preseason games. But I’m not here to slam the replacement officials, I’m here to slam crappy teams (and horrible overrated ones)! So, let’s go, shall we?’

Wednesday Game

Dallas at New York: The 2012 season kicks off in typical TV fashion with a NFC East showdown between the Giants & Cowboys. The Giants had quite a run to the Super Bowl last year, going through the Packers & 49ers, before beating the Patriots in the Super Bowl. The Cowboys didn’t make the playoffs again, and as usual, will be heavily overrated. But I expect the Giants to put them in their place to start out the NFL season.

Prediction: New York 24, Dallas 20

Sunday & Monday Games

Indianapolis at Chicago: With the Colts ending up as the worst team in Football last season; thanks Peyton, they got the #1 overall pick and without hesitation, they drafted the best scouted QB since the aforementioned Manning. Unfortunately, Indianapolis’ offense won’t be able to help the D when the reformed tandem of Culter and Marshall are on the field, ripping their DB’s to shreds. Chicago are big favourites to be the threat to not only the Lions Wild Card spot, but the Packers NFC North domination. I don’t see how this will happen with such an inept offensive line, but that shouldn’t be too much of an issue in week 1.

Prediction: Chicago 35, Indianapolis 17

Philadelphia at Cleveland: Cleveland’s draft class is an extremely promising one, despite the drafting of one of the oldest players in draft history with Brandon Weeden late in the 1st round. They got the best RB since Adrian Peterson in Trent Richardson and picked up what seems to be a gem in the supplemental draft with Josh Gordon. All that probably won’t get them over the top against Vick & co. The Eagles had a pretty poor season by their standards last season. Vick had injury problems again and the Defense didn’t live up to their ridiculous expectations (no surprise). I think a full offseason will be extremely beneficial for the whole Eagles team over a lot of teams. And I think they start off their season with a good win.

Prediction: Philadelphia 28, Cleveland 20

St. Louis at Detroit: Jeff Fisher took over the hopeless Rams after last year’s disaster. Sam Bradford is finally back fully healthy and Steven Jackson had a full season for the first time in a while. Unfortunately for the Rams, their WR corps didn’t improve a lot in the break and their first round pick Michael Brockers is out with an ankle sprain for 2 or 3 weeks. The Lions finally made the playoffs last season and will look to improve (they’ve improved by 4 games the past 2 seasons) yet again. The Lions’ problem has changed, either. Their defensive backfield is still at 6’s and 7’s. They may be without their defensive leader in Louis Delmas for this game, also. Fortunately for the Lions, the best connection in Football is still around. Stafford to Johnson. And I assume that’ll be heard a lot again this season and possibly a couple of times in this game. The Lions offense is just too powerful and the Rams isn’t good enough to keep up.

Prediction: Detroit 30, St. Louis 14

New England at Tennesse: After not winning a playoff game since their last Super Bowl victory, the Patriots made it all the way to the big dance, only to fall short to the Cinderella Giants team. Tough luck, Pats. Tennessee were in a bit of a rebuilding mode last season, trying to find a true identity at QB and they’ve settled on the young gunslinger who’s got some legs on him for good measure. Tennessee could be a sneaky team this season, but I don’t think they’ll have their way against Bieber Brady in week 1.

Prediction: New England 38, Tennessee 28

Atlanta at Kansas City: If you’ve been following the Falcons during the off-season by any chance, it sounds like they’re going to be the best team in Football. Well, maybe not THAT good, but the best team in the NFC South, which isn’t too far off. I still think their D is a bit suspect. Especially after losing their leader in Curtis Lofton. But their WR corps is crazy good, with the already anointed best WR in Julio Jones, along with the always consistent Roddy White. The Chiefs’ biggest scalp last year was beating the Packers at home. But don’t think their D can’t repeat that feat each week. With drafting Dontari Poe, they added another big cog in the middle of their 3-4 system. Unfortunately for the Chiefs, Tamba Hali will be suspended for this game and Brandon Flowers status is up in the air, too. Fortunately, however they get back the most promising RB in Football, Jamaal Charles. In the end, though I don’t the Chiefs can keep the Falcons out of the endzone, nor keep up with them.

Prediction: Atlanta 24, Chiefs 13

Jacksonville at Minnesota: There aren’t A LOT of thrilling games on the week 1 schedule, but this one is likely placed right at the bottom. Two of the worst teams from last season meet in Minnesota for week 1 pride. That’s right, one of these teams will be equal with the super powers of the NFL in wins. Amazingly, two of the best RB’s in football will likely play sparingly with Adrian Peterson coming back from an ACL tear (a lot quicker than most) and Maurice Jones-Drew coming back from his off-season long hold out. These teams picked 5 and 4, respectively in the 2012 draft. And both teams picked a critical position of need. The Vikings got the best LT prospect (Matt Kalil) and the Jaguars got the best WR prospect (Justin Blackmon). When you hear the headline of Ponder vs. Gabbert, your underwear magically tightens up in excitement, right? OK, maybe excrement…Anyway. I’m giving the edge in this one to Minnesota based on their home field advantage and fake crowd noise. But I wouldn’t count out Jacksonville’s D.

Prediction: Minnesota 17, Jacksonville 13

Washington at New Orleans: Washington has finally got their QB saviour in Robert Griffin III, trading up to the #2 spot to draft him. While the Saints have lost their Head Coaching saviour, Sean Payton thanks to bountygate. Along with Mr. Payton, the Saints also lost LB Jonathon Vilma and Will Smith. However they seemed to sign every LB possible, singing both Curtis Lofton and David Hawthorne and eventually trading for Barrett Ruud, though Ruud isn’t starting yet. The Saints defense shouldn’t lose a step, and neither should their offense, with Drew Brees being close enough to a Head Coach, that no Sean Payton shouldn’t trouble the new leader in Passing Yards in a Season. I don’t see the Redskins being terribly competitive for the beginning of the year. I don’t think the Saints should have a lot of trouble in this game.

Prediction: New Orleans 31, Washington 14

Buffalo at New York: The Bills D has been so heavily talked up, it sounds like they’re already in the top 5. Although on the other end the Jets D is probably a lot closer to being a top 5 D. I guess this game will come down to how poorly the Jets offense plays, because if the preseason is any indication (heh) they’re going to struggle badly. Until of course Mr. Saviour comes in, throws for a 30% completion rate and somehow wins them the game. The Bills offense is buoyed by the return or Fred Jackson and having a great tandem in the backfield, along with CJ Spiller. Along with Fitzpatrick being fully healthy to start the year, the Bills may end up putting up more points than most people expect. I’ll temper my expectations for the first game, but the Jets have no offense so far. And there isn’t much else to go on right now.

Prediction: Buffalo 20, New York 7

Miami at Houston: I’ll just start by saying that the Texans are my Super Bowl pick. OK, now that that’s out of the way, I’ll be quick. The Dolphins offense has no viable WR out of Davone Bess, a slot receiver and their best TE  blocks. Their defense isn’t fantastic either. Houston has the best running game in the league and defense. Matt Schaub to Andre Johnson is likely to be popular connection this season. Houston shut out Tannehill and co.

Prediction: Houston 28, Miami 0

San Francisco at Green Bay: Easily considered the best game of the week, San Francisco’s defense goes to visit Green Bay’s offense. What a great match-up. The 49ers got so close to the Super Bowl under first year head coach Jim Harbaugh. And the Packers met the Giants and got embarrassed in the first half. But with clean slates and spectacular teams, this game should be fantastic. It’s a hard game to pick, but 49ers offense just can’t keep up with Rodgers and the Packers, no matter how many times he gets sacked/intercepted etc. he’s just too good.

Prediction: Green Bay 24, San Francisco 17

Arizona at Seattle: I’m partially on the Seahawks bandwagon this year. Specifically the defensive part. Their defense has so much potential, it’s crazy. A top 5 finish is well within their reach. Seattle will definitely be the biggest threat to the 49ers in the NFC West this season. Russel Wilson has looked very good as their QB throughout the preseason, and I think he can take it into the season against an average Arizona defense. The Cardinals did eventually pick a starting QB, going with John Skelton over the expensive and useless Kevin Kolb. Arizona is horrible on offense, outside of Larry Fitzgerald and Beanie Wells. Their offensive line is a disaster and gigantic liability and I expect a bottom 10 record for them this season. I think the Seahawks shut down the Cardinals quickly and take a comfortable win.

Prediction: Seattle 21, Arizona 3

Carolina at Tampa Bay: Tampa Bay had quite the offseason, signing both Vincent Jackson and Carl Nicks to sure up parts of their offense. They also drafted Mark Barron and Doug Martin. Two key pieces to the new team. Unfortunately they lost Davin Joseph to injury which is a major blow to their offensive line. I’m not quite sold on the Buccaneers. Freeman’s poor year last season shows some concerns, but a lot of QB’s have poor sophomore campaigns. Perhaps just not at that level. The Panthers had quite a good season last year. They only went 6-10, but after going 2-14 the previous system, that’s a good effort with a lot of change to their team. The obvious big change which completely revitalised their team was Cam Newton who lit a fire under the team throughout the year. I think the Panthers are a sneaky chance to win the NFC South or Wild Card if their defense can improve a bit. And I definitely have them winning their first game.

Prediction: Carolina 28, Tampa Bay 17

And then there were…Three? Yes, thank goodness for week 1 Monday Night Football double-headers!

Pittsburgh at Denver: The Sunday Night Football season is kicked off by Peyton Manning’s first game as a Bronco. It also happens to be the game where the new overtime rules were deemed useless on one play, cause Tim Tebow actually connected on a pass, which amazing went for a TD. Regardless, this should be a good contest. The Steelers defense isn’t the peak unit it used to be, getting quite old quickly. Their offense isn’t too scary right now without Rashard Mendenhall, but they do have Mike Wallace and Antonio Brown to throw to. But that’s about it. The Broncos team is in OK shape, with a decent WR corps and two capable TE’s for Peyton to seek out. Their defense is what worries me. They played well in parts last year, but there’s a lot of holes in the defensive backfield, outside of Champ Bailey and he’s getting older. I think the Steelers can start off with a win, but it’ll be a close contest.

Prediction: Pittsburgh 20, Denver 16

Cincinnati at Baltimore: The Ravens and Bengals square off in the first game of the Monday night double-header. Baltimore’s offense has changed to a more up-tempo, no-huddle pass based scheme. The defense should be impressive, again, but losing the Defensive Player of 2011 hurts them a lot. And Ed Reed’s age and injury problems could become a problem into the season, as well. But the thing about the Ravens is they always play well as a unit, without a lot of unbelievable star players. The Bengals had a good showing last year with Andy Dalton and A.J. Green putting up good years for their rookie campaigns. And now they try to better that campaign. They may struggle, though, as they don’t have any true #2 or #3 WR, along with an underutilised TE. Their defense played very well last year, but they could struggle to repeat this season. I don’t see the Bengals getting over the Ravens in this one, though.

Prediction: Baltimore 26, Cincinnati 17

San Diego at Oakland: To round out week 1, comes an AFC West grudge match between the Raiders and Chargers. I find this to be a very hard game to call. The Oakland defense can be good, but they’re very inconsistent. Whereas Philip Rivers loves throwing interceptions, it seems. San Diego have a good defense, but I think the 3-headed monster of McFadden, Palmer and Moore can actually pull the upset and get over on the Chargers.

Prediction: Oakland 30, San Diego 21

I hope you enjoyed reading my picks and have a great and enjoyable first week!

NFL Tips: Week 16 – Christmas Edition

Absolute crunch time is upon us with many teams able to sow up a playoff birth with a win this Christmas weekend. And with the Christmas holidays comes a change to the days. The majority of games this week shall be played on the unnatural Saturday, as Sunday’s taken up by some random holiday. Along with all that nonsense, the Suck for Luck Sweepstakes now have some more hopefuls, with the Colts winning last week against the Titans. Which now brings the Vikings and Rams into the race. The Colts would still prosper the most from the pick, as the other two have pretty good QB’s on their roster and are desperate for other pieces, mainly D on both teams. Anyway, enough of that crap. Last week wasn’t as solid as past ones, missing on Indianapolis, Kansas City (SAY WHAT?!), Philadelphia, San Diego, Carolina and Washington. Let’s get this shit going!

Houston at Indianapolis: Coming off a surprising loss, the Texans go to visit a red-hot Colts team who’s won 1 of their last 14 games. Nothing can stop them at this point, not even the injury of Peyt…Oh…Right. Yeah, sorry Indy, but 1 win doesn’t a good team make. Both teams go back to their previous ways.

Prediction: Houston 35, Indianapolis 6

Denver at Buffalo: Even though the Lions performance against the Broncos seems to be forgotten, they did create the first loss for Tebow and the Patriots created the 2nd on the weekend, with the Broncos eventually get blown out near the end. Buffalo are up the creek without a paddle at this point, and after such a promising start have stooped to quite a big low this season. Denver’s D is still relatively good and Buffalo have just been hopeless of late. Tebow goes to 8-2 methinks.

Prediction: Denver 24, Buffalo 14

Arizona at Cincinnati: I think this is a tough game to call. On face value, I guess you’d pick the Bengals, but the Cards have just been on a tear recently winning 6 or their last 7 games. With both of these teams winning last week, I find it even harder to confidently pick a winner. I will do so, of course. But be weary of this one.

Prediction: Cincinnati 28, Arizona 24

Jacksonville at Tennessee: I’m not entirely sure how you go from scoring 42 points one week to letting up 41 points the next, but that’s what the Jaguars achieved with their loss to the Falcons last Thursday. How any team can lose to the Colts is beyond me, but Tennessee did that. So both of these teams are known for being horrible right now. Who’s more horrible? I’ll say the Jaguars.

Prediction: Tennessee 31, Jacksonville 27

Oakland at Kansas City: It’s hard not to just start with the Chiefs unbelievable victory against the defending champion Packers. Their D has been pretty good through this season and have shut down other team like they did to the Packers (Raiders comes to mind). And if it wasn’t for their putrid offense, they’d definitely have won more games and would likely be leading the AFC West division. I probably was close to 3 or 4 heart attacks last week watching the Lions play the Raiders. Carson Palmer was on point all game, missing on only 8 passes and throwing no INT’s, a new record, I believe (I kid, I kid). The Chiefs win definitely gives them some hope, but if the Raiders can put up enough points, then the Chiefs won’t catch them.

Prediction: Oakland 27, Kansas City 16

Miami at New England: Miami got back to their resurgent ways against the Bills last week, but made it interesting by the end. The Patriots made the Broncos look like, well, the Broncos. Everyone scores against the Patriots, so Denver scoring a solid amount of points isn’t a shock, but the Patriots almost always score more, to compensate for their invisible pass D. Miami’s resurgence is nice and all, but the Patriots play is real and consistent, so they’ll be getting the win again.

Prediction: New England 31, Miami 28

New York at New York: The battle of New York goes down in…New Jersey this Saturday. This is a big game for both teams, with both still in playoff contention and the Giants are still hoping to hold off the Cowboys and Eagles to get the East division. The Jets somehow hold a wild card spot right now, but I think the Giants offense is too high-powered for the Jets to stop or keep up with in this grudge match.

Prediction: New York Giants 30, New York Jets 21

St. Louis at Pittsburgh: In between two black outs the Steelers did apparently play an NFL game, though a few people reported them to be missing in San Francisco. St. Louis put up another valiant effort against the Bengals, but couldn’t pull it off. Again. I think this one’s obvious. The Steelers will be pissed at their performance (or lack there of) and will be taking it out on the Rams and their revolving door of a QB.

Prediction: Pittsburgh 34, St. Louis 10

Minnesota at Washington: The Vikings do have a somewhat legitimate shot to win this game, as they’ve taken quite a few teams to the wire already this season. However, they are 2-10 for a reason and Washington’s coming off a big win for the team, so I think it’ll be 2-11 for Ponder and co.

Prediction: Washington 24, Minnesota 14

Tampa Bay at Carolina: Meeting for the 2nd time this year, both teams are more or less in the same position as last time. The Buccaneers can’t win and the Panthers are going steadily getting wins here and there. Boy the Buccaneers are horrible, getting lit up on Saturday Night Football by the Cowboys and having Raheem Morris a finger nails length away from a firing. And this could be the Coup De Grace for Morris as an in-division rivalry game always puts on the most pressure, outside of playoff related matters. I think the Panthers can get to 6 wins and end Morris’s job.

Prediction: Carolina 45, Tampa Bay 17

Cleveland at Baltimore: Like most others, I was pretty shocked to see the Ravens get blown out against a team like the Chargers on Sunday Night. The Browns followed their losing ways against the surging Cardinals. Cleveland put up a nice effort against the Steelers a couple weeks back and may do so again here, but it will again be a loss.

Prediction: Baltimore 27, Cleveland 10

San Diego at Detroit: For the first time since 1999, the Lions have a chance to make the playoffs. And this is the game that gives them a good chance to get it, even with the Chargers abolishment of the Ravens on Sunday Night Football. The Lions got up against the Raiders on a 1 minute 37 second drive from Matt Stafford and Calvin Johnson, winning the game by 1 point. Boy this is a hard game to pick and possibly hard to watch for Lions fans with so much at stake for the first time since hoping not to go 0-16 in ’08. I can’t tip the Chargers for any reason in this game. Bias coming strong here.

Prediction: Detroit 34, San Diego 28

Philadelphia at Dallas: There’s a lot of stake for both these teams, here. The Cowboys need a win to knock the Eagles out of contention. Both teams will also be aware of the situation with the Giants. And if the Giants do win, then the Eagles are knocked out before this one even kicks off, possibly deflating them enough that the Giants get an easy win here, but without knowing a Giants score right now, we just have to tip based on this game. The Eagles destroyed the Jets last week and the Cowboys destroyed are useless Tampa Bay team. I still think the Eagles can win this game, though.

Prediction: Philadelphia 37, Dallas 31

San Francisco at Seattle: Seattle’s base scheme is to the run the ball and the 49ers base scheme on D is to stop the run. This is bad for the Seahawks as the 49ers have done it all season, having allowed 0 rush TD’s, yes 0. I think the Seahawks will get shut out in this game, but will likely be low-scoring.

Prediction: San Francisco 13, Seattle 0

And then there were two…

Chicago at Green Bay: Despite a loss last week, I still think the Packers will win the Super Bowl this season. The only way they lose it is if they meet the 49ers along the way. Otherwise I don’t see them making a mistake. Speaking of losing, it seems to the Bears speciality right now. What a bad Christmas Day game, right? Bah.

Prediction: Green Bay 35, Chicago 20

Atlanta at New Orleans: Both of these teams are playing good football right now and this should be a cracking Monday Night Football encounter. The Saints are almost killing opponents right now and the Falcons are playing very good all-around football.The Saints just seem unstoppable right now and I don’t think a division rival will stop them. Their next stop will likely be in the playoffs. Maybe the Lions? Anyway, not changing topics, the Saints should get a good fought victory in this one.

Prediction: New Orleans 41, Atlanta 34

Have a great Christmas everyone, I’ll see you all next week for the New Years edition! :D

NFL Tips: Week 14

With only 4 weeks in the regular season, the playoff picture is both taking shape and getting worrying for some (myself included), exciting for others and very interesting all-round. I had a fairly good week last week tipping 11 correct and missing on Seattle, Tennessee, Kansas City, Arizona & Miami. Let’s get to it!

Cleveland at Pittsburgh: I said it last week, but I’ll say it again, the NFL and NFL Network chose some truly horrible primetime games this season. And this one is most definitely included. The Steelers head into this game after pummeling the Bengals last week by 28 and claiming their dominance yet again. The Browns, on the other hand, come into this game after being beaten comfortably by the Ravens. The Steelers seem to be back to their old selves, kicking arse and taking names. The Browns have very little firepower on the offense, and the Browns won’t be able to hold out Big Ben and co. for the whole game, nor keep them to a small point total for the offense to be able to exceed and win. Steelers should get a good win here.

Prediction: Pittsburgh 31, Cleveland 6

Houston at Cincinnati: This should be a good defensive match-up, as two of the better D’s go head to head in this match-up. Cincinnati got trounced last week, opposed to the Texans, who pulled out an impressive win against a tough Falcons teams. I think Houston’s D is superior to Cincinnati’s and so is their overall offense. Houston gets the victory.

Prediction: Houston 20, Cincinnati 13

Minnesota at Detroit: In the last meeting of these two teams, the Lions rallied from 20 points down in the 2nd half to beat the Vikings in overtime 26 to 23. I can’t say I see the Lions being down 20 points by half-time, but with the way the team’s been playing and imploding, I’m not ruling it out. The Vikings lost to the Tebows last week, where Tebow actually had a relatively good day throwing the ball. This says more about the Vikings than Tebow’s throwing skills, though. And if Tebow can, sort of, light up this Vikings secondary, imagine what Stafford can do after coming off a 400+ yard outing, as well as being 5th in the league in pass yardage. Lions get a nice win to get things back on track.

Prediction: Detroit 48, Minnesota 17

Tennessee at New Orleans: With the Titans winning two in a row, they  seem to be getting their season back on track, though it’s a bit late for that now. Chris Johnson is back to his usual self having rushed for a combined 343 yards in his past 2 games. The Saints have won 4 in a row and even though they did get tested last week, still prevailed in comfortable fashion. Even if CJ2K can continue his great form, they won’t get enough points through the air to outscore the Saints. Good competitive game, but ultimately, another Saints victory.

Prediction: New Orleans 40, Tennessee 28

Philadelphia at Miami: The Dolphins are one of the best teams in the NFL right now, and their D is sturdy as all hell. With the Eagles getting Vick back, it’s definitely a nice relief, as opposed to the woeful Vince Young. However, the Miami D is for real, and Vick probably won’t be 100%. Considering what the Eagles were like when Vick was playing, they weren’t winning much. Miami takes it, though not convincingly.

Prediction: Miami 21, Philadelphia 19

Kansas City at New York: The Chiefs pulled out one of the bigger surprises last week, dominating the Bears for 60 minutes and getting the victory. Meanwhile, the Jets got a bit of a scare, but ended up piling the points in towards the end. I can’t see Palko and Chiefs causing another upset, but crazier things have happened!

Prediction: New York 26, Kansas City 14

New England at Washington: New England were quite underwhelming last week, only putting up 31 points and only winning by 7. The ‘Skins, as just mentioned, got the score run up at the end of their game against the Jets. Washington’s D has fallen a bit this year, while the Patriots O looks fairly unstoppable. Patriots take it in a close one, because their D literally can’t stop anyone.

Prediction: New England 34, Washington 30

Atlanta at Carolina: My Panthers picked was pretty spot on last week (bows for applause) and surprisingly, so was my Falcons! Despite that nonsense, both of these teams are good despite the Panther’s record. The Falcons pulled out the victory in the first meeting, but I think the Panthers can tie it up with Newton putting up big numbers. High scoring shootout in Carolina.

Prediction: Carolina 38, Atlanta 31

Tampa Bay at Jacksonville: As hard as it is to tip the Jaguars at the moment, it might be even harder to tip the Bucs. Tampa Bay has lost 6 straight games and this is their best shot to win in the next 4 weeks. Worrying signs for a team that just missed the playoffs last season. Jacksonville fell to the Chargers who would have been ecstatic at winning a game of late. Tampa Bay is really bad, but Jacksonville only seem to show up against the big teams. Something the Bucs have fallen a long way from.

Prediction: Tampa Bay 27, Jacksonville 15

Indianapolis at Baltimore: No point writing long-winded blurbs for the Colts any more. They better start choosing who they want more, Manning or Luck?

Prediction: Ravens 30, Colts 3

Chicago at Denver: Tebow was actually half decent last week, although please put things into perspective (I know this is hard for Tebow fans, but trying would be nice). Tebow faced the worst pass defense in the league and possibly one of the worst D’s, period. And even though they take on the Bears, it’s the Bears offense which is bad, almost non-existent. If Bears fans thought things couldn’t get any worse, they were clearly deluded, as Forte busted his knee and is out until at least week 16. I don’t think the Bears can be the team to solve the new Denver D and Tebow and co make it 7-1 (Yay Lions!).

Prediction: Denver 20, Chicago 12

Arizona at San Francisco: San Francisco’s D is outstanding. I’m still in awe of how good they’ve done this season. And even though P-Willy is a big loss for them this week, he’s only 1 of the 11 players on an outstanding D. Rams were held to 0 last week, I wouldn’t be surprised if Arizona was, too. Unless Patrick Peterson shows up again…

Prediction: San Francisco 24, Arizona 0

Oakland at Green Bay: As with the Colts blurbs, I feel similarly about the Packers. You saw the Raiders last week, right? Yes? OK, no point to continue, then. Green Bay to 13-0.

Prediction: Green Bay 35, Oakland 17

Buffalo at San Diego: Two teams who are desperate for wins to try to salvage something and maybe a division shot for the Chargers. If the Chargers were more consistent on a weekly basis just in terms of scoring, then it’s an easy pick, but the Chargers are always a coin flip away from the shit team turning up. Buffalo doesn’t seem to have a good team at the moment, though, so I have to pick the Chargers for no other reason than how bad Buffalo is.

Prediction: San Diego 21, Buffalo 9

And then there were two…

New York at Dallas: Maybe I’m just underestimating this rivalry, but the Cowboys should be favored or close to it in this game. Sure, the Giants have lost 5 straight, but they’ve still been pretty good. Apart from the final 90 seconds last week…Anyway, the Cowboys haven’t shown me anything to get me excited about against the Giants.

Prediction: New York 31, Dallas 24

St. Louis at Seattle: Marshawn Lynch sure turned into a beast Running Back this season, and I was one of those idiots who dropped some games in, cause he hadn’t done anything. Sure am kicking myself now. Regardless of that, the Seahawks D is a takeaway machine, while their O runs (no pun intended) through Lynch. One of the few teams whose running game is their winner. St. Louis also can’t stop the run, ominous sign right there. Seattle makes it 4 out of their last 5.

Prediction: Seattle 27, St. Louis 10

Good luck to everyone this week and have a great one!

NFL Tips: Week 13

Up to week 13; it seems like the season has just flown by, unfortunately. But, we still have 5 action-packed weeks of regular season football left. Last week was very solid getting 13 correct. The ones I got wrong were: Baltimore, Tennessee and Oakland (yet again). So without further adieu, let’s get on with the tipping!

Philadelphia at Seattle: Maybe it’s just me, but there’s been some truly horrible primetime games this season. Nonetheless, week 13 kicks off with a mildly interesting match-up on Thursday Night Football in Seattle as the Eagles go to take on the Seahawks. The only real reason it’s mildly interesting, is because the Eagles have been so porous that the Seahawks somehow have a legitimate shot at winning. And the ‘Hawks probably are sort of in line to get a big upset. Despite the shittiness of the HEagles and the upset capabilities of the Seahawks, I think the Eagles will triumph, maybe not convincingly, and take their record to a surprisingly bad 5-7.

Prediction: Philadelphia 31, Seattle 24

Tennessee at Buffalo: One of the tougher match-ups to call this week is the game between the Bills and Titans. The Titans are coming in off a close 6 point win over the Bucs, but Buffalo is coming in after a narrow loss of 4 to the Jets. Chris Johnson torched the Bucs for 190 yards last week, and the Bills aren’t much of a run-stopping team. If Johnson can continue his rushing ability, then they should win. Buffalo have lost 4 in a row and really have to right this ship. This is their best chance yet, as the Titans can’t stop the run, either. If Stevie Johnson can get his shit together and their offense clicks, then I definitely think they can win. I’m going to give the Bills the nod because of home-field, but I’m not confident.

Prediction: Buffalo 24, Tennessee 21

Kansas City at Chicago: With both teams coming in as loser’s, they’ll be desperate for wins. Chicago needs a win to stay atop the wild card spot in the NFC, though the the Chiefs just want to win for pride. OK, so the Bears is a bit more important. Even with an ineffective Caleb Hanie playing for Chicago, they have too good a RB in Forte, and too good a defense to let the Chiefs waltz on in and take the victory.

Prediction: Chicago 28, Kansas City 13

Oakland at Miami: Don’t count out Miami in this one. Even though they lost last week, they were the better team. The Dolphins defense has come out of nowhere to start beating up the opposition, and Oakland better lookout. The Raiders beat the Bears last week, but considering the opposing QB, it was disappointingly uninspiring. If the Raiders can keep the ball in their hands and force turnovers, they should be able to head to Miami and get it.

Prediction: Oakland 20, Miami 17

Denver at Minnesota: Denver is now 5-1 under Tebow, only losing to the Lions (I had to get that one in). But it’s not Tebow who’s winning these games, it’s the Denver D. Just like the Dolphins, their D has done a complete 180 after the Lions game, giving up 15 points or less in each game. Minnesota will be heading into this game without Adrian Peterson yet again. This is a gigantic blow to their hopes, as they really had a legitimate shot if he was going to play. Tebow still isn’t very good at anything but running, but it gets it done. Denver goes to 6-1 under Tesus.

Prediction: Denver 17, Minnesota 9

Indianapolis at New England: I’ll make this short and sweet. If the Colts can win, it will be, without a doubt, the biggest upset to ever occur in the NFL. Playoffs or otherwise.

Prediction: New England 70, Indianapolis 21 (Yes, that’s my real prediction)

Cincinnati at Pittsburgh: These two AFC North teams face off for the 2nd time this year, with the Steelers edging out the Bengals by 7 last time. Each team pulled out close victories last week, and I expect this score to be another close one. I really like what Cincy’s doing, but I think Pittsburgh will get the narrow win again. But I have a bit of doubt in their abilities.

Prediction: Pittsburgh 21, Cincinnati 16

Carolina at Tampa Bay: Carolina’s a pretty good 3-8 team, while the Buccaneers are a pretty bad 4-7 team. I don’t really understand why the Buccaneers are favoured in this game? It’s not like they’ve played well or beaten anyone convincingly enough to give them an edge. I think Carolina can easily win this game. Especially on the ground.

Prediction: Carolina 35, Tampa Bay 24

New York at Washington: It’s rare to say that these two teams won last week, but it’s true! The ‘Skins beat the inconsistent Seahawks, as the Jets barely beat the Bills. Even though Washington finally won a game, they’re still a horrible team. Not that the Jets are some kind of powerhouse or anything, but they’re definitely a better, more talented team than Washington.

Prediction: New York 24, Washington 10

Atlanta at Houston: Even though the Texans are down to their #3 QB, it’s not an end of the world situation for the AFC leaders. Even so, their next test is a good test to start him out. They host the Falcons, who took care of the Vikings last week. Houston’s D is playing real well this season, while Arian Foster is a force in both the run and pass. This will also mark Andre Johnson’s 2nd week back. Hopefully a more productive one. The Falcons are favoured in this game. And it’s not like they shouldn’t be with a 3rd string guy starting for the opposition. But I wouldn’t count the Texans out at all. If Houston can stop Matt Ryan, they can win this game.

Prediction: Houston 34, Atlanta 27

Baltimore at Cleveland: The Browns lost again last week, but only barely. They lost by 3 to the Bengals, which is a good effort for a disappointing team. The Ravens triumphed over the 9ers in their Thanksgiving match-up, where there was a total of 22 points scored (OLD SCHOOL FOOTBALL!!!). Cleveland are still floundering, while the Ravens seem to have gotten it together to play some good Football. Just be aware that the Ravens struggle on the road, though the Browns should be much of a test.

Prediction: Baltimore 26, Cleveland 3

Green Bay at New York: This is deemed the game of the week. And I can kind of see why. The Giants, despite losing 3 in a row, do have a shot at beating the undefeated Packers. But I believe people are giving them too much credit. The Giants D is horrible, as shown by the game last week against New Orleans, where Brees and co put up 49 points (eep). The Packers D is still vulnerable, but Giants D seems to be playing much worse. I’m going to go with the educated pick and stick with the Packers.

Prediction: Green Bay 30, New York 21

Dallas at Arizona: The Cowboys pulled it out of the fire on Thanksgiving against the Dolphins. The Cardinals also won a close one against the (yet again) hapless Rams. Arizona currently has, in my opinion, the most enjoyable player to watch right now, in Patrick Peterson. The kid’s just a freak on special teams, and seems to have gotten better in the passing game, as the season’s progressed. I think the Cowboys will have too much for the Cardinals to handle, both on the ground and through the air. Dallas should be getting a fairly easy win here.

Prediction: Dallas 31, Arizona 17

St. Lous at San Francisco: Again, I’ll be short and sweet. The 49ers can stop anyone. The Rams can’t really move the ball. Rams are shut out.

Prediction: San Francisco 20, St. Louis 0

And then there were two…

Detroit at New Orleans: The Lions get another rare primetime game, their 2nd this year. They head to New Orleans to take on the offensive juggernaut Saints. God I’m worried. The Lions will be without defensive starters Louis Delmas and Chris Houston. Two huge losses for the defense. And Kevin Smith will probably see a limited workload, with a bum ankle. This is all lining up for a Lions pounding. Drew Brees has the most passing yards of any QB so far this year, and although the Lions have held a lot of QB’s to lowish passing yard totals, Brees has all the tool to tear this defense apart. I want to see a miracle upset, but I don’t think I will.

Prediction: New Orleans 38, Detroit 30

San Diego at Jacksonville: I keep wanting to pick Jacksonville in this game. They have a new coach, a presumed new feel of vigour and pride, as well as their 2nd Monday Night Football game this year. This has all the makings of a big upset, and the end of Norv Turner’s tenure at the helm of the Chargers. I know a lot of Chargers fans who want nothing more than to see the back of Norv Turner, and with them well out of playoff contention, they may be rooting for the Jaguars. I just can’t bring myself to tip Jacksonville, though.

Prediction: San Diego 25, Jacksonville 17

I hope everyone has a good weekend, and good luck to your teams.

NFL Tips: Week 12

With a 16 game schedule every Sunday (and Monday) for the next 6 weeks, this is where it all gets very enjoyable and even more interesting. I was a poor tipper yet against last week, only getting 9 correct. The ones I missed on were, Cleveland, Miami, Baltimore, Seattle & Philadelphia. Legooo!

Green Bay at Detroit: Well, the Thanksgiving festivities and games are upon us. As always, we kick things off with the annual Lions game. This year against the best team in Football. Green Bay go into Detroit as a still undefeated team, looking to notch win #11 on the season (out of 11 games, for those playing along at home). The Lions will put up a very tough test, being a nationally televised game and all, but I believe the Packers will get that 11th victory, unfortunately. Only just.

Prediction: Green Bay 31, Detroit 28

Miami at Dallas: Just like the Lions, the Cowboys also have their annual Thanksgiving game against a resurgent Dolphins team. The ‘Fins have won 3 in a row, and are looking red-hot, being led by QB Matt Moore (colour me shocked). The Cowboys are also on a bit of a roll, but almost got tripped up last week by the Redskins, only being saved by Gano’s constant inaccuracy. Miami’s a nice story, but I think their streak ends on Thanksgiving.

Prediction: Dallas 29, Miami 21

San Francisco at Baltimore: To round out the Thanksgiving games, we have the Harbowl, as San Francisco (coached by Jim Harbaugh) go to Baltimore to take on the Ravens (coached by John Harbaugh). Despite the coaching match-up, this game should be an old-school defensive game. Two fantastic defenses trying to beat the shit out of the other team. That always makes for good watching, and is also good to know that Goodell will be having a cry, knowing how lacking in offense it will be. This really is a tough game to call, but I’m a believer in the 49ers and ya just never know what the Ravens will produce. I’ll take the consistency.

Prediction: San Francisco 14, Baltimore 10

Minnesota at Atlanta: Minnesota came up short against the Raiders last week, while the Falcons got a 6 point win over the Titans, after holding off a nice comeback. The Vikings are a pretty poor team, even with Adrian Peterson. Since the Vikings are going down so early, AP has been a bit of a non-factor of late, which is never a good sign. Atlanta’s been up and down most of the year, but this seems like a pretty easy match-up for them.

Prediction: Atlanta 28, Minnesota 13

Cleveland at Cincinnati: Cleveland pulled off a 4 point victory over Jacksonville last week, while the Bengals fell just short to the Ravens by 7. Cincinnati have been pretty consistent throughout this season, and Cleveland have been consistently bad. I think it’s a comfortable Bengals win.

Cincinnati 21, Cleveland 6

Tampa Bay at Tennessee: This is a tough match-up to call. Both teams have been so inconsistent this season, ya just don’t know who’s going to show up to play or not. The Titans fell short to the Falcons, after putting up a good comeback effort, while the Buccaneers really took it to the Packers in the 2nd half (This gives me hope for the Lions!) before the Packers eventually pulled away. I’m going with Tampa Bay simply off what I saw last week, but it’s another 51/49 type game.

Tampa Bay 28, Tennessee 27

Carolina at Indianapolis: The Colts have a very mild chance in this game, but they might actually be playing for Luck at this point. The Panthers played very well last week before a 2nd half collapse, but the Lions aren’t the Colts. Carolina shouldn’t have much trouble here.

Prediction: Carolina 35, Indianapolis 21

Arizona at St. Louis: The 2nd match-up in 3 weeks, this will be an underrated game. Last time out, the Cardinals won it off, what I believe was, the best play of the season so far. A 99 yard punt return TD from the Rookie, Patrick Peterson. It was marvellous TV to watch, especially live. Jaw on floor type stuff. St. Louis are up the proverbial creek without the paddle, though, having placed yet another CB on IR (that’s 10 CB’s on IR on the season). Arizona’s not a great team, but they’re still better than St. Louis, who’ve I’ve been over-valuing the whole season.

Prediction: Arizona 17, St. Louis 10

Buffalo at New York: Well, it was good while it lasted, but the Bills have been blasted the past two weeks, killing any hope of taking the AFC East away from the Patriots. They head to Metlife stadium after a 35-8 crushing at the hands of Miami. Yes, Miami. Surely the Bills will have to show their past form at one point again this season? If so, they’ve got an uphill battle, after they just lose their best player in Fred Jackson for the season. I was going to give them the tip before hearing that, but it’s an almost impossible task now. Jets should take this one. Maybe even in a shutout.

Prediction: New York 21, Buffalo 0

Houston at Jacksonville: Jacksonville were pretty valiant in this contest earlier this season, and with the Texans having lost their best QB for the season, it’ll be the much maligned Matt Leinart getting the start, after they missed out on Kyle Orton. Jacksonville really only have 1 plan, and that’s to let MJD run as much as possible, for as much damage as possible. If the Texans can contain him enough to make the Jaguars a primary passing team, then I think they’ll take the victory. But it won’t be as easy as it may seem.

Prediction: Houston 27, Jacksonville 20

Chicago at Oakland: Hmmm…This is an interesting game to weigh up. The Raiders have gotten back what they lost when Jason Campbell went down with a nice resurgent Carson Palmer (I still think they should’ve tried for Matt Flynn, but I digress). But the Bears have lost Jay Cutler indefinitely to a broken thumb, and have to weight their playoff hopes (good news for the Lions) on Caleb Hanie. I’ll be honest, I think Hanie’s a better QB than people give him credit for. Not some kind of freak who’ll rip the Raiders to shreds, but he can make nice throws, with an odd interceptions and maybe a couple TD’s. The reason this is so tough to weigh up, is because neither team has an offense which can rip apart the opponents D. The Bears are a stout run D, while the Raiders are tough to throw on. I think the Bears can win this, but I’ve stupidly doubted Oakland before. This could be another one of those.

Prediction: Chicago 34, Oakland 26

Washington at Seattle: The ‘Skins were unlucky last week, simply because of their woeful kicker. Seattle’s favoured in this game, which honestly baffles me. The Redskins D will be able to stop them, it’s the offense scoring which is the main worry. But still, the Seahawks are a bad team, regardless of their result last week.

Prediction: Washington 21, Seattle 10

New England at Philadelphia: Ah, one of those inter-division games (East vs other East). The Eagles have been the most inconsistent team this whole season, while the Patriots can’t really stop any offenses. I think this game will be pretty overrated like most of them and the Patriots will get a pretty comfortable win.

Prediction: New England 37, Philadelphia 21

Denver at San Diego: I don’t know about you, but this Denver team can definitely beat bad Run D teams. So it’s lucky they’re playing the Chargers, who allow 124.3 yards per game. I’m not entirely sure what to make of San Diego, they just haven’t done anything of note so far. Maybe they can turn on their usual late-season heroics, but those were when Rivers was playing as a top-5 QB, not a bottom-5 QB. So unless the Chargers have found some miracle cure for his interceptitis, I think the Broncos can notch another win.

Prediction: Denver 16, San Diego 9

And then there were two…

Pittsburgh at Kansas City: Will the Kyle Orton era (probably 6 games) start for the Chiefs when they host the Steelers? Only time will tell, but let’s be honest. It probably won’t make any difference to the final result. The Chiefs started floundering again, while the Steelers have been looking good, and are coming off a nice bye before heading into the final stretch. I don’t think the Chiefs have much shot in this game, Orton or otherwise.

Prediction: Pittsburgh 24, Kansas City 10

New York at New Orleans: We wrap up this weekends festivities with a Monday night game in Louisiana. The Giants head to the Superdome to face the high-flying Saints, who are coming off the bye. The Giants do have a shot in this game, but that’s only if they stop Drew Brees. Giants rookie CB Prince Amukamara had a nice showing in his first game, making 5 total tackles and getting an interception for his troubles. The Giants D is pretty banged up, though, so they’ll probably have a bit of trouble with Brees. I reckon the Saints will take it, but it should be an interesting contest.

Prediction: New Orleans 33, New York 21

Well, another tips article down. Have a great Thanksgiving and weekend, everyone. Go Lions!

Steve is back to being Steve again.

Credit: Carolinahuddle.com

I love Steve Smith.

I have been one of his biggest fans ever since I started following football & the Carolina Panthers as a teenager. He is actually part of what drew me to the Panthers. And for that alone Steve, I thank you.

Smitty, as he is known to many, has intrigued me since day 1 & still, every Sunday he amazes and leaves myself & others, in disbelief. Every Sunday, he brings it. Every play, he gives his 110% with the same fierce, fire, intensity and determination that makes him one of the most dangerous wide receivers in the league today. On any given play, he can turn a defense inside out.

He is electrifying, mesmerizing, a freak in a league of athletic monsters. He is passionate, he has swagger and he wears his heart on his sleeve as we’ve come to learn and respect. He is often outspoken, always great for a quote or a sound bite. He yaps, but he backs up his talk with his on-field play. He is definitely not someone you’d want to cross the wrong way but also, one of those guys you’d want with you walking down a dark alley at night for protection.

At 32, he is on the downside of his career yet here he is, leading the NFC in receiving yards with 918 receiving yards, 2nd in the NFL only to Wes Welker after the bye week. He has 46 receptions for a 20 yard per catch average and 4 receiving TDs to go along with his average of 114.8 yards a game. He has been revitalized by rookie sensation Cam Newton, after having Jake Delhomme and numerous band-aid QBs throw to him over his career. Finally, after Delhomme he has a QB that can get him the ball and put in a position where he can make a defense hurt with one move. He can run any route, crossing over the middle daring the defense to lay a lick on him (only making him madder, which if you ask DeAngelo Hall, Fred Smoot or any CB in the league, never ends well) or a smoke screen pass that turns into a 20 yard gain, stiff-arming defenders along the way or, the deep ball which Smith has caught a lot of this season with 4 catches over 40 yards and 19 catches over 20 yards.

After a nightmare season in 2010 with another rookie QB throwing to him, as well as Matt Moore, the Panthers struggled and stalled, and so did Smith’s season. Many though Smith had lost a step, was done and on the verge of leaving town with him almost being traded. Smith ended up with 46 catches for 554 yards and 2 TD’s. This season to date, he has the same amount of receptions, almost double the yards and double the TDs. No doubt 2011 will be a big rebound season and will land him a nomination for Comeback Player of the Year – an award he’s already won once after breaking his leg in 2004-05, only to win the triple receiving crown the following season.

Many believe that had Steve Smith had Tom Brady throwing to him (or any elite QB), he’d be a Hall of Famer right now. Maybe, but I also believe that his career in Carolina has served him well and made him a better player. Had he been in New England or Indianapolis, he may never have seen the 2005-06 season that he did, becoming one of the many few WRs in NFL history to win the triple crown of receiving. (Most yards, most receptions and TDs in a season.) Smith is on his way to becoming a Hall of Famer, but he’ll need to hit a few marks and check off a few boxes before then.

Already, his season is getting praise, much due to the play of QB, one who can feed him the ball and put him a position to make a play and do his thing. And the media is taking notice of all that. Outlets and websites are talking about his possible Hall of Fame entrance one day, and SI’s Peter King has him on the Mid-season All Pro team at WR along with Wes Welker & Calvin Johnson. He’s probably not the only one. No doubt, he’s well on his way to another Pro Bowl and probably numerous other awards. But it’s not new to Smith and it won’t be the last time he grabs the spotlight for his work on field.

Smitty is currently ranked 37th in career receiving yards in NFL history with 9,802 yards.  There are currently 5 active players are ahead of him: Hines Ward, Derrick Mason, Reggie Wayne, Chad Ochocinco and Falcons TE and future Hall of Famer Tony Gonzalez. None of those players except Gonzalez is a lock to make the Hall.

If Smith wins a Super Bowl ring, it’ll be heavily taken into consideration by the panel. Wayne and Ward both have rings, Mason has consistently put up steady numbers but has always been under the radar as a top WR and Ochocinco’s career was similar to Smith’s until the past few seasons where his career has appeared to stall and his career is all but on the downside. This group of players is in the category of “Almost.. but needs more work.” Give each of these players a few more seasons to check off criteria boxes and they may move up the future Hall of Famers list.

With Cam Newton at QB, Smitty has already said in numerous interviews that he wants to play another 3 or 4 years and with the way he takes care of himself, he definitely could. With Newton throwing to him, he could continue to post 1000+ yards for the next 4 or so years, potentially adding on 4,000-5,000 yards to his career numbers. Those kind of numbers will move him past 10,000 yards and up the list of already enshrined/future Hall of Fame players. Even if he moves to the slot, the connection that Smith and Newton have will continue to grow in the future seasons.

After QB Jake Delhomme, Smith struggled to connect with new QBs who came in to fill Jake’s shoes. Matt Moore, Jimmy Clausen and a host of other 3rd string fill-ins who played QB while the injured and the just plain awful QBs who were supposed to be ‘the future’ instead made the Panthers decide to draft Newton 1st overall. The connection and relationship Smitty and Jake had on and off the field, was almost like man-love. A tough ask, it wasn’t until Newton came in this offseason that the old man and the new guy started to get along like a house on fire. So far, the bond that has been made has been special, reminiscent of the Jake-Steve connection that lead Carolina to a couple of playoff appearances including Super Bowl 38. The connection of fiery, angry, passionate, chip-on-the-shoulder Smith and Jake, the gunslingin’ country boy from Louisiana who made his way into the league in similar fashion to Kurt Warner, from NFL Europe and backup to starter in a Super Bowl.

Now it’s Cam and Steve and so far, the results speak for themselves. An uncanny duo, one would think before the season started that perhaps Newton’s favorite target would be a TE or a slot receiver. But the rookie made a connection with 89 often and early, with the 2 working out during the summer. One thing that impressed Smith of Cam was his work ethic and his up-bringing; the support from his father Cecil – something coach Ron Rivera has praised often too of the young QB. Both players are similar, yet so different. Smith is 5-9, Newton is 6-5 but is probably closer to 6-6 and they’re birthdays are 1 day apart in May; Smith is May 12, Newton is May 11. Both want to win and are the face of the franchise. Both have that hunger, that drive; the work ethic. They both have their haters, but they also have a very large following. If the rest of the team can improve and get it together in the next couple of seasons, look for Newton and Smith to be the next big duo in the NFL, leading the way and helping Smith become a legit Hall of Fame candidate.

Right now though, Smith is on track to break Jerry Rice’s single season receiving record of 1848 receiving yards. No doubt, he’ll have some stiff competition from Welker who is also having an outstanding season with New England. Smith has to get 930 yards in the back end of the season while Welker only needs 60 yards less. The Patriots offense has struggled at times this season & if they really get going, watch out. However, they’ll be playing in severe weather conditions later on in the season which could hurt Welker’s chances. The Panthers however will be mainly around in the south and in domes, helping Smith’s chances. Another factor could be that the Panthers defense isn’t the greatest, so if they get behind in games, it will make the offense have to air it out and games could turn into a shootout, which again helps both Newton & Smith’s yards. Good news for fantasy players this season if you have either Brady & Welker or Newton & Smith.

Smith could potentially, hit 2000 yards if he increases his current pace of 100 plus yards per game to at least 135.25 over the next 8 games. He already has 7 100 yard receiving games this year, but will need to turn those 100 yard games into 150, 180 yard games if he has any chance of hitting 2k yards. He’ll probably have to have a 200 yard game at some point, or at least a few 160-180 yard games to close the gap. Rice had a huge game when he had 14 catches for 289 yards vs. the Vikings in ’95, helping him hit the 1,848 yards he had for the record-making season. While it may sound out of reach & realistically it probably is, it does say something about the current trend in the NFL with so many QBs and WRs putting up big numbers & having 2 great receivers on track to come close or even maybe surpass the great Jerry Rice and his single-season record.

But this season should come as no surprise to you if you know the Steve Smith story. Fact is, there’s not much more I can tell you that will surprise you. Just in case you don’t know the full story, here’s a brief recap of one of the most underrated wide receivers in the NFL.

Drafted in the 3rd round out of Utah, the 5 foot 9 wide receiver came into the league as a returner, a specialist and his and the legend was born the first time he touched the ball in the NFL, as he took it back the other way for a 99 yard TD return in the Metrodome vs. the Vikings. That rookie season, he made the Pro Bowl as a returner.  As soon as Panthers GM Marty Hurney drafted him, they knew they had something special. It wasn’t until a few seasons later when he began to develop into a wide receiver, that the fruits of labor began to show. Soon, he was a #1 receiver. With Jake Delhomme at QB the Panthers would make a trip to the big dance in 2003-04, with Smith’s play at WR along with Panthers legend, Muhsin Muhammad and veteran wide receiver Ricky Proehl (now an offensive assistant with the Panthers). Smith helped his status as an elite WR when he caught a beautifully thrown TD pass from Delhomme in Super Bowl 38 vs. the Patriots and went on to have a monster game. His legend actually began in the Divisional Playoffs a couple of weeks earlier vs. the Rams, when Smith caught a 69 yard TD pass from Delhomme in double OT, the play famously dubbed “X-Clown” where Smith can be seen, arms outstretched as he ran into the endzone.

Following the huge 2003-04 season, Smith then went onto suffer a broken leg in week 1 action vs. the Green Bay Packers, ending his season for 2004-05. Muhsin Muhammad went onto having a fantastic year in Smith’s absence, however Smith more than made up for it in 2005-06 when he helped the Panthers reach the NFC Conference Championship, leading the NFL in all receiving categories and getting All-Pro and Pro Bowl nominations as well as co-Comeback Player of the Year (with LB Tedy Bruschi.) From there his legend grew and grew. A top fantasy stud, he continued to have solid seasons in ’06, ’07 and then had another breakout season in 2008 as he helped steer the Panthers back to the playoffs. Following that he had solid seasons until 2010 as he had his worst statistical season and the Panthers went 2-14.

And then 2011 happened and we sit here, talking about Smitty as a possible Hall of Fame candidate & for Panthers fans like myself, it’s a great thing to see 89 dominating again. We know the story, we know the journey. We know his talent level and what he’s had to overcome. His incidents, his past. We felt sorry for him, having to go through last season as we all felt it. We don’t blame him asking for a trade. But then you see the kind of player he is, the kind of teammate he is to the rookie QB and even though the team only has 2 wins in 2011, Smith is back and having fun. He’s going out there, making plays as if he’s just a kid playing some ball in the park. The competitive fire still burns and like it’s been said before, Newton has been a fountain of youth for Smith who is still troubling defenses who now can’t commit 2 or 3 guys to Smith because of the threat of Newton who can hurt you with his arms or legs. Now it’s a different offense and it’s one that is tailor-made for Smith and if he keeps on doing what he’s doing and putting up astronomical numbers and helping Carolina win along the way, then we couldn’t be happier as fans of the Panthers and of Smith.

During the last game vs. the Vikings, Smith had a controversial and costly holding penalty against him as Newton scrambled to get the ball into the endzone. The Panthers were driving, down by 3 and needed a FG to tie it. Smith blocked a defender, before running to take out another as Newton dove, trying to break the plane of the endzone. He was called on the first block, a hold. The Panthers eventually settled for a FG, a 31-yard chip shot only to have Olindo Mare shank it wide. The Panthers lost and Smith gladly vented to the media afterwards about the call. In a few words he said, “..for a 70-year-old man gimping down the field, I guess that’s what the ref saw.”

Classic Steve. Classic 89. That’s the bottom line.

As far as I’m concerned, Smitty has given a lot to this team and will continue to do so. As a veteran and a leader, I for one applaud him for telling it like it is & frankly, he can say whatever he wants to say. We need guys like him, keeping us on our toes and being blatantly honest in a league full of political correctness and pussy-footing. If every guy had the fight, the tenacity the passion and love for this game that he does, the game would be in a better place. He only wants the right calls made and he knows the referees missed a call there that should’ve been put down to a football play. Just let them play, in those instances. But hey, that’s football in 2011 and we’ll agree to disagree. Removing my homer glasses for a second, we can’t really sit here and say that Smith should’ve made it a legal block. As a professional football player, he’ll tell you until the day he dies that that was a legal block & he’s probably right.

But like I said, that’s Steve Smith for you. As long as he is yapping and getting angry – doing what he does best with that swagger of his every Sunday, then all you can do is watch and enjoy the rollecoaster ride of emotions that he’ll take you along for.

Who knows how many fights Steve Smith has left in him. Who knows how many yards, how many seasons he has left. All we know is that he is a damn good football player who is underrated, under appreciated and has been since he was drafted into this league.

He’ll still carry the chip on his shoulder, even when he stands up there at Canton as his bust is unveiled. He’ll still carry the chip, because people love to hate on 89. But he’s used to it. He’s used to getting back up after a big hit from a LBer after he crosses over the middle, spinning the ball celebrating a first down. He’s used to owning DBs and LBs, literally knocking them on their rear as he continues to show that he has one of the nastiest stiff-arms in the NFL. He is used to it all, even after 11 NFL seasons.

That’s just Steve Smith in a nutshell. Chip on the shoulder with that swagger, used to showing the doubters wrong, used to putting on a show every Sunday.

And for that alone; for that entertainment that you provide us Steve, I once again thank you.

From every Panthers fan worldwide, we thank you for being you, for being special and for giving us your all, for giving us hope for the future.. for giving us greatness.

I for one can’t wait to see how the rest of 2011 turns out for Smitty. But watch closely because it may just be record-breaking.

NFL Tips: Week 10

Back to 16 games this week (Yay!), so a lot of games to watch. There’s also a lot of games that could go either way. So I expect to do pretty badly (again). From last week, these are the ones I got wrong. Jets, Dolphins, Broncos, Ravens, Cardinals & Giants. Let’s get it awn!

Oakland at San Diego: The Chargers and Raiders kick off this year’s Thursday Night Football games with a rather overrated and tough to call match-up. The Chargers rallied back against the Packers last week, but still came up quite short, with Phillip Rivers continuing to throw interceptions. The Raiders lost to the Broncos (stupid Raiders), because the Broncos had decided to completely change to a spread offense to help Tebow succeed. It worked for one week, but we’re yet to find out what happens when a team can plan for it. The Raiders are still without Darren McFadden, as well, so it makes this test all the more harder. I think San Diego can win this in a close one, but I’m 49% sure the Raiders will win in the end.

Prediction: San Diego 28, Raiders 24

New Orleans at Atlanta: I think a lot of people would’ve marked this game down as a possible early decider for the NFC South title. Alas, the Falcons have stunk all year (well, sporadically, anyway) and it’s tough to see them topping the Saints. Both of these teams won last week (Atlanta beat Indianapolis by 24 (Which is less than double of what the Saints put on them) & New Orleans split the series with the Buccaneers), and I do think this game could be tougher to call than people think. Atlanta’s offense is at full strength with Julio Jones coming back and taking a lot of pressure off White, while making good plays himself. I believe the Saints will win here, but, again, an upset wouldn’t shock me.

Prediction: New Orleans 27, Atlanta 14

Pittsburgh at Cincinnati: Pittsburgh lost to Baltimore the second time this season, although this game was a lot closer. The Bengals pulled off a victory over the Titans, even with a late push by Tennessee. I’m actually picking the Bengals in this game. I don’t think their 6-2 record is a joke, and I believe their D is for real.

Prediction: Cincinnati 21, Pittsburgh 13

St. Louis at Cleveland: The Rams probably lost in the worst way possible last week. They allowed a 99 yard punt return TD by Patrick Peterson in overtime. Cleveland on the other hand sucked again (what a shocker…) against the Texans. I think the Rams can win this game, but, yet again, I’m not that confident.

Prediction: St. Louis 34, Cleveland 24

Buffalo at Dallas: Why must the NFL have so many tough games to decide this weekend? The Bills floundered against the Jets, while the Cowboys got past the Seahawks, but not very convincingly. I’m tipping Dallas, but I honestly have no fucking idea!

Prediction: Dallas 24, Buffalo 17

Jacksonville at Indianapolis: This is the most crucial game in the Suck for Luck Sweepstakes. Indianapolis are the only winless team remaining and they could actually WIN, yes, WIN this weekend against Jacksonville. The Colts were quite non-existent against the Falcons last week, while the Jaguars sat back in their chairs and watched the games. I’m just gonna say the Colts win, who cares?

Prediction: Indianapolis 20, Jacksonville 14

Denver at Kansas City: Kansas City surrendered the Dolphins first win of the season last weekend, while the Broncos overpowered the up and down Raiders. The Chiefs have a shot in this game, but they have to stop the run effectively to pull out the victory. On the other hand, Tebow has to make sure the few throws he makes aren’t intercepted and taken back to the hizzy. I think KC will win, but that might just be my deep hatred for Tebow talking.

Prediction: Kansas City 16, Denver 7

Washington at Miami: The ‘Fins come in with their heads held high, while the Redskins come in after a 4th straight loss. Miami is favoured in this game, but you really have to wonder if last week was just a complete fluke or not. What isn’t a fluke is the Redskins shitty playing. They can’t get much going in the right direction at the moment. I’ll give a very slight nod to Miami.

Prediction: Miami 14, Washington 10

Arizona at Philadelphia: One of 3 (almost) sure bets of this weekend. The Eagles come in after a tough loss to the Bears. While Arizona come in after Patrick Peterson’s superb punt return TD in overtime to beat the Rams.

– Play of the year type stuff there.

Despite the Cardinals win, they’re still a poor team on both sides of the ball. The Eagles should be able to beat them handily, but that’s what people said Baltimore would do, too. Barely won.

Prediction: Philadelphia 30, Arizona 21

Houston at Tampa Bay: Houston are coming into this after having won the last 3 games. Tampa Bay are coming in after losing to the Saints last week. The last time the Buccaneers got beaten fairly badly they shocked the Saints the following week. I can’t see this happening with or without Andre Johnson playing for the Texans. Foster should be able to keep up his great form and put the Texans over the line.

Prediction: Houston 35, Tampa Bay 17

Tennessee at Carolina: If Chris Johnson has broken out of his slump this week, then it could go bad for Carolina. They’ve had trouble stopping the rush all year. I think Chris Johnson’s definitely getting to where he was, but a lot of his running depends on his O-Line’s performance. If the Panthers can take it to the Titans O-Line, then they should take the victory.

Prediction: Carolina 24, Tennessee 20

Baltimore at Seattle: Here’s game 2 of the (almost) sure bets of the weekend. Baltimore’s playing inconsistent football at the moment, but they’re playing more consistently than Seattle, who can’t get anything good going for them. I think Baltimore shut down whatever offense Seattle tries to produce and wins it easy.

Prediction: Baltimore 30, Seattle 3

Detroit at Chicago: I’m worried about this one. I just don’t see how the Lions can stop the Bears both offensively and defensively to win the game. The Lions are off the bye, but still won’t have Jahvid Best. They should have Nick Fairley, but I’d say more in a limited role again. The Bears beat the Eagles, but it wasn’t some impressive miracle. Just a hard-fought game. If the Lions can make Forte fumble the ball like he did on Sunday Night, then they’ve got a good chance. But, I honestly can’t see the Lions winning. I hope I’m wrong.

Prediction: Chicago 24, Detroit 21

New York at San Francisco: The Giants got a last second win over the Patriots last week, while the 49ers unconvincingly beat the Redskins. The Giants performances this year have been extremely inconsistent and this is a real tough test for them. I think the 49ers can shut down the Giants offense and run the ball effectively enough to win.

Prediction: San Francisco 19, New York 13

And then there were two…

New England at New York: This game is usually a pretty good one, as these two rivals face off in week 10. The Patriots lost by 4 on a last second TD by Eli Manning and the Giants, while the Jets rolled the Bills. The Patriots defense is absolutely horrible. They can’t rush the passer, nor can they stop the pass. I guess they’re lucky that the Jets can’t really throw the ball, then. While on the other hand, the Jets pass D is very good, with Revis patrolling the field and keeping a lock of the best WR. I’m tipping the Patriots, but not confident.

Prediction: New England 21, New York 18

Minnesota at Green Bay: We finish this week off with a bit of a stinker and the guaranteed win of the week. The Packers are undefeated and looking like a real possibility to go undefeated the whole way. The Vikings are coming off the bye, so their chances are probably less than 1%. I know they took it to the Packers in their first meeting, but the Packers have only improved since then. Packers win it easy.

Prediction: Green Bay 40, Minnesota 21

Thanks folks! Hopefully you have a better week than Joe Paterno and Penn State University!

Panthers Game Grades & Notes – Week 8

Carolina Panthers (2-6) vs. Minnesota Vikings (1-7)

Bank of America Stadium, November 30th 2011.

Overall Offense: B

The Panthers had a solid game plan under offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski and managed to score 21 points through the air, however several key penalties and a string of 3 & outs in the 2nd, allowed the Vikings back in the game, rather than keeping Adrian Peterson on the sidelines which would have helped out a shotty defense. The Panthers offense did a good job holding the ball for 28 minutes, had a nice 50% 3rd down efficiency rate and were able to make some big plays at key moments. However, they didn’t quite score enough and made too many mistakes for the grade to be any better than a B.  

Quarterbacks: B

Cam Newton had an outstanding game against a tough Vikings defense. He threw for 290 yards and 3 TDs with no interceptions for a QB rating of 117.6, including a nice pass to Brandon LaFell on 4th down, gaining 44 yards on the play as they drove to tie the game in the 4th quarter. He added 53 yards on 6 carries including a 24 yard scamper in the 3rd quarter. However amongst the good, Newton was sacked 3 times and lost the ball twice on fumbles.

Running Backs: C

Jonathan Stewart & DeAngelo Williams continue to be an efficient duo, capable of either having their own big day out or helping Newton move the chains. On this day, they were merely helping move the chains with Stew gaining 49 yards on 13 carries and DeAngelo rushing for 26 on 7 attempts. Combined, they only managed 3.8 ypc and although they look explosive at times, the offense needs more balance & Double Trouble need more carries. If they can do that, Cam will have less on his shoulders & the Panthers can control the clock and game more. Steve Smith also added a nice end around play for 12 yards, in which he owned Cedric Griffin via a nasty stiff arm.

Wide Receivers/Tight Ends: B

3 passing TDs from Newton: 2 to TE’s and 1 to Steve Smith. What a day to be a Panthers receiver. Shockey finally got his 1st TD as a Panther vs. the Vikes on a 1 yard pass – his only reception for the day.  Not wanting to have Greg Olsen feel left out, Newton hit Olsen on a streak, straight down the middle for a 39 yard TD catch, totaling 73 yards for the day on 4 receptions. Smith continues to be a threat every time he touches the ball, having another big day with big plays, catching 7 balls for 100 yards, including a nice catch and run 22 yard TD. However despite the good, Legedu Naanee and Smith had key holding calls that would’ve changed the game and apart from LaFell’s 44 yard 4th down catch, the supporting cast of receivers didn’t do much.

Offensive Linemen: D

The offensive line had a forgettable day out. While they kept Newton clean for most of the afternoon, they allowed 3 sacks including 2 key fumbles (that they were unable to recover both times) that allowed the Vikings back in the game. Tackle Jordan Gross, in All-Pro form, was beaten twice on one play by DE Jared Allen. First for the sack, then on the recovery of the ball. The Panthers line also failed to open up holes for the Panthers RB duo of Stewart and Williams, only averaging 3.8 ypc on the ground. Penalties also killed the Panthers, an area that the line and the team in general needs to clean up over the next few weeks.

Overall Defense: D

The Panthers scored a D, because they simply allowed the Vikings to run over them in the 2nd half. Defensive coordinator Sean McDermott had a good plan and in the 1st half, it was executed well, holding RB Adrian Peterson. But through the defenses and offenses fault, the D stayed on teh field too long as the game wore on and holes opened up for the Vikings offense, allowing Peterson and rookie QB Christian Ponder to control the game. Although the Panthers did a good job pressuring Ponder and forcing several mistakes, in the end they couldn’t stop the Vikes offense enough to keep the lead. Signs of improvement are little consolation for this D.

Defensive Linemen: B

The defensive line was one of the bright spots for the D, helping keep Ponder in check and helping to hold Peterson to only 86 yards on the ground, with a 15 yard TD run being the longest allowed. The combination of Charles Johnson and Greg Hardy again gave the Vikes offensive line fits, with Johnson racking up another sack & 2 more QB pressures, along with rookie Terrell McClain. Hardy didn’t have a sack, but knocked the ball down once, almost picking off one of those. The front 4 disrupted Ponder enough into mistakes, and played lights out at times, forcing the Vikings to go 3 & out 7/14 times. Honorable mention to DE Antwan Applewhite, played a solid game and has been playing well for a while.

Linebackers: D

The Vikings had the Panthers linebackers running around all day and although they kept the Vikings offense in check in the 1st half, they eventually grew tired and cracks appeared. LB Omar Gaither had a solid game and had to play more once LB Thomas Williams went down with a neck injury early in the game. Gaither finished with 7 solo tackles and a sack, James Anderson added 7 tackles with 4 solo stops, and Dan Connor only made 2 stops. The group was out of position at times, especially when they were sucked up in blocks on Adrian Peterson’s screen pass TD in the 2nd quarter. The LBs also couldn’t stop Peterson at the goal line, allowing him to rumble in for a 9 yard run, and couldn’t stop Percy Harvin from scoring up the middle in the 1st. Toby Gerhart was also popping off nice runs (26 on 5 carries) until he went out with an injury – a relief for the defense at that point. The LBs (and safeties) had trouble containing Ponder’s safety valves of TE’s Visanthe Shiancoe & Kyle Rudolph who picked up some nice gains that helped the Vikings keep the ball moving. Overall, this group is hurting and more injuries are just wearing on this group and the defense.

Secondary: C

The secondary didn’t have a bad day compared to the linebackers, especially Captain Munnerlyn. Munnerlyn was everywhere, on special teams he was covering kicks like a demon and on D, he helped contain the Ponder passing attack. He had a key strip of Percy Harvin inside the 10, wrestling the ball from Harvin’s grip and showing the tenacity you know coach Ron Rivera loves. He also added a sack on a blitz, jumping Ponder from behind. Safety Sherrod Martin had a game to forget, all over the place and not in a good way. He couldn’t wrap Peterson up at the goal line, allowing him to spin out of the tackle and score. Charles Godfrey had 9 stops and several good ones on RB Peterson. Chris Gamble struggled against Percy Harvin at times, especially in the 4th when he missed a tackle on Harvin that kept the Vikes drive alive to get the game-winning FG.  Overall, the unit held the key guys in Ponder 18/28 for 236 and Harvin to 58 yard on 4 catches, however the Vikes were efficient enough to get enough points to win. The Panthers could’ve done with defensive back Darius Butler, who had to miss the game to be with his daughter, who had open heart surgery. (She’s expected to make a full recovery.)

Overall Special Teams: F

When the game starts out with a 78 yard kickoff return by the Vikings and ends with a missed 31-yard FG attempt by Olindo Mare, the unit is headed for a F – no matter what they do in between. Panthers kick returner Kealoha Pilares fumbled twice, recovering both and didn’t do much else in returning the ball. Armanti Edwards fielded the ball well and picked up minimal yards on punt returns. The kick coverage team forced the ball inside the 10 a couple of times, helping out the D with field position and punter Jason Baker had a solid day, not making any glaring mistakes.

Overall Coaching: C

Coach Ron Rivera has this group in the right direction, no doubt. They’ve been competitive in every game, taken it to some of the better teams in the leagues and for a young group with several key injuries, they’re doing better than a lot of people originally thought. This game was winnable, as were a few earlier in the season. But that’s the mark of a young team. Penalties, errors.. things that good teams eliminate so in that same situation, they win rather than come away with an ‘almost win.’ Against the Vikings, the Panthers had a good gameplan on both sides and were able to execute for the most part. After the 2nd half, the Vikings controlled the game on both sides and without that lull in the 3rd, the Panthers probably would’ve won the game. Small things, finishing drives rather than go 3 & out – are marks of a young team. The D was on the field way too long in the 2nd half (another mark of a young team & a patchwork D) and no doubt the Panthers need some help at LB and possibly another DB, whether late this season or next season. The Panthers are yet to play a complete game, with special teams being the main problem this time around. Overall, hard to criticize the coaches except when Rivera decided to end the 1st half and let the clock run out, rather than try a FG (which in the end, would’ve tied the game & changed the outcome.) Execution is the main problem with this group, and the Panthers have the bye week to work that and any other kinks out before Tennessee in week 10.

Game ball:

Cam Newton: Played an almost mistake free game, was poised in the pocket, used his legs and helped move the chains and put points on the board. Leads from the front, helps Smith get his 100 and drove the team down the field in the final seconds, doing all he could to help get a win.

Stats: 22/35 for 290 yards, 3 TDs, O interceptions, 117.6 QB rating & 6 carries for 53 yards and 2 fumbles.

Goat of the Week: Olindo Mare: It should never come down to one play where the blame is laid upon just one guy, but it’s kind of his job. From 31 yards out, usually it’s a money kick. A chip shot. Almost an extra point attempt. One play is all the Panthers needed him to execute, and he choked – handing the Vikings a win rather than a chance to win in overtime, and dropping the Panthers to 2-6, heading into their bye week.

Stats: 0/1on field goals, 3/3 on extra points, 3 touchbacks.

Next up for Carolina: Bye week.

Sound FX: Ron Rivera and the Panthers:

Rivera loves him some Cam Newton. And when I say love, I mean l-o-v-e. Here

2 Minute Drill: Week 7 in Review:

What a weird and ‘off’ week it was in the NFL in week 7 action. But that’s the NFL for you. Any given Sunday, shit can happen. Or maybe it was simply a case of a lot of players had their attentions elsewhere.. maybe say, on the release of Battlefield 3? I would say the probability of that is 94%. I would also say I’m not qualified to make probability assessments, as my math teacher will tell you.

Story of the week was no doubt the Kansas City D shutting out the Raiders & Tim Tebow coming back vs. Miami after 55 minutes of crappy, un-NFL play.

Time to huddle up, and get this game winning drive going before week 8.

1st and 10 at the 20: What does this Tebow thing mean for the Broncos? No doubt he played well in the final 5 minutes, but it also leaves more questions than answers. He and the offense sucked for 55 minutes before getting lucky thanks to a variety of factors – the Dolphins D, great playcalling, and of course, luck. Not taking anything away from him, but he was hardly the hero people are making him out to be; any person who watches football would recognize that. You play hard for 60 minutes and things go your way.

How about those Chiefs? Or should I say, how about Carson Palmer & Kyle Boller, showing how not to play QB. Sheeesh. What a fail. But give credit where credit is due. The Chiefs have turned their season around. Initially, they were headed for a top 5 draft pick next April. Now, if they win on Monday Night Football vs. the Chargers, they’ll be tied for the lead in the AFC West. Their D shut the Raiders out last week and they haven’t allowed a point since the second quarter against Indy in Week 5. Pretty good for a team with this guy as coach..

Catch along the sidelines, out of bounds, 20 yard gain. Arian Foster is carrying the Texans. The kid is insane. No doubt, fantasy players will be picking him #1 or #2 in fantasy league next season. 100 yards on the ground and 100 receiving yards? Wow. This isn’t college, that’s not supposed to happen. But it did vs. the Titans as they killed them 41-7. Meanwhile, on the opposite sideline last week, CJ only rushed 10 times for 18 yards. He’s at 2.9 ypc this season, looks bad and despite his Oline, just isn’t playing good right now. But at least he got paid, right?! Right now, CJ2K is a prime candidate for our “Check the Carton Award” for ’11.

2nd down, 1 minute left, ball at the 50 yard line. How ’bout those Lions? First Shake Gate, now Ankle Gate. What is going on? Surely a gate salesman must be making a killing off the Lions weekly headline-stealing ways. 2 home losses, maybe the road will provide some redemption this week as they travel to the gateless Colorado wilderness to take on Tebow.

Think the Bucs are the NFL’s favourite team to embarrass on an international stage? The whipping boy, if you will. The Bucs are 0-2 across the pond. There was 35-7 slapping that the Pats gave them back in 2009 and then in week 7, they got bent over and given a reach around by Cutler and Bears. Think Raheem Morris & QB Josh Freeman are looking forward to never seeing Big Ben and Wembley ever again? It would probably serve them well to either avoid the trip altogether or learn how to win consistently like the Packers do.

Speaking of the Packers, no doubt they’re the best team in the NFL. Undefeated since about week 16 of last season, they’re on a roll like a fat kid rollerblading down a hill in San Francisco. Aaron Rodgers is well on his way to Peyton status, putting up impressive numbers and even cornier commercials. Watch your back Peyton.. oh wait, you can’t turn around because of the neck thing.. that’s right. My bad.

1st down, ball on the 40, 50 seconds left. Vikings rookie QB Christian Ponder looked more like a seasoned vet in his first start vs. the Packers last week, and faces another test vs. the Panthers stingy pass defense & fellow rookie QB Cam Newton.  He was one of 6 different QBs starting last week, and was one of the more impressive ones of the pack. His numbers don’t tell the full story (13/32 for 219 yards, 2 TDs & 2 picks) but it’ll only be a matter of time before he has the city of Minnesota fully behind him, much like the rookie QB on the opposite sidelines this week in Newton.

So that was a painful showing on MNF, for the players, coaches and everyone watching. Lists were being created about “Better things to do than watch MNF” and in the end, it was Del Rio’s men who outlasted the Ravens. The Jags won on the back of Josh Scobee’s leg and some good D that forced Joe Flacco to struggle. Although, it wasn’t just him putting the ball on the ground. Maurice Jones-Drew dropped and fumbled the ball more times than he had yards and Flacco couldn’t get a 1st down until the 2nd half. If Flacco doesn’t turn it around, he’s a real candidate for the “313 Check the Carton Award for 2011.”

With the Pro Bowl voting underway, the game and selection process is as irrelevant to actual play of players during the season as ever. Years ago, you knew if a guy went to 7 Pro Bowls, he was good. Now, an overrated lineman and household name RB like Chris Johnson will get selected, even though they don’t deserve to, snubbing a more worthy & deserving candidate. Early candidates for the popularity contest include Steve Smith, Wes Welker, Drew Brees, Cam Newton, Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady, Calvin Johnson, Matt Forte, Arian Foster and that’s not even getting into the defensive players. But guessing who goes right now is as silly as the voting process itself where voting should be done at seasons end.

3rd down, ball on the 30, 30 seconds. Think Curtis Painter is making Bill Polian and Jim Isray’s job easier about firing Jim Caldwell. Or maybe Isray should fire Polian for such shitty GM work. Just goes to show that building around 1 player all these years, never quite works out well in the end. No doubt the Colts have good players, but without their QB to operate the machine, the machine and system have fallen apart. When the Saints can hang 63 points on a NFL-caliber team like the Colts, is it saying more about the Saints ability to score or is it saying more about the Colts problems?

The Chargers screwed a W against the Jets with Plaxiglass nabbing 3 TDs, the Panthers could get on a 3 game winning streak, the Bills head to Toronto this week for more fun, Big Ben is ballin’ with a worn down Steelers team and..

TOUCHDOWN. Now onto our weekly awards.

313 Week 7 Awards:

So another week is again done & dusted as we hit the halfway point of the 2011-12 season. Before we jump onto week 8, here’s a quick recap on week 7 NFL action. What we liked, and what we didn’t like so much. (This is a quickened version of what will hopefully come a weekly roundup, earlier during the week.)

Offensive Player of the Week:

DeMarco Murray, RB – Dallas Cowboys

Anytime a guy can just come off the bench, put his helmet on the right way and then proceed to scamper for a franchise-best 253 yards, breaking Hall of Famer Emmitt Smith’s team record.. it’s a pretty good day and definitely award-worthy. Murray did just that in week 7 vs. the Rams, with a 91 yard TD run on his first carry of the game. Blame the Rams, credit the Cowboys and Murray.. whatever way you look at it, spin it or dissect it; it’s an impressive outing. Congrats DeMarco.

Defensive Player of the Week:

Brandon Flowers/Kansas City Chiefs D

You could argue that it’s all about individual performances that should go here but I have the blog so nah nah eat my shorts. The Chiefs D shutout the Raiders, a divisional foe and intercepted the Raiders 6 times on the day, harassing the Raiders offense with new QB Carson Palmer AT the Black Hole. Hard to do at home, at all let alone on the road in a hostile environment. But they did, and Flowers ended up with 2 picks (1 for a pick 6) on the day, shutting down the Raiders vertical passing game and adding 3 tackles on the day. An honourable mention to Chiefs LB Derrick Johnson, for his 13 tackle effort in helping the Chiefs shutout the Raiders. A couple of huge plays lead by Johnson in the 2nd quarters, thwarted the Raiders only real chance to score. A fantastic group effort.

Special Teams Player of the Week:

Red Bryant, DE – Seattle Seahawks.

Big Red gets the award this week, after showing up big time on Sunday in a loss to Cleveland. Look like his big offseason finally paid off. Blocked field goals are a rarity in the NFL, so when it happens twice some recognition needs to be shown to the big guy who got it done for his team (as much as possible without playing RB.) Bryant blocked a 24 yard chip shot and a 48 yarder, as well as adding 4 tackles, a half sack on D as well as an ejection for getting into it with Browns TE Alex Smith. Quite the eventful outing for what Hawks fans have dubbed a recent draft “bust.”

Coach of the Week:

Gary Kubiak, Houston Texans.

You could put Ron Rivera here, you could put Todd Haley here or even Jack Del Rio for his team’s gritty win on Monday Night Football, whilst being on the hot seat and most likely, the chopping block. But it was Kubiak against the Titans who enjoyed a nice offensive outing on the back of Arian Foster. A 41-7 win over the division rival Titans and the Texans look set to enjoy a playoff berth and maybe some postseason success, with the Colts, Jaguars and Titans falling behind the times in the AFC South and the Texans reaping the benefits.

Rookie of the Week:

Cam Newton, QB – Carolina Panthers

Once again, I could put a few young guys here. There are a few rookies deserving, Von Miller in Denver, Murray in Dallas and Ponder in Minnesota making his debut. But this week, it was again Cam Newton who lead the Panthers to  their 2nd victory over the Redskins, earning himself this award and the Panthers game ball. While statistically he wasn’t eye-popping, he still managed to throw for 256 yards for a TD, completing 78.3% but also (and this is a big also) rushing for 59 yards and 1 TD. On one of those rushes, he managed to avoid the entire Redskins defense after being flushed out of the pocket, and turn it into a gain of 25 yards before stepping out of bounds. With his feet doing the talking, he managed to still ignite Steve Smith and help the Panthers put up 33 points on the day.

Headline of the Week:

‘Blame Sparano for Tebowmania.’

 Quote of the Week:

“Glad to report my genitalia are in stable condition and expected to make a full recovery!”

– Packers lineman TJ Lang, tweeting after the game. Lang was stomped in the groin area by Vikings defensive end Brian Robson during an altercation.

Not-So-Great-Play of the Week:

Curtis Painter, QB, Colts.

Painter will probably be blamed for a lot of things.. the firing of Caldwell, the extended period of time that Peyton is out for, World War 3, Tim Tebow, Jersey Shore, constant world hunger and Fergie. But one thing he does deserve, is a down right slap upside the head for this play:

http://www.nfl.com/videos/auto/09000d5d8236989f/Painter-fumbles-snap

HE TOOK A SNAP TO THE FACE. TO. THE. FACE.

At least if you’re going to fumble the ball, make it worth while. Do what David Carr used to do.. run around in your own endzone for a while before going into turtle mode or do what Romo does when he fumbles.. tries to run with it before blaming the rookie centre. Come on Curtis, you’re better than that. You’re making Peyton upset and when Peyton gets upset, he makes more commercials. Noooo!

Surprising Team of the Week:

Jaguars defeating Baltimore on Monday Night Football

Disappointing Team of the Week:

The Lions Losing to the Falcons. I really, really, really don’t like Atlanta.

Bust of the Week:

Philip Rivers, QB, San Diego Chargers

And so that’s it for another week of awards and accolades. Now it’s onto week 8 of NFL action. Good luck to all your teams this week! Until next time, keep it crispy.

 

NFL Tips: Week 8

I’m pretty busy tomorrow, so thought I’d get in early!

I don’t know about you, but I haven’t enjoyed the last couple weeks. My tipping’s been pretty bad, too! Anyway, I’m sick of these intros, so let’s just do it, do it. But firstly, my stupid picking mistakes from last week. Falcons, Jets, Chiefs and Jaguars (Yes, for some reason I picked the Ravens, I should have known better).

Indianapolis at Tennessee: Alright, I’m going to start out with a “Are you serious?” prediction. I honestly believe the Colts can win this game, no, Peyton’s not working through that door and neither is Marshall Faulk. But let’s be somewhat serious here, the Titans Run D is beyond horrible. They let up 222 yards to the Texans last week and the Colts Rushing attack (mainly Delone Carter) ain’t no joke, he’s an impressive rusher. And it’s not like the Titans are some spectacular defensive team who lets up very little pass yardage. Yes, this is a ridiculous pick, and I realise that the Colts could get their arse handed to them again, but I have (minimal) faith in the Colts, which is more than the Titans.

Prediction: Indianapolis 21, Tennessee 17

New Orleans at St. Louis: I have absolutely no clue what’s going on with the Rams, they’re just downright crap. They let a rookie RB break the all-time Cowboys rushing mark, set by Emmitt Smith. DeMarco Murray rushed for a ridonkulous 253 yards on 25 carries, that’s just nuts. Fortunately for the Rams, the Saints strength isn’t the run. Again, this doesn’t matter, cause the Rams also can’t stop the pass. Saints BIG.

Prediction: New Orleans 45, St. Louis 3

Miami at New York: I’m starting to think the Dolphins are intentionally tanking, and why wouldn’t they? They get the grand prize of Andrew Luck. It’s also been reported that the Dolphins have been speaking with Bill Cowher. This also makes a bit of sense, as he could actually lead the team to a win, thought not likely. The Giants are coming off the bye, but this won’t be a tough game to win.

Prediction: New York 31, Miami 14

Minnesota at Carolina: It was good to see the Camthers come through against the Redskins last week, to collect their 2nd win of the season. The Vikings put up a valiant effort against the Packers, going down by only 6. AP will run wild in this game, but the Panthers passing D is too good for Ponder to break through.

Prediction: Carolina 27, Minnesota 20

Arizona at Baltimore: Ya see, wha what happened was…sucking? That’s what seemed to occur for the Ravens on Monday Night Football against the Jaguars. Boy they were bad. At least the Cardinals put up a fight in their game, but still couldn’t pull it off. I’m tipping Baltimore, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Baltimore “(Oh, no, we) suck again”.

Prediction: Baltimore 21, Arizona 13

Jacksonville at Houston: The Jags pulled off a miracle, while the Texans did what Goliath should’ve done, stepped on David…Or in this case, the Titans. The Texans have to be the most underrated team going around at the moment. Yes, I know they’re 4-3, but look at the teams who beat them. The Saints, the uplifted Raiders and the good version of the Ravens. They should win their next 4 including this one.

Prediction: Houston 38, Jacksonville 17

Washington vs Buffalo In Toronto: Well, I guess the Redskins are back to their crappy ways after losing the last two games pretty convincingly. The Bills are a bit of a mystery to me, they lose to the Bengals and the Giants…Odd. Anyway, the Redskins shouldn’t be much of a hard task this week.

Prediction: Buffalo 28, Washington 10

Detroit at Denver: The Lions take on the Tebows this week. I’m sick of the Lions putting up these crappy efforts and hopefully they are, too. The Broncos pulled off a miracle against the absolutely pathetic Dolphins last week, but the Lions, unlike the Dolphins, have some talent on this team. Hopefully the Lions can tear something in Tebow’s body so we don’t have to hear about him until next year.

Prediction: Lions 100, Tebows 0 (I can dream, can’t I?) Real Prediction: Lions 35, Broncos 13

New England at Pittsburgh: This game would be more interesting if the Steelers D was, ya know, good! The Patriots should have a fun day throwing the ball all over the field to open defenders on route to a win against a has-been Steelers team.

Prediction: New England 27, Patriots 24

Cleveland at San Francisco: Cleveland played in the 3rd most exciting winning scoreline you can dream of, 6-3. The only two MORE exciting scorelines are 3-0 and 2-0. Even Manchester City scored more points than Seattle on the weekend. But it’s not like Cleveland are very good. I pointed them out as pretenders; it’s worked out to be true so far.

Prediction: San Francisco 31, Cleveland 10

Cincinnati at Seattle: Seattle scored a marvellous 3 points on the weekend, that’s some great work by their offense. Cincinnati scored 3 less points on the bye, but probably had the better performance. Seriously, though, Seattle have somehow won two games, whereas the Bengals are playing quite well at 4-2.

Prediction: Cincinnati 17, Seattle 3

And then there were two…Back to some good games this week in primetime (hopefully).

Dallas at Philadelphia: The Cowboys beat up on the Rams thanks to DeMarco Murray’s Cowboy record breaking day. The Eagles had a bye, but probably came at a poor time. Teams aren’t too good off the bye and Dallas are on a high, I think they can just pull this one out.

Prediction: Dallas 27, Philadelphia 24

San Diego at Kansas City: San Diego gave up a 3 TD lead to the Jets on the weekend and lost the game by 6, unbelievable. The Chiefs, on the other hand, shutout the new look Raiders, with Darren McFadden getting injured early on in the game. If Run DMC had’ve played the whole game, then maybe it would’ve been a different story. This is basically a reverse tip. Every time I’ve tipped the Chiefs since I started this blog, they’ve won. So I’m sticking to it.

Prediction: San Diego 28, Kansas City 20

Have a great week everyone and good luck to everyone except for the Denver Tebows and the Vikings!

Carolina Panthers (1-4) at Atlanta Falcons (2-3) Preview:

Almost. Almost, but not quite.

One or two plays is all it takes in the NFL. A couple of plays here and there and a young team could be 4-1 rather than 1-4. But that’s the difference between the good teams in this league and the rebuilding ones that are still developing their team.

Not quite good enough, not quite ripe enough is how you can describe the Carolina Panthers season to date. A young team, hanging in games but not quite there yet. Not experienced enough to close out those close games, to finish drives and to put teams away.

And while they’re 1-4, there’s hope. Little consolation to the Panthers players and fans, but after going 2-14 last season with a QB carousel and numerous big questions looming over this team, the way Cam Newton and new head coach Ron Rivera have breathed life back into the team and the city of Charlotte, is something that must not be taken lightly.

When Ron Rivera was first hired and he put together his staff, I was excited. My thoughts were, it would take a couple of off-season’s to get this team turned around, from a John Fox team to a Rivera team. Players have to shake what they know and inhale a whole new system, a new philosophy and way of playing football. The X’s & O’s are basically the same, but it’s the way the team carries itself, the mindset, along with the roster – getting that to Rivera’s liking that would take it’s time.

No need to look any further than my good friend, the Detroit Lions. Look at where they’ve come from. A couple of seasons under Jim Schwartz and some solid offseasons of free agency and drafting and they’re sitting at 5 & freakin’ 0. The Motown is dancin’ in the streets and for good reason. That gives me hope, that a team that was once 0-16 or a team that was 2-14 can turn it around and get back to being a great, consistently good football team that fans will want to come and see, each and every Sunday. It just takes time. The team needs to gel, become experienced so in the redzone, they can put up 6 instead of 3. In the 4th quarter, they can comeback from 14 down to win by a TD. Less penalties, less coaching errors.. better play all around. Sharper, smoother; a well oiled machine.

The Panthers aren’t there yet. They’ve shown signs of a young team that should be capable in the future. For the most part, they’ve done as well as can be expected with a rookie head coach, quarterback and a defense full of band-aid players. They’ve done well to revitalize veteran All-Pro wide receiver Steve Smith, forgotten for a couple of seasons, now once again relevant as one of the best WRs in the game. He was always good, he just needed help getting the ball delivered. The Panthers have done well to produce 2 solid DE’s who through 5 games, have 9 sacks combined. It’s like Peppers and Rucker on the edge again (which I love.. all starts in the trenches.) The middle of the line has been the problem, with 2 rookies starting and other serviceable guys rotating in there. The linebackers and secondary have been hit hard by injury and have held their own against top passing offenses like Green Bay & New Orleans, despite giving up chunks of yards. They’ve done well to stay in games, but once again.. not good enough. And don’t even get me started on special teams play this season. However, like all areas as the season progresses.. improvement is showing.

This week the Panthers take their fantasy football road show into rival Georgia, down the I-85. The Panthers hope to finally put a complete game together of offense, coaching, defense and special teams against a struggling 2-3 Atlanta Falcons team.

This game should be a fantastic game. 2 dangerous teams, the Falcons coming off a home loss against the Packers and the Panthers coming off another close loss against another division rival in the Saints. Realistically, the game could go either way. The arm wrestle could come down to a field goal, rather than a shootout. Both offenses may struggle, or both defenses may fail. Always an entertaining game, let’s break it down a little more closely:

The quarterback situation for both teams is intriguing. Matty “Ice” Ryan’s ice has melted into a pool of murky, smelly (typical for the area) watery goo this season. With the tag of being overrated around the league, Ryan has struggled immensely this season, already throwing 6 interceptions (tied for 4th in the NFL with Carolina’s Newton), throwing 196 times (3rd in the NFL behind Drew Brees & Tom Brady) and only completing only 61.2% of his throws. With a QB rating of 79.9, he’s been sacked 14 times (tied for 6th, along with Eli Manning & Phil Rivers) and only has 13 plays of over 20+ yards – most to receiver Roddy White, who is tied for 2rd in the NFL in receptions with 32. Overall, not exactly a balanced offense, with star RB Michael Turner only getting the call on 84 carries, for an average of 4.3ypc. The Falcons have put 104 (20.8, ranked 19th) points on the board against opponents this season, but have allowed 130 points (26ppg, ranked 24th.)  No doubt, the Falcons could’ve won a few more games had the offense clicked, had there not been some key injuries and had Roddy White’s hands not been made of stone. (See, game vs. Bucs, week 3.)

On the injury front, the Falcons will be missing veteran lineman Todd McClure and rookie WR Julio Jones who is due to miss with a jamstring injury. (Not a typo, will let you think about that one.) They’ll also be missing star defensive end John Abraham, who’s out with a knee injury and no doubt would have been a thorn for the rookie Cam Newton.

But so far, everything Newton has faced, every defense he has seen (some good ones, including Capers’ Packers D, Gregg Williams dirty Saints D & Del Rio’s D in Jacksonville) the rookie has taken in stride and won the battle numerous times, even if the war itself wasn’t won in the end. An impressive start and unheard of, the Panthers QB who is gaining a cult-like following not only in Carolina but all over the US, is playing well above his age and expectations. What’s even more impressive is despite his multiple 300 & 400 yard games, he just wants to play football & win.

This week, he’ll face a Falcon D that ranks 24th in yards allowed per game, a passing D that is allowing 294.2 yards passing per game (ranked 28th) and a rushing D that has given up an average of 89.2 yards per game on the ground (6th in the NFL). The key for the rookie will be to help establish the run, get the D playing the run so later in the game, the pass is opened up with the safeties playing closer to the line of scrimmage, because of the run.

No doubt Panthers offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski will want a balanced offense as we’ve seen (except for the first few games, in which the Panthers went pass-happy) to keep the Falcons guessing. The Panthers need to control the time of possession and convert on 3rd down – something they’ve been improving upon, but need to get better in. Drew Brees and the Saints last week, showed the Panthers first hand last week how you do it on 3rd down. Keep your D rested, tire the other D out and keep a guy like Matt Ryan and Michael Turner, cold on the bench. Basic football principals that just need to be executed.

Coming into this game, the Panthers offense has done a complete 180 degree turn, ranking 5th in the NFL with an average of 428.2 total offense per game, scoring 23.2 point a game, good for 15th in the NFL. Throwing to Smith, early and often while still establishing the running game is key for Carolina. Good things happen when you give your key players the touches and feeding Williams, Stewart, Smith & TE Greg Olsen early and often, should pay dividends for the Panthers, if their D can keep up with their offense.

Key matchups for Carolina in this game:

QB Cam Newton vs. Falcons defensive coordinator Brian Van Gorder

Going into this week 6 matchup, both QB’s have similar stats. Newton has shown great poise in the pocket as well as being able to make plays with his feet when he’s needed to. He’s passed for 1,610 yards so far – best for 4th in the NFL, on 194 attempts (completion percentage of 58.2) with a QB rating of 84.3 (ranking 15th in the league). Although he only has 7 TDs to go with his 6 interceptions, he’s also scored 5 TDs with his feet already. That will be a factor for the Falcons defense, and what kind of looks they’ll show. Do they keep a spy on him ala what the Panthers did in ’05 vs. Michael Vick, do they commit to the pass knowing they’re capable of stopping the run or do they force him to beat their D with his arm? If I were Newton, I’d be liking the challenge of trying to beat this D with his arm. Bring it on, throw it over CB Dunta Robinsons way and move the chains. Can Newton eclipse the 400 yard mark yet again? Although that would be awesome, if he has to throw it 35 times a game, that usually means the running game isn’t working which makes the offense one dimensional in which case, the Falcons suddenly have the advantage of knowing.

RB DeAngelo Williams/Jonathon Stewart vs. LB Curtis Lofton 

Only recently have the Panthers been able to get their running game on the move. Last week, DeAngelo Williams broke the century mark for the first time this season and scored on a 69 yard QB option play. The Panthers finally looked balanced, driving up and down the field in trying to keep up with Brees and the Saints. If the Panthers can have continued success on the ground and get chunks of yards on 1st and 2nd down, it’ll ease the load on rookie QB Newton and keep the Falcons off the field, so long as they can convert on 3rd down. And while most of the attention has been on Williams this week, Stewart is making his presence felt in other parts of the offense, having already had a 100 yard game earlier in the year; however, that 100 yard game was receiving yards. With Stewart the go-to back on passing downs in both pass-catching and blocking, the Panthers have a dual threat, not only on the ground but also in the passing game. Both backs can be elusive in the screen game and out in the flats, making life a little more difficult for the Falcons linebacking duo of Curtis Lofton and Sean Weatherspoon. Both LBs are having solid years and lead a Falcons D stout against the run. This week will be another big test, as the Panthers are just finding their feet in the running game and could potentially explode if not contained early on.

WR Steve Smith vs. CB Dunta Robinson

Other than Calvin Johnson & Wes Welker, no WR is hotter in the NFL right now. Smith has been given a legit QB to get the ball to him, with Smith 2nd in the NFL in receiving yards with 609 yards, with  27 receptions and 3 TDs to date. This week, he faces a prime matchup that favours the ever passionate Smith. CB Dunta Robinson has been thrown to 27 times with 21 completions and his partner in Brent Grimes, thrown to 26 times with 14 completions. No doubt, Smith will get doubled. If the run game can have success and the TE’s can get in the game early, look for that safety to worry less about Smith, leaving Smith one on one with Robinson or Grimes – a dangerous move if you’re Atlanta’s defensive coordinator Brian Van Gorder. Either way, Smith will be a factor as a target or a decoy.

DE Charles Johnson vs. OT Sam Baker

Charles Johnson has more than earned his big pay check that he earned this offseason. Going into week 6, he has a sack in every game (12 sacks in his last 12 games) & is a constant threat, pressuring and harassing quarterbacks. Along with the Panthers other starter at DE, Greg Hardy, the Panthers pass rush continues to improve. Look for the Panthers to have some more success against a shaky Falcons offensive line that has given up 14 sacks already this season. The Panthers D must be licking their chops, knowing what kind of success they could potentially have if they execute. Either a sack or some turnovers would suffice, just so long as QB Ryan stays off the field, along with his battered offensive line.  Look for a TE or a double team to possibly come over to Baker’s side to help seal the edge to give Ryan more time in the pocket to find his WRs downfield.

CB Chris Gamble vs. WR Roddy White

Looking at tape this week & watching some of the numerous drops Roddy White has had this season, Panthers CB Chris Gamble must be loving the thought of how good he might have it come Sunday. No doubt, the WR dropping a few here and there will make his life easier but at any time, White is a threat and could find his hands this week. Gamble still has to do his job and to date, has had an exceptional season shadowing some of the league’s best WRs. If he can shutdown White and keep Ryan’s target to TE Tony Gonzalez, that will help the Panthers D not have to worry about one less threat, as they’ll no doubt have their hands full with Gonzalez over the middle and RB Michael Turner churning out some solid yardage also, this season. The Panthers D ranks 15th in passing defense, giving up an average of 231 yards per game. If the Panthers can keep Ryan to 150-200 yards with a TD and a few turnovers, the offense should be able to take over and capitalize.

As the players take to the field for another divisional matchup in a few hours time, no doubt it will be a game added to the history between these 2 clubs. Coming into this week, the Falcons historically hold the edge over the Panthers with a 20-12 lead since Carolina came into the league in ’95. Both teams are looking to rebound, having a less than ideal start to the season, Carolina losing 3 straight now, the Falcons coming off a big loss against the Packers, it will be a fun game for Falcon & Panther fans alike.

The key to this game, what it all comes down to in the end is QB play – stating the obvious. Ryan has looked less than sharp; unable to make the plays he did in seasons past and the rookie sensation Cam Newton – an unknown to the Falcons, stealing the spotlight and looking to get the offense balanced, consistent and on their way to hopefully, their 2nd win of the year and the start of a streak.

Big plays are key for the Panthers. They’ve turned this offense around from a boring season last year to an explosive, high scoring offense this season, lead by Smith & Newton. If they can take advantage of the Falcons less than solid D, they’ll force Ryan to have to make plays with his arm, rather than have their O pound away with Turner which is what they’ll aim to do early. The Falcons O, will want to control the game with Turner and take advantage of the Panthers soft run D. The Panthers run D has been average, getting gashed for big yards in 4 out of the 5 games they’ve played. If Atlanta can keep their offense on the field and Cam Newton off the field, it’ll make things exceptionally hard for the Panthers to try and score with less plays. Playing from behind is the last thing Carolina needs right now.

Both teams would prefer to hold the ball, win the time of possession battle and keep their opposing offenses on the sidelines but one team. We should see a heavy dose of run early from both teams, maybe a few exchanges of punts and a real slog fest. I expect a lower scoring game for both teams, as both sides are evenly matched. It will be an arm wrestle, but in the end I see Carolina prevailing 24-17 with Newton throwing 2 TDs and DeAngelo Williams scoring on the other one. I expect a big day from Panthers WR Steve Smith and Falcons RB Michael Turner, but I expect Ryan to turn the ball over, helping the Panthers get a lead early and sitting on it, forcing the Falcons to win on the back of Ryan.

The 313 Things to Watch: NFL Week 4 Edition

Welcome to our 1st installment of what will be a weekly edition of “The 3-1-3 Things to Watch” feature. Every week, I’ll feature 7 “things to watch items.” Why 7? Because 3+1+3 = 7. Duh.

Week 4 in the NFL and we have 3 undefeated teams and 5 very, very defeated teams sitting at 0-3.

As usual, we’ll be watching our teams face off and hope for a W. But on a NFL-wide scale, here are some other notes and headlines that might be of interest to keep an eye on this weekend.

1. Can the Eagles offensive line keep Vick’s uniform crinkle-free?

After the game in week 3, Eagles QB Michael Vick, frustrated with being knocked around vs. the Giants, let it all out at the post-game press conference by “critiquing” the way the referees officiated the game, before later offering an apology of sorts to the officials and going back on what he said about getting hit after he’d released the ball. Either way, it’ll be interesting to see if the VP of Officiating Carl Johnson & his crew listened & if his offensive line mates took it upon themselves to make sure that no defender even got the chance for a late hit on Vick. Even though suffering a broken hand in the loss vs. the rival G-men, Vick plans to play. You can bet your house Reid will make sure there’s more protection there than a Presidential appearance at a Condom Expo in Mexico.

2. The Rivera Show Returns for revenge to Solider Field

While he might not say as much, former Bears defensive coordinator, now Panthers head coach  Ron Rivera had this game marked on the calendar as soon as the schedule was released. Rivera was fired from Chicago, although technically he was ‘not rehired’ by Bears head coach Smith in favour of linebackers coach Bob Babich, despite an outstanding unit that ranked as one of the best under Rivera. You can bet that Rivera will be more than ready to taste the sweet, sweet tears of Smith, as will Panthers tight end Greg Olsen who was traded by the Bears this offseason, after seeking a trade. Relationships were stretched and the Panthers have benefited from the move with OIsen becoming one of rookie QB Cam Newton’s primary targets in offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski’s offense. With both the Panthers and Bears standing at 1-2, this game is vital to each team’s season. (Heading into week 5 is a lot easier at 2-2 than 1-3, as Captain Obvious points out.)

3. Can Roddy White overcome his stone hands vs. the Hawks?

Going into week 4, Atlanta Falcons receiver Roddy White leads the NFL in dropped passes with 4, including a huge late, game-changing drop vs. the Bucs in week 3. QB Matt Ryan found White and would’ve had a clear path to the endzone had his hands not been made of brick. While White is known as one of the better WRs in the NFL, he certainly needs to work on the one stat that will keep him from being a great receiver. Although he led the NFL in receptions last season with 115, he only dropped 3 passes. Can he rebound vs. the Seahawks? There should be plenty of opportunities for himself and Ryan to make some plays, it’s just a matter of if he can hang onto the ball long enough to complete those plays. Week 4 is the perfect time for White to turn things around.

 4. Can the Pats D do a 180 degree turn and match their offence?

In week 1 action vs. Miami, QB Tom Brady (with his long locks flowing in the wind) threw for 517 yards and 4 TDs, including the memorable 99 yard TD pass to Wes Welker. Week 2, he threw for 423 in another W. Then came Buffalo. With Brady leading his team 21-10 into halftime, it all was looking like a 3-0 start for the Patriots. Then came the halftime adjustments from Buffalo and the major LOLFAIL from the Patriots D. There are major problems with the Pats D, no doubt. To date, they’re giving up 468.7 yards per game. All you had to do was listen to Boston sports talk back radio after the game last week to know that the hot topic was defence (& Tom Brady’s luscious hair. Meow). Enter, the Oakland Raiders. The Raiders are looking rejuvenated under Hue Jackson, with Darren McFadden leading the NFL in rushing after 3 weeks. How will Bill Belichick contain Run DMC when the Pats D missed some big opportunities in wrapping up Bills RB Fred Jackson, late in the 4th quarter last week. It’s concerning, and it’s just one of the many questions in this game including, how will former Pats Super Bowl winning defensive lineman Richard Seymour play going against his old team for the first time since getting traded? Another question is, who will get more TDs and touches? Welker or Run DMC? Either way, it’s an underrated matchup worth checking out in week 4.

5. Romo’s Ribs: Meet Ndamukong Suh

I can just see it now. Romo drops back (with one of the few non-fumbled snaps) and as he plants his foot, he scans the field. As he looks, completely unaware, Lions defensive tackle and man beast Ndamukong Suh has beaten his man. Boom. Romo is down, Suh lays a vicious hit that we’ve all seen before and all that is left is Romo laying on the turf yelling, ” NN DAM U KONG!” (Had to do it, I’m sorry.) Anyway, last week it was DeAngelo Hall talking trash about Romo’s ribs. This week, Suh has been quoted as saying, “That’s not my style. If I’m coming in from that side and I accidentally hit it, then so be it. That’s not my problem. That’s not my issue to deal with. I’m going to continue to play. I’m not planning on putting my helmet in his ribs or anything of that sort. I’m going to go after the ball. The ball is the most important. That’s the only thing that can really hurt you.” Suh is licking his chops, even if it is to get into the head of centre Phil Costa & QB Tony Romo to cause a few miscues. No doubt, it’s a matchup to watch for and a game that is definitely game of the week. The Lions face their toughest test yet (you can read Ash’s write up on the game here) and no doubt, it will be a game that will answer a lot of questions for both teams.

6. The Jared Allen Bowl

What a game. Two 0-3 teams going head to head, Jared Allen facing off against the team that traded him.. will the Vikings blow ANOTHER halftime lead? Talk about must-watch-TV. In all seriousness, something has to give this weekend, for one of these 2 teams. Both 0-3, both having 2 very different seasons so far. During the week, Chiefs WR Dwayne Bowe blamed the shortened preseason for the Chiefs start slow start. (Read here, via Yahoo Sports’ Doug Farrar.) He could’ve put it on injuries, but put it down to “lack of timing”. Ok Dwayne. We’ll just see if the defending AFC West champs figure out a way to get things moving, finally. With the Vikings coming to town however, that train might take a little longer to depart, especially with the Cowboy himself bearing down on QB Matt Cassel, trying to once again show the Chief’s Clark Hunt and then GM Carl Peterson, what a mistake they made when he traded Allen back in the offseason of 2008.

 7. Ryan faces off against the Purple Machine he built

I could probably put a few other items here. Curtis Painter facing off against the Bucs on MNF. Ryan Fitzpatrick going against his former team the Bengals after 3 fantastic wins. Or even asking the question of why several RBs in this league have gone MIA. But instead, I’ll choose to focus on a great matchup. The overrated Jets and their head coach Rex Ryan travel to Baltimore for the 1st time since Ryan landed the head gig in NY. This will be a game worth watching featuring 2 teams who are emotional and highly physical; funnily enough, 2 characteristics of Ryan. There will be a lot of grudges facing off in this game. Rex Ryan, Jets defensive coordinator Mike Pettine, Bart Scott, Jim Leonhard and recently, Derrick Mason are all former Ravens who wouldn’t mind a nice bit of payback in their former home stadium. But it’s not just the Ravens D and all the familiar faces that will be playing, that will be a key to watch this week. The Ravens offense has exploded in 2011, with Joe Flacco throwing a career best 389 yards vs. St Louis last week in a 37-7 trouncing, thanks to a little help from new fantasy waiver-wire pickup Torrey Smith. Smith is a legit concern for the Jets D.  If he consumes the coverage of Revis Island, it can potentially leave some other opportunities open for Flacco to expose Ryan’s current D that he’s created in New York. You can bet that when this game is all said and done, it will be bittersweet for a few players and leave a bad taste in a few others.

So that’s it for this week’s edition.. our first edition. Remember to keep an eye on these few story lines during this fine Sunday afternoon of pigskin watchin.’ Until next week, good luck and enjoy.

Panthers LB Davis Not Planning On Retirement Just Yet

Per the National Football Post, Carolina Panthers linebacker Thomas Davis has said that he’s not done yet in the NFL.

“”And for those of you who have asked, NO way am I going to retire.” 

 

“Met with Dr. Andrews today. He doesn’t see a reason why I wont be able to play next season. Having surgery in the a.m.”

 

-Thomas Davis, via his twitter account.

Davis is scheduled to go under the knife on his right knee for the 3rd straight season after tearing his ACL in week 2 action vs. the Green Bay Packers in the Panthers home opener.

Just a week after seeing team mate and the heart and soul of the Panthers defence, linebacker Jon Beason go down with a torn Achilles in the season opener at Arizona, Davis is standing his ground and plans to go through the rehabilitation process and line up for the 2012-13 NFL season.

But the team that Davis will be lining up for, remains the biggest question of all, after the question of whether or not he can come back and stay healthy – the biggest concern for Carolina.

Davis, 28, recently signed a 5 year, $36.5 million dollar contract extension this offseason however, the Panthers protected themselves with an $8 million signing bonus guarantee – if such a thing were to happen again. They can cut ties with Davis in 2012 by not exercising the bonus on the third day of the next league year. The alleged five-year deal was actually a one-year, $8 million deal. The Panthers are most likely to release Davis unless a re-worked contract can be agreed upon and some insurance and linebacker is brought in. In that case, the starting job at weak side linebacker will be one position to watch coming into next season’s training camp.

On the field and when healthy, Davis can be game changing. He was having a Pro Bowl year in 2009-10 before injuring his knee for the first time. A former safety drafted out of Georgia, he made a name for himself in his rookie season when former Panthers head coach used Davis in a “spy” role on the Falcons QB, Michael Vick. The Panthers went onto contain Vick and win the game, Davis and the defence being the main reason why. After playing one season at safety, Davis made the move to linebacker the following season and has been a phenomenal, ever-improving player and fan favorite ever since.

Source:

http://www.nationalfootballpost.com/Thomas-Davis-says-hes-not-retiring-after-3rd-ACL-replacement.html