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NFL 2014-15 Season Week 14 Recap and Week 15 Picks

December 11, 2014 By: Category: NFL | NCAA Football, Sports

  • All the years that Jeff Fisher was with the Tennessee Titans I never recalled him twisting the knife the way he did this past Sunday against the Redskins. 2 years ago the Redskins mortgaged their present and future to trade up and take Robert Griffin III with the 2nd overall pick. These trades very rarely, if ever, work out. I can remember when Mike Ditka traded 8 or 9 picks for Ricky Williams when he was coming out of Texas in the late 90’s. Tsk, Tsk, Tsk…..and people still think 1 man is greater than 6? I can almost guarantee if someone was crazy enough to call Bill Belichick and offer him 7 draft picks for Tom Brady, that he would assuredly take that offer. If I had the number one pick, 10/10 times if someone wanted to trade with me to get it and they were as insane as the Raiders, Mike Ditka or Dan Snyder and offered a gold mine, I would never turn it down.

When the Rams took the field for the coin toss this past weekend and Fisher sent out all 6 draft picks the Rams made thanks to the RG3 trade to be captains for the game. I don’t know what provoked this action out of Fisher but man, ever hear about not kicking a man when he is down? The Redskins are one of the worst disasters in recent memory. When the Lions went 0-16 years ago, THEY had a brighter future than what the Skins do now. Regardless of your feelings about what Fisher did, it sure did fire up his team and they posted their second straight shutout. Although the playoffs seem like stretch for the 6-7 Rams they continue to impress.

  • Do you hear that? Listen closely….It is the sound of Johnny Manziel rallying the Cleveland Browns and sending them into the playoffs. Don’t confuse my optimism with thinking Manziel can be a future great or a Hall of Famer. I’m not worried about his size or “ability to take an NFL hit.” The Browns have been abysmal on offense for the last few games and it was amazing that they won any of them and didn’t lose them all. Manziel will guaranteed give them a spark they need and even if they don’t win, they sure will be more entertaining than they have been. The Browns should have made this move last week and not stuck with Hoyer. They wasted one of their season’s best defensive efforts and were poised to beat the Colts but Hoyer messed it up with his terrible inaccuracy and turnovers. I laugh when I think that just a few weeks ago the stories were rampant that Hoyer was going to sign a “big money” contract and rumors of what the Browns will get for Manziel in a trade were wild throughout the NFL. Regardless of how Manziel and the Browns finish the season, Hoyer is done and gone from Cleveland. Manziel is the future for this team (for at least next season).

Recap of picks from Week 14:

Bold Prediction from Week 14: Buccaneers over the Lions. –WRONG – C’mon Tampa! Geez, I didn’t ask you to upset the Patriots or Packers this week.

Guaranteed Lock from Week 14: Bengals over the Steelers. –WRONG- I continue to talk myself into picking the Bengals for these big games and they repeatedly let down EVERYBODY. They are just not a “big time” team. They have no problems beating the lowly bottom feeders but with a real chance to put the division lead out there, they dropped the ball big time.

Week 15 picks:

Bold Prediction for Week 15: Bills over the Packers. I’m painted into a corner this week as either all the games are scrubs against scrubs or elite vs elite. To be honest I would not be stunned if the Bills can pull this off. It’s in Buffalo and Green Bay has proven that any other stadium is their kryptonite. Everybody stumbles and they almost did Monday Night against the Falcons. Let’s do it Buffalo!

Guaranteed Lock for Week 15: 49ers over the Seahawks. Does Colin Kaepernick’s apparent regression scare me? No. Does the fact that Jim Harbaugh is guaranteed to not be in San Francisco next year scare me? No. The game is in Seattle? Whatever. I still believe in the 49ers to make some noise down the stretch and they will not go out quietly.

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NFL 2014-15 Season Q3 Report and Week 14 Picks

December 03, 2014 By: Category: NFL | NCAA Football, Sports

Bold Prediction from Week 13: Falcons over the Cardinals. – RIGHT – Too easy, too easy. The Cardinals are starting a very slow crumble since Carson Palmer was injured. They are in a much different mental state then they were when the season began. When they were winning to begin the season without Palmer there was always knowledge that he was coming back. “Hey we are this good now, wait until we get our franchise QB back” was the feeling around the locker-room. Now, that knowledge and safety net of Palmer is gone. Missing something that you know is not coming back is much harder than missing something that you know will eventually return.

Guaranteed Lock from Week 13: Eagles over the Cowboys. –RIGHT – The “Sanchize” lives to play another day! Nick Foles’ who?! Big win for the Eagles on Turkey day.

Counting my Week 13 predictions I am 7-4 in my bold and 7-4 in my guaranteed locks for the season. You can send me any financial gains you have made to my PO Box at seasons end.

3rd Quarter Award for Best team: Green Bay Packers (9-3). The potential preview of the Superbowl was a great game and the reason why I put Green Bay as the best team in the NFL. Aaron Rodgers is hands down the best QB right now in football and this team can win in any condition. I might be a little concerned with a neutral site matchup against the Broncos or Patriots but Green Bay already proved it once winning a Superbowl a few years ago in Dallas. (Runner up award: New England Patriots)

3rd Quarter Award for Worst Team: New York Jets (2-10). I have made no secret about how awful this team is from the top of the organization to the bottom. This team will guaranteed go through a complete overhaul in the offseason and will be off the playoff radar for the next 3-4 years. I weighed putting the Tennessee Titans into this slot but the emergence of Zach Mettenberger as a seemingly viable NFL Quarterback places them just behind the Jets in race for the worst team. (Runner up award: Tennessee Titans)

Surprise 3rd Quarter Award for a team: Cleveland Browns (7-5). I have waited long and patiently enough but the Browns have finally earned my recognition for one hell of a season. They are 1 win away from guaranteeing a non-losing season for the first time in years. I know they are in the midst of a mid-season QB controversy but they are very much alive and fighting for the AFC North crown. Ultimately if they do make the playoffs I have little faith in them making anything happen but it would still be a giant step in the right direction for this franchise. Even though the Bengals currently have the lead in the division, anyone of the teams involved could win. (Runner up award: All the teams in the NFC South who are about to win the Division with a sub .500 record)

3rd Quarter NFL MVP: Aaron Rodgers, QB, Green Bay Packers AND Tom Brady, QB, New England Patriots– At this point in the season I am looking at the first tie for MVP since Steve McNair and Peyton Manning tied back in 2003/2004 season. Top to bottom, Brady and Rodgers are near identical…..to include them both wearing #12 (I’m sure by now you have heard Bill Belichick’s GOLDEN comment for that one). The one category that Rodgers has on Brady is the interceptions but even then we are arguing 3 vs 6. Kudos to these guys for knocking DeMarco Murray off my MVP perch (who held the top spot for most of the year). Barring a statistical downfall from one of these two guys, I can easily see the award going to them both.

3rd Quarter Defensive MVP: JJ Watt, DE, Houston Texans – 5th in the League in Sacks (11.5), 2 defensive TD’s this season, 3 forced fumble, 5 fumble recoveries and 8 passes defensed. – Watt is guaranteed the Defensive MVP award even if he is unable to finish the season or the Texans miss the playoffs (hell Watt won it last year on the same 2 win team). I do like Justin Houston from the Chiefs (current league sack leader) but Watt literally makes every play happen for him. Houston is more of a system pass rusher (for a mental visual, compare his talents to Clay Matthews where I would compare Terrell Suggs to JJ Watt) where it doesn’t matter if you put Watt at the DT, Left or Right End or anywhere else, he is so freakishly talented that he can dominate.

What to expect for the Final Quarter of the season:

  • I mentioned above that one of the biggest storylines I have my eye on is the Cleveland Browns and their Quarterback situation. Early today it was confirmed that Brian Hoyer will get one more chance against Indianapolis on Sunday. I fully expect him to be on a short leash especially since Manziel did come in and was effective, but not effective enough to fully take the job away. Cleveland has to strike now that the iron is hot and literally anyone can win the AFC North. I personally would have went with Manziel as the Browns will go down early verse the Colts and Hoyer just doesn’t have the explosive play capability to surge the Browns back. If Cleveland loses on Sunday you can be assured that Manziel is in the following week.
  • I mentioned in my midseason report that I thought the Cowboys and Seahawks would choke the most coming down the stretch and I will stand by my statement. I know Seattle has turned it on as of late in back to back Division beat downs but I just expect them to falter towards the very end. They have a very tough road to finish the season against the Eagles, 49ers, Cardinals and Rams to round out this year’s campaign. For the Cowboys, the writing is becoming clearer on the wall. They are reforming back to the Cowboys of old and are not completing games from start to finish. They benefit from an easier schedule with 2 of their last 4 against inferior teams (Bears and Redskins) and have tougher games against the Colts and Eagles.

Bold Prediction for Week 14: Buccaneers over the Lions. Similar to my Cowboys and Browns theories, the Lions will always be the Lions until proven different. Just when you expect them to waltz to 9-4, Tampa Bay will have something to say in the upset win.

Guaranteed Lock for Week 14: Bengals over the Steelers. Time to put the 2014 Pittsburgh Steelers to bed. They looked dominant weeks ago and the sexy pick for an underdog Superbowl win but since the gears have fallen off. Now, there are strong rumors that Ben is injured (stop me if you haven’t heard this before) walking into a must win game for them. I like Cincinnati to derail the Steelers and send them to their 3rd straight off season without a playoff birth.

 

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NFL 2012-13 Divisional Playoffs Review & Commentary

January 15, 2013 By: Category: NFL | NCAA Football, Sports

Well, my readers, the NFL Divisional round games for the 2012-13 post season are in the books. The weekend’s games were much better than the previous weekend’s Wild Card games by a mile. There were a lot of great plays, and the games were pretty high scoring games. Of course, there as a little drama as well.

I watched the games on Saturday, January 12, between the Denver Broncos vs the Baltimore Ravens, and the San Fransisco 49ers vs the Green Bay Packers in their entirety. On Sunday, January 13, however, due to illness, I only was able to watch the first quarter of the game Atlanta Falcons vs the Seattle Seahawks, and the last 5 minutes of the New England Patriots vs the Houston Texans.

That being said, I saw enough of the highlights of both the Falcons and the Patriots games to make this particular blog a general commentary on the weekend’s games, instead of an in depth analysis. I hope that my readers will forgive me, and will enjoy this commentary instead.

Before I get started, I am going to admit that the NFL games in the post season are harder to pick than in the regular season. Last week, I was 2-2. This week, I really swung and missed. I went 1-3. I think the sports gods are telling me to stick with picking the horses.

Let’s start this commentary by going over the results. In the Saturday games, the Baltimore Ravens pulled a stunning upset of the favored Denver Broncos in double OT by a score of 38-35, and the San Fransisco 49ers defeated the Green Bay Packers by a score of 45-31.

On Sunday, the Atlanta Falcons finally won their first playoff game in the Head Coach Mike Smith/ QB Matt Ryan era, when they just squeaked by the Seattle Seahawks by a 30-28 score, and the New England Patriots once again defeated the Houston Texans resoundingly by a score of 41-28.

As a result of these games, in the NFC Championship Game, the Atlanta Falcons will host the San Fransisco 49ers, and in the AFC Championship Game, the New England Patriots will host the Baltimore Ravens. The Championship Games will be aired Sunday, January 20, 2013. The winners of each game will advance to the Super Bowl in New Orleans on February 3, 2013.

Let’s start with the Denver/Baltimore game. I am not a fan of either team, especially the Baltimore Ravens. However, I feel as a journalist, I have to give credit where credit is due, and praise Ravens QB Joe Flacco. Flacco played a wonderful game, especially with his deep ball. He and his receivers, Jacoby Jones, and Torrey Smith had amazing chemistry. Flacco really is coming into his own as an awesome QB. Ray Rice, RB out of my alma mater Rutgers University, had a solid game as well.

The Baltimore Defense and Special Teams gave up 35 points, but they did not give up. They did make plays when it counted the most. Retiring LB Ray Lewis had 17 tackles in the game. The pass rush was lacking a good part of the game, but they eventually did get to Broncos QB Peyton Manning, sacking him, and causing a fumble. They also got him to throw a game killer INT.

As for Denver, I have to just say congratulations on a good season. However, John Fox had me shaking my head. He must come from the Marty Schottenheimer school of “play not to lose.” There is also a reason why Jack Del Rio, the defensive coordinator, is not a head coach anymore either. I mean, that Broncos defense that was ranked 5th in the NFL, and was touted by the talking heads as being so tough never showed up.

I mean, what happened to the secondary? People say Ray Lewis is “old.” I am no fan of Ray Lewis, but why are people saying Champ Bailey (who is no spring chicken) just had a bad game? Do people watch the games? Bailey showed the whole world that he got blasted by those Ravens receivers. Bailey was showing his age. So far in the playoffs, Ray Lewis has 30 tackles. I can’t believe I am defending Ray Lewis, but people have to stop giving certain players passes.

What happened to the vaunted Von Miller, and Elvis Dumervil, while we are talking about the Denver defense? I hardly heard their names. That defense as a whole was awful in the game. Luckily for Denver, they got 14 points from the special teams unit, and 21 points from the offensive side, or this loss would have been horrid.

Back to Fox, what was up with the play calling? You had two time outs with 30 seconds on the clock at the end of regulation, and you don’t let Peyton Manning chuck it down field for at least a shot at a field goal? That was just crazy. The clock management was awful.

As for Peyton, two picks, and the second one that he threw across his body, that was awful. Peyton looked alright out there. However, on that second pick, he should know more than anyone not to throw that. However, he again is one and done. I don’t know if the cold affected his arm or what, but he is now 9-11 in playoffs.

The 49ers/Green Bay game was awesome. I think that Colin Kaepernick grew up, and became a star right in front of our eyes. I missed part of the game due to watching the Ravens/Broncos game, but I found out about Colin’s pick six. However, it didn’t faze him, and he led the team to a TD, and the rest was history.

Kaepernick has great chemistry with WR Michael Crabtree. The two work well together. No, I am NOT going to call them Montana-Rice just yet, but the tandem is one to watch. Kaepernick is very judicious with the ball. He doesn’t take off running, and seems to know when to run. He also doesn’t run where he risks getting hurt.

The Packers on the other hand, appeared to be out of sorts. The offensive line has to be dealt with. Aaron Rodgers, as good a QB as he is, can not keep taking these beatings. The Packer organization needs to draft offensive line.

The whole team seemed to be puzzled on how to stop the 49ers from scoring, and on how to score against them. Rodgers made some ill advised throws that he usually doesn’t make. The Packers defense, as much as several members are touted by the media, were just gashed by the 49ers’ offense.

I never would have thought that the Packers, two post seasons in a row, would be blown out. On the other hand, the 49ers were just beasts.

Well, if there is any consolation to Packers fans, the Atlanta Falcons defeated the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday. I saw the first quarter of this game before becoming ill, but I saw enough of the replays to make a comment.

Even though I am not a fan of either team, I am happy for Tony Gonzalez, who’s the main TE for the Falcons. He has been a great player for so long, and he has finally won a playoff game. Gonzalez is also considered a great person off the field as well.

That being said, even though the Falcons won their first play off game under Head Coach Mike Smith and under QB Matt Ryan, how it all happened made me still a little hesitant to totally buy in. In the first quarter, they started well against Seattle, building a 10-0 lead. Yes, Seattle’s CB Richard Sherman made some plays.

Now, even though the team won 30-28, some things bothered me on both sides. Going into the 4th quarter, the Falcons were up 28-7. I understand that there is a lot of pressure to win their first playoff game. I get that. However, what I question was the Falcon’s organization’s mental toughness. They started to get tight, and Seattle came back, and got a lead of 28-27 for about 15 seconds when Matt Ryan made some throws, and got the team into kicker Matt Bryant’s field goal range.

Here is where it gets crazy for the Seahawks, on the first FG attempt which Bryant wound up missing, Seahawks coach Pete Carroll called timeout to “ice” the kicker. Well, that wound up being a mistake because on the second try, Bryant made it, giving the Falcons a 30-28 lead.

The Falcons win after the Seahawks recover the on side kick, and QB Russell Wilson throws a Hail Mary, but Falcons WR Julio Jones catches it.

The Falcons survived a huge scare. How does a team allow another to come back on them like that. Always keep the pedal to the metal. Don’t worry about people saying it’s “running up the score.” The other team has a defense, it’s their job to stop you.

The last game between the New England and the Houston Texans was pretty much what I expected as far as the outcome. This was the only game that I picked correctly. Thank you Tom Brady, Bill Belichick, and the gang. At least I got one right the whole weekend.

Congratulations to Tom Brady for passing Joe Montana for the most playoff wins. Brady now has 17, and Montana had 16.

We all know about Brady’s greatness, and that he had terrific stats in the game, so I don’t have to go over that. However, on the other side of the ball, I don’t know what to do with Matt Schaub of the Texans. He is a good, solid QB. I don’t know if I would label him “elite.” Right at the kickoff, Texans Daniel Manning ran a 94 yard return, only to be caught by FS Devon McCourty. Instead of punching it in for a TD, on the replay, I could see Schaub was skittish in the pocket, and threw the ball into the stands, and the Texans settle for 3 points.

The Patriots just dominated the Texans on both sides of the ball, despite the slow start. Unfortunately, Danny Woodhead injured his thumb, and Rob Gronkowski re-broke his arm. Woodhead is expected to play in the AFC Championship game, but Gronkowski is going to need surgery, and will miss the playoffs. However, the team seemed to be able to make the adjustments.

The Texans may have to look into getting more explosive players on offense, and defense. LB Brian Cushing’s injury hurt the team on defense. The team needs more offense besides Foster and Johnson.

As I said previously, the Patriots will face the Ravens for the AFC Championship Game. This will be the first time since Denver and Cleveland, when two teams have faced each other in the AFC Championship game back to back.

Well, that is my commentary. I hope you enjoyed it.

Terri Bey currently blogs for CamelClutchBlog.com about Wrestling, NFL, and other sports/pop culture related subjects. Her work has appeared in BleacherReport and for F4WOnline.com. Terri can be found here at Facebook- http://www.facebook.com/TerriBey and at Twitter- http://www.twitter.com/giopontifan

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NFL Divisional Playoffs Thoughts & Recap – Inside The Wheelhouse

January 14, 2013 By: Category: NFL | NCAA Football, Sports

Let’s take a look back at some of the things that stood out from the Divisional Round in the National Football League playoffs!

– I had my doubts about the Baltimore Ravens but it certainly appears that they are “peaking” just at the right time heading into the AFC Championship Game this week. Joe Flacco really stepped up for the offense when the defense needed his help against Denver and is flashing signs of him being a top NFL quarterback. There is still a lot of work to be done but for Flacco to carry the offense the way he did versus Denver will be a career highlight. Now he needs to finally get that AFC Championship Game victory.

- Disappointing “one and done” exit for the #1 seed Denver Broncos in the Divisional Round. I was skeptical about this team based off of their weak schedule at first but eventually hopped on the bandwagon when they were playing flawlessly to end the season. For a team that is supposed to have an amazing defense their secondary failed Denver all game long against Baltimore. It was a tough break for the Broncos and of course Peyton Manning as they had this victory within their grasps.

– In case you had forgotten, the San Francisco 49ers proved once again that they are one of the best all-around NFL teams in the game today. Offensively they have really improved with Colin Kaepernick under center and their defense is always “rock-solid” for them. From an NFC perspective I always felt like this was the team to beat in 2012, as they are a very hard to defeat simply because this team adapts very well to their opponent.

– Another season, another NFC Divisional round exit for the Green Bay Packers in consecutive years. They looked very strong in the 1st half but their defense was unable to make adjustments in the 2nd half to contain Colin Kaepernick and the explosive Niners offense. This team is always on the brink of being considered “Super Bowl contenders” but it appears that in consecutive year’s at-least that their defense just isn’t getting the job done. I’m interested to see how Ted Thompson and the Packers front-office continue to address their defensive issues (and running game issues) in the offseason.

– For a #1 seed the Atlanta Falcons needed this victory pretty badly. Throughout Matt Ryan’s career we have questioned whether or not Ryan can get it done or not. He finally did this past Sunday and got that playoff victory he has been looking for. Now with the playoff victory in his rearview we now will see whether or not the momentum can carry over versus San Francisco in the NFC Championship Game.

– Tremendous season for the Seattle Seahawks this year. They made a lot of people, including yours truly, into believers and have nothing to hang their head on. While they may have not achieved their ultimate goal of being Super Bowl Champions completed, I really like this team heading into next year. I look forward to seeing what Russell Wilson and the Seahawks can do in the 2013 season.

– New England continues to prove that they will be the “old dog” of the AFC until further notice. This team played great on both sides of the ball and they are looking like a more complete team then they were last year, when they made it to the Super Bowl. The Patriots didn’t make mistakes in this game and looked simply flawless against the Texans. They will once again have a chance to play in the Super Bowl next week.

– Another season of disappointment for the Houston Texans as the window of success maybe closing for this team right now. Many of us, including myself, have waited for this team to put it together and make the Super Bowl but they continue to fall short the last two seasons. I really believe a lot of that falls on the shoulders of quarterback Matt Schaub who simply does not look like a “big game” QB in these very important games.

For more NFL talk join Bower, Chris Johnson and myself Monday – Friday throughout the Football season on 97.9 ESPN in Hartford, ESPN 1300 in New Haven and online at 979espn.com!

You can listen to Jeff on “The Bower Show” every Monday – Friday from 3pm – 7pm ET on 97.9 ESPN in Hartford, CT. You can listen online at www.979espn.com

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NFL 2012-13 Divisional round picks & preview

January 11, 2013 By: Category: NFL | NCAA Football, Sports

Well, last week’s playoffs games gave NFL fans a couple of things. One was a huge reason to NOT expand the playoffs to more teams. I mean, with the exception of that Green Bay/Vikings game, the quality of the other three ranked from horrid to barely passable.

The other thing NFL fans got was a lot of drama, from Ray Lewis’s drawn out retirement to the debate over whether Robert Griffin III should have stayed in the game due to his knee being in poor condition. I just hope that Griffin’s career is not compromised, and the upcoming games this weekend are a lot better.

That being said, let’s examine this weekend’s games. These are the Divisional Round Games. The winners advance to their respective conference’s Championship Game. On the NFC side, it is the Green Bay Packers taking on the San Fransisco 49er’s on Saturday, and the Seattle Seahawks taking on the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday. For the AFC, on Saturday, the Baltimore Ravens try to take down the Denver Broncos, and on Sunday, it’s a re-match between the Houston Texans and the New England Patriots.

These games at a glance should be a lot better, as far as quality. Packers/49ers should be awesome, and the re-match between the Texans and the Patriots should be really intriguing.

Well, I went 2-2 last week. I hope to do better this time around, so here are my picks for the Divisional Round of the 2012-13 playoffs.

AFC Divisional Round Playoff Game
Saturday, January 12, 2013 at Sports Authority Field at Mile High in Denver, CO
Time: 4:30pm
CBS

(4) The Baltimore Ravens at (1) The Denver Broncos

The Ravens are flying into Denver, and have to deal with that altitude, and that Denver defense. They also have to deal with a one Peyton Manning. I admit that Ray Lewis has lifted the Ravens up before, and the team has the mighty Ed Reed on defense. However, I just do not see Joe Flacco out-dueling Peyton Manning in this game.

I did a little research and discovered that Peyton Manning has a 9-2 win-loss record over the Ravens. Most of the time, he wins against the Ravens. I don’t see a different result here either, even with the bye week. Unless a miracle happens, I think it is safe to say that Ray Lewis’s 17 year career ends in Denver.
Bye Bye Birdies.

Prediction: Broncos 35 Ravens 10

NFC Divisional Round Playoffs
Saturday, January 12, 2013 at Candlestick Park in San Fransisco
Time: 8:00pm
FOX

(3) The Green Bay Packers at (2) The San Fransisco 49ers

This game should be awesome. The Packers are rounding into form when they won SB45, and they are facing a 49ers team with a very good QB in Colin Kaepernick. The 49ers beat the Packers earlier this year in Lambeau, so we will see what happens at Candlestick Park.

This game has been hard for me to call. The 49ers have been without the services of Justin Smith, one of their main defensive players. Smith suffered a triceps tear in the Patriots game. He will be in this game, but the team will pull him out if he is ineffective.

I think the Packers come in and beat the 49ers, because Rodgers is just outstanding, and Charles Woodson is back as DB. Clay Matthews seems to be over his hamstring issues. I just don’t think the 49ers can hold off the Packers in this game.

Prediction: Packers 30 49ers 20

NFC Divisional Round Playoffs
Sunday, January 13, 2013 at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta, Georgia
Time: 1:00pm
FOX

(5) The Seattle Seahawks at (1) The Atlanta Falcons

Well, here is the game that I am having a hard time calling as well. Last week, I really thought the Redskins had a chance to knock off the Seahawks, as the Seahawks were not that good of a road team. However, the Seahawks won, and once again, the Seahawks have to fly back to the East Coast to face the #1 seeded Atlanta Falcons for a 1pm game.

Can the Seahawks do it again with their rookie QB Russell Wilson leading them? Can the Seahawks defense be as effective without the services of their best defensive player, DE Chris Clemons, who tore his ACL and meniscus in the Wild Card game against the Redskins? Can the team overcome the traveling to the East coast a second week in a row?

For the Falcons, QB Matt Ryan and his flock started the season red hot. However, they have been hot and cold later on in the season. The Seahawks are probably the worst team the Falcons could have drawn as far as match-ups.

Can the Falcons overcome that pass rush and secondary of the Seahawks? As the Falcons were the #1 seed in 2010, but got destroyed by the Green Bay Packers, can the team overcome the pressure of being the #1 seed, and finally win a playoff game to quiet their critics?

Prediction: Seahawks 28 Atlanta 21

AFC Division Round Playoffs
Sunday, January 13, 2013 at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Massachusetts
Time: 4:30pm
CBS

(3) The Houston Texans at (2) The New England Patriots

This is a rematch from earlier in the regular season when the Patriots just slapped the Texans silly by a score of 42-14. This was the game where Texans WR Andre Johnson said that it was the team’s “biggest game in their history,” and the team walked into Gillette wearing those Letterman jackets. Of course, the Patriots showed those Texans that the Patriots were there for business.

As most NFL fans have seen, the Texans have not been the same since. The team eventually lost their presumed hold on the #1 seed, and fell to the #3 seed. In the Wild Card round, they barely got by the Cincinnati Bengals. That earned the Texans a trip to the #2 seed, the New England Patriots.

When asked about the rematch, there was some interesting comments coming from two of the Texans most high profiled players. When asked about the blowout, RB Arian Foster said, “We owe them one.” Later, QB Matt Schaub said, “We will give them all they can handle.” Of course, from Foxborough, the Patriots gave their usual buttoned up comments about the playoffs, and were being overly complimentary of the Texans as usual.

I expect this game to be closer, as far as the score. Judging from the Wild Card game, the Texans, even though they were offensively moving the ball well, they were getting mostly field goals. Their defense kept that team in the game.

However, that game should have been a blowout. QB Matt Schaub better worry about his own playing, because he still has not shown me that he could go toe to to with the likes of Tom Brady.

On the Patriots side, that offensive line must protect Brady, and keep an eye out for that J.J. Watt. They have to neutralize him like last game. Of course, the Patriots have done very well against defenses run by Wade Phillips, the defensive coordinator of the Texans. One other thing to note is that the key players that the Patriots did not have in the first game, they have now. They are Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski.

Patriots Defense must not give up the big plays, especially that play action that the Texans offense likes to do. They have to contain Arian Foster, and look out for that Owen Daniels. Pretty much overall, the defense has to make sure the Texans do not get a good sized lead as the Texans are built to be frontrunners.

Prediction: Patriots 35 Texans 21

I hope you have enjoyed this article. I hope that I have done better this time.

Terri Bey currently blogs for CamelClutchBlog.com about Wrestling, NFL, and other sports/pop culture related subjects. Her work has appeared in BleacherReport and for F4WOnline.com. Terri can be found here at Facebook- http://www.facebook.com/TerriBey and at Twitter- http://www.twitter.com/giopontifan

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NFL Divisional round preview & predictions – Inside The Wheelhouse

January 10, 2013 By: Category: NFL | NCAA Football, Sports

The 2012 NFL season is now down to just 8 remaining teams, all whom are vying for a spot in their conference’s championship game. But for that to happen they must beat their opponent in the NFL Divisional Round this Saturday and Sunday. When the dust settles there will be just 4 teams that remain with a spot in Super Bowl 47 that much closer. Let’s take a look at this weekend’s NFL Divisional round games:

AFC:

(1) Denver Broncos vs. (4) Baltimore Ravens

If you enjoy “old school” NFL football than this game is for you. If you are looking for an “offensive explosion” of a game than don’t even bother to tune into this game because that’s not what you are going to get. The Broncos and Ravens have two of the most impressive defensive unit’s in all of Football and you are going to get these defenses to play on such a high level knowing that the AFC Championship Game is in their grasps.

Denver enters this game as the “hottest” team in the NFL that nobody is talking about. Call it disrespect, call it getting lost in the Western part of the United States, but for whatever reason the Denver Broncos aren’t being looked at as the serious Super Bowl contenders I believe they should be. Denver hasn’t lost a game since October 7th (against the New England Patriots) as they have won their last 11 games. They have the most momentum in the NFL currently and hopefully the first-round bye layoff won’t affect this team against Baltimore.

As for the Baltimore Ravens they are playing on pure emotion right now. This team loves Ray Lewis and they want him to exit the National Football League in-style with a Super Bowl ring. Their defense played the best I have seen it all season long against the Indianapolis Colts in the Wild Card round and I expect they will try to do that again versus Peyton Manning. If the Ravens offense can get to the same level as their defense was playing last week then we could potentially be looking at an upset in the AFC Divisional round.

The deciding factors in this game will come down to both team’s quarterbacks. Peyton Manning is one of the best quarterback’s to ever play the game so how he tries to manipulate this tough Ravens defense will be something I will closely be looking for in this game. As for Joe Flacco it’s all going to come down to consistency, for all things considered he was solid against the Indianapolis Colts in the Wild Card round but now he takes on a tough defense in the Broncos and is on the road, two things Flacco has a tough time dealing with. As for the final in this one I like the Broncos to get the victory and advancing to the AFC Championship Game.

Prediction: Broncos 24 Ravens 14

(2) New England Patriots vs. (3) Houston Texans

There is something to this game for both of these teams. It’s something more then the winner getting the opportunity to play in the AFC Championship Game. For both of these teams they can make a strong statement to rest of the NFL or avenge one of the worst losses in franchise history. This game has the chance of either being a compelling matchup or just a blowout at the hands of the “old dogs of the AFC.”

New England has been in this position before. This will be the 2nd time in 3 years that they will be playing a team they blew out in a primetime matchup in a playoff game. The last time that happened it was the New York Jets in the 2010 NFL Playoffs and the Patriots got shocked by a team that they dominated weeks prior to their playoff rematch. New England will look to prevent “lighting from striking twice” in this game and proving that they are as dominant now as they were we they destroyed Houston weeks prior.

For Houston on the other hand they are being looked at as a team that cannot compare to the New England Patriots. Many people were wondering if Houston would be able to finally hang out at the “big boys table” against the Patriots and the Texans walked on the field of Gillette Stadium only to get destroyed by New England. The Texans have a lot to prove in this one and need to show the league whether or not they deserve to be one of the best AFC teams in consecutive years.

This game is a tough call because part of me wants to pick the Houston Texans (they were my AFC Super Bowl pick) in avenging their horrible loss at the hands of New England nearly a month ago, but you cannot stop the Patriots right now. New England hasn’t looked consistent as of late but this is the New England Patriots we are talking about. They have been here many-a-times before and the 1st round bye layoff doesn’t affect them like it would other teams, in-fact it makes them better. Once again, New England heads to the AFC Championship Game.

Prediction: Patriots 42 Texans 14

NFC:

(1) Atlanta Falcons vs. (5) Seattle Seahawks

Here we go again, the Atlanta Falcons are a #1 seed in the NFC and they are playing one of the most dangerous, if not the dangerous team in Football. Its déjà vu all over again as the Falcons played the hottest team in 2010 (Green Bay) and in 2011 (New York Giants) in the playoffs. So I suppose if this trend can continue then it’s a foregone conclusion that Seattle wins the Super Bowl, right?

The focal point of the Atlanta Falcons will be, of course, Matt Ryan. In Matt Ryan’s playoff career (3 games) he is 0-3 and hasn’t thrown for more then 199 yards in those games. So the preverbal “monkey is on the back” of Matt Ryan in this one and he needs to get it done on Sunday or this will plague him for yet another season.

Seattle on the other hand is one of or the hottest team(s) in the NFL depending on how you look at it. The Seahawks are getting it done offensively and defensively as they have “peaked” at the right time in the season. Should history repeat itself then we all know those teams who “peak” at the right time typically hold up the Vince Lombardi trophy at season’s end.

Keeping in mind history is how I am going to make my predictions for this Sunday’s game. Seattle is red-hot and Atlanta has playoff history flaws. Until proven otherwise there can be no way I bet against the Seattle Seahawks right now and pick Atlanta in the playoffs with Matt Ryan as their quarterback. Sorry Atlanta.

Prediction: Seahawks 21 Falcons 13

(2) San Francisco 49ers vs. (3) Green Bay Packers

It’s a Week 1 matchup that has plagued the Green Bay Packers for most of the 2012 NFL season. It’s also a Week 1 matchup that solidified the San Francisco 49ers as being “for real” as a top team in the NFC and the NFL. Now these two teams will battle it out again, this time in San Francisco, for the right to play in the NFC Championship Game. Two historic franchises, one spot, talk about a compelling NFL Playoff matchup.

All season long I have praised the San Francisco 49ers as being one of the best teams in Football. At points in the season they were the best team in Football as they looked extremely strong on both sides of the Football. There was no bend and there was no break in how good this team was or is. If the San Francisco 49ers were a movie script many people believe that it will end with confetti and celebration in the Superdome but first they have to go through one of the best in the NFC.

For Green Bay this isn’t necessarily how they envisioned their 2012 season. They have battled adversity from injuries (Charles Woodson, Greg Jennings, Clay Matthews to name a few), tough losses (Indianapolis Colts, San Francisco 49ers, Minnesota Vikings) and even referees (the “Fail Mary vs. Seattle). But this is what Green Bay likes to do, battle through adversities. There are some correlations to the 2010 Super Bowl season right now but for that to continue Green Bay needs to beat San Francisco to keep the “quiet momentum” going.

The best thing about this playoff matchup is that they are two completely different teams then they were back in Week 1. At that time Green Bay was playing with problems while San Francisco was nearly flawless. Now Green Bay is playing flawless while San Francisco is playing with problems. It’s going to be a fun matchup but I like the Green Bay Packers avenging their Week 1 loss and advancing to the NFC Championship Game.

Prediction: Packers 24 49ers 21

For more NFL talk join Bower, Chris Johnson and myself Monday – Friday throughout the Football season on 97.9 ESPN in Hartford, ESPN 1300 in New Haven and online at 979espn.com!

You can listen to Jeff on “The Bower Show” every Monday – Friday from 3pm – 7pm ET on 97.9 ESPN in Hartford, CT. You can listen online at www.979espn.com

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NFL Wildcard 2012-13 Weekend Review & Recap

January 08, 2013 By: Category: NFL | NCAA Football, Sports

The 2012-13 Playoffs have begun with four Wild Card Weekend games played this past weekend. NFL fans saw the Houston Texans get by the Cincinnati Bengals. The Green Bay Packers defeated the Minnesota Vikings. The Baltimore Ravens beat the Indianapolis Colts, and the Seattle Seahawks beat the Washington Redskins.

That being said, the road toward Super Bowl 47 has begun. Statically, five of the last seven Super Bowl winners have come from this weekend. I admit each game had an element of drama. Some games had more drama than others. Overall, though, the games were just not all that great. I was bored for the most part, and honestly, I am not all that convinced that one of these winners will win it all based on their performances. The Packers are the only ones I can see even advancing to the Super Bowl based on what I saw this weekend.

As for my picks, I went 2-2 overall. I was right picking the Texans and the Packers. I was wrong picking the Colts and the Skins.

Let’s go ahead and examine the games themselves. However, what I will be doing in this blog is giving this review a little twist. In honor of retiring Ravens Ray Lewis’ fellow University of Miami alumnus The Rock’s return on Raw tonight, I am going to review this weekend like I would a WWE PPV (Thumbs up/down, star system, etc.).

For those not familiar with the star rating: DUD means game was unwatchable all the way up to fives stars ( *****) meaning the game was one of the best games ever.

I hope my reader’s will enjoy this, if you smell what I am cooking.

Wild Card Weekend Rating as a whole: Thumbs in the middle. Overall, as I said, the games were just boring. I nearly fell asleep during a couple of them. For me as a fan, these games showed why expanding the playoffs is not a great idea. The drama that surrounded three of the four games saved this weekend from being a total thumbs down.

(6) The Cincinnati Bengals at the (3) Houston Texans
Final Score: Texans win this game by a score of 19-13.
AFC Divisional Round Opponent for the Texans: (2) The New England Patriots
Star Rating: * (1 star)

This game was horrid. It was nearly unwatchable. Did Bengals QB Andy Dalton forget that A. J. Green, his favorite WR, was on the team? The Bengals were just atrocious on offense. Their defense kept them in the game. I mean, seriously. Jermaine Gresham, the Bengals TE, was having a horrid game. He kept dropping balls, but Dalton STILL threw to him?

Matt Schaub, quarterback of the Texans, was not that much better. His defense. especially the wonderful J.J. Watt, kept his offense in the game too. After the game, I hope he took RB Arian Foster and Foster’s family out to dinner, because if it were not for Foster, I am not sure the Texans would have even scored a TD. Owen Daniels deserves some props too for moving the chains. I mean, the Texans moved the offense pretty well, but only came up with FGs? They are not going to get away with that in New England.

Mike Mayock is a horrible announcer. He is very knowledgeable, but the guy can not be an NFL commentator to save his life.

(6) Minnesota Vikings at the (3) Green Bay Packers
Final Score: Packers win this game by a score of 24-10
NFC Divisional Round Opponent for the Packers: (2) San Fransisco 49ers
Star Rating: *** (3 Stars)

This game was about the best of the four games played. There was some last minute drama. During the Texans game, there was news breaking that Vikings QB Christian Ponder may not play due to some bruising in his triceps.

Sure enough, at the last moment, Ponder was scratched, and back up Joe Webb, who not thrown a pass all of the 2012 season was being thrown into the game. Well, it did not take a genius to figure out that the Packers were just going to have their way with the Vikings, and they sure did.

The game started out a bit dull. For most of the first half. the game seemed to drag. However, as it went along, I thought it was a pretty good game. Both defenses were pretty good, but the Packer defense, with both Sam Shields and Charles Woodson back, were just awesome.

Joe Webb was just lost out there. It was so pitiful. I felt sorry for him. He was just terrorized by Clay Matthews and the gang. Adrian Peterson was held to less than 100 yards, only got 99. I felt bad to see Peterson’s great year, and first playoff appearance end like this. However, those are the breaks.

Aaron Rodgers and the offense did a great job. Rodgers is really awesome when he gets time to throw. He did get sacked a few times. I just loved that DuJuan Harris, the running back. The commentators mentioned that he was selling cars recently. Well, I hope with that performance, Harris won’t be selling anymore cars.

Good solid game. I am looking forward to seeing the game between the Packers and the team that should have drafted him, the 49ers.

Al Michaels was his usual professional self, but Cris Collinsworth just has to go. He is the most annoying person ever. He also like to brown-nose certain players as well, which just gets on my nerves.

(5) Indianapolis Colts at the (4) Baltimore Ravens
Final Score: The Ravens win by a score of 24-9
AFC Divisional Round Opponent for the Ravens: (1) The Denver Broncos
Star Rating: ** (2 Stars)

This game was just alright. The Colts Offensive Coordinator Bruce Arians took sick, and was taken to the hospital the morning of the game, so that was not good for the Colts. Thankfully, he turned out to be fine, but was kept overnight for observation.

There was a lot of drama surrounding this game. On the Colts side, Chuck Pagano, who used to be the Ravens defensive coach was returning to Baltimore as the Colts Head Coach. Most fans know that the Indianapolis Colts used to be the Baltimore Colts, until the Isray’s took the team in the middle of the night that fateful night in 1984 to Indianapolis.

On the Ravens side, there was the impending retirement of the team’s most high profile player, MLB Ray Lewis. Lewis, who was playing his final home game got to do his signature dance. The commentators, Jim Nantz, and Phil Simms just went overboard with their praise of Lewis. Every defensive play the Ravens made, every comment was about Lewis. The team even had to have Lewis take part in the final kneel down, and before the game, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell hugged Ray Lewis like a long lost brother. It was nauseating, and it distracted from the game.

Look, I realize Lewis is one of the best linebackers ever, but the announcers don’t have to fawn over him during every play.

The game itself wasn’t all that much to talk about. The Colts rookie QB, Andrew Luck showed everyone why he was a rookie. He got smothered by that quick Ravens defense. Luck’s receivers did not help him out with their dropping the ball like hot potatoes either. I was watching them, and I was thinking, “This is not badminton.” “You know you are going to take the hit if you catch the ball.” “Take the hit, but catch the ball.”

As for the Ravens, QB Joe Flacco, who called himself, “the best QB in the NFL,” was surely not playing like it, at least not in the first half. In the second half, he was made to look good by Anquan Boldin who caught two huge lobs for TDs (one for Boldin, and one set up for another TD). Ray Rice also helped Flacco look good with that 47 yard run.

The Ravens defense was fast in getting to the ball carriers, and to the running backs. The defense got after Luck. Ray Lewis did make quite a number of tackles, and nearly had an interception while wearing this huge contraption on his injured arm.

Overall, I still thought the game was just not all that interesting. Of course, we will see if Lewis’ career continues as the Ravens fly over to Denver to face Peyton Manning and company.

(5) The Seattle Seahawks at (4) The Washington Redskins
Final Score:The Seahawks win by a score of 24-10.
NFC Divisional Opponents for the Seahawks: (1) The Atlanta Falcons
Star Rating: ** (Two Stars)

This is the most controversial of the four games as there is the predicted debate of whether Redskins Head Coach should have left QB Robert Griffin III in the game. What drama. Well, this is my opinion, and I realize that I am going against what the omnipotent ones (the talking heads at ESPN) say, but here is my take.

Shanahan should have not listened to his player or his “gut,” as he said after the game. Shanahan’s job, in my opinion, is to get the win.

The team was up 14-0, and then 14-13 almost to about the fourth quarter. RGIII, obviously injured, was still in the game. Why? Shanahan had a healthy backup who had bailed the team out before. There was no reason to jeopardize a chance to advance to the post season, and to possibly damage the health and maybe the career of the team’s star QB, when you have a healthy backup.

I don’t care what Mike Golic, Trent Dilfer, Mark Schlereth, or any of those guys who represent the old, “rub some dirt on it,” era of the NFL have to say. This loss is on Shanahan, who did not have the guts to shut the player down, and put the back up in. Shanahan evidently didn’t listen to Dr. James Andrews either when the injury first happened either. From the looks of things, he should have.

As for the game, it was a decent game. It looked like to me that the Seahawks were a bit slow on the draw both offensively and defensively in the first quarter. However, once they made some adjustments, they started to play better, even though they didn’t get control of the game till the fourth quarter.

The Redskins were actually pretty decent containing the Seahawks. Of course, they let Seahawks QB Russell Wilson have a few runs, and that hurt them. RGIII being injured in the first place, and then re-injuring the knee didn’t help matters. As I said previously, his staying in the game really did not give his team the best chance to win.

The Seahawks will go down to Atlanta to face the Falcons. We will see in that game which team is for real.

Well, that is my review of Wild Card Weekend. I hope you all enjoyed it.

Terri Bey currently blogs for CamelClutchBlog.com about Wrestling, NFL, and other sports/pop culture related subjects. Her work has appeared in BleacherReport and for F4WOnline.com. Terri can be found here at Facebook- http://www.facebook.com/TerriBey and at Twitter- http://www.twitter.com/giopontifan

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NFL Wildcard Playoffs Thoughts & Recap – Inside The Wheelhouse

January 07, 2013 By: Category: NFL | NCAA Football, Sports

Let’s take a look back at some of the things that stood out from the Wild Card Round in the National Football League playoffs!

– Good bounce back win for the Houston Texans in the Wild Card round. It’s was a tough end to the Texans regular season and now they head to New England to avenge that horrible Monday Night loss that started the “domino effect” of the losing streak to end the year. Houston’s defense looked good in the Wild Card round but they need an improvement in their offense if they want to advance.

- I really liked Cincinnati going into this Wild Card game simply because they had a ton of momentum going for them. It seems that once they got off the “regular season field” and got onto the “playoff field” that they were a completely different team. I can only hope that young players like Andy Dalton and AJ Green are learning from these tough losses. I still believe this team, with Dalton & Green, will eventually get that “monkey” off their back.

– Good win for Green Bay as they need to prove that there is this “quiet momentum” building for this team. It appears that the Packers have been able to get a good run game going as of late with DuJuan Harris and Ryan Grant so it’ll be interesting to see how they can play against a really good Niners run defense. When the Packers are able to get the run game going as well as they did against Minnesota then that allows Aaron Rodgers to be a much more lethal quarterback.

– Tough way to end the season for Minnesota as there were high hopes that this team could be a surprise team in the playoffs playing with “house money.” The change of Christian Ponder to Joe Webb appeared to be a crucial blow to this team as it allowed Green Bay to truly focus on Adrian Peterson throughout the game. Not sure what we will see out of Minnesota in 2013 but at least things are going in a positive direction for the Vikings.

– When it comes to defense the Baltimore Ravens looked flawless against the Colts. They were forcing Andrew Luck to make bad throws and were really dominating the Colts offensive line all day long. Offensively they struggled throughout the game and their offensive leader in my opinion, Ray Rice, did not show up at all in the Wild Card round. The crucial fumbles could cost them against a veteran team and these are mistakes you just can’t make in the playoffs.

– What a tremendous season for the Indianapolis Colts. They made their mistakes against Baltimore but that is what you expect from a young team going through their first playoff game. This won’t be the last time Andrew Luck and Co. play past Week 17 so I hope this is a learning process for what is looking to be a promising career. The 2012 season for the Indianapolis Colts was nothing short of inspiring, they should not be ashamed of themselves at all.

– Seattle is the most dangerous team of the 8 remaining NFL teams right now. Throughout the season I have compared them to the 2010 Green Bay Packers and 2011 New York Giants because they got hot at the right time. They now head to Atlanta and almost look like the favorite as a #5 seed. If they can stay focused and not allow this “momentum talk” get to their heads then they could be the NFC representation in Super Bowl 47.

– If the Redskins won with an injured RGIII he would look like a hero. But since they didn’t we now will question whether or not head coach Mike Shanahan did the right thing by keeping him in there for as long as he did. Obviously based off of what we saw RGIII became more of a hindrance then a help on Sunday Night. This is not the way Washington Redskins wanted to end their season as their fans now hold their breath with the injury report of RGIII.

For more NFL talk join Bower, Chris Johnson and myself Monday – Friday throughout the Football season on 97.9 ESPN in Hartford, ESPN 1300 in New Haven and online at 979espn.com!

You can listen to Jeff on “The Bower Show” every Monday – Friday from 3pm – 7pm ET on 97.9 ESPN in Hartford, CT. You can listen online at www.979espn.com

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NFL Wild Card round predictions & preview

January 04, 2013 By: Category: NFL | NCAA Football, Sports

When the 32 NFL teams are working their tails off in those OTAs in the spring, and then in those steaming hot fields in training camps in the summer, and play those pre-season games, and then the regular season, they do it for one reason. The reason is to be playing in the playoffs in January.

Teams work their butts off to get to January for the ultimat goal. They want to be that one team on that first Sunday in February to have that confetti falling on their heads. They want to be holding up that Lombardi Trophy, with QUEEN’s “We Are the Champions” blaring in the background, and want to be known as the Super Bowl Champion.

Only 12 teams get that chance to get , “into the tournament,” as many coaches and players say. That is why every game in the 16 game regular season is important, from the first game, to the last. One win or lost could affect whether a team gets in or not, or could affect a team’s seeding.

The 2012 season was a bit unusual because their was a dispute between the NFL and the referees union, so the first few weeks were officiated by substitute refs. The substitute refs were awful, and several games were marred by their decisions.

One in particular that could have altered this year’s playoffs was the infamous “Fail Mary,” involving the Green Bay Packers who were playing at the Seattle Seahawks. It is so famous, and not in a good way, that I will let the video speak for itself.

http://youtu.be/n5DLwBCryyE

 

The NFL and the refs union made peace very soon after this debacle, and both teams made the playoffs, so fortunately for the NFL, this controversial game did not affect either team’s chances at going to the playoffs.

However, I do feel the Packers did get screwed on this game, and they should have one more win (may have had a shot at the #2 seed), and the Seahawks should have one more loss.

Anyway, we are in January, and we have our twelve team field for the playoffs. For the AFC, in order of their seedings, we have the Denver Broncos , the New England Patriots, the Houston Texans, the Baltimore Ravens, the Indianapolis Colts, and the Cincinnati Bengals. For the NFC, we have the Atlanta Falcons, the San Fransisco 49ers, the Green Bay Packers, the Washington Redskins, the Seattle Seahawks, and the Minnesota Vikings.

I did not see a lot of the turnover that the talking heads on ESPN mention. In the AFC, the field included the usual suspects, and pretty much the same participants from last year. The Colts are in, and the Steelers are out this year.
No one thought the Patriots, or the Peyton Manning led Broncos were NOT going to be in the playoffs, and get the two byes, did they?

Over on the NFC side, there are a couple of newcomers. The Vikings, Redskins (who won their first NFCE Division title since 1999), and Seattle Seahawks are in. Gone from last year are the New Orleans Saints, the Detroit Lions, and surprisingly, the defending Super Bowl Champion, New York Giants.

Well, it is now time for me to get my picks in for the four games that will be played this Wild Card Weekend. I am not going to deal with odds or any of that. I am just going to comment briefly on the game, and predict the winner, and guess at a score, and that is all.

Here we go.

Saturday, January 5, 2013
Time: 4:30pm on NBC
Wild Card Game: The Cincinnati Bengals at the Houston Texans at Reliant Stadium

Analysis: This is a rematch from last year’s playoff where the Texans, albeit with their backup QB, won 31-10. However, this time, starting QB Matt Schaub is leading the charge against second year QB Andy Dalton for the Bengals.

The Texans were the favorite of the talking heads, and backed them up with a strong start to their season, both on offense and defense. However, the loss of their star defender Brian Cushing really put a damper on what they could do on that side of the ball. The team’s being blown out by the New England Patriots later in the season didn’t help because the Texans have not looked quite the same since.

Honestly, I am not sold on Matt Schaub as an elite QB. I think his play makers such as RB Arian Foster, and WR Andre Johnson really carry the offense. JJ Watt really carries that defense too.

The Bengals come in on a tear, especially on defense. Their defense will give Schaub problems.

The coaches on both teams don’t excite me on play calling either, so this game could be interesting.

My Pick: Despite my misgivings about Schaub, I think the Houston Texans win despite him, not because of him.

Score: Texans 24 Bengals 16

Saturday, January 5, 2013
Time: 8:00pm on NBC
Wild Card Game: The Minnesota Vikings at The Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field

Analysis: The two teams split their series. Now, they are playing a third time, but this time, it is to advance to the divisional round. I think the tactics for both teams is pretty obvious.

For the Packers: Stop Adrian Peterson in anyway possible. For the Vikings: Give the ball to Adrian Peterson as many times as possible.

Of course, as the saying goes, that is better said than done. This game should be interesting. The Packers have DB Charles Woodson coming back after missing quite a number of games with that broken clavicle. His effectiveness will be key.

Can Vikings Christian Ponder get the job done if the Packers find some way to stop Adrian Peterson? That is the million dollar question.

My pick: It is the Packers, and they are much too hard to beat at home. I am going to have to go with the Packers. I so would like to see an upset, but I don’t see it here.

Score: Packers 35 Vikings 20

Sunday, January 6, 2013
1:00pm on CBS
Wild Card Game: The Indianapolis Colts vs The Baltimore Ravens at MT Bank Stadium

Analysis: Wow. What a story this has been for the Indianapolis Colts. I am sure every NFL fan knows their story by now, so I am not going to repeat all the details. It is amazing though that they are in the playoffs, especially since they were 2-14 last year.

Now, to the game. Before taking the job as Colts Head Coach, Chuck Pagano was working as a defensive coach for the Baltimore Ravens. In fact, in 2011, Pagano was the defensive coordinator for the Ravens, so he knows the Ravens pretty well. On the other hand, they know him too.

The Colts are led by the rookie QB Andrew Luck, who has had a very good year. He stands tall in the pocket, even when taking hits. He has an incredible will to win as well, for someone as young as he is. He has great chemistry with Reggie Wayne, and T.Y Hilton.

This Colts team is very motivated, and they are willing to play for their coach, who has been battling cancer. Their will to win even carried them to victory against the Texans in Indy (Texans never won in Indy), causing the Texans to fall to the 3rd seed (Patriots destroyed the Dolphins to earn 2nd seed.). Can this will to win beat the Ravens?

I had something very different written about the home team, the Baltimore Ravens. I had this blog almost all set to hand into my editor, Eric Gargiulo. I decided to save this, and go take a nap. I then was going to proofread it, and send it on its way, when I got the news on Twitter that the Ravens MLB for 17 years, Ray Lewis announced that he was going to retire after the playoffs.

This news puts a different spin on the game. Ray Lewis is the team’s defensive, and emotional leader. The team has been harmed by injuries on their defense, including Lewis who suffered a triceps injury in Week 6. Sunday will be his first game back if he plays. It is not known if he will play.

There will be emotional issues on both teams. As for the Ravens, the Lewis news puts a bit more pressure on the Ravens Offense, particularly QB Joe Flacco to come through with the win.

My Pick: Both teams will be playing with a lot of emotion. There is no doubt about it. The Ravens are at home. Ray Lewis is so beloved by the team, and by those fans. Could the emotion work against them? Could the emotion for Chuck Pagano work against the Colts as well? No doubt. I am still going to go with my original pick before the Lewis news broke, and say the Colts escape with a win.

Score: Colts 24 Ravens 21

Sunday, January 6, 2013
4:30pm on FOX
Wild Card Game: Seattle Seahawks vs the Washington Redskins

Analysis: This is the battle of the rookie QBs. Seattle Seahawks have Russell Wilson, and the Washington Redskins have Robert Griffin III. Both young men did a great job with their teams in leading them to the playoffs. I do give Griffin the nod because he led his team to a division title, and Russell’s team has a better defense.

This game should be pretty good. Seattle’s tougher defense vs the Redskins more dynamic offense. RGIII is still going to be a nightmare for Seattle’s defensive coordinator, even though Griffin is still not 100%. I am sure Jim Hazlett, Redskins defensive coordinator, will come up with something to try to stop Wilson, and his offense.

Pick: This game is a little hard for me, but I am going with the Washington Redskins. They are at home, and that crowd could get pretty loud. Seattle is a good team, and the talking heads love to push them, but Seattle is not a good road team. They are coming to D.C. from Seattle. I just think the Redskins will win a close game.

Score: Redskins 24 Seattle 21

Well, those are my picks. I will be back on Monday with a post Wild Card weekend analysis.

Terri Bey currently blogs for CamelClutchBlog.com about Wrestling, NFL, and other sports/pop culture related subjects. Her work has appeared in BleacherReport and for F4WOnline.com. Terri can be found here at Facebook- http://www.facebook.com/TerriBey and at Twitter- http://www.twitter.com/giopontifan

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NFL Wild Card round predictions & preview – Inside The Wheelhouse

January 03, 2013 By: Category: NFL | NCAA Football, Sports

It’s amazing how quickly 17 weeks can go but here we are again getting ready for the 2012-2013 NFL Playoffs this upcoming weekend. 12 teams remain from the regular season in the National Football League and one team will be left standing with the right to call themselves Super Bowl Champions. We kick off the 2012-2013 NFL Playoffs by looking at this weekend’s Wild Card round games as the field of 12 will be down to 8 come Sunday Night. With that said lets preview and predict the Wild Card matchups:

AFC:

(3) Houston Texans vs. (6) Cincinnati Bengals

Weeks ago if you told me that the Houston Texans would be in the Wild Card round and would not have a first-round bye I’d think you were crazy. The Texans were looking like the best team in the AFC, all things were clicking offensively and defensively but they crumbled down the final stretch of the regular season. In their final 4 games of the season, all against playoff teams (New England, Indianapolis (twice) and Minnesota), they were outscored 110-65 and were 1-3 in those games. That is not the way to build momentum heading into the playoffs; it’s actually the complete opposite.

Then there is the Cincinnati Bengals who once again have quietly made into the playoffs with a record of 10-6. Cincinnati is the complete opposite of Houston right now as they have entered the playoffs winning 7 of their last 8 regular season games and getting into the playoffs in consecutive seasons. This is a Bengals team one-year removed from making it into the playoffs and getting eliminated by Houston so they will be looking to avenge last year’s exit.

It’s very rare that a #6 seed would be the favorite in a playoff matchup against a #3 seed but I believe that to be the case right now. Cincinnati is riding on good momentum entering the playoffs while the Texans are stumbling when it matters the most. I like the Bengals avenging last year’s playoff exit and eliminating the #3 seed Houston Texans on their home turf this weekend.

Prediction: Bengals 17 Texans 7

(4) Baltimore Ravens vs. (5) Indianapolis Colts

Anyone who read my NFL blogs last season for the Camel Clutch Blog knows that I was very high on the Baltimore Ravens in the AFC all season long. I actually had the Ravens as my Super Bowl 46 AFC team and they came up three points short from making my prediction become a reality. Now here we are again with this Ravens team and they look more inconsistent then ever to close out the regular season. Sure they got that big win against New York in Week 16 but then coasted against the Cincinnati Bengals (who were playing at full strength) in Week 17, not the way a team needs to prepare themselves for playoff action.

On the other side of the coin when you are discussing riding momentum at the right time in your season there is no other AFC team doing that more right now then the Indianapolis Colts. Let’s face it, nobody saw Indianapolis pulling off what they did this season and making it into the playoffs at all, except this team themselves. They are riding inspirational momentum from their cancer-defeating Head Coach Chuck Pagano and look to keep this amazing ride going against Baltimore in the Wild Card round.

As for this Wild Card matchup I really like what I am seeing from Indianapolis right now because they have put it together at the right time in the season. Baltimore on the other hand comes into this game struggling a bit, playing very inconsistent and a little banged up with some veteran players trying to give it a-go and play in this game. When it comes to the playoffs the team with the “hottest hand” usually keeps their dream alive longer and that’s why I’m picking the Colts to defeat their former address of Baltimore in this one.

Prediction: Colts 21 Ravens 17

NFC:

(3) Green Bay Packers vs. (6) Minnesota Vikings

The 2012 regular season for the Green Bay Packers was completely different then the 2011 regular season where they went 15-1 and had a first-round bye in the playoffs. This season brought the Packers “back down to Earth” as they dealt with some tough losses versus Seattle, Indianapolis & New York, while overcoming adversity to be written off in the NFC North and win the division yet again. It was a triumphant regular season for the Packers in 2012 and was very reminiscent to what they had to overcome in their Super Bowl season of 2010. Whether or not they can repeat that same magic in the playoffs this season is anybody’s guess.

Out of all the teams to make the playoffs this season the Minnesota Vikings were the most surprising. Entering 2012 you didn’t know what you would get out of Adrian Peterson coming off of a devastating injury, you didn’t know if Christian Ponder could be your franchise quarterback and you didn’t know if this defense could hold offenses from scoring. There were too many question marks for this team entering 2012 and they quickly squashed them as they were able to win 10 games to have the right to play past Week 17. Similar to Indianapolis, the Minnesota Vikings were one of the best stories to watch unfold in 2012.

Since both of these teams are division rivals we have seen them battle it out twice this season, splitting the season series at one game a piece, with the most recent coming in Week 17. Now they battle it out in a “win-or-go-home” format of the playoffs on Lambeau Field, a place where Green Bay has failed to win a playoff game at since January 12th, 2008 against the Seattle Seahawks. With that said I still like the Packers chances in winning this one in front of their home crowd and advancing to the Divisional Round to take on San Francisco.

Prediction: Packers 35 Vikings 21

(4) Washington Redskins vs. (5) Seattle Seahawks

Washington was another one of those NFL teams that had a magical season in 2012. At one point in the season Washington was 3-6 and left for dead by their head coach in a now monumental press conference. Since Mike Shanahan stated that Washington would be looking towards 2013 the Redskins won their final 7 games of the regular season and captured the very tough NFC East divisional crown. Years of frustration finally came to an end for one of the best fanbases in the National Football League as they will be able to see their team play once again past Week 17.

As for the Seattle Seahawks they made me into a believer as the season went on. I wasn’t on-board with the “Seahawks hype” at the early part of the regular season and as time went on they proved me wrong that they deserved all the hype they were receiving. Many people, including yours truly, have pointed out the comparisons to the last two Super Bowl Champions (Packers and Giants) when describing the Seattle Seahawks simply because they are the “hottest” team entering the playoffs right now.

The theme for the NFL Playoffs lately has been momentum. Well now you have two teams entering the playoffs with a ton of momentum as Washington has won their last 7 games and Seattle has won 7 of their last 8 games. So when it comes down to comparing these two teams I have to lean towards the Seattle Seahawks. Seattle has beaten some “elite” NFL teams this season (Green Bay, New England and San Francisco) and looks like they are clicking at the right time offensively & defensively.

Prediction: Seahawks 27 Redskins 17

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You can listen to Jeff on “The Bower Show” every Monday – Friday from 3pm – 7pm ET on 97.9 ESPN in Hartford, CT. You can listen online at www.979espn.com

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