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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

You can follow Jeff on Twitter at www.twitter.com/JeffPeck979ESPN

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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

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 Week 17 Thoughts & Recap – Inside The Wheelhouse

December 31, 2012 By: Category: NFL | NCAA Football, Sports

Let’s take a look back at some of the things that stood out from Week 17 in the National Football League!

– Tampa Bay closes out the 2012 regular season with a nice win against a not-so-competitive Atlanta Falcons team in Week 17. I’ve said it all season long and it’s only fitting that I say it again, Tampa is a good team and one that people should look out for in 2013. Really like what they accomplished this season, would’ve loved to seen them compete for a playoff spot in the final weeks.

- Not the way Atlanta wanted to end the regular season I’m sure but now they can look towards the playoffs and hope that the defensive injuries they suffered on Sunday aren’t that bad. Not sure what to think of this Falcons team heading into the playoffs but I’ll tell you this much, they don’t look like a #1 seed team.

– Buffalo has the right pieces as we saw in their win against the Jets in Week 17 but they need to fix some of their weaknesses (quarterback & head coach) before they can be competitive in the AFC East next season. Tough year for a team many people liked as a “sneaky pick” in the AFC.

– Perfect way to end the Jets regular season and if you thought their regular season was a circus act, wait till the offseason takes place. I believe it was Terrell Owens who once said: “get your popcorn ready.” I know I will.

– Sure Baltimore “mailed it in” during the Week 17 game but I really liked what I saw from the Bengals. Cincinnati kept their momentum going for the playoffs and I hope it helps them in postseason play this season. Amazing that a 6th seed could be the favorite over the 3rd seed in the playoffs but it may be possible for the Bengals.

– While I understand you want to rest your starters and save them for the playoffs, not sure if I agree with treating it like a preseason game in Week 17 especially for the Ravens. Baltimore has been so inconsistent lately that they needed to keep that good momentum going from their big win against the Giants in Week 16 and they didn’t, could hurt them versus Indianapolis next week.

– All season long I said the Bears were the best “smoke and mirrors” team in the NFL. Their record showed they were an “elite” team but when they played against “elite” teams they would be outclassed. Sure they got 10 wins and sure they won games when it counted at the end but they won’t be seeing any games past Week 17. I really wonder how this team will look in 2013.

– The Detroit Lions should’ve never been a 4 win team this season and a top 5 draft pick franchise going into the 2013 NFL Draft. Detroit is a better caliber team then they possessed all season long and if Jim Schwartz can’t get it done with this talent then it’s time to let him go. It will be a very interesting offseason for this franchise heading into 2013.

– Tennessee beat Jacksonville in Week 17 and there defense scored 4 times on Sunday. Good way to end this horrible season for the Titans and I wonder what there direction will be heading into 2013. Will CJ2K be back? I think he should.

– Congrats Jacksonville, prepare yourselves for “TebowMania!”

– The best story of the 2012 NFL season was Chuck Pagano beating cancer and the Indianapolis Colts making it into the playoffs. This team clearly got motivated by their cancer battling head coach and rallied behind his spirit to play another game past Week 17. Indianapolis can be that “very dangerous Football team” starting next week.

– This is not the way you should be entering the playoffs. Houston entered Week 17 with the #1 seed and walked out as the #3 seed. Instead of having home-field advantage and having a week off, they now will be stumbling against the Bengals in the Wild Card round (again). I wonder if this team will ever be able to put it together when it matters the most.

– Extremely strong way for the Panthers to finish their season as they won 5 of their last 6 games, including 4 straight games and finished the season 7-9. It appeared that Cam Newton was a “late bloomer” this season as it took him some time to get back to the way he played his rookie season. Carolina is once again a team to look out for in 2013.

– Overall this is a very disappointing season for the New Orleans Saints. They entered the year with a ton of controversy due in-part to “bountygate,” but were still considered by many as a NFC “elite” team. Instead New Orleans struggled all season long, finished 7-9 and missed the playoffs. It was a very tough season for the NOLA.

– The most disappointing team in the 2012 NFL season may be the defending Super Bowl Champion, New York Football Giants. New York gets huge victories over San Francisco & Green Bay, was at one point 6-2 on the season and then finished the year 3-5 to miss the playoffs. The Giants looked like an “elite” team at multiple points in the season even to the extent that they were considered the best team in the NFL and now they will be watching the playoffs from home. They should be very thankful they share the same city with the New York Jets!

– What is there to say about the 2012 Philadelphia Eagles season that hasn’t already been said before? Tough year and it’s time to move on from this current era. How this franchise handles this offseason could be very telling for seasons to come in Philadelphia. Since the “dream team” moniker was self-given to them, the Eagles have gone 12-20 in both seasons, pretty sure that’s a nightmare Vince Young.

– Steelers get the win in Week 17 and mercifully end their 2012 regular season. This isn’t what Pittsburgh was hoping for and now there will be many offseason questions to deal with. Similar to their in-state rival Philadelphia Eagles, there will be a lot of changes this offseason that will dictate the future of this franchise for years to come.

– Cleveland has a lot to work on for sometime and I hope the next person to run this franchise can get them onto some winning ways. There is definitely talent to build on in Cleveland; it just comes down to what this franchise does to put around some potentially young franchise players.

– If you’ve read this blog throughout the season then you know I’ve been very leery of the Denver Broncos. Their lack of schedule strength bothered me when it comes to them playing in the playoffs but I’m starting to turn the corner on it not affecting them after all. The Broncos could very well be the AFC representation in Super Bowl 47 right now. A lot is “clicking” at the right time for Denver.

– Congrats to Kansas City on winning the #1 overall pick in the 2013 NFL Draft. Now the real question is whether or not they draft Geno Smith to be their quarterback. Personally I think that could be a huge mistake but they have plenty of time to think that over now.

– At one point it looked like the Patriots would have to play in the Wild Card round as the three seed but now they can sit at home next week and rest up for the Divisional Round. A well rested Patriots team is of course, a very dangerous playoff team. It almost seems like it’s too good to be true that we could get Denver (Peyton) vs. New England (Brady) in the AFC Championship Game again.

– I’m sure this isn’t the way Miami wanted to end their season but I do think this team is headed into the right direction right now. A couple moves in the offseason could have them competing for Wild Card playoff spots next year.

– Thanks for the memories Norv Turner. I will miss writing about you and wondering if you will be fired…every…regular…season. I have been doing these blogs for Camel Clutch Blog now for (I believe to be) 4 seasons, so that tells you how I long I’ve speculated Norv would be let go.

– The Raiders have taken steps forward the last couple years and now they have taken, yet again, dramatic steps back. I don’t know when this franchise can be turned around because right now it really looks bleak.

– Congrats to the San Francisco 49ers on winning the NFC West and getting the #2 seed in the NFC. In my opinion this team is the #1 seed in the NFC and I really like their chances to make Super Bowl 47 this season. When you have a really good defense and an offense that keeps getting better, good things will happen.

– Dear Arizona Cardinals, you know what to do during the offseason. Go get yourself a quarterback, you know, a real quarterback or you will have a very upset franchise wide receiver named Larry Fitzgerald. Sincerely yours, common sense.

– The Seahawks get the victory but I’m not sure it’s the way they wanted to head into the playoffs. Seattle struggled for most of this game and didn’t look as dominant as they have been in recent weeks. The Seahawks will still be a tough team to beat come playoff time but I wonder if they are losing their “luster” a bit, it’s something to definitely keep an eye on next week versus Washington in the Wild Card round.

– The St. Louis Rams really ended this 2012 regular season very strong. They were competitive against really good teams in their division, San Francisco & Seattle (even getting a big win against the 49ers this year) and they are improving heading into 2013. The defense is young and very talented but their offense seems to be lacking at the moment. I really hope Sam Bradford can be “the guy” for this St. Louis team in 2013 because I really like what I am seeing from the Rams right now.

– What a miracle season for the Minnesota Vikings in 2012. Nobody and I mean NOBODY saw this team as a playoff team, let alone a playoff contender this year. If you were like me you probably saw them as the last-place team in the NFC North. Well now they take on Green Bay in the Wild Card round and have nothing to lose because they weren’t “supposed to be there.” Oh and dear NFL, don’t forget to give Adrian Peterson the NFL MVP award this season!

– I’m sure this isn’t the way Green Bay wanted to end their season but not getting a first-round bye may be what this team needs. In 2010 they had no first-round bye and won the Super Bowl. In 2011 they had a first-round bye and got crushed in the divisional round. The Packers will be healthy against the Vikings, know what they need to do to stop Minnesota and will thankfully be home in a playoff game. I still like the Packers as a “quiet” pick right now in the NFC.

– Add Washington to the list of Indianapolis and Minnesota as surprise teams making the playoffs in 2012. Weeks ago this team was “left for dead” by their own head coach and now they are the 2012 NFC East division champions. No telling what this team can do come playoff time because like the Vikings, they “weren’t supposed to be here.” It’s the playoffs and as we have learned the last two seasons, anyone can win the Super Bowl.

- It almost seems fitting that Tony Romo and the Dallas Cowboys end their season like this. I really wonder how this team will look on Week 1 in 2013. A lot of major changes could be coming the way of this Dallas Cowboys franchise.

– Many thanks to you the reader and of course Eric Gargiulo for allowing me to blog after every week throughout the 2012 NFL regular season. It’s a job I have enjoyed here since 2009 and am glad to have another regular season under my belt. Stay tuned for my Wild Card predictions blog later this week and my Wild Card round thoughts blog a week from today!

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 Week 16 Thoughts & Recap – Inside The Wheelhouse

December 24, 2012 By: Category: NFL | NCAA Football, Sports

Let’s take a look back at some of the things that stood out from Week 16 in the National Football League!

– Congrats to the Falcons on clinching the #1 seed in the NFC and having home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. Personally, I believe while it’s a tremendous feat, they may be the weakest #1 seed in the NFL playoffs in some time. Their passing offense is great but their run game and defense can be shaky depending on the week. Let’s see if the ATL can make me eat my words yet again this season.

- Congrats to Calvin Johnson on breaking Jerry Rice’s single-season receiving record! Can we now say that the “Madden Curse” is done?

– Quietly, the Green Bay Packers are continuing to emerge in the NFC. While it is the Titans, they kept the momentum going throughout this one. Things are getting interesting for the Pack…

– At least the Titans put 7 points on the board and weren’t shut out…right?

– New Orleans gets to play spoiler against Dallas and can at least have a .500 record should they win next week. Nice to see the Saints giving it a shot and being competitive with nothing left to play for.

– What are the Cowboys doing!? They need to win these games and they are going through the same problem they always have this time of the year. Next week will be very interesting as the Cowboys will play for the NFC East division crown in Week 17 for the 2nd straight season.

– Congrats to the Indianapolis Colts on clinching a playoff berth this week. Better yet, Chuck Pagano will be returning to this playoff team very soon. Great story this year in the National Football League, I love that Chuck Pagano and the Colts are proving anyone can beat the odds.

– One more loss and the Chiefs clinch the #1 overall pick!

– Well at least Miami has a chance at a .500 season next week; they could be a sneaky pick in the NFC East next season.

– Buffalo needs to fire Chan Gailey at the end of the season.

– San Diego beats the New York Jets in Week 16; this is monumental because it could be Norv Turner’s last win as the Chargers head coach.

– So Tim Tebow gets flack for telling the coaching staff to not put him in the “Wildcat formation” after he was passed over for the 3rd string quarterback and people are complaining? Tebow has been a good solider for this Jets team all season long and when we look back on his tenure with this team the Jets could’ve really affected his NFL playing career based off of the way they handled him. He gets brought along basically to sell seats and not play, yet people have a problem with him removing himself from the “wildcat!?” C’mon man.

– Big win for the Redskins and they keep on rolling. It’s all on the line in Week 17 for them as they take on Dallas for the NFC East crown. The playoffs begin (and could end) next week for the ‘Skins.

– Fitting way for Andy Reid’s potentially last home game as the head coach of the Eagles to end like that.

– How about the Cincinnati Bengals this season? They force Roethlisberger to make a crucial interception in the final minute of the game, make a huge offensive play to set up the field goal and win it. That was a franchise achieving moment for the Bengals and their fans to knock out their rival Pittsburgh Steelers.

– I wonder if we could see any changes in the offseason to this Steelers team. They are getting older, the window is getting smaller and the coaches may not be gelling. Interesting times for this Steelers franchise and it could’ve been prevented had they won today.

– St. Louis is quietly ending their season very strong right now. This is another team that could enter 2013 as a surprise team in the NFC West. With the exception of Sam Bradford (the jury is still out on him), I like what is going in St. Louis.

– Tough to see the Tampa Bay Buccaneers continue to end their season like this. Really had high hopes for them at the midway point of the season.

– Carolina beats Oakland and this Panthers team continues to play well at the wrong point in the season. At least someone is probably keeping their job in Carolina, for now.

– Want to know how bad the Raiders are? Matt Leinart was the backup after Carson Palmer got hurt. How come they just didn’t bring Terrelle Pryor in to see what they got?

– A win-is-a-win but New England cannot be playing like this with less then two weeks to go until the playoffs. They played shaky against San Francisco last week and lost. They played shaky this week and almost lost. Hopefully it’s just a bad stretch for the Patriots so they can get it out of their system now and not in the Playoffs.

– If Jacksonville beat New England with Chad Henne as the Quarterback in Week 16 would that have saved him from the (rumored) incoming “TebowMania” next season?

– Minnesota needed this win and they got it. The Vikings are stepping up at the right time and didn’t need Adrian Peterson to pile on the rushing yards to do it. They win next week and they are in, it’s that simple.

– Houston is playing extremely sloppy at the wrong point in the season. It amazes me that they still have a chance at a First-Round bye next week.

– Denver is the only consistent team in the AFC right now and it’s coming at the right time with the playoffs nearing. I just hope that the Broncos weak schedule doesn’t come back to haunt them like it did for New England last season.

– Who saw the Cleveland Browns having 5 wins this season? They have a chance at 6 next week and amongst Browns fans that would be overachieving.

– Well they may have been struggling lately but they got a crucial win in Week 16 against Arizona. Lovie’s job as head coach is safe for at least this week; if they fail to beat Detroit in Week 17 or make the playoffs then it could be franchise-changing times in Chicago.

– Arizona really needs a quarterback and I don’t think Alex Smith or Mark Sanchez is the answer.

– All of us left the Ravens for “dead” and got proven wrong in Week 16. This is the type of win a team needs at this point in the season when they have been struggling and the Ravens got it. I still am not a huge believer in their playoffs chances but the win was really encouraging.

– I cannot believe there is a large probability that the Giants don’t make the playoffs this season. At times they have played like the best team in the league and in recent weeks they have been extremely inconsistent. The defending Super Bowl Champions need A LOT of things to happen next week, including for them to defeat Philadelphia of course, for them to make the playoffs.

– The Seattle Seahawks are proving to the NFL that they may just be the team to beat come January. What a huge win for the Seahawks against one of the best teams in the league, the San Francisco 49ers. This team is gaining momentum at the right time and we all know what that means come playoff time…

- Injuries and inconsistency in the last 6 quarters could be coming to haunt the Niners at the wrong time in the season. The fact that they may not have a first-round bye in the playoffs is extremely surprising and it’s possible that this team could be underachieving. Hopefully that changes once January hits.

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

You can follow Jeff on Twitter at www.twitter.com/JeffPeck979ESPN

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Fantasy Football Waiver Wire Week 12 Pickups

November 20, 2012 By: Category: Fantasy Football, NFL | NCAA Football, Sports

Fantasy Football owners in need of a starting running back or quarterback may be in a lot of luck this week. Searching for solid pickups on the waiver wire in Fantasy Football Week 12 is never easy, yet a few injuries have presented owners with some interesting options late in the season.

Quarterbacks

Chad Henne, Jacksonville Jaguars - Henne is coming off a career game but how much of this was the Texans sleeping on the Jaguars or is Henne really that good? Henne never impressed me in college and was somewhat of a bust in Miami. However, there is a chance that Mike Mularky could be the difference here and maybe, just maybe Henne has grasped this offense. I’d probably pick him up and wait a week just to see how consistent he is but he is certainly worth a shot after seeing what he did to arguably the best defense in the NFL.

Sam Bradford, St. Louis Rams - You are probably thinking that I have lost my mind but keep in mind a few things here. One, your options are limited anyway if you are looking at a QB right now. Two, he has a really great run of matchups down the stretch. Three, he has had double digit weeks every week going back to week 5 and that includes some big games against some decent defenses. That Tampa Bay matchup in Week 16 could be a real sneaky play if you are weak at QB entering your championship game.

Wide Receivers

Santana Moss, Washington Redskins - Moss has had 4 TDs in his last four games and yet he remains on the waiver wire in just about every league I am in. He doesn’t get much action but when he does, it usually results in a score. Whether Pierre Garcon is on the field or not, Moss will continue to be a go-to guy for RG III. Expect the Redskins to play spoiler down the stretch with Moss earning himself a few more scores as the season closes out. That said, he is certainly as boom or bust as it gets with a lot of boom lately. I know Blackmon is the hot name this week but I’d rather go with the consistent scorer than the guy who has had one great game all year.

Justin Blackmon, Jacksonville Jaguars - Blackmon finally broke out this weekend with over 200 yards on the NFL’s best defense. Is this a fluke or is it for real? I am certainly not going to put him in my lineup over consistent starters this week but he is certainly worth a shot. I had him on a few teams coming into the season but dropped him after it became apparent that the Jags offense was every bit as terrible as it was last year. A backup QB usually doesn’t give a wide receiver like Blackmon that much of a boost but when your backup is replacing Blaine Gabbert, everyone gets a boost. Pick him up this week, see how he follows up this weekend, and start playing him next week if the ride continues.

Running Backs

Ronnie Hillman, Denver Broncos - I’d probably say that your best bet on the waiver wire this week period is Hillman. Willis McGahee is out up to 8 weeks and Hillman is expected to get the lion’s share of the load during his absence. Hillman should get plenty of opportunities in that high impact offense making him my number one target on this week’s wire. I may wait a week before I start him just to see how they use him in Denver, but you won’t be able to snag him if you wait until next week.

Jalen Parmele, Jacksonville Jaguars - Parmele got the start Sunday in Houston and rushed for 80 yards on 24 carries. Maurice Jones-Drew is expected to return soon so Parmele certainly isn’t going to be anyone’s long term answer. However, the Jaguars get a very run-friendly Tennessee Titans defense this week. I may give him a shot in my 16-team league if I can get him (I am just decimated all over the place by injuries) although I still wouldn’t touch him anywhere else. In other words, temper your expectations, but grab him if you’re desperate.

Bryce Brown, Philadelphia Eagles - As a Philadelphia Eagles fan I can tell you that it is getting really ugly in Philadelphia. The starting QB is out, the coach is clueless, and now they are likely to miss their star running back next week. Brown has been hot and cold so I have no idea what you are going to get here. The only plus is that you have a coach that enjoys going against conventional wisdom in every situation. What would you expect the coach to do without his star RB? You’d expect more of a passing game. With Andy Reid, look for more runs against the Panthers than all season.

Tight Ends

Brandon Myers, Oakland Raiders - Myers continues to be a reliable target for Carson Palmer in the pass-heavy Oakland offense. He is coming off of double digit targets this past Sunday and a score. Myers will go up against one of the worst defenses against tight ends in the NFL in the Bengals. The Bengals have given up three TDs to TEs in their last four games. Look for Myers to make it five in five.

Defense

Carolina Panthers, Defense - After several disappointing weeks playing the Steelers defenses I decided to start playing defenses off the wire and it has made a huge difference. Look no further than the Carolina Panthers if you are looking for a solid wire play this week. The Panthers get the Philadelphia Eagles this week who have now given up back to back mid-high double digits to defenses. It isn’t going to get better as the Eagles will probably be playing without LeSean McCoy. Look for a big day from the Panthers defense in Philadelphia.

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Fantasy Football Start Em Sit Em Week 11

November 15, 2012 By: Category: Fantasy Football, NFL | NCAA Football, Sports

Your hopes and dreams are coming near a conclusion. Are you a fantasy football playoff team? Are you a spoiler? Do you really have no idea what you are? Well very much all in a season’s work for many Fantasy owners. Week 11 brings (finally!) the end of bye weeks, some serious QB injury issues, and some tough match ups. The time is surely now to separate men from boys, and winners from losers.

As for me, another fantastic week last week had me finish at 4-0 in my leagues, and I am currently the top points guy in 3 of those 4, and in the last league, well just a TD from the lead. I am currently fielding a lusty record of 26-14, and while I am cruising with big points, no playoff spot is yet locked and nothing is safe. This week some key players will have the bye, guys like Adrian Peterson and the suddenly red-hot Chris Johnson to name a few. Also QBs like Ben Roethlisberger and Jay Cutler have concussion issues, which not only makes it tough for owners of them, but owners of their main WR targets and RBs. This is a challenging week, get that bench ready, and get ready for some Shark advice, and let’s try and get through this together.

It has been a good news and bad news year here with the start/sit/ Last week I showed a little lack of guts, which so isn’t me, and tweeted how I really should have advised against Doug Martin, but oh what hell would be raised, I mean he was sensational 2 straight weeks. Well the difference here, he played a real tough run defense. Alright so I have to go back to “stick with your stars” but remember, Doug Martin was not a huge production guy early. So I am back to going with the gut feeling. Yes, we all want to be right, but sometimes we need to venture out and swallow some pride to get there. So, take a read, and adjust accordingly, it’s go time people!

Quarterback

Start

Carson Palmer, Oakland Raiders vs. New Orleans Saints: Yes, I am at that point. However, with injuries and bye weeks playing a roll, Palmer looks like a great bet against a poor defense at home. In his last 3 weeks he has popped for 9 TDs and close to 1,000 yards. If you’re in that pinch, feel safe with Palmer here.

Matthew Stafford, Detroit Lions vs. Green Bay Packers: Break up the Lions! Despite a tough loss last week, this offense is playing much better, including Stafford who in his last 3 is averaging about 300 yards, and also has 6 TDs in those 3 weeks. When you play Aaron Rodgers, you have to pass often, and Stafford is improved, so use him.

Andy Dalton, Cincinnati Bengals at Kansas City Chiefs: Don’t buy that hype you saw Monday night from the Chiefs defense. It was a trap game and the Steelers were just flat. Dalton and his Bengals need wins and they will come ready. 8 TDs in his last 3 looks good too. The Bengals can gain ground while the Steelers suffer with key injuries, so it’s a huge game for them right here.

Cam Newton, Carolina Panthers vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: No I am not a Cam Newton supporter, but it is hard not to like him against Tampa and the leagues 32nd ranked pass defense. He has been a bit better of late, and should service well here if needed.

Peyton Manning, Denver Broncos vs. San Diego Chargers: Oh so obvious! Yes, I know, but I deserve an easy one right? Just a few weeks back, on the road, he torched them for 309 yards and 3 TDs in a wild second half comeback. This time at home the Broncos should be more in control, and Manning will have another solid day. Yeah, like you’d bench him anyway.

Sit

Ryan Fitzpatrick, Buffalo Bills vs. Miami Dolphins: The Dolphins pass defense is nothing special, but just on a hunch by the numbers on Fitz the last 4 weeks: 0 TDs 3 TDs, 0 TDs, 2 TDs. If you can follow the pattern next up is 0? Make sense? He is always hard to trust anyway, so try and do better.

Brandon Weeden, Cleveland Browns at Dallas Cowboys: A few weeks back many of us were going after Weeden, and he was becoming a bye week darling. Since then he has gone 2 straight without a TD and awful QB ratings. On the road in this stadium against this rejuvenated defense won’t help that cause.

Robert Griffin III, Washington Redskins vs. Philadelphia Eagles: Despite all of their troubles, the Eagles defense is still 10th in pass yards allowed. Griffin has slowed a bit of late throwing just 4 TD passes in 4 weeks. His team as a whole is been on the down swing, and the Eagles really need to save face against a team they usually do well against. May not be a total shut down, but I don’t see evidence that says he can go nuts either.

Alex Smith, San Francisco 49ers vs. Chicago Bears: He has passed his concussion tests so he should play, but how well? The Bears defense has 19 INTs and are 5th in fewest yards allowed. This defense has to be extra good also if Jay Cutler is out, so expect a lot of hard times for Smith.

Nick Foles, Philadelphia Eagles at Washington Redskins: I am not so much afraid of a poor Redskins pass defense, but I would like to see what the rookie has before I bank on him. A lot of “experts say to grab him, fine get him if you want, but wait before throwing him in there.

Running Back

Start

CJ Spiller, Buffalo Bills vs. Miami Dolphins: What is a Fantasy for Spiller owners? Well having Fred Jackson out of the Bills line up. While some are questioning, Spiller was jacking up huge numbers when being the go to guy, and still did well in a time share. Almost 7 yards per touch not good enough? It should be, and it will be. Spiller does it against any team, and this is a game he should be real busy in.

Stevan Ridley, New England Patriots vs. Indianapolis Colts: Ridley’s surprising season had a nice return over the last 2 weeks. He has scored in each and had over 100 yards in one and close in another. For the year a hefty 4.7 yards per carry, and enough help in that backfield to rest him and keep him strong. The Colts do little against the run, so despite Brady lighting it up regularly, Ridley should still get his here/

Steven Jackson, St. Louis Rams vs. New York Jets: The Jets run defense is brutal and Jackson is coming off a nice game against the 49ers. Jackson runs better on the turf at home, so you can do much worse with some big backs on a bye week.

Reggie Bush, Miami Dolphins at Buffalo Bills: Again? I have been ripped for recommending Bush lately, but if he can’t get off the skids against this defense, then he better find a new job. All fumbles aside, I predict a resurgent beast mode here.

Jamaal Charles, Kansas City Chiefs vs. Cincinnati Bengals: Maybe head coach Romeo Crennel learned Monday that when Charles has the chance he does pretty good. 100 yards and a TD against the Steelers is a pretty good outing, and at home he should get more looks and find some success, if his team can stay in this one.

Sit

Willis McGahee, Denver Broncos vs. San Diego Chargers: The Chargers are tough to run on, and McGahee seems like he has dipped his hands in grease lately. A few more fumbles and we may be looking at a time share here. McGahee has done very little the last few weeks, so look elsewhere.

Carolina Panthers RBs vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Yes the pass defense stinks, but the Bucs make up for it with the number 1 run defense. Besides it’s not like we have any clue who the featured guy will be each week.

Alex Green, Green Bay Packers at Detroit Lions: Wake me when this supposed sensation breaks out. 3.1 yards per carry and still no TDs since all of you gobbled him up when Cedric Benson went down. He is just a bad, bad option.

Michael Turner, Atlanta Falcons vs. Arizona Cardinals: Tell me you still trust a guy that had just 15 yards on 12 carries, against the Saints! Yeah keep looking.

Steelers RBs vs. Baltimore Ravens: No, the Ravens aren’t that tough anymore against the run, but we really have no idea how or why they use any of their backs, and with Byron Leftwich at QB, the Ravens will gladly stack the line to slow down the Steelers ground game.

Wide Receiver

Calvin Johnson, Detroit Lions vs. Green Bay Packers: Bad knee, concussion, poor offense, Madden Curse, oh yeah and 19 catches for 336 yards and a TD over the last 2 weeks. Yeah, I would say he’s back. Roll with Mega-tron.

Reggie Wayne, Indianapolis Colts at New England Patriots: Andrew Luck takes over for Peyton Manning in this long time rivalry. As for Wayne he is first in catches and second in yards this season. Now if he could get some TDs huh! He is still huge without, so use him.

Danario Alexander, San Diego Chargers at Denver Broncos: They may have finally found a down-field speed threat. 5 catches for 134 yards last week, including an 80 yard TD, and now had 8 for 195 in 2 weeks. Denver has a good defense, but they can’t cover everyone every down. This is a sweet sneak pick here.

Danny Amendola, St. Louis Rams vs. New York Jets: Ho hum. He came back from injury last week to a mere 11 catches and 102 yards. He is always an injury risk, but boy when he is on the field he sure does get it done.

Brandon Marshall, Chicago Bears at San Francisco 49ers: I know he may not have Cutler, and is playing a very tough defense, but the Bears have wised up, and do what they can to get him the ball. He is in the tops in the league in catches, yards and TDs and while many are looking around, he has been a quiet but deadly MVP type player. You just can’t bench him no matter what, he’s just too good right now.

Sit

Cecil Shorts, Jacksonville Jaguars at Houston Texans: Don’t laugh. Some people will be trying this. He’s been getting better, but please not in this one.

Marques Colston, New Orleans Saints at Oakland Raiders: Sure, he has TDs in 2 straight, but in the last 3 games, the catches are 5,4 and 3. When Jimmy Graham is healthy he is usually option 1, and the Raiders don’t stop TEs well. You may need him, but don’t get too excited.

Dwayne Bowe, Kansas City Chiefs vs. Cincinnati Bengals: 18 catches and 0 TDs in 4 weeks. Please tell me you aren’t using him.

Miles Austin, Dallas Cowboys vs. Cleveland Browns: Only 2 grabs last week, and now may be seeing some Joe Haden. Dez Bryant and Jason Witten have become the top 2 options, and Miles is doing average work of late.

Michael Crabtree, San Francisco 49ers vs. Chicago Bears: Some nice work the last 2 weeks with 3 TDs, in fact it’s just good enough to earn him the match up with Charles Tillman. I feel Tillman has that advantage.

Tight End

Start

Jimmy Graham, New Orleans Saints at Oakland Raiders: When we hear the phrase “man-crush” do we all picture Drew Brees thinking about Jimmy Graham? I know I do. He’s had 20 catches and 4 TDs since returning healthy in 3 games. He is a beast.

Greg Olsen, Carolina Panthers vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: The Bucs have a terrible pass defense, so someone has to go off here. Why not Olsen, who had his first 100 yard game of the season last week?

Jason Witten, Dallas Cowboys vs. Cleveland Browns: 33 grabs in the last 3 weeks is crazy work. He also has added about 260 yards to it. He is a wonderful check valve for the otherwise brutal Tony Romo.

Sit

Jermichael Finley, Green Bay Packers at Detroit Lions: If you’re still using him, please stop reading this.

Scott Chandler, Buffalo Bills vs. Miami Dolphins: Yes, he has 5 TDs this year, but 3 of them were against New England, so I guess not here? Maybe?

Dustin Keller, New York Jets at St. Louis Rams: They are still fairly stingy in letting up TDs, something Keller only has 1 of this year. This offense is a mess right now.

Defenses I like this week:

St. Louis Rams vs. New York Jets

Baltimore Ravens at Pittsburgh Steelers

Atlanta Falcons vs. Arizona Cardinals

Defenses I don’t like:

Indianapolis Colts at New England Patriots

New Orleans Saints at Oakland Raiders

Buffalo Bills vs. Miami Dolphins

So here is the juice for Week 11. Go out there and play your best, and we will see you all for Week 12!

I have now joined Twitter, so if you would like to ask any questions or need any advice feel free to reach out to my personal account, @JPshark71.

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Fantasy Football Waiver Wire Week 10 Pickups

November 06, 2012 By: Category: Fantasy Football, NFL | NCAA Football, Sports

Week 10 is not a week that will turn around your fantasy football season.You won’t find many gems out there, yet there are a few safety valves that are worthy pickups if you need a bye-week substitute or want to take a flyer on a couple of gambles.

Quarterbacks

Ryan Tannehill, Miami Dolphins - Tannehill started out slow but he has heated up the last few weeks. He is quietly putting together some nice numbers and is on pace to get even better as the season progresses. Tannehill has one of the juiciest matchups on the docket in week 10 against the Tennessee Titans who just gave up three TDs to Jay Cutler. The Dolphins defense is highly underrated and will likely give Tannehill some short fields on Sunday. If you’re like me and you own one of the bye week QBs, Tannehill is your man. I’m certainly going to put in a claim for him in two leagues.

Carson Palmer, Oakland Raiders - Palmer is quietly having a very nice fantasy season in Oakland. Since coming back from the bye week he has had at least one TD in every game including six in his last two. Now that Darren McFadden is out whatever little running game the Raiders had will morph into more opportunities for Palmer to put it in the air. He’s got a tough game this week against the Baltimore Ravens but this isn’t the same Ravens shutdown defense you are used to seeing. Granted Palmer has played some soft defenses lately but he still manged 1 TD and 350+ yards against a stingy Falcons defense. I like Tannehill slightly better this week but I like Palmer a lot more over the long haul.

Running Backs

Andre Brown, New York Giants - We have a Mike Tolbert situation on our hands here. I own Bradshaw and Brown and have watched Brown vulture scores for the last three weeks. The guy is legit and has a touchdown in each of the last three weeks to prove it. Now keep in mind he still hasn’t reached double digits but he had better weeks this week than starters like Rashad Jennings, Ryan Matthews, and his own teammate Ahmad Bradshaw. Bradshaw’s production has drastically dropped and the Giants know it. Brown isn’t going to be the starter but so what? If he gets these scores every week he will be worth starting.

Marcel Reese/Mike Goodson Oakland Raiders - I am a Darren McFadden owner and quite frankly I am going to pass on these two. While I would normally draft Run DMC’s backup I passed this season due to the instability at the position. Nobody is quite sure who exactly McFadden’s backup is. Goodson would probably get the first call but he is hurt. Reese will get some shots but this is obviously a passing team. I feel as if I owe it to you to at least mention these guys but I would steer clear of both. If you are in a 16-team league and need a RB, well you may have to take a shot. Otherwise I’d pass.

Wide Receivers

Emmanuel Sanders, Pittsburgh Steelers - An injury to Antonio Brown opens up a nice opportunity for Sanders at the right time. Sanders will get the generous Kansas City defense on Monday night. Sanders should be able to take advantage of the matchup and put up double digits in this spot. Brown is expected back in Week 11 so the pickup is only a temporary fix for this week only.

Pierre Garcon, Washington Redskins - This is another gamble and could result in zero points and a wasted roster spot. I play in several leagues and Garcon has been dropped in all of them. The buzz on Garcon is that the Redskins will make a determination on his future after the bye week which is this week. If Garcon can get back on the field in weeks 11 or 12 you could have yourself a high end WR 2 borderline WR 1 depending on the matchup. If you have the room or an IR spot, take a hard look at Garcon.

Tight Ends

Greg Olsen, Carolina Panthers - This is purely matchup right here. Olsen has been hot and cold but he couldn’t have a better matchup this weekend than what he has against the Denver Broncos. The Broncos are horrendous against tight ends and have given up three TDS in the last three weeks to TEs. While they kept Jermaine Gresham out of the end zone Sunday they did allow him to rack up 100 yards. If Olsen can’t produce here, he may as well stay on the wire for the rest of the season.

Defenses

Miami Dolphins Defense - This is the first time I have put a defense on here all season. But there is no defense with a better matchup on Sunday than the Dolphins. Even better, they are probably available in your league. Unless you own the Chicago Bears, you are better off playing defenses off the wire by matchup. If you were ever going to take a shot at a waiver wire defense, this is your week to grab the Dolphins.

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Fantasy Football Waiver Wire Week 10 Pickups

NFL Week 7 Thoughts & Recap – Inside The Wheelhouse

October 23, 2012 By: Category: Fantasy Football, NFL | NCAA Football, Sports

Let’s take a look back at some of the things that stood out from Week 7 in the National Football League!

– San Francisco edged out the Seahawks in a defensive battle proving that contrary to others beliefs, they are still the team to beat in the NFC West.

– I felt like despite the loss, Seattle proved they could hang with some of the best in the NFC. Seattle could’ve really made this into a game at different points but failed to convert at ample opportunities. It’s definitely a “learning loss” for Russell Wilson and Co.

- Welcome back Chris Johnson to the NFL. I look forward to most Fantasy owners starting him next week and for him to run upwards of 20 yards…for the entire game.

– Whatever happened to that amazing Buffalo Bills defense we were supposed to see this season? Chan Gailey just isn’t the guy for this team and the Bills organization needs to consider hiring a coach that can make this franchise believe they are the winners we know they can be.

– I’d say the New York Football Giants were lucky to beat the Washington Redskins in Week 7 but we know how that goes as the defending Super Bowl Champs play that type of “come-from-behind” victories ALL THE TIME. Good win but definitely foreshadowing into the future of what the NFC East will become.

– What is there to not say about RGIII? Guy is a gamer and going to be a huge thorn in the side of the Giants for years to come.

– New Orleans wins their 2nd game of the season after a call went their way. They don’t look as dominating and I don’t see them as a playoff team still but they are winning games. Thankfully for them they can still turn this around and get better for weeks to come.

– Tampa Bay is a frustrating team. Ton of potential but not completely capitalizing on it yet, at least these losses will help them plan for the future and hopefully learn from it.

– For the 2nd week in a row the Green Bay Packers are looking “normal” and Aaron Rodgers is setting the Fantasy Football world on fire. If they are playing this way without Greg Jennings, I can only imagine how they will play with Greg Jennings.

– The Rams never got going like they did against Arizona back on a Thursday Night game and I have to wonder if Sam Bradford will ever come into his own as a franchise QB still; lots to work on for St. Louis after a frustrating Week 7 loss.

– Congrats to Tony Romo and the Cowboys for avoiding this week’s “Monday Morning quarterback” headlines. This team still doesn’t have what it takes heading into Week 8 and I have to wonder if the relationship between Tony Romo & the Cowboys are coming to an end in the near-to-soon future. It may be time to move on after not playing up to the par Dallas sets them up to be every season.

– Cam Newton has zero confidence right now. Want to watch a Football star look at their career in the mirror with not a single ounce of positivity? Then watch Cam Newton’s post-game press conference after the Week 7 loss to Dallas. Not a good attitude to have for such a young player.

– Sure, we were worried about Houston after their tough Week 6 loss to Green Bay but they bounced back just fine. I really expect them to start pulling away from the rest of the AFC South in the coming weeks.

– Things aren’t looking too bright in Baltimore right now. I was wondering how they would handle all of their depleting injuries to their defense and that answer was not well. Joe Flacco needs to step up and lead this team if he ever wants to be a franchise defining quarterback in the NFL.

– Always great to see the Indianapolis Colts get the win due to everything going on with this organization. Even better news was that head coach Chuck Pagano left the hospital this weekend. Many Football fans are thinking of you right now Coach, stay strong!

– It’s a common trend here on the blog but I still love what Cleveland is doing despite all these losses. They haven’t been blown out like some weaker teams have been and they have stayed pretty competitive. Cleveland is making the right changes with their organization consistently as Mike Holmgren will also be out as President of Football Operations, good things will be coming to Cleveland in the future.

– The Minnesota Vikings are 5-2 heading into Week 7. I’m really intrigued to see how this squad will handle divisional play against Chicago and Green Bay this season. Do I believe them to be a playoff team due to their record? No, but if they are still competitive come Week 12 then I will take them seriously.

– Arizona is back-peddling out of all the good fortune and praise they received for the first 4-5 weeks of the season. I wonder how many jokes are still being made about this Cardinals team with the line: “they are who we thought they were…”

– Oakland comes back and wins the game as they prove they are NOT the worst team in the league. It’s a shame that this great game was on the same time Jets vs. Patriots was…

– Looks like that holdout finally caught up to MJD…Fantasy owners hold your breath (don’t worry I’m one of them in several leagues)!

– At one point it looked like New England was going to drop to 3-4 on the season heading into Week 8. That is something you never thought you’d see at the halfway point of the season during the Brady/Belichick era in New England. They continue to struggle against poor teams which make me wonder how they will handle some of the “elite” in the AFC this season.

– Lets face it; the Jets had low expectations going into Week 7. The fact they nearly beat their division rival would be an accomplishment for most teams but not for a team from New York. Mark Sanchez had his chance and he yet again, literally, dropped the ball.

– In a battle of disappointments the Pittsburgh Steelers get the win over the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday Night and while the window may be closing on this team they still have a very good chance to take over the AFC North at the moment. The AFC North is quite the crapshoot right now due in part to the Ravens injuries and despite not necessarily being a strong team, the Pittsburgh Steelers getting divisional wins such as this one will help their cause to at least make the playoffs in 2012.

– Cincy, what happened!? They were looking so good and then this losing streak has really set them back a ways. Clearly there is still a lot of room to grow in Cincinnati before we can put them up there with Baltimore and Pittsburgh.

- The Chicago Bears are starting to turn me into a believer but one that I will precede with caution towards. Their defense is incredibly solid and the best in Football right now, while their offense, at times, can be very inconsistent. If everything clicks together come January this is a team that could very well be representing the NFC in the Super Bowl.

– By far the biggest disappointment in 2012 has to be the Detroit Lions. This team was picked by many to start taking over the NFC North division starting this season and they are failing to live up to those expectations. You know things are getting bad when people are questioning the longevity of your #1 overall draft pick QB, Matthew Stafford.

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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