Former Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston throwing a pass at the 2015 NFL Scouting Combine Joe Robbins/Getty Images

Former Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston throwing a pass at the 2015 NFL Scouting Combine
Joe Robbins/Getty Images

By Kelton Brooks (@BrooksWeekly)

The NFL Scouting Combine, the exact science that’s not so exact, has again come and gone.

It’s the annual football Olympics that surfaces every year on the speed-friendly turf in Indianapolis, Indiana. The spectacle is technically the first football-related interview for college football players with dreams of performing on the big stage that is the National Football League.

The “Road to the Pros,” as some calls it.

Executives, coaches, scouts, and doctors from all 32 NFL teams sat high in the press or coach’s box and glared down with binoculars or glued randomly in the stands as each participant pushed it to the max in the shuttle run, 3-cone-drill, broad and vertical jump, bench press and the critically-acclaimed 40-yard dash.

And I love it all.

But honestly, it doesn’t matter if a 340 pound lineman runs a 4.58 in the 40-yard dash, or a 5.7. Linemen are measured on quick burst, lateral quickness and strength. It doesn’t matter if a wide receiver runs a 4.35 in the 40, or a 4.75.

Compare the careers of former 1st-round pick Darrius Heyward-Bey, who ran a scorching 4.30 flat in the 2009 Combine, and Anquan Boldin, a 2nd-rounder who ran a pedestrian 4.71 in the 2003 Combine.

Heyward-Bey is a bust considering his lofty 7th overall pick selection by the Oakland Raiders in 2009, playing on three team in six seasons and never eclipsing a 1,000 yards in a single year.

Boldin, on the other hand, is a Super Bowl champion with a borderline Hall of Fame career.

But I’m not here to compare oranges to apples and explain how sprinting down the sidelines can get you a couple extra million dollars or how lifting 225 pounds on the bench press 15 or 50 times will determine how many tackles in a game.

I’m here for two reasons.

One, to briefly give kudos to the top five quarterbacks in the 2015 NFL Draft according to NFL Draft guru Mike Mayock, for opting to lay out all their skills on the table after it has been widely publicized that this year’s crop of quarterback is “weak” and “less desirable.”

That group consist of (in order) former 2013 Heisman trophy winner Jameis Winston, 2014 Heisman Trophy winner Marcus Mariota, Baylor’s Bryce Petty, Brett Hundley of UCLA, and Colorado State’s Garrett Grayson.

And second, the NFL Combine is also a buster of stereotypes.

In 2013, the Arizona Cardinals selected former Texas A&M wide receiver Ryan Swope with the 174th overall pick in the sixth round. Swope ran an unprecedented 4.34 in the 40-yard dash.

That’s fast, but nothing close to running back Chris Johnson’s Combine record of 4.24 in 2008. But I’ll let Swope explain why his 40 time was “unprecedented.”

“I think a lot of people were pretty shocked,” Swope said in a 2013 interview. “You don’t see that every day, a white guy running a 4.3.”

Remember is 1992 when Woody Harrelson proved to Wesley Snipes that, in fact, white men can jump? Well, Swope showed NFL scouts that white men can run, too.

But sadly, the 24-year-old’s career ended before he took his first snap. He announced his retirement July of 2013 during Organized Teams Activities because of reoccurring concussions.

But the most recognized player for reasons off and on the field, is shattering the mold, Winston.

The stereotype around black quarterbacks on any level of football is he is “always” mobile, always athletic, and always looking to run first. But the worst and most undermining stereotype is that black quarterbacks can’t “digest the playbook,” meaning they don’t have the IQ to learn the playbook.

Winston was, of course, seen as a mobile and an athletic quarterback. Well, Winston clocked in at a 4.97 on his first attempt and a 4.99 in his second in the 40-yard dash, ranking 10th and out of 13 participating quarterbacks.

“He tuck and ran a lot during the season!”

Jameis Winston rushed for 65 yards for the entire year.

Winston is head and shoulders above every quarterback as a passer in this year’s draft. Winston is a quarterback that can extend plays from the pocket. Winston is a quarterback that can run if he has to, not a, per say, running quarterback.

And as far as the IQ insult, according to NBC’s Pro Football Talk, Winston’s knowledge of the game has reportedly caught the attention of numerous club officials who met with him during the NFL Scouting Combine.

Reportedly, an unnamed evaluator raved about Winston’s football IQ saying, “I think he’s (Winston) probably the smartest player I’ve ever interviewed” and even went out on a limb comparing him to Peyton Manning on sheer football IQ.

I don’t see Peyton Manning in Winston, but more of the Steelers’ Ben Roethlisberger and former NFL quarterback Daunte Culpepper.

But I also see a quarterback that’s not falling into the stereotype.

Hopefully more guys like Swope and Winston come along to break loose any stereotype chained to any players of any position in any sport.

Minnesota Timberwolves forward Andrew Wiggins (22).

Minnesota Timberwolves forward Andrew Wiggins (22).

By Kelton Brooks (@BrooksWeekly)

Most Valuable Player: Steph Curry, Golden State Warriors

It just feels right.

Stephen-Curry-shooting

Steph Curry (30).

Curry is the best player, on the best team, in the best conference. The three-point sniper put on a show in the NBA All-star three-point contest knocking down a contest record-score of 27. He drained 13 straight shots in the second round of the contest, which is second longest streak behind Craig Hodges’ 1991 streak of 19 straight.

The 5th-year man out of Davidson has developed into an all around player and true point guard ranking in the top-10 in scoring (23.6; tied for 7th), three-pointers made (161; tied for 1st), assists (7.9; tied for 5th) and steals (2.16; 1st).

In the Warriors 42 wins, Curry has averaged 24 points and 8 assist. This is Curry’s season, this is Curry’s year, this is his time to win an MVP trophy and to lead his team to a Finals appearance in the dog-eat-dog Western Conference.

Rookie of the Year: Andrew Wiggins, Minnesota Timberwolves

andrew-wiggins-george-hill-nba-preseason-minnesota-timberwolves-indiana-pacers2-850x560

Wiggins (22).

This race was over when Jabari Parker was lost for the season with a torn ACL.

Heck, all of top heavy talent in this past prized rookie class fell victim to injury. Wiggins’ former University of Kansas teammate Joel Embiid won’t suit up this season as he’s recovering from foot surgery. Former Kentucky standout Julius Randle broke his leg on the opening night of the season. Magic forward Aaron Gordon had foot surgery nine games into the season, but has since returned. And Celtics guard Marcus Smart missed a period of time with an ankle injury.

I’m not saying Wiggins won the race by default, but it wasn’t much of a competition. Wiggins is undoubtedly a rising two-way star in this league and has increased his scoring total every month of the season. The ROY hardware already has Wiggins’ name engraved.

Defensive Player of the Year: Anthony Davis, New Orleans Pelicans

In two to three years, Davis will be an MVP candidate and will likely take home the prestigious award. Davis is a ball magnet and can defend every single position on the court. He’s long enough to block shots on centers and power forwards, the strength and speed to stay on the hip of a small forward, and lateral quickness to hang with guards.

Davis (23), blocks Robin Lopez.

Davis (23), blocks Robin Lopez.

Davis is leading the NBA in blocks with 2.74, blocks per foul with 1.33, and altered hundreds of shots. Davis has endured a few nagging injuries as of late, but if he can remain healthy in the second half of the season, I believe Davis will have a strong chance to come away with the award.

 

 

Most Improved Player: Jimmy Butler, Chicago Bulls

Butler is becoming one of the best two-way players in the NBA. The elevation of his play only turns the Bulls into a scarier foe. Butler was only known for his ability to clamp down on defense and regularly guard the best player on opposing teams.

But now Butler is a threat on the offensive side of the ball averaging a career high in

Butler (21).

Butler (21).

points per game, 20.4, rebounds per game, 5.8, and assist per game, 3.6. His game has transformed completely. Butler has become a better outside shooter, developed a growing post-game and has transitioned well playing off the ball in the return of Derrick Rose.

Butler is the epitome of the word improved.

 

 

Sixth Man of the Year: Lou Williams, Toronto Raptors

Lou Williams (23).

Lou Williams (23).

The No. 2 seed Toronto Raptors wouldn’t be where they are without Williams. He provides a spark off the bench and instant offense for a team already loaded with fire power all across the board. Coming off the bench, Williams is third on the team in player efficiency, third on the team in scoring, third on the team in field goals made per game, and has the second highest free throw percentage.

When the Raptors need points, Williams is the answer.

 

Coach of the Year: Mike Budenholzer, Atlanta Hawks

Steve Kerr is doing a phenomenal job with the Warriors in Golden State, but with the talent on that roster, a coach could sleep walk into 45 wins.

Oct 17, 2013; Atlanta, GA, USA; Atlanta Hawks head coach Mike Budenholzer calls a play in the first half against the San Antonio Spurs at Philips Arena. Mandatory Credit: Daniel Shirey-USA TODAY Sports

Oct 17, 2013; Atlanta, GA, USA; Atlanta Hawks head coach Mike Budenholzer calls a play in the first half against the San Antonio Spurs at Philips Arena. Mandatory Credit: Daniel Shirey-USA TODAY Sports

But no one saw the Hawks leading the Eastern Conference with a 43-11 record at the All-star break, no one. This is an easy decision.

If you did foresee this happening, I want proof.

The Hawks went on a scorching franchise record with 19 straight wins from Dec. 26 to Feb. 2. Atlanta won those 19 games by an average of 11.4 points and went 17-0 in the month of January. They became the first team in NBA history to go undefeated in January.

The Hawks are unselfish and depend on each other to do their job. Atlanta’s starting five are all averaging double figures and point guard Jeff Teague has taken his game to another level. Not to mention lethal shooter Kyle Korver who’s on an historic pace for three-point shooting.

Budenholzer has the recipe for winning after spending 18 seasons as an assistant coach on Gregg Popovich’s staff in San Antonio. He knows how to manage his collection of talent. The players have completely bought in to his philosophy and doing what takes to win night in and night out.

Cleveland Browns wide receiver Josh Gordon (12) has been officially suspended for a year by the NFL

Cleveland Browns wide receiver Josh Gordon (12) has been officially suspended for a year by the NFL

According to multiple reports, Josh Gordon is officially suspended without pay for a minimum of one year for violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy, the Browns announced Tuesday.

I wrote a column about the rumors circulating Gordon of a possible year long suspension and his open-letter prior to the official ruling coming down. The column was published in The Hutchinson News, where I am the law enforcement and courts reporter, as well as a sports writer.

Below is the link to the column.

Column on Josh Gordon and his suspension.

Courtesy Neil Horowitz

Courtesy Neil Horowitz

By Kelton Brooks (@BrooksWeekly)

When the Seattle Seahawks No. 1 ranked defense faced off against the Denver Broncos’ No. 1 ranked offense in last year’s Super Bowl, it was the first time in NFL history the two top-ranked offense and defense met in the big dance.

And the Seahawks made the Broncos dance alone to a slumbrous tune in a 43-8 stomping. The score was more exciting than the game. In every facet of the game, the Seahawks dominated. Manning and his high octane offense took a knockout gut punch from one of the most formidable defenses the league has ever witnessed.

The Seahawks and its historical defense will hoist the Lombardi Trophy in back-to-back years, but not in a laughable 43-8 fashion over Tom Brady and the New England Patriots.

Let me put the Seahawks defense in statistical and historical perspective.

Seattle has led the league in scoring defense in each of the last three seasons. Seattle yielded 15.3 points per game in 2012, 14.4 points a game in 2013 and capped off a 2014 campaign allowing 15.9 points per game in a “down year.”

The only team that has reached those heights were the 1969-71 “Purple People Eaters” of the Minnesota Vikings that led the league in scoring defense in each of those years.

That’s the point of the game, right? To outscore your opponents or to prevent them from scoring. Prior to the Seahawks six game winning streak to end the season, they allowed 61 point combined Weeks 9 through 11. In those last six wins of the regular season, they allowed only 39 points. That’s 6.5 points per game.

But according to the Elias Sports Bureau, the Seahawks defense has a chink in their armor. And that chink’s name is Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski.

Opposing quarterbacks have 11 touchdowns and two interceptions when targeting tight ends against the Seahawks defense, according to Elias Sports. When throwing to running backs and receivers, quarterbacks have six touchdowns to 11 interceptions against the Legion of Boom.

Interesting statistics that points to one of the most pivotal matchups, Gronkowski versus the hard hitting safety Kam Chancellor. Those top tier competitors is a violent matchup that’s on an unavoidable collision course.

But the player to watch out for is patriots tight end Tim Wright, who has been a no show since his breakout seven catch game for 61 yards and a touchdown against the Chicago Bears Oct. 26. Wright may have a larger role in the Patriots’ offense with Seahawks safety Earl Thomas nursing a dislocated shoulder that he said has since healed.

Patriots quarterback Tom Brady is the ultimate competitor. He will find a way to get the ball to Gronk and to Wright. Julian Elderman, Danny Amendola and Brandon Lafell don’t matchup well against the Seahawks secondary, but Richard Sherman is also nursing an arm injury. New England could find success.

Seattle won’t bully the Patriots like they did Denver. Former Seahawks cornerback Brandon Browner, now with New England, has made that loud and clear with his comments towards his ex-teammates injuries. 

But until proven otherwise, defense wins champions. The Seahawks have one of the best defenses in NFL history.

Seahawks 24, Patriots 17.

rodgers_wilson_luck_brady_700

A battle of elite quarterbacks in each matchup will decide who goes on to the Super Bowl.

By Kelton Brooks (@BrooksWeekly)

It should come to no surprise that when you have an elite quarterback under center, a team is more than likely to have a successful season.

Andrew Luck has reached the playoffs in the his first two seasons in the NFL and reached the AFC Championship game in this third. Tom Brady is a three-time Super Bowl Champion and searching for his elusive fourth ring.

Russell Wilson is looking to lead his Seahawks to back-to-back Super Bowl appearances and wins. The Seattle Seahawks became the first defending Super Bowl champions since 2005 to win a playoff game after beating the Dallas Cowboys last week in the now infamous “was it a catch” game.

If Seattle manages to knockoff  the ailing Aaron Rodgers at home, they’ll be one win away from becoming the first team to repeat a champions since New England in the 2003-04 seasons.

Speaking of Rodgers, this is his first Super Bowl appearance since his Packers last beat the Pittsburgh Steelers in the 2010 season.

Analysis: Colts @ Patriots

Andrew Luck has been successful against all other teams in the NFL throughout his career, but the Patriots continue to be a thorn in his side. New England defeated the Colts in a rout last season 43-22 in the divisional round of the playoffs. Despite the fact that Luck had a poor performance throwing four interceptions. Luck and the Colts didn’t fare any better in a Week 11 Sunday night rematch when the Patriots went into Indianapolis and blew out the Colts 42-20.

Luck has thrown six touchdown passes and eight interceptions in his career versus the Patriots, including the playoffs. Against all other teams in that time, he’s thrown twice as many touchdowns as interceptions. Luck has a Total QBR of 51.1 versus New England in his career. His QBR is 64.8 against all other teams, according to Elias Sports.

But this game might be out of Luck’s hand as the Patriots running game has been successful against Indy in the past. Over the past two years, New England have called runs on 61.2 percent of their plays versus Indianapolis compared to 39.5 percent against the rest of the NFL. Jonas Gray rushed for 201 yards and four touchdowns in the Patriots’ Week 11 rout.

Luck is a superstar quarterback. He is the future of the NFL. He is already is consensus top-5 quarterback in his third season in the league. He had a phenomenal season leading the NFL with 40 touchdown passes and was fourth in passing yards with 4,761, but the young quarterback time is not now.

My heart wants to pick Luck and the Colts, but my mind is saying Brady and the Patriots.

New England 37-31.

Analysis: Packers @ Seahawks

It’s not how you start, but how you finish.

The 2014 season kicked off with the Packers visiting the Seahawks at CenturyLink Field. The “12th man” was roaring after the Super Bowl banner was hung over the field. As a result, Seattle steamrolled over Green Bay 36-16 in a game where Rodgers was heavily scrutinized for not throwing a single pass in the direction of All-Pro cornerback Richard Sherman.

This will be just the second time that a Conference Championship game will feature the NFL’s top scoring offense (Packers, 30.4) versus the top scoring defense (Seahawks 15.9).

Sounds familiar?

The first time this happened was last’s year Super Bowl when the Seahawks top defense throttled the Denver Broncos’ top offense in a 43-8 stomping.

Defense wins champions. That has been the staple of the NFL since this beautiful sport was first created. According to Elias Sports, Rodgers was blitzed on a season-low 8.3 percent of his dropbacks against the Seahawks in Week 1. Including the playoffs, Seattle has only sent a blitz on 26.5 percent of opponents’ dropbacks this season, which is 22nd in the league.

But when the Seahawks do blitz, they’re only allowing a Total QBR of 23.3, the second lowest in the NFL. Alarming news for Rodgers who is on record saying his partially torn calf feels worse after a narrow victory over the Cowboys. His ability to extend plays with his legs will be compromised against the Seahawks.

The maturation process of Russell Wilson has also given Seattle a legit threat at the quarterback position. Last season I felt the Seahawks won in spite of Wilson, but several game have been won this year because of Wilson.

Wilson will never out duel Rodgers, but he doesn’t have to with an all-time great defense behind him.

Seahawks 33-20.

Eddie P’s Championship Predictions: Packers @ Seahawks

Russell Wilson is a dangerous quarterback. He’s smart, makes tough throws, and is an even bigger threat on the ground.

Too bad Seattle doesn’t have a passing game, or else they’d be a complete team.

In my opinion, Green Bay is more well rounded. The Packers have a top 10 passing offense. Aaron Rodgers is an elite quarterback. The Packers’ defense is a scary underrated unit. The running game, behind Eddie Lacy is also a threat.

I think Green Bay will win this one out. Just a hunch. Lets see if my gut feeling is right, and isn’t just a sign that I’m hungry.

Colts @ Patriots

My first gut instinct was to go with the change of the guard. Andrew Luck ushering in the era of the new great quarterbacks.

Then, I heard both of the Indianapolis Colts’ starting cornerbacks, Vontae Davis and Greg Toler, would both be list as questionable going into Sunday. That changes everything.

Tom Brady is still a game-changing QB. If the secondary is weak, Brady will have a field day.

Can the Cowboys slow down the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field?

Can the Cowboys slow down the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field?

By Kelton Brooks (@BrooksWeekly)

A “slight tear.” Three words Packers’ fan have only heard in their nightmares, but the injury is all but a reality for Aaron Rodgers.

But as their Super Bowl winning quarterback once said after Green Bay started the season 1-2, R-E-L-A-X. As prolific a passer Rodgers is, his slightly torn calf muscle couldn’t have come at a worst time.


Wild Card Prediction Results

Brooks: 3-1

Perez: 2-2


 

Divisional Playoff  Brooks Perez
DAL @ GB DAL(L) GB(W)
CAR @ SEA SEA(W) SEA(W)
IND @ DEN DEN(L) DEN(L)
BAL @ NE NE(W) NE(W)

 


 

Brooks Bits

Dallas Cowboys @ Green Bay Packers 

Two extremes are at stake in Sunday’s divisional matchup: The Packers are 8-0 at home on the frozen tundra of Lambeau Field. Green Bay has averaged a NFL-high 39.8 points per game at home with Rodgers throwing for 25 touchdowns to 0 interceptions.

The Cowboys have a winning streak of their own going 8-0 on the road led by the new “triplets,” Tony Romo, Dez Bryant and DeMarco Murray. Dallas has averaged 34.4 points per game on the road. Murray led the league in rushing with 1,845 yards, breaking Emmitt Smith’s single season record along the way. Bryant broke Michael Irvin’s single season touchdown record with 16 on the season.

Something has to give.

Not having a first-round bye was the best thing that ever happened to the Cowboys. It would’ve only slowed down the momentum for the hottest team in the NFL. Now matter what adversity Dallas has been faced with this season, they keep finding ways to win.

The 42-7 drumming Dec. 21 over the Indianapolis Colts was a telltale sign of the maturity and growth of the Cowboys. When the Philadelphia Eagles lost to the Washington Redskins the Dec. 14, last year’s Cowboys would’ve lost to the Colts.

This team has a new confidence, a new mindset and new drive.

Dallas will shock the Packers on the arctic Lambeau field and defeat an ailing Rodgers.

Eddie P’s Philosophical Take

Carolina Panthers @ Seattle Seahawks 

As much as I loathe the Seattle Seahawks, I cannot deny how good of a team they are. Seattle boasts the best defense in the NFL. Running back Marshawn Lynch is one of the best rushers in the game. Quarterback Russell Wilson is a great decision-maker that can beat you through the air and on the ground.

Carolina is a team that is finally putting their potential together. The running back duo of Jonathan Stewart and Deangelo Williams is dangerous.  Quarterback Cam Newton can drop the long bombs and bust loose on a long run. Ron Rivera’s defense is always tough.

The Panthers, however, still were a 7-8-1 team. The Panthers have and will commit costly errors. Newton has turned the ball over 21 times during the season. He turned the ball over twice last week. Against a well-rounded team like Seattle, this habit of turning the ball over can–and will–be deadly.

Dallas Cowboys @ Green Bay Packers

The Dallas Cowboys broke the nasty habit of faltering in the month of December. Last week against Detroit, Jerry’s “Boys came back to win. In Lambeau Field, the Cowboys success will come to a screeching halt.

The Packers rank in the top 10 offensively. Aaron Rodgers and his receiving corps of Randall Cobb and Jordy Nelson will carve you up. If Rodgers is not scary enough, imagine the bruising 230-pound Eddie Lacy running straight at you.

The Packs’ “weakness” is its defense, and it is 10th against the pass but only 23rd against the run. No matter how you look at GB’s defense, it is a tough unit. With Clay Matthews and Julius Peppers rushing the passer, it will be tough for Dallas to block.

Game. Set. Match. Packers.

At 7-8-1, how far can Cam Newton lead the Carolina Panthers through the playoffs?

At 7-8-1, how far can Cam Newton (1) lead the Carolina Panthers through the playoffs?

By Kelton Brooks (@BrooksWeekly)

It’s the perfect time to usher in the 2015 NFL playoffs with Jim Mora’s famed “Playoffs?” rant. The Carolina Panthers coach Ron Rivera could’ve channeled his inner Mora as his team slipped into post-season play with a sub-500 record at 7-8-1. But the Panthers’ 34-3 laugher over the Atlanta Falcons in the win-and-you’re-in Dec. 28 season finale, punched their ticket into the big dance.

Carolina is the second team in NFL history to advance to the playoffs with a losing record. The first time this happened was in the 2010-11 season when the 7-9 Seattle Seahawks miraculously defeated the 10-6 Saints in the Wild-Card.

Will lightening strike twice as the Panthers take on the 11-5 Arizona Cardinals?

But without further ado, here’s the the Mora rant I promised you.


Week 17 Prediction Results

Brooks: 12-4; Overall: 175-80

Perez: 11-5; Overall: 178-77 (Regular season winner)

Wooten: 11-5; Overall: 153-86


 

Wildcard Round Brooks Perez
ARI @ CAR CAR(W) ARI(L)
BAL @ PIT PIT(L) PIT(L)
CIN @ IND IND(W) IND(W)
DET @ DAL DAL(W) DAL(W)

 


 

Brooks Bits

Arizona Cardinals @ Carolina Panthers

Cardinals coach Bruce Arians is the run away favorite for the Coach of the Year award. Arians led the Cardinals to a 10-6 record using three different players at quarterback. Carson Palmer played in only six games as he battled a nerve injury to his shoulder before being lost for the season to a torn ACL days after signing a three-year, $50 million contract extension.

Drew Stanton filled the void admirably in Palmer’s absence, but he too sustained a knee injury. The severity level isn’t as gruesome as Palmer’s, but Stanton has been ruled out at least for this week’s game.

Now enter Ryan Lindley who has gone 1-2 in his three starts this season. To put it simply, Lindley is a third string quarterback for a reason. His lone win was a 12-6 defensive struggle over the St. Louis Rams. The Cardinals’ point differential with Lindley under center is 67 to 35 averaging 11.6 points per game.

Yes, the Panthers have a losing record, but it’s not how you start, it’s how you finish. Carolina closed out the season on a four game winning streak, resembling the team that went 10-6 last season led by a stingy defense and ball control.

Cam Newton has been spectacular since his return from a car wreck that led to two back fractures. Kelvin Benjamin is apart of the historical rookie wide receiver class as he totaled 1,008 yards receiving and nine touchdowns during the regular season. Tight end Greg Olsen matched Benjamin with 1,008 yards of his own.

Playing at home and surging at the right moment, the Panthers will upset the 11-5 Cardinals. Panthers 24, Cardinals 13.

Detroit Lions @ Dallas Cowboys

This is a matchup between two organizations trying to shake off a long, latched stigma.

The Detroit Lions are a team with a past of losing, a recent past of falling flat on their faces in big games, and a talented team that can’t get over the hump.

Every football fan in the world who has watched the Dallas Cowboys over the past few seasons are waiting on them to implode. That has been the Cowboys M.O., wait until the biggest stage to collapse right before our eyes.

The “accident waiting to happen.”

In fact the last time Dallas had one of their colossal let downs, it was to the Lions in 2011 when Detroit overcame a 27-3 2nd-half deficit to win. Tony Romo threw three 2nd-half interceptions to pave the way for the Lions’ comeback.

Fast-forward to this year, Romo, MVP candidate DeMarco Murray—who set a franchise singe-single rushing record with 1,845 yards—and Dez Bryant who broke Michael Irvin’s touchdown receiving record with 16, are the new “Triplets” in Dallas.

Jim Caldwell has brought a winning attitude to the Lions and instilled confidence in quarterback Matthew Stafford. Detroit caught a huge break after the NFL reversed their decision to suspend Ndamukong Suh. His services will be needed to slow down Murray.

However, I believe the Cowboys will continue to show the world this team is for real.

Dallas in a wild one, 38-34.

Eddie P’s Philosophical Take

Baltimore Ravens @ Pittsburgh Steelers

This game will be a tough, hard-nosed, old school AFC brawl. The Steelers and Ravens are divisional rivals, so they will bring the worst out of each other.

Pittsburgh has transformed into a passing team with Big Ben and Antonio Brown. They are ranked 2nd in the league in terms of passing yards. They’ll be even more pass-happy with Le’Veon Bell out.

This will play into the Steelers’ favor. The Ravens are ranked 23rd against the pass.

Arizona Cardinals @ Carolina Panthers

The Cards are playing with Ryan Lindley. I still do not think the Panthers are a good enough team to outduel Arizona.

Arizona has a tough, underrated defense. Carolina has faltered throughout the entire season. They are an under .500 team. There is little to no chance of them beating out the Cardinals.

The playoffs are a different ball game, however. Lindley has only two career touchdowns. His inexperience will need to be masked by a ground game and a stout defense.

I still believe Arizona will come out victorious.