Posts Tagged ‘nfl’

Jun 17, 2014; Florham Park, USA; New York Jets quarterbacks  Matt Simms (5), Geno Smith (7) ,  Michael Vick and Tajh Boyd (3) with quarterback coach David Lee during New York Jets minicamp at Atlantic Health Training Center. Mandatory Credit: Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

Jun 17, 2014; Florham Park, USA; New York Jets quarterbacks Matt Simms (5), Geno Smith (7) , Michael Vick and Tajh Boyd (3) with quarterback coach David Lee during New York Jets minicamp at Atlantic Health Training Center. Mandatory Credit: Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

By KELTON BROOKS

(@BrooksWeekly)

Are you ready for some football?

As of Sunday, the NFL is six weeks away from opening kickoff. That’s 42 days and 1008 hours. But before Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers travel to the vaunted CenturyLink Field of the 12th Man to take on the defending champion Seattle Seahawks, positional players will need to win their training camp battle as they hold heavy implications on their team’s outcome at the end of the season.

Now that every team has reported to their respective training camp sites, here are the top-10 2014 NFL training camp battles in descending order.


10. Chicago Bears, Safety

The parties involved: Adrian Wilson, Ryan Mundy, Chris Conte, M.D. Jennings, Brock Vereen, Danny McCray

The Skinny: Overall, the Bears passing defense ranked 15th in the league in 2013, largely due to Charles Tillman and Tim Jennings deflecting passes and hauling in interceptions from the cornerback position. But the Bears were decimated on the back end of the defense and haven’t done much to stop the bleeding.

Incumbent Chris Conte, who is a three-year starter for the Bears, will start the season on the physically unable to perform (PUP) list, as he’s still recovering from off-season shoulder surgery. Chicago lost former starting safety Major Wright—who gave up five touchdowns; fifth most in the NFL for safeties—to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in free agency. Mundy ventured over from Meadowlands where he compiled 77 tackles and an interception for the New York Giants. McCray was mediocre at best in his stint with the Cowboys, and Vereen is a rangy and athletic 4th-round rookie from the University of Minnesota.

The most intriguing yet perplexed member of the group is the 34-year-old, five-time Pro Bowl addition, Adrian Wilson. The 14-year veteran missed the entire 2013 season with an injury. Wilson suffered a torn Achilles, but he posted on Twitter recently that he was dealing with Haglund’s deformity, which is a bony enlargement on the back of the hell that rubs against and irritates the Achilles.

 

In 181 career games, Wilson has racked up 978 tackles, 25.5 sacks, 27 interceptions, 106 pass breakups, and 13 forced fumbles in addition to recovering nine fumbles, according to ESPN Stats&Info.

Wilson turns 35 in October.

Week 1 starters: Mundy and Conte. Even with those predicted two, the verdict is still hazy. Wilson and Conte are interchangeable, and Vereen is the wild cald depending on how soon he adjusts to the NFL.


 9. Carolina Panthers, Wide Receivers

The parties involved: Kelvin Benjamin, Jerricho Cotchery, Tiquan Underwood, Jason Avant, Tavarres King, Marvin McNutt.

The Skinny: Even with the departed Steve Smith, the Panthers still had one of the league’s poorest passing offenses. The Panthers averaged 190.2 yards through the air in 2013—29th in the NFL. Topple that with quarterback Cam Newton still hampered by his off-season ankle surgery, this group may have dark days ahead of them.

It’s not about who will lineup as week 1 starters, but who will show up and produce. Who are these guys?

Steve Smith is now with the Baltimore Ravens. Cotchery has been a serviceable possession wideout in stints with the Jets—where he had his only 1,000 yard season in 2007— and Pittsburgh, but nothing spectacular. He did have 10 touchdowns in 2013, which is more than he had in the past four seasons combined (7). McNutt, King, Underwood—all college standouts, but haven’t elevated their play in the NFL. And Avant has never amassed 700 yards in his career.

All eyes fall on the 1st-round receiver Benjamin, who formerly caught passes from Heisman trophy winner Jameis Winston and the National Champions Florida State Seminoles. Benjamin and his 6-feet-5, 240 pounds of muscle, will have to transition into the rigors of the NFL immediately. Typically, rookie receivers don’t come into the league blazing, but Benjamin will have to break the trend if the Panthers will have any production from their receivers.

Week 1 starters: Benjamin, Cotchery and Avant in the slot. The Panthers are a run-first team. It’s their bread and butter, but the receivers Achilles Heel as well.


 

8. Oakland Raiders, quarterback

The parties involved: Matt Schaub, Derek Carr, Matt McGloin, Trent Edwards

The Skinny: Schaub punched his ticket out of Houston faster than the pick-sixes he threw in four straight games, ultimately losing his job. The Houston faithful displayed a classless act as they cheered Schaub after he fell pray to an ankle injury week 6 of the 2013 season against the St. Louis Rams that caused him to miss the rest of the season.

Perhaps a change of scenery was needed for a veteran quarterback who is good in the regular season, but falls flat in the playoffs. Raiders coach Dennis Allen reportedly said he doesn’t have any problem with Schaub’s confidence going forward. That’s a big check to cash knowing Schaub had his worst season as a pro throwing 14 interceptions in 10 games.

The Raiders invested in Carr in round two of the 2014 NFL Draft. Carr, who is the younger brother of former No. 1 overall pick David Carr, will get the nod if Schaub struggles early on in the season as coaches have spoken highly as about the former Fresno State Bulldog.

This team has talent, especially with the signing of James Jones and oft-injured running back Darren McFadden, but in this day and age in the NFL, you will go as far as the quarterback takes you.

Week 1 starter: Schuab. The veteran will start on opening day unless Carr shines throughout camp and the preseason.


 

7. New York Giants, defensive ends

The parties involved: Jason Pierre-Paul, Robert Ayers, Mathias Kiwanuka, Damontre Moore

The Skinny: When the Giants won their two Super Bowls against the New England Patriots, they prided themselves on getting to the quarterback early and often. New York had 53 sacks in their 2007 championship year and 48 in 2011. They only had 33 in 2012 and 34 in 2013 (tied for 25th). If the Giants have any resolutions to get back to their disruptive ways on defense, then the four mentioned above will have to produce.

Pierre is the most prolific and athletic of the group, sacking opposing quarterbacks 16.5 times in 2011. Although, he has only garnered 8.5 sacks since then and missed five games due to injury in 2013. Ayers is an underachieving former 1st-round pick from the Broncos, who has never had more than six sacks in a season. Kiwanuki briefly spent time at linebacker when he first got to the NFL, so his sack numbers are a bit skewed. However, the nine year pro reached the quarterback eight times in 2008.

Kiwanuki is the player that will have to increase his production on the Giants defensive line and become a mainstay alongside Pierre-Paul. Moore was once regarded as a possible first round selection, but his stock plummeted during the 2013 draft for a number of reasons. He essentially was redshirted in 2013 for the Giants, learning the playbook and figuring out what it takes to play amongst the best in the league.

The defense must capture its old form if they wish to compete in an improving NFC East.

Week 1 starters: Pierre Paul and Kiwanuki. The Giants will rotate all four ends, but those two will headline the bunch.


 

6. Cincinnati Bengals, quarterbacks

The parties involved: Leon Hall, Terrance Newman, Adam Jones, Dre Kirkpatrick, Darqueze Dennard

The Skinny: The Bengals have been trying to replace Jonathan Joseph for three seasons now. Joseph has continued to excel in Houston while Cincinnati has been a revolving door opposite of Leon Hall to find some sort of consistency. While Hall is the Bengals most talented cover corner, he is coming off a torn Achilles Tendon.  Newman has still shown flashes, but has been a shell of himself in Cincinnati with only four interceptions combined the past two seasons. He also turns 36-years-old come September.

Jones resurrected his career after he was derailed from numerous off-the-field issues, but never fully reached his lofty No. 6 overall selection in the 2005 draft with only eight career interceptions. Jones also turns 30 in September. The 2014 season for Cincinnati is the bridge to pass the torch to the recent high draft picks in Kirkpatrick and Dennard.

Kirkpatrick’s career got off to a rocky start in Cincinnati. He didn’t appear in his first game until November during his rookie season and only played in five games with little impact. The third-year cornerback out of Alabama had three interceptions in 2013, with two coming in the last game of the regular season. The Bengals are hoping his late performance will springboard his confidence into the 2014 season.

The defending AFC North Champions also has high hopes in Dennard, who they nabbed in the first round this past draft. Dennard is a physical, press corner at 5-feet-11 and 202 pounds with long arms to strip the ball away from receivers as they try to corral the catch.

Week 1 starter: Hall, Newman and Dennard in the nickel. Newman is still serviceable even at his old age, Hall is still a question mark, but if healthy, he’s one the Bengals best players on defense, and Dennard is an upgrade over Jones at this point in their careers.


 5. St. Louis Rams, wide receivers

The parties involved: Chris Givens, Tavon Austin, Austin Pettis, Kenny Britt, Stedman Bailey, Brian Quick

The Skinny: The consensus around the league is that the Rams are a team on the verge. Arguably the best defensive line in the NFL, a strong running attack and a great coaching staff. But their question mark is the quarterback and wide receiver positions. Since there is no competition at quarterback, lets focus on the receivers.

Word from from Rams camp is that Stedman Bailey has been the most impressive of the group, but he’s scheduled to miss the first four games of the season due to violating the league’s substance abuse policy. This group comes down to three players who need to make the biggest impact. Austin, Britt and Quick.

The Rams traded up to draft the speedster in the 2013 NFL draft, but Austin was primarily used as a gadget instead of a focal point, what you would expect from the No. 8 overall pick. Aside from his explosive performance against the Colts with three highlight reel plays, he wasn’t a consistent factor and missed the last three games of the season because of an ankle injury. Murmurs of “bust” is circulating around the former 33rd overall pick in the 2012 draft, Quick, who has only 29 catches in his first two seasons. Britt, the talented receiver who has undergone scrutiny because of injury and off-the-field issues, was formerly in Tennessee with coach Jeff Fisher.

If Britt has anything to offer from the promising early start of his career, he is easily the Rams best receiver. Although, Fisher and offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer plans to ground-and-pound is ever so evident with the drafting of the mammoth Auburn tackle in Greg Robinson and teammate running back Tre Mason. Not to mention 2nd-year back Zac Stacy who was 27 yards shy of a 1,000 in 2013.

Week 1 starters: Givens, Britt and Austin in the slot. Givens was two yards shy of 700 in his rookie season and flashed big play ability, but he slumped in his sophomore season due to Bradford missing the season and a case of the “dropsies.” Pettis routinely manages to creep in as the starter, but if Britt performs well throughout camp, he will beat out Pettis.


4. New York Jets, quarterback

The parties involved: Geno Smith, Michael Vick, Tajh Boyd, Matt Sims

The Skinny: This battle comes down between two players, Michael Vick and Geno Smith. It’s that simple. Up until week 11, the Jets flip-flopped wins and losses. Credit that to the play of Smith. In wins, Smith completed 59 percent of his passes—nothing to applaud—with 10 touchdown and five interceptions. In losses, he completed 52 percent of his passes throwing two touchdown to 16 interceptions. That’s 21 interceptions on the seasons.

If the Jets had any sort of consistent play from the quarterback position, then they would have been a playoff team in 2013. The problem is the Jets head-scratching confidence in Smith. It’s understandable not to give up on a quarterback after one season, but Jets coach Rex Ryan is playing for his job and New York is trying to compete with New England and a young and hungry Bills’ team.

If they vow to demote Smith and pencil in Vick as the starter, then the organization cannot go back to Smith. Vick played admirably before getting knocked out to injury—what has plagued him throughout his career—in week six. He threw for 1,215 yards, five touchdowns and three interceptions up until that point.

Week 1 starter: Smith. If the Jets want to win, they will start Vick, but if they want to stand their ground in hopes Smith will become the quarterback they believe he can become, then we’ll see him under center against the Raiders on kickoff Sunday.


 

3. Dallas Cowboys, inside linebacker

The parties involved: Justin Durant, Rolando McClain, Anthony Hitchens, Orie Lemon

The Skinny: Truthfully, the Cowboys entire defense could feature on this list. But the linebacker corps lost its leader in Sean Lee. Regardless of how talented you are, your ability depends on your availability on the playing field of any sport. Lee has never played a 16 game season since entering the league in 2010 and is now slated to miss the entire 2014 season after tearing his ACL the first day of the Cowboys off-season practice.

He teased the NFL in his sophomore campaign totaling 105 tackles, seven pass deflections and four interceptions. Lee was on pace to shatter those number this past season with 99 tackles and four interceptions in 11 games, but missed the rest of the season due to injury.

Durant is the favorite to replace Lee, but wasn’t much of a factor with only 24 tackles in 2013. A 4th-round rookie, Hitchens, is still wet behind the ears as he is still getting acclimated to the NFL. McClain, once a highly-touted first rounder out of Alabama, has retired twice since entering the league and is only 25-year-old. It’s a toss up whether the Cowboys will receive any production from McClain.

Week 1 starter: Durant. When you’re a member of the Dallas Cowboys, everything is heighten. From the secondary to defensive end, the Cowboys have to find away to bounce back on defense. Losing Lee was a phenomenal blow for a team who also lost star defensive end DeMarcus Ware in the off-season.


 

2. Minnesota Vikings, quarterback

The parties involved: Matt Cassel, Christian Ponder, Teddy Bridgewater

The Skinny: The Vikings are one year removed from the playoffs, largely because of Adrian Peterson’s MVP season rushing for 2,097 yards in 2012. But if this talented Vikings roster had a competent quarterback, then they would become a perennial playoff team. Ponder has played himself out of the starting role and hasn’t backed the Vikings after they reached to draft him early in the 2011 NFL draft.

In his defense, Ponder hasn’t been downright awful throwing for 34 touchdowns to 30 interceptions in his three year career, but not worthy of his 12th overall  selection.

The Vikings have already pegged Cassel as their week 1 starter, but after trading back in the first round to draft former Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater 32nd overall, Minnesota may be forced to draw back their hands and take a closer look at their young quarterback. Cassel made a name for himself after filling in for Patriots’ quarterback Tom Brady after a season-ending knee injury, but he didn’t fit the billing, failing in Kansas City after he was signed to a deal worth $63 million over six years.

Cassel played only four seasons for the Chiefs and was riddled with injuries during his final two seasons. Bridgewater was the consensus No. 1 overall pick after dismantling the Florida Gators in the 2013 Sugar Bowl. A pocket passer first, but mobile Bridgwater, watched his stock drop after a poor pro day performance.

Week 1 starter: Cassel, until later in the season. Cassel will begin the season as the week 1 starter, but his mediocrity will rear its ugly head. Expect Bridgewater to start soon if the Vikings get off to a bad start.


 1. Cleveland Browns, quarterback

The parties involved: Brian Hoyer, Johnny Manziel, Tyler Thigpen

The Skinny: Come on, it’s Johnny Football. The scrambling, lightening rod out of Texas A&M is the main attraction of NFL training camps whether he wins the starting gig or not. Manziel will bring life back to the Browns organization who haven’t won a championship since 1964 or reached the playoffs since 2002.

Browns owner Jimmy Haslam and coach Mike Pettine both have shared comments about Manziel needing make more noise on the field than off. But they knew what they were getting themselves into drafting the former Heisman winner. Neither Hoyer or Manziel have extended themselves from each other in camp, but the odds on favor still side with Hoyer, who played well last season before he suffered a torn ACL. Both the coach and GM have backed Hoyer.

Hoyer threw for 615 yards, five touchdowns and three inceptions before his season was ended early in the first quarter against the the Bills Oct. 3, 2013.

Week 1 starter: Hoyer. It’s only a matter of time before the fans start clamoring for Money Manziel to get on the field.

Derek Fisher is introduced as coach of the New York Knicks. (Photo by Jennifer Pottheiser/NBAE via Getty Images)

Derek Fisher is introduced as coach of the New York Knicks. (Photo by Jennifer Pottheiser/NBAE via Getty Images)

By KELTON BROOKS

(@BrooksWeekly)

The New York Knicks hired Derek Fisher as head coach

My initial reaction to the Knicks hiring Derek Fisher was one word: puppet.

Unlike Jason Kidd in Brooklyn who leaped from player to coach in one year, Kidd didn’t have the presence of a Hall of Fame coach in Phil Jackson lurking beyond his shoulders. Truthfully, this was the last move Jackson could make to bring in the type of guy he wanted on his sideline, a young, eager, sponge he could mold into his image. Awarding a five-year, $25 million contract to a first time head coach who is only weeks removed from knocking down shots in an Oklahoma City Thunder jersey in the Western Conference Finals sounds insane, but Jackson knows: A) He can run his triangle offense through Fisher, B) Mold him into the coach he believes Fisher can become, C) Unlike the Nets, Fisher doesn’t have a playoff ready supporting cast in the Knicks’ locker room, allowing him to start fresh and build.

If Carmelo Anthony leaves the Big Apple, which he will, the Knicks are essentially starting from scratch. Fisher only has one way to go, up, especially with Jackson pulling the strings.

Still No Decision on Jim Irsay

What I think: NFL Commissioner Roger Godell has no idea how to discipline Indianapolis Colts’ owner Jim Irsay.

Should he dock draft picks? Should he suspend him and force him not to attend games? Should the NFL fine Irsay?

The answer is all of the above. Goodell cements his words and iron fist on protecting the integrity of the league and letting the legal process work itself out. Well, Irsay has been arrested and released after paying a petty lump-sum of $22,500. Maybe a lot to you and me, but not a lot to an owner who owns a team with a net worth of $1.s billion, according to Forbes.

On March 16, Irsay was arrested on charges of four felony counts of possession of a controlled substance and a misdemeanor charge of operating while intoxicated. According to police in Hamilton County in Indianapolis, Ind., Multiple Schedule IV prescription drugs were found in pill bottles in Irsay’s vehicle, but they were not associated with any prescription bottles found in the vehicle. Police also found nearly $30,000 in the vehicle.

In an interview with CBS reporter Will Brinson, Irsay’s reason of having a hill of dough in his vehicle was this response:

“I don’t know why that was leaked to the press or what it had to do with anything,” he said. “You’re talking about someone who is extremely generous, and I say that humbly. That’s the way I try to live my life and it has nothing to do with the law. What’s been reported out there, there’s been a sensationalizing about things that have nothing to do with the law. It shouldn’t be an issue.”

Multiple prescription pills and nearly $30,000 in cash in his vehicle, and Irsay’s reasoning is that he’s “extremely generous?”

Kansas City Chiefs cornerback Sean Smith was arrested on an allegation of driving under the influence Monday. Smith put himself and the lives of others in danger the same way as Irsay. If Smith is suspended before Irsay, this speaks volumes about the NFL and Roger Goodell.

NBA Finals: Game 4

The San Antonio Spurs shot the lights out the gym Game 3 in Miami delivering to fans the most prolific start to an NBA Finals game shooting 86.7 percent in the first quarter and 75.8 percent in the first half, entering the locker room with a 21-point lead. When the Spurs are clicking on all cylinders, San Antonio is unbeatable. It’s troublesome enough to deal with the original ‘Big 3′ in Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili, but when the budding star in Kawhi Leonard goes of f0r 29 points and helping to collectively force LeBron James to commit seven turnovers, not even the King and his men can stop the offensive juggernaut that is San Antonio.

If the Heat lose Game 4 at home, they can kiss their three-peat dreams goodbye. Still, if Miami evens the series at a 2-2 tie, the winner of Game 5 will win the series and go on to win the title in Game 6.

March 18, 2013; Phoenix, AZ, USA; NFL commissioner Roger Goodell speaks during a press conference at the annual NFL meetings at the Arizona Biltmore. Mandatory Credit: Casey Sapio-USA TODAY Sports

March 18, 2013; Phoenix, AZ, USA; NFL commissioner Roger Goodell speaks during a press conference at the annual NFL meetings at the Arizona Biltmore. Mandatory Credit: Casey Sapio-USA TODAY Sports

Football fans eyes have been glued to the ‘Underwear Olympics’, or better known as the NFL Scouting Combine where household names like the freakish former South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney was clocked at an official 4.53 at 6-feet-5 and 260 pounds, former Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel ran an official 4.68, and former Clemson star receiver Sammy Watkins’ best unofficial time was a 4.34, later adjusted to 4.43.

While scouts pry, twist and pull every prospect’s height, weight, speed, agility, hand size, how many times they can do a backflip on one leg after spinning in a circle or whatever else to determine their draft status, other news have also garnered headlines.

The Brooklyn Nets signed Jason Collins

After signing a 10-day contract Sunday, nearly 10 months after his announcement on April 29, Jason Collins became the first openly gay player in the four major U.S. professional sports leagues.

Excuse me, but, Woopty-Do.

Both Collins and Michael Sam don’t want the be known as the gay basketball player or the gay football player, but unless they produce on the field, quite frankly, that’s all they will be remembered by, not their actions on the field or court. I’m not judging them on their sexual orientation, in my previous column my only issue with Sam was people calling him a hero. He produced on the college level as the 2013 co-SEC Defensive Player of the Year, 1st-team All-American, was 7th in the NCAA with 12 sacks, but 1st in the SEC. He was originally slated as a mid-round pick, but after a 4.91 official 40 time, and listed as an undersized defensive end and not possessing the skillset as an every down linebacker, his stock may have dipped more.

If we’re strictly talking about sports, unlike Sam, Collins hasn’t produced on any level. After playing in only 11 minutes grabbing two rebounds receiving 5 fouls, I honestly believe the Nets put him in the game as a charity gesture.

After playing for six different teams in 12 years, his career stats are 3.6 points per game and 3.8 rebounds per game. As a 7-footer, snagging 3.8 rebounds per game in your career is embarrassing. Off the court, it’s not my business what he does, but on the court, he’s 35-year-old center that signed a 10-day contract who has never been any good in the NBA. Period.

Greg Oden starting his first game since 2009 after multiple reconstructive knee surgeries was a bigger story to me.

Congrats to him.

Policing the N-Word

In the offseason, the NFL has grown accustomed to implementing a new rule that raises a lot of chatter. With the racial tension that has been going on in the Miami Dolphins locker room and the Riley Cooper incident that happened in June, the NFL is taking a stance.  Last year it was the Crown-of-the-helmet rule, this year it’s “policing the N-Word” on the field.

According to an article by CBS Sports NFL Insider, Jason La Canfora, John Wooten, head of the Fritz Pollard Alliance that monitors diversity in the NFL, said he expects the league’s competition committee to enact a rule at the owner’s meeting next month making it an automatic 15-yard penalty if a player uses the N-word on the field, with a second infraction meriting an ejection.

Good luck with that one.

I’m not by any means condoning the use of the N-Word, but born and raised in Memphis, Tenn. in an all black neighborhood, high school, hearing it in college, hearing it while walking down the street, hearing it while pumping gas and hearing it from my closest friends, and even I have used it, and that doesn’t make it right at all, but I just don’t see this happening.

I’ll personally admit that I stopped using the N-Word a while ago when I began to hear younger children saying it. That was enough for me and it’s a bad look on their parents who allow this. Education on what this word means and its ugly connotation should spread through all races.

I applaud the NFL for what they are trying to do in the bigger picture, but in the midst of an NFL game, in the heat of the battle with tempers flaring, the refs might as well leave their flag on the field the entire game. It was an incident this past season of a referee using the N-Word towards a player, and in 2009 in a game with the Patriots and Ravens, a referee called a player “boy.” The N-Word should no longer exist, but people are going to say what they want, when they want, on or off  the field.

The NFL already has an “Unsportsmanlike Conduct” penalty. Will this fall under that, or will “Use Of Foul Language” stand as the new standard penalty? Are those same people who want to rid of the N-Word will negate profanity, too? They won’t. If that’s the case, New York Jets coach Rex Ryan should be banned from the league after every other word was a curse word when the Jets were featured on the HBO special Hard Knocks.

Not only just the N-Word, but what about a list of other racial slurs? Again, I get what the NFL is doing, but no matter how big the NFL think it is, this is larger than the league itself.

I just don’t see this rule taking place. But imagine this: what if the league doesn’t accept this proposed ruling? Do you see the message they are sending? “It’s OK to use the N-Word.” It’s a PR move. This is bigger than the NFL.

The only way this will stop on the field is if the NFLPA and the players themselves agree to eradicate the use of the N-Word on the field.

NBA Rambles

I’m just rambling here. The Thunder are 0-2 since Russell Westbrook has returned to the lineup Coincidence? I think not. Kevin Durant is trying to ease his co-superstar back into the flow while reverting back to his “servant” ways.

“The Servant” for a nickname? Really?

And Serge Ibaka might’ve saved Durant’s MVP case by breaking LeBron James’ nose.

Carmelo Anthony is a top-3 scorer in the NBA, but I’m not sure if he’s a top-5 player. It doesn’t even phase me that he easily puts up seemingly 40 points a night (Melo is averaging 27.9 PPG). All he does is score. That’s it. The Knicks are 2-3 when Melo scores over 40. His New York Knicks are 21-36. If he stays in New York, he’s not committed to winning. Truthfully, he hasn’t been about winning his whole career. Melo has gotten passed the first round of the playoffs only twice in his career, he was swept three times in his career and defeated in five games four times in his career in the postseason.

Aside from the Miami Heat and Indian Pacers and maybe the Toronto Raptors, the Eastern Conference is horrible. The Memphis Grizzlies  are two games back of the 8th seed in the West at 31-24, which means they are not currently in playoff position. In the East, the Grizzlies would be the 3 seed. Toronto is the 3 seed in the East at 31-25.

The 8th in the East are the Atlanta Hawks at 26-29. The 8th seed in the West are the Phoenix Suns and they are 33-22. The Hawks would be eight games back of the 8th seed in the West. Out of the playoffs. Every seed from 3rd to 8th in the Eastern Conference wouldn’t be in the playoffs in the Western Conference.

Catch my drift? The West is ultra competitive and the East is ridiculously awful. Just fast forward to the Eastern Conference Finals of the Heat and Pacers come playoff time in the East.

Is the NFL truly ready for the first openly gay male athlete?

Is the NFL truly ready for the first openly gay male athlete?

A lot has transpired in recent weeks: Marcus Smart suspended for 3 games after pushing a fan in the stands; Derek Jeter announces this is his final year wearing Yankees’ pinstripes as he plans to retire after the 2014 season; the NBA All-Star break and the ongoing saga of the tumultuous  locker room of the Miami Dolphins.

But what has captured the eyes of America is a third to fifth round NFL prospect from Missouri who announced to the world he is gay.

Is the NFL ready for this? I say both yes and no.

Michael Sam and the NFL

Sam will go down as one the most protected players in all of professional sport. No one is going to publicly come out and say “I don’t want to play with a gay teammate. I don’t like what he stands for,” the NFL won’t allow it. Even though the public and/or NFL players have the right to speak out about this, it won’t matter.

Sam privately announced to his teammates that he is gay during the season. Some say this dismisses the argument of the “locker room distraction” because it was not brought up during the season. However,  that doesn’t mean players openly supported him. All locker rooms have a multitude of diverse backgrounds of race, religion, beliefs, and what they stand for. While some players will accept him, part of the locker room still wield the “this a man’s world” mentality. These are not college kids who abide by the rules of the coach and the athletic director, these are grown men who are paid millions of dollars and see the locker room as a place of brotherhood and manhood. Again, some players will accept him, but some won’t. That’s life.

Whatever the case may be, whoever drafts Sam better get use to the media prying the consensus of Sam’s affect in the locker room and how he is fitting in with the team.

The only thing that alarmed me about Michael Sam was people labeling him as a “hero.”

No.

You might can call it brave, but announcing your sexual orientation does not make you a hero. But let me say this, a hero is definitely what you make he or she out to be. I’ve personally seen others around me overcome steeper and more drastic situations that would deem them as a hero.

Let me ask you this. In a society where 41 percent of first marriages end in divorce, 60 percent of second marriages end in divorce and 73 percent of third marriages end in divorce, is a straight man that stays in it until the end despite the hardships that may have happened in the marriage, would you call him a hero?

A hero is what you make it.

From a football standpoint: if Michael Sam can play, put him on the field. Point blank.

Diversity Hirings

In an article published by ESPN’s Kevin Seifert, he mentioned the progressive step in the diversity hiring after a dip that prompted the league to double down on its interview policies and practices.

There are currently seven African-American general managers in the NFL: Ozzie Newsome (BAL), Rick Smith (HOU), Jerry Reese (NYG), Martin Mayhew (DET), Reggie McKenzie (OAK), Doug Whaley (BUF), Ray Famer (CLE).  As for as head coaches, four: Marvin Lewis (CIN), Mike Tomlin (PIT), and the recently hired Lovie Smith (TB), and Jim Caldwell (DET).

Part of this has been because of the Rooney Rule. The Rooney Rule requires National Football League teams to interview minority candidates for head coaching and senior football operation jobs. It is sometimes cited as an example of affirmative action, though there is no quota or preference given to minorities in the hiring of candidates.

The best two coaching hirings of the offseason in my opinion was the Washington Redskins hiring Jay Gruden and Caldwell to the Lions. No matter what color they are, these were the best hirings. The objective is not to force teams to hire minority candidates because the color of their skin, but to hire the most suitable and competent aspirant to lead the organization.

What is wrong with you, Darren Sharper?

Former NFL player Darren Sharper has been charged with raping and drugging two women in California, and disclosed he is under investigation in connection with five more drug-related rapes in three other states, according to the Associated Press.

Excuse me for being blunt, but women would literally throw themselves at Sharper if they knew he was a former NFL player. He was a T.V. personality, named an All-Pro six times and chosen for the Pro Bowl five times. He played in two Super Bowls, one with the Packers as a rookie and a second with the Saints.

Yet, despite all of this, Sharper made the decision to allegedly drug and rape women? And quite frankly, the fact that he is an African-American facing these alleged charges all but seals his fate.

Unless evidence proves otherwise, but that’s unlikely to happen in this case.

Is Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan considered elite?

Is Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan considered elite?

The cream of the crop, the pick of the litter, and the best of the best–any of those phrases describes the commonly tossed around word highlighting the game’s most talented, recognizable and standout players.

Elite. What constitutes a player, better yet a quarterback, as “elite?”

Is it three Super Bowl rings? That’s a no brainer, right? Is it multiple MVP awards? A quarterback leading his team to consecutive playoff appearances and division titles while chalking up gaudy numbers in the process? Or perhaps it’s the quarterback who thrives in the clutch to deliver a game-winning drive for the ages.

Remember in 2011 when New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning boldly stated that he considered himself as elite? When asked if he’s in the same class as Tom Brady–a three-time Super Bowl champion and arguably the best quarterback in the NFL–Eli said, “I consider myself in that class.”

That year, the youngest Manning went on to defeat Brady for the second time in the Super Bowl after New England had gone undefeated in the regular season. Many went on to dock Manning as a top-five quarterback in the realm of elites after that season. However, after a horrific 2013 season of throwing 27 interceptions and missing the playoffs, a whisper of Eli Manning’s name as elite was stir up the loudest laughter.

The latest successful self-procolamation as elite was by Baltimore Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco in 2012.

“I assume everybody thinks they’re a top-five quarterback,” Flacco told WNST in Baltimore, via SportsRadioInterviews.com in 2012.  “I mean, I think I’m the best.  I don’t think I’m top five, I think I’m the best.  I don’t think I’d be very successful at my job if I didn’t feel that way.

Flacco looked the part of an elite quarterback in that magical post-season run throwing for 1,140 yards, 11 touchdowns to only 3 interceptions in four games to ultimately win the Super Bowl over the San Francisco 49ers. Along the way, he defeated Colts quarterback Andrew Luck in the Wild Card Round, Broncos’ quarterback Peyton Manning in the Divisional Round and Tom Brady in the AFC Championship game.

Thus, he was deemed elite, and rich too. That offseason, he signed a signing a six-year, $120.6 million contract that made Flacco the highest paid player in the league in that time.

In hindsight, that was a colossal mistake, to say the least. After signing the biggest contract in NFL history at the time, Flacco was tied for 2nd in the league with 22 interceptions to only 19 touchdowns. Looking back at the Ravens 2012 Super Bowl run, only two things stand out to me: Ray Lewis’ last hurrah, and that 70-yard Hail Mary that was woefully misplayed by the safety.

Ask yourself or the closest person near you, is Joe Flacco elite? Was your or his or her answer no? I’m willing to bet it was.

Without knowing his name, what would you say about a quarterback who has four career playoff appearances in six seasons, a two-time pro bowler, 2008 offensive rookie of the year, and 24 career game winning drives, according to pro-football reference.

I tipped you off in the picture above showing Atlanta Falcons’ quarterback Matt Ryan. Ryan didn’t make the headlines because of a chest beating “I’m an elite quarterback” statement, but because of a statement made by former teammate and future first-ballot Hall of Fame tight end Tony Gonzales.

In an interview with ESPN the Magazine, Gonzalez had this to say about his quarterback of the past five seasons, “Matt’s an excellent quarterback, but he’s not elite,” Gonzalez said as he reportedly almost pinched together his thumb and index finger. “He’s this close. He’ll get there, but he has some learning to do.”

Before the start of the 2013 season, Ryan was paid like an elite quarterback by signing a five-year, $103.75 million extension in July that averages out to $20.75 million per year, second only to Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers (who is elite, by the way).

The 28-year-old quarterback ranked in the top-10 in four out of his six seasons in the NFL in yards and touchdown passes, but the knock on him has been his 1-5 postseason record. The Falcons were a preseason favorite to hoist the Lombardi Trophy in the 2013 season, but the Falcons were bitten by the injury bug and had little to no pass rush to stop offense from scoring at will.

Even amongst a tumultuous season, Ryan still threw for over 4,500 yards and posted 26 touchdowns. However, 17 interceptions won’t cut it in today’s NFL.

Gonzales said Ryan is this close, but how close is “this close?” Is San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick this close to the elite status? Kaepernick led his team to the Super Bowl in his first year as a starter after taking over for Alex Smith, and led his team back to the playoffs after losing to the eventual Super Bowl winners in the Seattle Seahawks.

Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger doesn’t get called elite enough if you ask me. Two Super Bowl rings in three appearances and a 10-4 playoff record is nothing to scoff at. Big Ben’s last ring came in 2010 over the Seahawks.

Speaking of the Seahawks, how about their 25-year-old quarterback Russell Wilson, is he elite? The second-year star led his team to the playoffs in his rookie season and led them to a Super Bowl win the following year, but with an all-time defense behind Wilson, how elite is he?

Should I dare ask if Peyton Manning is still elite? No one would dispute this, right? Even after his eye sore performance in the Super Bowl, a decade plus resume of prolific numbers, MVP awards and battling back from a possible career ending neck injury is a feat itself. As great as the Peyton Manning is, his 11-12 postseason record and 1-3 Super Bowl record tainted his legacy.

Again, what is elite?

The word is so loosely flung around that it is beginning to lose it’s luster. After one is crowned as elite, but then falters, the title is stripped from him.

If you ask 100 experts or analysts his or her opinion of what is elite, you would get 100 different answers.

Here is opinion 101: Elite is high-level consistency, having the mental toughness to overcome a multitude of situations, and the no. 1 presence on your team.

And championships, of course.

Who will capture the conference crowns and head to Super Bowl XLVIII?

Who will capture the conference crowns and head to Super Bowl XLVIII?

The NFL is slowly but surely stepping in the era of the young, mobile quarterbacks. Am I stating the obvious?

In the AFC, two veteran future Hall of Fame quarterbacks go head-to-head again, as Tom Brady, 36, travels to Mile High Stadium to take on Peyton Manning, 37, with both offenses known to score early and often.

And in the NFC, two young guns square off as the 26-year-old Colin Kaepernick and San Francisco head to Washington to take on the 25-year-old Russell Wilson. Both of these young quarterbacks will be under a microscope come Sunday, but it’s the defense that will decide this one.

Divisional Round Prediction Results

Brooks: 2-2

Perez: 2-2

Wooten: 4-0

Conference Championship Picks

 

Conference Champions Brooks Perez Wooten
San Francisco 49ers @ Seattle Seahawks SF SEA SEA
New England Patriots @ Denver Broncos DEN NE DEN

 

Brooks Bits’

New England Patriots @ Denver Broncos

Manning vs. Brady round 14. The Clash of the Titans. Mano-a-Mano. Papa Johns versus Uggs. Whatever you want to call it.

Let me pitch some numbers at you for this one. No need to rehash. We’ve been down this road 14 times.

Brady won the first six matchups from 2001 to 2005, only for Manning to reel off three straight, then Brady winning four of the last five. The duo have faced  off three times in the playoff with Brady winning two of them.

In their 14 bouts, Manning has thrown 27 touchdown passes to 19 interceptions, and Brady has thrown 23 touchdowns to 12 interceptions.

What affect will all of this have in their 15th face-off? Absolutely nothing.

But I’m going with the Broncos.

Why? Because Peyton hears the whispers of his pedestrian 10-11 postseason record. As the perfectionist he is, he cannot lose this franchise again, especially not after having the greatest regular season for a quarterback in NFL history.

Broncos 31-24

San Francisco 49ers @ Seattle Seahawks 

Is it safe to say these teams won’t don’t like each other?

Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman: “There’s no love lost and there’s no love found,” the Seahawks cornerback said Wednesday. “I don’t know if there’s going to be handshakes after this one. It’s going to be intense and it’s going to be physical.”

I’m torn on this one, but because of one reason, the Seahawks are at home. The phrase “home field advantage” applies to every sense of those three words. Before losing to the Arizona Cardinals in week 16, the Seattle went two years before losing a game at home.

And the last time San Francisco traveled to Seattle, the Seahawks and the earth shaking 12th man spanked the 49ers 29-3.

I understand the viciousness and the physicality of Seattle’s defense, but this is not that same 49ers team they played in week 2. San Fran has won eight straight games dating back to the regular season. Colin Kaepernick has shaken off his early season woes and picked up the slack as of late.

But the same can’t be same about Russell Wilson as of late.

Over the last three games, Wilson’s stats are as followed

11-27 for 108 yards 1TD and 1INT against the Cardinals in week 16
15-23 172 yards and 1TD and 0INT against the Rams in week 17
9-18 103yards 0INT and 0INt against the Saints in the Divisional Round.

Marshawn Lynch is a beast, but he won’t beat the 49ers by himself. Kaepernick will make just enough plays to get over the hump in Seattle.

49ers 17-13

Eddie P’s Philosophical Take

New England Patriots @ Denver Broncos

Peyton Manning. Tom Brady. These two quarterbacks have faced each other numerous times during the playoffs. Who got the best out of whom during their confrontations? Brady bested Manning. On this occasion, Brady will defeat Manning. Again.

New England showed it is not the air-it-out team that they have been in the past. Running back LeGarrette Blount completely ran over the Indianapolis defense last week. He can, and most likely will, gash the middle-of-the-pack Denver run defense. To add insult to injury, an already shot Bronco Secondary will be without corner Chris Harris. Receivers Julian Edelman and Danny Amendola will slice it up.

The Patriots will win this game. Denver will not have much of a home field advantage.

San Francisco 49ers @ Seattle Seahawks

Just like the Manning-Brady saga, we might be seeing Colin Kaepernick versus Russell Wilson in the playoffs – they already face each other plenty during the season, both being in the NFC West– a lot much more in the future. Both quarterbacks are on teams with that are run oriented and have strong defenses. The two are also dual threats – with their arms and on the run with their legs.

During the season, San Francisco and the Seahawks split both games, 1-1. In their first meeting, Seattle put a drubbing on the 49ers, 29-3. Of course, that victory came at Century Link Field, with the help of the 12s. Now, where does the game this week take place? Seattle. Of course, the crowd will play a factor.

Before I sat down and wrote this, I had the 49ers winning. They have a strong defense, good big and physical receivers, and a workhorse running back. Seattle is built similarly, minus the receiving core. However, Kaepernick has not won in Seattle in his career. The 12s will affect San Francisco’s offense.

Seahawks win.

Words From Wooten

San Francisco 49ers @ San Francisco 49ers

I’ve decided to pick the Seattle Seahawks will win the game and go on to face the new AFC champ in Super Bowl XLVIII.

For one, the Seahawks are currently 16-1 at home over the past two seasons including the playoffs. The Seattle Seahawks are the team to beat people want to beat them to show everyone that yes, they can be defeated at home. They have intangibles that just don’t change, such as their 12th man.

Seattle’s 12th man, or their crowd, makes it hard for teams to communicate while the opposing offense is on the field. The Seahawks have, by far, the best chemistry in the league and Russell Wilson knows how to get himself out of tough situations.

All in all, this will be the second time this season that the 49ers are coming to Seattle and the first time they came this season, the 49ers didn’t do too well. Sad to say, we just may see the same results for the 49ers.

Is another drama-filled season looming for Robert Griffin III and the Washington Redskins?

Is another drama-filled season looming for Robert Griffin III and the Washington Redskins?

Most football fans, or perhaps everyone all across America, are gearing up for the respective conference championships this weekend as San Francisco travel to Seattle and New England set sail to Omaha, I mean Denver, to take on Peyton Manning and the Broncos.

I too will take pleasure in watching the two contrasting games as the NFC will feature bruising defensive play and the AFC will feature high scoring offenses as two future Hall of Fame quarterbacks go head-to-head.

But that’s a story in itself that I will expand upon tomorrow in my predictions.

Anywho, allow me to briefly share with you what has caught my attention lately.

Coaching Carousel

As of now, there have been six newly named head coaches in the NFL: Former Cincinnati Bengals defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer has been hired as the Minnesota Vikings’ head coach; Detroit Lions have hired former Baltimore Ravens offensive and former Indianapolis Colts head coach Jim Caldwell; Tennessee Titans have hired Ken Whisenhunt as HC, former San Diego Chargers OC and Arizona Cardinal HC; Washington Redskins have hired Jay Gruden, former Bengals offensive coordinator; the Houston Texans dipped in the college ranks and hired former Penn State HC Bill O’Brie and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers were smitten with former Chicago Bears head coach Lovie Smith.

My favorite hires: Jay Gruden to Washington and Jim Caldwell to Detroit.

Gruden to the Redskins is a welcoming and fresh sight for Robert Griffin III. No more “I am Mike Shanahan and you are not.” No more it’s my way or the highway from an egotistical, future Hall of Fame coach who has lost his touch. Gruden has already named Griffin as the starter, which shouldn’t be a surprise, but it already shows he supports his quarterback.

I’ll speak on Griffin in a minute.

Detroit Lions new head coach Jim Caldwell (middle)

Detroit Lions new head coach Jim Caldwell (middle)

Caldwell to the Lions is exactly what this undisciplined and rambunctious team needs. The Lions were ninth in the NFL with 110 penalties this season, and after starting the season 6-3, leading the NFC North, they faltered down the stretch going 2-6 inevitably missing the playoffs. Caldwell reportedly broke down passes by Lions’ quarterback Matthew Stafford during the interview, an example of his commitment to excellence.

(R)eaction-G3

Now, back to Griffin. He had a porous sophomore campaign to say the least. Battling back from a lingering ACL injury, internal issues with his father in the locker room, teammates calling him out, and benched for the last three games of the season.

Griffin was focused on the brand of RG3 itself this offseason, instead of being fully committed on the field. 1377125871000-AP-Steelers-Redskins-Football-001Operation Patience? I get it, it was to inspire the fans, lift the organization and hint for an explosive comeback, but he let it all go to his head, and the heckling fans got into his head as well.

This is what Griffin posted on his Facebook account:

I usually don’t do this because everyone will have an opinion on what you do or don’t do. But to answer your question.
I wear a sleeve because….well the same reason Pierre Garcon wears a fang mouthpiece-S. Moss wears a hand warmer when it’s 70 degrees-Will Montgomery wears elbow pads-Alfred Morris wears shin guards-London Fletcher doesn’t wear sleeves in below freezing weather-Adam Carriker does bicep curls and tricep extensions before a game-Chris Baker dances before every game in the locker room-Logan Paulsen does 2 handed spikes when he celebrates touchdowns-Chris Chester does ninja spins to block people-Some guys wear sleeves & some don’t-Some guys wear wristbands & some don’t-Etc Etc
You see WE do these things because they make us comfortable. Not to be different. Been wearing a sleeve and glove for 10 years.
You see WE are a team.
You think I want it to be national news that I visit a beach? Or shop at Walmart? Or wore red shoes instead if green yesterday? Well I don’t. I’m “striving” for greatness just like my fellow teammates do. The “attention” that comes with being a QB in the league is what you are referring to. All the press conferences and talking to the media? Mandated by the league to have a press conference every week during the season and during team activities during the off-season.
Oh wait, you must be talking about the Commercials? Right? Oh ok so what was the deal with those in 2012? WE won the division. So in 2013 when WE get knocked down, and finish last it’s because of the commercials? If that is your reasoning I have nothing more to say. WE will get back up. That is what matters. I hope I answered your question well enough.
And that you keep supporting the team.
HTTR!!!

The fact that he even went out his way to respond to the criticism shows his inability to block out the noise and rise above the negativity. Griffin has to be more assertive with his actions on the field and not his words.

ACL/Knee Injury comeback

Getty Images

Getty Images

What a sight it was to see the former 2007 No. 1 overall pick Greg Oden, who has battled multiple knee surgeries, back on the court last night. His last played game was in 2009.

Albeit it was only 6 points and 2 rebounds in 8 minutes in an inexplicable loss to the Washington Wizards for crying out loud, his mere presence on the court was truly a feel good story. The case still remains how affective he will be for the duration of the season.

Boston Celtics point guard, Rajon Rondo mentioned on Twitter his return to the NBA after he tore his ACL in late January in 2013.

In other words, tomorrow (Friday) against the Toronto Raptors.

In a bit if hush news, Nerlens Noel, who was sixth overall pick in the 2013 NBA draft by the New Orleans 102613_nerlens-noel_600 Pelicans, who ultimately traded to the 76ers, was cleared for basketball activities by Dr. James Andrews. It’s still uncertain when he will return to live game action, but this is a positive sign for the talented rookie from Kentucky who has the potential to mesh with the favorite for Rookie of the Year in Michael Carter-Williams.

Rated no. 10 in the playoff Power Ranking, can the San Diego Chargers surprise everyone and go on a deep postseason run?

Rated no. 10 in the playoff Power Ranking, can the San Diego Chargers surprise everyone and go on a deep postseason run?

The regular season may have come to an end, but the road to the Super Bowl is now underway as Wild-Card Weekend kicks-off.

Carolina, Seattle, Denver and New England all earned first-round byes, but the rest of the group will have to take the long route to New York Feb. 2 to hoist the Lombardi Trophy. We have a week 16 rematch between the Colts and Chiefs, two high flying offense will take off in Philadelphia, the last time the Bengals and Chargers faced off in the playoffs was in 1982, and another rematch between the Packers and 49ers who faced off in week 1.

But there is hope for the Wild-Card teams, six of the last eight seasons, the Super Bowl winner was a wild-card team.

Without further ado, let’s get to the picks.

Week 17 Predictions Results

Brooks: 14-2; Overall: 157-98

Perez: 12-4; Overall: 150-95

Wooten: 13-3; Overall: 143-110

Wild-Card Picks Brooks Perez
Kansas City Chiefs @ Indianapolis Colts IND(W) IND(W)
New Orleans Saints @ Philadelphia Eagles PHI(L) NO(W)
San Diego Chargers @ Cincinnati Bengals CIN(L) CIN(L)
San Francisco 49ers @ Green Bay Packers SF(W) SF(W)

Brooks Bits’

New Orleans Saints @ Philadelphia Eagles

Both teams have Jekyll and Hyde mentalities. After blowing away the Bears in week 16, the Eagles found themselves in a tightly contested game that they were heavily favored in, and the Saints become a mediocre team when they go marching in on the road.

The Saints are 3-5 on the road this season, and Saints quarterback Drew Brees has thrown 12 touchdowns to nine interceptions away from the Super Dome. And to make matters worse for New Orleans,  the temperature is expected to be anywhere from 15-20 degrees at kickoff–a chilly condition that the Saints have not faired well in. At home, Brees has thrown 27 touchdown passes to only three interceptions.

Nick Foles has been red hot this season taking over for the oft-injured Michael Vick. Foles had the league’s best QB Rating (119.2) throwing for 27 touchdowns to only two interceptions, but what made this team go was the NFL’s leading rusher in LeSean McCoy (1,607).

Chip Kelly is well deserving for the Coach of the Year award by leading his team to the playoffs in his first year as head coach. Not to mention implementing a style of offense naysayers said would falter.

It’s hard to pick against former Super Bowl MVP in Brees and former coach of the year in Sean Payton, but the Saints have shown it’s a trend and not a blip of the road woes.

I’m taking the Eagles at home.

San Diego Chargers @ Cincinnati Bengals

Denver was the only team to represent the AFC West in the playoffs las season, this year, the West sent three teams to the postseason.

The Chargers are back in the postseason after a three-year absence, and they may arguably be the hottest team in the NFL right now heading into the playoffs ending the regular season on a four game winning streak. Led by Phillip Rivers, who was only two touchdowns shy of tying his career high (34), and rookie wider receiver Keenan Allen who set the team rookie record for receiving yards (1,046), San Diego looks to upset to the favored Bengals.

Cincinnati seeks to end their 23-year drought without a postseason win Sunday. Two years straight, the Bengals have lost to the Texans in the playoffs, but that won’t happen this week with Houston holding the no. 1 overall pick in the upcoming draft. These two teams faced off in week 13, and the Bengals came out on top with a 17-10 victory.

Maybe a change of scenery will boost the Bengals to pick up a much needed playoff win. I have a gut feeling the Chargers can pull this off, but I won’t follow it. The Bengals are just too talented on both sides of the ball with A.J. Green, Marvin Jones, Giovanni Benard, and both of the tight ends, Jermaine Gresham and Tyler Eifert, and on defense Vontaze Burfict, Carlos Dunlap and Terence Newman.

‘Who Dey?’

The team that will win Sunday.

Eddie P’s Philosophical Take

Kansas City Chiefs @ Indianapolis Colts

Kansas City started off the 2013 season on fire. The Chiefs went 9-0, but only won two games afterwards (against Oakland and Washington). It ended the season on a two-game losing streak as well.

The Colts, on the other hand, ended its season on a three-game win streak. Indianapolis also won decisively (23-7) at the Arrowhead Stadium.

The Chiefs have Jamal Charles, the Colts have Donald Brown/Trent Richardson; advantage Chiefs. Indy has Andrew Luck, while KC has Alex Smith. Advantage Colts. Overall, the Colts are a better team. Game, Colts.

San Francisco 49ers @ Green Bay Packers

The 49ers did not start the season as dominant as they were last season. They had a few key injuries in the first half, particularly receiver Michael Crabtree. But the huge weapons on offense are the big receivers – Vernon Davis and Anquan Boldin.

The Packers squeaked into the playoffs. Aaron Rodgers was injured for seven weeks but he returned for the final game of the season. In those games without Rodgers, Green Bay struggled, only winning two games out of the seven.

The playoffs are a different monster. It was good that the Packers got Rodgers back before the start of the postseason, but Green Bay struggled without him. You also have to wonder whether Aaron is a bit rusty or not. San Francisco is not the team to be playing tune-up against.

The week 17 win-and-you're-in between the Eagles and Cowboys lost a chunk of its luster with Dallas' QB Tony Romo out for the season, but it still bodes for an exciting matchup.

The week 17 win-and-you’re-in between the Eagles and Cowboys lost a chunk of its luster with Dallas’ QB Tony Romo out for the season, but it still bodes for an exciting matchup.

Simply put, but boldly stated. Week 17 will be a dramatic week to remember. The winner between Chicago and Green Bay will decide the NFC North champ, the Cardinals can missed the playoffs with an 11-5 record because the Saints own the tie break over Arizona based on head-to-head win percentage, and for the third year in the row, the Cowboys playoff chances come down to the last game of the season.

Week 16 Predictions Results

Brooks: 10-6; Overall: 143-96

Perez: 10-6; Overall: 136-91

Wooten: 10-6; Overall: 130-107

Game Picks

Week 17 Game Picks Brooks Perez Wooten
Carolina Panthers @ Atlanta Falcons CAR(W) CAR)W)  CAR(W)
Baltimore Ravens @ Cincinnati Bengals CIN(W) CIN(W)  CIN(W)
Houston Texans @ Tennessee Titans HOU(L) HOU(L)  TEN(W)
Jacksonville Jaguars @ Indianapolis Colts IND(W) IND(W)  IND(W)
NY Jets @ Miami Dolphins NYJ(W) MIA(L)  MIA(L)
Detroit Lions @ Minnesota Vikings DET(L) DET(L)  DET(L)
Washington @ NY Giants NYG(W) NYG(W)  WAS(W)
Cleveland Browns @ Pittsburgh Steelers PIT(W) PIT(W)  PIT(W)
Green Bay Packers @ Chicago Bears GB(W) GB(W)  GB(W)
Denver Broncos @ Oakland Raiders DEN(W) DEN(W)  DEN(W)
Buffalo Bills @ New England Patriots NE(W) NE(W)  NE(W)
Tampa Bay Buccaneers @ New Orleans Saints NO(W) NO(W)  NO(W)
San Francisco 49ers @ Arizona Cardinals SF(W) SF(W)  SF(W)
Kansas City Chiefs @ San Diego Chargers SD(W) SD(W)  KC(L)
St. Louis Rams @ Seattle Seahawks SEA(W) SEA(W)  SEA(W)
Philadelphia Eagles @ Dallas Cowboys PHI(W) DAL(L)  PHI(W)

Brooks’ Bits

Baltimore Ravens @ Cincinnati Bengals

After winning four games in a row, with three of their last four wins  decided by a combined seven points, the Ravens 41-7 shellacking by the Patriots put a halt to the Ravens’ fluke-o winning streak.

This NFC North showdown will be the typical black and blue slugfest, or should I say black, blue and orange slugfest? The Bengals won the first matchup in an overtime victory in Baltimore. Both Andy Dalton and Joe Flacco had lackluster performances throwing a combined five interceptions, and both were sacked five times apiece.

Baltimore is currently in a three way tie in the Wild Card with San Diego and Miami who are all 8-7. Miami currently owns the tie-breaker between San Diego and Baltimore based on best win percentage in conference games.

The Ravens need this win, but the defending Super Bowl Champions will miss the playoffs.

Eddie P’s Philosophical Take

Green Bay Packers @ Chicago Bears

Chicago will be a tough to beat at home. They boast a 5-2 record when playing at Soldier Field this year. Bottling up Chicago’s top two receivers will be damn near impossible as well. Alshon Jeffrey leads the team in yards with 1,341 yards, along with seven touchdowns. Veteran Brandon Marshall brings in another 1,221 yards to go with his team leading 11 TDs.

Aaron Rodgers is back for the Packers. That’s huge for a team that has struggled at times with Matt Flynn running the offense. Even with outside linebacker Clay Matthews out on defense, I see Aaron coming back with a vengeance in the windy city.

Kansas City Chiefs @ San Diego Chargers 

This is one of the many games that can determine an entry into the playoffs or staying at home. The only they San Diego can do is win and hope the other cards fall into their hands.

Kansas City already has a playoff berth clinched. At 11-4, the Chiefs have the fifth-seed in the AFC. There is a chance, that Andy Reid rests some of his starting and key players, saving them for the playoffs. This can mean no, or a limited, Jamal Charles. It can also mean a defense without Tamba Hali or Justin Houston.

The Chargers having more on the line and absolutely need to win this game. Philip Rivers is an explosive QB and rookie Keenan Allen is a stud at receiver.

Words From Wooten

San Francisco 49ers @ Arizona Cardinals

As we look back on the season, who would’ve thought that Arizona would be this good. To be honest, I heard almost nothing about them until they beat Seattle last week. Other than that, they pretty much fell off of the face of the earth.
This is a win or go home for Arizona though. Unfortunately, this won’t end well for Arizona. They can say goodbye to their playoffs hopes because San Francisco is coming in and killing all hope.

 Philadelphia Eagles @ Dallas Cowboys

This has been on TV all week. We all want to know exactly what will happen here. Tony Romo is done for the season. Sean Lee isn’t playing as well. DeMarcus Ware is banged up. This isn’t looking too good for Dallas. For Philadelphia, it is looking right. Everyone is healthy and Nick Foles is playing at such a high level to where we all forgot about Michael Vick and his sub par performance. All in all, “America’s Team” will be sitting at home as they watch from the couch.

Jamaal Charles has been on a tear as of late. Could Charles leapfrog Peyton Manning as the MVP favorite?

Jamaal Charles has been on a tear as of late. Could Charles leapfrog Peyton Manning as the MVP favorite?

With only one week away from the final week of the regular season, here are the current leaders of each division:

AFC North: Cincinnati Bengals ( 9-5), South: Indianapolis Colts (9-5), East: New England Patriots (10-4), and the West: Denver Broncos: (11-3). NFC North: Chicago Bears (8-6), South: New Orleans Saints and Carolina Panther are tied at (10-4), East: Philadelphia Eagles: (8-6), and West: Seattle Seahawks (12-4).

With two divisional leaders facing off this week (NO @ CAR and CHI @ PHI), and a slew of divisional matchups that will cause for more drama headed into week 17, this week will be a roller coaster ride for league and for fans.

Week 15 Predictions Results

Brooks: 10-6; Overall: 133-90

Perez: 9-7; Overall: 126-85

Wooten: 7-9; Overall: 120-101

Game Picks

Week 16 Game Picks Brooks Perez  Wooten
Miami Dolphins @ Buffalo Bills MIA(L)  MIA(L)  MIA(L)
Minnesota Vikings @ Cincinnati Bengals CIN(W)  CIN(W)  CIN(W)
Indianapolis Colts @ Kansas City Chiefs KC(L)  KC(L)  KC(L)
Tampa Bay Buccaneers @ St. Louis Rams STL(W)  STL(W)  STL(W)
Cleveland Browns @ NY Jets CLE(L)  NYJ(W)  NYJ(W)
Dallas Cowboys @ Washington DAL(W)  DAL(W)  DAL(W)
New Orleans Saints @ Carolina Panthers CAR(W)  NO(L)  NO(L)
Tennessee Titans @ Jacksonville Jaguars TEN(W)  TEN(W)  TEN(W)
Denver Broncos @ Houston Texans DEN(W)  DEN(W)  DEN(W)
NY Giants @ Detroit Lions DET(L)  DET(L)  DET(L)
Arizona Cardinals @ Seattle Seahawks SEA(L)  SEA(L)  SEA(L)
Pittsburgh Steelers @ Green Bay Packers PIT(W)  PIT(W)  PIT(W)
Oakland Raiders @ San Diego Chargers SD(W)  SD(W) SD(W)
New England Patriots @ Baltimore Ravens BAL(L)  NE(W)  NE(W)
Chicago Bears @ Philadelphia Eagles PHI(W)  CHI(L)  CHI(L)
Atlanta Falcons @ San Francisco 49ers SF(W)  SF(W)  SF(W)

Brooks Bits’

Indianapolis Colts  @ Kansas City Chiefs

The Colts haven’t had a 3-plus game winning streak since defeating the 49ers, Jaguars and the Seahwaks in weeks 3 through 5. During that span, they were considered one of the league’s best. Now, the Colts are Jekyll and Hyde, alternating wins since week 9.

But after a 25-3 win over a Texans team that’s destined for the no. 1 pick in the 2014 NFL draft, Indianapolis will once flip-flop wins and losses. The Colts have developed a nasty habit of playing to the competition level of the opponent, but after embarrassing losses to formidable teams like Cincinnati and Arizona, not to mention the beat down they took from St. Louis, the Colts have  slim chance of winning at Arrowhead Stadium.

Led by MVP candidate Jamaal Charles, who is second in the league in yards per scrimmage (1,836), fourth in rushing yards (1,181),  and first in rushing touchdowns (11), the Chiefs would be tied for the no. 1 seed in the playoffs if the were not in the same division as Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos.

The Colts have averaged 14 points in its last four losses., and that’s all they might get against the Chiefs defense.

New England Patriots @ Baltimore Ravens

How fitting, a rematch of the AFC Championship game.

The Raves are winners of four straight after previously losing four of its last five games. The six field goal victory over the Lions Monday night wasn’t the least bit impressive, but the Ravens have a knack at figuring out the Patriots. The Ravens are on some sort of a fluke run that mirrors last season. The three wild wins in a row, first the Steelers, Mike Tomlin stepping on the field of play, the snow game against the Vikings, and Justin Tucker kicking a booming 61-yard field goal to beat the Lions.

I’m not saying Baltimore will take this run to the Super Bowl, but this run has that fluke feel.

The Patriots may have Kenbrell Thompkins and Aaron Dobson, which is a bright spot, but they won’t help the defense. New England has the 31st run defense, the perfect recipe for Ray Rice and Bernard Pierce who have been struggling to get the ground game going averaging a pitiful 82.9 ypg (29th).

Eddie P’s Philosophical Take

Arizona Cardinals @ Seattle Seahawks

Some people might not see it the same way, but this game will be a pretty good one. Seattle has one of the league’s best defense and a potent offense. Arizona boasts a top ten defensive unit as well, in addition to an offense with dangerous receivers.

The Cardinals might be without superstar receiver Larry Fitzgerald who is dealing with a concussion. Seattle will be without two of their top three cornerbacks. Walter Thurmond is serving a four-game suspension and starter Brandon Browner is suspended indefinitely (a messy topic on its own). Seattle will most likely be without Percy Harvin as well.

Despite missing several key players, Seattle still poses more of a threat. Arizona is good, but not Seattle good.

Pittsburgh Steelers @ Green Bay Packers

The Pittsburgh Steelers are coming off a victory over divisional foe, the Cincinnati Bengal. Green Bay is coming off a close win, squeaking pass the Dallas Cowboys by one point.

Matt Flynn played good last week, throwing four touchdowns. Running back Eddie Lacy had a huge day as well, racking up 141 yards on the ground.

On the flip side, Pittsburgh’s defense stood up well against a good offense last week, only allowing 57 yards on the ground and 230 through the air.

Words From Wooten

New Orleans Saints @ Carolina Panthers

Looks like we have us a rematch of a not so stellar game from a few weeks ago. I’m talking about Carolina, of course. Drew Brees is looking very good at this point in the season. The offense possesses a chemistry that almost no team had last season. Look for Brees to air it out against Carolina again.

For Carolina, they need to find a way to get to Brees. If they can’t then they can expect the same results from a few weeks ago. For them to have a top 5 defense, Drew Brees made it look like a bottom 5. All in all, Drew Brees is going in to Carolina hoping to win and he’s leaving Carolina with a win.

Denver Broncos @ Houston Texans

I feel so bad for Houston at this point of the season. JJ Watt isn’t playing on the same level as he did last season. I feel like no one is except for Andre Johnson. In fact, many of the major pieces they had last season are injured or their stinking up the place, like Matt Schaub. And speaking of Schaub, his days may be numbered in Houston now.

With a loss to Denver and a Washington win(which may happen if you know how the Cowboys operate) then they will secure Teddy Bridgewater… excuse me, I mean the number one pick in the 2014 draft. Denver is coming in Houston with no a worries at all. They’re playing Houston of all teams. I feel like they’re the new Jacksonville Jaguars now. Or at least for this season.

Dallas Cowboys @ Washington

One of the best rivalries in sports history go head-to-head again. On one side, we have a quarterback who can’t get the job done. And on the other side, we have a young quarterback who is hoping to get the job done.

When it boils down, I feel like this one is going to Dallas. Washington just isn’t looking good this season. Last season, they won the NFC East, for whatever that is worth, and now they’re scraping the bottom of the barrel with their beloved top-5 in the 2014 draft pick going to St. Louis. The only way they can build is through free agency and no one knows what that will look like this season. In the end, look forward to Tony Romo throwing a few TD’s and possibly a few picks as well, knowing Romo.