Now that the Super Bowl and the 2013 season are in our rearview mirror, it’s time to turn our attention to the 2014 season and the NFL offseason that’s just getting underway. The first step is to examine the offseason needs of each to team to see where they need to focus their efforts in free agency and the draft. We’ll start today with the teams of the AFC East.
Buffalo Bills – Much of the Bills’ 2014 season will hinge on the development of quarterback E.J. Manuel and the team’s young wide receivers, but there are several areas where they can improve their roster. A pass-catching tight end and an improved offensive line could go a long way toward helping Manuel make big strides in 2014, so those are two areas for the Bills to address. Buffalo does have one of the strongest defensive lines in the NFL, but they need to add one, if not two, quality linebackers to play alongside Kiko Alonso. The team also needs to re-sign safety Jairus Byrd, and if they can’t do that they’ll need to find a way to adequately replace his presence in their secondary.
Miami Dolphins – For a team that was so close to reaching the postseason, the Dolphins have a lot of work to do this offseason. Miami may need to completely overhaul its offensive line, which is a task that could take up a majority of their time and resources during the offseason. Adding help at running back could also be a part of Miami’s plans this offseason. Defensively, Miami could stand to make improvement at all three levels, although the interior of the defensive line and the secondary are their most pressing needs.
New England Patriots – The Patriots making it to the AFC Championship Game this year with a watered down set of skill players shows that the window to get to the Super Bowl is still open if they can make some improvements. Tom Brady can still do a lot, but he needs more support. New England would be wise to bring in the best wide receiver they can find, while also acquiring a tight end to both guard against another injury to Rob Gronkowski and give them a two tight end attack, which has worked well for them in the past. Help along the offensive line is also a must for the Patriots, as they need to keep Brady healthy for as long as possible. Defensively, New England has some good young talent, although they could use some more depth in their secondary.
New York Jets – Before they do anything else, the Jets need to find some offensive playmakers. New York needs to add at least two, perhaps three, quality wide receivers that they know will be productive in 2014. Adding a tight end would also be beneficial for their offense. The offensive line could use some help as well, but it’s not as much of a priority as the skill positions. Defensively, the Jets are in good shape under Rex Ryan, although they are in need of a safety after their mid-season signing of Ed Reed didn’t work out and they’re also going to need some reinforcements at linebacker, specifically an outside pass rusher.
With just one week left to play in the regular season, it’s almost award season in the NFL. In preparation for awards season, let’s take a look at the top five candidates (in no particular order) for defensive rookie of the year.
Kiko Alonso, Buffalo – Many people believe that Alonso will end up winning the award, as he’s one of the leading tacklers in the entire NFL. His production has been incredible with 145 tackles this season, and he has given life to an otherwise terrible set of linebackers in Buffalo. He’s not only played well against the run with seven games of double-digit tackles, but he’s also done well in pass coverage with four interceptions and five passes defended. Alonso makes plays all over the field and is having the kind of season that warrants serious consideration for defensive rookie of the year.
Ziggy Ansah, Detroit – After missing a few games it’ll be hard for Ansah to win defensive rookie of the year, but his performance definitely deserves consideration. He hasn’t been the most consistent player this year, which should be expected as a rookie, but there’s no doubt that he’s made an impact, leading all rookies with eight sacks. Ansah has three games with multiple sacks, showcasing what he’s capable of doing and the kind of impact he’s made this season.
Alec Ogletree, St. Louis – There have been some growing pains for Ogletree this year, as he definitely had some maturing to do after his three years at Georgia, but he has shown improvement throughout the season and has really come on strong late in the season. Ogletree has adjusted well to playing outside linebacker in a 4-3 scheme after playing in the middle of a 3-4 scheme in college, and he’s made 45 tackles over the last five games. Most importantly, Ogletree has shown the propensity for creating turnovers, as he returned a 98-yard interception for a touchdown in week 6 and forced four fumbles, indicating he has a promising future in the NFL after a nice rookie season.
Star Lotulelei, Carolina – The stats don’t tell the whole story with Lotulelei, who has been an unheralded but important part of Carolina’s great defense this season. The Panthers are far less effective against the run when he is not on the field, as having a big body like Lotulelei that can stuff the run has helped raise the level of play of the entire defense. He has 40 tackles and two sacks, so without eye-catching stats it’s going to be hard for him to win rookie of the year, but based on the impact that he’s made on the field, he’s as deserving as anybody else.
Sheldon Richardson, New York Jets – The Jets have been one of the best teams at defending the run this season, and the addition of Richardson is a big reason why. He has 76 tackles on the season, which is astounding for a defensive lineman and will draw a lot of attention from rookie of the year voters. He got off to a fast start, has been consistent throughout the season, and has had several dominating performances. If there’s anybody that has a chance to take the award from Alonso, it’s Richardson, who is a safe bet to at least be a close runner up for defensive rookie of the year.
NFL Week 14 Preview: Colts-Bengals, Falcons-Packers, Raiders-Jets, Lions-Eagles, Chiefs-Redskins and More
We’ve made it to December, and that means just four weeks left in the NFL regular season. There is plenty left to be decided concerning the playoffs, so let’s take a closer look at all the games on the week 14 schedule:
Indianapolis at Cincinnati – Both these teams are heading to the playoffs, although they probably won’t meet unless both get to the AFC Championship Game. As bad as the Colts have been over the past month, they will clinch the AFC South with a win, although if Indy doesn’t get better performances out of their defense and running game, Andrew Luck is going to have a lot of heavy lifting to do against a good Cincinnati defense. Meanwhile, the Bengals have been in a lot of close games and are battle tested; in fact, they’re two overtime losses away from an eight-game winning streak, so they’re actually playing quite well coming into this game. Even if Andy Dalton isn’t at the top of his game, the Bengals have a lot of playmakers that will be tough for a questionable Colts defense to stop.
Atlanta at Green Bay – The status of Aaron Rodgers is still up in the air, but even without Rodgers, the Packers should be able to move the ball against Atlanta’s defense. Green Bay has a sliver of postseason hope left, but they can’t afford to lose at home to the Falcons, who are still playing for pride. The Packers will need to show a sense of urgency to secure their first win in over a month, even against the 3-9 Falcons.
Cleveland at New England – The Patriots almost let one slip away last week, and they need to make sure that doesn’t happen again this week against another inferior team, especially with New England still chasing Denver for the top seed in the AFC. The Browns shouldn’t be able to hang with the Patriots in Foxboro, unless the Patriots let them.
Oakland at New York Jets – Expect this one to be ugly. The Jets are good enough on defense to shut down the Raiders, but they’re also terrible on offense and shouldn’t be expected to score many points. Whichever team can make fewer mistakes and commit fewer penalties, a steep challenge for both sides, will have the advantage in this game.
Detroit at Philadelphia – This game has major playoff implications, with the Lions trying to create some distance in their division and the Eagles locked in a tie with the Cowboys in their division. The Philadelphia defense has shown signs of improvement lately, but playing Detroit will be a true test of how good they are. If the Eagles are truly better on defense than most people think, they should be able to slow down Detroit’s offense enough to win this game, because the Lions may not be able to stop Nick Foles and the Eagles on offense. However, if Detroit’s offense gets rolling as well, this one could go back and forth and become a shootout between Foles and Matthew Stafford.
Miami at Pittsburgh – This game is critical in the AFC wildcard race, as the Steelers are still alive, but only if they win this game. Pittsburgh won three straight before losing on Thanksgiving, and if they can get their offense rolling again, they could have the advantage in this game, especially at home. The Dolphins will need Ryan Tannehill to step up his game and lead them to victory in a tough road environment against a defense that can be tough to go against; otherwise, Miami’s playoff hopes could start to slip.
Buffalo at Tampa Bay – The Bills need to win out to have any hope of reaching the postseason, although it’s not impossible, considering their remaining schedule. Doug Marrone had Greg Schiano’s number when the two faced each other as head coaches in college, so the Bills should have an advantage in that department, although most coaches have had Schiano’s number the past couple of seasons. If Buffalo can avoid costly turnovers, they have a good chance to win on the road.
Kansas City at Washington – The last thing the Redskins need right now is to see a Chief’s team that is angry after losing three straight. Of course, Washington is at home and the Kansas City defense isn’t quite as intimidating as they were earlier in the season, so there is some hope for them. If RG3 can avoid Kansas City’s great pass rush, the Redskins should be able to score some points and have a chance to win. However, if the Chiefs get after RG3, a disastrous year in Washington will continue.
Minnesota at Baltimore – The Ravens have moved toward the front of the AFC wildcard race, but even at home the Vikings can be a tricky team to face. Baltimore has one of the top rush defenses in the NFL, but those stats go out the window when facing Adrian Peterson. If Baltimore can stuff the run, they should win easily, but if they can’t, it’ll be up to Joe Flacco to give the Ravens their third straight win.
Tennessee at Denver – The Broncos are rolling again after last week’s win in Kansas City, and they should be able to win again this week, officially end any hope the Titans have of making the playoffs. It will be nice to see John Fox back on the sidelines for the Broncos, and interesting to see how the team to reacts to having their head coach back, as they have four weeks left to come together and prepare themselves for a deep postseason run.
St. Louis at Arizona – The Cardinals need to avenge a week 1 loss to the Rams if they’re going to remain in the playoff hunt. Three turnovers doomed Arizona last week, and that’s something that can’t repeat itself this week against a St. Louis defense that can pressure quarterbacks and force turnovers. The Rams are also a little more dangerous offensively than they were in week 1 with two solid running backs and Tavon Austin starting to breakout, so the Cardinals will have their work cut out for them at home against a team that has the potential to play spoiler down the stretch.
New York Giants at San Diego – The playoff hopes for both teams are bleak and both will need to win out to have a chance, so both teams should have a lot of urgency to win. Outside of that, the matchup of Eli Manning and Phillip Rivers is always an interesting one, as the two were traded for one another on draft day about a decade ago. Whichever team gets better play out of their quarterback should win the game.
Seattle at San Francisco – The Seahawks crushed the 49ers back in week 2, and now San Francisco seeks some redemption against Seattle, who can lock up the division with a win. It’s hard to imagine anybody beating Seattle after what they did to the Saints on Monday night, although the 49ers look much improved in recent weeks and they have a front-7 that may be able to force the Seahawks into throwing the ball to win the game, and Seattle may not have the wide receivers to do that. However, the key to this game is Colin Kaepernick. His slump started when he faced the Seahawks the first time this season, and he’s going to need to make plays with his arm and his legs if the 49ers are going to have a chance to win.
Carolina at New Orleans – This is the game of the week, a Sunday night showdown with the NFC South Division lead on the line. These teams will meet again in two weeks, so this game isn’t the deciding factor in the division race, but it will go a long way. Moreover, the Saints haven’t played great football for the past month, and they are coming off a humiliating loss to the Seahawks Monday night, while the Panthers are riding an eight-game winning streak. However, New Orleans remains undefeated at home this season, so something will have to give. Carolina’s defense has shut down a lot of teams this season, but stopping the Saints in the Super Dome might be their toughest challenge yet, so we’ll see if they’re up to it.
Rex Ryan and the New York Jets almost had us fooled. Give Ryan and the team some credit, because they really had us going there for a while; making us think that we were all wrong about writing them off before the season started as one of the worst teams in the NFL. For the first couple months of the season, Ryan and the Jets actually had us thinking they could compete for a playoff spot in a wide-open AFC wildcard race. But over the last few weeks, Gang Green has shown their true colors by playing absolutely dreadful football, and to borrow a line from Dennis Green: the Jets are who we thought they were.
We really shouldn’t have been fooled, as the Jets were the epitome of inconsistent for much of the season, alternating wins and losses over their first 10 games, and even their wins weren’t all that impressive. They were handed a week 1 win by a Tampa Bay team that committed 13 penalties, including a couple costly ones on the final drive of the game. They escaped a young Buffalo team in week 3 that couldn’t take advantage of the 20 penalties the Jets committed. They won on a late field in week 5 against Atlanta, a team that is also one of the worst in the NFL. They benefited from a controversial penalty in overtime to beat New England in week 7. They had just one impressive win, and that came week 9 against New Orleans, although the Saints haven’t been quite so dominant over the past month.
When the Jets weren’t lucky to escape with wins, they looked as pitiful as can be, but they would come back and win the following week to remain in contention and continue tricking us into thinking that they were a competitive team. During their first five losses of the season, the Jets averaged just over 10 points per game, with an average margin of defeat of over 20 points, but because they retained a .500 record, we assumed they were on par with the other teams in contention for the AFC wildcard. However, judging by the last two weeks, the charade is up, as the Jets looked pitiful and scored only three points against both the Ravens and Dolphins, two teams that aren’t exactly dominating with defense this season. It’s now obvious that the Jets are an awful offensive team with a defense that can only carry them so far, and a delusional coach that’s on his way out the door.
With the preseason injury to Mark Sanchez, the Jets had no choice to start Geno Smith, whose intangibles and NFL readiness were questioned, despite plenty of arm talent, and now it’s clear that he’s unprepared to lead an NFL offense, as the Jets have the fewest passing yards in the league, with Smith throwing for less than 160 yards in each of the last five weeks. Of course, it’s not all on Smith; there were serious questions about the Jets’ skill players heading into the season, and those questions have not been answered, leaving Smith without quality passing targets. The Jets have a pair of solid running backs in Chris Ivory and Bilal Powell, but neither is a back capable of carrying a team that’s so inept throwing the ball, leaving the Jets with little offensive firepower.
That’s who we thought the Jets were coming into the season: a team with a terrible offense and a defense that would be good, but not good enough to make up for a team that couldn’t find the end zone on a regular basis. Finally, after nearly three months of disguising themselves as a halfway decent team, the Jets are finally showing everyone who they’ve been all along. While they may still be mathematically alive for a spot in the postseason, there is no way a playoff birth is a reality for the Jets. They are simply an awful football team with no leadership and no direction. That’s what we thought we’d see from them when the season began and it’s what we’ve seen from them the last three weeks, as they can’t hide anymore from who they truly are.
We got a nice head start on week 13 on Thursday, now let’s take a look at all of the NFL games on the slate for Sunday:
Jacksonville at Cleveland – The season is over for both these teams, but the Jaguars are continuing to play hard and have won two of their last three games, while the Browns are spiraling out of control, and now have to go back to Brandon Weeden at quarterback. Don’t expect too many points in this game, although if Weeden plays well, Jacksonville could struggle against Cleveland’s top receivers Josh Gordon and Jordan Cameron.
Tennessee at Indianapolis – We saw this game a couple weeks ago, with the Colts coming back from an early deficit to steal a win on the road. Last week, Indianapolis continued to struggle while the Titans pulled out a late-win against the Raiders, giving the Colts a two-game lead in the division, a lead that could be in jeopardy if they lose this game. If the Colts get off to another slow start, the Titans are good enough to take advantage, and confidence is running high in Tennessee this week after a 300-yard passing game from Ryan Fitzpatrick last week. The Titans are fighting for their playoff lives, but considering how Indianapolis has played the last few weeks, all the pressure is on the Colts.
Chicago at Minnesota – The Vikings should be excited about the possibility of playing spoiler against the division rival Bears, who need to keep pace with the Lions atop the NFC North. Chicago’s defense has been a disaster recently, and that could be a serious problem as they try to stop Adrian Peterson, not to mention that Christian Ponder played well in Minnesota’s tie last week. The Bears have the weapons to score points on offense, but it may not be enough if their defense can’t play better.
Miami at New York Jets – This may be the most important game in the AFC Wild Card race left in the season, at least until these two teams meet again the final week of the season. The race for the final postseason spot in the AFC remains cluttered, and neither team can afford to lose this game. The Jets have been pitiful the last two weeks, and they could be on the verge of completely collapsing if they can’t get their act together this week, especially on the offensive side of the ball. Meanwhile, the Dolphins seemed to have weathered the storm of off-field controversy and are playing well, as they’ve been in close games each of the last four weeks, winning two of them. The Jets may get blown out, but there’s no way the Dolphins aren’t in the game in the 4th quarter, but if they don’t find a way to win in the final minutes, they could be done, as their schedule is difficult the final four weeks.
Arizona at Philadelphia – These are two of the hottest teams in the NFL over the past month, and both need to keep winning to remain on the right side of the playoff bubble. This game could come down to a matchup of strength vs. strength, as the Eagles are the top rushing team in the NFL, while the Cardinals boast the second best rush defense in the league. If the Cardinals can slow down Philadelphia’s running game, they should be able to outscore the Eagles, but if not, expect both teams to put a lot of points on the board.
Tampa Bay at Carolina – With seven straight wins, the Panthers own the top wild card spot in the NFC and may be making a push for first place in the NFC South. However, they can’t sleep on the Bucs, who have won three in a row. Carolina isn’t explosive offensively, which means Tampa’s defense should be able to keep them in the game, giving rookie Mike Glennon a chance to lead the Bucs to their fourth straight win if he can outplay Cam Newton.
New England at Houston – The Patriots are starting to click on offense, and after last week’s win against Denver, they are still in contention for the top spot in the AFC, so they won’t be taking the Texans lightly. With nine straight losses, things can’t get much worse for Houston, who will be lucky to stay competitive with the Patriots this week.
Atlanta at Buffalo – The Bills are still alive for the postseason if they can take advantage of a weak schedule the next three games, beginning with the Falcons this week. Buffalo has a strong defensive line that should keep Atlanta’s running game contained and put pressure on Matt Ryan, which will force the Falcons to play good defense if they expect to stay in the game. If E.J. Manuel plays well, he’ll keep Buffalo’s slim playoff hopes alive.
St. Louis at San Francisco – The San Francisco defense has been exceptional lately while the offense is getting some key players back, which bodes well for the 49ers moving forward. However, the Rams are a lot better not than they were when the 49ers beat them early in the season, and St. Louis is ready to put up a fight. Both teams have a strong defensive front-seven to stop the run and pressure the quarterback, and because the Rams are limited throwing the ball, the key to this game will be the play of Colin Kaepernick, who can carry the 49ers to victory if he can regain the form he had last year.
Denver at Kansas City – The winner of this game will have the inside track on winning the division and having home field throughout the AFC playoffs, while the loser will likely have to settle for the wildcard. Kansas City’s defense hasn’t been the same over the past couple of weeks, and it’ll be difficult to regain their early-season form with injuries to Justin Houston and Tamba Hali, regardless of whether they’re able to play or not. The Chiefs need to keep this a low-scoring game, and it’ll be hard for them to keep up with the Broncos if they have to score more than 20 points, even at home.
Cincinnati at San Diego – A win over the Chiefs last week kept the Chargers in the playoff hunt, but they need to keep on winning in order to get to the postseason, even against a talented Cincinnati team. If Andy Dalton can shake off his recent problems with turnovers, the Bengals should be able to score against San Diego’s defense, which means it’ll be up to Phillip Rivers to have another exceptional game and lead the Chargers to victory, much like he did last week against Kansas City. As Rivers goes, so do the Chargers, and he’ll have to be significantly better than Dalton this week in order for San Diego to keep their playoff hopes alive.
New York Giants at Washington – Both teams are out of playoff contention, but these two division rivals should find a way to keep this game interesting. Both teams would like to finish strong, and both coaches could be on the hot seat this offseason if they don’t win a few games down the stretch, especially against division foes, so this game does carry some importance for both sides.
Breaking Down the AFC’s Final Wildcard Spot: Ravens, Browns, Dolphins, Jets, Raiders, Steelers and More
Down the stretch they come. With six weeks left to play in the NFL season the playoff race is heating up in both conferences. There is chaos in the NFC, while the AFC playoff race is slightly more settled, except for one spot: the second wild card spot. Three of the four divisions in the AFC appear to be all but spoken for, while both Denver and Kansas City both look destined to make the playoffs out of the AFC West, despite the fact that the division winner is yet to be determined. This leaves the rest of the teams in the AFC scrambling for one, and only one, wildcard spot. Nine teams can make the argument that they’re still alive to win that postseason spot, so let’s look at each team’s journey to the last playoff spot over the final six weeks of the season and try to make sense of the situation.
Baltimore – The defending Super Bowl champions are still in it at 4-6, especially with their next three games coming at home, where they’re currently 3-1 on the season. Baltimore’s next two games are against the Jets and Steelers, two teams their in competition with for the final playoff spot, and after that they host the lowly Vikings, so there is real opportunity to get hot down the stretch right now. However, they finish the season with Detroit, New England, and Cincinnati in the final three weeks, which will make things tough for them.
Buffalo – The Bills hit rock bottom a couple weeks ago, but E.J. Manuel is back and both he and the rest of the team looked sharp last week against the Jets. Buffalo has a bye this week, but after that their next three opponents have combined for just five wins this year, so the schedule sets up nicely for them to make a run. If the Bills can sweep those three games they’ll be back at .500 and be in the middle of the race the final two weeks of the season.
Cleveland – The Browns host Pittsburgh and Jacksonville the next two weeks, giving them ample opportunity to get back to .500. However, they’ll have to play three of their final four games on the season on the road, where they have just one win this season, with a home game against the Bears mixed in. Cleveland is clinging to hope despite losing four of their last five, but they have to win their next two to have a chance.
Miami – The Dolphins stopped the bleeding with a win over San Diego last week, but they still have a lot of work left to do, despite being currently tied for the final playoff spot with the Jets. Speaking of the Jets, Miami will see them twice before the end of the season, and needless to say those games will be critical for both teams. The Dolphins also have tough road trips to Pittsburgh and Buffalo in December, and they get difficult home games against the Panthers and Patriots as well, so the schedule is not kind to the fish down the stretch.
New York Jets – The Jets have alternated wins and losses all season, and if that continues it could get them into the playoffs, although it would mean dropping both head-to-head matchups with the Dolphins, which they can’t afford to do. Outside of two meetings with Miami, the Jets have winnable home games and Oakland and Cleveland, as well as road games with Baltimore and Carolina. If the Jets can find some consistency they should be considered favorites, but if they keep alternating wins and losses, they’ll be playing with fire down the stretch.
Oakland – The Raiders are in must-win mode this week against Tennessee, who hasn’t won with Ryan Fitzpatrick as their starting quarterback. Of course, Oakland is unsettled at quarterback as well, and that could make things difficult for them with road games against the Cowboys, Jets, and Chargers on the horizon. The Raiders will also see the Chiefs and Broncos in two of the last three weeks of the season, and while those games are at home, it’ll make it tough for Oakland to win when it matters the most.
Pittsburgh – Four of the final six games the Steelers have down the stretch are against teams also fighting for a wildcard spot in the AFC, including two against the Browns and a Thursday night in Baltimore. The Steelers also have a road trip to Lambeau Field right before Christmas, and it’s hard to imagine Aaron Rodgers not being back by then. The next two games for Pittsburgh are both on the road against Cleveland and Baltimore, and if they can win at least one of them, they’ll finish with three of their final four at home and have a fighting chance.
San Diego – The Chargers are on thin ice after three straight losses, and a trip to Kansas City this week will make it hard for them to break that losing streak. San Diego will see the Chiefs twice and the Broncos once over the final six weeks, which will be a monumental challenge, especially since those teams are still competing for the division and will have plenty to play for down the stretch, meaning they won’t take their foot off the gas over the final few weeks. Four of their final five games are at home, but in addition to Kansas City, they’ll have to play the talented Bengals and the surging Giants, giving them a tough road ahead, even if they can upset the Chiefs on the road this week.
Tennessee – If the Titans can prove they can win with Ryan Fitzpatrick this week in Oakland they’ll be able to stay in the race and give themselves a chance. However, they follow up their trip to Oakland with road games in Indianapolis and Denver, which won’t be easy. The Titans finish off the season with Arizona, Jacksonville, and Houston, with the Jaguars being their only road opponent. If they can remain in contention with three weeks to go, Tennessee will have a chance to finish strong and make the postseason, as they hold a tiebreaker with three other teams on this list. However, they have a few more “ifs” than most of their competitors, which is never a good thing.
So, what did we learn from all that? Well, this is bound to be a war of attrition, with several teams facing difficult schedules over the final six weeks. The AFC West teams should fall first, as they can’t count on getting wins over the Broncos and Chiefs. There is a lot of intra-division play among the AFC North teams, which means one team could emerge by beating the other teams in their division, but it could also lead to those teams cancelling each other out. With three straight home games upcoming, the Ravens are the most likely AFC North team to emerge and snag the final wildcard spot. However, the most likely scenario is for an AFC East team to grab it. The Jets should be the favorites, but they’ll have to win at least one of their games against the Dolphins, who may have to sweep the Jets to get to the postseason. The sleeper of this group to keep an eye on is Buffalo, who has the most favorable schedule of all the teams competing for the final wildcard spot, and that could be the difference in getting the Bills into the playoffs.
NFL Week 11 Predictions: Bills-Jets, Bears-Ravens, Bengals-Browns, Lions-Steelers, Texans-Raiders and More
With the Broncos-Chiefs, Pats-Panthers, Saints-49ers, etc on the schedule, this week is full of exciting matchups. Here are the teams we like to come out on top:
Bryan Zarpentine: Tampa Bay 23, Atlanta 21 – The Bucs keep up some forward momentum while the Falcons continue to spiral out of control.
Cole Stevenson: Atlanta 23, Tampa Bay 21
Bryan Zarpentine: Buffalo 20, New York Jets 10 – The Bills respond to Doug Marrone’s fiery comments last week and play a complete game.
Cole Stevenson: New York Jets 21, Buffalo 13
Bryan Zarpentine: Chicago 27, Baltimore 13 – The Baltimore defense can’t put together two straight weeks quality performances, especially against a talented Chicago offense.
Cole Stevenson: Chicago 24, Baltimore 19
Bryan Zarpentine: Cincinnati 20, Cleveland 17 – It isn’t pretty, but while at home the Bengals find a way to edge out the Browns.
Cole Stevenson: Cincinnati 23, Cleveland 18
Bryan Zarpentine: Detroit 30, Pittsburgh 17 – The Lions get their running game going and become too much for the Steelers to handle.
Cole Stevenson: Detroit 27, Pittsburgh 20
Bryan Zarpentine: Houston 21, Oakland 10 – The Raiders can’t do much on offense against Houston’s defense, giving the Texans a much-needed win.
Cole Stevenson: Houston 24, Oakland 16
Bryan Zarpentine: Philadelphia 38, Washington 28 – The Redskins can’t stop Philadelphia’s offense and RG3 can’t keep up.
Cole Stevenson: Philadelphia 31, Washington 24
Bryan Zarpentine: Arizona 31, Jacksonville 10 – The Cardinals win going away in a rout.
Cole Stevenson: Arizona 27, Jacksonville 17
Bryan Zarpentine: San Diego 27, Miami 21 – The Chargers have played well on the east coast this year, and take advantage of a team that’s still going through turmoil.
Cole Stevenson: San Diego 24, Miami 20
Bryan Zarpentine: New York Giants 24, Green Bay 14 – The Giants continue to make incremental progress, and they have just enough to beat a depleted Packer’s team.
Cole Stevenson: Giants 25, Green Bay 20
Bryan Zarpentine: Seattle 24, Minnesota 7 – The Seahawks are sluggish offensively at first, but ultimately they’re too good for the Vikings.
Cole Stevenson: Seattle 23, Minnesota 10
Bryan Zarpentine: New Orleans 34, San Francisco 17 – The 49ers don’t put up much of a fight in the second half against a much better team.
Cole Stevenson: New Orleans 30, San Francisco 19
Bryan Zarpentine: Denver 31, Kansas City 20 – The Chiefs keep Peyton Manning under wraps in the first half, but the Broncos blitz them with big plays in the 3rd quarter and pull away.
Cole Stevenson: Denver 28, Kansas City 19
Bryan Zarpentine: Carolina 20, New England 16 – The Carolina defense keeps Tom Brady under wraps just enough to pull out another impressive win.
Cole Stevenson: New England 24, Carolina 20
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NFL Week 10 Power Rankings: Broncos, Chiefs, Patriots, Colts, Titans, Chargers, Jets, Ravens and More
The AFC went 0-4 against the NFC last week, while the Colts and Bengals both suffered disappointing losses, what does that mean for the week 11 power rankings? See below:
#1 Denver Broncos
Here for now, but haven’t been very impressive as of late; Big test against Kansas City on Sunday.
#2 Kansas City Chiefs
The Chiefs are undefeated, but have had a soft schedule and they play the Broncos this weekend. The Chiefs pass rush better be locked in.
#3 New England Patriots
Bill Belichick has always loved Ed Reed, but will they take a flyer?
#4 Indianapolis Colts
I have thought this team was slightly overrated and last week’s 38-8 loss to the Rams didn’t help change my mind.
#5 Cincinnati Bengals
This team continues to confuse everyone. Extremely impressive one week, sub par the next.
#6 Tennessee Titans
Now that Jake Locker is out, this team will likely be sliding out of the top 10 very soon. However, the AFC is so weak that they are still alive for a wild card.
#7 San Diego Chargers
It was pretty surprising how little success the Chargers had throwing the ball, but they are still in the think of a playoff berth.
#8 New York Jets
The Jets have the 3rd worst point differential in the AFC, but they are still in the drivers seat for the second wild card.
#9 Baltimore Ravens
As much as I do not care for Joe Flacco, the Ravens’ win over the Bengals was both impressive and might have saved their season…for now.
#10 Cleveland Browns
Browns remain in good position since they boast the only winning record within the AFC North.
#11 Pittsburgh Steelers
Somehow, this team has put themselves in a position to get back in the divisional race… don’t hold your breath though Steelers fans.
#12 Houston Texans
It’s hard to find anything going right in Houston right now… Case Keenum might help some Aaron Rodgers owners though.
#13 Buffalo Bills
The Bills continue to look worse and worse somehow. What a tough NFL start for their new head coach.
#14 Oakland Raiders
What started as a promising season for Pryor has ended up with the Raiders having the 4th worst offense in the NFL.
#15 Jacksonville Jaguars
Good new Jags fans, with the Bucs winning, the Jags are still in the hunt for the #1 pick.
#16 Miami Dolphins
Has any team ever had a worse sequence of events while losing 4 out of 5?
Tell me how wrong I am on twitter @Cole_Stevenson
Before the season, we named six NFL head coaches that were on the hot seat. Now that the season is half over, let’s take a look at whether those six coaches have more or less job security than they had when the season started, as well as a few coaches that have joined them on the hot seat.
Dennis Allen, Oakland – There’s probably not a lot Allen can do to prevent the Raiders from finishing last in the AFC West this year, but so far he’s done enough to at least give himself another year as head coach. The Raiders are definitely more competitive than they were last year, and they should be able to improve upon their 4-12 record from last year, despite sharing a division with two of the NFL’s better teams. Games against Denver and Philadelphia notwithstanding, Oakland has been better defensively this season, and that should be enough to bring Allen back next year.
Jason Garrett, Dallas – Garrett’s fate is still far from determined, and it doesn’t help that Jerry Jones is unpredictable and doesn’t always think soundly. The Cowboys are in good position to win the NFC East and go to the playoffs, which would almost certainly save Garrett’s job, but they should probably be better than 5-4, and there’s still time for a second half collapse that could cost Dallas a playoff spot. If that happens, Garrett could easily lose his job, despite anything Jones has said previously about his belief in his head coach.
Mike Munchak, Tennessee – Right now, Munchak’s job status looks pretty good. His quarterback started to make progress before suffering an injury that knocked him out for a few weeks, but now Jake Locker is back on the field and the Titans are definitely in the middle of the playoff hunt. Three of Tennessee’s four losses this season have come against the NFL’s elite (Kansas City, Seattle, and San Francisco), so it’s hard to say that the Titans are underachieving this year. Even if Munchak can’t get Tennessee to the playoffs this year, there’s been enough progress made to retain him as the head coach.
Ron Rivera, Carolina – Things weren’t looking good for Rivera and the Panthers early in the season, but things have turned around in a hurry with four straight wins and much better play out of quarterback Cam Newton. As much as Newton has improved last year, it’s Rivera’s defense that’s leading the charge in Carolina and initializing a power shift in the NFC South. The Panther’s schedule will get tougher in the second half of the season, with at least four games against teams that look headed for the postseason, but barring a complete collapse, Rivera looks good to return to the Panthers next season.
Rex Ryan, New York Jets – Before the season, Ryan was a virtual lock to be fired after the season, but he’s given himself a fighting chance to keep his job. That being said, the situation changes on almost a weekly basis, as the Jets have been terribly inconsistent this season, losing to the Steelers only to beat the Patriots the next week, then getting crushed by the Bengals only to beat the Saints this past weekend. If Ryan gets the Jets to the playoffs it’ll be hard to fire him after the low expectations heading into the season, but there’s so much that can happen between now and the end of the season, not to mention the instability within the organization, which puts his job status very much in the air.
Jim Schwartz, Detroit – Schwartz has definitely taken the heat off himself that was building up after last year’s 4-12 campaign. Detroit’s defense still has a lot of work to do, but Schwartz seems to have the quarterback he needs to win, and an offense that can by dynamic at times. The Lions look like a team that could win 10 games and go to the playoffs, which should take the heat off Schwartz for at least a couple years.
Those who weren’t on the hot seat at the start of the season, but are definitely on it now are:
Leslie Frazier, Minnesota – Things were good for Frazier last year after the Vikings won 10 games and went to the playoffs, but unless they can turn things around in the second half, he could be out of a job. Minnesota’s season isn’t all on Frazier, as there’s been a ton of instability at quarterback for the Vikings, and none of the three that have played appear to be the answer for them. However, Frazier went 3-13 in 2011, and if he repeats that record this year, which looks quite possible, it’ll be hard to justify keeping him, even with a 10-win season and postseason appearance sandwiched in between.
Greg Schiano, Tampa Bay – How Schiano is still employed is anybody’s guess. It doesn’t matter how many years or how much money remains on his contract, Schiano should be out after this season, and he should consider himself lucky not to have already received his walking papers.
Gary Kubiak, Houston – The seat under Kubiak was definitely starting to heat up, but his episode at halftime of Sunday’s game reminds us that there are more important things.
NFL Week 9 Predictions: Packers-Bears, Vikings-Cowboys, Saints-Jets, Eagles-Raiders, Patriots-Steelers and More
Will the Chiefs keep a direct course for home field advantage? Will Rex Ryan get the better of Rob Ryan? Will the Bucs even be close in Seattle? Get our predictions below:
(Bryan Zarpentine 61-35 overall)
(Cole Stevenson 60-36 overall)
Bryan Zarpentine: Carolina 27, Atlanta 13 – Cam Newton keeps it going and the Falcons continue to spiral out of control.
Cole Stevenson: Carolina 30, Atlanta 16 – Tough to see the Panthers losing right now and even tougher to see the Falcons winning.
Bryan Zarpentine: Buffalo 20, Kansas City 17 – Upset alert! Buffalo’s pass rush causes problems for Alex Smith, who turns the ball over a couple times, allowing the Bills’ offense to do just enough in the 4th quarter to steal a win at home.
Cole Stevenson: Kansas City 21, Buffalo 16 – I know the Chiefs are going to lose eventually, but to Jeff Tuel or Thad Lewis? I don’t buy it.
Bryan Zarpentine: Dallas 21, Minnesota 13 – The Cowboys are unimpressive, but not even Adrian Peterson can carry this Viking’s team to a win on the road against a halfway decent team.
Cole Stevenson: Dallas 24, Minnesota 16 – Cowboys have to win this game.
Bryan Zarpentine: Tennessee 19, St. Louis 10 – Jake Locker and the Titans have trouble in the red zone, but it doesn’t matter against an offense led by Kellen Clemens.
Cole Stevenson: St. Louis 18, Tennessee 15 – I don’t have a lot of faith in this pick, but if the St. Louis defense from Monday night shows up, they have a good chance.
Bryan Zarpentine: New Orleans 45, New York Jets 21 – This isn’t as ugly as last week for the Jets, but they have no chance of slowing down the New Orleans offense.
Cole Stevenson: New Orleans 30, New York Jets 20 – I like Rex Ryan more than Rob, but not in this game.
Bryan Zarpentine: Washington 34, San Diego 24 – The Redskins need this game a little bit more, as we see one turnover too many from Phillip Rivers.
Cole Stevenson: Washington 30, San Diego 21 – This is a coin flip for me, but Washington has more playmakers.
Bryan Zarpentine: Oakland 20, Philadelphia 13 – The Raiders look stout on defense and at home they find a way to put some points on the board against the Eagles.
Cole Stevenson: Oakland 21, Philadelphia 16 – Tough to see the Eagles beating anybody right now.
Bryan Zarpentine: Seattle 24, Tampa Bay 6 – Not the prettiest game, but there’s no way the Bucs can beat the Seahawks in Seattle.
Cole Stevenson: Seattle 28, Tampa Bay 3 – Seahawks will be looking to make a statement after a ‘disappointing’ win last week.
Bryan Zarpentine: Cleveland 24, Baltimore 13 – The Browns get the job done on defense and Jason Campbell provides the little spark they need on offense to get the win.
Cole Stevenson: Cleveland 22, Baltimore 18 – I repeat, I will pick against Joe Flacco for the rest of the year.
Bryan Zarpentine: New England 28, Pittsburgh 17 – There’s no way the Patriots fall at home to this year’s Steelers.
Cole Stevenson: New England 31, Pittsburgh 20 – Look for Gronkowski to finally find the end zone.
Bryan Zarpentine: Indianapolis 21, Houston 13 – It’s not as easy as it looks for the Colts without Reggie Wayne, but the Texans are a mess and they won’t be able to stop Andrew Luck in the 4th quarter.
Cole Stevenson: Indianapolis 23, Houston 17 – I want to pick the Texans in an upset here so badly, but I can’t just yet.
Bryan Zarpentine: Green Bay 38, Chicago 21 – The Bears will score some points with Josh McCown, but they won’t be able to stop Aaron Rodgers.
Cole Stevenson: Green Bay 31, Chicago 22 – The Packers offense seems locked in right now.
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