The AFC West was one of the best divisions in the NFL in 2013, putting three teams into the postseason. That means it could be a bit of an arms race this offseason, as the teams know that competition within the division will be tough in 2014. Let’s take a look at the offseason plans for the four teams in the AFC West.
Denver Broncos – As long as Peyton Manning is still around the Broncos are going to do everything they can to win in the short term. Eric Decker may leave in free agency and Wes Welker is getting old, so Denver needs to find a receiver that can team up with Demaryius Thomas and Julius Thomas to make sure Manning still has an elite arsenal of receivers at his disposal. The Broncos also have a few free agents along their offensive line, and whether they re-sign those guys or bring in new players, they have to make sure that unit is strong and Manning is well protected. On defense, something has to give at cornerback, where the Broncos need help, regardless of whether or not they’re able to bring back Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie. Denver also needs to invest in a young pass rusher to complement Von Miller, who will need some help next season after coming off an ACL injury.
Kansas City Chiefs – The Chiefs have a team that can reach the playoffs, but they won’t have a team that can play at a championship level until they address certain areas. Alex Smith is likely to stay at quarterback, who is fine for now, but Kansas City needs to get him more help around him outside of Dwayne Bowe and Jamaal Charles. The Chiefs should explore the free agent market for wide receivers while also taking advantage of a deep class of wide receivers in the draft, which should help them pick up at least two talented wide outs this offseason. The Chiefs also have a few starters along the offensive line approaching free agency, which is something they’ll have to adequately address if they’re going to remain competitive in 2014. Defensively, the Chiefs are in relatively good shape, except in the secondary, where they got exposed late in the season when their pass rush wasn’t quite as dominant as they were early in the season. If Kansas City can get more talent around safety Eric Berry they’ll be in good shape on the back end of their defense.
Oakland Raiders – Dennis Allen has one more season to start turning things around in Oakland or he’s going to be unemployed. The first thing Allen will have to do is decide on a course of action at quarterback, because if he doesn’t want to commit to Terrelle Pryor or Matt McGloin in 2014, the Raiders may have to use their first round pick on a new quarterback. Once the quarterback position is figured out, Oakland may have to make due with the rest of the offense as is, because their defense needs a lot of attention. Oakland had a terrible pass defense last year, and they’ll not only need to overhaul their secondary, but they’re going to need to find pass rushers along the defensive line. On the off chance Jadeveon Clowney falls to them in the draft, they may need to take him, even if it means waiting until later in the draft to pick a quarterback, because generating a pass rush may be equally important to becoming a competitive team in 2014.
San Diego Chargers – The resurgence of Philip Rivers and the emergence of rookie receiver Keenan Allen have given the Chargers a boost and a chance to remain competitive for a few more years. Some improvement to the offensive line could be made this offseason, and it also wouldn’t hurt San Diego to add another receiver or two, perhaps a tight end that can ultimately take over for Antonio Gates. But the biggest priority for the Chargers this offseason could be cornerback, where the team may need to invest an early round draft pick while also acquiring one or two players in free agency to give that position a boost. Finally, San Diego could use another pass rusher, and if they can find a way to make a splash in that area, it could go a long way towards helping them challenge for a division title in 2014 if Rivers can continue to perform at the level he did in 2013.
11NFL Black Monday: Cowboys, Redskins, Giants, Lions, Bucs, Vikings, Raiders and More to Fire Coaches?
Well, the NFL regular season is over, but before we can turn our focus to the playoffs, we must first endure Black Monday. There were eight new head coaches in the league this year, and there could be just as many teams looking to fill head coaching vacancies for next year. Gary Kubiak has already been let go by the Houston Texans, and there are several other coaches that could also be out of a job by the end of the day, possibly by the end of this sentence. Let’s run down the coaches on the hot seat and look at who will be fired and who deserves to stay:
Jason Garrett, Dallas – Garrett’s fate may have been sealed with Kyle Orton’s interception, although Jerry Jones has previously said that Garrett would be back next season, so there’s no telling what Jones is going to do. Garrett isn’t a bad coach, but the Cowboys have lost out on a chance to go to the playoffs to a division rival on the last week of the season three years in a row, which doesn’t sound like something Jones would be content with, and could push him over the edge towards firing Garrett. Don’t be surprised if Jones takes a few days to think about everything before making his decision regarding Garrett’s future, which is anything but certain right now.
Tom Coughlin, New York Giants – There’s a slight chance that Coughlin walks away willingly and a slight chance he gets fired, and it might be best for all parties if that happens, but the most likely scenario is Coughlin staying in New York and trying to turn things around in 2014. This season will be remembered for the Giants starting out 0-6, but despite inconsistent play from Eli Manning all season, the G-Men played well done the stretch and ended up with a 7-9 record, which isn’t bad at all considering how their season started and how poor their quarterback play was. The strong finish should inspire some confidence in Coughlin’s ability to get things turned around and get the Giants back into the playoffs next year.
Mike Shanahan, Washington – Shanahan may have a couple Super Bowl rings on his hand, and he may have a long history as an excellent head coach, but there’s no way he survives the kind of season the Redskins have had. Washington finished 3-13 and lost their final eight games of the season. More than that, they’ve been a complete mess on and off the field, making it obvious that Shanahan needs to go.
Jim Schwartz, Detroit – A month ago the Lions were a virtual lock to win the NFC North, but under Schwartz Detroit went winless in December and was already out of contention before the start of week 17, which means that now it’s a virtual lock that Schwartz will be fired. With the Lions having such an array of talent on offense and a powerful defensive line, there’s no excuse for not winning a division in which the other three teams were without their starting quarterbacks for a significant chunk of the season, much less finish 7-9. In five seasons, Schwartz led the Lions to a winning record once, with no division titles and no playoff wins; not to mention the Lions are 22 games under .500 over the last five seasons. There’s no way Schwartz will be employed this time tomorrow.
Leslie Frazier, Minnesota – It’s tough to pin Minnesota’s season all on Frazier, considering all the issues at quarterback that the Vikings have had, but he’s had one playoff season sandwiched between two awful seasons, and in an impatient NFL, that’s probably going to be enough to cost him his job. The Vikings haven’t played as bad as their record indicates, and they were 4-3-1 the second half of the season, which could give Frazier some hope to keep his job, but more than likely by Tuesday morning Frazier will be looking for a job as a defensive coordinator and Minnesota will be looking for a new head coach.
Greg Schiano, Tampa Bay – Schiano’s job status could actually go either way, which didn’t seem possible at the midway point of the season when the Bucs were 0-8. However, Schiano has a lot of years and money left on his contract, which could force Tampa Bay to keep him for another season. The Bucs also played well for a stretch this season, winning three in a row and four out of five at one point, and rookie quarterback Mike Glennon did show some promise, so despite a 4-12 record there could be cause to bring Schiano back in 2014. That being said, the Bucs’ play was unacceptable for long stretches of the season, and for a guy with no NFL track record, it’s tough to feel too optimistic about the future in Tampa if Schiano is allowed to stay.
Mike Smith, Atlanta – Smith isn’t likely to be fired, but it wouldn’t be unheard of for someone in his position to be let go after one bad season. The Falcons had high hopes for 2013 after coming one game short of the Super Bowl last year, and obviously they fell well short of those expectations. Injuries did play a significant role in Atlanta’s poor season, but it wasn’t the only reason. Also, don’t forget that Atlanta is just 1-4 in the postseason under Smith and that their window for reaching a Super Bowl could be getting smaller, so it would be shocking but not impossible for Smith to get fired, although by no means did the Falcons roll over at the end of the season, so the locker room remains behind Smith, which is a positive sign.
Joe Philbin, Miami – Philbin is an interesting case. The scandal that rocked Miami through a large portion of the season is a black eye for the organization, and while he’s partly to blame for the situation, he also weathered the storm and put the Dolphins in a good position to make the playoffs heading down the stretch. Of course, Miami had a complete meltdown the final two weeks of the season and blew a golden opportunity to go to the playoffs. Philbin is two games under .500 in two seasons in Miami, which isn’t awful, but it’s not that good either. It helps that he has a young and promising quarterback in Ryan Tannehill, who is still maturing and improving as a player, and that will likely bring Philbin back next season, but the heat is definitely on, and if they wanted to, the Dolphins probably have enough to justify firing him.
Rex Ryan, New York Jets – Before the season, Rex Ryan looked like a lock to be fired with new general manager John Idzik coming aboard, and a month ago that still seemed to be the case, but now there have been rumblings that Ryan might have done enough this season to save his job. The Jets were expected to be one of the worst teams in the NFL this season, but Ryan led them to a respectable and overachieving 8-8 record, doing so with a rookie quarterback and a limited amount of offensive skill players. Ryan will still enter next season with a lot of pressure to win games and reach the postseason, but he will be back in New York next season, which is something nobody thought was possible at the start of the season.
Rob Chudzinski, Cleveland – Much to everyone’s surprise, rumors started leaking Sunday night that the Browns would fire Chudzinski after just one season. If Cleveland thought they had a franchise that could be turned around in one year, they are sadly mistaken. Things obviously didn’t go well, with the team losing 10 of its final 11 games, but Chudzinski inherited a futile situation at quarterback and the team traded away 2012 first round pick Trent Richardson the first month of the season, signaling that they were building for the future, presumably with Chudzinski as the head coach. Unless the Browns know something we don’t and have a big-name coach lined up to take the job, firing Chudzinski after one season is a puzzling move.
Mike Munchak, Tennessee – The Titans needed to see some progress this season, and because they haven’t Munchak will likely be fired. It may be a little unfair, because there’s no telling how the season would have been different had Jake Locker not been hurt after a promising start to the season. However, that excuse may not be enough to save Munchak, who’s had back-to-back losing seasons in a fairly mediocre division. It’s not a guarantee that Munchak will be fired, but all signs point to that being the case.
Dennis Allen, Oakland – It’ll be interesting to see what the Raiders do with Allen, because it’s unfair to have expected him to turn things around in Oakland in just two seasons. A pair of 4-12 seasons doesn’t look like a lot of progress has been made, but the AFC West is a lot better this season than it was last year with the other three teams all making the playoffs, so repeating the same win total from 2012 isn’t so bad, especially considering that the Raiders were using an undrafted rookie at quarterback for a big chunk of the season. Two seasons isn’t giving Allen a fair chance, although losing eight of their last nine games doesn’t leave a good lasting impression, and if Allen hasn’t done enough to make the Raiders think year three will be different, he’s likely to be fired.
11NFL Week 16 Preview: Cowboys-Redskins, Saints-Panthers, Steelers-Packers, Raiders-Chargers and More
There are two weeks left in the NFL season and yet the playoff picture remains unsettled. Let’s not waste our time with the meaningless games on this week’s schedule and take a closer look at all the games that have playoff implications.
Miami at Buffalo – The Dolphins need to win and get some help over the final two weeks in order to get to the playoffs, and a win over the Bills isn’t a guarantee, especially after Buffalo beat them earlier in the season. The Dolphins hurt themselves with turnovers when the teams met in week 7, and that’s not something that can repeat itself this time around, as Miami will have to do a better job of handling Buffalo’s defensive front, which can be disruptive against the Dolphin’s suspect offensive line. Thad Lewis will be Buffalo’s quarterback for the injured E.J. Manuel, but Lewis was the quarterback when the Bills beat the Dolphins in week 7, so that shouldn’t hold them back from trying to pull off a season sweep of the fish.
Minnesota at Cincinnati – Believe it or not, the Bengals still haven’t wrapped up the AFC North, nor have they assured themselves of a playoff spot yet. With a win and some help Cincinnati can lock up a postseason spot, but that may not be so easy against the Vikings, who have just one loss in their last four games. Matt Cassel has played great over the last three weeks, and even if Adrian Peterson doesn’t play, Cassel is capable of leading the offense and putting points on the board, which could put pressure on Andy Dalton to have a good game as well, and if Dalton doesn’t play well, the Bengals could be in trouble.
Indianapolis at Kansas City – If the Colts are going to be taken seriously in the postseason, this is a game they need to win. Indy hasn’t won two in a row since week 9, as their play since then has been erratic and inconsistent. If the Colts have another sluggish first half, they’re likely to be blown out, as the Chiefs have found a groove offensively in recent weeks, even though their defense has taken a step back. It all hinges on Andrew Luck, but if he’s sharp and the Chiefs can’t put pressure on him, Kansas City could find themselves in another shootout, which is something they’d like to stay away from.
Dallas at Washington – The Cowboys are sinking fast, but they may be catching a break by playing the Redskins this week. However, Kirk Cousins looked good in his first start of the season last week, and he’s certainly capable of carving up the Dallas defense, which has been downright terrible in recent weeks. If Cousins can get the Washington offense moving, it would put a lot of pressure on Tony Romo and the Dallas offense to win a shootout, which could lead to Romo forcing throws and making mistakes. As bad as the Redskins have been this year, all the pressure in this game is on Dallas, whose season will be over if they lose and the Eagles win, so all the problems the Cowboys have had the past two weeks need to be fixed in a hurry, because Washington would love to play spoiler against their division rivals.
New Orleans at Carolina – The winner of this game will win the NFC South and get a first round bye in the playoffs, although technically the Panthers would have to win in Atlanta next week to wrap everything up. Carolina has some adjustments to make after getting dominated by the Saints two weeks ago, but being at home should help, especially considering that the Saints have been a mediocre road team this season. New Orleans is most vulnerable when Drew Brees is put under pressure, so Carolina’s best chance to reverse the outcome of two weeks ago is to have an effective pass rush. Offensively, the Panthers will have to capitalize on red zone opportunities by getting into the end zone, something they’ve struggled to do. If Carolina can do those two things, they’ll have a chance to take down the Saints and win the division.
Denver at Houston – Despite last week’s loss, the Broncos are still in line to have home field throughout the playoffs if they win their final two games. On paper this looks like a mismatch, but if the Texans can run the ball effectively and control the clock the way San Diego did against the Broncos last week, Denver could have a problem. The Denver secondary also has to start playing better amidst all the injuries, as Houston has two quality wide receivers that have the potential to do some damage against a vulnerable secondary.
New York Giants at Detroit – The Lions are now on the outside of the playoffs after losing four of their last five games, but a home game against the Giants could be just what they need. After a brief glimmer of hope, the Giants have been abysmal the last two weeks and appear to be just playing out the season. If Detroit can start fast and get an early lead, the Giants may not put up much of a fight, but if the Lions are sluggish and can’t get their pass rush going against a questionable offensive line, the Giants will be able to hang around and could be a tough team for the struggling Lions to beat.
Arizona at Seattle – The Cardinals are still in contention, but if they’re going to make the playoffs they have to beat the Seahawks, who are virtually unbeatable at home. The first time these two teams met, Arizona couldn’t run the ball at all, which put a lot of pressure on Carson Palmer. If the Cardinals expect to win this game, they’ll need to run the ball effectively and play great defense, as they’ll need just about everything to go their way if they’re going to win in Seattle.
Pittsburgh at Green Bay – With or without Aaron Rodgers, the Packers need to win this game. They’ve found a way to win each of their last two games by a single point, but the Steelers are far better than either of the teams they’ve played the last two weeks. Pittsburgh has slim odds to reach the postseason, but they’re playing quality football on both sides of the ball, and there is no team in the NFL that wants to play them right now. Green Bay may have to beat Pittsburgh at their own game, by grinding it out on the ground and trying to be more physical than the Steelers, which will be tough, but if the Packers don’t have Rodgers, they’re going to have a hard time beating the Steelers, even at home.
Oakland at San Diego – San Diego still has slim playoff hopes if they can win out, but beating the Raiders may not be a lock. Oakland has picked it up offensively behind Matt McGloin and they may be able to keep pace with San Diego. However, the Raiders will need to avoid turning the ball over if they hope to win, and that could be a problem.
New England at Baltimore – There may be no hotter team in the NFL right now than the Ravens, and a win in this game will set up a de facto AFC North championship game next week against the Bengals. Baltimore is coming on strong at the right time of year while the Patriots are beginning to sputter and are barely able to pull out wins against bad teams. New England will need their defense to step up and play well in this game in order to stay close and have a chance in the 4th quarter, because the offense could have a tough time against the Baltimore defense, especially if they have to come from behind late in the game.
Chicago at Philadelphia – All of a sudden, the Bears control their own destiny in the NFC North, but to keep it that way they need to win a night game in Philadelphia against an offense that can be tough to stop. Chicago does not have a strong defense, and that could be a problem against Philadelphia’s potent offense. If the Bears can’t slow down the Eagles, it’ll be up to Jay Cutler to not only put a lot of points on the board, but also avoid costly turnovers. We know that Nick Foles takes care of the football while helping the Eagles reach the end zone, and it’ll be up to Cutler to do the same if the Bears are going to pull off the win on the road.
11NFL 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.
Thanksgiving Day isn’t all about food; football is also a tradition on the final Thursday in November. Let’s take a closer look at the three games we’ll be watching while we stuff our faces.
GREEN BAY AT DETROIT
No team in the NFC North won last week, and not only has that made the divisional race tight, but it has also made it unlikely that the division will send more than one team to the postseason, making this a critical game for a pair of NFC North teams jockeying for position. Green Bay is winless in November without Aaron Rodgers, but somehow they are tied in the loss column with Chicago and Detroit and are still alive in the division. Meanwhile, the Lions had a golden opportunity to take control over the division after beating the Bears a few weeks ago, but instead they’ve lost two in a row, which has kept the division close and given this game massive importance, especially considering Detroit’s loss to Green Bay earlier this year.
The Packers got a glimmer of hope in the second half last week with the play of Matt Flynn, who should give Green Bay competent play at the quarterback position if Rodgers isn’t ready to return from his injury. Another key for the Packers will be running back Eddie Lacy, who’s rushed for at least 70 yards on seven occasions this year. The Lions have lost the last two weeks despite stopping their opponents rushing attack completely, so a viable ground attack would make things real tough for Detroit’s defense and give Flynn the support he needs to have success throwing the ball.
Of course, there could be a lot of pressure on Flynn if Green Bay’s defense can’t keep Matthew Stafford and the Detroit offense contained. The Packers only allowed nine points against the Lions back in Week 5, but they haven’t played all that well over the past month, as they’ve dealt with injuries, and in a dome stadium it could be tough for them to stop all the weapons the Lions have on offense. Expect this game to stay close into the 4th quarter, and expect the score line to get into the 20’s, but if it creeps into the 30’s, the Packers could be in trouble on the road without Rodgers in a game that both teams desperately need.
OAKLAND AT DALLAS
The Cowboys got their season back on track with a last-second field goal against the Giants, but they’re going to be in a dogfight with the Philadelphia Eagles down the stretch, as they hope to secure the NFC East, and losing to the Raiders at home is not something that can happen. Meanwhile, Oakland suffered a last-second loss to Tennessee last week and now they need to win out to have a chance at making the postseason, so this game has plenty of significant for both teams.
Due in part (but not completely) to injuries, Dallas has one of the worst defenses in the NFL against both the run and the pass. Of course, the Raiders may not have the kind of offense that can take advantage of that. Matt McGloin has been solid the past couple of weeks, but he’s not necessarily going to take a lot of shots downfield against a vulnerable Dallas secondary. However, Rashad Jennings could be a threat against the Cowboy’s rush defense, as Jennings has come on strong over the past month and is averaging five yards per carry on the season. If Jennings has success running the ball and McGloin isn’t asked to do too much, the Raiders are good enough to stay competitive with the Cowboys in a low-scoring game.
It’ll be up to the Dallas offense to overwhelm the Raiders early and crush any hope Oakland has of springing the upset. Dallas is best when they’re running the ball effectively, or at least when they’re trying to run the ball and have a balanced offensive approach. Even if the Cowboys think they can score points through the air, they have to give running the ball a chance, even against an Oakland defense that’s top-10 in the league against the run. If the Raiders can force Dallas to abandon their running game completely they could keep the one-dimensional Cowboys from running away with the game early and give themselves a chance in the second half, which is all they can ask for against a more talented team.
PITTSBURGH AT BALTIMORE
For a game between two sub-.500 teams, this one is quite intriguing. Both teams are trying to make a late-season playoff push and find themselves in a six-way tie for the final wildcard spot in the AFC with a record of 5-6. Both teams have a difficult schedule the final month of the season, with Pittsburgh’s being slightly more manageable, and the loser of this game will have a tough time crawling back into the mix, while the winner stays alive in the playoff race and will have a temporary lead over the rest of the teams competing for that final playoff spot.
These two teams met back in Week 7, with the Steelers winning an ugly game 19-16 on a last-second field goal, so this should be a fairly even matchup. Ordinarily these two teams would play a tough and physical brand of football between the tackles, but neither team has been particularly effective running the ball this year. Of course, both quarterbacks are capable or airing it out, but neither has a great collection of playmakers, and both defenses have defended the pass well this season, which could make for a game between two painfully inept offenses.
Knowing how important this game is, both teams should play it tight to the vest, which means the game could be decided by whichever team takes a risk and makes a big play at the right time, or which team makes a mistake at the wrong time. Either way, it’ll be an ugly but interesting way to cap off Thanksgiving night.
A young woman and 61-year-old Marine veteran were injured and hospitalized Sunday after the woman jumped from a balcony of the Oakland Coliseum and the veteran attempted to catch her.
The incident occurred just after the Oakland Raiders game against the Tennessee Titans.
A lifetime Raiders fan, the veteran had just purchased season tickets after watching them on TV.
The veteran was leaving the coliseum with a friend when he saw the 20-year-old woman on the third level of the stand, which had been closed off to the public. Though he pleaded with her not to jump, she threw herself onto a seating area and landed on top of him, injuring them both.
According to Alameda County Sheriff’s Sgt. J.D. Nelson, the woman threw herself from the balcony in an attempt at suicide.
“He put himself in a lot of risk,” Nelson said. “Right now, he is in the hospital paying the price for it. 100 per cent he saved her life.”
The woman was in the intensive care unit Monday after suffering a serious blow to the head. The Marine vet's injuries were not life-threatening.
Neither the man or woman have been identified.
11Breaking 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.
11NFL 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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11NFL Week 11 Preview: Jets-Bills, Ravens-Bears, Redskins-Eagles, Raiders-Texans, Chiefs-Broncos and More
Things are heating up in the NFL, with a slew of important intra-divisional matchups on tap for this weekend. With so much at stake, let’s take a closer look at the week 11 schedule:
New York Jets at Buffalo – The Bills are coming off their worst performance of the season, as they looked pitiful last week against the Steelers. That game was followed by a frustrated yet passionate postgame press conference by Doug Marrone, so expect Buffalo to play with a lot more purpose this week, especially after they failed to capitalize on opportunities to beat the Jets the first time they met. As for Rex Ryan’s team, they were impressive in their win over the Saints two weeks ago heading into their bye week, but they’ve yet to win two straight games this season, so that’s a hump they’ll try to get over this week. If the playoffs are a realistic possibility for the Jets, they can’t afford to lose to a team like Buffalo, and Geno Smith will need to be sharp to ensure that doesn’t happen.
Baltimore at Chicago – The Ravens kept their slim playoff hopes alive with a win over the Bengals last week, and a win this week would get them back to .500 on the heels of a three-game home stand. Outside of a lucky Hail Mary, the Baltimore defense clamped down on Cincinnati last week, forcing three turnovers, and they’ll have to do the same this week against another offense that’s loaded with playmakers. Josh McCown will start at quarterback for the Bears, but he’s exceeded expectations for a backup quarterback and should put Chicago in good hands. The Chicago offense could be too much for the Ravens to stop for four quarters, but Chicago’s defense may not be able to keep Joe Flacco and company out of the end zone either, so expect this to be a competitive game that both teams need to win.
Cleveland at Cincinnati – The Bengals have lost in overtime the last two weeks, and now they take on a team that beat them earlier in the season, so the pressure is mounting, especially since the Browns can pull within a game of first place if they can get a season sweep of Cincinnati. Andy Dalton has thrown three interceptions in each of the past two games, and if that trend continues, the Bengals could be in danger of losing their third game in a row. Jason Campbell has provided a spark for Cleveland’s offense, and if he plays well again the Browns will be competitive on the road and have a chance to win.
Washington at Philadelphia – The Eagles may have found something with Nick Foles at quarterback, as he’s played well the past two weeks, and that shouldn’t be too hard to keep up against the Washington defense. The Philadelphia defense has also played better the past couple of weeks; however, this week they’ll go up against a much healthier and more dangerous Robert Griffin III than the guy they faced in week 1, so we should expect plenty of points to be scored in this game. The Redskins have a killer schedule down the stretch, so even in a weak NFC East this is a must-win game for Washington if they’re going to make a move late in the season. Meanwhile, the Eagles are tied with Dallas atop the division, and if they can find a way to win at home for the first time this year, they’ll be alone in first place.
Detroit at Pittsburgh – The Lions got into first place with last week’s win, and now they need to find a way to stay there. When Detroit gets its running game going, their offense goes to another level, which should be the case this week, as the Steelers are one of the worst teams in the league at defending the run. Pittsburgh will try to counter with Ben Roethlisberger and Antonio Brown, but if Detroit’s pass rush can be effective, it’ll be hard for Roethlisberger and the Pittsburgh offense to keep up with the Lions.
Atlanta at Tampa Bay – Both teams are out of the playoff race, but the Bucs have a chance to pull themselves even with the Falcons in the standings with a win. Both quarterbacks played well when the two teams met in week 7, so even if this isn’t a meeting between two good teams, we should at least see plenty of offense.
Arizona at Jacksonville – The Cardinals can put themselves into the thick of the wildcard race with a win, but they can’t afford to overlook the Jaguars on the road after Jacksonville is riding high from their first win of the season last week. Of course, even in their win, the Jaguars were barely able to eclipse 200 total yards, so if Arizona can avoid turning the ball over and play solid defense against the run, which they’ve done all year, the Cardinals should be able to win.
Oakland at Houston – The Texans hope that the return of Gary Kubiak gives them enough of a lift to end their seven-game losing streak. Houston has lost its last three games by a combined seven points, so they’ve been competitive, but just haven’t had enough to get over the hump. The matchup to watch in this game is Oakland quarterback Terrelle Pryor going up against the top pass defense in the NFL, which is a matchup that favors the Texans and could give rookie Case Keenum a little less pressure to rally the team late in the 4th quarter, which is the position he’s been in the last three weeks.
San Diego at Miami – The turmoil in Miami continues both off and on the field, as the Dolphins have lost five of their last six games and are in danger of completely falling out of contention. The schedule gets real tough for the Dolphins for the next four weeks following this game, so if they can’t get a win here, the season will be all but over for them. Look for the Chargers to go all out with their pass rush to expose a weak Miami offensive line. Unless the Dolphins can counter with an effective running game, they could be in trouble, especially after rushing for two yards against Tampa Bay Monday night. San Diego is also in a must-win position, as they make their fourth trip to the east coast of the season. However, the Chargers have played well on the east coast this season, and if Phillip Rivers can avoid turning the ball over, they’ll be in good shape to win.
San Francisco at New Orleans – The last thing the 49ers need right now is a trip to New Orleans, as a loss would make San Francisco’s playoff chances a lot less certain than we thought they would be heading into the season. Colin Kaepernick is struggling and the team doesn’t seem to trust him, which means they’ll be relying on Frank Gore and their running game to move the ball and help keep Drew Brees off the field. San Francisco can’t afford to get into a shootout, so they’ll need their defense to step up. If the San Francisco pass rush is effective, it should prevent the Saints from running away with the game, and at least give Kaepernick and the offense a chance to win.
Green Bay at New York Giants – These are two teams moving in opposite directions: the Packers are struggling to hold on after two straight losses and an injury to their quarterback, while the Giants are slowly building momentum with a three-game winning streak. Regardless of who’s playing quarterback, the Packers still pose a threat with their running game and will be a challenge for the Giants, who need to cut down on the mistakes they’re still making despite their recent winning streak. If New York can continue the recent improvement in their pass rush and put consistent pressure on Scott Tolzien, the offense should be able to muster up enough points to win, but if Tolzien has time in the pocket he should be able to move the ball enough to keep the Packers close.
Minnesota at Seattle – The Vikings got a nice win last week, but they could be in a little over their head with a trip to Seattle this week. The Seahawks finally put together a complete game last week after two questionable performances, and they need to keep that going. Seattle’s biggest problem this week could be complacency with their bye week coming up next week. The Seahawks face a tough schedule coming out of the bye and can’t afford to slip up against a weaker opponent heading into their off week.
Kansas City at Denver – This game is the highlight of the weekend, and one that we’ve been waiting to see. Obviously, the player to watch is Peyton Manning; he’s a little banged up and the depleted offensive line in front of him is going to have its hands full with one of the best pass rushes in the NFL. Look for the Broncos to get the ball out of Manning’s hands as quickly as possible, even if it means taking less shots deep. On the other side of the ball, Alex Smith and the Kansas City offense have been steady this year, but are in no way prepared for a shootout against Manning and the Denver defense. If the Chiefs have to score more than 20 points to win the game, they could be in trouble, as Denver’s pass rush could get after Smith if he has to throw the ball downfield in order to keep up with Manning. This game will come down to whether the Kansas City defense can get after Manning and keep the Broncos out of the end zone, as the Chiefs will feel good about their chances in a low scoring game.
1110 NFL Teams That Should Draft A Quarterback Next Year: Browns, Texans, Chiefs, Vikings, Raiders, Steelers and More
The NFL season is only a little more than half over, but there are still plenty of teams that are ready to move on towards next season, especially at the quarterback position. Last year’s draft didn’t provide much at quarterback outside of Geno Smith and E.J. Manuel, but this year’s draft class looks a lot more promising and much deeper, which is a good thing because there are a lot of teams that should be taking a close look at this year’s crop of college quarterbacks. Here are 10 teams that should be seriously considering taking a quarterback within the first few rounds of next year’s draft:
Arizona – The Cardinals are getting by this season with Carson Palmer, but he has only so many throws left in his arm, and they need to start looking for his replacement, even if Palmer still has another year or two left in him. Arizona could be stuck in the same division with Russell Wilson and Colin Kaepernick for a long time, and they need to find a quarterback that can measure up to those two guys. With Wilson and Kaepernick both being dual-threat quarterbacks, the Cardinals may be looking for someone in that same mold, perhaps Brett Hundley or Marcus Mariota if they pick high enough, or possibly Tajh Boyd is those two are off the board or decide to stay in school.
Cleveland – It looks like Brandon Weeden is all but finished as a starter in the NFL, and the Browns can’t afford to wait for Brian Hoyer to recover from his injury to see if he’s the real deal, which he probably isn’t after only a few good starts. Cleveland has been in this situation before and they’ve failed to find a franchise quarterback in the draft, but here’s one more chance to get it right. The Browns need to make a splash in some way, and while they’ve probably won too many games this season to have a chance at Teddy Bridgewater, if they have a chance to take Johnny Manziel, they should jump at it, as he would create the kind of excitement around their organization that they need.
Houston – It’s time for the Texans to move on from Matt Schaub, and it’s tough to be sold on Case Keenum just yet since the team isn’t winning games, so it’s more than likely that they’ll be looking for a franchise quarterback in the draft. Houston looks like a team that will be drafting high, but they could also wait until the second or third round to take a quarterback. The Texans may look to go the Andy Dalton route, which means college guys with a lot of experience like Aaron Murray, Stephen Morris or Derek Carr could be potential choices if they pass on taking a quarterback in the first round. Of course, if Gary Kubiak is fired, that could change the team’s approach depending on whom they hire to replace him.
Jacksonville – The Blaine Gabbert era has to be over in Jacksonville, and Chad Henne isn’t exactly the answer either. The Jaguars will do their homework, but it’s hard to imagine them not reaching the conclusion that Teddy Bridgewater is their best bet at quarterback. Of course, Bridgewater could decide to return to school (not implying that he will, just playing devil’s advocate), in which case the Jaguars would be in a tough spot, as there may not be another quarterback worthy of being the top overall pick, but they can’t really wait until the second round to take a quarterback.
Kansas City – No one’s trying to run Alex Smith out of town because the Chiefs are winning with him, but he’s not that young and he’s not a high-end quarterback that you feel confident can take you to the Super Bowl. Kansas City has the talented Tyler Bray on their roster, but they’ll want someone else who they know can push Smith for the job after a year or two, just like Colin Kaepernick did in San Francisco. Kansas City won’t be taking a quarterback in the first round, but if anyone catches Andy Reid’s eye in the second or third round, the Chiefs won’t hesitate to take him.
Minnesota – Let’s not pretend that Christian Ponder still has a chance of working out. Josh Freeman probably isn’t the guy the Vikings want to move forward either. Despite making the playoffs last year, Minnesota is right back where they were when they took Ponder a few years ago. The Vikings will be looking at quarterbacks with first round talent, which means Marcus Mariota, Brett Hundley, and Johnny Manziel are all possibilities.
Oakland – Just because Terrelle Pryor beat out Matt Flynn in the preseason doesn’t mean Pryor is the future. He has a chance to prove otherwise with his play throughout the rest of the season, but the Raiders should definitely be considering their options at quarterback. Oakland should be picking high this year, which will give them a chance to take Johnny Manziel or Marcus Mariota, or possibly Tajh Boyd early in the second round. They could also choose to play it safe and take another shot at a polished pocket passer like A.J. McCarron or Aaron Murray.
Pittsburgh – The Steelers drafted Landry Jones last year, but he’s probably more of a long-term backup or a stopgap if Ben Roethlisberger gets hurt. Rumor has it that Roethlisberger is looking to be traded this offseason, and even if that’s not true, Pittsburgh may need to start thinking about how much longer Roethlisberger is going to be able to play with the hits he’s taken the past few years. They could try waiting another year or two and see how Jones develops, but with a lot of good choices available this season, why wait if there’s someone they really like. The name to keep an eye on is Zach Mettenberger, who is a big guy with a big arm, and he could be ready to pick up where Roethlisberger leaves off.
St. Louis – Even before the injury to Sam Bradford, the Rams should have been looking at this year’s crop of college quarterbacks, and now it’s obvious that they’ll be looking to draft a quarterback early next year. Jeff Fisher is probably going to want more of a pocket passer, which could make Zach Mettenberger one of their top choices, although Tajh Boyd, Derek Carr, and Aaron Murray are also guys that could fit in St. Louis and take the reins from Bradford.
Tampa Bay – Greg Schiano may like Mike Glennon, but Schiano probably won’t be the head coach next season, and Glennon may not be the quarterback the new coach wants to move forward with. The Bucs didn’t draft Glennon high enough to owe him more of an opportunity, especially when they’ll have a high draft pick next year and a chance to take just about anybody they want. Just about every quarterback available is on the table for the Bucs, including Teddy Bridgewater if they end up with the top overall pick.