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11AFC North Offseason Needs: Ravens, Steelers, Bengals, Browns

Our preview of the NFL offseason continues today with the teams of the AFC North, a division where all four teams are disappointed at how they did in 2013, and are hoping to rebound quickly next year. Let’s take a look at the needs that the four teams of the AFC North will hope to address this offseason.

Baltimore Ravens – The biggest surprise in Baltimore during the 2013 season was how poorly they ran the ball, and fixing that is going to require changes on the offensive line. The Ravens will definitely look to upgrade at center, while both starting tackles are free agents, so that will have to be addressed, and could lead to Baltimore drafting an offensive tackle within the first few rounds. The Baltimore offense could also use another receiver, preferably a big target with reliable hands, as well as a tight end if the team doesn’t re-sign Dennis Pitta. On defense, the Ravens have some young players that they hope will improve, while their biggest priority will be to either re-sign Arthur Jones or find someone to replace him on the defensive line if he ends up signing with another team.

Cincinnati Bengals – The Bengals are in an interesting position, as their two biggest losses this offseason were their two coordinators, which could hurt them. Cincinnati’s roster remains one of the strongest in the league, at least outside of the quarterback position, but don’t expect a change to be made there. The Bengals will look for the most help at cornerback, where they could try to sign a big-time free agent entering the prime of his career. Meanwhile, they should look to add depth to their defensive line so that they can continue to put pressure on opposing quarterbacks next year. Offensively, the Bengals should have all the skill players they need, but giving the offensive line a boost is something to consider.

Cleveland Browns – Quarterback is obviously at the top of Cleveland’s to-do list this offseason, and the Browns will likely address that with their first round pick. Of course, the rest of the offense needs help as well. The Browns need to find a running back and at least one wide receiver, maybe two, so that their new quarterback has some support. On top of that, center Alex Mack has to be re-signed because there are a slew of teams that will want to sign him if the Browns let him go. Once the offense is improved, new head coach Mike Pettine can turn his attention to the defense, which is his specialty. Cleveland will need to bring in a lot of help at linebacker, as Pettine wants to pressure the quarterback as much as possible, which is something the Browns didn’t do well enough last year. If they have a chance, the Browns could also improve their secondary, but that’s not as big of a priority as the offense or the linebacker position.

Pittsburgh Steelers – The Steelers came painfully close to the postseason this year, but they’re going to have to make some changes this offseason if they want to be in a similar position next season. Pittsburgh has been known for its defense for many years, but now is the time to replenish that defense with youth and talent. The secondary is their biggest concern, as they’ll need to acquire a number one cornerback, while also addressing the depth in their secondary, especially at the safety position. Pittsburgh could also use a fresh face along the defensive line and possibly some help at linebacker. The Steelers may also need to look into improving the offensive line, especially with an aging Ben Roethlisberger at quarterback, while perhaps giving Roethlisberger another receiver or two to throw to, specifically someone with high-end speed, as the Steelers lacked a deep threat in 2013 after Mike Wallace left last offseason.


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11NFL Week 17 Preview: Panthers-Falcons, Ravens-Bengals, Jets-Dolphins, Browns-Steelers, Eagles-Cowboys and More

Well, it all comes down to this. With one week left in the NFL season, there have already been eight teams that have clinched a playoff spot, but that means there are still four spots available, while all four divisions in the NFC are still undecided, as well as the home-field advantage in both conferences. Let’s take a closer look at the games on the week 17 schedule that have postseason post-season implications:

Carolina at Atlanta – With a win the Panthers can clinch the NFC South title, secure a first-round bye, and possibly get home-field advantage throughout the playoffs if Seattle loses. However, Atlanta has not been a pushover late in the season, especially at home, so despite the disparity in their records, it won’t be an automatic win for Carolina. The Falcons are the worst rushing team in the league, but if they can get Steven Jackson going, they’ll have a chance to keep the game close and put some pressure on Carolina, who is one of the best teams in the NFC, but they’re also a team that hasn’t had to handle success before this season, so it’ll be interesting to see how the Panthers play with a lot on the line.

Baltimore at Cincinnati – The Bengals have a chance to earn a first round bye with a win and a New England loss, which would give their postseason hopes a huge boost. They’d also like to avenge an earlier loss to the Ravens, and at home they should be expected to win. As for the Ravens, there are a lot of scenarios that will get them into the postseason, but most require them winning, and there’s no way they’ll win if they play like they did last week. The Baltimore offense needs to get its act together and not put the defense in a bad situation like they did last week, as it’ll be tough to keep the Cincinnati offense out of the end zone for four quarters.

Jacksonville at Indianapolis – A lot needs to happen for the Colts to get a first round bye, but after some unsavory play during the latter part of the season, it’d be nice to enter the playoffs on a three-game winning streak, so they need to secure a win even if there’s nothing to gain in the standings. The Jaguars have shown that they can stay competitive with good teams, so the Colts need to take them seriously or else they could struggle to come away with the win. Andrew Luck and the offense should be fine, but the key for Indy is their defense, which has only given up 10 points over the past two weeks, and needs to keep that going with the postseason approaching.

New York Jets at Miami – The Dolphins will need some help to get the playoffs, but they’ll also have to win, which isn’t a certainly after the way they played last week against the Bills. Miami dominated the Jets less than a month ago, but Gang Green has played better since that game and started to find their stride offensively, which could be a concern for a Miami defense that doesn’t exactly shut down opponents on a regular basis. This game could come down to Ryan Tannehill’s health and his effectiveness after a disastrous game last week. Look for Rex Ryan’s team to come out loose and excited to play spoiler, and if the Dolphins come out tight, they could be in trouble.

Cleveland at Pittsburgh – The Steelers will need a lot of help this week, but getting a win shouldn’t be much of an issue against a Cleveland team that has lost six in a row. Pittsburgh has looked the part of a playoff team down the stretch, and even if the Browns come to play and compete, the Steelers should be able to find a way to win at home.

Green Bay at Chicago – It’s as simply as it gets in the NFC North, the winner of this game goes to the playoffs and the loser stays home. The Packers have somehow held on long enough to get Aaron Rodgers back on the field. Rodgers may be a bit rusty, but he’ll be facing a Chicago defense that was humiliated last week against Philadelphia with a chance to clinch the division. Of course, the Chicago offense is capable of putting points on the board as well, so this game could come down to how sharp Rodgers is in his return and which offense can be more effective.

Denver at Oakland – Even with the loss of Von Miller and a slew of other injuries, the Broncos should be able to handle the Raiders and secure home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. It’s a rivalry game, so Oakland will be ready to play and hoping to play spoiler against Denver, but Peyton Manning won’t let his team lose focus this late in the season, especially since a loss could mean a return trip to New England, which is the last thing the Broncos want.

Buffalo at New England – The Bills almost pulled out the win when these teams met back in week 1, so perhaps they’re ready to surprise the Patriots on the road, especially after an impressive shutout of the Dolphins last week. Buffalo doesn’t have an offense that can keep up if the Patriots get rolling, but they have a defensive line that can put a lot of pressure on Tom Brady and slow down the New England offense, would could keep the game low scoring and give them a chance to win.

Tampa Bay at New Orleans – A win and the Saints are in the postseason; it’s as simple as that. However, New Orleans has lost three of their last four games, and the Bucs are just good enough to make things difficult for them, especially after the Saints barely survived a 16-14 game with Tampa in week 2. The Tampa offense has sputtered in recent weeks, which will make it tough to win on the road, but if they can put pressure on Drew Brees and slow down the New Orleans offense, they’ll give themselves a fighting chance.

San Francisco at Arizona – The defending NFC champs can rest easy knowing they’re in the playoffs, but there’ll be nothing easy about a trip to Arizona, especially with the Cardinals riding high from their win in Seattle last week and knowing that they need to win to give themselves a chance to reach the postseason. The Cardinals have the top rushing defense in the NFL, so if they can slow down the San Francisco running game it’ll put more pressure on Colin Kaepernick to move the ball with his arm, which isn’t necessarily what the 49ers want. Of course, Arizona will also have to move the ball and score points, while avoiding four turnovers like they had last week.

Kansas City at San Diego – The Chargers need a win and some help to get into the playoffs, but they should feel good after winning four of their last five games, including a road win over the Chiefs. Meanwhile, Kansas City knows they’ll be playing a road playoff game next week, and they also know that they need to get their act together, as the only teams they’ve beaten in the last six weeks and Washington and Oakland. The Chiefs are no longer dominant on defense, which will make it difficult to stop Phillip Rivers and win this game. This should be a good practice game for next week, but if the Chiefs can’t rediscover their incredible pass rush from earlier in the season, they’ll not only have trouble beating San Diego, but they’ll also enter the playoffs on a downward spiral and void of confidence.

St. Louis at Seattle – The Seahawks need to shake off a home loss from last week and get ready for a St. Louis team that has proven they can go toe to toe with some top teams. Seattle is in fine shape on defense, but their offense has had some trouble in previous weeks, which could cause problems against a great Rams pass rush. St. Louis doesn’t have anything to play for except trying to finish the season at .500, but is the Seahawks lose it could cost them home-field advantage throughout the playoffs and possibly the division, which could take them from being the NFC favorite to a team that needs three road wins to get to the Super Bowl, so it’s imperative that Seattle finds a way to win this game.

Philadelphia at Dallas – The winner goes to the playoffs while the loser goes home, just the way it should be in the NFL regular season finale. All the focus has been on the health of Tony Romo, but ultimately this game will be decided by whether or not the Dallas defense can slow down the Philadelphia offense, which has looked close to unstoppable in recent weeks. The Cowboys have been deplorable on defense the second half of the season, and it won’t matter who’s playing quarterback or what their offense does if they can’t find a way to get stops, or at least force turnovers, which has been tough for any defense to do against Nick Foles this season. If Dallas expects to make the playoffs, their defense will have to make some kind of positive contribution, or else the Eagles and their high-powered offense will soar into the postseason.


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11AFC Week 15 Power Rankings: Broncos, Chiefs, Ravens, Dolphins, Bengals, Chargers and More

It was not a good week for the top teams in the AFC, as three division leaders all suffered a loss. Let’s see if it makes a difference in this week’s power rankings:

1. Denver – Let’s not overreact too much to Denver’s loss last Thursday. If it were easy to control the clock and keep the ball away from Peyton Manning, more teams than the Chargers would have done so. The Broncos are still in position to have home field advantage in the playoffs, and they should still be seen as the favorites in the AFC.

2. Kansas City – Giving up 31 points to the Raiders is a major red flag. The Chiefs won’t be scoring 56 points against any team they’ll meet in the postseason, so they need to find a way to get their defense back on track. This week’s game against the Colts will be an interesting test for Kansas City, as it’ll be their first game against a playoff-caliber team other than Denver since September.

3. Baltimore – Despite being kept out of the end zone, the Ravens pulled out a huge road win on Monday night. The Baltimore defense is looking like the Baltimore defenses we’ve seen in years past, and it’s delivered the Ravens four straight wins, control of their own destiny in the wildcard race, and a shot at winning the AFC North. The Ravens will be challenged the final two weeks, but they’re playing good football and finding a way to win close games, which makes them a dangerous team right now.

4. Miami – Just about every game they play is close, but after a rough patch earlier in the season and plenty of drama off the field, the Dolphins are coming on strong late in the year. The eye test says that they’re a playoff team, and they could be a tough team to face if they’re able to get there.

5. Cincinnati – The Bengals take a big hit in the power rankings after their poor effort Sunday night. Special teams was their biggest problem in their loss to the Steelers, and as solid as they’ve been on offense and defense this season, they need to be good in all three phases when they get to the postseason. The Bengals also hold a 3-5 record on the road, and those three wins are by a combined 13 points, so they haven’t been great away from home, which would be another problem if they want to go deep in the playoffs.

6. San Diego – The Chargers get a big boost in the power rankings for figuring out and executing the formula for beating the Broncos, doing so in Denver nonetheless. They’ll need a lot of luck to reach the postseason, but they’ve played good football for the past month, and that deserves some recognition.

7. Pittsburgh – If only the Steelers hadn’t gotten off to that 0-4 start, because they look like a playoff-caliber team after manhandling the Bengals on Sunday night. If Pittsburgh were to make the playoffs, they’d be a team that nobody wants to play, which means something, even if their postseason hopes are slim.

8. New England – This is just not the same team without Rob Gronkowski, as they don’t have the red zone target they need in clutch situations, and that was evident at the end of the game on Sunday against the Dolphins. The Patriots barely got past Houston and Cleveland, and without Gronkowski beating playoff-caliber teams is going to be a real struggle, which is why they don’t look like a big threat in the AFC.

9. Indianapolis – Even after a comfortable win over the Texans, the Colts still look very pedestrian. They haven’t beaten anybody outside of Houston and Tennessee in two months and they’re one of the least feared teams in the AFC right now. The Colts will travel to Kansas City this week with a chance to make a statement and pick up some momentum heading into the postseason, which is something they need because they won’t survive in the playoffs unless they start playing better.

10. Tennessee – The Titans nearly pulled out a win against a quality team on Sunday, but they found a way to lose the game in overtime. Of course, Tennessee still has a chance to finish the season strong and avoid a double-digit loss total.


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11Monday Night Football Preview: Baltimore Ravens vs. Detroit Lions

It’s another Monday night and there’s another meaningful football game with playoff implications. These two teams may be in different conferences, but both need to come out on top in this game. Let’s take a closer look at the Ravens and the Lions.

WHAT’S AT STAKE?
There’s a lot of pressure on the Lions, as the Bears have taken over the lead in the NFC North after Detroit had plenty of opportunities to run away with the division and failed to do so. The Lions will win a tiebreaker with the Bears, but a loss tonight by Detroit would mean that Chicago controls its own destiny, which is not a position the Lions want to be. Baltimore is in a similar position, as they control their tiebreaker with Miami for the final wildcard spot in the AFC, but a loss tonight would put them a game behind the Dolphins, meaning Miami would control its own destiny. Miami also has an easier schedule the final two weeks than the Ravens do, so it’ll be easier for the Dolphins to lock up the final wildcard spot if they get a lead on Baltimore, making this game a must-win for the Ravens, even on the road.

BALTIMORE OFFENSE VS. DETROIT DEFENSE
It has not been a good season for the Ravens on offense, but there have been marginal signs of improvement in recent weeks, which gives them some hope coming down the stretch. The issue they’ll have in this game is that Detroit is one of the best teams in the league at stopping the run with its stout defensive front, and if Baltimore can’t establish its ground game, it’ll be tough for Joe Flacco to go deep, which is what he does best. If the Ravens can make the Lions respect their running attack and keep Flacco protected in the pocket, he may be able to have success with a growing group of playmakers around him with the return of Dennis Pitta and the emergence of rookie Marlon Brown, who caught the game-winning touchdown last week against Minnesota. Detroit’s defense has given up a lot of yards and a lot of points this season, and they’re not always reliable, but if they can stuff the run and pressure Flacco with their pass rush, they should be able to slow up the Ravens enough to win the game.

DETROIT OFFENSE VS. BALTIMORE DEFENSE
The Lions have a great gunslinger in Matthew Stafford and one of the best wide receivers in football in Calvin Johnson, but that hasn’t always translated into wins for them. Reggie Bush is in limbo after missing last week’s game, but he’s expected to play, and he’s the ultimate x-factor for the Detroit offense. When Bush is involved in the offense and is being productive as either a runner or receiver, the Lions reach another level and can be tough to stop. The Baltimore defense has done well this season even after losing several key players, but this will be the best offense they’ve faced since week 1 when they played Denver. If the Ravens can’t stop the Lions from moving the ball, then their only hope could be to force turnovers, which is a weakness Detroit has showcased several times this season, although taking the ball away isn’t necessarily a strength of the Ravens. If the Lions can hold onto the football, they should be able to score a substantial amount of points, but if not, the advantage in this matchup could go to the Ravens.

PREDICTION
This is a tough game to call, because both teams need to win, so there’s a sense of urgency on both sides. Detroit is the more talented team, but they’ve also lost three of their last four and have let opportunities pass them by, while the Ravens have won four of their last five and are fighting hard to get back to the playoffs, and they look excited to be playing football, so it’s not hard to envision the Ravens pulling off a surprise win on Monday night. However, the Ravens are 1-5 on the road this season, and in a dome stadium, offense is worth more than defense, and there’s no doubt the Lions have a distinct advantage there. Detroit 31, Baltimore 21.


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11NFL Week 14 Power Rankings: Broncos, Chiefs, Bengals, Patriots, Dolphins, Ravens and More

There are just three weeks left to play in the season, and the picture in AFC isn’t getting any clearer. Let’s try to make some sense of everything with this week’s power rankings of the top-10 teams in the AFC.

1. Denver – The injuries and the personnel turnover in the secondary are definitely a concern, but the Broncos played in freezing temperatures on Sunday and Peyton Manning looked as sharp as ever, proving that he is capable of playing in cold weather. There’s no reason why the Broncos shouldn’t be able to win their final three games and close out home-field advantage in the AFC playoffs.

2. Kansas City – The Chiefs accomplished two things in week 14: they put a stop to their three-game losing streak, and they continued to look impressive on the offensive side of the ball. The Kansas City defense may not be the same as they early in the season, but if the offense continues to score at a high rate, they’ll be a more balanced team and a dangerous team down the stretch and in the postseason.

3. Cincinnati – When the good Andy Dalton shows up, this team is dynamic offensively and is tough to beat. They’ve won three in a row, and if not for a pair of overtime losses, they could have nine straight wins. Not enough people are talking about them as a viable contender, but if Dalton plays well, they’re definitely a threat in the AFC.

4. New England – The Patriots are a bit lucky to have won their past two games against inferior teams, and on top of that, they’ve now lost Rob Gronkowski for the season, which will weaken their offense, much like the beginning of the season. They should be able to wrap up the AFC East at some point, but they have two road games against teams with a lot to play for coming up, so they’ll be challenged even more so than they have in their narrow wins against inferior teams the past two weeks.

5. Miami – Even in the games they’ve lost, the Dolphins have been close and competitive with everybody they’ve played this year. Miami has been both lucky and good, and now they have a real chance to win out and finish the season with 10 wins; they can also put some pressure on the Patriots if they can beat New England at home this weekend.

6. Baltimore – The Ravens survived a rough stretch in October and November, and now they are winners of three in a row, although those three wins haven’t been pretty. There are signs that Baltimore is starting to put things together at the right time, and make a late-season push for the playoffs. Of course, they face a tough schedule the rest of the way, which means Joe Flacco will have to be at the top of his game, whether he gets help from his surrounding cast or not.

7. San Diego – The Chargers have been the victims of a tough schedule and being in a division with the AFC’s two best teams, but on any given day, they can play with anybody. They won’t factor into the playoff picture, but they’re on a level playing field with the teams that still have a realistic chance of claiming the final wildcard spot in the AFC.

8. Indianapolis – They may have clinched their division, and they may be hosting a playoff game, but this is not a good team. They have a lot of injuries, and they tend to start slow, which has hurt them time and time again this season. The Colts have alternated wins and losses for the last six weeks, and that inconsistency is not becoming of a top team that will be a threat in the postseason.

9. Pittsburgh – The Steelers are mere inches away from still being in the midst of the playoff race. Despite their record, they’ve played good football for the past month and have done well to shake off a bad September. It might be too little too late, but expect Pittsburgh to finish the season strong.

10. Tennessee – Somebody’s got to round out the top-10, and unfortunately it’s the team that has lost four of their last five and surrendered 51 points this past week. Aside from their game against Denver, the Titans have hung tough during the past month, and lost a lot of close games, and for now that’s enough to make them 10th in the AFC.


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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.


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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.


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11NFL 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


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11NFL Week 10 Predictions: Falcons-Seahawks, Bills-Steelers, Bears-Lions, Bengals-Ravens, 49ers-Panthers, Broncos-Chargers and More

Will the Jaguars or Buccaneers get their first win? Will Packers be able to bounce back without their star QB? Find out our picks/predictions below:

(Bryan Zarpentine 69-39 overall)

(Cole Stevenson 68-40 overall)

Bryan Zarpentine: Atlanta 23, Seattle 14 – The Seahawks are due for a loss after the last two weeks.  Matt Ryan will do just enough to lift the Falcons to victory.

Cole Stevenson: Seattle 24, Atlanta 18

Bryan Zarpentine: Buffalo 20, Pittsburgh 17 – E.J. Manuel’s return sparks the Bills, who find a way to win a close game for once.

Cole Stevenson: Buffalo 24, Pittsburgh 21

Bryan Zarpentine: Chicago 34, Detroit 28 – The Bears are riding high after their Monday night win, and with Jay Cutler’s return, they pull out a close win in the 4th quarter.

Cole Stevenson: Detroit 31, Chicago 27

Bryan Zarpentine: Cincinnati 31, Baltimore 13 – Things get even worse for the Ravens, who simply can’t slow down the Cincinnati offense.

Cole Stevenson: Cincinnati 28, Baltimore 17

Bryan Zarpentine: Philadelphia 27, Green Bay 16 – Nick Foles doesn’t throw seven touchdowns the way he did last week, but he can certainly out-duel Seneca Wallace.

Cole Stevenson: Philadelphia 24, Green Bay 18

Bryan Zarpentine: Tennessee 31, Jacksonville 17 – Jake Locker gets back on track and looks like the guy we saw the first few weeks of the season before his injury.

Cole Stevenson: Tennessee 30, Jacksonville 13

Bryan Zarpentine: Indianapolis 28, St. Louis 24 – The Rams make it close, but in the end, they can’t stop Andrew Luck in the 4th quarter.

Cole Stevenson: Indianapolis 23, St Louis 16

Bryan Zarpentine: New York Giants 17, Oakland 10 – Baby steps for the Giants, who win ugly, but do find a way to win their third in a row.

Cole Stevenson: Giants 23, Oakland 17

Bryan Zarpentine: San Francisco 21, Carolina 16 – Cam Newton can’t quite get the job done in the red zone, and the Panthers have to settle for too many field goals to knock off the 49ers.

Cole Stevenson: San Francisco 24, Carolina 19

Bryan Zarpentine: Denver 42, San Diego 24 – Nothing can slow down Peyton Manning, and Phillip Rivers can’t quite keep up.

Cole Stevenson: Denver 38, San Diego 28

Bryan Zarpentine: Arizona 27, Houston 21 – The Texans are reeling, and they won’t be able to get their running game going against Arizona’s defense, which makes it hard to beat the Cardinals on the road.

Cole Stevenson: Arizona 22, Houston 21

Bryan Zarpentine: New Orleans 38, Dallas 31 – Tony Romo does well to keep up with Drew Brees, until a typical Romo mistake in the 4th quarter proves costly for the Cowboys.

Cole Stevenson: New Orleans 31, Dallas 28

Bryan Zarpentine: Tampa Bay 17, Miami 13 – It has to happen sometime, and the Bucs defense proves disruptive for a distracted Miami team, which is enough to give Tampa the win.

Cole Stevenson: Miami 20, Tampa Bay 17

Tell us how wrong we are on twitter:

@Cole_Stevenson

@BZarp


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