Last week we took a look at the offseason needs for all of the teams in the AFC, and now it’s time to tackle the NFC. We’ll start by taking a look at the offseason needs of the four teams in the NFC East.
Dallas Cowboys – The Dallas defense is going to need a lot of work done this offseason. It starts along the defensive line, as Jason Hatcher and Anthony Spencer are likely to go elsewhere in free agency, which could force the Cowboys to add defensive linemen early and often during the NFL Draft. Dallas will need at least a couple of interior linemen, and if they get a chance, they’d be wise to add a defensive end that can play opposite DeMarcus Ware. Dallas definitely needs to add depth at linebacker, although if they can find an outside linebacker that can step in and start right away, that would be the best-case scenario. Once the defensive front-seven is addressed, Dallas can always look to add help along the offensive line to help protect Tony Romo, although the offensive line was much improved in 2013.
New York Giant – The Giants started remaking their offensive line last year when they drafted Justin Pugh in the first round, and that rebuilding effort will have to continue this offseason, preferably with a left tackle early in the draft. Elsewhere, New York needs to add at least one top-flight pass rusher, assuming they’re unable to re-sign Justin Tuck. But even if Tuck returns to New York the Giants could use another pass rusher, not to mention a serious upgrade a linebacker, although re-signing Jon Beason would be a good move. The Giants also have to figure things out at the running back position, and while they may be able to make up for the inevitable loss of wide receiver Hakeem Nicks to free agency with Reuben Randle, signing a pass-catching tight end to add to their offensive arsenal would be helpful after Brandon Myers was a huge disappointment in 2013.
Philadelphia Eagles – The Eagles will enter the offseason in good shape offensively, although both Riley Cooper and Jeremy Maclin are free agents, so if they can’t retain both Philadelphia will have to find a way to replace them. On defense, the secondary needs a lot of work after the Eagles had trouble holding onto big leads this past season. It would be great if the Eagles could find an impact player in free agency, if not they’ll have to use their early-round draft picks at either cornerback or safety. If Philadelphia can improve in the secondary through free agency or early in the draft, they should look to add help at linebacker, specifically an outside pass rusher that can put pressure on the quarterback and help protect a questionable secondary.
Washington Redskins – There’s not a whole lot Washington can do offensively in 2014 except hope that Robert Griffin III is healthy and clicks with new head coach Jay Gruden. However, there is a laundry list of areas that need to be addressed on defense. All four starters in the secondary are free agents, and while there are a couple of young players that may be ready to step into starting roles in 2014, that unit is going to need a lot of attention this offseason, and it wouldn’t hurt to find some veterans in free agency rather than rely on rookies coming out of the draft. Washington will also have a lot of vacancies at linebacker, most notably Brian Orakpo, who will be a highly-sought free agent this offseason and could be tough to re-sign. Re-signing Perry Riley should be a priority for them, as he will help solidify the middle linebacker spot, although they’ll have to add players around him if the Washington defense is going to show significant improvement in 2014.
A Texas school board vote Thursday ruled team names like braves, warriors, rebels or redskins are offensive and culturally-insensitive.
The board has given preliminary approval to ban these names in the Houston Independent School District. The board will vote again after a second meeting on the matter, but final approval is expected.
If it passes, the Lamar High School Redskins, Hamilton Middle School Indians, and Welch Middle School Warriors will all require new names in the beginning of the 2014 school year this fall.
Some attendees at the school board meeting spoke out against the ban.
"We see it as a sign of respect, not a sign of mockery," said Lamar student Juan Vides.
"You should be spending your money, time and attention not on changing mascots but on educational matters," said Joe Koch, a 1968 Lamar graduate. "These names were not meant to be offensive. They were meant as a rallying cry to bring students together."
Native American speakers showed their support for the move, claiming that the names are hurtful regardless of the intention.
"I am a human being — I am not a mascot," said Native American activist Steve Melendez.
Board member Rhonda Skillern-Jones said the district should not "continue to celebrate a name that people find offensive."
Some critics blasted the ban on Twitter.
“Apprently [sic] Texas's backbone does not extend to Houston's school district. The PC police of mascot names is taking hold,” wrote Allen O’Neil.
“Seriously ppl get life!!” wrote Sameh Emam.
Others wonder why Washington’s NFL team the Redskins doesn’t follow suit.
“Houston schools ban "redskin" mascot so why not Washington NFL?” one woman tweeted.
In an op-ed for The Nation Tuesday, Jeremiah Goulka wrote on “Why Republicans Protect the ‘Honor’ of Offensive Team Names: Conservatives have a convenient belief that when it comes to racism, it’s all about intent.”
Goulka claims that the belief that “intent is everything” blinds people into believing “if there is no intent to harm, then there’s no foul.”
NFL 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.
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.
NFL Week 15 Preview: Redskins-Falcons, Bears-Browns, Patriots-Dolphins, Packers-Cowboys, Bengals-Steelers
We’re getting down to the nitty gritty with just three weeks left to play, and the playoff picture in both conferences is still far from decided. Things are bound to start taking shape after this weekend’s games, so let’s take a closer look at the week 15 schedule:
Washington at Atlanta – This game is meaningless playoffs wise, but it does have draft order significance, although the Redskins won’t have their first round pick anyway. Kirk Cousins is taking over at quarterback, so it’ll be interesting to see if he moves the ball any better than Robert Griffin III did. Of course, Cousins will have little affect on Washington’s defense, which will have to stop an Atlanta offense that is capable of scoring points against a weak defense.
Chicago at Cleveland – The Browns let one slip away last week, but they’ll have another chance to play spoiler this week, as the Bears can’t afford to lose another game the rest of the season. Chicago was lightning in a bottle offensively Monday night, but that won’t be so easy against a tough Cleveland defense. Despite winning one game in the past two months, the Browns have a solid defense, and with Jason Campbell at quarterback, Cleveland’s offense is capable of scoring points against a questionable Chicago defense, which means a win is far from a certainty for the Bears, whose defense needs to play with a sense of urgency on the road in order to win.
Houston at Indianapolis – The Colts have already locked up the division, but they need to start playing better down the stretch or their postseason will be brief and disappointing, and this is a game the Colts should be able to win in order to get back on track. As for the Texans, they are still riding an 11-game losing streak, but they’ve lost plenty of close games during that stretch and looked better with Matt Schaub back at quarterback last week, so this is a game they can steal if Indianapolis continues to struggle and doesn’t play a complete game.
New England at Miami – The Patriots are lucky to have won the last two weeks, and they won’t have much margin for error this week down in Miami against a team that needs to win to stay in the playoff hunt. Despite some deficiencies, the Dolphins are playing good football and always put themselves in position to win in the 4th quarter; Ryan Tannehill and company need to make sure they’re the ones making the game-winning plays late, especially against a team that has a history of making key plays when it matters the most. Miami is tied with Baltimore for the last playoff spot, but the Ravens own the tiebreaker between the two teams, so there is no margin for error down the stretch for the Dolphins, as they have to finish ahead of Baltimore to make the postseason, and that’ll be tough to do if they lose this game.
Philadelphia at Minnesota – The Eagles are really rolling right now, and their offense should be tough to stop inside a dome, where there’s no chance of the weather becoming a factor. The Vikings are a little better than their record indicates, and they’ll put up a fight against a contending team, but if Adrian Peterson doesn’t play, or isn’t 100%, it’ll be difficult to keep up with Philadelphia’s offense.
Seattle at New York Giants – The Giants put up a fight after starting the season 0-6, but after their performance last week in San Diego it looks like their season is over. Meanwhile, the Seahawks are comfortably in first place, but they won’t be happy about last week’s loss, which means they’ll be motivated to play on the road, whereas the Giants may have resigned themselves to just playing out the season.
San Francisco at Tampa Bay – The 49ers made a statement by beating Seattle last week, but their playoff spot is not yet secure, so they need to bring that same intensity with them to Tampa Bay. We know the Bucs are going to play hard, and they’re just good enough to take advantage of teams that aren’t at the top of their game, especially on defense. The San Francisco offense needs to do a better job of finishing drives in the end zone than they did last week, because if they don’t the Bucs will hang around and have a chance to pull off the upset.
Buffalo at Jacksonville – Nothing much to see here, although the recent resurgence by Jacksonville is a pleasant surprise for a team that some had pegged as a one or two win team this season. The Bills embarrassed themselves last week in Tampa, and they need to avoid repeating that this week and at least play with some pride.
Kansas City at Oakland – There’s nothing like a good old-fashioned AFC West rivalry. The Raiders are out of contention, but they’re going to play hard and look to knock off the Chiefs on their way to the postseason. If the Oakland offense can get it going like they have the past couple of weeks, this game could get interesting, although the Chiefs can lock in a postseason birth with a win, so they won’t be taking the Raiders lightly, while also hoping that their recent offensive surge will continue.
New York Jets at Carolina – The Panthers had a rough time last Sunday night and they need to respond well this week or speculation will start to grow that they peaked too early. Of course, the Jets may be the best team for them to play right now. New York had a nice game offensively last week against Oakland, but that’ll be tough to repeat against Carolina’s defense. As long as the Panther’s defense gets back on track, winning shouldn’t be an issue and they can go back to setting their sights on the postseason.
Green Bay at Dallas – It doesn’t look like Aaron Rodgers will play in this one, but that doesn’t mean the Packers won’t be able to score against the Dallas defense, which was atrocious Monday night and now has a short week to prepare for the Packers. If Green Bay can establish their running game early, it could soften up the Cowboy’s back-seven and create some space in the secondary for Matt Flynn to get the ball downfield. If the Packers are anywhere close to as efficient on offense against Dallas as the Bears were Monday night, once again all the pressure will be on Tony Romo and the offense, which is not where Dallas wants to be. The Cowboys can score on offense, but it won’t matter unless their defense can get some stops.
Arizona at Tennessee – This could be a tricky game for the Cardinals, but with Seattle and San Francisco on the schedule the final two weeks, it’s a game they need to win. Arizona has built up a lot of momentum over the past month and a half, and they need to keep that going into the final three weeks. In this game, the Cardinals need to start fast and take an early lead. The Titans would like to win and play spoiler, but if Arizona gets up early, it’ll be easier to take care of business against a team that’s just 2-4 at home this season.
New Orleans at St. Louis – The Saints were quite impressive last week at home against the Panthers, but now it’s time to show everybody that they can just as impressive on the road. The Rams haven’t looked all that threatening the past couple of weeks, but they’re capable of pulling of a surprise, so the Saints need to make sure they’re crisp and efficient on offense by controlling the St. Louis pass rush, which could pose some problems for the Saints. For now, New Orleans has a strong hold on the NFC South, but a loss in St. Louis could cause some problems for them heading into their road trip to Carolina next week.
Cincinnati at Pittsburgh – A couple of close losses the past two weeks have all but ended Pittsburgh’s postseason hopes, but they’ve playing much better than they were early in the season, and they’ll have a chance to knock off the Bengals at home Sunday night. The Steelers are going to have to clamp down defensively and force Andy Dalton into making bad decisions and bad throws because playing from behind against the Cincinnati defense will be a difficult task for them. If the game stays low scoring, the Steelers will have a good chance of winning, but if Dalton plays mistake free football the Bengals should score plenty of points, making it hard for the Steelers to keep up.
NFL Week 14 Preview: Colts-Bengals, Falcons-Packers, Raiders-Jets, Lions-Eagles, Chiefs-Redskins and More
We’ve made it to December, and that means just four weeks left in the NFL regular season. There is plenty left to be decided concerning the playoffs, so let’s take a closer look at all the games on the week 14 schedule:
Indianapolis at Cincinnati – Both these teams are heading to the playoffs, although they probably won’t meet unless both get to the AFC Championship Game. As bad as the Colts have been over the past month, they will clinch the AFC South with a win, although if Indy doesn’t get better performances out of their defense and running game, Andrew Luck is going to have a lot of heavy lifting to do against a good Cincinnati defense. Meanwhile, the Bengals have been in a lot of close games and are battle tested; in fact, they’re two overtime losses away from an eight-game winning streak, so they’re actually playing quite well coming into this game. Even if Andy Dalton isn’t at the top of his game, the Bengals have a lot of playmakers that will be tough for a questionable Colts defense to stop.
Atlanta at Green Bay – The status of Aaron Rodgers is still up in the air, but even without Rodgers, the Packers should be able to move the ball against Atlanta’s defense. Green Bay has a sliver of postseason hope left, but they can’t afford to lose at home to the Falcons, who are still playing for pride. The Packers will need to show a sense of urgency to secure their first win in over a month, even against the 3-9 Falcons.
Cleveland at New England – The Patriots almost let one slip away last week, and they need to make sure that doesn’t happen again this week against another inferior team, especially with New England still chasing Denver for the top seed in the AFC. The Browns shouldn’t be able to hang with the Patriots in Foxboro, unless the Patriots let them.
Oakland at New York Jets – Expect this one to be ugly. The Jets are good enough on defense to shut down the Raiders, but they’re also terrible on offense and shouldn’t be expected to score many points. Whichever team can make fewer mistakes and commit fewer penalties, a steep challenge for both sides, will have the advantage in this game.
Detroit at Philadelphia – This game has major playoff implications, with the Lions trying to create some distance in their division and the Eagles locked in a tie with the Cowboys in their division. The Philadelphia defense has shown signs of improvement lately, but playing Detroit will be a true test of how good they are. If the Eagles are truly better on defense than most people think, they should be able to slow down Detroit’s offense enough to win this game, because the Lions may not be able to stop Nick Foles and the Eagles on offense. However, if Detroit’s offense gets rolling as well, this one could go back and forth and become a shootout between Foles and Matthew Stafford.
Miami at Pittsburgh – This game is critical in the AFC wildcard race, as the Steelers are still alive, but only if they win this game. Pittsburgh won three straight before losing on Thanksgiving, and if they can get their offense rolling again, they could have the advantage in this game, especially at home. The Dolphins will need Ryan Tannehill to step up his game and lead them to victory in a tough road environment against a defense that can be tough to go against; otherwise, Miami’s playoff hopes could start to slip.
Buffalo at Tampa Bay – The Bills need to win out to have any hope of reaching the postseason, although it’s not impossible, considering their remaining schedule. Doug Marrone had Greg Schiano’s number when the two faced each other as head coaches in college, so the Bills should have an advantage in that department, although most coaches have had Schiano’s number the past couple of seasons. If Buffalo can avoid costly turnovers, they have a good chance to win on the road.
Kansas City at Washington – The last thing the Redskins need right now is to see a Chief’s team that is angry after losing three straight. Of course, Washington is at home and the Kansas City defense isn’t quite as intimidating as they were earlier in the season, so there is some hope for them. If RG3 can avoid Kansas City’s great pass rush, the Redskins should be able to score some points and have a chance to win. However, if the Chiefs get after RG3, a disastrous year in Washington will continue.
Minnesota at Baltimore – The Ravens have moved toward the front of the AFC wildcard race, but even at home the Vikings can be a tricky team to face. Baltimore has one of the top rush defenses in the NFL, but those stats go out the window when facing Adrian Peterson. If Baltimore can stuff the run, they should win easily, but if they can’t, it’ll be up to Joe Flacco to give the Ravens their third straight win.
Tennessee at Denver – The Broncos are rolling again after last week’s win in Kansas City, and they should be able to win again this week, officially end any hope the Titans have of making the playoffs. It will be nice to see John Fox back on the sidelines for the Broncos, and interesting to see how the team to reacts to having their head coach back, as they have four weeks left to come together and prepare themselves for a deep postseason run.
St. Louis at Arizona – The Cardinals need to avenge a week 1 loss to the Rams if they’re going to remain in the playoff hunt. Three turnovers doomed Arizona last week, and that’s something that can’t repeat itself this week against a St. Louis defense that can pressure quarterbacks and force turnovers. The Rams are also a little more dangerous offensively than they were in week 1 with two solid running backs and Tavon Austin starting to breakout, so the Cardinals will have their work cut out for them at home against a team that has the potential to play spoiler down the stretch.
New York Giants at San Diego – The playoff hopes for both teams are bleak and both will need to win out to have a chance, so both teams should have a lot of urgency to win. Outside of that, the matchup of Eli Manning and Phillip Rivers is always an interesting one, as the two were traded for one another on draft day about a decade ago. Whichever team gets better play out of their quarterback should win the game.
Seattle at San Francisco – The Seahawks crushed the 49ers back in week 2, and now San Francisco seeks some redemption against Seattle, who can lock up the division with a win. It’s hard to imagine anybody beating Seattle after what they did to the Saints on Monday night, although the 49ers look much improved in recent weeks and they have a front-7 that may be able to force the Seahawks into throwing the ball to win the game, and Seattle may not have the wide receivers to do that. However, the key to this game is Colin Kaepernick. His slump started when he faced the Seahawks the first time this season, and he’s going to need to make plays with his arm and his legs if the 49ers are going to have a chance to win.
Carolina at New Orleans – This is the game of the week, a Sunday night showdown with the NFC South Division lead on the line. These teams will meet again in two weeks, so this game isn’t the deciding factor in the division race, but it will go a long way. Moreover, the Saints haven’t played great football for the past month, and they are coming off a humiliating loss to the Seahawks Monday night, while the Panthers are riding an eight-game winning streak. However, New Orleans remains undefeated at home this season, so something will have to give. Carolina’s defense has shut down a lot of teams this season, but stopping the Saints in the Super Dome might be their toughest challenge yet, so we’ll see if they’re up to it.
We got a nice head start on week 13 on Thursday, now let’s take a look at all of the NFL games on the slate for Sunday:
Jacksonville at Cleveland – The season is over for both these teams, but the Jaguars are continuing to play hard and have won two of their last three games, while the Browns are spiraling out of control, and now have to go back to Brandon Weeden at quarterback. Don’t expect too many points in this game, although if Weeden plays well, Jacksonville could struggle against Cleveland’s top receivers Josh Gordon and Jordan Cameron.
Tennessee at Indianapolis – We saw this game a couple weeks ago, with the Colts coming back from an early deficit to steal a win on the road. Last week, Indianapolis continued to struggle while the Titans pulled out a late-win against the Raiders, giving the Colts a two-game lead in the division, a lead that could be in jeopardy if they lose this game. If the Colts get off to another slow start, the Titans are good enough to take advantage, and confidence is running high in Tennessee this week after a 300-yard passing game from Ryan Fitzpatrick last week. The Titans are fighting for their playoff lives, but considering how Indianapolis has played the last few weeks, all the pressure is on the Colts.
Chicago at Minnesota – The Vikings should be excited about the possibility of playing spoiler against the division rival Bears, who need to keep pace with the Lions atop the NFC North. Chicago’s defense has been a disaster recently, and that could be a serious problem as they try to stop Adrian Peterson, not to mention that Christian Ponder played well in Minnesota’s tie last week. The Bears have the weapons to score points on offense, but it may not be enough if their defense can’t play better.
Miami at New York Jets – This may be the most important game in the AFC Wild Card race left in the season, at least until these two teams meet again the final week of the season. The race for the final postseason spot in the AFC remains cluttered, and neither team can afford to lose this game. The Jets have been pitiful the last two weeks, and they could be on the verge of completely collapsing if they can’t get their act together this week, especially on the offensive side of the ball. Meanwhile, the Dolphins seemed to have weathered the storm of off-field controversy and are playing well, as they’ve been in close games each of the last four weeks, winning two of them. The Jets may get blown out, but there’s no way the Dolphins aren’t in the game in the 4th quarter, but if they don’t find a way to win in the final minutes, they could be done, as their schedule is difficult the final four weeks.
Arizona at Philadelphia – These are two of the hottest teams in the NFL over the past month, and both need to keep winning to remain on the right side of the playoff bubble. This game could come down to a matchup of strength vs. strength, as the Eagles are the top rushing team in the NFL, while the Cardinals boast the second best rush defense in the league. If the Cardinals can slow down Philadelphia’s running game, they should be able to outscore the Eagles, but if not, expect both teams to put a lot of points on the board.
Tampa Bay at Carolina – With seven straight wins, the Panthers own the top wild card spot in the NFC and may be making a push for first place in the NFC South. However, they can’t sleep on the Bucs, who have won three in a row. Carolina isn’t explosive offensively, which means Tampa’s defense should be able to keep them in the game, giving rookie Mike Glennon a chance to lead the Bucs to their fourth straight win if he can outplay Cam Newton.
New England at Houston – The Patriots are starting to click on offense, and after last week’s win against Denver, they are still in contention for the top spot in the AFC, so they won’t be taking the Texans lightly. With nine straight losses, things can’t get much worse for Houston, who will be lucky to stay competitive with the Patriots this week.
Atlanta at Buffalo – The Bills are still alive for the postseason if they can take advantage of a weak schedule the next three games, beginning with the Falcons this week. Buffalo has a strong defensive line that should keep Atlanta’s running game contained and put pressure on Matt Ryan, which will force the Falcons to play good defense if they expect to stay in the game. If E.J. Manuel plays well, he’ll keep Buffalo’s slim playoff hopes alive.
St. Louis at San Francisco – The San Francisco defense has been exceptional lately while the offense is getting some key players back, which bodes well for the 49ers moving forward. However, the Rams are a lot better not than they were when the 49ers beat them early in the season, and St. Louis is ready to put up a fight. Both teams have a strong defensive front-seven to stop the run and pressure the quarterback, and because the Rams are limited throwing the ball, the key to this game will be the play of Colin Kaepernick, who can carry the 49ers to victory if he can regain the form he had last year.
Denver at Kansas City – The winner of this game will have the inside track on winning the division and having home field throughout the AFC playoffs, while the loser will likely have to settle for the wildcard. Kansas City’s defense hasn’t been the same over the past couple of weeks, and it’ll be difficult to regain their early-season form with injuries to Justin Houston and Tamba Hali, regardless of whether they’re able to play or not. The Chiefs need to keep this a low-scoring game, and it’ll be hard for them to keep up with the Broncos if they have to score more than 20 points, even at home.
Cincinnati at San Diego – A win over the Chiefs last week kept the Chargers in the playoff hunt, but they need to keep on winning in order to get to the postseason, even against a talented Cincinnati team. If Andy Dalton can shake off his recent problems with turnovers, the Bengals should be able to score against San Diego’s defense, which means it’ll be up to Phillip Rivers to have another exceptional game and lead the Chargers to victory, much like he did last week against Kansas City. As Rivers goes, so do the Chargers, and he’ll have to be significantly better than Dalton this week in order for San Diego to keep their playoff hopes alive.
New York Giants at Washington – Both teams are out of playoff contention, but these two division rivals should find a way to keep this game interesting. Both teams would like to finish strong, and both coaches could be on the hot seat this offseason if they don’t win a few games down the stretch, especially against division foes, so this game does carry some importance for both sides.
The San Francisco 49ers will play the Washington Redskins tonight on Monday night football in a game that will be highlighted by quarterbacks Colin Kaepernick and Robert Griffin III. When the NFL put this game on the Monday night schedule for week 12, they probably figured it would be a potential playoff preview between two of the league’s up and coming quarterbacks. However, that has not been the case, as the Redskins are all but out of the playoff race, while the 49ers find themselves a distant second in their division and scrambling for a spot in the crowded wildcard race.
A big reason why both teams have fallen short of expectations this year are the struggles of the two quarterbacks. A year ago both Kaepernick and Griffin looked like two of the most promising young stars in the league, but they haven’t looked like it this season. So what has happened to these two young quarterbacks, and why aren’t they continuing to develop the way we expected them to? Is it because the zone-read offense is a fad that will die out as quickly as it came in, or is there something specific about these quarterbacks that is causing them to struggle this year?
With Griffin, his health has obviously been an issue, especially early in the seaosn. Coming off a serious knee injury he suffered at the end of last season, Griffin rarely ran the ball during the first month of the season, and he wasn’t all that effective when he tried. Griffin was also timid to put weight on his knee and step forward while throwing the ball, which had an impact on his abilities as a passer. His inconsistency making simple throws from the pocket shined a light on how important his ability to run was to his success last year; instead of his running ability being a bonus of having him at quarterback, it turned out to be an essential part of his game, and when he doesn’t have it, he struggles.
As the season has moved along, Griffin has begun to look healthier than he was at the start of the season, which has allowed him to become a more frequent runner, yet his completion percentage remains erratic from week to week, and doesn’t always improve when he has success running the ball. He hasn’t built his career as a quarterback on the foundation of being effective pocket passer, much less an elite passer, and that has been exposed this year because he’s been unable to use his legs the way he did last year.
Griffin will benefit from an offseason of training rather than an offseason of rehab, so it’s too early to write him off based on one bad season coming off a serious injury. However, he needs to be able to beat teams from the pocket using his arm, regardless of how talented he is as a runner. A healthy Griffin will be able to use the zone-read to become one of the most dangerous offensive talents in the league, but only if he can first become an average or better pocket passer, which he’s not right now, and it’s the primary reason for his struggles this season, regardless of the knee injury he suffered last year.
As for Kaepernick, his issues are a little more puzzling. He entered the season coming off a trip to the Super Bowl as one of the toughest quarterbacks in the NFL to prepare for because of his size, athleticism, and arm strength. It looked like business as usual for Kaepernick after a sensational season opener against Green Bay in which he threw for over 400 yards and three touchdowns. However, it’s been all down hill since then, as Kaepernick has eclipsed 200 yards passing just once in the last nine games, while throwing nearly as many interceptions as touchdowns.
Kaepernick’s problems appear to be far more mental than they are physical. Poor performances and losses in weeks 2 and 3 appear to have shattered his confidence. He looks unsure of himself in the pocket and has struggled going through his progressions and making the proper read. He doesn’t look comfortable throwing to anyone besides Anquan Boldin and Vernon Davis, which may be why he’s staring down his receivers more than he did last year and not going through his progressions. To a certain extent, the 49ers’ play calling has hindered Kaepernick as well, confining him to the pocket too much, and not utilizing his legs and putting him on the perimeter, where he’s comfortable making plays. This myriad of problems has contributed to Kaepernick’s struggles this year, although there doesn’t seem to be an obvious answer to solving them, as the mental side of football seems to have gotten to him.
The struggles that both Griffin and Kaepernick have experienced this season don’t appear to be related to the zone-read scheme that took the NFL by storm last year, and while it may not be taking over the league the way we thought it was a year ago, it’s also not something that’s going to go away completely. Griffin’s issues are largely physical and can be solved by staying healthy and having an offseason of training instead of rehabbing. Kaepernick’s problems are largely mental, and it’s difficult to configure a timetable for how quickly he’ll be able to work through them. Both quarterbacks are immensely talented, but both have taken a step back this year and have issues to work through; however, if they can identify where things have gone wrong for them this year, there’ll have a better chance of fixing their problems and emerging as the elite quarterbacks they’re both capable of becoming.
Student editors at Neshaminy High School's newspaper, The Playwickian, have decided they will longer use the word "Redskins," which is the school's nickname for its sport teams.
Neshaminy High School even has a sign that reads: "Everybody do the Redskin Rumble."
The controversy began with an Oct. 23 editorial in The Playwickian, by the student editors, that stated: "Detractors will argue that the word is used with all due respect. But the offensiveness of a word cannot be judged by its intended meaning, but by how it is received."
"People are [saying], 'Just give in. It doesn't really matter,'" Gillian McGoldrick, the editor-in-chief of the newspaper, told the Associated Press. "But it's a huge deal, that we're being forced to say something that we don't want to."
Principal Robert McGee emailed the paper’s adviser, Tara Huber, with a “directive" that Huber passed onto the student editors.
“[Principal] McGee said, ‘I don’t think you have the right to not use the word Redskins,’” Reed Hennessy, the newspaper’s sports editor, told the Southern Poverty Law Center.
“It’s really upsetting that our rights are being questioned and that we are being forced into this situation,” stated McGoldrick. “We really didn’t do anything wrong except voice our opinions.”
“We have editorial control,” McGoldrick added. “We can’t censor, we’re an editorial board... We adopted this policy, and we should be able to use it.”
McGoldrick and Hennessy claim that the Pennsylvania Administrative Code’s “freedom of expression” policy allows to students express themselves unless that expression is “materially and substantially interferes with the educational process."
“It wasn't disruptive to any educational process, it wasn't violent,” added Hennessy. “It was just a pretty reasonable argument.”
Principal McGee, who will meet with the student editors tomorrow, claims the Washington Redskins have not given up their use of the name so the issue has not been decided.
"I don't think that's been decided at the national level, whether that word is or is not [offensive]. It's our school mascot," Principal McGee told the Associated Press. "I see it as a First Amendment issue running into another First Amendment issue."
The nonprofit Student Press Law Center and the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania say the school probably cannot force students to use an offensive word.
"I understand that there's an inclination to want to protect a tradition at the school. But the First Amendment is a longer and a better-established tradition," said Frank LoMonte, of the Student Press Law Center. "It's exactly what we tell young people in the abstract we want them to do: use their voices in positive ways to bring about social change. And yet when they tried to do it in practice, the school slapped them down. That's a bad place for an educator to be."
Sources: Student Press Law Center, Associated Press, The Playwickian
NFL 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.