Alright, finished the year off on a roll. 7 straight weeks of double digit correct predictions. Ended up with a straight up prediction record of 161-93-2, with my worst week being a 6-8 record. It’s not a phenomenal record, but I do think it illustrates the parity of the NFL and the ability of any team to win on any given Sunday.
With that being said let us analyze, look at, and discuss the upcoming playoff festivities…
Oakland Raiders @ Houston Texans
By far the worst game of the weekend. Unfortunately, that distinction is due to injury. Raiders’ starting quarterback, and potential MVP, Derek Carr suffered a broken leg and is out for the entirety of the postseason. The post-season hopes of the Raiders now rest on the un-tested arm of 4th round pick Conor Cook.
Conversely, the injury to Tom Savage has forced the Texans to go back to their $70+ million man, Brock Osweiler, who has proven to be among the worst starting quarterbacks of any team all season.
So with both quarterback situations in the (drizzling) shits, this game relies on two things: run game and defense. Unfortunately for the Raiders the Texans are better at both. While Latavius Murray is a better all-around back, Lamar Miller is a better pure runner and is better in goal-line situations. But the real difference is the defense. While the Raiders boast the best defensive player in this series in Khalil Mack, the Texans feature the much better squad as a whole and have remained consistently stout despite the inconsistencies on offense.
In short, the Texans are used to overcoming a bad offense, the Raiders are not. I like the Texans to win on a disgustingly low score of 13-6.
Miami Dolphins @ Pittsburgh Steelers
There are a number of issues to discuss here. Terry Bradshaw was uncouth (but correct), the Steelers were (and are) overrated, the Dolphins were (and are) underrated and the overall quality of depth may be the deciding factor.
To start: Terry Bradshaw called Mike Tomlin a cheerleader. While this was certainly rude and uncouth, I am not sure how far off it is. Tomlin took over a Super Bowl Caliber team with an elite quarterback and immediately capitalized on it, but has failed to do anything of substance since. He has consistently played second fiddle to the Ravens and Bengals despite having an elite quarterback, receiver, and running back.
Also, many picked and continue to taught the Steelers as legit Super Bowl contenders. They have no defensive secondary and an extremely mediocre pass rush. Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell are amazing, but unless they can combine for 30+ points per game, the Steelers will struggle.
The Dolphins have consistently increased their offensive efficiency, which has in turn increased their effectiveness on defense. Adam Gase in a very short time has instilled accountability and a win-at-all-cost attitude. Not to mention Jay Ajayi running as if he were chased by a B-movie serial killer.
But in the end, overall talent decides most games. The Steelers are well-coached and follow a team philosophy…but most of them suck. To put it bluntly, the Steelers are featuring players that wouldn’t make most teams squads and that’s because the Steelers look for people, not players. While that philosophy is a sound one, it often leaves you in an athletic disadvantage. As of right now, the Dolphins have a better defense, a better trilogy of receivers, perhaps a better running back and are allowing less turnovers and sacks.
To hell with the Vegas’ odds, I like the Dolphins for the upset in this game.
Detroit Lions @ Seattle Seahawks
The Lions have lost 3 games in a row for two reasons: (1) Matthew Stafford had a broken finger on his his throwing hand and (2) the Lions lack other viable weapons. Personally, I hope the Lions mop the floor with the Seahawks and I also hope that Pete Carroll gets flagged 89 times for wandering on the field; unfortunately, neither of those things will happen.
The Seahawks finished the season undefeated at home, and in their current state, the Lions have no way to change that. Stafford has been super-human this season, but his kryptonite has proven to be his middle finger and because of that they will like lose.
New York Giants @ Green Bay Packers
I have said for years that the Packers are a vastly overrated team propped up by an elite quarterback. Over the past six weeks Aaron Rodgers has shown why he is quite possibly the best quarterback in football; but let us be honest here, their defense still sucks.
Specifically, slot receivers have made the Green Bay Packers their bitch. I expect Sterling Shepard to have a big game. This game should be a shootout, but when you go by position, the Giants are better in every category other than quarterback. And to be fair Eli has two rings as opposed to Rodgers’ one.
Flat out, the Giants will win because they have better receivers, a better tight end, a better run game, a MUCH better defense, and a comparable quarterback. The Packers have Aaron Rodgers and this time, that will not be enough.
Calvin Johnson Discusses Retirement, Legacy
Back in 2015, Detroit Lions wide receiver, and NFL great, shocked the football world when he announced his decision to retire.
Despite that decision coming nearly 3 years ago, teams have still expressed interest in him over the course of the past few seasons, even at 2017’s trade deadline.
Johnson recently spoke to the Detroit Free Press’ Dave Birkett about his retirement, and his lasting legacy.
“I told (my father), I was like, ‘Dad, I don’t think I can do it no more.’ I was like, ‘I don’t think I can keep on coming out there running miles a day.’ He said, he was like, ‘You think you can get one more?’ I thought about it. … I was like, ‘All right, I can do it one more time.’”
Johnson touched on the process of informing his-then head coach, Jim Caldwell, of his decision to call it a career.
“I was so stressed out. I was thinking about that more in the last three games [of the 2015 season] than anything else. I was like, ‘Dang, man. How the hell am I going to tell Coach?’ I asked my dad, asked my sister. And I was like, ‘Maybe I’ll just tell him like right before the last game. I’ll like go to his office on Friday, or tell him like Saturday night before the game.’ And I was like, ‘Dang, (I can’t). That’s just a big ass distraction right before the game.’ It was actually tough to actually say it, to spit the words out. But when I finally told him it was like a burden off my chest like no other. I was like, ‘man, I’m free. I ain’t got to be stressing this (stuff) no more.’”
“It had to surprise [Caldwell], ’cause then he told me to wait around and he got the GM and stuff. But I knew there was going to be a problem once [Wood] talked to me and the first thing out of his mouth was like, ‘Did you earn all your bonus?’ I was like, ‘Oh, s***.’ I knew right then it was going to be a problem. I was like, ‘All right, I see how it’s going to be.’”
Despite the continued interest from NFL teams, Johnson doesn’t think he could still play, even if he wanted to.
“I don’t (think so), man, cause I get up from the bed sometimes in the morning, I’m just like, I shuffle across the ground cause I can’t bend my ankles. That was my problem when I played, just ankle’s always stuck or swelled up, I can’t flex them. If you can’t flex your ankles then you’re just running flat-footed all the time.”
Johnson will surely get his fair share of consideration for the Pro Football Hall of Fame, in due time.
“People don’t like that I didn’t play a long time, but hey, it is what it is. I mean, I was the fastest to 10,000 yards, I had the most yards in an actual regulation game. I did some things, but if it’s not enough, it’s not enough. I’m not going to lose sleep over it.”
Lions Head Coach Matt Patricia Discusses Indictment Resurfacing
Detroit Lions head coach Matt Patricia held a press conference on Thursday to address a report from the Detroit News that said that he had been indicted for sexual assault back in 1996.
The case against Patricia was dismissed after, according to authorities, the victim decided not to testify due to the feeling that she could not “face the pressures or stress of a trial.”
Patricia discussed the issue during a nearly 10-minute presser saying that he wanted to “clear his name” and saying what happened in 1996 “very traumatic to me” and also saying that “there were claims made about me that never happened.”
Patricia brought up his family during his presser, stating that his parents “taught me to know the difference between right and wrong” and that he had two older sisters who taught him “respect and love”.
Patricia went on to say that he didn’t condone “any of the type of behavior that has been alleged.”
“In these times, we need to be even more sensitive and responsible in dealing with these issues and separate right from wrong,” Patricia said. “Thankfully truth is on my side. I lived with the mental torture of a situation where facts can be completely ignored or misrepresented with disregard to the consequence and pain it would create for another person. I find it unfair and upsetting that someone would bring this claim up over two decades later for the sole purpose of hurting my family, my friends, and this organization with the intention of trying to damage my character and credibility. I was innocent then and I am innocent now”
Patricia then fielded questions and was met by a question from a reporter who asked how he could not think this would have resurfaced given the ongoing #MeToo movement, to which Patricia replied that he had been interviewing for jobs for 22 years and “it was never an issue.”
Patricia followed up by saying “I am innocent.”
Another reporter followed up by asking Patricia what had happened that night back in 1996.
Patricia said that, “What’s important here is what happened 22 years ago is what didn’t happened. As I said, I was innocent then and I am innocent now. I was falsely accused of something I did not do” while pointing out that he went through the legal process and that “the case was dismissed.”
Patricia was asked if what had happened was consensual, to which Patricia responded by saying, “Again, I did nothing wrong. That’s all I will say on that matter.”
Patricia was then asked if this came up during the interview process with the Lions. Patricia answered, “There was never any situation in the Lions interview in which I did not disclose the truth.”
Patricia added that he already had talked about this issue with the team, saying “in this time, we do need to be sensitive and responsible, and I use this as a learning moment for them so that we so all can try to be better.”
Patricia was asked, as the last question, if this issue came up with any of his teams such as Syracuse, Amherst, and the New England Patriots.
Patricia replied by saying, “Thank you, I appreciate everyone’s time” before walking off the stage.
You can watch the press conference below:
Philadelphia, The City of Underdogs
This Saturday, January 13th, the NFC’s top seeded Philadelphia Eagles will be kicking off the NFL’s Divisional Playoff Round against the defending NFC Champions, the Atlanta Falcons. The road to the Super Bowl has to come through South Philadelphia and the fans of the Eagles are ready to make their impact.
These blue-collar, tough-love fans may have even more motivation this weekend to be the notoriously loud fan base that they are. The Eagles are entering the game in historical fashion, as the first ever number 1 seed in the NFL playoffs to be considered as home underdogs. The Falcons are coming into South Philly as 2.5 point favorites.
Historically, the Birds have had no problem dealing with being chosen the home underdog in the playoffs. They have been chosen as home underdogs three previous occasions in 1981 against the Detroit Lions, 1995 against the Dallas Cowboys, and most recently in 2000 against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Each of these underdog performances lead to dominant wins for the Eagles, winning by at least two possessions each time and by an average of 17 points.
The city of Brotherly Love is no stranger to being considered the underdog across all realms of sports and perhaps may even feel more comfortable as the underdog. But there is no doubt that it still feels like a Rocky Balboa left-hook to the jaw to be the first ever number one seed chosen as underdogs. Many players have spoken out about feeling disrespected by the sports world and it’s clear that the odds-makers are feeding the Eagles even more motivation for Saturday.
These two teams are somewhat familiar to each other, having played last year at Lincoln Financial Field. Last year, the Atlanta Falcons had a very dominant season with the NFL’s Most Valuable Player, Matt Ryan, carrying the Falcons all the way to a half time Super Bowl victory. I think we all know what happened in the second half of last year’s Super Bowl.
During this triumphant year for Ryan and the Falcons, they had major issues when they came to The Linc. Their high powered, top of the NFL offense was held to only 15 points. Julio Jones, the Falcons top Wide Receiver, was able to have a good day recording 10 receptions for 135 yards, but beyond that, the Falcons offense was put on lock.
The Eagles defense held the Falcons to a total of 48 rushing yards, leaving it up to Matt Ryan to try and beat the Birds through the air. As for the Eagles offense, Ryan Mathews had one of his best games as an Eagle rushing for 109 yards and two trips to the end-zone. Along with Mathews’ day, the Eagles ran for a total of 208 yards, having their way with the Falcons defense.
This year, the Falcons have a new Defensive Coordinator in Marquand Manuel and have improved to become a top-10 rush defense in the NFL and just shut down one of the top running backs in the NFL last week when they faced Todd Gurley.
This Divisional Round match-up will come down to the Eagles ability to run the ball against the Atlanta Falcons defense. Without the Pro Bowl, All-Pro Second Team quarterback Carson Wentz, the Eagles offense can not expect too much out of Nick Foles.
The Birds will have to be carried by mid-season acquisition, Jay Ajayi to run the ball early and often as well as fellow bruising running back, LeGarrette Blount, to slowly wear down the Falcons defense. The Eagles Defense will be challenged again by the Falcons offense filled with studs.
By shutting down the Falcons rush attack last year, the Birds should be very confident coming into Saturday’s match-up, especially with all the improvements they have along their defensive line. The Eagles come in as the number 1 rated rush defense in the NFL and will likely force Matt Ryan to beat their new and improved 2017 secondary.
I believe with the newly added motivation for the City of Philadelphia as well as for the players themselves, the Eagles will win a nail-biter in South Philly, another Jake Elliott game-winner, 17-14.
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