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2018 NFL Wild Card Weekend: AFC

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Happy 2018 everyone!!! It’s that time, the NFL Playoffs commences this weekend, and we’ve got some great and unexpected match-ups.

AFC:

Byes: New England Patriots (13-3), Pittsburgh Steelers (13-3)

Tennessee Titans (9-7) at Kansas City Chiefs (10-6) Saturday 4:20PM ET (ESPN)

The Titans are making their first playoff appearance since 2008. Quarterback Marcus Mariota had more interceptions than touchdowns in the regular season. Though he has shown more moxie, he must do better than that if the Titans want to advance. If running back DeMarco Murray’s, a go, he and Derrick Henry are a proven 1,2 combo that can move the chains and keep the Chiefs’ offense on the sidelines.

The defense is solid led by Pro Bowler Jurrell Casey. Safety Kevin Byard was tied for the league lead in interceptions. He’ll have the task of slowing the Chiefs’ receivers.

The Chiefs clinched the AFC West. Quarterback Alex Smith finished top ten overall with his best stats in years. He has his playmakers led by Pro Bowler Travis Kelce and versatile wide receiver Tyreek Hill. Rookie running back Kareem Hunt led the league in rushing, so the Titans will have to tame him.

Their defense finished near the bottom, but have the players to slow down Mariota such as linebackers Justin Houston, Reggie Ragland and Dee Ford. Safety Marcus Peters, who finished top five in interceptions, will have to make sure the Titans don’t move the chains

Buffalo Bills (9-7) at Jacksonville Jaguars (10-6) Sunday 1:30PM ET (CBS)

After beating Miami, the Bills needed the Cincinnati Bengals to defeat the Baltimore Ravens to get in the playoffs, and it happened. No doubt, Buffalo is partying like it’s 1999, well 2000 technically since that was the last time the Bills were in the playoffs, which was the longest playoff drought of the four major sports.

Pro Bowler LeSean McCoy, who finished top five in rushing, is nursing an ankle injury, so he’ll likely not be 100%. As he goes, so do the Bills’ offense. Quarterback Tyrod Taylor may have to use his arm more. Wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin, who himself is nursing a knee injury, will have to make big plays.

Pro Bowler Micah Hyde and cornerback Tre’Davious White lead the Bills’ defense.

Meanwhile the Jaguars clinched the AFC South and their first playoff berth in a decade. The Jaguars ranked in the top ten in total offense. Quarterback Blake Bortles was just outside the top ten. He’s got a solid corps in wide receiver Allen Hurns, who just came back from injury, as well as tight end Mercedes Lewis and receiver Marquise Lee, who are both nursing ankle injuries. The Titans need to beef up their run game though, meaning running back Leonard Fournette may get a lot of touches.

For as good as the offense has been, it’s been the defense that’s led the way for the Jags. They finished only behind the Minnesota Vikings in total defense. Pro Bowler Calais Campbell, who finished second in sacks, looks like a genius now for signing with the Jags in the offseason. He along with fellow Pro Bowler Malik Jackson will try to pressure Taylor. Pro Bowlers A.J. Bouye, who finished top five in interceptions, and Jalen Ramsey lead a fierce secondary.

There’s also some storylines off the field, defensive tackle Marcell Dareus was traded from the Bills to the Jaguars halfway through the season. Head coach Dough Marrone was let go from the Bills’ coach in 2014.

Coming up, I’ll preview the NFC Wild Card weekend.

Buffalo Bills

Bills Put O.J. Simpson’s #32 Back in Rotation for First Time Since 1977

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O.J. Simpson

For the first time since 1977 the Buffalo Bills have put #32, the number famously associated with O.J. Simpson, back into circulation and new free agent signee Senorise Perry is now wearing the number during OTAs, according to ESPN.

“I thought it was retired, but then I was told it was available. Boom, I took it,” Perry said of the number, according to The Athletic.

“I know the situation. I know that greatness comes with that number, playing in Buffalo. But I’m willing to take anything that comes my way. I’m going into my sixth year, and I know what it takes to get in this league and stay here. With that number on my back, I know I’m doing well for my family.”

Simpson rushed for 10,183 yards and 57 touchdowns, leading the NFL in rushing four times during his nine seasons playing for the Bills, but his post-career life has been marred with numerous troubles with the law and his controversial trial, and outcomes, stemming from the murders of his ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ronald Goldman, which he was acquitted for in 1995, but found liable by civil court for wrongful death.

Simpson, 71, was sentenced to prison in 2008 for armed robbery and kidnapping after entering a Las Vegas hotel room to recover stolen memorabilia items, and paroled in 2017.

“Whatever they do is fine with me,” Simpson said, according to the Athletic. “That’s how I feel. When I played there, I tried to honor the team. Since I left, I always tried to honor the Bills.

“And, to be honest, it’s not something I think about. There’s too much else going on in life.”

Simpson’s number was never retired, although he is on the team’s Wall of Fame at New Era Field.

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NEWS

Bucs’ Jason Pierre-Paul Automobile Accident Blamed on Bad Weather

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Jason Pierre-Paul

A recent automobile accident the occurred in Broward County in South Florida involving Tampa Bay Buccaneers pass rushed Jason Pierre-Paul is being attributed to bad weather, according to TMZ Sports.

According to the report which cites a crash report that they had obtained regarding the accident, Pierre-Paul was driving a $350,000 Ferrari 88 Pista when he crashed into a concrete barrier back on May 2nd.

Officials believe that Pierre-Paul lost control of the car around 2:38 AM and collided with a concrete barrier on I-95 in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, adding that there were no skid marks or debris found in the roadway. Officers did not believe that Pierre-Paul was under the influence of drugs or alcohol and did not test him for it.

In conclusion, officers believe “weather conditions”, more specifically wet roads, caused Pierre-Paul to lose control of the car and crash into the concrete barrier. Pierre-Paul and a passenger in his car were transported to a nearby hospital.

Pierre-Paul is considered likely to miss the entire 2019 NFL season after suffering a fractured neck due to the accident.

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Carolina Panthers

Panthers’ Greg Olsen Donates $2.5 Million to Pediatric Cardiac Center

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Greg Olsen

Carolina Panthers veteran tight end Greg Olsen, and his wide, recently made a $2.5 million donation to help establish the HEARTest Yard Pediatric Cardiac Center in Charlotte, North Carolina o expand access to vital therapies that improve survival rates and quality of life for children with congenital disease, according to an official announcement from the Atrium Health Foundation.

“While most know Greg Olsen as a Pro Bowl Tight End for the Carolina Panthers, we at Levine Children’s know him and his wife, Kara, as visionary leaders and champions for pediatric congenital heart disease,” said Stacy Nicholson, MD, president of Levine Children’s, as he announced the transformational gift, according to an official release.

Greg and Kara Olsen started the HEARTest Yard initiative in 2012, initially focusing on home health care for children with congenital heart disease. The Olsens have a son with a congenital heart defect. Back in 2017, the couple helped launch a cardiac neurodevelopmental clinic at Levine Children’s, which is currently one the few such clinics in existence in the United States.

“This new center will be a game changer for the children of the Carolinas,” said Nancy Dobrolet, MD, director of the cardiac neurodevelopmental clinic.  “Thanks to the Olsens, and their many supporters, we provide the best comprehensive cardiac care in the country for young heart patients.”

The HEARTest Yard Pediatric Cardiac Center, scheduled to open in 2021.

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