NFL Week 5 Predictions

No Bears, no Packers, no Saints, no Chargers oh my! What will Week 5 behold without two of the classic football franchises and what may be the NFL’s best football team. We can do without the Chargers until the last five or six weeks since that is when they start playing for real and making there annual improbable playoff run. This week definitely has some interesting match ups, but there are plenty of blowouts on the horizon to boost the fantasy numbers.

NFL Week 5 Predictions

Cleveland Browns (0-4) at Buffalo Bills (1-3)

Dick Jauron will keep his job one more week as the Terrell Owens has his 2009 breakout game against a team reeling from an early season quarterback change and a trade that sent their most talented receiver to the Jets. The game will be ugly, but the Bills talent advantage has to work in their favor against more than just the likes of Tampa Bay.

Dallas Cowboys (2-2) at Kansas City Chiefs (0-4)

The Dallas Cowboys have proven that they can beat up on terrible teams. Enter the Kansas City Chiefs. This is a band aid game to re-instill Romo’s confidence with a nice beating on a helpless team. The Chiefs will put up a fight and the Cowboys fans will leave wishing Matt Cassel was their quarterback even thought they won.

Minnesota Vikings (4-0) at St. Louis Rams (0-4)

Adrian Peterson will take this opportunity to remind the NFL why he is the very best running back in the league. I expect a performance similar to his first game of the season when Peterson ran for 180 yards aganst the Browns. The Vikings are going to win big because their past two wins have been a little too close for comfort.

Oakland Raiders (1-3) at New York Giants (4-0)

Call me crazy but I smell an upset as Bruce Gradowski takes over for JaMarcus in the first half and shocks the Giants. Things are just going too well for the Giants and they are too big of favorites according to Vegas not think something will happen to spoil their time on top of the NFC East.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (0-4) at Philadelphia Eagles (2-1)

McNabb, Westbrook, and the defense are going to comeback with a passion in this thrashing of the NFL’s newest whipping boy, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. This is a good week to have one of the Eagles playmakers on your fantasy team.

Pittsburgh Steelers (2-2) at Detroit Lions (1-3)

The Pittsburgh Steelers are going to make Dante Culpepper wish he was back coaching Pop Warner football. The Lions are coming off a bad loss and have a baldy beaten up roster. The Steelers should use this game to sell Rashard Mendenhall to the Steelers nation.

Washington Redskins (2-2) at Carolina Panthers (0-3)

The Carolina Panthers will solve the Washington Redskins scoring problems in this game. Somehow the Redskins are averaging just 14 points a game despite putting up 325 yards a game. This will be an offensive explosion for Washington, but Jake Delhomme will come off the bye week with a vengeance and take the Panthers on a last second winning drive.

Cincinnati Bengals (3-1) at Baltimore Ravens (3-1)

Who thought that we would be talking about the Bengals-Ravens game in Week 5 as a major division battle for first place? Despite the Ravens loss to the Patriots last week, they are the more balanced team and will win this bitter division game.

Atlanta Falcons (2-1) at San Francisco 49ers (3-1)

The 49ers have been playing inspiring defense and move the ball on the ground. The Falcons have been unable to live up to last season’s standards and have a terrible run defense. The 49ers win this game by a healthy margin.

Jacksonville Jaguars (2-2) at Seattle Seahawks (1-3)

With Hasselbeck most likely out for a fourth game in a row the Seahawks will again be playing shorthanded. The Jaguars have won two games in a row over two teams with bad defenses. Seattle has a decent defense and Seneca Wallace is due for a win. Have to go with the Seattle Seahawks.

Houston Texans (2-2) at Arizona Cardinals (1-2)

The Houston Texans have displayed an explosive offense of late and the Arizona Cardinals have been pretty good when playing against teams that struggle on the defensive side of the ball (like the Texans). This game should a highly enjoyable shootout. In the end I have to believe that the bye week did the Cardinals good and they will win.

New England Patriots (3-1) at Denver Broncos (4-0)

After picking against the Denver Broncos all season long I have to say that I believe in them. This, of course, means I have to pick against them because once you start believing in a team that have to lose to test your confidence in them. The Patriots came off a big win against the Ravens and see this as another chance to show just how good they are.

Indianapolis Colts (4-0) at Tennessee Titans (0-4)

Colts win. They may not win big because these are divisional rivals, but they will win nonetheless.

New York Jets (3-1) at Miami Dolphins (1-3)

The New York Jets defense will stop the inventive play calling from the Dolphins sidelines and make this a poorly chosen Monday night game by the league. The Vegas line has this one close, but I simply cannot see a team without a big play quarterback beating a good defense, even if this might be a revenge game for Pennington.

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NFL Tickets and Predictions for Week 2

The first week of football is great for two reasons. The first is that you get to watch 10-plus hours of football. I know I woke up at 7:00 in the morning because I was so freaking giddy to sit on the couch for 10 hours. It somehow seems ridiculous that I could get so excited to play an invalid for the day. The second reason is that suddenly you have real stats to compare and make educated guesses and bets for Week 2. Below are my guesses, with scores compiled by some miraculous mental operation that takes into account stats, injuries, the latest Vegas lines, and useless emotional allegiances.

Carolina Panthers (0-1) at Atlanta Falcons (1-0)

The Panthers will lose this game. The Falcons simply have too many weapons. I do not care if the Panthers defense held the Eagles to 85 passing yards in Week 1, they allowed 185 yards in a laugher. Panthers quarterback will redeem himself by not throwing four picks, but Falcons have a young quarterback looking for his own redemption after missing deep plays last week. I look for Michael Turner to make fantasy owners happy and for Ryan to spread the ball over the field in a 30-20 Falcons victory.

Minnesota Vikings (1-0) at Detroit Lions (0-1)

The Vikings were able to defeat the Browns easily in Week 1 and will repeat with another easy win over the Detroit Lions. I would not be surprised if the Lions yards allow totals (358 through the air and 157 on the ground) were supplanted. This is a good day to own Adrian Peterson. Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford will be driven into the ground repeatedly, though running back Kevin Smith might have a decent game. I look for another laugher in a 35-10 Vikings win.

Cincinnati Bengals (0-1) at Green Bay Packers (1-0)

The Cincinnati Bengal must have killed several Albatrosses that were thrown off by global warming and got caught on the team’s charter flights this preseason. I do not know how else to explain the Week 1 loss. The Week 2 loss will be much easier to explain. The Green Bay Packers are simply a much better team. The Packers will stuff Cedric Benson, reminding him of his days as running back with the Bears and put plenty of pressure on Carson Palmer. The Pack will roll on all cylinders on offense. The Pack win 33-14.

Houston Texans (0-1) at Tennessee Titans (0-1)

The Tennessee Titans will bounce back from the overtime loss against the Steelers with a strong game against the Houston Texans. The Texans will put up a fight though. The very fact that this is an intra-division game will keep the score close. I like Matt Schaub to throw a touchdown and Steve Slaton to run one in, but the Titans ground game will dominate as the Titans win 24-17.

Oakland Raiders (0-1) at Kansas City Chiefs (0-1)

I would give the Kansas City Chiefs the win if Matt Cassel was playing, but it appears he is still a week away from making his debut for K.C. The Raiders played with a surprisingly effective defense on Monday night against the Chargers. I still do not believe that the Raiders will turn things around this season. I think this game will be as dreadful as the Bengals-Broncos debacle last week. Still, Oakland has a stable full of running backs and should win 17-14.

New England Patriots (1-0) at New York Jets (1-0)

The New England Patriots looked less than godly against the Bills on Monday night and the New York Jets looked like they just might be a factor in the AFC East after Mark Sanchez’ performance against the Texans. The problem calling this game is that the Patriots might use the lack of godliness and the subsequent doubts as motivation. The other issue is that the Patriots secondary is still something I question. They held the Bills to 186 yards in the air, but is that because of the secondary or the three rookie offensive linemen of the Bills. The Jets have a great line, so this is really the first honest look at the New England pass defense. I say the Patriots win, but not big. Patriots win 24-20.

New Orleans Saints (1-0) at Philadelphia Eagles (1-0)

The Eagles looked amazing until McNabb busted some ribs on a gutsy play. The Saints looked amazing, but they were playing the Detroit Lions. This game comes down to Donovan and it appears he is out and Kevin Kolb will play behind center. The Saints should win, but with a more reasonable score, 24-20.

St. Louis Rams (0-1) at Washington Redskins (0-1)

The Washington Redskins seemed to put up a fight in New York and the St. Louis Rams looked pitiful in Seattle. The vaunted Redskins defensive front four looked like anything but spectacular and Jason Campbell continued his journey to a career as a back up quarterback. Still, the Rams are just too terrible to win. The Redskins win 21-14.

Arizona Cardinals (0-1) at Jacksonville Jaguars (0-1)

The Arizona Cardinals looked like they have contracted the Super Bowl loser funk after last week’s 20-16 loss to San Francisco and the Jaguars looked like a passable NFL team in that 14-12 loss to the Colts. I have to believe that the Cardinals will bounce back with a big win (assuming Warner, Boldin, and Breaston all play) and that the Jaguars were benefiting from another slow Indianapolis start. The Cards should stuff the line to stop Maurice Jones-Drew and try and force game-manager David Garrard to win the game. Arizona wins 27-20.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (0-1) at Buffalo Bills (0-1)

The Buffalo Bills should have won Week 1, but a late game fumble on a kickoff return gave Tom Brady the chance to play savior again. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers watched in horror as Tony Romo put up career passing numbers in their backyard and they allowed over 100 yards rushing. The Cowboys are questionable to even make the playoffs. This game goes to the Bills. They win with a balanced attack and Terrell Owen’s first touchdown catch of the season. The Bills win 24-17.

Seattle Seahawks (1-0) at San Francisco 49ers (1-0)

Both of these teams won in Week 1, but the 49ers had to rely a little more on luck and a postseason curse to win their game. The Seahawks were amazing, but against the St. Louis Rams. I am little worried that Hasselbeck relied on tight end John Carlson so often when throwing the ball, but not nearly as concerned that 49ers quarterback Shawn Hill’s best option is Isaac Bruce. Also Frank Gore averaged just 1.4 yards a carry. I do not care how improved the San Francisco defense is, there is just too much in the Seahawks favor here. Seattle wins 24-17.

Pittsburgh Steelers (1-0) at Chicago Bears (0-1)

Jay Cutler needs to come back with a huge game to stop his number of detractors in Chicago from growing. This alone makes him dangerous to the Steelers, especially now that they are missing safety Troy Polamalu. The Bears are without injured Brian Urlacher for the rest of the season and must play a Steelers team that displayed an impressive passing game in their 13-10 win. I say that the Steelers try and return to the running game, testing the Bears front seven and being surprised when they realize the Bears can still stop the run. Cutler shows up, proves he is like a young Brett Favre and pulls out a victory. Bears win 24-20.

Baltimore Ravens (1-0) at San Diego Chargers (1-0)

LaDainian Tomlinson is out for the Chargers and San Diego barely beat the Raiders. The Ravens look good in Week 1. Despite giving up 24 points, they allowed just 188 total yards. True, they were playing the Chiefs, but this team looks like they could be something special with an actual offense to go with the defense. I think the Ravens will stop the run and bother Rivers as he tries to single-handedly lead the Chargers to victory. Flacco will show a little more accuracy and Ray Rice will have another great game. Ravens win 27-23

Cleveland Browns (0-1) at Denver Broncos (1-0)

This will be close; however, the game will either be a low-scoring suckfest or defense-free score-athon. Given that neither quarterback is particularly noted for having the arm and accuracy to throw back-to-back 40-yard strikes, I am inclined to believe that this game ends closer to zero. I think the Browns walk away with a 17-14 victory simply because Brady Quinn is a little more dynamic than Kyle Orton.

New York Giants (1-0) at Dallas Cowboys (1-0)

The Cowboys offense definitely has more potential to be explosive than the more tepid balance offense of the Giants. The difference in this game is the defense. By all accounts, when Byron Leftwich is able to throw for 276 yards and two running backs with 10 plus carries average more than 5 yards a carry against you have a problem. The Cowboys problem will be stopping the Giants from putting up even better numbers. I like the Giants to win this Cowboys home opener 24-20. The only reason the point margin is not larger is that this is a rivalry game at the Cowboys’ home.

Indianapolis Colts (1-0) at Miami Dolphins (0-1)

The Colts won quite unimpressively against Jacksonville. When Manning throws for more than 300 yards you should have more than 14 points. The Dolphins played a pretty impressive brand of run defense against the Falcons. The only problem is that the passing defense’s numbers are a mirage augmented by Ryan’s deep ball accuracy issues. I want to call for a Dolphins upset, but The Colts defense should be able to handle the wildcat and short field presented by Chad Pennington at quarterback. I also still believe Peyton Manning can make any receiver look good. The Vegas line has this at a mere 3 points in Indy’s favor. I expect this is because it is a Monday night game in Miami, but I feel like the Colts will put on an offensive show. Colts win big 35-10.

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The Best Super Bowls Come Down to the Final Minutes of the Fourth Quarter

It seems fitting that Super Bowl XLIII came down to the final minutes of the fourth quarter. The best games build tension until the final minutes when a few memorable drives define whole careers. This season’s 27-23 victory by the Pittsburgh Steelers over the Arizona Cardinals will go down in history as one of the best in history. It had two momentum changing drives in the final three minutes and a safety to boot.

Prior to those final minutes the game had a cold, uncomfortable lull. The first quarter was dominated by the Steelers, who held the ball for over 12 minutes for the quarter but only managed to score a field goal on its opening drive. In the second quarter the Steelers and the Cardinals showed some life.

Both teams ran one in from one yard out. Arizona’s score came after Pittsburgh built up a 10-0 lead. To close the half the Cardinals took an interception from a tipped ball to the one yard line. The Cards could have had the lead or have a tie going into halftime, but instead a bad read by Kurt Warner put the ball in James Harrison hands.

Harrison returned the pick 100 yards for a touchdown and seemingly single-handedly ended the Cardinals Cinderella postseason. Despite the two interceptions and the longest play in Super Bowl history, the overall failure by both teams to establish meaningful drives made me worry that this was going to end up being a huge dud.

The third quarter did not help. Arizona began to move the ball, but they abandoned their prolific offense for runs up the middle and dump offs to the running back. The quarter ended with a mere field goal by Jeff Reed to give Pittsburgh a 20-7 lead.

Then it happened. Everybody at Raymond James Stadium was waiting for it. Pittsburgh fans were dreading it and Cardinals fans were expecting it. Warner came out and led a passing attack that re-established itself by finding ways to get the ball to the best receiver in football, Larry Fitzgerald.

With 7:33 left, Warner capped off a 3:57 drive that found him hitting targets all over the field with a lob to Fitzgerald to the right side of the end zone. Fitzgerald jumped, reached over the defender, and pulled in his sixth postseason touchdown while falling to the ground. After a failed drive that ended with fourth and long the Cardinals were force to punt with time quickly winding down. The punt put the Steelers at their one yard line.

Arizona crowded the line and stuffed a run up the middle, nearly tackling the running back in the end zone. Then Roethlisberger threw a quick pass that was dropped by the receiver. The Roethlisberger seemed to end the Cardinals season by converting on third down with a long pass over the middle.

All was lost. Time was running out and the Cardinals were about to be forced to waste their precious timeouts just to give Warner some time to put together a drive. But, time was not lost. A holding call in the end zone nullified the completion and gave Arizona two points for a safety and the ball back.

With the ball and a four point deficit Warner took over at the Arizona 36. On the second play of the drive Fitzgerald ran into the end zone and the record books with a 64 yard touchdown sprint after catching a slant pass over the middle. The two safeties the Steelers had playing deep all game long to avoid the big plays left the middle to cover the receivers on the sidelines and the poor single safety defending Fitzgerald was left on an island with a wide out with size and speed.

The Cardinals had completed the greatest comeback in Super Bowl history with 16 unanswered points. They were two and a half minutes away from ending their franchises unprecedented suffering. Then Roethlisberger became Big Ben.

Big Ben went to the huddle on his own 22-yard line with two time outs, the two minute warning and 2:37 left to go. The first play seemed to spell doom with yet another holding penalty (there were 18 flags thrown for 162 yards total in the game). Big Ben kept the drive going with two passes to Santana Holmes for 27 yards. An 11-yard pass to Nate Washington, a four-yard run by Roethlisberger, and a 40-yard pass to Holmes landed the Steelers at the Cardinals six for first and goal.

Holmes could have won the game on the next play, but the ball sailed through his hands as he leaped after tight roping the back of the end zone. The same play to the other side of the end zone found Holmes triple covered, but a high arcing Roethlisberger pass landed in Holmes grasp and Santana was able to drag the tips of his toes along the grass to make an incredible catch in bounds that gave Pittsburgh the lead 27-23.

A desperate Arizona Cardinals drive with half a minute left ended with a fumble after Warner tried to by time in the pocket but had the ball knocked out of his hands by LaMarr Woodley, a fumble that defensive end Brett Keisel recovered.

The Super Bowl is the second heart stopping thrill ride in two seasons. The game had history. The game had an underdog. The game had huge defensive plays and amazing offensive highlights. The game had everything. The game in 2010 has a lot to live up to after two amazing endings that have served the NFL well.

Battle of the Big Play Maestros, Warner and Roethlisberger, This Super Bowl

Super Bowl!!! After this incredible season in which the chi of the year was changed with the injury of Tom Brady, the NFL season has come down to a game between the 14-4 Pittsburgh Steelers dominating defense and the 12-7 Arizona Cardinals tremendous passing attack. To end it all, I have a few predictions to make.

The Steelers defense is simply incredible. In a league that has more teams playing a “bend but not break” style, Pittsburgh brings a “break the leg so it cannot bend” D to Raymond James Stadium.

Looking at the Cards, they have shown they can play defense in their first two playoff wins against the Atlanta Falcons and the Carolina Panthers. However, the most telling game is probably the Eagles game. Arizona held the rushing and the short passing game and simply tried to keep the big plays by Donovan McNabb out of the end zone. The result was a 32-25 victory.

The Pittsburgh offense is based on a strong run game and support by Big Ben and his big throws. The team has averaged 29 points a game this postseason and averages over 300 passing yards a game as well as over 100 rushing yards.

The Cardinals offense has averaged 31.7 points a game in the playoffs with 362 passing yards and 111 rushing yards a game. The rushing yards are the surprise here. Edgerrin James and Tim Hightower have been able to shock the three opponents by coming out and establishing a run game before Kurt Warner tore apart the secondary.

I do not believe that the Cardinals will be able to get any kind of run game going against this 3-4 Steelers defense. James Harrison, James Farrior, and everybody else will probably make James remember that he is 30 and Hightower has been less than impressive this postseason. However, Troy Polamalu cannot guard three exception wide receivers and none of the linebackers can keep up with Larry Fitzgerald, Anquan Boldin, and Steve Breaston.

I think the Arizona Cardinals will manhandle Willie Parker and Antonio Smith will be able to put enough pressure on Roethlisberger to make the game interesting. In the end I am looking forward to game of big hits, more than enough sacks, and big plays as Roethlisberger and Warner duel like modern day gunslingers. The Steelers will win in the end. I pick Pittsburgh to win 34-28 over the Cardinals, and really wish I had Super Bowl tickets to watch what I think will be one of the more entertaining marquee games in the last few years.

The Curious Case of Eddy Curry

Eddy Curry began his career as a big boy for the Chicago Bulls with a lot of potential. Now he is a big man for the New York Knicks with the world around him falling apart. He has dropped out of the rotation, been accused of sexual harassment by his former male limo driver, and recently found out that his former girlfriend and mother of his three-year-old son has been murdered.

The latest tragedy, understandably, may the be the pinnacle event that sends Curry over the edge. Imagine that you have been struggling to perform at work, your boss has been riding you and is now leaving you out of key meetings, a lawsuit has been made public that shames you in front of your family and friends, and then you lose a person you once cared for and had a child with. I know I would lose it, Michael Douglas – “Falling Down” style.

It may help that he has a guaranteed contract worth nearly $10 million for the next two years, but, as a professional athlete, his ego is a very important part of his game and temperamental part of his life. Professional sport is littered with guys who have struggled on and off the field with personal demons and unthinkable tragedies. These athletes are never able to keep these things secret for very long and stadiums full of thousands of people look down on them, judging there every move.

One of the most extreme cases is former Chicago Bears defensive lineman Alonzo Spellman. Spellman came into the league in 1992 as a first round draft pick. He played well, but did not excel in his first five seasons. He had 30 sacks and was a presence against the run, but injuries limited his performance on the field and soon his personal issues became evident.

Spellman became increasingly erratic and his life became increasingly troublesome as he dealt with the inability to perform to his own standards on the field. He was diagnosed with bipolar disorder during his time with the Bears.

He refused to take medication and threatened suicide when a doctor was late to an appointment, after his career ended with stints with the Detroit Lions and Dallas Cowboys he again went off medication and forced a flight from Cincinnati to Philadelphia to make an emergency landing after becoming violent and insisting that the plane was crashing, and just last year he became involved in a car chase with police after an altercation at a convenience store in Tulsa.

Some players, like Pittsburgh Steelers great Terry Bradshaw, were able to hold it together on the field where he won four Super Bowls, but fell apart into a blend of tears, three marriages that ended with the wreckage of a plane crash, and drug abuse to avoid his anxiety attacks that eventually were diagnosed as clinical depression.

The lists of athletes with severe personal problems that were rooted in social anxiety (which many find hard to believe since they play in front tens of thousands each game) and deep depression goes on and on, much like people in the general population. Sometimes they are rooted long before the player takes the field as a professional athlete and sometimes they come as public pressure begin to shatter their psyche.

I am a Bulls fan and used to hiss, boo, and be generally outraged once Eddy Curry stepped on the court, but now I feel the utmost sympathy for him. I hope that he is able to get his life back in order and that he is strong enough to keep standing while dealing with a career in disrepair and a personal life compounding his frustrations with tragedy and crippling allegations (I can not say whether they are true or not, I was not there).

Perhaps he can use these realities as motivation to get into the weight room and attack the court and the boards with a renewed sense of purpose. Hopefully he can make the most of himself out of this tragedy. I do not want to read an obscure story in the news about a former NBA player robbing a gas station or holding a gun to his head.

The Battle of Greatness, Cards O or Steel D in the Super Bowl

Does great offense trump great defense? Anybody in Chicago who watched Michael Jordan terrorize the league’s best perimeter defenders every night would say so. Anyone who has watched Alex Rodriguez win intense battles at the plate for the New York Yankees against Cy Young winners would say so. Anybody who remembers the smooth skating of Wayne Gretzky would say so. So, in this upcoming Super Bowl will the explosive Cardinals offense be able to overcome the dominating Steelers defense?

The first question is how great is the Arizona Cardinals offense? Kurt Warner has been playing like his days with the Greatest Show on Turf at times and like a 37-year-old quarterback playing a young man’s game many others. Of late he has been much closer to great than old. This last weekend his numbers were very impressive. He completed 21 of 28 passes for 279 for four touchdowns and zero interceptions.

Beyond the numbers, looking at the third quarter, it looked like a different story and a possible preview of the big game on February 1st. He was frustrated, throwing the ball away or playing happy feet as the Eagles defenders bore down on him. Nobody was open and the Cardinals let an inspired Eagles offense get back into the game.

The Steelers will be bringing that kind of pressure all game long, along with the kind of coverage that will even leave his checkdowns closed down in the flats. The counter argument is that Anquan Boldin was in limited use because of his hamstring injury. He, whether yelling at offensive coordinator Todd Haley or not, is a powerful component in the Cards offense.

Boldin and Larry Fitzgerald are the kind of receivers that demand double coverage. Add in a slot receiver (Steve Breaston) that could start for any team in the NFL and any secondary coach’s head is swimming in a nightmare of matchups that will surely find some poor linebacker against a speedy receiver.

Still, without a running game that is consistently dominant, is the Arizona still one of the greatest shows on Earth? Tim Hightower and Edgerrin James have been hitting the holes when it counts, but have hardly demanded the attention of seven men in the box.

Now, the greatness of the Cardinals is in question. The tremendous, historic greatness of the Pittsburgh Steelers is not. The Steelers brutally ripped the Ravens into nevermore in the AFC Championship game. They picked Flacco off three times, they forced three fumbles and recovered one, and they sacked the rookie quarterback four times along with countless other pressures and knockdowns.

The Ravens offense is hardly the Cardinals, but the team has handled the San Diego Chargers high scoring attack as well the Giants and the Texans. The Steelers averaged allowing only 237.2 yards a game of total offense and only 13.9 points a game. The average team allowed 100 more yards a game and another touchdown. The pass rush is merciless and the secondary will cover you or jar the ball looses with a safety smash. This club is one win away from entering the running for the best defense ever to take the field.

The one place the D is not top notch is in takeaways. While many clubs ball hawk and use a bend but not break approach, the Steelers simply stop the line of scrimmage moving anywhere but backwards. This tendency might actually give the Cardinals a chance if they turn this into a high scoring affair. That said, I am a fan of both teams. It is the Arena League with top notch talent versus gruesome gridiron football.

Perhaps the real question is in the less celebrated parts of each team, the inconsistent offense in Pittsburgh or the questionable defense in Arizona. I just want to believe that this will come down to the strengths and that this will be a remarkable math up of two wills, the will of the terrorizing Steelers defense and the will of the uncontainable Cardinals offense.

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NFL Playoffs Are Looking to Clip A Few Wings

Now that the only high seeded team left is the Pittsburgh Steelers I think it is official that all bets are off. Say what you will about the Steelers defense, the offense has been inconsistent and the playoffs, especially the conference championship, is no time to test your defenses ability to carry a game.

The AFC Championship pits the Pittsburgh Steelers against the Baltimore Ravens. The game is in Pittsburgh at Heinz Field which gives Mike Tomlin and the Steelers the advantage, but they are playing a bitter division rival which pretty much means anything can happen. From a pure numbers standpoint, Pittsburgh beat the Ravens twice during the regular season. For that very reason alone, I think the Ravens will be on their way to an all bird Super Bowl.

I say there is no way that one playoff team beats another playoff team three times in the course of a season. I do not care about the defensive numbers (which are pretty much the same) or the offensive stats. This is an attitude call and Baltimore is too good to let themselves lose three times to the same team that they know as well as themselves. If Pittsburgh is able to win, then they are without question going to win the Super Bowl.

The NFC Championship game has the Philadelphia Eagles at University of Phoenix Stadium to play the Arizona Cardinals. I think the biggest question, apart from the obvious (can a Cardinal beat an Eagle?) is injuries. Anquan Boldin is a huge part of the Cardinals offense and Brian Westbrook is an even bigger part of the Eagles game plan. Both are playing through injuries, so the question is who will be able play closer to 100 percent.

At this point, the Cardinals defense has really stepped it up and is playing on par with the three remaining playoff teams (Pittsburgh, Baltimore, and Philadelphia all have top five defenses, scary), so there relative paltry numbers from the season are no longer relevant. I guess I see this as a race to 100. The first player to 100 yards, Westbrook on the ground and Boldin through the air, wins.

Personally, I want to see the Cardinals win. It would be great to see this terrible franchise finally return to a championship six decades later. Also, if McNabb plays poorly, then the Bears might be able to work out a trade and get a real quarterback on the roster. Alas, well see if my picks are bad as last week and how off I can be when attempting to decipher the Super Bowl.

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Home Field Disadvantage, the NFL Divisional Playoffs

The experts are dumbfounded and I am looking back at most post Friday and wondering how I could have been so blind. Surely, everybody in the Carolinas and Tennessee assumed they were going to have another week to find NFL Playoff tickets. Three of the four favored teams lost this weekend. The Ravens started out by surprising the Titans 13-10, then Cardinals embarrassed the Panthers 33-13, and the upsets were capped off by the Eagles delivering the emotional defeat of the New York Giants 23-11. Only the Pittsburgh Steelers were able to take advantage of home field advantage in a 35-24 win over the San Diego Chargers that was much more one-sided than the score reveals.

How did the Baltimore Ravens beat the Tennessee Titans? The Titans had 391 yards of total offense while the Ravens only had 211. The Titans had the ball for 34:07 minutes while the Ravens only had 25:53 to work with. The answer is turnovers, three turnovers inside the 20. That is 21 potential points erased by two fumbles and an interception.

On October 5, the Titans won in a reversal of the score. This time the Titans could not overcome the unflinching Joe Flacco, whose greatest contributions were three huge passes, including a perfect 48-yard touchdown pass to Derrick Mason and two long throws that set up Matt Stover for two field goals. Stover’s last field goal broke the 10-10 tie with 53 seconds left and won the game.

The Titans moved the ball easily up to the 20, when a rash of great hits and terrific pressure ended promising scoring drives. Justin Gage had 10 catches for 135 yards to make up for a running game that went without Chris Johnson after he left in the second quarter with an injury to his right ankle. Also, Tennessee managed to aid Baltimore by committing 12 penalties.

The Arizona Cardinals were the last team expected to make it to the NFC Championship two weeks ago. The Panthers were the last remaining unbeaten home team in the playoffs, they had the quarterback with the best rating coming into the game, Cards were 0-5 in the Eastern Time zone, and ‘Zona was missing one of its key receivers thanks to a hamstring injury. But, despite all evidence to the contrary, the Cardinals completely and utterly dismantled the Panthers.

Arizona and Jake Delhoume forced the Panthers to abandon a strong running game to try and keep up with its explosive offense. Delhoume’s 34th birthday began in pleasant fashion with an opening touchdown drive to give the Panthers the games first touchdown. Then Cardinals again shocked many by establishing a run game. They also had a surprisingly soft coverage on Larry Fitzgerald that gave Kurt Warner no other choice but to throw him the ball. Fitzgerald had 153 yards in the first half.

Meanwhile, Delhoume had an awful day with six turnovers, with five interceptions and a fumble. In the end it was a combination of a solid offense by Arizona and a mistake prone quarterback behind the Carolina center that made this a nightmare for the Panthers. Now Arizona gets to play another day and because of this next game, they get Cardinals tickets to host the NFC Championship.

The Philadelphia Eagles were the one team that as overwhelmingly favored by the fans despite being underdogs. Now they get to have an all bird showdown. The game looked close for about three quarters before all the factors finally became too much for last year’s Super Bowl champs to win. Eli Manning was terrible under pressure, no Giants’ receiver could replace Plaxico, the wind had a personal vendetta against kicker John Carney, and the complete lack of pressure against McNabb following a safety in the second quarter and the Giants looked feeble.

McNabb looked like a Pro Bowl quarterback, hitting third and longs all day, making the pressure pass, and just managing the game better than his counterpart. Yes, the Eagles managed to win again despite never getting the running game going. Philadelphia might be in for a second riot and McNabb might be in for another shot at a Super Bowl ring.

The last game of the Divisional Playoffs went as planned. The Pittsburgh Steelers won 35-24, but really had the game with 12:52 left and a 28-10 lead. Sure the game was close in the first half but the Steelers and Roethlisbeger ended the game by holding the Chargers to, I believe, zero yards of offense.

Roethlisberger has been criticized for his difficulty to adjust that demands more accuracy and fewer big throws. Well, Willie Parker ran for 181 yards on 27 carries and let Roethlisberger play comfortably in his old role of making big plays. He threw countless passes for big third down conversions, punted, and hit Heath Miller for a touchdown.

The Chargers defense held Darren Sproles to 15 yards rushing, though he did have 5 catches for 91 yards and a touchdown. The Steelers offense ate up enough time (36:30) to keep Philip Rivers off the field. Rivers had 308 yards and three touchdowns. Though he threw one pick, he surely would have had a few more touchdowns if Pittsburgh was not able to relentlessly run the ball 42 out of 69 total offensive plays.

Now Steelers tickets to Heniz Field will host the bitter division rivals, the Baltimore Ravens, for the AFC Championship game.

This is why the NFL Playoffs are better than the BCS

Yes, the Florida Gators won their second BCS championship with a 24-14 victory over the Oklahoma Sooners. The season’s end was of course embroiled in the controversy, for the sixth time in 10 years (I thought the new system was supposed to clear up the confusion not further institutionalize it). There are loud voices of outrage…again.

This time the argument is that the Utah Utes have been robbed of the college championship for the second time (the first time was in 2004). Luckily my preference for the professional game really pays off this time of the year. It is not a bowl committee deciding which single game decides the “best” team, but NFL Playoff tickets that will give a definitive answer.

As a sports fan I love to argue about scenarios, teams, and players, but ultimately I like to have some closure. This weekend four teams will get some closure and four more will get to dream for another week.

The Divisional Playoffs begins with the Baltimore Ravens and the Tennessee Titans. I watched as the Ravens defense pummeled Chad Pennington last week, but this week I expect the Titans to assert the dominance that gave them a 13-3 season and a first round bye.

Kerry Collins may not be the most explosive quarterback in the league, but the running backs are relentless and have proven themselves against teams with a similarly stingy run defense like the Ravens. Also, Flacco did not look great against a soft pass defense last week. Imagine the hurt the rookie quarterback is going to be feeling at LP Field on Saturday against the even tougher Titans defense.

The NFC game on Saturday brings the Arizona Cardinals to Bank of America Stadium to play the Carolina Panthers. The Cardinals surprised me be beating the Falcons last week, but I cannot see them beating the Panthers. This will not be a blowout though.

Carolina has one of those defenses that bends, but does not break. Well, Kurt Warner and his company of receivers (Larry Fitzgerald, Steve Breaston, and an injured Anquan Boldin) will be able to break that D. However, the Arizona does not actually play defense. Last week was a tease as far as I am concerned and the high scoring offense (seventh in the league at 25.9 points a game) should be able to run all over the front seven at home.

Sunday, after my hangover, I get to watch the Philadelphia Eagles come into Giants Stadium and get stomped by the New York Football Giants. I do not care how much love the city has for Donovan McNabb and Brian Westbrook. The pass rush from Justin Tuck and Mathias Kiwanuka is not going to let the veteran quarterback sidestep sacks as easily as the Vikings did.

Also, Westbrook is playing without any practice. If the Eagles had any solid receiving options outside of Westbrook (yes I am aware that they have the sixth best passing average in the NFL) then I would give them a chance. The Giants have simply proven themselves too good when they have Brandon Jacobs in the lineup. The team is 11-2 with him as the feature back and with Derrick Ward and Ahmed Bradshaw healthy this team is simply scary, scarier than the Eagles rush defense.

The final playoff team for next week will be decided by the late game at Heinz Field between the San Diego Chargers and the Pittsburgh Steelers. The Steelers have been winning despite injuries incapacitating their offense. They play at home and Ben Roethlisberger is expected to play despite the concussion back in Week 17 of the season. He still has yet to have a good game since Week 12 versus the Cincinnati Bengals.

The Chargers may only be 9-8, but they are in the midst of a five game winning streak. They have had emotional wins in Week 17 against the Denver Broncos to get into the postseason and against the heavily favored Indianapolis Colts last week. The defense has come alive and the offense is dangerous with the way Philip Rivers.

Still LT is doubtful thanks to a torn tendon, meaning that Darren Sproles will have to have another career-best game to keep the good times rolling. I think that the Chargers simply have too much to overcome (weather, injuries, and the Pittsburgh Steelers historic defense) for them to win.

I was 2-2 last week, so I am far from an expert, but I am pretty confident that I am right here. I still plan to watch each of these games because I really cannot find a bad game in the schedule.

NFL Sells Tickets to Playoff Games Two Weeks Early

There are only two games that need to be talked about after this last week. They are not the useless contests between the Bengals and the Browns or the 49ers and the Rams. No, they are the match ups between the league leaders.

I do not know how the NFL did it, but they managed to get the number one and two teams in both divisions to play each other. Whoever set this up deserves a huge Christmas, err…, Holiday bonus.

First the Tennessee Titans destroyed the Pittsburgh Steelers. I think the Titans did more than simply win the game though. Tennessee demolished any confidence Ben Roethlisberger had been building up. Big Ben had four big turnovers as he opened the game with two big fumbles, then managed to get the Steelers the lead, and then threw two picks, one which was returned for a touchdown.

Kerry Collins, Chris Johnson, and LenDale White had to do little more than simply not turn the ball over. Right now fans with Titans season tickets are looking forward to buying playoff tickets to watch their team march toward the Super Bowl.

Steelers fans have to be wondering if maybe Byron Leftwich would not be a better choice to lead the offense. Roethlisberger’s touchdown passes to Hines Ward and Santonio Holmes were impressive, but the man has not figured out that his offensive line is not nearly what it used to be. I’d say that every turnover was his fault. He lost the game and I have to question his ability to lead a team to the big game.

The second big game was between the New York Giants and the Carolina Panthers. This game was much closer and even went to overtime, but in the end it was a two-yard run by Brandon Jacobs that won the game 34-28.

It was a match up of two teams that featured run dominated offenses that utilized multiple backs. It showed too. The Giants Derrick Ward ran for 215 yards while Brandon Jacobs ended up in the end zone three times. The Panthers DeAngelo Williams scored four touchdowns and ran for 108 yards.

This game was an old school coach’s wet dream. Big runs, plenty of gut checking plays, and the number one seed throughout the NFC playoffs up for grabs. The Giants came in and proved that they were the better team, and more importantly, that Plaxico Burress would not be a distraction on the way to the Super Bowl.

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