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NFL morning after: Seahawks ready to repeat

russellwilson AP

Seventeen weeks of the NFL season have come and gone, and we’re left with this: The best team at the end of this season is the same as the best team at the end of last season.

The Seattle Seahawks are poised to become the NFL’s first repeat Super Bowl champions since the Patriots a decade ago. The Seahawks are getting the same great play out of their defense they were a year ago and the same great play from quarterback Russell Wilson and running back Marshawn Lynch, and with home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs, they’re going to be a very, very tough team to beat.

This season hasn’t always gone according to plan in Seattle. Through six games they were 3-3, and at times early in the year their defense looked like it had taken a step backward. It was reasonable to question during the middle of the season if Seattle was as good as it was a year ago. It was even reasonable to question whether Seattle would make the playoffs at all.

But that’s all over now. With Sunday’s 20-6 win over the Rams, the Seahawks finished the season on a six-game winning streak, with all six wins by double digits. The Seahawks aren’t just beating teams, they’re beating teams up. They’re winning the way great teams win.

And I think they’ve got three more wins left in them. On February 1, the Seahawks will hoist the Vince Lombardi Trophy. Again.

Here are my other thoughts from Sunday’s game:

Break up the Panthers! I never thought I’d say this about the NFC South champions, but the Panthers might actually be a pretty good team. Yes, they’re lucky that they’re in a bad division, and that’s the only reason they’re in the playoffs at 7-8-1. But they’ve won four in a row to enter the playoffs, including a pair of 31-point road wins at New Orleans and at Atlanta to seal the division title. The Panthers, who host the Cardinals in the first round of the playoffs, might just advance.

Lions coach Jim Caldwell is terrible at challenges. When Caldwell was the head coach of the Colts, Indianapolis hired former Ohio State head coach Jim Tressel solely to serve as an advisor on instant replay challenges. The Colts’ brass knew Caldwell wasn’t good at it and wanted to get him some help. Maybe the Lions should do the same, after Caldwell made an absolutely ridiculous decision to challenge an obviously correct call on which Packers running back Eddie Lacy had the ball knocked out of his arms while he was on the ground and was correctly ruled down by contact. Throwing away a timeout in the second half of a close game is inexcusable, but that’s what Caldwell did. Caldwell is good at the slower, more deliberative aspects of coaching — game planning, getting his players prepared during the week, that kind of thing. But Caldwell just isn’t good at split-second decisions, and that’s easy to see when he throws his challenge flag.

Where did that Geno Smith come from? Smith, in what may very well have been his last game as the Jets’ starting quarterback, went 20-for-25 for 358 yards, with three touchdowns, no interceptions and a perfect passer rating of 158.3. Smith was the only quarterback in the NFL all season to have a game with a perfect passer rating. But here’s the amazing thing about Smith: He was also the only quarterback in the NFL all season to have a game with a 0.0 passer rating. Smith is so inconsistent that there’s just no way the Jets can count on him going forward. Even though he had a great game on Sunday.

J.J. Watt’s great season overshadowed Justin Houston’s great season. Watt was such a force of nature for the Texans that not only will he win the Defensive Player of the Year award, but he’s a candidate for the Most Valuable Player award as well. But while we praise Watt, we shouldn’t overlook Houston, who had four sacks on Sunday for the Chiefs and finished the season with 22.0 sacks, just half a sack shy of Michael Strahan’s single-season record. Watt is the first player to record 20 sacks in two different seasons since sacks became an official statistic in 1982, and Watt is the NFL’s best defensive player. But don’t forget Houston when listing the best defensive players in football.

Odell Beckham is the best receiver in the NFL. Beckham, the Giants’ sensational playmaker, isn’t just the best rookie in the NFL. He’s the best receiver, period. Beckham had 12 catches for 185 yards and a touchdown on Sunday, and he finished the year with 91 catches for 1,305 yards and 12 touchdowns despite missing the first four games of the year with a hamstring injury. Beckham averaged 108.8 yards a game this season, the best of any receiver in the NFL. There is no receiver in football who made plays as consistently as Beckham did over the last three-fourths of the season, and he was doing it in an otherwise substandard Giants Offense. Beckham is amazing.

DeMarco Murray breaks an Emmitt Smith record. Murray finished this season with 1,845 rushing yards, the most in Cowboys history. When you’re breaking a record set by Smith, that’s pretty good. Murray will have a tough task in the Cowboys’ playoff opener against a good Lions rush defense. But that Lions rush defense will have an even tougher task dealing with Murray.

Russell Wilson is running like no other quarterback. Wilson finished this season with 849 rushing yards, the fifth best total for a quarterback in NFL history, and by far the best total of any quarterback in the NFL this season. Wilson is running better than any other quarterback in the league right now. He looks ready to run Seattle into the Super Bowl.

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Week 17 early inactives

New England Patriots v Green Bay Packers Getty Images

Every week we’ll bring you all the inactives from the early games in one post, constantly updated with the latest information. So check back often to see the full list as it becomes available.

Browns at Ravens

Browns: QB Brian Hoyer, DB Justin Gilbert, LS Charley Hughlett, OL Ryan Seymour, DL Ahtyba Rubin, OL Andrew McDonald, WR Phil Bates

Ravens: T Eugene Monroe, DE Chris Canty, S Brynden Trawick, CB Chris Greenwood, DE Steven Means, NT Terrance Cody, TE Phillip Supernaw

Jaguars at Texans

Jaguars: DT Roy Miller, QB Stephen Morris, WR Rod Streeter, CB Jeremy Harris, S Matt Daniels, G Tyler Shatley, DE Chris Smith

Texans: TE Garrett Graham, LB Mike Mohamed, WR DeVier Posey, QB Tom Savage, S Josh Aubrey, OT Xavier Su’a-Filo, LB Jason Ankrah

Chargers at Chiefs

Chargers: WR Keenan Allen, C Chris Watt, RB Ryan Mathews, CB Greg Ducre, DL Damion Square, DL Ryan Carrethers, LB Cordarro Law

Chiefs: QB Alex Smith, WR Donnie Avery, CB Phillip Gaines, CB Marucs Cooper, C Eric Kush, OL Duvernay-Tardif, DL Nick Williams

Jets at Dolphins

Jets: C Nick Mangold, WR Percy Harvin, DL T.J. Barnes, DB Jaiquawn Jarrett, OL Wesley Johnson, QB Matt Simms, WR Walter Powell

Dolphins: WR Rishard Matthews, RB LaMichael James, CB Walt Aikens, DT Deandre Coleman, T Dallas Thomas, C Sam Brenner, WR Matt Hazel

Bears at Vikings

Bears: QB Jimmy Clausen, K Robbie Gould, CB Al Louis-Jean, S Chris Conte, OT Charles Leno, DE Austen Lane, DT Brandon Dunn

Vikings: S Ahmad Dixon, CB Shaun Prater, RB Henry Josey, LB Chad Greenway, LB Brandon Watts, T Carter Bykowski, G David Yankey

Bills at Patriots

Bills: DT Marcell Dareus, CB Stephon Gilmore, TE Chris Gragg, RB Bryce Brown, LB Randell Johnson, T Cyrus Kouandjio, WR Marquise Goodson

Patriots: TE Rob Gronkowski, WR Julian Edelman, RB Jonas Gray, T Sebastian Vollmer, G Dan Connolly, CB Brandon Browner, LB Donta’ Hightower

Eagles at Giants

Eagles: QB Nick Foles, S Jerome Couplin, CB Bradley Fletcher, OL Julian Vandervelde, OL Dennis Kelly, WR Jeff Maehl, DE Taylor Hart

Giants: CB Jayron Hosley, LB Devon Kennard, G Eric Herman, OL Adam Gettis, TE Jerome Cunningham, DT Dominique Hamilton, WR Corey Washington

Saints at Buccaneers

Saints: WR Seantavius Jones, WR Brandon Coleman, S Kenny Vaccaro, CB Stanley Jean Baptiste, LB Moise Fokou, LB Jerry Franklin, T Terron Armstead

Buccaneers: WR Robert Herron, WR Solomon Patton, RB Mike James, CB Isaiah Frey, DT George Uko, LB Mason Foster, T Anthony Collins

Colts at Titans

Colts: CB Sheldon Price, LB Jerrell Freeman, OL Joe Reitz, OL Gosder Cherilus, TE Dwayne Allen, LB Bjoern Werner, DL Zach Kerr

Titans: QB Zach Mettenberger, T Taylor Lewan, DL Ropati Pitoitua, LB Dontay Moch, DB Jemea Thomas, T Terren Jones, WR Rico Richardson

Cowboys at Redskins

Cowboys: QB Dustin Vaughan, S Jakar Hamilton, LB Rolando McClain, LB Dekoda Watson, T Doug Free, T Donald Hawkins, DT Josh Brent.

Redskins: RB Chris Thompson, G Josh LeRibeus, OL Rishaw Johnson, DL Travian Robinson, WR Leonard Hankerson, LB Steve Beauharnais

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Week 17 injury report roundup

Alex Smith, Cameron Heyward, Jason Worilds AP

Over the course of the week, there are a lot of posts about the most prominent injured players but we know that you might not see all of them and that some others may fall through the cracks. As a result, we’ll comb through all the injury reports every Friday afternoon so that there’s one stop for all the news from every team playing on Saturday and Sunday. So, without further delay, the injury report roundup for Week 17 of the 2014 season.

Browns at Ravens

Connor Shaw starts at quarterback for the Browns with Brian Hoyer (shoulder/bicep) doubtful to play. Cornerback Joe Haden (shoulder) and defensive tackle Desmond Bryant (thumb) are questionable and defensive tackle Ahtyba Rubin (ankle) won’t play. The Ravens probably won’t have left tackle Eugene Monroe (ankle, questionable). Defensive end Chris Canty (ankle/thigh) and linebacker Terrell Suggs (back/thigh) are both questionable.

Jaguars at Texans

It looks like Jaguars defensive tackle Roy Miller (knee) will miss the season finale after being listed as doubtful. Tight end Garrett Graham (ankle), linebacker Mike Mohamed (concussion), wide receiver DeVier Posey (calf) and quarterback Tom Savage (knee) are all out for the Texans.

Chargers at Chiefs

The Chargers are in the playoffs with a win, but they’ll have to do it without running back Ryan Mathews (ankle, out). Wide receiver Keenan Allen (collarbone) is also likely to miss the game after being listed as doubtful. Center Chris Watt (ankle) is questionable. The Chiefs have their own small chance at a playoff bid, although it won’t be easy to get there without quarterback Alex Smith (lacerated spleen). Running back Jamaal Charles (hamstring/ankle) and wide receiver Dwayne Bowe (shoulder) are both questionable, but expected to be in the lineup.

Jets at Dolphins

An illness has made its way through the Jets this week and left defensive tackle Damon Harrison, safety Dawan Landry and defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson, who also has a toe injury, questionable to play on Sunday. Center Nick Mangold (ankle) and wide receiver Percy Harvin (ribs, ankle) are also questionable. Defensive end Derrick Shelby (ankle), linebacker Jelani Jenkins (foot) and tackle Dallas Thomas (foot) are questionable for the Dolphins.

Bears at Vikings

Quarterback Jimmy Clausen (concussion) is out, which means Jay Cutler is back in charge of the Bears Offense. Safety Chris Conte (back) and kicker Robbie Gould (quad) are also out while defensive end Jared Allen (ribs) and defensive tackle Jeremiah Ratliff (knee) are questionable. Vikings linebackers Anthony Barr (knee) and Brandon Watts (hamstring) are out and Chad Greenway (knee) is questionable after missing practice all week. Tight end Kyle Rudolph (ankle) is also questionable.

Bills at Patriots

The Bills have been stout on defense all year, but they don’t expect to have defensive tackle Marcell Dareus (knee) or cornerback Stephon Gilmore (concussion) after listing them as doubtful. Running back Jonas Gray (ankle) and cornerback Alfonzo Dennard (hamstring) are out for New England and right tackle Sebastian Vollmer (back) is questionable.

Eagles at Giants

Cornerback Bradley Fletcher (hip) was in danger of losing playing time even before the Eagles listed him as questionable. Giants linebacker Devon Kennard (toe) will miss the final game of a rookie year that saw him come on late and rookie running back Andre Williams (shoulder) is questionable.

Saints at Buccaneers

Saints left tackle Terron Armstead (neck) remains out of the lineup and defensive tackle John Jenkins (abdomen) is questionable. Buccaneers LB Mason Foster (Achilles) is doubtful and safety Dashon Goldson (shoulder) is questionable.

Colts at Titans

The Colts ruled out tight end Dwayne Allen (knee), right tackle Gosder Cherilus (groin) and linebacker Bjoern Werner (hamstring). Wide receiver T.Y. Hilton (hamstring) and linebacker Jerrell Freeman (hamstring) were both listed as questionable and guard Hugh Thornton (knee) is probable to make his return to the lineup. Quarterback Zach Mettenberger (shoulder), left tackle Taylor Lewan (ankle), defensive tackle Sammie Hill (foot) and linebacker Kamerion Wimbley (hamstring) are all questionable for the home side.

Cowboys at Redskins

Running back DeMarco Murray (hand, illness) is probable to play in a game that could see him set the single-season Cowboys rushing record. Right tackle Doug Free (ankle) is doubtful and linebacker Dekoda Watson (hamstring) is out. Redskins defensive end Jason Hatcher (knee) is doubtful for the matchup with his old team. Left tackle Trent Williams (shoulder), defensive end Stephen Bowen (ankle/illness) and linebacker Keenan Robinson (knee) are listed as questionable.

Panthers at Falcons

The Panthers have just two injuries heading into the NFC South title game. Linebacker A.J. Klein (ankle) is questionable and running back DeAngelo Williams (hand) is probable. Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones (oblique) and running back Steven Jackson (thigh) are questionable, but Jackson looks unlikely to play. Cornerbacks Robert McClain (illness) and Josh Wilson (hamstring) are also questionable for Atlanta.

Raiders at Broncos

The Raiders listed rookie linebacker Khalil Mack (hamstring), tackle Menelik Watson (foot, ankle) and cornerback T.J. Carrie (ankle) as questionable. Cornerback Chimdi Chekwa (hamstring) and wide receiver Denarius Moore (knee, ankle) are out. Linebacker Brandon Marshall (knee) is out for Denver while safety T.J. Ward (neck) and wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders (hip) are questionable. Quarterback Peyton Manning (thigh) is probable.

Lions at Packers

Running back Joique Bell (Achilles) and wide receiver Calving Johnson (ankle) are probable for the Lions. Everyone else is available for the Lions except for defensive tackle Nick Fairley (knee). Quarterback Aaron Rodgers (calf) is good to go for the Packers, who have again ruled out cornerback Davon House (shoulder).

Rams at Seahawks

Cornerback E.J. Gaines (concussion) is doubtful for the Rams, who are in good health otherwise. The Seahawks ruled out wide receiver Jermaine Kearse (hamstring), but left tackle Russell Okung (chest) is expected to play after being listed as probable. Tight end Cooper Helfet (ribs), wide receiver Chris Matthews (hamstring), cornerback Tharold Simon (shoulder) and center Max Unger (knee, ankle) are questionable.

Cardinals at 49ers

Quarterback Drew Stanton (knee) won’t play for Arizona, leaving Ryan Lindley to start for the second straight week. Linebacker Larry Foote (knee) is doubtful and safety Deone Bucannon (knee), tight end John Carlson (calf), guard Jonathan Cooper (wrist) and defensive tackle Dan Williams are questionable. Running back Carlos Hyde (ankle), wide receiver Stevie Johnson (knee) and safety Eric Reid (concussion) have been ruled out for the 49ers. Cornerback Tramaine Brock (hamstring), linebacker Ahmad Brooks (thumb), cornerback Perrish Cox (shoulder) and wide receiver Bruce Ellington (hamstring) have been listed as questionable.

Bengals at Steelers

The Bengals listed wide receiver A.J. Green (biceps) as probable for the AFC North title decider. Cornerback Adam Jones (illness), linebacker Emmanuel Lamur (hamstring), cornerback Chris Lewis-Harris (illness), safety Reggie Nelson (illness), cornerback Terence Newman (illness) and wide receiver James Wright (knee) will all be weekend calls after drawing questionable tags. The Steelers hope to get safety Troy Polamalu (knee) and cornerback Ike Taylor (shoulder, forearm) back in the secondary after listing them as questionable.

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PFT’s Week 17 picks

Rivers Getty Images

It’s the final week of the PFT regular-season picks showdown, and the mystery is over.  With a four-game lead over MDS, we disagree on only one game, which means I’ll win by five games or by three games.

Last week, neither of us felt much like winners.  I went 8-8, and MDS got nine of 16 right.

For the season, I’m at 158-82 (65.8%).  MDS is 154-86 (64.1%).

Panthers at Falcons

MDS’s take: It all comes down to this for the championship of the worst division in NFL history. I like Matt Ryan to have a big game throwing to Roddy White and Julio Jones and the Falcons to win it, earning the right to host a playoff game next week.

MDS’s pick: Falcons 31, Panthers 24.

Florio’s take:  The last playoff spot is up for grabs in the NFC, and with the Cardinals suddenly unable to score points, maybe the sub-.500 division winner will hold serve in the wild-card round.  Before getting obliterated in Seattle.  Give the edge to the home team coached by the guy who could get fired if he loses.

Florio’s pick:  Falcons 30, Panthers 23.

Browns at Ravens

MDS’s take: The Ravens gagged away a golden opportunity against Texans fourth-string quarterback Case Keenum on Sunday. Now the Ravens may get to face Browns third-string quarterback Connor Shaw this week. Will the Ravens choke again? I don’t think so. Baltimore will come out looking much better this week.

MDS’s pick: Ravens 20, Browns 10.

Florio’s take:  With Johnny Manziel out and Brian Hoyer likely to miss the game and the Ravens still alive, this should be a romp for the Ravens.

Florio’s pick:  Ravens 24, Browns 13.

Cowboys at Washington

MDS’s take: The Cowboys seem to be peaking at the right time. Tony Romo should put up huge numbers against a suspect Washington defense, and Dallas will roll into the playoffs.

MDS’s pick: Cowboys 30, Washington 13.

Florio’s take:  Washington would love to finish the season on a high note with a sweep of the Cowboys.  The Cowboys don’t really have much to play for, with improved playoff positioning unlikely.  Which could give the underdog the edge in this kinda-sorta bowl game for Jay Gruden and company.  But then I remembered that the Cowboys obliterated the Colts last weekend.

Florio’s pick:  Cowboys 30, Washington 20.

Colts at Titans

MDS’s take: The Colts are reeling, but playing the Titans is just what the doctor ordered. Indianapolis will finish the regular season with an easy win.

MDS’s pick: Colts 27, Titans 9.

Florio’s take:  The Colts need to restore some confidence after getting blown out in Dallas last Sunday.  The Titans currently have none.  It’s a good match.

Florio’s pick:  Colts 34, Titans 20.

Jaguars at Texans

MDS’s take: The Texans may not get all the help they need to reach the playoffs, but you have to admire how hard they’re playing down the stretch. They’ll make short work of Jacksonville.

MDS’s pick: Texans 20, Jaguars 3.

Florio’s take:  The Texans have a chance, albeit slim, to get to the postseason.  To have a chance at having a chance, they need to take care of business against the Jaguars.  Since it’s the Jaguars, that’s the easy part.

Florio’s pick:  Texans 30, Jaguars 14.

Chargers at Chiefs

MDS’s take: Both teams are still fighting for a wild-card berth, which makes this one of Sunday’s better games. I like how the Chargers gutted out a tough win in San Francisco last week, and I think they’ll do it again in Kansas City.

MDS’s pick: Chargers 28, Chiefs 20.

Florio’s take:  It will be difficult for the Chiefs to make it to the playoffs.  It will be much easier to knock out the Chargers.  At Kansas City, that’s precisely what will happen, especially if a guy like Justin Houston can bang around an already-battered Philip Rivers.

Florio’s pick:  Chiefs 27, Chargers 23.

Jets at Dolphins

MDS’s take: Joe Philbin got his vote of confidence last week. Rex Ryan will get his pink slip after this game. Ryan will go out with a loss and bring his tenure as the Jets’ head coach to a close.

MDS’s pick: Dolphins 21, Jets 14.

Florio’s take:  Last year, a Week 17 win at Miami may have saved Rex Ryan’s job.  This year, it won’t matter.  And it won’t happen.

Florio’s pick:  Dolphins 31, Jets 13.

Bears at Vikings

MDS’s take: Neither team has anything to play for, but the Vikings look to me like they’re playing a lot harder than the Bears are right now. Mike Zimmer’s players will give him a win to end his season, while Marc Trestman may be coaching his players for the last time, in defeat.

MDS’s pick: Vikings 21, Bears 17.

Florio’s take:  The Vikings undoubtedly wish Jimmy Clausen were playing.  Even with Jay Cutler back, however, the Vikings should be able to close out a better-than-expected season with a home win.

Florio’s pick:  Vikings 23, Bears 17.

Bills at Patriots

MDS’s take: The Bills’ excellent defense will keep this one close, but the Patriots will prevail and head to the playoffs on a high note.

MDS’s pick: Patriots 17, Bills 13.

Florio’s take:  It’s a meaningless game.  But a win could have a meaningful impact on coach Doug Marrone’s potentially tenuous future in Buffalo.  Unfortunately for Marrone and the Bills, the Patriots aren’t treating it like a meaningless game.

Florio’s pick:  Patriots 27, Bills 10.

Eagles at Giants

MDS’s take: The Giants are on a bit of a roll late in the season, and the Eagles are going in the wrong direction. I like Odell Beckham to torch Philly’s secondary and end his sensational rookie season in style.

MDS’s pick: Giants 27, Eagles 20.

Florio’s take:  The Giants have improved in recent weeks, and it’s their last chance to save Tom Coughlin’s job.  The Eagles with a loss will have a shorter distance to go to get in position to draft Marcus Mariota.  But since no one ever tanks games to improve draft position, that’s irrelevant and entirely coincidental.

Florio’s pick:  Giants 24, Eagles 14.

Saints at Buccaneers

MDS’s take: The Saints have nothing to play for. The Buccaneers have the first overall pick in the draft to play for. They’ll get it.

MDS’s pick: Saints 24, Buccaneers 20.

Florio’s take:  The Saints haven’t looked much like a team that could beat anyone lately, but they’ve won three in a row on the road and they’re hoping to finish on a positive note.  The Bucs are one loss away from the first pick in the draft.  But since no one ever tanks games to improve draft position, that’s irrelevant and entirely coincidental.

Florio’s pick:  Saints 23, Buccaneers 17.

Lions at Packers

MDS’s take: The Lions beat the Packers handily when they met at Ford Field this season, but things will be different at Lambeau, and Green Bay will win the NFC North.

MDS’s pick: Packers 24, Lions 14.

Florio’s take:  The calf injury to quarterback Aaron Rodgers creates some concern, but the Lions haven’t won at Lambeau Field since 1991 for a reason.  Sure, someday the Lions will end the streak.  But not this year.

Florio’s pick:  Packers 28, Lions 20.

Raiders at Broncos

MDS’s take: The Raiders have played some competitive football late this season, and they’ll give Denver a tough time on Sunday. But the Broncos will come out on top at the end of four hard-fought quarters.

MDS’s pick: Broncos 24, Raiders 17.

Florio’s take:  A bye week remains only one win away, even after Monday night’s debacle in Cincinnati.  The Broncos desperately need a bye week.  They’ll get one.

Florio’s pick:  Broncos 31, Raiders 16.

Cardinals at 49ers

MDS’s take: If the Cardinals had Carson Palmer I’d definitely pick them to win. If they had Drew Stanton I’d probably pick them to win. But when you’re down to Logan Thomas and Ryan Lindley, you don’t have a quarterback anymore. The 49ers will win, and the Cardinals will limp into the playoffs.

MDS’s pick: 49ers 20, Cardinals 6.

Florio’s take:  An era inevitably is ending in San Francisco.  Coach Jim Harbaugh won’t allow it to happen on a negative note.  It helps that Logan Thomas is playing quarterback for the opposition.  And that the opposition has been demoralized — and pulverized — by the Seahawks.

Florio’s pick:  49ers 27, Cardinals 24.

Rams at Seahawks

MDS’s take: I wouldn’t pick anyone to win at Seattle right now. Which means I’ll be picking Seattle to get to the Super Bowl, because this win over the Rams will give the Seahawks home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs.

MDS’s pick: Seahawks 30, Rams 13.

Florio’s take:  A home win to end the season guarantees the Seahawks home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.  While the Rams have already beaten the Seahawks once this year, the Seahawks are simply too much for anyone to handle right now.

Florio’s pick:  Seahawks 23, Rams 10.

Bengals at Steelers

MDS’s take: With the AFC North on the line, Le’Veon Bell will have a good game against a bad Bengals run defense and the Steelers will win the division.

MDS’s pick: Steelers 27, Bengals 16.

Florio’s take:  A pair of consistently inconsistent playoff teams get together, with plenty on the line.  The Bengals have more to gain, but the Steelers are the better team.  If the better version of the Steelers shows up.

Florio’s pick:  Steelers 27, Bengals 20.

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2015 Pro Bowlers, by team

Ben Roethlisberger AP

Here’s a team-by-team breakdown of the 86 players selected to the 2015 Pro Bowl. The player’s number of Pro Bowl appearances is in parentheses. The information is as furnished by the NFL and is subject to change:

Arizona Cardinals (3 Pro Bowlers)

ST Justin Bethel (2).

DE Calais Campbell (1)

CB Patrick Peterson (4).

 

Atlanta Falcons (2)

RS Devin Hester (4)

WR Julio Jones (2).

 

Baltimore Ravens (3)

OLB Elvis Dumervil (4)

ILB C.J. Mosley (1).

OG Marshal Yanda (4)

 

Buffalo Bills (3)

DT Marcell Dareus (2).

DT Kyle Williams (4).

DE Mario Williams (4).

 

Carolina Panthers (2)

MLB Luke Kuechly (2).

TE Greg Olsen (1).

 

Chicago Bears (1)

OG Kyle Long (2).

 

Cincinnati Bengals (2)

WR A.J. Green (4).

P Kevin Huber (1).

 

Cleveland Browns (3)

FS Tashaun Gipson (1).

CB Joe Haden (2).

OT Joe Thomas (8).

 

Dallas Cowboys (6)

WR Dez Bryant (2).

C Travis Frederick (1).

OG Zack Martin (1).

RB DeMarco Murray (2).

QB Tony Romo (4).

OT Tyron Smith (2).

 

Denver Broncos (9)

OT Ryan Clady (4)

CB Chris Harris (1).

QB Peyton Manning (14)

OLB Von Miller (3).

CB Aqib Talib (2).

WR Demaryius Thomas (3).

TE Julius Thomas (2).

SS T.J. Ward (2).

DE DeMarcus Ware (8).

 

Detroit Lions (3)

WR Calvin Johnson (5).

FS Glover Quin (1).

DT Ndamukong Suh (4).

 

Green Bay Packers (5)

FB John Kuhn (2).

OLB Clay Matthews (5).

WR Jordy Nelson (1).

QB Aaron Rodgers (4).

OG Josh Sitton (2).

 

Houston Texans (2)

RB Arian Foster (4).

DE J.J. Watt (3).

 

Indianapolis Colts (5)

CB Vontae Davis (1).

WR T.Y. Hilton (1).

QB Andrew Luck (3).

P Pat McAfee (1)

PK Adam Vinatieri (3).

 

Kansas City Chiefs (4)

RB Jamaal Charles (4).

OLB Tamba Hali (4)

OLB Justin Houston (3).

DT Dontari Poe (2).

 

Miami Dolphins (2)

CB Brent Grimes (3).

DE Cameron Wake (4).

 

New England Patriots (5)

QB Tom Brady (10).

PK Stephen Gostkowski (3).

TE Rob Gronkowski (3).

CB Darrelle Revis (6).

ST Matthew Slater (4).

 

New Orleans Saints (2)

OG Jahri Evans (6).

TE Jimmy Graham (3).

 

New York Jets (1)

C Nick Mangold (6).

 

Oakland Raiders (1)

FB Marcel Reece (3).

 

Philadelphia Eagles (5)

OLB Connor Barwin (1).

C Jason Kelce (1).

RB LeSean McCoy (3).

OT Jason Peters (7).

RS Darren Sproles (1).

 

Pittsburgh Steelers (5)

RB Le’Veon Bell (1).

WR Antonio Brown (3).

C Maurkice Pouncey (4).

QB Ben Roethlisberger (3).

ILB Lawrence Timmons (1).

 

St. Louis Rams (2)

DT Aaron Donald (1).

DE Robert Quinn (2).

 

San Diego Chargers (1)

FS Eric Weddle (3

 

San Francisco 49ers (2)

OG Mike Iupati (3).

OT Joe Staley (4).

 

Seattle Seahawks (5)

SS Kam Chancellor (3).

RB Marshawn Lynch (5).

CB Richard Sherman (2).

FS Earl Thomas (4).

MLB Bobby Wagner (1).

 

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1)

DT Gerald McCoy (3).

 

Washington (1)

OT Trent Williams (3)

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Ten games on Sunday have playoff implications

Le'Veon Bell, Vincent Rey AP

Sunday’s Week 17 schedule features four games that have playoff implications for both teams, six more that have playoff implications for one team, and six that are completely meaningless.

This Sunday will be the first time ever that every market across the country will have five NFL games, with all CBS affiliates showing two games, all FOX affiliates showing two games, and the regular-season finale on NBC. To help you plan your Sunday TV viewing, at how each game could affect the playoffs:

Meaningful games for both teams
Chargers-Chiefs, 1 p.m. CBS: If the Chargers win they’re in the playoffs. If the Chiefs win they’ll be watching the scoreboard, hoping that the Ravens and Texans both lose.

Panthers-Falcons, 4:25 p.m. CBS: The winner wins the NFC South and hosts a playoff game next weekend. The loser is out of the playoffs.

Lions-Packers, 4:25 p.m. FOX: The winner wins the NFC North and gets a first-round bye. The loser is a wild card and will be on the road next weekend.

Bengals-Steelers, 8:30 p.m. NBC: The winner wins the AFC North and starts the playoffs at home. The loser is a wild card and starts the playoffs on the road.

Meaningful games for one team
Browns at Ravens, 1 p.m. CBS: The Ravens make the playoffs if they win and the Chargers lose.

Cowboys at Washington, 1 p.m. FOX: The Cowboys have won the NFC East but could be either the 1, the 2 or the 3 seed depending on the results of Sunday’s game. (However, the Cowboys don’t have a lot to play for because the most likely scenario is that they will be the 3 seed regardless of whether they win or lose.)

Jaguars at Texans, 1 p.m. CBS: The Texans make the playoffs if they win and the Chargers and Ravens both lose.

Raiders at Broncos, 4:25 p.m. CBS: The Broncos get a first-round bye if they win.

Rams at Seahawks, 4:25 p.m. FOX: The Seahawks get a first-round bye and probably home-field advantage throughout the playoffs if they win.

Cardinals at 49ers, 4:25 p.m. FOX: The Cardinals win the NFC West if they win and the Seahawks lose. The Cardinals will be a wild card if they lose or the Seahawks win.

Meaningless games for both teams
Bills at Patriots, 1 p.m. CBS: The Patriots have clinched home-field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs. The Bills are eliminated.

Colts at Titans, 1 p.m. CBS: The Colts are locked into the No. 4 seed in the AFC. The Titans are eliminated.

Jets at Dolphins, 1 p.m. CBS: Both teams are eliminated.

Bears at Vikings, 1 p.m. FOX: Both teams are eliminated.

Eagles at Giants, 1 p.m. FOX: Both teams are eliminated.

Saints at Buccaneers, 1 p.m. FOX: Both teams are eliminated. The Bucs have nothing to win for, but they do have something to lose for: If Tampa Bay loses, the Bucs get the first overall pick in the draft.

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Week 17 playoff scenarios

Chargers' Rivers passes under pressure from Chiefs' Houston during their NFL football game in San Diego Reuters

The road to the playoffs in the AFC will go through New England. That’s one thing we know for sure.

But other than the Patriots, who have clinched home-field advantage, and the Colts, who have clinched the No. 4 seed in the AFC, all of the other teams in the playoff race have something to play for on Sunday. Here’s the full playoff scenario announcement put out by the NFL today:

AFC

CLINCHED:
New England – AFC East and home-field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs
Denver – AFC West
Indianapolis – AFC South
Cincinnati – playoff berth
Pittsburgh – playoff berth

DENVER BRONCOS (vs. Oakland)

Denver clinches a first-round bye with:

1) DEN win OR

2) DEN tie + CIN loss or tie OR

3) CIN loss OR

4) CIN tie + IND win

CINCINNATI BENGALS (at Pittsburgh)

Cincinnati clinches AFC North with:

1) CIN win or tie

Cincinnati clinches a first-round bye with:

1) CIN win + DEN loss OR

2) CIN tie + DEN loss + IND loss or tie

PITTSBURGH STEELERS (vs. Cincinnati)

Pittsburgh clinches AFC North with:

1) PIT win

SAN DIEGO CHARGERS (at Kansas City)

San Diego clinches a playoff spot with:

1) SD win OR

2) SD tie + BAL loss or tie

BALTIMORE RAVENS (vs. Cleveland)

Baltimore clinches a playoff spot with:

1) BAL win + SD loss or tie OR

2) BAL tie + SD loss

KANSAS CITY CHIEFS (vs. San Diego)

Kansas City clinches a playoff spot with:

1) KC win + BAL loss + HOU loss or tie

HOUSTON TEXANS (vs. Jacksonville)

Houston clinches a playoff spot with:

1) HOU win + BAL loss + SD loss

NFC

CLINCHED:
Arizona Cardinals – playoff berth
Seattle Seahawks – playoff berth
Detroit Lions – playoff berth
Green Bay Packers – playoff berth
Dallas Cowboys – NFC East

DALLAS COWBOYS (at Washington)

Dallas clinches home-field advantage throughout NFC playoffs with:

1) DAL win + ARI loss or tie + DET/GB tie

Dallas clinches a first-round bye with:

1) DAL win + SEA loss or tie + ARI loss or tie OR

2) DAL win + DET/GB tie OR

3) SEA loss + ARI loss OR

4) DAL tie + SEA tie + ARI loss or tie + DET/GB does not end in a tie

DETROIT LIONS (at Green Bay)

Detroit clinches NFC North with:

1) DET win or tie

Detroit clinches home-field advantage throughout NFC playoffs with:

1) DET win + SEA loss or tie + ARI loss or tie OR

2) DET tie + SEA loss + ARI loss + DAL loss or tie

Detroit clinches a first-round bye with:

1) DET win OR

2) DET tie + DAL loss or tie OR
3) DET tie + SEA loss + ARI loss

GREEN BAY PACKERS (vs. Detroit)

Green Bay clinches NFC North and a first-round bye with:

1) GB win

Green Bay clinches home-field advantage throughout NFC playoffs with:

1) GB win + SEA loss or tie

SEATTLE SEAHAWKS (vs. St. Louis)

Seattle clinches NFC West with:

1) SEA win OR

2) SEA tie + ARI loss or tie OR

3) ARI loss

Seattle clinches home-field advantage throughout NFC playoffs with:

1) SEA win + DET/GB game does not end in a tie OR

2) SEA win + DAL loss or tie OR

3) SEA tie + ARI loss or tie + DAL loss or tie + GB/DET tie

Seattle clinches a first-round bye with:

1) SEA win OR

2) SEA tie + ARI loss or tie + DAL loss OR

3) SEA tie + ARI loss or tie + GB/DET tie

ARIZONA CARDINALS (at San Francisco)

Arizona clinches NFC West with:

1) ARI win + SEA loss or tie OR

2) ARI tie + SEA loss

Arizona clinches home-field advantage throughout NFC playoffs with:

1) ARI win + SEA loss or tie + GB loss or tie OR

2) ARI tie + SEA loss + DAL loss or tie + GB/DET tie

Arizona clinches a first-round bye with:

1) ARI win + SEA loss or tie OR

2) ARI tie + SEA loss + DAL loss or tie OR

3) ARI tie + SEA loss + GB/DET tie

CAROLINA PANTHERS (at Atlanta)

Carolina clinches NFC South with:

1) CAR win or tie

ATLANTA FALCONS (vs. Carolina)

Atlanta clinches NFC South with:

1) ATL win

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Week 17 schedule moves Panthers-Falcons to 4:25 on CBS

Cam Newton, Tyson Jackson AP

Two NFC division title games will air simultaneously on Sunday, one on FOX and one on CBS.

The NFL has released the final Week 17 schedule, and it includes moving Lions-Packers to 4:25 p.m. ET on FOX and moving Panthers-Falcons to 4:25 on CBS. That means fans in most markets will be able to watch both the NFC North title game and the NFC South title game on their local affiliates.

As previously announced, the Bengals-Steelers AFC North championship game will be on to NBC Sunday Night Football. The NFL has also moved the Jaguars-Texans game to FOX at 1 p.m.

Here’s the full Week 17 schedule, all times Eastern:

CLEVELAND AT BALTIMORE: 1 p.m. CBS

SAN DIEGO AT KANSAS CITY: 1 p.m. CBS

N.Y. JETS AT MIAMI: 1 p.m. CBS

CHICAGO AT MINNESOTA: 1 p.m. FOX

PHILADELPHIA AT N.Y. GIANTS: 1 p.m. FOX

NEW ORLEANS AT TAMPA BAY: 1 p.m. FOX

INDIANAPOLIS AT TENNESSEE: 1 p.m. CBS

DALLAS AT WASHINGTON: 1 p.m. FOX

JACKSONVILLE AT HOUSTON: 1 p.m. FOX

BUFFALO AT NEW ENGLAND: 1 p.m. CBS

CAROLINA AT ATLANTA: 4:25 CBS

DETROIT AT GREEN BAY: 4:25 FOX

OAKLAND AT DENVER: 4:25 p.m. CBS

ARIZONA AT SAN FRANCISCO: 4:25 p.m. FOX

ST. LOUIS AT SEATTLE: 4:25 PM FOX

CINCINNATI AT PITTSBURGH: 8:30 PM NBC

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AFC playoff picture: Just one January ticket left

Andy Dalton AP

Five down, one to go.

With a 37-28 victory over Denver on Monday night, the Bengals secured their fourth consecutive AFC postseason berth. They are the fifth team to clinch a spot in the AFC playoffs, joining the Patriots, Broncos, Colts and Steelers.

This leaves the Chargers, Ravens, Texans and Chiefs playing for one wild-card spot on Sunday as the regular season draws to a close. The Chargers and Chiefs are each aiming to make the playoffs for the second straight season, while the Ravens and Texans last made the postseason in 2012.

Here’s how the playoff seeding shapes up through Week 16. The NFL’s standings, playoff scenarios and tiebreaking rules were cited:

THE BIG SIX

1. New England Patriots (12-3, .800). AFC East winner. Has clinched No. 1 seed and first-round bye. Will have homefield advantage throughout conference playoffs.

2. Denver Broncos (11-4, .733). AFC West winner. Will clinch No. 2 seed and first-round bye with win vs. Oakland. Will also clinch first-round bye with Cincinnati loss or an Indianapolis win at Tennessee and a Cincinnati tie.

3. Cincinnati Bengals (10-4-1, .700). AFC North leader. Has clinched playoff spot. Will win AFC North with victory/tie at Pittsburgh (8:30 p.m. Eastern, NBC). Can clinch first-round bye with win over Pittsburgh and a Denver loss to Oakland. Would also clinch first-round bye with a tie, a Denver loss and an Indianapolis loss/tie.

4. Indianapolis Colts (10-5, .667). AFC South winner.

5. Pittsburgh Steelers (10-5, .667). Wild card No. 1. Has clinched playoff spot. Will win AFC North with victory vs. Cincinnati.

6. San Diego Chargers (9-6, .600). Wild card No. 2. Will clinch playoff spot with win over Kansas City. Can also clinch playoff spot with tie and Baltimore loss/tie.

STILL IN THE MIX

7. Baltimore Ravens (9-6, .600). Will clinch wild-card spot with win vs. Cleveland and San Diego loss. Can also clinch playoff spot with tie and San Diego loss.

8. Houston Texans (8-7, .533). Will clinch wild-card spot with win vs. Jacksonville and losses by San Diego and Baltimore.

9. Kansas City Chiefs (8-7, .533). Will clinch wild-card spot with win vs. San Diego, a loss by Baltimore and a loss/tie by Houston.

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Week 17 playoff scenarios

Cam Newton, Paul Worrilow AP

The Patriots, Broncos, Colts and Cowboys have all clinched their divisions. The Steelers, Seahawks, Cardinals, Lions and Packers have all clinched playoff berths. That’s what we know now.

What we don’t know is who the other three playoff teams will be. And we don’t know any team’s playoff seed. Here are the NFL’s official playoff scenarios for the remaining 17 games of this season:

AFC

CLINCHED:
New England – AFC East and a first-round bye
Denver – AFC West
Indianapolis – AFC South
Pittsburgh – playoff berth

NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS (vs. Buffalo)

IF DENVER DEFEATS CINCINNATI

New England clinches home-field advantage throughout AFC playoffs with:

1) NE win OR

2) NE tie + DEN loss or tie OR

3) DEN loss

IF CINCINNATI DEFEATS DENVER

New England clinches home-field advantage throughout AFC playoffs

DENVER BRONCOS (at Cincinnati; vs. Oakland)

IF DENVER DEFEATS CINCINNATI

Denver clinches a first-round bye

Denver clinches home-field advantage throughout AFC playoffs with:

1) DEN win + NE loss or tie OR

2) DEN tie + NE loss

IF CINCINNATI DEFEATS DENVER

Denver clinches a first-round bye with:

1) DEN win or tie OR

2) CIN loss OR

3) CIN tie + IND win

CINCINNATI BENGALS (vs. Denver; at Pittsburgh)

IF DENVER DEFEATS CINCINNATI

Cincinnati clinches AFC North with:

1) CIN win

Cincinnati clinches a playoff spot with:

1) CIN tie OR

2) BAL loss or tie OR

3) SD loss

IF CINCINNATI DEFEATS DENVER

Cincinnati clinches a playoff spot

Cincinnati clinches AFC North with:

1) CIN win or tie

Cincinnati clinches a first-round bye with:

1) CIN win + DEN loss or tie OR

2) CIN tie + DEN loss + IND loss or tie

PITTSBURGH STEELERS (vs. Cincinnati)

IF DENVER DEFEATS CINCINNATI

Pittsburgh clinches AFC North with:

1) PIT win or tie

IF CINCINNATI DEFEATS DENVER

Pittsburgh clinches AFC North with:

1) PIT win

SAN DIEGO CHARGERS (at Kansas City)

IF DENVER DEFEATS CINCINNATI

San Diego clinches a playoff spot with:

1) SD win OR

2) SD tie + CIN loss OR

3) SD tie + BAL loss or tie

IF CINCINNATI DEFEATS DENVER

San Diego clinches a playoff spot with:

1) SD win OR

2) SD tie + BAL loss or tie

BALTIMORE RAVENS (vs. Cleveland)

IF DENVER DEFEATS CINCINNATI

Baltimore clinches a playoff spot with:

1) BAL win + CIN loss OR

2) BAL win + SD loss or tie OR

3) BAL tie + SD loss

IF CINCINNATI DEFEATS DENVER

Baltimore clinches a playoff spot with:

1) BAL win + SD loss or tie OR

2) BAL tie + SD loss

KANSAS CITY CHIEFS (vs. San Diego)

Kansas City clinches a playoff spot with:

1) KC win + BAL loss + HOU loss or tie

HOUSTON TEXANS (vs. Jacksonville)

Houston clinches a playoff spot with:

1) HOU win + BAL loss + SD loss

NFC

CLINCHED:
Arizona Cardinals – playoff berth
Seattle Seahawks – playoff berth
Detroit Lions – playoff berth
Green Bay Packers – playoff berth
Dallas Cowboys – NFC East

DALLAS COWBOYS (at Washington)

Dallas clinches home-field advantage throughout NFC playoffs with:

1) DAL win + ARI loss or tie + DET/GB tie

Dallas clinches a first-round bye with:

1) DAL win + SEA loss or tie + ARI loss or tie OR

2) DAL win + DET/GB tie OR

3) DAL tie + SEA loss + ARI loss OR

4) DAL tie + SEA tie + ARI loss or tie + DET/GB does not end in a tie

DETROIT LIONS (at Green Bay)

Detroit clinches NFC North with:

1) DET win or tie

Detroit clinches home-field advantage throughout NFC playoffs with:

1) DET win + SEA loss or tie + ARI loss or tie OR

2) DET tie + SEA loss + ARI loss + DAL loss or tie

Detroit clinches a first-round bye with:

1) DET win OR

2) DET tie + DAL loss or tie OR

3) DET tie + SEA loss + ARI loss

GREEN BAY PACKERS (vs. Detroit)

Green Bay clinches NFC North and a first-round bye with:

1) GB win

Green Bay clinches home-field advantage throughout NFC playoffs with:

1) GB win + SEA loss or tie

SEATTLE SEAHAWKS (vs. St. Louis)

Seattle clinches NFC West with:

1) SEA win OR

2) SEA tie + ARI loss or tie OR

3) ARI loss

Seattle clinches home-field advantage throughout NFC playoffs with:

1) SEA win + DET/GB game does not end in a tie OR

2) SEA win + DAL loss or tie OR

3) SEA tie + ARI loss or tie + DAL loss or tie + GB/DET tie

Seattle clinches a first-round bye with:

1) SEA win OR

2) SEA tie + ARI loss or tie + DAL loss OR

3) SEA tie + ARI loss or tie + GB/DET tie

ARIZONA CARDINALS (at San Francisco)

Arizona clinches NFC West with:

1) ARI win + SEA loss or tie OR

2) ARI tie + SEA loss

Arizona clinches home-field advantage throughout NFC playoffs with:

1) ARI win + SEA loss or tie + GB loss or tie OR

2) ARI tie + SEA loss + DAL loss or tie + GB/DET tie

Arizona clinches a first-round bye with:

1) ARI win + SEA loss or tie OR

2) ARI tie + SEA loss + DAL loss or tie OR

3) ARI tie + SEA loss + GB/DET tie

CAROLINA PANTHERS (at Atlanta)

Carolina clinches NFC South with:

1) CAR win or tie

ATLANTA FALCONS (vs. Carolina)

Atlanta clinches NFC South with:

1) ATL win

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NFC playoff picture: Seahawks take control

ricardolockette AP

Five of the six NFC playoff teams have been determined, as the Seahawks, Cardinals, Lions, Packers and Cowboys have all clinched playoff berths. And the sixth will be determined on Sunday, when the Panthers visit the Falcons.

And the defending champions are now the favorites to get back to the Super Bowl: Seattle’s win on Sunday night means the Seahawks are currently the No. 1 team in the conference and the favorite to earn home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs.

Here’s how the NFC playoff picture looks with one week to go:

1. Seattle Seahawks (11-4) The Seahawks will be the No. 1 seed if they beat the Rams on Sunday, unless the Lions and Packers tie and the Cowboys win.

2. Detroit Lions (11-4) The Lions currently own the tiebreaker over the Packers, but they’ll have to win or tie at Green Bay on Sunday to win the NFC North. If the Packers win, the Lions will be a wild card.

3. Dallas Cowboys (11-4) The Cowboys have won the NFC East. They can get a first-round bye if both the Seahawks and Cardinals lose on Sunday.

4. Carolina Panthers (6-8-1) The Panthers will be the 4 seed if they win or tie in Week 17. If the Panthers lose to the Falcons, the Falcons will be the 4 seed.

5. Green Bay Packers (11-4) The Packers would be a wild card if the playoffs started today, but they’re favored to win the NFC North and get a first-round bye with a win over the Lions on Sunday.

6. Arizona Cardinals (11-4) The Cardinals can still win the NFC West if they beat the 49ers on Sunday and the Seahawks lose to the Rams. Otherwise, the Cardinals will be a wild card.

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NFL morning after: Playing hard, with nothing to play for

marcelreece AP

I admire the upset pulled off by Washington this weekend. I respect the way the Bears and Jets played in hard-fought losses. And I’m amazed by what the Texans did to the Ravens.

But the most surprising result might have been that the Raiders — considered the worst team in the league for most of the season — pulled off a big upset and ended the Bills’ playoff hopes. That game was a fitting end for Sunday afternoon in the NFL, as this was a weekend that reminded us that even when we, the fans, say there’s “nothing to play for,” football players have a funny way of deciding for themselves that they have something to play for.

It happens every year, so perhaps I shouldn’t be surprised, but I’m always impressed by the teams that seemingly have every reason to pack it in and give up on their seasons, and instead put forth a spirited effort.

Washington has looked like a disaster for most of this season, but on Saturday, in a game the Eagles desperately needed to win, it was Washington that won a hard-fought, back-and-forth battle. And Houston seemed like it was even more of a disaster, down to fourth-string quarterback Case Keenum. But the Texans, whose playoff hopes are slim, put their quarterback issues aside and dominated the Ravens, who are right in the thick of the battle for a playoff berth.

And even the teams that came up short showed a lot of heart. Everyone thought the Bears had quit on this season, and yet Jimmy Clausen, starting after Jay Cutler’s benching, looked pretty good as Chicago gave Detroit a tough four quarters of play. Then there were the Jets, whose coach, Rex Ryan, is sure to be fired a week from now. They did everything they could to give Ryan a win over the rival Patriots before coming up just short.

By Week 16, when the playoffs are within reach, we have a tendency to write off those teams who have been eliminated from playoff contention. But we shouldn’t. There are a whole lot of players still playing hard, even if we don’t think they have anything to play for. The Jimmy Clausens and the Case Keenums of the world don’t get a lot of credit, but they were some of my favorite players on the field on Sunday.

Here are my other thoughts on this weekend’s action:

J.J. Watt for B.F.P. J.J. Watt won’t win the Most Valuable Player award, mostly because when people think about what constitutes “valuable” they almost always think of a quarterback, or maybe a running back — and they almost always think of a player on a playoff team. But I propose another award, the Best Football Player award, or BFP. If we gave an award for the best player in football, is there any doubt that Watt would win it? In Sunday’s win over the Ravens, Watt had seven solo tackles, one sack, three tackles for loss and four quarterback hits. There’s no better football player than J.J. Watt.

A surprising vote of confidence for Joe Philbin. Dolphins owner Stephen Ross said after Sunday’s game that Philbin will remain his head coach, despite the Dolphins being eliminated from the playoffs. That’s surprising. I’m not at all convinced that Philbin, who still hasn’t made the playoffs after three seasons at the helm, deserves to keep his job. Miami has not improved during his time at the helm.

Chip Kelly’s blunder. I like Chip Kelly. I said when he was at Oregon that I thought his system could work in the NFL, and I still think it can. But Kelly made a huge mistake when he cut receiver DeSean Jackson, and it probably cost the Eagles a playoff berth. Jackson burned Philadelphia’s secondary for 126 receiving yards when the Eagles lost at Washington on Sunday, and the Eagles, who averaged 6.8 yards a pass, could have used a big play threat. Sometimes a player is talented enough that a coach has to put up with him, even if the coach doesn’t much like him. Kelly should have sucked it up and put up with Jackson. Cutting Jackson was a mistake.

Robert Griffin III didn’t look good. There’s a tendency to praise any quarterback who wins, but let’s be honest: Even though Washington pulled off an upset over Philadelphia on Saturday, RG3 didn’t play very well. He managed only 220 passing yards and no touchdowns, didn’t do anything impressive running the ball, and threw an ugly interception on an underthrown pass to DeSean Jackson. If Jay Gruden wasn’t convinced before Saturday’s game that RG3 is his quarterback of the future, he isn’t convinced now, either.

Joe Flacco was terrible. Flacco’s halftime stats: 3-for-18, 27 yards, no touchdowns, two interceptions, one sack, one fumble and a 0.0 passer rating. Flacco was a little better in the second half (he couldn’t really be any worse), but this was still an abysmal performance by Flacco. The Ravens are paying Flacco a fortune because he came through in a big way when they won the Super Bowl two years ago. But Flacco was nothing short of terrible in a big loss to the Texans on Sunday.

A future Hall of Famer joins an exclusive club. Raiders defensive back Charles Woodson got his 60th interception on Sunday, making him just the 11th player in NFL history to pick off 60 passes. Woodson is the career leader in interceptions among active players and is still playing surprisingly well at age 38. Woodson isn’t getting much attention because he’s on a terrible team in Oakland, but he’s still playing well at an age when few defensive backs are still playing at all.

Panthers-Falcons: Great game or terrible game? There’s no Week 17 game with more at stake than Panthers-Falcons, which is essentially a playoff game because the winner wins the NFC South and the loser goes home. And yet it’s also a matchup of a 6-8-1 team and a 6-9 team. The NFC South is awful, but I confess that I’m looking forward to seeing which seven-win team wins the division. I feel pretty confident saying that those two losing teams will still be playing hard until the end.

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AFC playoff picture: Chargers turn up the pressure on wild-card foes

Sean Lissemore AP

Yes, the Chargers surrendered 355 yards rushing to the 49ers on Saturday night. And yes, the Chargers have a few too many injuries for comfort.

Nevertheless, the Chargers’ 38-35 overtime victory at San Francisco keeps them in the thick of the wild-card race. At the moment, they are the No. 7 seed in the AFC, a half-game back of Baltimore and Pittsburgh and a half-game ahead of Kansas City and Buffalo.

Now, the Chargers wait. They are in the clubhouse, visor on table, an iced tea at their fingertips, shirt untucked. They were in some real rough against the Niners, down 21 points on two occasions, but they got it going on the back nine, and they’ve carded a good score.

Yes, their swing isn’t textbook perfect, but these Chargers know how to get up-and-down. Let’s see what the other wild-card contenders do if they get in the deep stuff.

Here’s how the AFC playoff seeding looks after Saturday night. The NFL’s standings and tiebreaking rules were cited. Also, the Week 16 playoff scenarios are herein.

THE BIG SIX

1. New England Patriots (11-3, .786). Has clinched playoff spot. AFC East winner. Seeded ahead of Denver on basis of head-to-head win.

2. Denver Broncos (11-3, .786). Has clinched playoff spot. AFC West winner.

3. Indianapolis Colts (10-4, .714). Has clinched playoff spot. AFC South winner.

4. Cincinnati Bengals (9-4-1, .679). AFC North leader.

5. Pittsburgh Steelers (9-5, .643). Wild card No. 1. Seeded ahead of Baltimore on basis of superior AFC North record (3-2 vs. 2-3).

6. Baltimore Ravens (9-5, .643). Wild card No. 2.

JUST MISSING

7. San Diego Chargers (9-6, .600).

8. Kansas City Chiefs (8-6, .571). Seeded ahead of Bills on basis of head-to-head win.

9. Buffalo Bills (8-6, .571).

10. Houston Texans (7-7, .500). Seeded ahead of Dolphins on basis of better AFC record (6-4 vs. 6-5).

11. Miami Dolphins (7-7, .500).

Note: According to NFL.com, the Browns (7-7) have been officially knocked out of playoff contention with San Diego’s win.

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PFT’s Week 16 picks

Cardinals Getty Images

All MDS wanted was a chance.  Maybe he should have been more careful about what he wished for.

Down five games with 32 games left and his ability to close the gap hinging on the existence of enough disagreements between the two of us, we disagree on five games this week.

So, in theory, he can pull off a five-game sweep and pull even for the Week 17 push to the finish line.

Last week, he nailed 12 of 16 picks.  But his decision to predict an Eagles sweep coupled with my decision to trust the Cowboys put me at 13-3.

For the season, I’ve moved to 150-74 (66.9%).  MDS is 145-79 (64.7%).

Titans at Jaguars

MDS’s take: In one of the worst games the NFL has ever put on prime-time television, I think the Jaguars will show that they’re still playing hard late in the season, while the Titans have given up.

MDS’s pick: Jaguars 20, Titans 10.

Florio’s take:  The Jaguars are favored for the first time in more than 40 games.  And for good reason.  The Titans stink.

Florio’s pick:  Jaguars 17, Titans 13.

Eagles at Washington

MDS’s take: The Eagles are in a precarious position in the NFC playoff race, and I don’t think they’re going to make it. But I also don’t think they’ll lose to a reeling Washington team.

MDS’s pick: Eagles 20, Washington 10.

Florio’s take:  Philly has a very real chance at winning the division, since the Cowboys have a very real chance at losing to the Colts and opening the door for a Week 17 win-and-in for the Eagles.

Florio’s pick:  Eagles 27, Washington 17.

Chargers at 49ers

MDS’s take: The 49ers are done, while the Chargers still have slim playoff hopes. That’s enough to make me think the Chargers will come out motivated and the 49ers will not, so I’m taking San Diego.

MDS’s pick: Chargers 27, 49ers 17.

Florio’s take:  The 49ers are playing for pride.  The Chargers are playing for a postseason berth they ultimately won’t be able to earn, given the broken collarbone suffered by Keenan Allen.  As players begin to realize that an era is ending, they’ll find a way to win at least one of the final two for the coach who nearly took the team to three straight Super Bowls.

Florio’s pick:  49ers 24, Chargers 20.

Browns at Panthers

MDS’s take: Johnny Manziel can’t possibly be any worse against the Panthers than he was against the Bengals, but I don’t think he’ll be a whole lot better, either. The Browns’ once-promising season will take another hit, while the Panthers will stay in contention in the NFC South.

MDS’s pick: Panthers 24, Browns 10.

Florio’s take:  Johnny Manziel will be better this week; he can’t be any worse.  But that won’t be enough to turn around a team that has gone into a characteristic free fall.

Florio’s pick:  Panthers 23, Browns 10.

Lions at Bears

MDS’s take: The Bears have quit on the season, which means the Lions will get an easy win to clinch a playoff spot.

MDS’s pick: Lions 30, Bears 13.

Florio’s take:  And the Bears still haven’t had a true franchise quarterback since Sid Luckman.  The Lions continue to move toward the postseason.  The Bears continue to move toward seismic changes.

Florio’s pick:  Lions 31, Bears 13.

Ravens at Texans

MDS’s take: The Ravens haven’t clinched anything yet, but I think they’re going to make the playoffs and be a dangerous team when they get there. I like Baltimore to win easily on Sunday.

MDS’s pick: Ravens 34, Texans 10.

Florio’s take:  The Ravens have run out of cornerbacks.  The Texans have run out of quarterbacks.  Advantage, team with no cornerbacks.

Florio’s pick:  Ravens 24, Texans 14.

Vikings at Dolphins

MDS’s take: The Dolphins collapsed in their biggest game of the season last week, while the Vikings have played hard despite being long since eliminated from playoff contention. I’m tempted to pick Minnesota in an upset, but I just don’t think Teddy Bridgewater is quite ready to have a mistake-free game against a good defense, and so I’ll take Miami in a close one.

MDS’s pick: Dolphins 17, Vikings 10.

Florio’s take:  It’s unclear whether coach Joe Philbin will return to the Dolphins next year, but it won’t hurt to finish strong.  Enter the Vikings, who have shown plenty of fight in a lost season but who don’t have the talent to overcome a Miami team that still has a little something to play for.

Florio’s pick:  Dolphins 24, Vikings 17.

Falcons at Saints

MDS’s take: Someone has to win the NFC South, and I still think the best bet is the Saints, who are not a very good team but should be able to put up good numbers on offense against a lousy Atlanta defense.

MDS’s pick: Saints 31, Falcons 28.

Florio’s take:  With or without Julio Jones lining up for Atlanta, the Saints reverse a bizarre trend that has seen them lose four straight games at home.  Maybe, just maybe, a 7-9 Saints team will host an 11-5 Seahawks franchise, four years after the roles were reversed.

Florio’s pick:  Saints 31, Falcons 20.

Patriots at Jets

MDS’s take: It wouldn’t shock me to see the Jets come out fired-up in Rex Ryan’s last game against the rival Patriots. The Jets could very well take an early lead. But over four quarters they just don’t have the firepower to keep up with New England.

MDS’s pick: Patriots 20, Jets 10.

Florio’s take:  When hired by the Jets, Rex Ryan said he wasn’t going to kiss Bill Belichick’s rings.  In what likely will be their last meeting, Belichick will be kicking Rex’s ass one last time, for old time’s sake.

Florio’s pick:  Patriots 41, Jets 13.

Chiefs at Steelers

MDS’s take: This is an intriguing game in the AFC playoff race, where the winner is likely to make it and the loser is likely to be home for the holidays. I think the Chiefs are going to go on the road and pull off an upset.

MDS’s pick: Chiefs 24, Steelers 21.

Florio’s take:  The Steelers have lost at home to the Buccaneers and Saints.  Which makes the fact that the Steelers will be playing their last two games at home not necessarily a good thing.  But they’ve come this far and the division title is two victories away.

Florio’s pick:  Steelers 27, Chiefs 17.

Packers at Buccaneers

MDS’s take: The Bills showed that a good defense can rattle Aaron Rodgers. The Buccaneers’ defense is not as good as Buffalo’s. The Packers will win to set up a Week 17 NFC North showdown with the Lions.

MDS’s pick: Packers 30, Buccaneers 13.

Florio’s take:  The Packers looked horrible in Buffalo.  They’ll have to look a lot more horrible to lose in Tampa, especially with a loss moving Green Bay toward missing the playoffs.

Florio’s pick:  Packers 34, Buccaneers 20.

Giants at Rams

MDS’s take: If the Rams were in any division other than the NFC West, they’d have a real shot at being a playoff team. St. Louis can’t get to the postseason, but it can get to 8-8 with two more wins, and one of those wins will come on Sunday.

MDS’s pick: Rams 21, Giants 17.

Florio’s take:  Both teams hope to finish the season strongly.  The Rams are currently stronger than the Giants, despite a pair of victories by Eli and company.

Florio’s pick:  Rams 24, Giants 20.

Colts at Cowboys

MDS’s take: The Colts don’t have much to play for after wrapping up the AFC South last week, while the Cowboys have plenty to play for as they could still finish anywhere from first seed in the NFC to out of the playoffs entirely. And yet I have a funny feeling that Andrew Luck is going to exploit the holes in the Cowboys’ defense and put up big numbers in a Colts win.

MDS’s pick: Colts 30, Cowboys 20.

Florio’s take:  The Cowboys realize the stakes of this one; a win moves them closer to a division title and a loss could ultimately knock them out of the playoffs, again.  DeMarco Murray will play, Tony Romo will deliver, and the Cowboys will continue one of their most surprising seasons ever.

Florio’s pick:  Cowboys 34, Colts 23.

Bills at Raiders

MDS’s take: The Bills probably won’t make the playoffs even if they win out, but beating the Raiders will clinch Buffalo’s first winning record since 2004. This Bills team is making progress.

MDS’s pick: Bills 17, Raiders 10.

Florio’s take:  By beating the Packers, Doug Marrone may have saved his job for at least a year.  He could secure it for the rest of the decade by securing the team’s first playoff berth since 1999.

Florio’s pick:  Bills 24, Raiders 14.

Seahawks at Cardinals

MDS’s take: I admire the way the Cardinals have continued to find ways to win despite injuries taking a huge toll on the roster. But a Ryan Lindley-quarterbacked team just can’t beat a Seattle team that is playing at a Super Bowl level.

MDS’s pick: Seahawks 24, Cardinals 6.

Florio’s take:  Common sense points to Seattle, a seven-point favorite facing a third-string quarterback who was on San Diego’s practice squad a little more than a month ago.  But I can already hear Bruce Arians telling reporters after the game how the players fed off the combined incentive of proving everyone wrong and seizing the brass ring that is home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.  Maybe I’m just a sucker for an underdog.  Maybe I’m stupid.  Maybe I’m a little tipsy.  Regardless, I’d rather be wrong by picking the Cardinals than wrong by making the obvious pick.

Florio’s pick:  Cardinals 23, Seahawks 20.

Broncos at Bengals

MDS’s take: The good news for the Broncos is they’re showing they can win with defense and a good running game on offense. The bad news is that Peyton Manning’s numbers are way down, and the Bengals’ secondary is solid. Look for the Bengals to frustrate Manning and pull off a home upset.

MDS’s pick: Bengals 24, Broncos 20.

Florio’s takeAndy Dalton has a putrid record of 2-9 in prime-time and postseason games.  Make it 2-10.  The only good news is that he’ll possibly not have a chance to lose another playoff game.

Florio’s pick:  Broncos 30, Bengals 20.

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2014-15 NFL Calendar

2014 NFL Draft Getty Images

The following are key dates on the NFL calendar spanning the end of the 2014 regular season through the 2015 offseason. All information was furnished by the league:

2014

December 29: Clubs may begin signing free agent players for the 2015 season.

December 29: Clubs may renegotiate or extend the rookie contract of a drafted rookie who was selected in the 2012 NFL Draft. Any permissible renegotiated or extended player contract will not be considered a rookie contract, and will not be subject to the rules that limit rookie contracts.

December 29: Option exercise period begins for fifth-year option for first-round selections from the 2012 NFL Draft. To exercise the option, the club must give written notice to the player on or after December 29, 2014 but prior to May 3, 2015.

2015

January 3-4: Wild Card Playoff Games.

January 4: Assistant coaches under contract to playoff clubs that have byes in Wild Card weekend may be interviewed for head coaching positions through the conclusion of the Wild Card games.

January 10-11: Divisional Playoff Games.

January 11: Assistant coaches under contract to playoff clubs that won their Wild Card games may be interviewed for head coaching positions through the conclusion of Divisional Playoff games.

January 17: East-West Shrine Game, Tropicana Field, St. Petersburg, Florida.

January 18: AFC and NFC Championship Games.

January 24: Senior Bowl, Ladd-Peebles Stadium, Mobile, Alabama.

January 25: Pro Bowl, University of Phoenix Stadium, Glendale, Arizona.

January 25: An assistant coach whose team is participating in the Super Bowl, who has previously interviewed for another club’s head coaching job, may have a second interview with such club no later than the Sunday preceding the Super Bowl.

February 1: Super Bowl XLIX, University of Phoenix Stadium, Arizona.

February 2: Waiver system begins for 2015.

February 7: NFL Regional Combine, Doctors Hospital Training Facility, Davie, Florida.

February 10: Beginning at 12 noon, New York time, NFL clubs may begin to sign players whose 2014 CFL contracts have expired. Players under contract to a CFL club for the 2015 season or who have an option for the 2015 season are not eligible to be signed.

February 14: NFL Regional Combine, Methodist Training Center, Houston, Texas.

February 16: First day for clubs to designate Franchise or Transition Players.

February 17-23: NFL Scouting Combine, Lucas Oil Stadium, Indianapolis, Indiana.

February 21: NFL Regional Combine, Paul D. Bowlen Memorial Broncos Centre, Dove Valley, Colorado.

February 28: NFL Regional Combine, Under Armour Performance Center, Owings Mills, Maryland.

March 2: Prior to 4:00 p.m., New York time, deadline for clubs to designate Franchise or Transition Players.

March 7: NFL Regional Combine, Halas Hall, Lake Forest, Illinois.

March 7-10: Clubs are permitted to contact, and enter into contract negotiations with the certified agents of players who will become Unrestricted Free Agents upon the expiration of their 2014 contracts at 4:00 p.m., New York time, on March 10. However, a contract cannot be executed with a new club until 4:00 p.m., New York time, on March 10.

March 10: Prior to 4:00 p.m., New York time, clubs must exercise options for 2015 on all players who have option clauses in their 2014 contracts.

March 10: Prior to 4:00 p.m., New York time, clubs must submit qualifying offers to their Restricted Free Agents with expiring contracts and to whom they desire to retain a Right of First Refusal/Compensation.

March 10: Prior to 4:00 p.m., New York time, clubs must submit a Minimum Salary Tender to retain exclusive negotiating rights to their players with expiring 2014 contracts and who have fewer than three accrued seasons of free agency credit.

March 10: Top-51 Begins. All clubs must be under the 2015 salary cap prior to 4:00 p.m., New York time.

March 10: All 2014 player contracts expire at 4:00 p.m., New York time.

March 10: The 2015 league year and free agency period begin at 4:00 p.m., New York time. The first day of the 2015 league year will end at 11:59:59 p.m., New York time, on March 10. Clubs will receive a personnel notice that will include all transactions submitted to the league office during the period between 4:00 p.m., New York time, and 11:59:59 p.m., New York time, on March 10.

March 10: Trading period for 2015 begins at 4:00 p.m., New York time, after expiration of all 2014 contracts.

March 19-21: NFL Career Development Symposium, Arizona Biltmore, Phoenix, Arizona.

March 21-22: Super Regional Combine, Arizona Cardinals Training Facility, Phoenix, Arizona.

March 22-25: Annual Meeting, Phoenix, Arizona.

April 6: Clubs that hired a new head coach after the end of the 2014 regular season may begin offseason workout programs.

April 20: Clubs with returning head coaches may begin offseason workout programs.

April 24: Deadline for Restricted Free Agents to sign offer sheets.

April 29: Deadline for prior club to exercise Right of First Refusal to Restricted Free Agents.

April 30-May 2: 2014 NFL Draft, Chicago, Illinois.

May 8-11: First weekend after the NFL Draft: clubs may elect to hold their three-day post-draft rookie minicamp from Friday through Sunday or Saturday through Monday.

May 11: Rookie Football Development Program begins.

May 15-18: Second weekend after the NFL Draft: clubs may elect to hold their three- day post-draft rookie minicamp from Friday through Sunday or Saturday through Monday.

May 18-20: NFL Spring League Meeting, San Francisco, California.

June 1: For any player removed from the club’s roster or whose contract is assigned via waivers or trade on or after June 1, any unamortized signing bonus amounts for future years will be included fully in team salary at the start of the 2016 League Year.

June 1: Deadline for prior club to send “June 1 Tender” to its unsigned Unrestricted Free Agents. If the player has not signed a contract with a club by July 22 or the first scheduled day of the first NFL training camp, whichever is later, he may negotiate or sign a contract from that date until the Tuesday following the 10th weekend of the regular season, at 4:00 p.m., New York time, only with his prior club.

June 1: Deadline for prior club to send “June 1 Tender” to its unsigned Restricted Free Agents who received a qualifying offer for a Right of First Refusal Only in order for such player to be subject to the CBA’s “June 15 Tender” provision.

June 15: Deadline for club to withdraw qualifying offer to Restricted Free Agents and still retain exclusive negotiating rights by substituting “June 15 Tender” of one-year contract at 110 percent of the player’s prior-year Paragraph 5 Salary (with all other terms of his prior-year contract carried forward unchanged).

June 21-27: Rookie Symposium, Aurora, Ohio.

July 15: At 4:00 p.m., New York time, deadline for any club that designated a Franchise Player to sign such player to a multi-year contract or extension. After this date, the player may sign only a one-year contract with his prior club for the 2015 season, and such contract cannot be extended until after the club’s last regular season game.

Mid-July: Clubs are permitted to open preseason training camp for rookies and first-year players beginning seven days prior to the club’s earliest permissible mandatory reporting date for veteran players.

Mid-July: Veteran players (defined as a player with at least one pension- credited season) other than quarterbacks or “injured players” (as defined in CBA Article 21, Section 6) may report to a club’s preseason training camp no earlier than 15 days prior to the club’s first scheduled preseason game or July 15, whichever is later.

Mid-July: Veteran quarterbacks and injured players may be required to report to the club’s preseason training camp no earlier than five days immediately prior to the mandatory reporting date for all other veteran players, provided the club has already opened (or simultaneously opens) its official preseason training camp for all rookies and first-year players.

Mid-July: A three-day acclimation period will apply to players who are on a club’s roster up to and including the mandatory veteran reporting date. Players who join the roster after that date may practice (including wearing pads) and play immediately after passing a physical.

July 22 (or the first scheduled day of the first NFL training camp, whichever is later): Signing Period ends for unrestricted Free Agents to whom a “June 1 Tender” was made by prior club. After this date and until 4:00 p.m., New York time, on the Tuesday following the 10th weekend of the regular season, prior club has exclusive negotiating rights.

July 22: Signing period ends for Transition Players with outstanding tenders. After this date and until 4:00 p.m., New York time, on the Tuesday following the 10th weekend of the regular season, prior club has exclusive negotiating rights.

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