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Week 17 early inactives

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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.

Panthers at Falcons

Panthers: WR Steve Smith, DT Colin Cole, RB Jonathan Stewart, WR Tavarres King, CB Josh Norman, LB Dan Connor, G Travis Bond

Falcons: RB Jacquizz Rodgers, LB Sean Weatherspoon, S Sean Baker, DT Adam Replogle, OT Terren Jones, G Garrett Reynolds, OT Sean Locklear

Ravens at Bengals

Ravens: DL Arthur Jones, CB Asa Jackson, S Omar Brown, C Ryan Jensen, WR Deonte Thompson, LB John Simon, TE Dallas Clark

Bengals: CB Terence Newman, DT Devon Still, TE Jermaine Gresham, TE Tyler Eifert, RB Rex Burkhead, WR Ryan Whalen, T Tanner Hawkinson

Jaguars at Colts

Jaguars: CB Dwayne Gratz, LB Geno Hayes, QB Ricky Stanzi, RB Delone Carter, DE Gerald Rivers, TE Allen Reisner, C Patrick Lewis

Colts: DT Ricky Jean Francois, LB Daniel Adongo, S Sergio Brown,G Mike McGlynn, CB Sheldon Price, DE Cory Redding, G Joe Reitz

Jets at Dolphins

Jets: QB David Garrard, RB Darius Reynaud, LB Jermaine Cunningham, G William Campbell, T Ben Ijalana, T Oday Aboushi, TE Chris Pantale

Dolphins: CB Jalil Brown, QB Pat Devlin, RB Mike Gillislee, CB Will Davis, G Danny Watkins, G David Arkin, DT A.J. Francis

Lions at Vikings

Lions: T LaAdrian Waddle, WR Calvin Johnson, CB Chris Houston, CB Bill Bentley, QB Kellen Moore, CB Jonte Green, OL Dylan Gandy

Vikings: RB Adrian Peterson, RB Toby Gerhart, QB Josh Freeman, T Mike Remmers, DT Letroy Guion, WR Rodney Smith, CB Xavier Rhodes

Redskins at Giants

Redskins: QB Robert Griffin III, WR Josh Morgan, CB Chase Minniefield, C J.D. Walton, G Josh LeRibeus, LB Adrian Robinson, LB Brian Orakpo

Giants: DE Jason Pierre-Paul, G Brandon Mosley, TE Adrien Robinson, WR Victor Cruz, QB Ryan Nassib, OL Eric Herman, LB Allen Bradford

Browns at Steelers

Browns: TE Andre Smith, G Jason Pinkston, DT Phil Taylor, CB Joe Haden, G Shaun Lauvao, QB Alex Tanney, DT John Hughes

Steelers: LB Terence Garvin, QB Landry Jones, OL David Snow, CB Isaiah Green, NT Hebron Fangupo, LB Jason Worilds, DE Brian Arnfelt

Texans at Titans

Texans: WR DeVier Posey, QB Case Keenum, RB Dennis Johnson, LB Joe Mays, OL Alex Kupper, OL Cody White, TE Garrett Graham

Titans: WR Michael Preston, CB Khalid Wooten, C Kevin Matthews, DT Jurrell Casey, T David Stewart, WR Kenny Britt, QB Tyler Wilson

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Broncos lead the way in re-writing NFL record book

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Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos are leading the way among several NFL players and teams who can put their names atop the list of single-season records in the NFL Record and Fact Book. Here’s a look at records that have already been set this season, or that could be set on Sunday:

Player records

Passing yards gained
Peyton Manning is at 5,211, putting him within a typical Peyton Manning game of breaking Drew Brees’s record of 5,476, set in 2011.

Most touchdown passes
Peyton Manning has 51 so far this season, breaking Tom Brady’s previous record of 50, set in 2007, with one game to go. Manning may pad that record with a few more touchdown passes on Sunday.

Most 400-yard passing games
Peyton Manning has four this season, tying Dan Marino’s record, set in 1984. If Manning gets a fifth 400-yard game on Sunday, he’ll have this record all to himself.

Most 300-yard passing games
Peyton Manning has 12 so far this season. Drew Brees’s record is 13, set in 2011, so Manning can tie this record on Sunday.

Most games, four or more touchdown passes
Peyton Manning has already broken this record, with eight such games this season. The previous record was six, set by Dan Marino in 1984 and tied by Manning in 2004.

Highest passer rating
Nick Foles leads the league with a passer rating of 118.7, which puts him within striking distance of Aaron Rodgers‘ NFL record of 122.5, set in 2011.

Most games, 200 or more yards receiving
Josh Gordon and Alshon Jeffery both have two so far this season. Charley Hennigan’s NFL record is three, set in 1961. (Hennigan played for the Houston Oilers of the AFL, but the NFL has incorporated all AFL records.)

Highest net average, punting
Johnny Hekker of the Rams is currently averaging 43.82 net yards per punt. Andy Lee’s NFL record is 43.99, set in 2011.

Most kicking points after touchdown
Broncos kicker Matt Prater is 71-for-71 this season. Stephen Gostkowski went 74-for-74 in 2007, setting the records for most extra points, most extra points attempted, and most extra points without a miss. Prater has a chance at breaking all of those records if the Broncos score four touchdowns on Sunday.


Team records

Points
The Broncos have scored 572 points this season and have a good chance of breaking the record of 589, set by the 2007 Patriots.

Touchdowns
The Broncos have scored 72 touchdowns this season and have a good chance of breaking the record of 75, set by the 2007 Patriots.

Extra points
The Broncos have kicked 71 extra points this season and have a good chance of breaking the record of 74, set by the 2007 Patriots.

Passing first downs
The Broncos have 274 passing first downs this season, giving them a good chance at the record of 280, set by the Saints in 2011.

Most first downs allowed
The Cowboys’ defense has allowed 367 first downs, meaning that if they melt down against the Eagles on Sunday night they’ll break the all-time record of 406, set by the 1981 Baltimore Colts.

Most passing first downs allowed
The Cowboys’ defense has also allowed 219 passing first downs, meaning that if they melt down against the Eagles on Sunday night they’ll break the all-time record of 246, set by the 2011 Packers.

Most passing yards allowed
The Cowboys’ defense has allowed 4,360 passing yards this season, meaning that if they melt down against the Eagles on Sunday night they’ll break the all-time record of 4,796, set by the 2011 Packers.

Safeties
Here’s one you never would have guessed: The Jaguars have scored three safeties this season. The NFL record is four, first set by the 1927 Cleveland Bulldogs and equaled four times since then. So if the Jaguars get one more safety, they’ll have a share of an NFL scoring record. (Jacksonville’s safeties came on a holding penalty on Chance Warmack in the end zone against the Titans, a penalty on Brandon Weeden for illegally kicking a loose ball in the end zone against the Browns and a blocked punt out the end zone against the Chiefs.)

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2014 Pro Bowlers announced

Peyton Manning AP

Here are the players in the 2014 Pro Bowl, which will be played Sunday, January 26, 2014 in Honolulu. The teams, which no longer are restricted to players from each conference, will be drafted on January 22 by teams captained by Jerry Rice and Deion Sanders.

OFFENSE

Quarterbacks

Patriots QB Tom Brady, Saints QB Drew Brees, Broncos QB Peyton Manning, Panthers QB Cam Newton, Chargers QB Philip Rivers, Seahawks QB Russell Wilson.

Running backs

Chiefs RB Jamaal Charles, Bears RB Matt Forte, 49ers RB Frank Gore, Seahawks RB Marshawn Lynch, Vikings RB Adrian Peterson, Eagles RB LeSean McCoy.

Wide receivers

Steelers WR Antonio Brown, Cowboys WR Dez Bryant, Browns WR Josh Gordon, Bengals WR A.J. Green, Texans WR Andre Johnson, Lions WR Calvin Johnson, Bears WR Brandon Marshall, Broncos WR Demaryius Thomas.

Offensive tackles

Chiefs OT Branden Albert, Eagles OT Jason Peters, Cowboys OT Tyron Smith, 49ers OT Joe Staley, Browns OT Joe Thomas, Redskins OT Trent Williams.

Offensive guards

Saints OG Jahri Evans, Saints OG Ben Grubbs, 49ers OG Mike Iupati, Pariots OG Logan Mankins, Broncos OG Louis Vasquez, Ravens OG Marshal Yanda.

Centers

Panther C Ryan Kalil, Browns C Alex Mack, Dolphins C Mike Pouncey, Seahawks C Max Unger.

Tight ends

Browns TE Jordan Cameron, 49ers TE Vernon Davis, Saints TE Jimmy Graham, Broncos TE Julius Thomas.

Fullbacks

Raiders FB Marcel Reece, Panthers FB Mike Tolbert.

DEFENSE

Defensive ends

Panthers DE Greg Hardy, Saints DE Cameron Jordan, Rams DE Robert Quinn, Dolphins DE Cameron Wake, Texans DE J.J. Watt, Bills DE Mario Williams.

Defensive tackles

Buccaneers DT Gerald McCoy, Ravens DT Haloti Ngata, Chiefs NT Dontari Poe, 49ers DT Justin Smith, Lions DT Ndamukong Suh, Bills DT Kyle Williams.

Outside linebackers

Cardinals OLB John Abraham, 49ers OLB Ahmad Brooks, Chiefs OLB Tamba Hali, Chiefs OLB Justin Houston, Colts OLB Robert Mathis, Ravens OLB Terrell Suggs.

Inside/middle linebackers

49ers ILB Navorro Bowman, 49ers ILB Patrick Willis, Panthers MLB Luke Kuechly, Bengals WLB Vontaze Burfict.

Cornerbacks

Chiefs CB Brandon Flowers, Dolphins CB Brent Grimes, Browns CB Joe Haden, Cardinals CB Patrick Peterson, Buccaneers CB Darrelle Revis, Seahawks CB Richard Sherman, Patriots CB Aqib Talib, Titans CB Alterraun Verner.

Free safeties

Bills FS Jairus Byrd, Seahawks FB Earl Thomas, Chargers FS Eric Weddle.

Strong safeties

Chiefs SS Eric Berry, Seahawks SS Kam Chancellor, Steelers SS Troy Polamalu.

SPECIAL TEAMS

Punters

Dolphins P Brandon Fields, Rams P Johnny Hekker.

Kickers

Ravens PK Justin Tucker, Broncos PK Matt Prater.

Punt returners

Steelers WR Antonio Brown, Chiefs WR Dexter McCluster

Special-teamers

Patriots WR Matthew Slater, Cardinals DB Justin Bethel.

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Week 17 injury report roundup

Cincinnati Bengals v Detroit Lions Getty Images

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 Sunday.

Panthers at Falcons

The Panthers will try to nail down the NFC South without wide receiver Steve Smith (knee), running back Jonathan Stewart (knee) and defensive tackle Colin Cole (calf). The Falcons will try to stop them without linebacker Sean Weatherspoon (knee) and running back Jacquizz Rodgers (concussion).

Ravens at Bengals

Linebacker Elvis Dumervil (ankle), center Gino Gradkowski (knee), defensive tackle Arthur Jones (concussion), running back Ray Rice (thigh) and wide receiver Torrey Smith (thigh) are all questionable for the Ravens. The Bengals will end the regular season without cornerback Terence Newman (knee) and defensive tackle Devon Still (back). Tight end Tyler Eifert (neck) is doubtful, while tight end Jermaine Gresham (hamstring) is questionable along with linebacker Vontaze Burfict (concussion).

Jaguars at Colts

Cornerback Dwayne Gratz (ankle) and linebacker Geno Hayes (knee) have played their last games of the season for the Jaguars. Running back Maurice Jones-Drew (hamstring) is probable for what could be his last game with the Jags overall. The Colts ruled out defensive tackle Ricky Jean Francois (foot) again this week. They’re unlikely to have guard Mike McGlynn (elbow), defensive end Cory Redding (shoulder) and safety Sergio Brown (groin).

Jets at Dolphins

It doesn’t look like injuries will be responsible for keeping the Dolphins out of the playoffs or getting them in. Jets cornerback Ellis Lankster (jaw) is questionable, as is Dolphins running back Daniel Thomas (ankle), and everyone else on their reports are probable.

Lions at Vikings

Wide receiver Calvin Johnson (knee) is questionable after missing Lions practice all week. The Lions also ruled defensive end Israel Idonije (neck) and tackle LaAdrian Waddle (ankle) out for Sunday, and cornerbacks Bill Bentley (head) and Chris Houston (toe) are doubtful. Running back Adrian Peterson (groin, foot) is doubtful for the Metrodome finale and running back Toby Gerhart (hamstring) is out. Cornerback Xavier Rhodes (ankle) is likely to play after being listed as questionable, but is unlikely to start.

Redskins at Giants

Linebacker Brian Orakpo (groin) is questionable for what could be his final game as a member of the Redskins. The Giants will leave defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul (shoulder) on the bench once more while wide receiver Rueben Randle (knee) is questionable with Victor Cruz (concussion, knee) done for the season.

Browns at Steelers

Browns tight end Jordan Cameron (concussion) and cornerback Joe Haden (hip) are both questionable and the Steelers won’t have to deal with nose tackle Phil Taylor (concussion), guard Jason Pinkston (concussion) or tight end Andre Smith (calf). Pittsburgh won’t have linebacker Terence Garvin (knee) and they listed wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders (knee) and linebacker Jason Worilds (abdomen) as questionable.

Texans at Titans

Texans quarterback Case Keenum (thumb) will be a game-time decision and running back Dennis Johnson (hip) and linebacker Joe Mays (knee) are also questionable. Titans tackle David Stewart (shoulder) and defensive tackle Jurrell Casey (knee) have the same designation.

49ers at Cardinals

Linebacker Dan Skuta (foot) is questionable and wide receiver Mario Manningham (knee) hit injured reserve, but the rest of the 49ers injury report is made up of probable players. Cardinals coach Bruce Arians said linebacker John Abraham (groin) was a game-time decision earlier this week and Abraham was able to practice on Friday. Safety Rashad Johnson (ankle) and guard Daryn Colledge (back) are questionable for Arizona.

Packers at Bears

Wide receiver Earl Bennett (personal) is questionable after missing the last two practices of the week. Linebacker Clay Matthews is out for the Packers after having thumb surgery, but quarterback Aaron Rodgers (collarbone) and running back Eddie Lacy (ankle) are both probable.

Bills at Patriots

The Bills won’t have QB E.J. Manuel (knee), leaving Thad Lewis to start again this week. Wide receiver Stevie Johnson (personal) also won’t play and safety Aaron Williams (ribs) has been placed on injured reserve. Patriots safety Devin McCourty is doubtful after missing practice all week because of a concussion and wide receiver Josh Boyce (ankle) is out again. Eleven Pats are questionable, but, as always, there’s not much public indication about the chances any of them are in the lineup.

Buccaneers at Saints

Tampa listed linebacker Dekoda Watson (groin), safety Mark Barron (hamstring) and linebacker Ka’Lial Glaud (knee) as questionable for their attempt to play spoiler for their NFC South rivals. The Saints have nine players on their injury report, all of whom are probable to play on Sunday.

Broncos at Raiders

Broncos wide receiver Wes Welker (concussion) is listed as doubtful, but he’s not playing this weekend. Defensive end Derek Wolfe (illness) and offensive lineman Steve Vallos (concussion) are both listed as out. Cornerback Kayvon Webster is questionable to return from a broken thumb.

Chiefs at Chargers

Wide receiver Dwayne Bowe (concussion) and linebacker Tamba Hali (knee) won’t play for the Chiefs, who may be resting healthy starters as well during the game. That group may not include tackle Branden Albert (knee) and linebacker Justin Houston (elbow), who are both probable after extended stays on the sideline. Wide receiver Eddie Royal (toe) is questionable, but running back Ryan Mathews (ankle) is good to go for the Chargers.

Rams at Seahawks

Wide receiver Tavon Austin (ankle) will be a game-time decision for the Rams and safety T.J. McDonald (illness) is also questionable. The Seahawks were worried about left tackle Russell Okung (toe) early this week, but he’s probable. Wide receiver Percy Harvin (hip) and linebacker K.J. Wright (foot) have been ruled out.

Eagles at Cowboys

The Eagles have ruled out safety Colt Anderson (knee) and guard Julian Vandervelde (back). Safety Earl Wolff is questionable because of a knee injury. You may have heard that quarterback Tony Romo is out for the Cowboys after having back surgery and probably know that linebacker Sean Lee is out as well because of a neck injury. Defensive end DeMarcus Ware (elbow) is questionable, but says he’s playing, and wide receiver Dez Bryant (back) is probable.

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Making sense of the NFL playoff picture, with 16 games to go

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Here’s a look at the most likely playoff seeds in the AFC and NFC, heading into the final Sunday of the 2013 NFL season:

AFC
Home-field advantage: Denver, with a win on Sunday or a New England loss. New England would clinch home-field advantage with a win and a Denver loss.

2 seed: New England, with a win on Sunday or losses by the Bengals and Colts. Cincinnati and Indianapolis are both still in the hunt for the 2 seed but need help. Denver would fall to the 2 seed with a loss and a New England win.

3 seed: Cincinnati, assuming the favored teams win on Sunday. The Bengals could still move up to the 2 seed or drop to the 4 seed, and so could the Colts.

4 seed: Indianapolis, assuming the favored teams win on Sunday. The Colts could still move all the way up to the 2 seed, but they need to win and the Patriots and Bengals both need to lose.

5 seed: Kansas City has clinched the 5 seed. The Chiefs are the only playoff team with nothing to play for on Sunday.

6 seed: Miami, if all the favored teams win on Sunday. Baltimore needs to upset Cincinnati and needs either the Dolphins or Chargers to lose. San Diego needs to win and needs Baltimore and Miami both to lose. Pittsburgh needs to win while Miami, Baltimore and San Diego all lose. If Pittsburgh, Miami, Baltimore and San Diego all lose, the Ravens get the 6 seed.

NFC
Home-field advantage: Seattle, with a win on Sunday or a 49ers loss. Carolina can still earn home-field advantage with a win, a Seattle loss and a San Francisco win. San Francisco can still earn home-field advantage with a win and losses by both the Seahawks and the Panthers.

2 seed: Carolina clinches the NFC South and a first-round bye with a win or a New Orleans loss. New Orleans would clinch the NFC South and the 2 seed with a win and a Carolina loss. San Francisco would be the 2 seed with a win, a Seahawks loss and a Panthers win.

3 seed: Philadelphia clinches the 3 seed with a win on Sunday. If the Eagles lose, the 3 seed would either be the Bears (if they beat the Packers) or the Cowboys (if the Packers beat the Bears).

4 seed: Green Bay will be the 4 seed with a win at Chicago on Sunday, a win the Packers are now favored to get with Aaron Rodgers back. Chicago will be the 4 seed if it beats Green Bay and Philadelphia beats Dallas. The Cowboys will be the 4 seed if they beat the Eagles and the Bears beat the Packers.

5 seed: San Francisco will be the 5 seed with a win and a Seahawks win. If the 49ers win and the Seahawks lose, the Seahawks will be the 5 seed. If the 49ers lose and the Saints win, the Saints will be the 5 seed and the 49ers will be the 6 seed.

6 seed: New Orleans will be the 6 seed with a win and a 49ers win. If the Saints win and the 49ers lose to the Cardinals, the Saints will be the 5 seed and the 49ers will fall to the 6 seed. If the Cardinals beat the 49ers and the Saints lose to the Buccaneers, the Cardinals will be the 6 seed and the Saints will be out of the playoffs.

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PFT’s Week 17 picks

Charles Tillman, Eddie Lacy AP

After a pathetic, season-worst 6-10 showing by yours truly and a four-game sweep by MDS, I was tempted to try to guess which team he’d pick for each of the 16 games to end the regular season, and then hope for the best.

But the spirit of this game is to try to get as many games right as possible, even if my outcome from last week would suggest that the better approach for me would be to select a winner — and then to do the opposite.

This week, we disagree on three games, which means MDS will win the regular-season competition by at least nine games.

For the year, MDS has generated a record of 157-83.  I’m 145-95.

The only good news is that it all resets to 0-0 for the postseason picks competition.

Panthers at Falcons

MDS’s take: Give the Falcons credit for playing competitive football against good teams, as they did on Monday night against the 49ers. This Atlanta team hasn’t quit. But the Panthers’ defense should shut down the Falcons’ offense as the Panthers clinch the NFC South.

MDS’s pick: Panthers 20, Falcons 10.

Florio’s take:  The Panthers need a win to nail down the No. 2 seed.  An immature, undisciplined team would stumble in this spot.  If nothing else, the 2013 Panthers have proven that they are both mature and disciplined.

Florio’s pick:  Panthers 27, Falcons 20.

Packers at Bears

MDS’s take: As of the time I’m making this pick I don’t know if Aaron Rodgers is playing, so this is a tough one. But I’ll go with the Bears to clinch the NFC North in a high-scoring affair.

MDS’s pick: Bears 31, Packers 27.

Florio’s take:  If Aaron Rodgers can play, the Packers have a chance to peak in January.  If they can get to January.  If Rodgers plays on Sunday, the Packers will get to January.

Florio’s pick:  Packers 34, Bears 30.

Ravens at Bengals

MDS’s take: The Ravens suffered a huge letdown last week against the Patriots, and I see the defending champions’ season ending on Sunday in Cincinnati.

MDS’s pick: Bengals 24, Ravens 14.

Florio’s take:  The Bengals need a win and some help in order to secure the No. 2 seed.  The Ravens need a win and some help to extend their streak of playoff appearances to six.  While the Bengals are unbeaten at home, the Ravens have the greater incentive and enough talent to capitalize.

Florio’s pick:  Ravens 20, Bengals 17.

Jaguars at Colts

MDS’s take: The Jaguars aren’t going down without a fight, but the Colts showed last week against the Chiefs that they’re real contenders. Indianapolis will win this one and head into the playoffs with a full head of steam for a likely rematch with Kansas City.

MDS’s pick: Colts 34, Jaguars 20.

Florio’s take:  Indy is building some momentum in the hopes of advancing beyond the wild-card round.  The Jaguars have shown enough progress to create plausible hope for 2014 — if they can find a decent quarterback.

Florio’s pick:  Colts 30, Jaguars 20.

Jets at Dolphins

MDS’s take: Last week the Dolphins laid an egg, while the Jets kept fighting despite having no shot at the playoffs. This week, however, I think the Dolphins’ pass rush will get to Geno Smith and Miami will win a low-scoring game and the right to play in the first round of the playoffs, probably at Cincinnati.

MDS’s pick: Dolphins 20, Jets 10.

Florio’s take:  After his first season as Jets coach, Rex Ryan gave the finger to a Miami MMA crowd.  On Sunday, in perhaps his final act as Jets coach, he can give a figurative finger to Fins fans by knocking the home team out of the playoffs.  Rex will pull out all the stops, and the Dolphins will follow two wins in games they should have lost with two losses in games they should have won.

Florio’s pick:  Jets 23, Dolphins 20.

Lions at Vikings

MDS’s take: After appearing to be in control of the NFC North for much of the season, the Lions have gone into free fall. The fall will continue in Minnesota.

MDS’s pick: Vikings 24, Lions 17.

Florio’s take:  The final game at the Metrodome coincides with what likely will be the final game of Jim Schwartz’s tenure and Lions coach.  Adrian Peterson won’t let his team exit its 31-year home with anything other than a victory to cap a lost season.

Florio’s pick:  Vikings 31, Lions 23.

Bills at Patriots

MDS’s take: Buffalo isn’t going anywhere, but the Bills’ defense is a lot better than most people realize, as the Dolphins found out the hard way last week. It wouldn’t shock me to see the Bills pull off the upset, but I expect the Patriots’ defense to shut down the Bills’ offense to win a close, low-scoring game.

MDS’s pick: Patriots 14, Bills 10.

Florio’s take:  The Pats still have a shot at securing the No. 1 seed — and also at having to play in the wild-card round.  Either way, a home loss wouldn’t be the best way to embark on a playoff run in a wide-open AFC.

Florio’s pick:  Patriots 38, Bills 20.

Buccaneers at Saints

MDS’s take: The Saints are a bad road team but a good home team. That’s a bad thing to be if you’re going to the playoffs as a wild card, but in New Orleans on Sunday, the Saints will clinch a playoff berth.

MDS’s pick: Saints 27, Buccaneers 17.

Florio’s take:  The Saints could end the day as the No. 2 seed.  The Saints also could end the day out of the playoffs.  If Carolina wins earlier, forcing the Saints to leave the Superdome in the wild-card round, they may be tempted to not delay the inevitable.  Coach Sean Payton won’t let that happen.

Florio’s pick:  Saints 27, Buccaneers 13.

Redskins at Giants

MDS’s take: Both of these teams stink, but Washington is a much lower level of stink. This game will be ugly, and the Giants will win.

MDS’s pick: Giants 23, Redskins 16.

Florio’s take:  The Giants hoped to finish their season with a win at MetLife Stadium in February.  They’ll have to settle for finishing their season with a win at MetLife Stadium in late December.

Florio’s pick:  Giants 28, Redskins 17.

Browns at Steelers

MDS’s take: The Steelers dug a deep hole for themselves with their lousy start to the season, but they’re playing good football now. They probably won’t get all the help they need to make the playoffs, but the Steelers will take care of business against the Browns.

MDS’s pick: Steelers 34, Browns 13.

Florio’s take:  If the Steelers get to the playoffs, they’ll be tough to beat.  But not as tough as they’ll be to beat in the game that can help get them to the playoffs.

Florio’s pick:  Steelers 34, Browns 17.

Texans at Titans

MDS’s take: The Texans will clinch the first overall pick in the draft by losing to the Titans. And draft order is the only reason to pay any attention to this game.

MDS’s pick: Titans 20, Texans 13.

Florio’s take:  New Houston meets old Houston at a time when both Houstons have a problem too big for one meaningless game to fix.  If Mike Munchak is leaving after more than 30 years with the Oilers/Titans franchise, he’s going out with a win.

Florio’s pick:  Titans 24, Texans 17.

49ers at Cardinals

MDS’s take: The Cardinals have had an impressive season, and there’s a good team being assembled in Arizona. I think the Cardinals will make a big statement by defeating the playoff-bound 49ers, although Arizona won’t get the help it needs to make the playoffs.

MDS’s pick: Cardinals 20, 49ers 17.

Florio’s take:  Arizona finishes laying the foundation for a run at the top of the division in 2014.  The 49ers will be happy to get out of Arizona healthy enough to function the following weekend.

Florio’s pick:  Cardinals 20, 49ers 17.

Broncos at Raiders

MDS’s take: With home-field advantage throughout the playoffs on the line, Denver will cruise to an easy win in Oakland.

MDS’s pick: Broncos 38, Raiders 14.

Florio’s take:  With 265 yards passing on Sunday, Peyton Manning emerges from the 2013 season with the record for passing touchdowns and passing yards.  With more points than the Raiders on Sunday, the Broncos emerge from the 2013 season with the No. 1 seed, again.  What they do with it remains to be seen.

Florio’s pick:  Broncos 41, Raiders 20.

Chiefs at Chargers

MDS’s take: The Chiefs are locked into the No. 5 seed in the AFC and are therefore the only playoff team with nothing to play for. As a result, I think they’ll take it easy on Sunday and the Chargers will cruise to a win.

MDS’s pick: Chargers 30, Chiefs 20.

Florio’s take:  By the time this one starts, the Chargers will know whether a win gets them in the playoffs.  Chances are they’ll be done.  But with the Chiefs likely resting starters, the Chargers will finish on the right side of .500.

Florio’s pick:  Chargers 31, Chiefs 21.

Rams at Seahawks

MDS’s take: The Rams are playing competitively and this won’t be easy for the Seahawks, but Seattle will be highly motivated to win this one and clinch home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.

MDS’s pick: Seahawks 31, Rams 20.

Florio’s take:  Last Sunday’s loss to the Cardinals gave the Seahawks a much-needed wake-up call.  They’ll answer the bell by roughing up the Rams and locking up the No. 1 seed.

Florio’s pick:  Seahawks 27, Rams 10.

Eagles at Cowboys

MDS’s take: Even with Tony Romo I’d lean toward the Eagles to take this one, but with Romo’s back injury this looks to me like a game the Eagles take to clinch the NFC East.

MDS’s pick: Eagles 31, Cowboys 17.

Florio’s take:  With or without Tony Romo, the Cowboys don’t have the defense to once again hold Philly to three points — especially without Sean Lee available.  Another year, another 8-8 finish, another loss in the de facto NFC East championship game.

Florio’s pick:  Eagles 27, Cowboys 23.

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Week 16 power rankings

Peyton Manning AP

1. Broncos (12-3; No. 2):  They started the regular season 6-0 without Von Miller. They’ll now have to try to win half as many postseason games without him.

2.  Seahawks (12-3; last week No. 1):  Some would say the Cardinals gave the rest of the NFC playoff field hope by winning in Seattle.  Chances are the Cardinals simply gave the Seahawks a wake-up call.

3. Panthers (11-4; No. 3):  Luke Kuechly may have won defensive player of the year based on Week 16 alone.

4. Patriots (11-4; No. 4):  And just when it looks like the wheels are coming off, the car is once again cruising at top speed.

5. 49ers (11-4; No. 6):  NaVorro Bowman went from Bill Buckner to David Ortiz in roughly five minutes of real time.

6. Saints (10-5; No. 5):  Before the Saints will earn the right to lose on the road in the playoffs, they’ll have to win one more game at home.

7. Eagles (9-6; No. 9):  Before Philly sends out the playoff tickets, the Eagles need to figure out how to score more than three points against the Cowboys.

8.  Cardinals (10-5; No. 10):  In some respects, 2013 will be even more important to the franchise than 2008.

9.  Chiefs (11-4; No. 7):  Andy Reid brought John Harbaugh in to the NFL, and Reid can help take Harbaugh’s team out of the 2013 playoffs by resting starters at San Diego.

10. Bengals (10-5; No. 11):  With a 7-0 record at home and the AFC North title nailed down, this could be the year the Bengals break the curse of Bo Jackson’s hip.

11.  Colts (10-5; No. 13):  If the Colts could play as well in a meaningful game as they played in a meaningless game, they could go far in January.

12. Ravens (8-7; No. 8):  It’s too bad Justin Tucker couldn’t kick 14 field goals on Sunday.

13. Chargers (8-7; No. 16):  Before we carve a name on the coach of the year trophy, let’s not forget the guy who once got more than anyone ever has out of Tim Tebow.

14.  Steelers (7-8; No. 19):  The Steelers were left for dead after losing at home to the Bengals.  Just like in 2005.

15. Cowboys (8-7; No. 17):  When it comes to NFC East title games, maybe the third time will be a charm.

16. Packers (7-7-1; No. 14):  Maybe the Packers should put their “organizational decisions” to a vote of the shareholders.

17.  Bears (8-7; No. 12):  On the bright side, it could be getting a lot cheaper to re-sign Jay Cutler.

18. Dolphins (8-7; No. 15):  Winning games a team is supposed to lose makes it even harder to not lose the games a team is supposed to win.

19. Rams (7-8; No. 18):  With seven wins and the first pick in the draft, the Rams could win 11 games next year.  And still finish last in the division.

20. Jets (7-8; No. 21):   Rex Ryan deserves credit for coaxing seven wins out of a horrible roster.

21.  Bills (6-9; No. 22):  One of these years, the Bills will make it back to the playoffs.  We think.

22.  Giants (6-9; No. 25):  In any other division, the Giants would need major surgery to contend in 2014.  In the NFC East, they don’t need to do much to get back to the top.

23.  Lions (7-8; No. 20):  If the Lions couldn’t win the division this year, maybe they never will.

24. Titans (6-9; No. 24):  It’s fitting that Mike Munchak’s three-decade run with the Titans could end with a game against the team that plays in the city where Munchak got started.

25.  Jaguars (4-11; No. 22):  Find the right quarterback, and the Jaguars could find their way to contention.

26.  Vikings (4-10-1; No. 26):  Three years after the roof collapsed on the Metrodome, the curtain falls for a team that needs to get the hook.

27. Buccaneers (4-11; No. 27):  They’ve got a chance to get some company in their misery, if they can beat the Saints.

28.  Browns (4-11; No. 28):  Is it too late for Jimmy Haslam to get a refund?

29.  Falcons (4-11; No. 29):  At least the most recent last-second loss to the 49ers didn’t cost them a Super Bowl berth.

30.  Raiders (4-11; No. 30):  Dennis Allen isn’t setting Terrelle Pryor up to fail.  It will happen naturally.

31. Redskins (3-12; No. 31):  Plenty of cap space and a high first-round draft pick will help turn this mess around.  Oh.

32. Texans (2-13; No. 32):  At least their free agents won’t look as attractive to other teams this year.

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NFL playoff scenarios for Week 17

[Editor's note: These are the official playoff scenarios for Week 17, as distributed by the NFL.]

AFC

CLINCHED:
Denver – AFC West and first-round bye
New England – AFC East
Cincinnati – AFC North
Indianapolis – AFC South
Kansas City – playoff spot

DENVER BRONCOS (at Oak)

Denver clinches home-field advantage throughout AFC playoffs with:

1) DEN win or tie OR

2) NE loss or tie

NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS (vs. Buf)

New England clinches a first-round bye with:

1) NE win or tie OR

2) CIN loss or tie + IND loss or tie

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

1) NE win + DEN loss

CINCINNATI BENGALS (vs. Bal)

Cincinnati clinches a first-round bye with:

1) CIN win + NE loss

INDIANAPOLIS COLTS (vs. Jax)

Indianapolis clinches a first-round bye with:

1) IND win + NE loss + CIN loss or tie

MIAMI DOLPHINS (vs. NYJ)

Miami clinches a playoff spot with:

1) MIA win + BAL loss or tie OR

2) MIA win + SD win OR

3) MIA tie + BAL loss + SD loss or tie OR

4) MIA tie + BAL tie + SD tie

BALTIMORE RAVENS (at Cin)

Baltimore clinches a playoff spot with:

1) BAL win + SD loss or tie OR

2) BAL win + MIA loss or tie OR

3) BAL tie + MIA loss + SD loss or tie OR

4) BAL tie + MIA tie + SD loss OR

5) MIA loss + SD loss + PIT loss or tie

SAN DIEGO CHARGERS (vs. KC)

San Diego clinches a playoff spot with:

1) SD win + MIA loss or tie + BAL loss or tie OR

2) SD tie + MIA loss + BAL loss

PITTSBURGH STEELERS (vs. Cle)

Pittsburgh clinches a playoff spot with:

1) PIT win + MIA loss + BAL loss + SD loss

NFC

CLINCHED: Seattle – playoff spot
Carolina – playoff spot
San Francisco – playoff spot

SEATTLE SEAHAWKS (vs. StL)

Seattle clinches NFC West division and home-field advantage throughout NFC playoffs with:

1) SEA win or tie OR

2) SF loss or tie

CAROLINA PANTHERS (at Atl)

Carolina clinches NFC South division and a first-round bye with:

1) CAR win or tie OR

2) NO loss or tie

Carolina clinches home-field advantage throughout NFC playoffs with:

1) CAR win + SEA loss + SF win

PHILADELPHIA EAGLES (at Dal)

Philadelphia clinches NFC East division with:

1) PHI win or tie

CHICAGO BEARS (vs. GB)

Chicago clinches NFC North division with:

1) CHI win or tie

SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS (at Arz)

San Francisco clinches NFC West division and a first-round bye with:

1) SF win + SEA loss

San Francisco clinches NFC West division and home-field advantage throughout NFC playoffs with:

1) SF win + SEA loss + CAR loss or tie

NEW ORLEANS SAINTS (vs. TB)

New Orleans clinches NFC South division and a first-round bye with:

1) NO win + CAR loss

New Orleans clinches a playoff spot with:

1) NO win OR

2) NO tie + ARI tie OR

3) ARI loss

ARIZONA CARDINALS (vs. SF)

Arizona clinches a playoff spot with:

1) ARI win + NO loss or tie OR

2) ARI tie + NO loss

DALLAS COWBOYS (vs. Phi)

Dallas clinches NFC East division with:

1) DAL win

GREEN BAY PACKERS (at Chi)

Green Bay clinches NFC North division with:

1) GB win

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NFL morning after: Peyton’s place in history

peytonwave AP

The list of players who have won at least five MVP awards in the major sports reads like a who’s who of the greatest athletes in history. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Wilt Chamberlain and Michael Jordan in the NBA. Gordie Howe and Wayne Gretzky in the NHL. Barry Bonds (perhaps with an asterisk) in Major League Baseball. And that’s it.

Peyton Manning, who almost certainly clinched the fifth Most Valuable Player award of his stellar NFL career, is about to join that list.

We could debate where Manning ranks among the all-time great quarterbacks in football history, but I almost think that’s too narrow a debate. Perhaps the discussion needs to be where Manning ranks among the great competitors in the history of sports.

Think about all Manning has accomplished. He’s already the only NFL player who has ever won four MVP awards. He already owns several NFL records and will most likely own every significant career passing record before he’s finished. In addition to his fifth MVP award this year, he’s also going to get his 13th Pro Bowl selection and his seventh first-team All-Pro selection and perhaps his eighth offensive player of the year award. Last year he added a comeback player of the year award to his trophy case. In college he was a first-team All-American and winner of the Sullivan Award as America’s greatest amateur athlete. In high school he was the national player of the year.

Manning broke the NFL record for touchdown passes in a season in Sunday’s win over the Texans, with his 51st touchdown pass of the year giving the Broncos their final score in an easy win. Next week he’s likely to break the NFL record for passing yards in a season, as the Broncos just need to beat the Raiders to secure home-field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs. They’re one win away from heading into the postseason as the favorites to come out of the AFC and go to the Super Bowl. But as I was watching that unfold on Sunday, I was thinking two somewhat contradictory things.

First, I was thinking that it’s undeniable how great Peyton Manning is. He’s been an American sports star since he was a teenager, and he’s the best player in the NFL today at age 37. He’s about to get his fifth MVP, and there are another few seasons when he had a good case for the award (including last year, when he came in second). He’s just consistently amazing.

But the second thing I was thinking is that, no matter how much he does individually, he won’t be remembered as the greatest ever if he doesn’t get a second Super Bowl ring. That’s not right — football is the ultimate team sport, and no one wins or loses alone — but that’s the way it is. If any team other than the Broncos is hoisting the Vince Lombardi Trophy on the first Sunday in February, this will be remembered as another year when Peyton Manning didn’t get it done.

To me, though, Manning’s place in history is secure. He’s the best quarterback who ever lived.

Manning was the player who impressed me most on Sunday. Below are some other thoughts:

Dallas has a badly coached defense. We’ve been talking all season about what a bad job Cowboys defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin is doing, and there are many examples of that, but I was particularly struck by how ill-prepared the Dallas defense was when Washington showed a new formation on Sunday. With Washington’s offense lining up four receivers to the left side early in the second half, the Dallas secondary didn’t know how to line up in coverage, and so they blew a timeout — and then Dallas gave up a touchdown pass two plays after that timeout. If your defense is wasting timeouts because you can’t figure out what the other team’s offense is doing, and if you can’t get your coverage straightened out even after you’ve called timeout, you’ve got serious problems. Firing Rob Ryan and hiring Kiffin was a huge mistake for the Cowboys.

Weird call that I liked: Longtime Jaguars center Brad Meester had never caught a pass in his NFL career, but because he was playing his last home game after announcing that he’ll retire at the end of the season, the Jags decided to call a trick play with Meester as an eligible receiver. Sure enough, Meester caught the pass and then made a nifty little move to run for a first down. The Jaguars have had a rough season, but they haven’t quit on coach Gus Bradley, and plays like that pass to Meester show why: Players enjoy playing for a coach who makes football fun, and what’s more fun than letting a 300-pound 36-year-old catch a pass?

Weird call that I disliked, Part 1: With the Broncos facing fourth-and-3 in Houston, the offense stayed on the field, and I liked that decision — Denver’s offense should be able to pick up three yards on Houston’s defense. But I hated the play they ran, with Peyton Manning throwing a short pass to tight end Julius Thomas, who was tackled for a two-yard gain. If you’re throwing on fourth down, throw past the line to gain.

Weird call that I disliked, Part 2: With the Titans facing fourth-and-goal in Jacksonville, the offense stayed on the field, and I liked that decision — you’ve got nothing to lose, why not go for it? But I hated the play they ran, with Ryan Fitzpatrick throwing it out the back of the end zone. If you’re throwing on fourth down, don’t throw it away.

Terron Armstead wasn’t ready. Armstead, the rookie left tackle inserted into the Saints’ starting lineup for the first time on Sunday, looked pretty much the way you’d expect a rookie from a small school like Arkansas-Pine Bluff to look in his first NFL start. The Saints have had problems on their offensive line all year, and I understand why Sean Payton wanted to see if Armstead could help protect Drew Brees’s blind side, but Armstead simply wasn’t up to the task. The Panthers’ pass rush terrorized Brees all day.

Luke Kuechly is amazing. The flip side of the Saints’ offense struggling is that the Panthers’ defense was incredible in Sunday’s win over New Orleans. Kuechly, the second-year linebacker, had an unbelievable day: His 24 tackles were tied for the most the NFL has ever recorded by one player in a game, since tackles began being tracked as a statistic in 1994. Kuechly also became the first player since Derrick Brooks to record 20 tackles and an interception in the same game.

How can teams play so badly, with so much on the line? The Bears entered Sunday night knowing a win would clinch the NFC North. They lost 54-11. The Ravens entered Sunday knowing that if they won out they’d make the playoffs. They lost 41-7. The Lions entered Sunday knowing they needed to win to stay alive. They lost at home to the woeful Giants. The Dolphins entered Sunday knowing that if they won out they’d make the playoffs. They were destroyed by the hapless Bills.

We have an exciting Week 17 ahead of us. Some years all of the top teams are locked into their playoff spots before the season’s final Sunday. But not this year. Only one team, the Chiefs, knows its playoff seed (No. 5 in the AFC). Every other contender still has something to play for. We’re going to see some great football on Sunday. Including, I expect, Peyton Manning to set a new NFL record for passing yards in a season while leading the Broncos to home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.

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14 games have playoff implications

Drew Brees, Thomas Davis AP

In this week’s slate of 16 NFL games, only two will have no effect at all on the playoff race. Here’s a handy explanation of how each game can affect each team’s path to the playoffs:

Playoff implications for both teams

Saints-Panthers: A huge game. If the Saints win, they clinch the NFC South and a first-round playoff bye. If the Panthers win, they clinch at least a playoff spot and are in the driver’s seat for the NFC South and a first-round playoff bye.

Patriots-Ravens: If the Patriots win, they clinch the AFC East. If the Patriots win and both the Bengals and Colts lose, the Patriots clinch a first-round playoff bye. If the Ravens win they stay alive in the AFC North, and the Ravens can clinch a playoff berth if they win and the Dolphins and Chargers both lose.

Bears-Eagles: The winner of this game will continue to lead its division and have the inside track for the No. 3 seed in the NFC. If the Eagles win and the Cowboys lose, the Eagles win the NFC East. If the Bears win and the Packers and Lions lose, the Bears win the NFC North.

Colts-Chiefs: The Colts are the only team in the NFL that has clinched its division, but they could be anywhere from the No. 1 seed to the No. 4 seed in the AFC depending on how the last two weeks play out. The Chiefs have clinched a playoff berth but can leapfrog the Broncos in the AFC West with a win and a Denver loss.

Cardinals-Seahawks: The Seahawks clinch home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs with a win. The Cardinals’ slim playoff hopes will get a big boost if they can upset Seattle. (It would also help the Cardinals if the Panthers lose to the Saints.)

Steelers-Packers: If the Packers win, they just need to beat the Bears in Week 17 to clinch the NFC North. If the Packers lose, they need the Bears to lose as well or else Green Bay would be eliminated. The Steelers have to win out and get a lot of help to make the playoffs.

Playoff implications for one team

Broncos-Texans: The Broncos clinch the AFC West and a first-round bye if they win and the Chiefs lose, and they clinch home-field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs if they win and both the Chiefs and Patriots lose.

Giants-Lions: The Lions must win to stay alive. If they lose, they are mathematically eliminated. If the Lions win and either the Bears or Packers lose, the Lions head into Week 17 with a chance at the playoffs. If the Lions win and both the Bears and Packers lose, the Lions just need to win in Week 17 to clinch the NFC North.

Falcons-49ers: The 49ers clinch a playoff berth if they beat the Falcons on Monday night. (It’s possible the 49ers will already have clinched a playoff berth on Sunday, which will happen if the Seahawks beat the Cardinals.)

Dolphins-Bills: The Dolphins are in the playoffs if they win out. They can also clinch the playoffs this week if they win while both the Bengals and Ravens lose.

Vikings-Bengals: The Bengals win the AFC North if they win and the Ravens lose, and the Bengals clinch a playoff berth if they win and the Dolphins lose.

Cowboys-Redskins: If the Cowboys win, they’re a Week 17 win over the Eagles away from winning the NFC East. If the Cowboys lose, they’ll be eliminated unless the Eagles also lose to the Bears.

Raiders-Chargers: The Chargers’ playoff chances are slim, but they can still get in if they win out and get some help.

Playoff implications, but not for either team playing

Browns-Jets: Although both of these teams are mathematically eliminated from the playoffs, it’s still possible that this game could affect the AFC playoff race. The Steelers’ only path to the playoffs involves a four- or five-way tiebreaker that includes the Jets, and that can only happen if the Jets win this game. If the Jets lose, the Steelers are mathematically eliminated.

No playoff implications

Buccaneers-Rams, Titans-Jaguars: Do yourself a favor and don’t watch these games.

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PFT’s Week 16 picks

Titans AP

I entered the week eight games behind MDS.  I exited the week eight games behind MDS.

And now I have only 32 games left to make up an eight-game gap.

But it’s not time to surrender.  A sweep this week gets me halfway to a tie, since we disagree on four games.

We each went 9-7 in Week 15.  For the year, he’s 147-77.  I’m 139-85.

All picks appear below.  As they always do.

Dolphins at Bills

MDS’s take: Going to Buffalo in December won’t be an easy road trip for Miami, as the Bills’ defense is playing well. But it’s hard to pick a team with nothing to play for against a team that just needs to win out to make the playoffs.

MDS’s pick: Dolphins 24, Bills 20.

Florio’s take:  Buffalo already beat the Dolphins in Miami.  With Thad Lewis at quarterback.  Lewis is back at quarterback, and the rematch occurs in Buffalo.  But the weather won’t be all that frightful, and the Dolphins have come a long way since losing to the Bills in October.

Florio’s pick:  Dolphins 27, Bills 17.

Saints at Panthers

MDS’s take: The Saints looked lousy away from home last week, and I expect them to look lousy away from home again this week. That’s bad news in New Orleans, because losing this game likely means losing the division, which in turn means the Saints will spend the postseason on the road.

MDS’s pick: Panthers 23, Saints 17.

Florio’s take:  New Orleans squandered a chance to nail down the division and secure a bye by losing badly to the Rams.  The Panthers now get them outside in Charlotte for the biggest game at Bank of America Stadium in a long time.  A win puts Carolina in the driver’s seat that the Saints squandered, and the Panthers have the defense to disrupt Drew Brees’ timing.

Florio’s pick:  Panthers 27, Saints 20.

Vikings at Bengals

MDS’s take: The Vikings are actually looking like a decent team with Matt Cassel at quarterback, while the Bengals turned in a lousy effort last week against the Steelers. But with the Bengals suddenly in danger of missing the playoffs, Marvin Lewis will have his team ready for a big game.

MDS’s pick: Bengals 34, Vikings 21.

Florio’s take:  Relegated to spoiler, the Vikings have played that role well, tying the Packers, beating the Bears, and upending the Eagles.  But Cincinnati hasn’t lost at home this year, and they are one of the best teams in the league when properly focused.  They’ll be focused on Sunday.

Florio’s pick:  Bengals 24, Vikings 13.

Broncos at Texans

MDS’s take: The Broncos are two wins away from clinching home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. The Texans are two losses away from clinching the first overall pick in the NFL draft. Both teams will get halfway there on Sunday.

MDS’s pick: Broncos 35, Texans 10.

Florio’s take:  In 2012, Peyton Manning wanted to come to Houston.  But the Texans didn’t want him.  On Sunday, Houstonians will get to see what they’ve been missing.  A lot.

Florio’s pick:  Broncos 42, Texans 20.

Titans at Jaguars

MDS’s take: This game is utterly meaningless unless you care who comes in second place in the AFC South. I’ll take the Titans to win a close one.

MDS’s pick: Titans 24, Jaguars 21.

Florio’s take:  The Titans aren’t in the losing business.  In Jacksonville, they’ll be in the not winning business.  If they’re really lucky, they’ll be in the tying business.

Florio’s pick:  Jaguars 30, Titans 27.

Colts at Chiefs

MDS’s take: In this likely preview of a wild card playoff game in two weeks, the surging Chiefs will prove that they’re a whole lot better than the slumping Colts.

MDS’s pick: Chiefs 35, Colts 17.

Florio’s take:   They seem to be locked in as the No. 4 and No. 5 seeds, but the Chiefs still have some incentive to play hard.  If they win and the Broncos stumble only once, the No. 1 seed remains within reach for a team that won only two games in 2012.

Florio’s pick:  Chiefs 28, Colts 20.

Browns at Jets

MDS’s take: Neither of these teams is any good on offense, but the Jets are decidedly better on defense and special teams, and I’ll pick them on the strength of that.

MDS’s pick: Jets 17, Browns 13.

Florio’s take:  The 2014 preseason has begun for both teams.  Flip a coin.  Throw a dart.  Light a match.

Florio’s pick:  Browns 17, Jets 10.

Bears at Eagles

MDS’s take: The NFC North leaders visit the NFC East leaders in a game that figures to showcase the weaknesses of Chicago’s defense. I expect Philadelphia running back LeSean McCoy to have a huge game as the Eagles roll to a big win.

MDS’s pick: Eagles 28, Bears 17.

Florio’s take:  Even with linebacker Lance Briggs expected to be back for the Bears, Chicago doesn’t have the defense to slow down LeSean McCoy and the rest of the Philly offense.

Florio’s pick:  Eagles 31, Bears 24.

Buccaneers at Rams

MDS’s take: Both of these teams have shown more fight late in the season than I expected, so this game may be interesting to watch even though it doesn’t mean anything to the playoff race. I like the Rams, who are a last place team in the NFC West but would be contenders in the NFC North.

MDS’s pick: Rams 27, Buccaneers 20.

Florio’s take:  The consistently inconsistent Rams stunned the Saints last week.  And so it would be fitting for the Rams to stumble against the Bucs, especially with a trip to Seattle looming.

Florio’s pick:  Buccaneers 24, Rams 21.

Cowboys at Redskins

MDS’s take: Dallas’s D is terrible, but Washington is terrible on offense, defense, and special teams. Advantage: Cowboys.

MDS’s pick: Cowboys 34, Redskins 20.

Florio’s take:   The Cowboys are coming apart, and the Redskins have nothing to lose.  Especially since they’ve already lost their first-round draft, which pick belongs to the Rams.  Kirk Cousins riddles the Dallas defense and London Fletcher lifts the Washington defense in his final home game.

Florio’s pick:  Redskins 35, Cowboys 31.

Giants at Lions

MDS’s take: The Lions have choked away their NFC North lead, but they at least have a slight chance to get to the playoffs. The Giants, on the other hand, are playing like a team that just wants this bad season to be over with already.

MDS’s pick: Lions 34, Giants 20.

Florio’s take:  It would be fitting for the Lions to blow another game they need to win.  But they play the Giants.  And the Giants aren’t good.

Florio’s pick:  Lions 30, Giants 20.

Cardinals at Seahawks

MDS’s take: Give Arizona a lot of credit for staying in the NFC playoff race a lot later into the season than most people expected, but the Seahawks will crush the Cardinals’ hopes on Sunday and ensure that the road to the Super Bowl in the NFC goes through Seattle.

MDS’s pick: Seahawks 35, Cardinals 14.

Florio’s take:  The best team to not make the playoffs will give the Seahawks a great tuneup for their coming playoffs games.  While the Cardinals have done great things this year, no one will be beating Seattle in its own building.

Florio’s pick:  Seahawks 24, Cardinals 10.

Steelers at Packers

MDS’s take: With the Packers now having a clear path to the NFC North title, they’ll take care of business against an inconsistent Steelers team.

MDS’s pick: Packers 24, Steelers 20.

Florio’s take:  The last time the Packers rallied for a playoff spot, they beat the Steelers in the Super Bowl.  While the Super Bowl is a long way away, a win over the Steelers could at least propel the Pack toward a fifth straight postseason berth.

Florio’s pick:  Packers 34, Steelers 31.

Raiders at Chargers

MDS’s take: The Chargers still have an outside shot at a wild card, and if they somehow get into the playoffs I think they’d be a dangerous team. It probably won’t happen, but they will take care of business against a Raiders team that has nothing left to play for.

MDS’s pick: Chargers 38, Raiders 20.

Florio’s take:  Even if the Chargers don’t make it to the playoffs (and they likely won’t), they’re laying the foundation for future competitiveness.  The Raiders aren’t.

Florio’s pick:  Chargers 30, Raiders 17.

Patriots at Ravens

MDS’s take: The Patriots have been the better team for most of this season, but the Ravens are playing their best football at the right time, while New England is struggling. I like the Ravens to win a tough, physical, low-scoring game.

MDS’s pick: Ravens 14, Patriots 13.

Florio’s take:  The Ravens have won four in a row.  The Patriots have suffered one too many injuries to remain highly competitive.  Baltimore moves another big step closer to a sixth straight playoff appearance.

Florio’s pick:  Ravens 22, Patriots 17.

Falcons at 49ers

MDS’s take: In the most lopsided game of the week, the 49ers will roll to an easy win, while the Falcons will wish this disaster of a season could end already.

MDS’s pick: 49ers 45, Falcons 7.

Florio’s take:  The last game at Candlestick Park comes against an opponent that is neither nimble nor quick.

Florio’s pick:  49ers 35, Falcons 21.

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Several NFL single-season team records could fall in 2013

Here’s a list of NFL team single-season records that could be broken this season:

Points
The Broncos have scored 535 points this season and have a good chance of breaking the record of 589, set by the 2007 Patriots.

Touchdowns
The Broncos have scored 68 touchdowns this season and have a good chance of breaking the record of 75, set by the 2007 Patriots.

Extra points
The Broncos have kicked 67 extra points this season and have a good chance of breaking the record of 74, set by the 2007 Patriots.

Passing first downs
The Broncos have 254 passing first downs this season, giving them a shot at the record of 280, set by the Saints in 2011.

Most first downs allowed
The Cowboys’ defense has allowed 350 first downs, putting them in striking range of the all-time record of 406, set by the 1981 Baltimore Colts.

Most passing first downs allowed
The Cowboys’ defense has also allowed 209 passing first downs, putting them in striking range of the all-time record of 246, set by the 2011 Packers.

Most total yards allowed
The Cowboys’ defense has allowed 5,982 total yards this season, putting them in striking range of the all-time record of 7,042, set by the 2012 Saints.

Most passing yards allowed
The Cowboys’ defense has allowed 4,163 passing yards this season, putting them in striking range of the all-time record of 4,796, set by the 2011 Packers.

Fewest punt return yards allowed
The Seahawks have allowed just 19 punt return yards this season. The NFL record is 22, set by the 1967 Packers.

Safeties
Here’s one you never would have guessed: The Jaguars have scored three safeties this season. The NFL record is four, first set by the 1927 Cleveland Bulldogs and equaled four times since then. So if the Jaguars get one more safety, they’ll have a share of an NFL scoring record. (Jacksonville’s safeties came on a holding penalty on Chance Warmack in the end zone against the Titans, a penalty on Brandon Weeden for illegally kicking a loose ball in the end zone against the Browns and a blocked punt out the end zone against the Chiefs.)

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2013 NFL playoff scenarios for Week 16

[Editor's note: The NFL distributed this list of playoff scenarios for Week 16.]

AFC

CLINCHED: Denver – playoff spot
Indianapolis – AFC South
Kansas City – playoff spot

DENVER BRONCOS

Denver clinches AFC West division and a first-round bye with:

1) DEN win + KC loss

Denver clinches home-field advantage throughout AFC playoffs with:

1) DEN win + KC loss + NE loss or tie

NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS

New England clinches AFC East division with:

1) NE win or tie OR

2) MIA loss or tie

New England clinches a first-round bye with:

1) NE win + CIN loss or tie + IND loss or tie OR

2) NE tie + CIN loss + IND loss

New England clinches a playoff spot with:

1) CIN loss or tie

CINCINNATI BENGALS

Cincinnati clinches AFC North division with:

1) CIN win + BAL loss or tie OR

2) CIN tie + BAL loss

Cincinnati clinches a playoff spot with:

1) CIN win + MIA loss or tie OR

2) CIN tie + MIA loss

BALTIMORE RAVENS

Baltimore clinches a playoff spot with:

1) BAL win + MIA loss + SD loss or tie

MIAMI DOLPHINS

Miami clinches a playoff spot with:

1) MIA win + BAL loss + CIN loss

NFC

CLINCHED: Seattle – playoff spot

SEATTLE SEAHAWKS

Seattle clinches NFC West division and home-field advantage throughout NFC playoffs with:

1) SEA win or tie OR

2) SF loss or tie

NEW ORLEANS SAINTS

New Orleans clinches NFC South division and a first-round bye with:

1) NO win

New Orleans clinches a playoff spot with:

1) ARI loss OR

2) NO tie + SF loss or tie OR

3) NO tie + ARI tie OR

4) SF loss + ARI tie

CAROLINA PANTHERS

Carolina clinches a playoff spot with:

1) CAR win OR

2) CAR tie + ARI loss OR

3) CAR tie + SF loss OR

4) ARI loss + SF loss

SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS

San Francisco clinches a playoff spot with:

1) SF win OR

2) ARI loss OR

3) SF tie + ARI tie

PHILADELPHIA EAGLES

Philadelphia clinches NFC East division with:

1) PHI win + DAL loss or tie OR

2) PHI tie + DAL loss

CHICAGO BEARS

Chicago clinches NFC North division with:

1) CHI win + DET loss or tie + GB loss

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Several NFL single-season individual records could fall in 2013

Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning throws against the Philadelphia Eagles in the third quarter of their NFL football game in Denver Reuters

Here’s a list of NFL individual single-season records that could be broken or tied this season:

Passing yards gained
Peyton Manning is currently at 4,811, putting him a couple good games away from breaking Drew Brees’s record of 5,476, set in 2011.

Most touchdown passes
Peyton Manning has 47 so far this season. Tom Brady’s record is 50, set in 2007.

Most 400-yard passing games
Peyton Manning has three so far this season. Dan Marino’s record is four, set in 1984.

Most 300-yard passing games
Peyton Manning has 11 so far this season. Drew Brees’s record is 13, set in 2011.

Most games, four or more touchdown passes
Peyton Manning has already broken this record, with seven such games this season. The previous record was six, set by Dan Marino in 1984 and tied by Manning in 2004.

Highest passer rating
Nick Foles leads the league with a passer rating of 117.0, which puts him within striking distance of Aaron Rodgers‘ NFL record of 122.5, set in 2011.

Most games, 200 or more yards receiving
Josh Gordon and Alshon Jeffery both have two so far this season. Charley Hennigan’s NFL record is three, set in 1961. (Hennigan played for the Houston Oilers of the AFL, but the NFL has incorporated all AFL records.)

Highest net average, punting
Johnny Hekker of the Rams is currently averaging 43.81 net yards per punt. Andy Lee’s NFL record is 43.99, set in 2011.

Most kicking points after touchdown
Broncos kicker Matt Prater is 67-for-67 this season. Stephen Gostkowski went 74-for-74 in 2007, setting the records for most extra points, most extra points attempted, and most extra points without a miss. Prater has a chance at all of those records.

Most field goals
Ravens kicker Justin Tucker is currently at 35 field goals this season. David Akers owns the record, with 44 in 2011. Ordinarily I’d say it’s unrealistic to think Tucker could kick 10 field goals in the next two weeks, but considering he kicked six on Monday night, anything is possible.

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Week 15 power rankings

Seahawks AP

1.  Seahawks (12-2; last week No. 1):  Sunday’s game at MetLife Stadium would have been a good dress rehearsal for the Super Bowl, if an NFL team had actually shown up to face the Seahawks.

2. Broncos (11-3; No. 2):  The Broncos may be the best team in NFL history that no one believes will win in the playoffs.

3. Panthers (10-4; No. 6):  It’s a two-week season, with the No. 2 seed on the line.

4. Patriots (10-4; No. 3):  When it comes to throwing an interception with the game on the line, Tony Romo was in good company on Sunday.

5. Saints (10-4; No. 4):  From likely No. 2 seed to possible No. 6 seed, all in one miserable Missouri afternoon.

6. 49ers (10-4; No. 7):  When the playoffs come, the 49ers will be Vernon Davis and the Seahawks will be the wall.

7.  Chiefs (11-3; No. 8):  As the offense keeps getting better, the defense keeps getting worse.

8. Ravens (8-6; No. 11):  Great teams find a way to win in December.

9. Eagles (8-6; No. 9):  The Eagles would have been better off if the roof at the Metrodome had busted.  Again.

10.  Cardinals (9-5; No. 10):  Five years after nine wins got them to the Super Bowl, 10 wins won’t get them to the playoffs.

11. Bengals (9-5; No. 5):  In three hours on Sunday night, they went from possible playoff bye to possibly saying bye to the playoffs.

12.  Bears (8-6; No. 12):  The quarterback situation has helped distract attention from the horrible defense.

13.  Colts (9-5; No. 14):  Does beating the Texans still count as an actual win?

14. Packers (7-6-1; No. 15):  So who’ll overpay Matt Flynn in March and bench him in August?

15. Dolphins (8-6; No. 16):  Another week, another signature win for the quarterback Mike Shanahan supposedly wanted to take in 2012.

16. Chargers (7-7; No. 17):  Ryan Mathews finally is becoming the guy no one ever thought he’d stay healthy long enough to be.

17. Cowboys (7-7; No. 13):  Peyton Manning says whoever wrote the “Tony Romo is a great fourth-quarter quarterback” narrative can shove it where the sun don’t shine.

18. Rams (6-8; No. 20):  The Rams have become incredibly consistent at being inconsistent.

19.  Steelers (6-8; No. 23):  Other teams may not take the Steelers seriously.  The Bengals now do.

20.  Lions (7-7; No. 18):  Talented-but-underachieving teams find a way to lose in December.

21. Jets (6-8; No. 19):  Unlike the Panthers, the Jets don’t have a weak link.  They have several.

22.  Bills (5-9; No. 26):  Don’t worry, Bills fans.  In just two weeks, you can start crafting unrealistic expectations all over again.

23.  Jaguars (4-10; No. 21):  Loss to the Bills notwithstanding, the Jags have a bright future.  Especially in a dim division.

24. Titans (5-9; No. 22):  CEO Tommy Smith says the team isn’t in the losing business.  Perhaps it’s technically known as the not winning business.

25.  Giants (5-9; No. 24):  The New York Super Bowl curse?  Host the game, get both of the local coaches fired

26.  Vikings (4-9-1; No. 28):  Josh Freeman gets $166,000 per week to do nothing.  The rest of us get much less for the same effort.

27. Buccaneers (4-10; No. 25):  The game against the 49ers was much closer than the score would suggest.  And I’m not saying that because I picked the Bucs to win.  OK, I am.

28.  Browns (4-10; No. 27):  Did anyone really expect the Factory of Sadness to shut down during the holiday season?

29.  Falcons (4-10; No. 30):  When the Redskins failed to convert that two-point conversion, the Falcons lost their shot at Jadeveon Clowney.

30.  Raiders (4-10; No. 29):  Welcome to Oakland, Johnny Manziel.

31. Redskins (3-11; No. 31):  The Rams greatly appreciate Mike Shanahan’s decision to go for two.  Maybe enough to hire Kyle as offensive coordinator.

32. Texans (2-12; No. 32):  Show up on Sunday, Texans fans, to see the Sportsman of the Year quarterback who wanted to play in Houston.

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