Welcome to the greatest weekend in sports.
Yea I said it.
The NFL Divisional Playoff weekend typically features the most back and forth games with relentless fight that we get to see all season long.
No other professional sport offers the drama that can be found in the National Football League Playoffs. There is no series, no best of situation, no tomorrow... it is truly win or go home. The Divisional Weekend historically personifies that mantra more than any other.
As I'm expecting this weekend to be particularly epic, my Bold Predictions have to match that level of intensity.
So if you think you've seen me get bold before... you're in for a surprise. Vamonos!
Malcolm Butler Finishes The Chiefs Exactly Like He Did The Seahawks In Super Bowl XLIX
The Chiefs and Patriots will get the weekend started in just a few hours, and last year's Super Bowl hero is getting us started here.
Kansas City has won an astonishing 11 games in a row, and part of the reason for that is how well Alex Smith has taken care of the football. This game is going to be a slugfest what with the Chiefs being so limited offensively and Bill Belichick undoubtedly eliminating Travis Kelce from the game.
Julian Edelman and Rob Gronkowski are two huge question marks in this game. It seems doubtful that they'll just jump in and push the Patriots to the 40-burgers that we saw in the days of September and October, so this is going to be a close one down to the end.
Close your eyes and see it now. (You can open them to read this, though!).
The Chiefs are trailing 27-21. Alex Smith is driving. He picks up a nice gain on a screen pass to Knile Davis. He rushes for 23 yards to put them on the New England 8-yard line. There's 39 seconds left.
Alex drops back, eyes Kelce, takes aim, and fires!
...right into the waiting arms of Malcolm Butler.
Carson Palmer Throws Less Incompletions Than Aaron Rodgers Does Touchdowns
There are two indisputable truths regarding the 2015 NFL season:
- Carson Palmer has played at an elite level.
- Aaron Rodgers has not.
I've been very critical of Aaron Rodgers over the course of this season, and he hasn't done anything lately to show me why I shouldn't have been.
Oh he beat the Redskins? Let me call Matt Cassel so they can take a group photo of all the guys that did that this season!
Aaron Rodgers is going to struggle against these Cardinals - just like he did on December 27th, 2015. And Carson Palmer is going to ball out - just like he did on December 27th, 2015.
Now that day Carson had nine incompletions and Aaron Rodgers only had one touchdown, so this is a pretty big stretch of a prediction. But that's why we don't call them "5 Totally Reasonable And Plausible Predictions", am I right?!
Palmer is going to go something like 34/36 for 428 yards and 4 touchdowns.
Rodgers is going to stumble his way to a 29/43 for 313 yards and 3 touchdowns performance.
And it's going to be glorious considering it was this very weekend of the 2014 season that Aaron and Co. caught a ginormous break concerning the Dez Catch.
Julius Peppers Will Retire Following A Green Bay Packers Embarrassing Loss
If you read my Division Game Picks yesterday then you know that I took the Cardinals to win this game by a score of 42-17... although if you read directly above this then you know how strongly I am vibing against the Pack.
When the Packers lose this game a lot is going to be called into question:
- Is this the beginning of Aaron Rodgers' decline?
- Is Mike McCarthy the problem?
- Can I erase my memory and re-watch "Making A Murderer"?
- How are the Packers going to replace Julius Peppers?
Peppers, Julius not green or jalapeno, was drafted Second Overall out of North Carolina by the hometown Carolina Panthers all the way back in 2002.
He's had quite the career. His 136 career sacks tie him for 9th on the All-Time Sacks Leader list with a current Carolina Panther... Jared Allen.
Peppers sniffed another Super Bowl appearance last year up in Seattle, but then the Packers made a series of mistakes more implausible than the hope that the Eagles placed in Doug Pederson.
When the Packers are emphatically eliminated from the Playoffs, he'll hang 'em up and call it quits. You heard it here first.
Russell Wilson And Cam Newton Will Combine For The Most Rushing Yards In A Single Game By A Quarterback Duo
Man... this game is going to be awesome.
Superman versus The All-American Hero.
The Legion Of Boom versus Josh Norman.
Pete Carroll versus Ron Rivera.
And can you imagine an actual fight between a Seahawk and a Panther? How incredibly epic/awesome would that be?
These two teams are practically carbon copies of one another. There's a supremely talented, and mobile, quarterback coupled with a strong run game and a cast of suspect wide receivers on both offenses. There's a crazy pass rush, elite linebacking corps, and stout secondary on both defenses. Holy moly!
This game is going to come down to who wants it more. And they both want it really bad.
Russell Wilson and Cam Newton are going to have to take this game over if their respective team has a chance at winning. You know it. I know it. They know it. Doug Pederson knows it.
They're going to run all over the field all day long.
Peyton Manning Will Be Benched For Performance Reasons
Gary Kubiak panicked when he went back to Peyton Manning in the regular season finale two weeks ago.
The narrative of Peyton Manning had finally died down what with Brock Osweiler quarterbacking the Broncos to legitimate success. So what did 'ol Kubes figure the smartest thing to do was? Reignite the flames and shoot them with a water gun filled with kerosene.
Do you realize that Peyton Manning was second in the NFL during the 2015 regular season in interceptions with 17? Despite only playing in nine games? THAT is the source of hope that Gary Kubiak turned to.
As a result of the Broncos smashing the glass and pulling the fire alarm they have, largely out of political reasons, had to roll with Peyton as the named starter for this game. It's just the first outpour of the can of worms that they opened on that fateful day against the Chargers.
The last time that we saw Peyton Manning start a game was against the Kansas City Chiefs on November 15th, 2015. He was 5/20 with 0 touchdowns and 4 interceptions before leaving the game with an "injury" (probably to his pride more than anything).
This is all really weird for me to feel and think because I love Peyton Manning. He's been so great for the game for such a long time, but as much as I love and respect Pro Football... the decision to go with him is going to blow up in everyone's face.
He'll come out, play bad, and Brock (or something called Trevor Siemian) will be called upon to save the day. You can see this coming from a mile away at Mile High.
Here's A Fun Fact For You...
Peyton Manning is currently tied with Brett Favre for the most wins all-time by an NFL quarterback. And the way that wins are calculated, the wins are credited to the quarterback who starts the game.
So two weeks ago when Peyton came in and relieved Brock against the Chargers? The Broncos won that game, but because Brock got the start he was credited with the win.
Should the Denver Broncos lose then Peyton Manning would end the 2015 season, and perhaps his Hall of Fame career, one win shy of standing atop the all-time wins mountain all by himself. Draaaaaama!
Jourdan Lewis Continues to Shine, Needs More Playing Time
Once upon a time, Cornerback Jourdan Lewis was a star at Michigan who had first-round talent written all over him. The former two-time First-Team All-American would see his stock plummet, though, with a domestic violence accusation hanging over his head. Nonetheless, the Dallas Cowboys selected him 92nd overall in the third round of the 2017 NFL Draft.
His career got off to a great start in his rookie campaign. He totaled 54 tackles (48 solo), 10 passes defended and an interception. Unfortunately for Lewis, when the Cowboys hired Kris Richard as the Passing Game Coordinator and Defensive Backs Coach in 2018 he became the forgotten man in the secondary. The architect of the infamous "Legion of Boom" in Seattle that produced stars such as Richard Sherman, Earl Thomas, and Kam Chancellor likes tall, physical and rangy corners. At 5'10 and 195 pounds, Lewis simply didn't fit Richard's vision of what his secondary should look like.
He would only manage one start in 15 games and registered a pedestrian 12 tackles in 2018. Lewis caught a break recently, though, when starting nickel corner Anthony Brown left the Cowboys Week 6 matchup against the New York Jets with a hamstring injury. Lewis, who obviously had been chomping at the bit to make his presence felt didn't waste any time reminding everyone how talented he is.
Lewis would not only register four tackles but he intercepted Sam Darnold inside the 10 in the third quarter. As we all know, turnovers have been the achilles heel for the entire defensive unit for years so to see Lewis come in and get one in a matter of minutes was encouraging.
With Brown ruled out against the Philadelphia Eagles, Lewis would get another shot to show what kind of a player he is, and once again, he didn't disappoint. In a dominant 37-10 win, Lewis had four tackles and his first NFL sack. Simply put, Lewis makes plays whenever he's on the field.
It's not like Brown is a bad corner or anything, he's not at all. In fact, he could start for a lot of teams in the NFL as their top corner or be a solid number two. However, in 2017 he was benched in favor of Chidobe Awuzie in Week 13 and remained a backup for the rest of the season. With this latest setback, Lewis could find himself with a permanent role, that is if Richard can look past his height and focus on who's the best option to put on the field out of Lewis and Brown.
There are several reasons I feel Lewis is a better option than Brown as the lead nickel corner. For one thing, Lewis is a ball-hawking corner and you can never have enough of those is this passing era of NFL football. Brown is the only corner out of the team's top four with more career interceptions than Lewis, and they have all had significantly more playing time than he has over the last three years.
Also, he's a sure tackler as 68 of his 77 career tackles (88%) are of the solo variety. A corner who can create turnovers and tackle well is a defensive coordinator's dream come true. Lastly, Lewis can play in the slot or on the outside. Position flex is a very valuable tool to have as a defensive back and makes it easier to fill a hole in case of an unfortunate injury in your secondary.
So when Brown is healthy enough to return what does Richard do? Will he insert him back into the starting lineup? Does he realize Lewis is the better player and keep him on the field? This will be an interesting decision and one that a lot of fans will definitely be keeping an eye on.
Football Focus: Top 3 MVP Candidates Through Seven Weeks
Once week 8 comes around, it's acceptable to start MVP discussions. Of course, that sort of talk begins even before the season starts, but by the eight week of the season we've seen plenty of NFL action for the conversation to have any sense at all. Having said that, on today's edition of Football Focus, I'll share with you my top three candidates for the MVP award this season. Stick around for some thoughts on the New England Patriots, Andy Dalton, Los Angeles Chargers and more!
Let's get to it.
Russel Wilson, SEA Seahawks
Dangerous Russ is playing absolutely great. Despite a rough outing versus the Baltimore Ravens, Wilson has been playing at MVP level all season. Although the Seahawks are always thought of as a talented team, the truth is they're far from being one of the best rosters in the NFL. Wilson's offensive line is average at best and he still manages to play lights out football.
He has a 122.1 passer rating outside of the pocket, according to PFF. He's led the Seahawks' passing offense to become the second most efficient according to DVOA. Wilson is elevating the players around him. If the Seahawks make the postseason, it'll be thanks to him. He might be the best QB in the NFL right now.
Deshaun Watson, HOU Texans
The Houston Texans are a difficult team to figure out. They're 4-3 and have been somewhat inconsistent this season. They're not the best of teams, but Deshaun Watson is a great QB. Watching him play is unbelievably fun as he slings the ball all over the field. His offensive line is far from great, but he manages to extend plays and get the job done frequently.
Watson is throwing 8.3 yards per attempt (fifth most in the league) and he's racked up 18 total touchdowns (tied for first in the NFL).
Last week wasn't very helpful to his case, but Watson will continue to play well this year. If the Texans win the division, I'll sure consider him an MVP candidate.
Lamar Jackson, BAL Ravens
Baltimore Ravens' QB Lamar Jackson might be a dark-horse candidate in the MVP race, and I'm surely betting on him. He's just a tough quarterback to defend. Many people don't like running signal-callers and I get it. Historically, their careers haven't been very long and they're often injury-prone.
But Jackson is sixth in the league in rushing yards (576). In average rushing yards per attempt, Lamar actually leads the league with 6.9 yards. He makes it look easy even against well-coached defenses such as Pete Carroll's Seahawks. With the Ravens playing aggressively this season on their way to a 5-2 record, Lamar Jackson should be in the MVP conversation.
Three-And-Out: 3 Quick Thoughts
- Maybe the New England Patriots haven't faced a tough team yet, but that doesn't mean you should doubt them. They're really good and Bill Belichick might be coaching the best defense of his career. Through seven games, they have allowed 6.9 points per game, 223 yards per game, and have 22 takeaways. In all of those categories (and more), they rank #1 in the NFL. They've allowed three offensive touchdowns while scoring three on defense. This team is remarkable. Don't let lazy "they haven't played anyone" narratives fool you.
- With the Cincinnati Bengals leading the Jacksonville Jaguars 10-9, things went south for the 0-7 Bengals really fast. Quarterback Andy Dalton would go on to throw three interceptions in the fourth quarter. It truly feels like it's time to move on from Dalton in Cincinnati. Start the rebuild with a new face at the wheel.
- Oh, the Los Angeles Chargers. Prior to the season, they looked like a serious contender in the AFC West. Now they're 2-5. Last weekend, they were inches away from getting a win over the Tennessee Titans but Melvin Gordon fumbled the ball and the Chargers lost in disappointing fashion. They might not be a bad football team, but there are more issues with Anthony Lynn's team than just health issues. Even if they were completely healthy, this wouldn't be a great team.
Underdog of the Week: Baltimore Ravens
The Seattle Seahawks were 3-point favorites last week against the Baltimore Ravens. The Ravens defeated the Seahawks on the road - which isn't easy in Seattle - 30-16. Lamar Jackson was impressive on the ground as he racked up 116 yards in 14 carries. The guy is special and it's the first time this season when the Ravens have convinced me they're a good team. I had my doubts, but they're gone now.
Player of the Week: QB Aaron Rodgers, GB Packers
This might've been Rodgers' first "elite" performance of the season. Against a bad Oakland Raiders' defense, Rodgers did a fantastic job throwing the football. He completed 25 out of 31 passes for 429 yards and five touchdowns. He was great. Although the Green Bay Packers are 6-1, they're one of those teams that still have a lot to prove. Rodgers having such a good game is a step in the right direction.
College Football Corner: Down Goes Wisconsin
Sooner or later, the Wisconsin Badgers were supposed to fall. They're a good football team and they ranked #6 prior to last week, but they weren't likely to survive a game versus the Ohio State Buckeyes next Saturday. However, their first loss of the season arrived very unexpectedly. As a 31-point underdogs (yes, you read that right), Illinois defeated Wisconsin on a walk-off game winning field goal.
Illinois pulls off the BIGGEST upset of the season over No. 6 Wisconsin! #SCtop10 https://t.co/z3lmx1H7kK
Just like that, Wisconsin's playoff hopes are completely gone. It's tough to see, but it's what makes college football beautiful. The surprises never stop.
Will Cowboys Bring Back Anyone From Injured Reserve After Week 8?
After thoroughly dominating the Philadelphia Eagles and claiming sole possession of the NFC East, the Dallas Cowboys are officially on their bye week. It couldn't possibly come at a better time. Not only are there several players who need to get healthy, but it's the perfect time to reassess what's gone right and wrong thus far for them in 2019.
During the week off the Dallas Cowboys coaching staff is going to be really busy. They need to reevaluate just about everything, which includes the current roster as it stands right now. Why? Well, not only is the trade deadline approaching quickly, but teams can also bring back players who have been on injured reserve after Week 8.
Per NFL rules, teams can bring back a total of two players who have spent the first eight weeks of the season on injured reserve. The Dallas Cowboys have designated players to return from IR in the past, but will they do so again this season?
When thinking about who the Cowboys might bring back from IR two names immediately popped into my head, Wide Receiver Noah Brown and Offensive Guard Connor McGovern. After doing a little research though I discovered Noah Brown doesn't qualify because he's on the Physically Unable to Perform List (PUP), not IR. Let's talk a little about him before we discuss McGovern's 2019 fate.
Even though Noah Brown can't be designated to return from IR, the Dallas Cowboys still have to make a decision on his 2019 future pretty quickly as well. You see, players on the PUP list have until November 4 to start practicing and then the Cowboys would have three weeks to either activate or shut him down for the season.
Unfortunately, as recently as last week reports indicated Noah Brown isn't ready to practice due to a lingering knee injury. That doesn't bode well for him suiting up this season, meaning we could see him placed on IR at some point in the next few weeks.
That leaves Connor McGovern as the Dallas Cowboys most logical option to be designated to return from IR. With the Cowboys current offensive line depth on the roster right now it doesn't make much sense for them to add McGovern to the active roster, but the trade deadline could change all of that.
The Dallas Cowboys currently have three offensive lineman in the last year of their contracts (Joe Looney, Xavier Su'a Filo, and Adam Redmond). The Cowboys would surely take a call from any team showing an interest in trading for any one of the three, especially if they believe Connor McGovern is ready to step in as a replacement.
Personally, I have a hard time seeing the Dallas Cowboys make such a move. I think they will keep McGovern on IR and allow this to be a redshirt year of sorts for him. Of course, that could all change if the Cowboys become sellers before the trade deadline.
Do you think the Dallas Cowboys bring back anybody from injured reserve?
Player News2 days ago
Cowboys Get Good News on Vander Esch, Quinn Injuries After Eagles Game
Dallas Cowboys1 week ago
Jourdan Lewis, the Change the Dallas Cowboys Defense Needs
Star Blog1 day ago
Where Does Ezekiel Elliott Stand in the 2019 Rushing Title Race?
Dallas Cowboys1 week ago
Kris Richard: Dallas Cowboys Defense is a “Work in Progress”
Star Blog1 week ago
Robert Quinn Continues Impressive Start to Cowboys Career
Dallas Cowboys5 days ago
Antonio Brown Could be the Bold Move That Saves the Cowboys 2019 Season
Star Blog2 weeks ago
Ezekiel Elliott’s Carries Have Decreased Three Straight Weeks, Here is Why
Dallas Cowboys1 week ago
Will, Should Jason Garrett be Coaching for His Job vs the Eagles?