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!
Upgrading the Offensive Line Cowboys Top Offseason Priority?
Despite the displeasure by the majority of fans, the Dallas Cowboys continue to hold things close to the vest with their approach to free agency. It's definitely not the most popular approach and tends to drive fans crazy, but things could start heating up now that the free-agent market is starting to settle.
Looking from the outside in, we can only speculate as to which positions the Dallas Cowboys may prioritize in free agency and in the draft that matter. Earl Thomas and the safety position has been the most popular topic of discussion throughout the free agency process, but it looks as if the Cowboys are narrowing their focus on upgrading and adding depth to their offensive line.
This is just speculation of course, but it's based on the fact that the Cowboys are rumored to be bringing in free-agent offensive lineman Marcus Martin and Cameron Fleming. And on top of that, it was announced that two of the Dallas Cowboys 30 pre-draft visitors are also offensive lineman, Will Hernandez, who is popular among Cowboys fans already, and offensive tackle Kolton Miller.
I don't know about you, but it looks as if the Dallas Cowboys are certainly focused in on upgrading the offensive line. This absolutely makes sense after what they went through last season with the carousel at the left guard position and Tyron Smith's struggles to stay healthy.
More than anything, the Cowboys need OL depth heading into the 2018 season. There is only really one spot up for grabs at left guard, but the depth across the OL is absolutely depleted unless you want to rely on Chaz Green again.
This is where Marcus Martin and Cameron Fleming make a lot of sense. Marcus Martin has the versatility to play center and guard, and has done so already in his NFL career. He could compete for the starting LG position, but if nothing else, could replace Joe Looney as the backup C/OG.
Cameron Fleming could be the more important of the two free agents the Cowboys are rumored to be interested in. At the worst, Fleming would be an upgrade as the swing tackle, something he's done with the New England Patriots throughout his career. But, he could compete to become the starting right tackle, which would kick La'el Collins back inside to left guard.
That's all speculation right now, but the Dallas Cowboys would do what's best for the entire team in order to get the right starting five offensive lineman on the field.
The same can be said about rookies Will Hernandez and Kolton Miller. Hernandez would likely be a plug-and-play left guard if he ended up being the Dallas Cowboys first-round draft pick. That would keep the offensive line from shuffling and hopefully solidify the unit for years to come.
Kolton Miller on the other hand would be a lot like the Cameron Fleming situation mentioned above. He can probably tackle on the left or right side the NFL, although some draft analysts believe he will struggle as a LT at the next level.
Of course, there is no way of knowing how much interest the Dallas Cowboys have any of these players right now. But to me, it looks as if upgrading the offensive line is certainly one of their top priorities this offseason.
Is upgrading the OL the Dallas Cowboys top offseason priority?
Cowboys Free Agency: The Thin Line Between Frustration and Comprehension
For die-hard NFL fans, the free agency period is as fun as any other week in the regular season. It's always a fun experience knowing what team is interested in which player and who's visiting who. Heck, there are websites with "free agents trackers" for people who don't want to miss a single thing.
Seeing the huge contracts some players get and discussing whether it's well-deserved money or an overpaid salary provides football fans all around the league with fun football conversations in the middle of March.
This is a period in which, despite not being on the field, every NFL team is doing the same thing. Trying to get better. Which is exactly why most Dallas Cowboys fans are frustrated with how things have gone for their favorite team in this 2018 NFL offseason.
Right now, less than a week after the free agency period officially began, they're the only team left in the NFL that hasn't signed a single free agent.
Surprising? Not at all.
Whether we like it or not, we know how this team likes to operate. A quiet free agency isn't out of the ordinary for the Cowboys. For many years, the NFL Draft has been the priority for them, and they've done a good job at it.
At the end of the day, waiting for the first wave of free agents to pass is smart unless you're looking for a QB or have a huge amount of cap space. When you look at what players are getting, you realize most of them are overpaid. Sammy Watkins got a $48M three-year deal, when he hasn't really proved to be worth it.
I don't think Cowboys Nation would've liked to see the Jones family bring Watkins for that kind of money. Personally, I don't mind the Cowboys' front office letting those first expensive signings occur without them participating in them.
I mean, they've already made a splash, when you think about it. DeMarcus Lawrence was the biggest non-QB free agent of the year and they managed to keep him for at least next season. It's not exactly a free agent signing, but they are paying one of the NFL's best pass rushers more than $17M to wear the Star one more year.
Yes, the Cowboys' team-building philosophy is comprehensible. But when do fans like you and me stop understanding their offseason approach and get bothered by it? To me, that frustration came in the form of Tyrann Mathieu signing with the other NFL team in Texas.
If the Honey Badger had signed a super expensive contract, I'd be fine with the Cowboys passing on him. But Houston was able to get him for just seven million dollars on a one-year prove-it deal.
Mathieu is one of the best defensive talents in the league and will be just 26 years old when next season begins. Why didn't the Cowboys tried to land him, if safety is a position of need? I mean, we've been talking about a potential trade for Earl Thomas all year!
Were they hesitant just because the Honey Badger isn't your traditional safety? Are they so conservative that their reason to not go after him was he wasn't a scheme fit? When you're talking about a talent like his, I think you make things work to see him thrive along young and promising cornerbacks like Jourdan Lewis and Chidobe Awuzie.
The Cowboys can still look at Tier-2 free agents such as TE Eric Ebron or S Kenny Vaccaro over the following days. It could end up working for them, or it could end up just like Nolan Carroll's horrendous game versus the Broncos in week 2 of the 2017 NFL season and his $2M in dead money for this year.
When it comes to the Cowboys' approach to free agency, there's a very thin line between comprehension and frustration. Maybe, just maybe, they make us understand next season when we see results on the field.
For now though, it's tough to stay in the "comprehending" side of things.
Cowboys en Español: El Futuro Incierto de David Irving
En una agencia libre muy callada de parte de los Dallas Cowboys, como es costumbre, lo más interesante hasta ahora se revuelve alrededor de un talento increíble en la línea defensiva: David Irving. El joven de la línea defensiva de Dallas recibió un tender de segunda ronda (con un costo de casi tres millones de dólares) de parte de los Cowboys, lo cual significa que vestirá la Estrella Solitaria un año más... ¿o no?
No, no es tan sencillo.
A diferencia de la etiqueta franquicia que recibió DeMarcus Lawrence hace unas semanas, un tender permite a un jugador recibir ofertas de otros equipos. Si Irving llega a recibir una oferta externa, sin embargo, los Cowboys tienen la oportunidad de igualarla.
Pero no sólo eso, sino que si no quieren igualar la oferta, pueden dejar ir al jugador y en cambio, el otro equipo tiene que compensar a los Cowboys con una selección de segunda ronda. Así como el tender de segunda ronda que se le otorgó a David Irving, hay tender de primera ronda o tender de "selección original."
Sin embargo, Irving no fue seleccionado en el NFL Draft, así que esta última opción hubiera tenido poco sentido.
Ahora, pensando en el 2018 y una temporada ya incierta, nos sentamos preguntando: ¿No valía la pena cubrir a Irving con un tender de primera ronda? Al final de cuentas, sólo hay aproximadamente un millón de diferencia entre ambos. Irving es un jugador lleno de talento, y podría llegar a estar entre los mejores en su posición próximamente.
Sin embargo, si somos honestos, es una buena decisión de la administración. Irving ha tenido sus cuantos problemas y quizá este tender ayude a definir su valor en el mercado. Si ningún equipo alrededor de la liga se atreve a ofrecerle un contrato, los Cowboys mejoran su posición en las negociaciones y quien sabe, quizá consigan un acuerdo más amigable para el equipo.
Además, si un equipo decide llevárselo... ¿qué tan malo sería?
Con el pick #19 en la primera ronda del Draft de la NFL, no están en una posición muy cómoda. Como bien algún jugador talentoso como el DT Vita Vea o el WR Calvin Ridley pueden caer a las manos de Stephen Jones, Will McClay y compañía, bien puede estar vacía la tabla.
Con jugadores como el S de Florida State Derwin James o el LB de Georgia Roquan Smith, deberían considerar realizar un trade para subir algunas selecciones y llevarse a uno de estos talentos que no estarán disponibles en el #19.
Con las selecciones globales 19, 50 y una segunda ronda extra que conseguirían por Irving, es fácil visualizar a este equipo dispuesto a hacer un movimiento así el día del Draft.
A pesar de una mala temporada en el 2017, los Dallas Cowboys son un equipo que están cerca de ser contendientes.
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