Tag Archives: Cincinnati Bengals

Predictions and Preview for NFL Wild Card Playoff Round

By: Jon

 

Kansas City Chiefs at Indianapolis Colts:

Courtesy of ESPN
Courtesy of ESPN

4:35 PM Saturday

Two weeks ago, the Colts and Chiefs played in Kansas City and the Colts came out victorious in a low scoring game. The Colts were able to control the game and comfortably won the game 23-7 on the road. The Colts dominated the game after the Chief’s first drive of the game. The two teams are heading in opposite directions. The Colts are playing their best football of the season, especially on the defensive side of the ball, while the Chiefs are playing horribly. Outside of their win against the Raiders, the Chiefs have won once in the last 8 games and have lost two straight games. Kansas City was great during the beginning of the season because they ran the ball effectively, did not turnover the ball, and played great defense. However, the team has not played great defense since the injuries of Houston and Hali, their two best pass rushers. Without an effective pass rush, the Chiefs’ defense has been vulnerable and has allowed more than 20 points per game. Their porous defense has forced Smith to throw the ball more often and force more passes into tight windows. Besides for the offensive clinic against the Raiders and the late explosion against the Redskins, the Chiefs do not play well in high scoring games and have lost three of the last five games when they score more than 24 points. While the Chiefs have tried to become more dynamic because of their poor defense, the Colts are playing better defense and have simplified the offense. The Colts have won their last three games and have allowed a combined 20 points in those games. Although the Colts lost their best offensive weapon in Reggie Wayne, they have run the ball more effectively and have become more efficient in the passing game. Also, players, like D’Rick Rogers and Greg Whalen, have risen from the bench and have produced for the team. The Colts will be benefited by playing at home on the turf and in front of their home crowd. The Colts are 6-2 at home and use the speed of the turf to play better defense. At home, they have beaten the Broncos and the Seahawks. The speed of the turf improves the Colts pass rush, especially Robert Mathis, and allows their speedy linebackers and secondary to track down opposing running backs. In this game, the Colts should be the favorite. They are playing better, at home, and have the better quarterback. Although Smith is older than Luck, he has only one more playoff appearance and does not have the skill or leadership like Luck. The game should be close, but Luck has been great in close games this season. The Colts will be looking to stop the run, which will make Smith pass the ball more frequently. Unless Charles is able to beat 7 or 8 men box, the Chiefs will have difficult scoring against the athletic and feisty Colts defense. The game should come down to the last few minutes, but Luck should be able to pull out a big win and garner his first playoff victory in his career.

Prediction: Colts win 24-20

 

New Orleans Saints at Philadelphia Eagles:

8:10 PM Saturday

Courtesy of ESPN
Courtesy of ESPN

The Saints will attempt to win their first road game in their franchise’s history when they head to the City of Brotherly Love to play the Eagles. Although the Saints have been one of the most dominant teams since the addition of Drew Brees, the Saints do not play well on the road, especially in the cold. All five of the Saints’ losses have been on the road this season. The three Saints’ wins on the road have been by a combined 14 points against the lowly Bucs, Bears, and Falcons, neither team is above 500. Also, the Bears’ game was the only contest that was not in a warm weathered climate or in a dome The Saints have trouble on the road because they are built for the fast turf field and the controlled climate in the Superdome. Although the Saints do not play well or have the team set for the cold weather, they are extremely dangerous and have Drew Brees, who always gives them a chance in a game. The Saints have lost two of their last three because the offensive line has not played well. The Saints are forced to start a rookie left tackle, who should be abused and over matched against Trent Cole and Mychael Kendricks. The key for the Saints will be Jimmy Graham. Last week, the Eagles could not stop Dallas’ tight end, Jason Witten, who is not on the same tier as Jimmy Graham. If Graham can explode and Brees’ limits the amount of turnovers, the Saints will have a chance in Philly. While the Saints play poorly on the road, the Eagles have played well at home, winning their last four games. The Eagles have been extremely fortunate this season that Nick Foles has put forth one of the best statistical seasons in NFL history. Although Foles has been great because he does not turnover the football, he is given a lot of help from Shady McCoy, DeSean Jackson, Riley Cooper, the talented tight ends, and the stable offensive line. The Eagles running game has been the best in football because McCoy has been great this season and they cannot crowd the line with the skill of Nick Foles. Although the players have been playing well, Chip Kelly deserves a lot of credit for turning around the third worst team in football, last season. His offenses has been constructed because of the speed and talent. He has given McCoy the opportunity to run and catch the ball out of the backfield, which has made him the best non-quarterback in the NFL. Along with the offense’s success, the defense has improved throughout the season. Although the defense allows plenty of yards, they have adopted the “bend don’t break” philosophy and have been great in the red zone. As seen from their last 7 games, the Eagles hold teams to field goals and frequently cause turnovers, which has been a formula that wins championships. The Eagles should be able to force a few turnovers this weekend because Brees does not have the same accuracy in cold weather games and the ball is harder to grip, which causes more fumbles. The Eagles have been on fire of late and should be able to continue their winning ways against the Saints. The Saints will have trouble scoring because of the cold and the deficiencies on the offensive line. While the Saints have improved at stopping the pass under Rob Ryan, the Eagles are a great running team and should rely on McCoy, Brown, and Foles to lead them to a win in Kelly’s first playoff game.

Prediction: Eagles win 31-27

 

San Diego Chargers at Cincinnati Bengals:

1:00 PM Sunday

Courtesy of ESPN
Courtesy of ESPN

In another rematch, the Chargers will be heading into Cincinnati in hopes of extending their season. Although the Chargers should probably not be in the playoffs, they are a dangerous team and played very well toward the end of the season. The Chargers are a dangerous team in the playoffs because Phillip Rivers is playing like a top quarterback again under Ken Whisenhunt. Phillip Rivers has decreased his number of interceptions and has increased his completion percentage, touchdowns, and yardage. Rivers has been aided by the emergence of rookie Keenan Allen and Ryan Matthews. Matthews has added a running game that San Diego has not seen since Tomlinson. Allen has filled the void left by Vincent Jackson when he went to Tampa two seasons ago and recorded over 1000 yards. The Chargers have Woodhead and Gates, who are great situational receivers and provide safety blankets for Rivers. The Chargers have won 4 of their lat 5 games, but the one loss came to the Cincinnati Bengals in sunny, warm San Diego. However, this game will not be played in the sun or the warmth. The temperature is going to start at 37, but is intended to drop to 1 with a 100% chance of rain in the forecast. The rain, snow, and cold could affect Rivers’ ability to throw the ball against the stout Bengals defense. The Bengals’ defense is ranked 5th in both yards per game against the rush and the pass. The Chargers were unable to master the Bengals’ defense in week 13 and scored only 10 points. The Bengals were able to pick off Rivers and force two fumbles in the contest. The Chargers may turn the ball over again because the poor weather is conducive to slippery hands and off target passes. Along with the Chargers’ offense, the Bengals’ offense will be negatively affected by the weather as well. The Bengals have the 8th best passing attack in the league because Dalton has dramatically improved and AJ Green is one of the three best wide receivers in the league. In the past two playoff match ups against the Texans, Green did very little, which dramatically decreased their ability to score and move the ball. Unlike the Texans, the Chargers do not have the shut down secondary or the pass rush to stop quarterbacks from succeeding. The Chargers are currently 29th against the pass. Like their week 13 matchup, Green and Dalton should connect for 100 yards and at least one touchdown. If the Bengals can establish their ground game and account for over 150 yards, like week 13, the Chargers will have a difficult time scoring enough points against the Bengals’ stingy defense. Also, the running game in the snow will allow the Bengals to throw less frequently and not risk turnovers. The Bengals’ defense and the weather should be able to hold down the Chargers’ potent offense, while doing enough on offense to get their first playoff win in Marvin Lewis’ tenure.

Prediction: Bengals win 24-17

San Francisco 49ers at Green Bay Packers:

4:40 PM Sunday

Courtesy of ESPN
Courtesy of ESPN

The fans going to the game should wear their gloves, a hat, a scarf, a coat, and about eight more layers of clothes. The weather Green Bay is set to be around 0 degrees at the start of the game and go toward -18 as the sun drops and game ends. However, the weather does not include the wind chill, which should make the fans even happier. The TV companies that want to black out the game because of poor attendance should go out and sit in the stands before condemning the fans. Like 2 of the other three match ups, the Packers played the 49ers in week one in San Francisco. Although it was a long time ago, the 49ers won and won in the previous playoffs, which should give them confidence against the Packers. Although the Packers are playing at home and are more “used” to the cold, if one can be used to the weather, the cold probably benefits the 49ers and their ground and pound style of play. However, the Packers should be happy that they made the playoffs after losing Aaron Rodgers for seven games during the middle of the season. In normal situations and weather, the Packers would want to throw the ball about 35 times because their wide receiver core is one of the best in the league and not many teams can  limit Rodgers’ skills. Although the Packers will always have a chance with Rodgers, they need Eddie Lacy to play effectively, if they are going to challenge the 49ers. Currently, Lacy is listed questionable, but the Packers needs him because he bruises the opposing defense and adds an extra element to the Packers’ offense. Aaron Rodgers will probably have trouble with the accuracy because it is very difficult to handle the ball when it is cold, let alone -18 cold. Even if Rodgers wears a glove, it will affect his accuracy and ability to drive down the field. While the Packers’ offense should be fine, the defense will be challenged against the 49ers offense. The Packers defense currently ranks 24th and 25th respectively in passing and rushing yards allowed. Although the 49ers have what many believed was one of the ten best quarterbacks in the league before the season, the 49ers rank 30th in passing yards, but 3rd in rushing yards. Although the 49ers have not achieved much from their quarterback, the team is incredibly hot. They have won 6 straight and 11 of their last 13 games, which bodes well for their playoff future. The key to 49ers is their ability to play great defense and run the ball, which can translate into any weather. The 49ers rank 7th in passing yards and 4th in running yards allowed this season because they have great linebackers, Bowman and Willis, and their secondary is very good. The 49ers, like the previous two games, should be able to control the pace of the game and time of possession with their running game. Although Kapernick has not been great this season, two of his best games of his career has been in his last two games against the Packers. However, the cold will probably stop Kapernick from running wild, but his strong arm should allow him to throw through the cold and possible snow. Without Clay Matthews providing a pass rush and assisting against the run, they will not be able to stop the improving 49ers offense. The Packers will need to cause turnovers, like their 2010-11 title run, in order to keep the 49ers off the field and give more touches to their All-Pro quarterback. Although the last two match ups have been high scoring, the weather should disrupt the offense and make it a low scoring game.

Prediction: 49ers win 24-23

 

pics and stats from ESPN.com

Predictions and Previews for Week 17 in the NFL

By: Jon

Happy Holidays. This has been a great NFL season and the last week of regular season previews.

Carolina Panthers at Atlanta Falcons:

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After a huge win against the Saints that catapulted them to the number two seed in the NFC, the Panthers will attempt to solidify their position and obtain a first round bye. The Panthers have played great defense all season and will be dangerous in the postseason, if they can claim home field in the divisional round. The Panthers play great defense because their linebacking core is one of the best in the league. With the combination of Thomas Davis and Luke Kuechly, the Panthers duo rivals the combination of Navarro Bowman and Patrick Willis. Kuechly is a tackling machine and should be in consideration for DPOY, although he is only in his second year. Last week, Kuechly recorded 24 tackles, one shy of the NFL record, and an interception to seal the Panthers biggest win of the season. Along with Kuchly, the defensive line is dominating and does not allow teams to rush the ball. The Panthers’ defense makes opposing teams one dimensional, which forces many issues and not a lot of points. On offense, although the Panthers are not the Broncos, they do not turnover the football and make clutch plays at the end of games. Cam Newton has become one of the better quarterbacks in the league because of his strong arm and athleticism. Newton’s statement win last week should give him the confidence to lead the Panthers to the Super Bowl. The Panthers need to get the extra bye week for Steve Smith and will obtain it with a win. While the Panthers had a great win last week, the Falcons had a heart breaking loss last week on Monday Night Football. The Falcons were won of the most talented teams in the league before injuries. Although they were considered a Super Bowl contender at the beginning of the season, they currently have the third worst record in the league. Although the Falcons will hope to ruin the Panthers’ record, like the 49ers last season, their defense has not been successful this season and the offense is struggling. Although the offense was better last week with the addition of a healthy Roddy White and Steven Jackson, the Falcons will have trouble against the Panthers’ defense. The Saints did not have enough weapons to score on the Panthers so the Falcons will have little chance of breaking 20 points. The Falcons will want a better draft pick to revamp their defense this offseason. Although the team has pride, they will not have the same desire as the Panthers and ultimately lose the game. The game should be relatively low scoring but the Panthers should win by at least 7-10 points.

Prediction: Panthers win 24-13

Baltimore Ravens at Cincinnati Bengals:

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The Ravens are attempting to make the playoffs for the six straight season. With the core of Rice, Harbaugh, and Flacco, the Ravens have never missed the playoffs in the AFC. Last week, the Ravens lost an embarrassing game to the Patriots, 41-7, which puts their postseason hopes in jeopardy. If the Ravens won last week, they could have clinched their playoff position. In order for the Ravens to make the playoffs, they need to win and have the Dolphins or Chargers lose the game. If the Ravens lose, they can still make the playoffs if the Dolphins, Chargers, and Steelers lose their games. The Ravens have been up and down all season because they do not have consistency on offense or defense. Before their loss at home to New England, the Ravens had won four in a row and looked like they were ready to make another miraculous playoff run. The key to the Ravens’ success is Ray Rice and Joe Flacco. Although Rice is having one of the worst seasons of his career, he is a game changing player because he can run and catch the ball out of the backfield. The problem with Flacco of late has been his health. Flacco currently has an injured knee, which affected his play last week and could affect his play this week. The Ravens will need him to succeed if they are going to score on the Bengals feisty defense. After a devastating loss two weeks ago to the Steelers, the Bengals played great last week against the Vikings. The Bengals have won four of their last five games because their defense is one of the best in the league and the offense is beginning to become explosive. Led by Andy Dalton, AJ Green, and Giovanni Bernard, the Bengals have enough talent and fire power to go to the Super Bowl. Along with Green, Jermaine Gresham, Tyler Eifert, and Marvin Jones have provided quality complimentary receivers to the monster on the outside. Even though the Bengals lost their best defensive player Geno Atkins, they still own the six best scoring defense in the league because of the emergence of Vontaze Burfict. The middle linebacker is a tackling machine and has all the talent in the world. Although he was not drafted, he was projected as a first round pick for most of his college career, before injuries and off the field issues. Although it is difficult to pick against the Ravens because they always seem to get the necessary win to make the playoffs, the Bengals need another quality win to show the league that they have the potential to reach the playoffs. Also, if the Bengals win, they solidify the number three seed in the conference, set to play a 9 or 8 win team, and have a chance to secure the two seed if New England loses. If they lose, the Colts could jump them in the ranks and they would have to play the 12 win Chiefs. The Bengals have a lot of options on offense and the Ravens will have trouble matching their offense, especially if Flacco is limited by his knee injury.

Prediction: Bengals win 30-28

Houston Texans at Tennessee Titans:

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The Texans have had one of the worst seasons in their franchise’s history, which will likely net them the first overall win in the 2014 draft. While other team are looking to clinch a playoff spot, the Texans can clinch the first overall pick with a loss or a Redskin win. The Texans have lost 13 straight games and have no inclinations of winning another game. The Texans have lost the last two games by a combined 46 points to the Colts and Broncos. The Texans have struggled all season because their quarterbacks have been horrible. The combination of Case Keenum and Matt Schaub have not been able to get the job done, although they have one of the best wide receivers in the league. Although Andre Johnson does not have a good quarterback, he has garnered one of the best seasons of his career, 103 catchers, 1358 yards, and 5 touchdowns. Although Johnson has been successful, the rest of the offense has experienced the worst seasons of his career. Arian Foster has been hurt all season, Ben Tate has not been successful, and the receivers have not stepped up to be a complement for Andre Johnson. The Texans could have lost all 15 games, thus far, although they were expected to be one of the top teams in football. If the Texans add a young quarterback next season, they could return to be one of the top teams in football. While the Texans have underachieved, the Titans have played well this season. Over the past two games, the Titans have played very well on offense. Two weeks ago, the Titans lost a heart breaker to the Arizona Cardinals in overtime, 37-34. Last week, the Titans beat the Jaguars on the road, which was a good win since the Jaguars have played well lately. The difference for the Titans has been the improvement of Fitzpatrick and the running game. In the game against the Cardinals, Fitzpatrick threw for over 400 yards and 4 touchdowns, while the Titans rushed for over 180 yards and a touchdown against the Jags. The Titans ability to diversify their offense and play at home should enable them to win against the Texans. The Texans will probably play with little effort so they can claim the number one draft pick. The Titans will like to give their fans one more win so they return next year.

Prediction: Titans win 24-17

Jacksonville Jaguars at Indianapolis Colts:

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After losing the first 8 games of the season, the Jaguars have won four of the last seven games, which should give fans hope for the future. The Jaguars have lost their last two games by a combined 11 points. Although the Jags will been in the market for a quarterback this offseason, they should feel confident in Chad Henne as a backup or a spot starter. Over the past few games, Henne has played well and has been a competent starter. If the Jaguars select a quarterback in the first round this offseason, they should let Henne start the first few games so that the rookie can learn behind a successful veteran. Along with the emergence of Henne, Jordan Todman has been a great running back over the past few games. Jordan Todman and MJD are good running backs and should be good for the next quarterback of the Jaguars. On defense, the Jaguars are improving and should continue to improve because of the youth on that side of the football. While the Jaguars are attempting to find their quarterback of the future, the Colts have their franchise quarterback for the next 10-15 years. This season, Andrew Luck has taken the necessary leap and is one of the best quarterbacks in football. Luck has led an average team to a division championship and at least ten wins. Along with the 10 wins, they have some of the best wins in the NFL, Chiefs, Broncos, Seahawks, and 49ers. Besides Luck, the Colts do not have much talent on offense. Since the loss of Wayne, Luck has continued to find new receivers. Along with the dearth of wide receivers, the Colts have an inconsistent running game. Although they have talent with Donald Brown and Trent Richardson, two first round picks, they have not achieved much success to help the Colts on offense. With Luck, the Colts have the chance to win a playoff game and possibly advance to the Super Bowl. The problem with the Colts going to the Super Bowl is their defense. Besides Robert Mathis, who leads the league in sacks, the Colts do not have much talent on defense, although they spent big money this offseason. However, they have played well over the past two games, 10 combined points. If the Colts can continue playing good defense, they may be able to pull off a few upsets in January and possibly reach the big game in February. The Jags will have trouble stopping Luck and the Colts because they are playing at home and have superior talent. The Colts still have a chance at the two seed if the Pats and Bengals lose and the three seed if the Bengals lose. They would rather play the Dolphins or the Chargers or Ravens than the Chiefs.

Prediction: Colts win 31-17

Detroit Lions at Minnesota Vikings:

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When next season rolls around and these teams meet up again, they will probably have different coaches because both coaches are on the hot seat. With both teams out of playoff contention, neither teams seems likely to put forth their best efforts. After a devastating loss to the New York Giants, the Lions do not have a chance of making the playoffs, although they were in position to make the playoffs all season. The Lions have a lot of talent, but are extremely undisciplined and make many useless errors. The Lions had a prime chance to make the playoffs with the Packers losing Aaron Rodgers and the Bears without Jay Cutler. This offseason, the Lions’ job will be in high demand because of the players set in place. The incoming coach will have a solid quarterback, running back, defensive line, and the best wide receiver since Jerry Rice. This offseason, the Lions need to look toward improving their offensive line or secondary because they have been the achilles heal of the team, besides for the coaching and leadership. If the Lions can hire the right man to provide leadership and put confidence in Matthew Stafford down the stretch, the Lions should make the playoffs and challenge for the NFC North crown for many years. While the Lions have most of their players in place for the future, the Vikings need to make major changes throughout their football team. The Vikings need to improve almost everyone on their defense because they are old on the line and the linebackers do not have the necessary talent to excel. On offense, the Vikes need a new quarterback and a few offensive linemen to take the next step. Although Matt Cassel is a nice back up quarterback, he cannot lead a team to the playoffs in consecutive years. The Vikes should look for a quarterback in this quarterback heavy draft to replace Cassel and Ponder. The Vikings have good weapons on the outside with Greg Jennings and Cordelle Patterson. In this game, the Lions should come out victorious. They have superior talent and now do not have the pressure of making the playoffs. Without the added pressure, Stafford should stop making so many turnovers and play like he did in the beginning of the season. Without forcing multiple turnovers, the Vikes will have no chance in this football game because their defense does not have the capability to stop Megatron, Stafford, and Bush. Although the Vikings will continue to play hard for Leslie Frazier, they will ultimately lose and settle for a top ten pick in the draft.

Prediction: Lions win 27-24

Washington Redskins at New York Giants:

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Before the season started, many felt that this game could decide the division or a playoff spot in the NFC East, not the Dallas vs Philadelphia game. The Redskins have underwent a nightmare of a season because of the poor play of quarterback, Robert Griffin III. The believed quarterback of the future has given the Redskins fans reason to doubt their team’s future. RGIII did not look like the same quarterback this season because he was never fully healthy. However, people must wonder if RGIII will ever return to his 2012 form. Over the last two games, Kirk Cousins has started at quarterback and has played well for the team, although they lost both contests. Although they do not believe that Cousins is the answer at quarterback, they hope that another team feels that his is a franchise quarterback and trades a first or second round pick for his services. Luckily for Griffin or Cousins, the Redskins have good weapons on the outside with Moss, Garcon, and Morris. While the offense has garnered most of the attention and criticism in Washington, the defense has to improve if the Redskins are going to return to the playoffs. The Washington defense is allowing over 30 points per game, second worst in the NFL. Unfortunately for the Redskins, they do not have a first round pick in this year’s draft, which could become the first or second overall selection. The Redskins will need to strike gold in the later rounds or hope to find a few low cost free agents, if they want to return to the playoffs next season. Along with the disappointed fans in Washington, the New York Giants’ fans are not pleased with their team as well. For the second straight season, the Giants will be watching the playoffs from their houses. The Giants started the season with little energy or emotion, which caused them to fall 0-6. Although they attempted to rebound, they lost a crucial game to the Cowboys, 24-21, which all but eliminated them from playoff contention. The Giants have been hurt this season because they frequently turnover the football. The Giants are first in the league in total takeaways, 41, which is seven more than the closets competitor. Eli has not been the same quarterback, which has people doubting his future status as an elite quarterback. However, the Giants’ receivers have not played well this season. Victor Cruz did not step up and play like a number one after receiving a new contract and Hakeem Nicks looked lost for the seasons as he did not record one touchdown. Along with the poor receiving play, the Giants did not run the ball very effectively all season. When Brown returned from injury, they rushed the ball better and gave Eli more options, but Brown is a fragile back and cannot be the sole contributor. In this game, the Giants should win the game because they have more heart and desire than the Redskins. The players on the Giants have refused to give up on the season because they want to ensure that Tom returns for next season. However, in Washington, the same story does not apply. There is currently a disconnect between the players, coaches, and owner, which has resulted in the Redskins folding on the season. The Giants’ defense should be stop the Redskins’ offense because they have been playing better, since their 6 game losing streak. Also, the Redskins’ defense does not intimidate Eli, who should be able to find receivers and put up a lot of points for the second straight game.

Prediction: Giants win 27-17

Cleveland Browns at Pittsburgh Steelers:

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Although the Steelers have a chance of making the playoffs, it seems that neither of these teams will make the playoffs for the second straight season. The Cleveland Browns have been on a roller coaster season because they have experienced inconsistent quarterback performances. After commencing the season 0-2, the Browns won three straight games, including a win over the Bengals, with quarterback Brian Hoyer. However, after his torn ACL, the Browns have only won one game and are riding a six game losing streak. Last week, the team had a lot of trouble offensively against the New York Jets because the wide receivers were playing badly. Although Josh Gordon is one of the best wide receivers in the league, he made three crucial drops in last week’s game that could have resulted in points for the Browns. While Gordon has great speed and route running ability, he needs to diminish the amount of drops if he is going to enter the next tier of wide receivers. Also, on defense, the team had trouble stopping one of the worse offenses in football, led by Geno Smith. Smith accounted for three touchdowns against the team. The Browns even lost the turnover battle to the team with the worst turnover differential. The Browns, like many other teams, should look for a quarterback this offseason. Former first round picks, Brandon Weeden and Jason Campbell, are not viable options and should not be on the team next season. While Brian Hoyer looked like a good quarterback in the three game stint, he is not a franchise quarterback. The Browns should use one of their two first round picks on a quarterback and allow him to learn from Hoyer. The Browns need to find a running game, as well. After trading Trent Richardson, the Browns received nothing from their ground game, which will hurt a young quarterback’s development. On defense, they are solid with Joe Haden, but could use another pass rusher to add pressure on the quarterback. While the Browns have been ending the season badly, the Steelers have played well since week 10. The Steelers have won 4 of the last 6 but could have won each game, with a little extra luck. The difference from the beginning of the season has been the improvement of Big Ben. Ben returned to his Super Bowl form and has played great over the last few weeks. Ben has been helped by star wide receiver Antonio Brown, who looks like one of the top ten receivers in football and rookie running back Levon Bell, who can catch the ball out of the back field and is a bruising runner. Also, the offensive line has improved, which has given time to throw and stay on the field without injuries. On defense, the team is beginning to play as a unit and has started recording more turnovers. The team needs to improve their pass rushing ability this offseason. Since the loss of James Harrison, the Steelers have not had a star pass rusher. This season, no player has more than 8 sacks. However, if the Steelers can be extremely luckily and have the Dolphins, Ravens, and Chargers lose and make the playoffs, they will be a dangerous team that could end up playing in New York. In this game, the Steelers will win by a decent amount because they are playing at home and still have a desire to win. The Browns have not beaten the Steelers in Heinz since 2003 and this time will not be different. Ben is playing well and should light up the Browns defense, like their previous match ups.

Prediction: Steelers win 31-17

New York Jets at Miami Dolphins:

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In two of the previous five seasons, the Dolphins have ended the Jets hope of making the playoffs by winning in week 17. However, the Jets will attempt to win and end the Dolphins hope of making the playoffs. The Jets are coming off an eleven point win at home against the Browns, which was one of their best games of the season. The Jets will go as far as Geno Smith takes them. The Jets have been unable to win two straight games this season because Smith has not played two consecutive quality games. The Jets’ coaching staff hopes that last weeks three touchdown performance will given confidence against the rival Miami Dolphins. The Jets will probably give the ball to Chris Ivory and Bilal Powell to ease Geno into the game. The Jets’ offensive line will need to play well against the Dolphins ferocious pass rushers in order to give Smith more time to pass. In the previous meeting, the offensive line played horribly and Olivier Vernon was in Geno’s face all season. As a result, the Jets played one of their worst games of the season. The Jets defense will need to continue playing hard in order to stop the Dolphins’ passing offense. In the previous matchup, the Jets could not stop the Dolphins’ receivers. However, Dee Millner and Antonio Cromartie played well in the game against the Browns and look to be improving. The Jets will need to establish a pass rush in order to confuse Tannehill and force a few turnovers to give Smith a short field. While the Jets will be handicapping their young quarterback, the Dolphins have no intention on stopping Ryan Tannehill. The Dolphins have attempted the 12th most passes while recording the third least amount of rushes in the NFL this season. The Dolphins do not run the ball very frequently because their running backs, Miller and Thomas, are not very good nor explosive and the offensive line does not form good holes for the tandem. The Dolphins will attempt to rebound this week after a horrible loss against the Bills last week. The Bills did not even have EJ Manuel and they still beat the Dolphins, who could have almost clinched a playoff position with a win. The Dolphins will need to stop the run this week after allowing over 200 yards against the Bills. The Dolphins need to show that they have the maturity and skill to win a big game in order to make the playoffs, after laying an egg last week while getting shut out. On defense, the Dolphins need to continue rushing the passer and creating pressure, if they are going to stop teams. In the secondary, the Dolphins do not have the same talent, which puts an added pressure on the front seven. Although the Dolphins are the only team that could make the playoffs, the Jets seem like they want the game more than the Dolphins. The team that is more physical and ready for the game should win the game. In this game, the Dolphins have the advantage. The Jets have not put together two good games in the row and they have been even worse on the road. Although the Jets will want to improve to 500, they have never played well in Miami. Unless Geno takes a big step forward or the running backs have huge games, the Jets will have trouble scoring.

Prediction: Dolphins win 23-20

Other game predictions:

Green Bay Packers at Chicago Bears:

Prediction: Packers win 34-31

Denver Broncos at Oakland Raiders:

Prediction: Broncos win 31-13

Buffalo Bills at New England Patriots:

Prediction: Patriots win 27-16

Tampa Bay Buccaneers at New Orleans Saints:

Prediction: Saints win 34-20

San Francisco 49ers at Arizona Cardinals:

Prediction: 49ers win 31-28

Kansas City Chiefs at San Diego Chargers:

Prediction: Chargers win 23-16

St. Louis Rams at Seattle Seahawks:

Prediction: Seahawks win 31-20

Philadelphia Eagles at Dallas Cowboys:

Prediction: Eagles win 31-17

Pics and stats from ESPN.com

Predictions and Preview from Week 16 in the NFL

By: Jon

Miami Dolphins at Buffalo Bills:

Courtesy of ESPN
Courtesy of ESPN

It was only a few weeks ago that the Dolphins locker room was in complete turmoil because of the Jonathan Martin and Richie Incognito. However, the Dolphins are currently in the heart of the playoff picture and have a good chance of making the playoffs for the first time in 5 seasons. The Dolphins three game win streak can be attributed to their quality defense, timely offense, and a little bit of luck. Over the past two weeks, the offense has 29 points per game while the defense has allowed only 24 points per game against Ben Roethlisberger and Tom Brady, two quarterbacks that have won multiple Super Bowls. While the Dolphins were lucky in the Steelers’ game because Antonio Brown stepped out of bounds on a would be winning play, Ryan Tannehill was able to score at the end of each game which gave them the lead and the win. The Dolphins need to win this game in order to stay in the playoff picture, especially since the Ravens have been winning as well and have the tie breaker over the Dolphins. While the Dolphins’ young quarterback has been streaking, EJ Manuel has tapered of late and will not even play in the game because of a sprained knee. Instead of Manuel, Thad Lewis will be starting at quarterback for the desperate Buffalo Bills. The Bills have not made the playoffs since 1999 and the streak will continue this season because the Bills have been extremely inconsistent and ineffective all year. On October 20, Thad Lewis was able to lead the Bills to a win against the Dolphins, although he played one of the his worst games of the season. In the game, the Dolphins defense was able to force an interception and sacked Lewis four times. The Bills’ offensive line needs to play well against the strong Dolphins’ pass rush so they can run the ball consistently. If the Bills are going to achieve a win or score points, the running game must be successful and keep Lewis away from third down and long. However, it is unlikely that the Bills will be able to muster enough offense against the scorching Dolphins to keep the game close. Lately, the Dolphins’ receiving core and Ryan has improved their performances because the offensive line is giving Tannehill more time to pass and check his options. The Dolphins should be able to outscore the Bills early and make it difficult for them to run the ball.

Prediction: Dolphins win 27-20

Minnesota Vikings at Cincinnati Bengals:

Courtesy of ESPN
Courtesy of ESPN

After stunning football fans and experts around the nation by scoring 48 points and upsetting the Philadelphia Eagles at home, the Vikings will be heading into Cincinnati to play another playoff team. While the Vikings have been horrible all season, they continue to play with energy and vigor for head coach Leslie Frazier. Over the past four games, the Vikings have gone won two games, tied against the Packers, and lost to the Ravens by three in a heart breaking defeat. The Vikings have been scoring points lately, 28 points per game, which has relinquished some of the pressure off of the defense. Matt Cassel has played consistent on offense and has not thrown many interceptions, which has kept the Vikings in the last few games. While Matt has been a game manager, Peterson, Gerhart, and Asiata have produced yards on the ground and the wide receivers have been able to create separation from the corners. Similar to the Vikings, the Bengals have been solid football over the past month, besides for the first half of last week’s game against the Steelers. Similar to the Dolphins, the Bengals have been successful this season because of the improvements by Andy Dalton. Andy has transformed the Bengals from a running dominated offense to a high flying passing attack. Along with Dalton, AJ Green has cemented himself as one of the top five wide receivers in the league. Along with Green, Tyler Eifert and Jermaine Gresham have become great safety blankets for Dalton. Along with the Bengals improvements on offense, their defense has remained dominant, although they lost their best player, Geno Atkins, half way through the season. Although the Bengals do not have the pass rush without Geno, which could effect them against a quality quarterback, the Vikings should be unable to exploit this weakness with Matt Cassel. The Bengals should be able to win this game because they desperately need a win after last week’s loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers, if they want to win the division. The Bengals have a significant advantage in terms of talent, which should prove to be the difference this weekend.

Prediction: Bengals win 31-20

Indianapolis Colts at Kansas City Chiefs:

Courtesy of ESPN
Courtesy of ESPN

In one of the few games between playoff teams this weekend, the Chiefs are attempting to become the number one seed in the conference, while the Colts want to gain momentum, before entering the playoffs. Since their bye week in week 8, the Colts have not won back to back games and have played extremely inconsistent football. The Colts achilles heal the past seven weeks have been their first half defense. In the three games they have lost in the past seven games, they have allowed 38, 40, and 42, respectively, while being outscored by a combined 73 points. The Colts have been able secure their division title because of the excellence of Andrew Luck. Luck has single handily led the Colts to their nine wins because they do not have a good running game and the wide receivers have been inconsistent since the loss of Reggie Wayne to an ACL injury. Without Wayne, Andrew Luck does not have a reliable third down receiver that can reset the chains or create separation during important and obvious passing downs. While the Cots have been inconsistent on offense, the Chiefs offense has been great over the last few games. Over their past two games, the Chiefs have averaged 50 points per game, albeit against the Raiders and the Redskins. The reason for the Chiefs influx in points has been the improvement of Alex Smith. Although Smith does not consistently throw the deep ball with success, he is great at short passes because he has great accuracy. Along with Smith, Jamaal Charles has been an MVP candidate because he catches the ball out of the backfield and rushes the ball with success. In the game against the Raiders, Charles showed his versatility and skill by scoring five total touchdowns and accumulating 250 yards of offense. Although the offense has been hot of late, the defense has taken a step back because they are unable to create a consistent pass rush. The Chiefs lost three straight games to the Broncos, Chargers, and Broncos because they were unable to disrupt Rivers or Manning. If the Chiefs are unable to rattle Luck in the pocket, they will need to score a lot of points to win the game. However, it is likely that the Chiefs will be able to score early and often because they have develop a rhythm on offense. The Chiefs’ defense should be able to hold the Colts under 30 points and win the game.

Prediction: Chiefs win 31-27

Tampa Bay Buccaneers at St. Louis Rams:

Courtesy of ESPN
Courtesy of ESPN

After starting the season 0-8, the Bucs have won four of their last six games and have turned around their season. The difference for the Bucs has been the play of Mark Glennon and Bobby Rainey. On offense, Mark Glennon has become more comfortable in the pocket and has constructed a relationship with wide receiver Vincent Jackson. Although Glennon has thrown more interceptions lately, he has also thrown more touchdowns and has thrown for a higher completion percentage. Along with Glennon, the pass defense has taken a major step forward. During the entire season, the Bucs have had a lot talent, but the group is finally learning how to mesh and play dominating defense. The secondary has been great and has forced multiple turnovers over the past month. In the last four games, the group has forced 10 interceptions while allowing only 7 touchdowns. Along with forcing more interceptions than allowing touchdowns, the quarterbacks have been unable to throw for big yardage against the menacing group. Along with the streaking Bucs, the Rams have been playing better football, including a win over the Saints last week. The Rams are a team that plays much better at home because they play off their home crowd and enjoy the fast turf. The Rams’ pass rushers and wide receivers are able to take advantage of the turf because they play with a lot of speed. Although Kellen Clemens has been inconsistent since taking over for Sam Bradford, he has been better of late and has limited the amount of turnovers. Clemens has been helped by a successful running game. Over the past few weeks, Zac Stacy has been given 25+ carries a game and has produced over 100 yards or a touchdown in three of the last four games. During their last two home games, the Rams defense has allowed a total of 37 points against the Saints and Bears, two of the best offenses in the league. The defense has been able to force six turnovers during the last two home games. The Rams should be play off of the home crowd for the second straight week and get consecutive wins. The Rams have been dedicated to the run, which should exploit the Bucs average rush defense. The Bucs on offense may have trouble communicating because of the loud and raucous crowd in St. Louis. The team that will win the turnover battle should win the game.

Prediction: Rams win 24-20

Dallas Cowboys at Washington Redskins:

Courtesy of ESPN
Courtesy of ESPN

After ruining the game last week against the Packers and forcing Dez Bryant to cry, the Cowboys are attempting to head into the Nation’s capital and win against the dreadful Washington Redskins. Although the Cowboys have been inconsistent all season, the offense has been one of the best unit’s in the league. The Cowboys offense has skill and talent at every position. The biggest improvement and surprise has been the Cowboys’ offensive line. Led by Tyron Smith and Travis Frederick, the offensive line has been great at giving protection to Tony Romo and giving holes for Demarco Murray. At the wide receiver position, Dez Bryant has catapulted himself as the second best wide receiver in the league behind the great Calvin Johnson. Bryant is a great physical specimen and can over power any  corner back in the league. At tight end, Jason Written continues to be a consistent target in the red zone and helps the Cowboys move the chains. While the Boys have been great on offense, fourth highest scoring team in the league, the defense has been one of the worst defenses in NFL history. Currently, the group cannot defend any offense and is on pace to break the record for most yards allowed in a season. Last week, the Packers scored on every position of the second half while the defense did not force a punt against the Bears two weeks ago. While the Cowboys’ defense has been an abomination, the whole Redskins’ team and ownership has been a disgrace this season. The Redskins have the second worst record in the league because they cannot stop an offense nor score on offense. Without Robert Griffin III, the Redskins do not have the talent on offense to score enough points to make up for their pitiful defense. Although Kirk Cousins may be a future starter in the league, he is not a developed starting quarterback because he has not been given enough snaps in live action. Although Cousins had a good statistical game against the Falcons, he left a lot of throws on the field and threw two interceptions. Although he will probably post quality numbers this week against the horrible Cowboys, he will probably be forced into a few turnovers, which will cost them the game against a hungry Cowboys team. Along with RGIII poor season, Alfred Morris has been unable to repeat his success from last season. Without Morris shouldering the load on offense, the Redskins will not score enough against Tony Romo and the boys. The game should be high scoring but Romo has historically been able to win these games, in order to set up the final week destruction against the Eagles.

Prediction: Cowboys win 35-28

New Orleans Saints at Carolina Panthers:

Courtesy of ESPN
Courtesy of ESPN

In one of the biggest games of the season, the Panthers and the Saints will be playing for the number two seed in the NFC. Although neither team made the playoffs last season, they are two of the best teams in football because of their improvements on defense. Last season, the Saints had the worst defense in NFL history because they allowed the most yards in NFL history. However, this season, Rob Ryan has transformed the defense and has made the group one of the top better units in the league. The defensive line has greatly improved this season, which has enabled them to put pressure on the quarterback and is currently ranked third against the pass. While the defense has improved, the offense has been consistent and one of the best in the league. New Orleans is ranked fifth in the league in terms of yards and top ten in terms of points. As long as the Saints have Drew Brees at quarterback, the group will be intimidating for any defense. Along with Brees, the Saints have one of the best receiving cores in the league with Jimmy Graham, Marques Colston, and Lance Moore. The Saints have been able to be explosive and keep Brees healthy because the offensive line has been steady and effective all season. While the Saints have been use to the success and the big games, the Panthers are a young team without much experience. The Panthers have been successful this season because their defense is one of the best in the league. The Panthers have allowed the second least amount of points in the league because they are great at pressuring the quarterback and stopping the run. Although their secondary does not match the talent of their front 7, the pressure makes their job easier on defense. Along with the improved defense, the Panthers’ offense has improved because of the success of Cam Newton. Although the Panthers predominantly run a run first offense, Newton has the ability to pass for big yardage, especially to tight end Greg Olsen. Two weeks ago, the Panthers lost to the Saints on the road because they  could not score touchdowns in the red zone and did not stop Brees. Although the Panthers should have an easier time on defense since they are not playing in the Superdome, they must provide consistent pressure on Brees if they are going to win the game. However, it must be proven that the Panthers can play in December.

Prediction: Saints win 27-24

Tennessee Titans at Jacksonville Jaguars:

Courtesy of ESPN
Courtesy of ESPN

In one of the few match ups that has no playoff implications, this game should be horrible because both teams are more interested in improving their draft status than winning meaningless games down the stretch. After a devastating loss in overtime, the Titans are assured to finish below .500 for another season. Since the loss of Jake Locker to injury, the Titans do not have the same offensive prowess. Although Ryan Fitzpatrick has the ability to post big yardage numbers, he does not have the ability to lead a team to multiple wins against quality teams. Fitzpatrick throws numerous interceptions, which compromises his ability on offense. Along with Fitzpatrick, Chris Johnson is not the same running back that rushed for 2000 yards and compiled 2500 total yards from scrimmage. Although he signed a big deal a few years ago, it is likely that they will release Johnson this offseason. At this point of his career, Johnson is a third down back or platoon back that can catch the ball out of the backfield. However, he cannot rush the ball 20+ times because he is too small and does not have the same explosion. While the Titans have been declining, the Jags are showing some promise with Chad Henne at their quarterback. After starting 0-8, the Jaguars have won 4 of their last 6 games. Although it is hurting their chances of selecting Teddy Bridgewater in the 2014 draft, the Jags are playing hard for their coach, which is a positive. The Jags have been scoring more points lately because MJD and Henne are playing better. The Jaguars could have won last week against the Bills, but Chad Henne threw a late interception at the goal line. Along with the offense, the Jags have been playing better on defense. The secondary has been able to force turnovers in their last few games, 6 interceptions in the last four games. Although the game will be ugly, some one must win the game. Since the Jags are the hotter team and playing at home, they are more likely to come out of week 16 with a win.

Prediction: Jags win 24-17

Denver Broncos at Houston Texans:

Courtesy of ESPN
Courtesy of ESPN

After losing a terrible game at home last week against the Chargers, the Broncos will be heading to Houston in an attempt to seal the number one seed in the conference. If the Broncos win and the Chiefs lose against the Colts, the Broncos will claim the number one seed and home field advantage throughout the playoffs. The Broncos’ success can be attributed to their offense. The Broncos score approximately 38 points per game, which is nine more than any other team in the league. The Broncos are complete on offense because they can run, pass, and protect. Although Moreno and Ball have been effective all season, Peyton Manning is the key to the offense because he is having one of the greatest statistical season in NFL history for a quarterback. Currently, Manning is only 5 touchdowns away from setting the record for touchdowns in a season. Manning is only 600 yards behind Drew Brees for most passing yards in a season. Although Manning will not have Wes Welker because he has a concussion, Manning has numerous options on the outside like Demaryius Thomas, Julius Thomas, and Eric Decker. While the Broncos defense is not as dominating, the Texans should not be able to exploit the Broncos’ problems. The Texans have experienced a nightmare of a season because they have had horrible quarterback play. The season has been so bad that they had a realistic chance of losing every game this season. Neither Case Keanum nor Matt Schaub has been able to play consistently without turning over the football. The Texans were unable to rely on their quality running game like previous seasons because Arian Foster has been injured for all of the season. Along with the poultry offense, the defense has folded and given up on the season. Although they will not admit defeat, the team is looking toward the draft and improving their team in the offseason. Like multiple times this season, the Broncos will probably score early and often. Without the motivation, the Texans will have no chance of stopping Manning and his high powered offense.

Prediction: Broncos win 31-20

Cleveland Browns at New York Jets:

Courtesy of ESPN
Courtesy of ESPN

In another match up between teams that have no playoff aspirations, the Jets and Browns are hoping to end the season on a positive note. The Browns have lost five straight. However, the last losses have been by a combined 12 points. The Browns offense has significantly improved over the past few weeks because they have put an emphasis on throwing the football. This season, Josh Gordon has exploded onto the scene and is leading the league in receiving yardage, although he missed the first two games of the season. Although Browns do not have a running game, after losing running back Trent Richardson to a mid season trade, Jason Campbell has been leading the Browns on offense. Over the past two games, Campbell has thrown for 4 touchdowns while only allowing two interceptions. This week, it is unlikely that Campbell will be picked because the Jets do not strike fear in opponents and force turnovers. Along with the Browns, the Jets are hoping that they do not end the season on another losing streak. Over the past two seasons, the Jets have lost the last three games of each season. If the Jets do not win this game, it is likely that they will lose next week and Rex Ryan will probably lose his job. However, the Jets’ players want to keep Rex as coach and are still playing hard for him, although they will not make the playoffs. The Jets will need to defend Josh Gordon if they are going to win the game. Although the Jets, specifically Antonio Cromatie and Dee Millner, have been burned multiple times this season, Rex should be able to design a defense to stop Josh Gordon, the only legitimate threat on offense. Although Geno has been inconsistent all season, he has played better at home. The Jets will be frequently run the ball on offense because the Browns are good at forcing turnovers through the air. The Jets will make the game plan simple for Geno and hope that he makes the right decisions to win the game. The game should be close and low scoring, and it seems that the Jets usually win these low scoring close games.

Prediction: Jets win 20-17

Other Predictions from Week 16:

New York Giants at Detroit Lions:

Prediction: Lions win 27-17

Arizona Cardinals at Seattle Seahawks:

Prediction: Seahawks win 31-21

Pittsburgh Steelers at Green Bay Packers:

Prediction: Steelers win 34-31

Oakland Raiders at San Diego Chargers:

Prediction: Chargers win 31-17

New England Patriots at Baltimore Ravens:

Prediction Ravens win 24-20

Chicago Bears at Philadelphia Eagles:

Prediction: Bears win 27-24

Atlanta Falcons at San Francisco 49ers:

Prediction: 49ers win 31-16

 

Pictures and Stats from ESPN.com