Raiders are able to knock off Chargers 23-20 in California showdown:

Photo credit: Lachlan Cunningham / Getty Images Sport

Author: Jon Kuzma

The Raider and Chargers met up in a Christmas eve showdown in California on Thursday Night Football. These teams might be sharing a stadium in Los Angeles next year but they are still rivals on the football field. Yesterday was another example of why the Raiders are slowly emerging and why the Chargers need to be more balanced in order to win football games. Derrick Carr and company were able to notch the victory in overtime on a 31 yard Sebastian Janikowski field goal. Notable performances for the Raiders included Michael Crabtree who finished the day with 6 receptions and a touchdown. While Latavius Murray was able to contribute 79 yards rushing and a touchdown on the ground. Still this Raiders attack all starts with Carr. The former second round draft pick out of Fresno State has been slowly resurrecting this Oakland franchise. Carr put up modest numbers in yesterdays match up with only 204 yards passing and 1 touchdown. However it’s his leadership and ability to make plays downfield that have breathed life into the silver and black. With the foundation they’ve laid the Raiders have put themselves in a position to succeed in 2016. They just have to add a few more pieces to the puzzle and do their best to retain everyone this offseason. Defensively Malcolm Smith had a tremendous day for the Raiders. He registered 14 total tackles and two tackles for loss. Showing he can be a dominant force for this defense moving forward. Ben Heeney was also able to finish with 9 tackles and a tackle for loss. For the Chargers it was another night of Rivers throwing the ball an absurd amount of times. Rivers had 49 passing attempts against the Raiders. If this team wants to get back to playing winning football, they first must learn to become a balanced football team. Woodhead needs to have more than 11 carries on the evening. If this team can get their number 1 running back to have 20 carries a game heading forward good things will happen for this team. On top of that they should spell a back up running back for at least 5 carries a game. Doing so will take pressure off Rivers and keep the Chargers in games. Notable performances for San Diego were Dontrelle Inman who finished with 82 receiving yards and a touchdown. While Denzel Perryman led the way for the Chargers defensively with 11 tackles, a sack, and a tackle for loss. The Raiders improve to 7-8 while the Chargers fall to 4-11.

Charity of the day: Child’s Wish Foundation

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We could have a playoff preview in three games this weekend:

Photo credit: George Gojkovich

Author: Jon Kuzma

When the Green Bay Packers take on the Arizona Cardinals this weekend. It will be an NFC playoff preview. These teams could very easily meet each other in the postseason and this weekend will serve as a great measuring stick of what that match up might look like. The Cardinals will be without big time free safety Tyrann Mathieu but still possess enough firepower on offense to win football games. Carson Palmer and this offense still know how to make opposing defenses pay the price. They have success with key players like Larry Fitzgerald and Michael Floyd both talented wide receivers who can get separation away from defenders. The Cardinals ground game has gotten a boost recently with the emergence of David Johnson as the team’s running back. Johnson can make big plays and take some of the pressure off Palmer. A good alternate for this Cardinals offense. The Packers on the other hand look to get back to the postseason and avenge last years letdown. To do so Aaron Rodger will have to be at his best. Rodgers will always be the key for the Packers when it comes to postseason success. If he can make the big plays when necessary then good things are going to happen for this football team. Look for Randall Cobb, James Jones, and Richard Rodgers to be on the receiving end of Rodgers’ efforts. Those 3 players have contributed 21 touchdowns to this Packers offense and will play a large role not only in the game Sunday but also in the playoffs in the future. A win here would go a long way for the Packers confidence but don’t count on that happening.

The second potential playoff match up will be in the AFC division where the New England Patriots take on the New York Jets. The Jets have been having an outstanding year and played the Patriots tough the last time these two teams faced off. Yet it’s the Patriots who are the ones looking to repeat as Super Bowl champions and should be respected as the champs till someone dethrones them. The New York Jets pass rush have been outstanding but it will be difficult to shake Brady’s poise. If Ryan Fitzpatrick can show up and play the best game of his life then the Jets have a shot. He must feed Brandon Marshall early and help the Jets do their best to rattle this Patriots defense. That has been a tall task all season for opposing offenses and the results most likely won’t be too much different from the last match up. Expect another Patriots victory.

The Denver Broncos will take on the Cincinnati Bengals in the third potential playoff preview. If these two teams meet in the playoffs it will pit two great defenses against each other. Regardless if they meet in the playoffs or not though. They will indeed meet Sunday and we will all get to witness who has the better defense and what team started the season off with the better back up quarterback. Both teams will enter the game with players who didn’t start the season as their starting quarterback. Brock Osweiler will lead the Broncos while AJ McCarron will lead the Bengals. Both young players have managed to find wins for their teams in other outings. However this will be the match to really evaluate both players. With the pressure being so high the match should be a good indicator of how they will perform in the playoffs. Something to keep an eye on Sunday. Expect Osweiler to be the better of the two and look for the Broncos to get the win.

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The loss of Tyrann Mathieu is a big setback for this Cardinals defense:

Photo credit: Elsa / Getty Images

Author: Jon Kuzma

When Tyrann Mathieu tore his ACL in the December 20th match up against the Philadelphia Eagles it was a major setback for the Cardinals. The team losses a playmaker whose skills translated well from the collegiate to the professional level. Mathieu is a very instinctive football player and he does a great job of using his awareness to defeat opposing offenses. He can bait opposing quarterbacks to think he is playing high coverage and in an instant break to the flats and finish plays by intercepting passes. Mathieu or the “honey badger” as some like to refer to him also does a great job of playing sideline to sideline at the free safety position. That ability to cover all of that ground on the backend of the Cardinals defense has resulted in him hauling in 5 interceptions on the season. The Cardinals total defense is ranked 7th in the league but it earned that ranking with plays from Tyrann Mathieu back in that secondary. Moving forward the Cardinals defense will have to find the next guy in line to plug in and make plays. Not a very achievable task when you factor in how good Mathieu has been this season. After taking college football by storm at LSU. Mathieu lost all his support by smoking marijuana and that was a big reason why he slipped to the third round in the 2013 draft. Since then though Mathieu has managed to turn his life around and has avoided any substance abuse problems. Now in his 3rd year of pro football he has managed to record 8 interceptions over the duration of his career. Showing that he still has that playmaker ability inside of him that he possessed at LSU. Can the Cardinals replace the honey badger? Absolutely not and it will certainly be a major setback as they try to make it to the Super Bowl. It maybe even enough to cost them an appearance.

Charity of the day: Youth Development Fund

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The stakes are high for Redskins and Eagles in NFC East showdown this weekend:

Photo credit: Robb Carr / Getty Images

Author: Jon Kuzma

The Washington Redskins have a clear cut path to the post season and it all starts with this weekend against the Philadelphia Eagles. After the division was sluggish all year the Redskins have positioned theirselves for postseason success with a 7-7 record. Every other team in that division has a record that is below .500. So when the 6-8 Eagles meet the Redskins this weekend, everything will be on the line with 2 games left in the regular season remaining. A win would give the Eagles a chance at making the postseason but right now the Redskins own the tiebreaker with a 23-20 victory in their first match up. It will be up to the Redskins to fend off Chip Kelly and the Eagles who suffered a devastating loss last weekend to the Cardinals 40-17. That was last weekend though and the Eagles can make up for that letdown with a big win against the Redskins this Sunday. It will be up to Sam Bradford to out play Kirk Cousins and lead his team to victory. With the pressure heightened due to the postseason being at stake, the most important position on the field has to have a big day. That position is hands down the quarterback position. Both of these quarterbacks have been emerging this year and the first step of solidifying their legacy would be winning this game and taking a step closer to the playoffs. From there both players will have a chance at making a little postseason magic happening however it all starts with a win Sunday. Keep an eye on that match and who performs better. It will certainly be a key factor in determining the winner of this outcome. Right now you have to believe that the Redskins have the edge. They’ve been playing better football all year and even won the last match up between these two teams. That is why we play the game though to test both these teams abilities and leave nothing unsettled. It should be a good one.

Charity of the day: Resources for the Future

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Odell Beckham Jr. should of been fined 200K not suspended:

Photo credit: Michael Reaves / Getty Images

Author: Jon Kuzma

Odell Beckham Jr. and Josh Norman got into several scuffles this past Sunday in the Panthers and Giants match up. The personal battle between the wide receiver and corner got so heated that eventually Beckham Jr. would target Norman on a hit. The practice that Beckham Jr. used on that play was called “head hunting” in the game of football. Instead of focusing on the play Beckham Jr. focused on Norman and stalked him in until he could get a clear knock out shot. When Beckham Jr. lined up Norman he accelerated full speed and delivered a helmet to helmet shot to the right side of Josh Normans’ helmet. After watching the play several times the whistle was not blown by the referees. Which means while the play was clearly suspect it was within the duration of the play. With that being said the NFL discipline committee has to look at past helmet to helmet infractions and assess the magnitude of this hit. First and foremost this is a rare situation because usually it’s defenders being fined for tackling offensive players and striking them helmet to helmet. Yet there have been a few instances where offensive offenders have been fined for illegally using their helmet. One incident that took place in the past was when San Francisco running back Carlos Hyde was fined twenty three thousand dollars for a helmet to helmet hit on defender John Beason. That hit was a fine rather than a suspension. A few other examples of helmet to helmet fines are Olivier Vernon who was fined twenty thousand dollars for striking Marcus Mariota in the head. James Harrison striking Colt McCoy helmet to helmet resulted in a seventy five thousand dollar fine. Finally Dashon Goldson was fined one hundred thousand dollars for his hit on Darren Sproles. All of those helmet to helmet hits were vicious but Odell Beckham Jr.’s hit was even worse because it was at the tail end of a play. With that being said you have to make his discipline one of the highest helmet to helmet penalties given out. A fair discipline for both Beckham Jr. and the league would of been to give the wide receiver a two hundred thousand dollar fine for his actions. This route of discipline is based off case precedent which means we used previous examples to determine our judgement. Something the NFL discipline system clearly lacks when determining their outcomes. The fine would hit Beckham Jr. where it hurts most, his wallet. While also letting him know those type of actions are unacceptable. At the same time this course of action acknowledges that it was in the heat of the moment and emotions were running high. 200K it’s about as fair as it gets.

Charity of the day: Partnership for Drug-Free Kids

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Lions roar past the Saints 35-27 in MNF match up:

Photo credit: Chris Graythen / Getty Images

Author: Jon Kuzma

Don’t look now but the Detroit Lions have been heating up a little bit down the back end stretch of the 2015 season. After firing offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi the Lions have went on a 4 win 3 loss run. That was after a 1 and 7 start and much of that credit deserves to go to new offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter. Cooter has done a great job of getting more out of the Detroit Lions’ playmakers. The coaching shake up has proved to be a valuable move for this franchise and much of those offensive efforts were on display against the New Orleans Saints in Monday Night Football yesterday. The Lions came out rolling getting out to an early 21-3 lead in this game. Matthew Stafford played nearly a perfect game for the Lions completing 22 passes out of 25 attempts on the night. When you have a quarterback throw over 20 passes and only have 3 incompletions good things usually happen for that players’ team. Yesterday was no different Stafford finished the day with 3 touchdowns and no interceptions. More importantly though the Lions got the win and this team builds a little bit more confidence heading into the future. Notable performances were turned in by Golden Tate who finished the game with 2 receiving touchdowns. While Ameer Abdullah and Joique Bell were both able to rush for a touchdown each. For the Saints Brees finished the match up with 3 touchdowns and 341 passing yards through the air. Showing why he is truly one of the most lethal passers to ever step on the grid iron. Brees was able to make the game close by completing touchdown passes to Brandin Cooks, Marques Colston, and Benjamin Watson. However the Saints couldn’t do enough late in the 4th quarter when it mattered the most. The Lions improve to 5-9 on the year and look like a much more sound football team than they were when they started the season. With a good draft and free agency this offseason they could be relevant again 2016.

Charity of the day: Partnership for Drug-Free Kids

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NFL schedule: Quick hits from a wild NFL Sunday

Photo Credit: Al Bello/Getty Images

Author: Joey Carr

Odell Beckham Jr. Suspended 1 game for his Actions

Probably the most entertaining thing that occurred on Sunday was the near all-out brawl between Giants offensive star Odell Beckham and Panthers stud cornerback Josh Norman. There was a ton of hype surrounding this particular matchup leading up to Sunday’s game between Carolina and New York. Norman had made the star receivers of the league (Dez Bryant, Julio Jones, Desean Jackson to name a few) irrelevant in his previous games, but Beckham is a different type of monster. This was no doubt going to be an engaging matchup, but what ensued was nothing less than disturbing. In the first half, Norman held Beckham to no catches, but that wasn’t the biggest story; the two young stars were going at each other’s throats all half long, pushing each other violently and knocking each other down on almost every play, and the second half was no better. Beckham began to gain some yards and get under Norman’s skin, but his mindset hadn’t changed; in the fourth quarter, on a running play, the former LSU standout charged at Norman, put his head down, and rammed into the cornerback’s head. He was not ejected, if you can believe that, but was suspended 1 game by the NFL today. He is expected to appeal, but I can’t see any way that he wins that appeal. The Giants have a huge game against the Vikings next week, and without Beckham, their chances of winning go down dramatically, which would effectively eliminate them from playoff contention.

Seattle, Chiefs, and Steelers all Stay Hot, Remain in Playoff Contention

If you can somehow believe this, the Kansas City Chiefs were once 1-6. The Seattle Seahawks were 2-4. The Pittsburgh Steelers were starting Michael Vick and Landry Jones at one point in the season without Le’Veon Bell in the backfield. However, here they are all, right in the thick of the playoff hunt. Seattle has already clinched a spot in the NFC bracket, but the Chiefs and Steelers both need to win out and get some help from their AFC foes in order for them both play January football. However, what they’ve all done is pretty amazing, and one thing’s for sure: no team wants to play Seattle, Pitt, or KC come playoff time.

Injuries Continue to Plague the League

Is it me, or does it seem like injuries have been more rampant than ever this year? Before the season even started, ACL injuries were making their way to nearly every training camp. Kevin White, Jordy Nelson, Kelvin Benjamin, Orlando Scandrick, and Ryan Clady are just a few names that haven’t played a down in 2015 due to ACL injuries, and there are plenty more where they came from. Quarterbacks have been missing games more than ever (Big Ben, Andy Dalton Peyton Manning), and some teams, like the Patriots, have been decimated by the injury bug. For example: New England promoted running back Joey Iosefa from the practice squad for yesterday’s game. Iosefa is an undrafted rookie out of Hawaii who was cut by Tampa Bay because they felt he wasn’t good enough; but now, he’s racking up 51 yards in week 15 for the defending champs. Injuries have been the name of the game this season, and if it doesn’t end soon, we might be seeing an AFC South vs. NFC East Super Bowl this year (maybe not that extreme but you get my point).

Cam Newton has all but Shored Up the MVP Award

If I’m being perfectly honest, I do not like Cam Newton. I think he is a showoff and too cocky for his own britches that has some inflated stats; however, he is the MVP this season, hands down. Schedule and inflated stats (most of his touchdown passes are from 3 yards out) aside, Newton has played very well this year; he’s led the Panthers to an undefeated record and his offense is the best in the NFL, scoring over 30 points almost every game this season. Yesterday, he directed a perfectly executed 2-minute drill to set up the game winning field goal against New York after squandering a 28 point lead in the second half. Of course, Carolina hasn’t played the best teams this year (they’ve played 1…. Yes 1 team with a record of over .500) but Cam has done a good job of winning the games he’s supposed to win. It’ll be interesting to see how the Panthers play when they play a good Seattle team or a tough Arizona squad in the playoffs, where Carolina is not the best team; I’ll have my popcorn ready when it happens though.

The AFC South and the NFC East are Still Bad

Get this: the 5-9 Jacksonville Jaguars are still alive in the race for the AFC South crown. The 4-10 Dallas Cowboys were JUST NOW eliminated from the NFC East Title. Historically, these are two of the worst divisions in NFL history; we could possibly see a three way 7-9 tie in the NFC East, and who knows who’s going to walk away with the AFC South. The Houston Texans are currently in the lead after defeating the Colts yesterday, but we would be naïve to think that they’re going to hold onto it. Meanwhile in the NFC East, the Eagles, yes the Eagles, are in the best position to win the division, but only because they own the tiebreaker. They play the Redskins in the final game of the season, which could ultimately decide the division.

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Washington Redskins prove they’re a legitimate playoff contender with win over Bills:

Photo credit: Patrick Smith/Getty Images

Author: Jon Kuzma

The Washington Redskins took a step closer towards winning the NFC East division and clinching a playoff spot by beating the Buffalo Bills 35-25. In the match up Redskins’ quarterback Kirk Cousins was able to throw for 4 touchdowns and 0 interceptions on the day. Proving that Cousins is the leader that the Redskins have been desperately needing at the quarterback position for years. It’s not just the fact that Cousins was able to throw for 4 touchdowns but also the fact that he didn’t turn the ball over one time. When you get a quarterback succeeding that well in the touchdown to turnover ratio good things are going to happen for your football team. Another good sign for the Redskins was their commitment to the running game. The Redskins had two running backs at least get 10 carries. When this kind of balance happens for a team usually good things tend to happy. With the NFL becoming such a pass happy league teams that stick to the fundamentals and concentrate on a running game will be rewarded.  The Redskins took the fundamentals even further by spelling their running back to get more effort out of both backs. The results were Alfred Morris finishing the day with 84 yards and Matt Jones finishing with 28 yards. While you might say 28 yards isn’t that much for Jones and it wasn’t. Those attempts still wore on the defense and allows for the offense to break out big plays later on. So the Redskins have been doing a great job of being balanced. Through the air they were much more impressive. Desean Jackson finished the day with 6 receptions for 153 yards and a touchdown. While Jordan Reed also had himself a big day recording 7 receptions for 84 yards and 2 touchdowns. Pierre Garcon also hauled in a touchdown pass from Cousins. Showing that the Redskins were able to make some major plays in the passing game. Defensively the Redskins got it done by rushing the quarterback. They were able to sack Bills’ quarterback Tyrod Taylor 5 different times. Which was really the difference maker when the game was all said and done. The Bills Sammy Watkins had the most notable performance for Buffalo in this game. The second year receiver out of Clemson was able to haul in 5 receptions for 111 yards and 2 touchdowns. A great effort but not enough to bring the win home for the Bills. The Rex Ryan led Bills will fall short of the playoffs in their first year and there is a storm of drama brewing about Ryan’s defensive schemes. Players in Bills camp have been openly questioning the coach, which is never a good sign. While the Bills have their late season problems the Redskins seem to be marching toward a playoff birth. Much of that success should be credited to Gruden and Cousins focused approach. The Redskins are a team that no one wants to play right now and gaining a lot of steam heading into the post season. Exactly how we see most Super Bowl contenders reign begin.

 

Charity of the day: Rainforest Alliance

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Chiefs easily dismiss Ravens for their 8th straight victory:

Photo credit: Rob Carr/ Getty Image

Author: Jon Kuzma

This just in the Kansas City Chiefs are a complete football team. After a dropping five straight games early on in the season. The Chiefs were then able to rattle off an eight game win steak which would send this team to the playoffs. Andy Reid and company have a whole lot of momentum as this season comes to an end. Something to keep an eye on when the playoffs start. Reid’s quiet but effective leadership have made things interesting at Arrowhead Stadium in 2015. So when the Chiefs took on the Ravens yesterday in NFL action we knew it would be a tough match up for Baltimore. The Ravens are in a rebuilding year while the Chiefs have been rolling. That was the scenario for much of this match up. Alex Smith helped the Chiefs offense put up 24 first half points. Really controlling the game early on for Kansas City. Smith finished the day with 21 completions out of 25 passing attempts for 171 yards a touchdown and zero interceptions. Showing that he can be a very efficient passer at times for this Chiefs offense. Charcandrick West and Jeremy Maclin both also had a touchdown for this Chiefs offense. West did a great job of giving the Chiefs a solid rushing attack, while Maclin handled the aerial attack hauling in 7 receptions on the day. Defensively for Kansas City Derrick Johnson was outstanding recording 12 total tackles. While Tyvon Branch made his presence felt by scooping up a fumble and taking it 73 yards for a Chiefs score. For the Ravens there were a few bright spots. Most notably Kamar Aiken who finished the game with 8 receptions for 128 yards and a touchdown. Showing he has what it takes to be a complete receiver in this league. Aiken is 198 yards shy of going over the 1,000 yard receiving mark in 2015. The Ravens have to be happy with the second year receivers’ development. Defensively for the Ravens Za’Darius Smith finished with 4 tackles, 2 sacks, and 2 tackles for losses. Showing that he can provide a spark for this team on the defensive side of the ball. Good pressure upfront will be the key for this team moving forward. Truthfully the Ravens are in a rebuilding transition though and should look to adding talent to the foundation they’ve laid this year. While on the other hand the Chiefs keep making a push to be a legitimate Super Bowl contender. So this match up was really the tail of two totally opposite teams. One of the main reasons it panned out in Kanas City’s favor.

 

Charity of the day: Rainforest Alliance

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Jets get past Kellen Moore and Cowboys 19-16:

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Photo credit: Jeffrey Beall

Author: Jon Kuzma

The New York Jets were able to find another win in the 2015 season beating the Cowboys 19-16. The win is the Jets 9th of the season and is symbolic for Todd Bowles efforts since taking the team over. The 2015 Jets have had an all business approach which has likely led them to a 2015 playoff birth. Not too bad for a team that only won 4 games in all of 2014. Ryan Fitzpatrick once again showed why he is so valuable to this Jets team. Fitzpatrick was able to complete 26 passes for 299 yards and a touchdown. Providing the spark that this Jets team needed to out gun Dallas when it mattered the most. There were big plays from Brandon Marshall who finished with 4 receptions for 74 yards. Eric Decker was also able to contribute a big day for gang green recording 6 receptions for 55 yards and a touchdown. The additions of Marshall and Fitzpatrick have been a recipe for success all season long for the Jets and they paid dividends against the Cowboys last night. Matt Cassell started the game for the Cowboys but was soon replaced by former Boise State quarterback Kellen Moore. Moore was the fourth quarterback used by the Cowboys this season. Showing that the “win now” mentality of the Dallas Cowboys was detrimental to this team in terms of building any continuity or consistency. The revolving door quarterback situation prevented this team’s offense from developing any cohesion. Something that is imperative for offensive execution. Moore came in with his first real chance to solidify himself as an NFL quarterback. The showing wasn’t very compelling however. Moore finished with 1 touchdown and 3 interceptions on the day. That one touchdown pass going to Dez Bryant on a pass to the left flats that Dez was able to get upfield and find pay dirt on. One other bright spot for the Cowboys was Darren McFadden who rushed for 100 yards on 16 carries. Still those performances weren’t enough to get the job for the Cowboys. You have to give credit to this Jets defense they were flying around and making plays all night. With a formula of solid defense and a fundamental offense the Jets have been one of the great comeback stories of 2015. The Cowboys on the other hand will be relieved to get Tony Romo back next year and get back to their winning ways. That is if Romo comes back. Romo has had a series of injuries and at what point do you hang it up for health reasons? Expect Romo back but if he continues to get banged up year in and year out his career might be shorter than expected. The Cowboys need to improve the team so if this happens again they can still win football games.

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