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.

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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.

 

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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.

 

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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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Thomas Rawls is sidelined for remainder of season but still the Seahawks future:

Photo credit: Robb Carr/ Getty Images

Author: Jon Kuzma

When we entered the 2015 season most NFL insiders knew that Marshawn Lynch’s days were coming to an end. Beast mode had talked about retirement during last season and now the Seahawks had another formidable running back in the stable that could minimize the lost of Lynch if he did retire. That back is Thomas Rawls and he did a great job of filling in for Marshawn Lynch when he was sidelined with an abdomen injury. Lynch who has been the face of the Pete Carroll led Seahawks has been getting up there in running back age. While we didn’t initially see signs of Lynch slowing down, 2015 has been a different story. The stand out running back has been out of action for a number of games and it was Rawls who stepped in and carried this team in Lynch’s absence. Rawls has finished the season with 830 yards on the year before sustaining an ankle injury last weekend on the opening drive against the Ravens. While that setback will keep Rawls off the field for the rest of 2015 there was still several different things that you seen on film that makes you believe Rawls is the future. First and foremost Rawls gets by with his vision in the NFL. He does a great job of seeing the field and making cuts based off the flow of the game. Rawls skill set fits the Seahawks scheme phenomenally. He fills the void of that ground and pound mentality that will be left behind when Lynch finally decides to walk away from pro football for good. Fortunately for the Seahawks that transition period doesn’t look to be a complete loss. Rawls will heal up and do a great job of leading this team into the future in 2016. While beast mode might step away from the game forever. Something to keep an eye on.

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Whats happening around the league: Week 15


New England Patriots at Washington Redskins 08/28/09

Photo credit: Keith Allison

Author: Jon Kuzma

Free agency whispers start to begin

There are many big names set to hit free agency this offseason and we are already hearing rumors about what might happen with some players. Von Miller headlines that list and the Broncos will look to re-sign him as quickly as possible. If they don’t Miller could be an instant upgrade to any defense he chooses in 2016. Doug Martin is another big name that is set to hit free agency. The Buccaneers would be foolish not to retain Martin’s services but you always have to keep in mind that if a player is entering unrestricted free agency they could simply prefer playing for a more preferred team or destination. Martin has played all his career in Tampa Bay but maybe a change of scenery will compel him to sign else where? Josh Norman and Alshon Jeffery are a few other names on that list worth mentioning.

Mike Pettine says Russell Wilson is not an elite quarterback

While Russell Wilson has been on fire lately Mike Pettine echoed thoughts that are shared by many insiders around the NFL. While Wilson is a very good player Pettine doesn’t feel he is elite. As far as Pettine’s thoughts go in some areas he is right and in some areas he is wrong. Wilson isn’t a traditional pocket passing quarterback which are the gold standard of what an NFL quarterback is in todays era. Instead Wilson gets by in the NFL by extending plays with his feet and being a little creative back there at the quarterback position. While that has got the Seahawks to two straight Super Bowls. Most of that success can be credited to a lights out Seattle defense and Marshawn Lynch’s take no prisoners running style. If Wilson wants to prove he is elite he has to win again on the big stage. This time he must do it with a dominant performance from him solely. We want to see Russell Wilson overwhelm teams in the playoffs with his elite quarterback play. No leaning on the running game or defense. Prove you’re elite. Mike Pettine doesn’t think you can do it and there are others who feel the same way.

Tom Brady receives more Pro Bowl votes than any other player

Tom Brady isn’t only outstanding on the football field, he is also a big hit with the fans. Tom Brady received the most Pro Bowl votes this far with just over 700,000 votes. As voting continues look for Brady’s number of votes to continue to soar after the New England Patriots quarterback bounced back from a very stressful offseason which was headlined by the deflategate scandal. Brady’s poise during the duress have made him am even bigger fan favorite! Cam Newton finished second while Andy Dalton brought home the third most votes. Showing the quarterback position certainly receives the most votes.

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Rams likely end Buccaneers playoff hopes with 31-23 TNF win:

Rams at Redskins 9/20/15

Photo credit: Keith Allison

Author: Jon Kuzma

The St. Louis Rams have been up and down all season. In Thursday Night Football last night they were clearly up. The team went on to finish that game with a 31-23 victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. This game was a match up between two teams that are on the rise. They are built with young players and watching them play you can tell both of these teams will be even better in the future. Still you have to give credit to the Rams, they made the bigs plays when they had to in this football game. Whether it was Tavon Austin on a bubble screen or a reverse play. The Rams offense was able to make the explosive play when they needed to and that was really the difference maker throughout the night. Those two plays with Austin helped get the ball in space to their playmaker (Austin) and it also showed a little trickery. By mixing up their attack the Rams kept it fresh which made the Bucs defense play honest football not being able to overcommit to the run or the pass. Quarterback Case Keenum would also connect on a 60 yard strike to Kenny Britt up the left sideline on a fade route in this game. Which was one of several good passes from Keenum on the night. Defensively the Rams did a great job of limiting Jameis Winston. They did this in a rare way. The Rams defense didn’t sack Jameis Winston one time but did force the rookie passer to throw for 21 incompletions on the night. Aaron Donald had another good showing for the Rams defense as well. Coming up with a big stop on 4th and short by bringing the Buccaneers Doug Martin down for a -2 yard loss in the second quarter. It was plays like this from the Rams defense that helped keep the Bucs offense in check for really 3 quarters of the game. Which Tampa Bay scored only 6 points in. In the fourth quarter however Jameis Winston started to show why the he was taken number 1 overall in the 2015 draft. Winston would rally the Bucs for 17 points in the fourth quarter but just couldn’t do enough to edge out the win late in the game.The Rams improve to 6-8 in what could of been their last game in St. Louis. While the Buccaneers see their playoff hopes start to disappear with another loss that drops them also to 6-8.

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Texans look like they are poised to take the AFC South:

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Photo credit: Scott Miller

Author: Jon Kuzma

With the Houston Texans and Indianapolis Colts both tied for the AFC South division lead. Their match up this weekend should be an interesting one. The stakes make the game a much more compelling one as the regressing Colts look to fend off the red hot Texans. Some how after losing Andrew Luck the Colts have managed to still stay atop the division. Matt Hasselbeck was able to insert himself into the starting line up and win a couple games for this team. The team is starting to slowly lose momentum though. They were rolled last week by the Jaguars 51-16 which is not a very good sign heading into this week. On the other hand the Texans have dropped two straight but have taken tremendous strides from 2014 to 2015. They were the number 1 pick in the 2014 draft because they had the worst record in the entire NFL. Now they are 6-7 and on the verge of winning the AFC south division and going to the playoffs. Much of that success is a result of players on this team maturing. One particular player who developed into a fine pro receiver is Deandre Hopkins. Hopkins who is in his 3rd season out of Clemson has amassed 18 touchdowns receptions during his career. Providing the Texans with a great fade receiver who does a great job of high pointing the football against defenders. Hopkins’ jumping ability has been a big reason the Texans have been able to put up points on the outside and truly add another dimension to this offense. The other main factor for this team of course has been JJ Watt and the Texans defense. Watt is putting together another historic season recording 13.5 sacks on the year. He is once again inspiring his teammates on defense and getting the whole team to play at a higher level. That has translated into the Texans defense being ranked 7th in the league in fewest yards surrendered. If the Jaguars were tied with the Colts and Texans you would most likely give them the nod to win this division. With them sitting a game back however it seems like that the best bet to win this division will be the Texans. They are a team that is on an upswing compared to the Colts downswing. So the trend just favors the Texans.

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Cousins leadership a large reason the Redskins are looking at a playoff spot:

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Photo credit: Keith Allison

Author: Jon Kuzma

It’s easy to get sick of a politician who constantly does good solely for their own self interest. Kirk Cousins compassionate approach however is truly genuine. The former Michigan State Spartan quarterback seems to care about the people around him and that form of leadership has translated to success for the Washington Redskins. Cousins approach is a complete 180 from the approach that Robert Griffin III had. Which was a more showboat all eyes on me mentality. While some players can back up that bravado the Redskins struggled with Griffin at the helm, only to be resurrected by Cousins. This year the Redskins have been a true contender which this team hasn’t been able to say in a very long time. A lot of credit deserves to be given to Jay Gruden for improving this team. The Redskins also caught a few lucky breaks along the way which included injuries early on to Tony Romo and Dez Bryant. Those injuries knocked the Cowboys out of contention early and left the three other NFC East teams to duke it out. Through all of the chaos Cousins emerged as a promising quarterback in the National Football League. Throwing for 18 touchdowns and only 11 interceptions on the year. He also was able to account for 3,306 yards through the air showing that he can make all the professional level throws. With the skill he has developed over his four year career, that ability to get others to buy into his leadership, and some lucky breaks along the way. Cousins has the D.C area loving pro football again. The team hasn’t had a winning season since 2012 and this year is great opportunity for this team to get north of that .500 win percentage. It will be up to Kirk Cousins to do what he has done all year. Rally his teammates and continue to lead by example.

*Note- Dedicated to my mother Tammy Kuzma for being the biggest Kirk Cousins fan.

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