Panthers roll early on against the Seahawks advance to NFC championship:

Photo credit: Streeter Lecka

Author: Jon Kuzma

The Carolina Panthers put together an outstanding first half yesterday in their NFC divisional round match up with the Seattle Seahawks. That first half the Panthers were able to score 31 unanswered points leaving Seattle feeling dazed and confused. The scoring came on both sides of the ball whether it was Cam Newton throwing a touchdown pass or Luke Kuechly intercepting a pass and returning it for a touchdown. One thing was certainly clear the Panthers came out of the gate with a ton of momentum and really took it to the Seahawks. Cortland Finnegan also did a great job of intercepting a Russell Wilson pass early on and together with the Panthers pass rush they troubled Wilson early and often. If Carolina can play every game like they did in the first half against the Seahawks. They will certainly win the Super Bowl. They man handled a Seattle team that has been to two straight Super Bowls. Not an easy task, but still there has to be some concerns with how the Panthers closed the game. In the second half the Panthers didn’t score a point. While the Seahawks rallied to score 24 unanswered points in that same half. It was odd that the Panthers completely shut down in all phases of the game. However you have to acknowledge that the Seahawks’ backs were against the wall and they were fighting to keep their season alive. Russell Wilson despite struggling in the first half, was able to throw for 3 touchdowns passes in that second half. Igniting hope in his team and really closing the gap in this football game. Pete Carroll stated after the game “everyone believed we were going to win.” It was evident in the Seahawks play that their coach was telling the truth. The Seahawks left it all out on the field, it just wasn’t enough after a poor first half. The Panthers will move on to face the Arizona Cardinals in the AFC championship this weekend. Kick off is Sunday at 6:40 P.M.

Charity of the day: African Wildlife Foundation

Go donate! www.awf.org

Patriots cool off the Chiefs in AFC divisional round:

Photo credit: Al Bello / Getty Images Sport

Author: Jon Kuzma

The New England Patriots did what they always do in the postseason, win football games. The Patriots did a great job of minimizing the Chiefs offense and that was really the key to the game. For all the credit that Brady and the Patriot’s offense receive. You really have to appreciate the effort that the Patriots defense has given the team the last two years. By acquiring top tier draft picks on the defensive side of the ball the Patriots have slowly developed into a very stout team on defense. That was done by adding players like Dont’a Hightower, Jamie Collins, and Malcom Brown all players who were highly coveted players entering the professional ranks. After time those players changed the culture for the Patriots defense. So while Bill Belichick says his 3rd down defense “wasn’t good enough” against the Chiefs. You have to understand Belichick holds that defense to a very high standard. The Chiefs gave other teams fits but the Patriots made them a shell of their former selves. There were no kick returns for touchdowns to open the game like the Chiefs did against the Texans. There were no runs by Alex Smith that kept the Patriots defense on their heels. Instead the Chiefs were effectively contained by the Patriots and offensively the Patriots were too much as well. Tom Brady finished the game with 302 passing yards and 2 touchdowns in the game. Showing that Brady was clearly the most talented quarterback on the field yesterday and a big reason why the Patriots won. Edelman had a great day in terms of hauling in yards for New England. He finished the day with a 100 yards and looked good breaking in and out of routes. Rob Gronkowski also had a huge day for New England recording 83 receiving yards and 2 touchdowns. The Patriots move on to meet the Denver Broncos in the AFC championship next weekend in postseason action. Winner will move on to the Super Bowl.

Charity of the day: One Acre Fund

Go donate! www.oneacrefund.org

Red zone: Cardinals outlast the Packers to earn a trip to the NFC championship game

Photo credit: Christian Petersen

Author: Jon Kuzma

Red zone (red alert) the Cardinals have taken down the Green Bay Packers!

The Arizona Cardinals were able to outlast the Green Bay Packers 26-20 in overtime. In a game that saw plenty of back and fourth action it was the Cardinals who were able to make the big play when it mattered the most. Quarterback Carson Palmer had a great day for the Cardinals offense finishing the game with 3 touchdowns and 348 passing yards. Michael Floyd was on the receiving end of two of those Carson Palmer touchdown passes. Showing that Floyd is the same dynamic threat in the NFL as he was at Notre Dame. The player who had the most dominant performance for the Cardinals was Larry Fitzgerald though. Fitzgerald showed why he is regarded as one of the top receivers in the National Football League. The 12th year pro out of Pittsburgh finished the game with 8 receptions and 176 receiving yards. After Aaron Rodgers was able to hit a walk off Hail Mary to Jeff Janis to send the game to overtime. Fitzgerald came alive and willed this team down the field. His first catch in overtime went for 75 yards and he was able to make a number of Packers defenders miss as he advanced the ball downfield. With the game on the line in overtime and the Cardinals desperate to get into the end zone to end the game. The team called on Fitzgerald once again. This time on a shuttle pass for 5 yards which Fitz finished in the end zone. The Cardinals victory ends the Packers season, while the Cardinals will move on to the NFC championship game. They will face the winner of the Panthers and Seahawks game. A tough match up for the Cardinals but this team has been playing great all year. They can compete with anyone and Seattle or Carolina will have their hands full come next weekend.

Charity of the day: One Acre Fund

Go donate! www.oneacrefund.org

Arizona will be a tough match up for the Packers:

Photo credit: Norm Hall / Getty Images Sport

Author: Jon Kuzma

The Arizona Cardinals have been one of the best teams in pro football all year long. They are a dynamic team that can beat you in a number of ways. Carson Palmer is really the focal point of the offense and he has had a tremendous year recording 35 touchdowns and 4,671 passing yards. It will be interesting to see how that week layoff effects the Cardinals when they host the Packers tonight in the NFC divisional round match up. For most of the year they’ve been a dynamic offense that put up a load of points. The Cardinals are ranked 1st in yards per game (408.3 yards) and second in points scored per game (30.6 points). So they pose a serious risk for the Packers secondary and it will be interesting to see how the Packers defensive backs match up against the Cardinals wide receivers. The Cardinals also have a wide range of wide receivers that can beat you a number of ways. From the veteran Larry Fitzgerald to young dynamic playmakers like John Brown. The other thing that is really in the Cardinals favor is their defensive pass rush. The Packers really struggle to protect quarterback Aaron Rodgers. The Cardinals have a top ten defense in every statistical category and that is another advantage for this team heading into that match up. Rodgers and the Packers were able to iron out their wrinkles against the Redskins. That was a great effort from Green Bay but they will have a much tougher time against Dwight Freeney, Patrick Peterson, and the rest of the Cardinals defense. Look for the Cardinals to do their best in eliminating Eddie Lacy, and James Starks as well. Those players together make up the Packers rushing attack and help relieve Rodgers in this Packers offense. Bruce Arians is a very good football coach and keys in on these situations and these players. That is why they’ve had the success that they’ve had and why the Cardinals will likely beat the Packers tonight.

Charity of the day: American Humane Association

Go donate! www.americanhumane.org

Chiefs will give the Patriots all they can handle today:

Photo credit: Peter G. Aiken / Getty Images Sport

Author: Jon Kuzma

The Kansas City Chiefs are a complete football team they enter today’s contest on an 11 game win streak. They are the hottest team in the NFL right now and have a ton of momentum on their side. While you have to give respect to the New England Patriots for winning the Super Bowl last year. It’s the Chiefs who are the team to be feared today and it’s largely because the Patriots are plagued by injuries and the Chiefs have been playing outstanding football. Although Julian Edelman and Rob Gronkowski are indeed slated to start for the New England Patriots offense. Neither player will be a 100% when they step out on the field. When you factor in that the Chiefs have the best defense in the league against the pass. It could spell disaster for the Patriots. If New England does withstand the test of Kansas City it will be because Tom Brady wills this team to victory. Brady has had to take on a larger workload all year with injuries taking place all around him. Getting those pieces of Gronkowski and Edelman back 80% or not will be a huge boost for Brady’s on the field production. That might be enough to get past the Chiefs. Regardless though Kansas City will be a team to keep their eyes on in this divisional round. The Patriots are the measuring stick of the league and the Chiefs could shake up the playoffs by knocking them off early. Andy Reid has done a great job of turning the Chiefs into a legitimate Super Bowl contender. Much of that success comes from the fact that the Chiefs play fundamental football. They run the ball successfully and play outstanding defense. Now they will have a true test against New England and if they contain the Patriots offense they will certainly give the Patriots all they can handle.

Panthers and Seahawks has the makings of a championship bout:

Photo credit: Grant Halverson / Getty Images Sport

Author: Jon Kuzma

When the Carolina Panthers and the Seattle Seahawks meet up this weekend, one of these teams very easily could go on to win the Super Bowl. Ok, maybe not easily but still there is a very high chance that one of these two teams ends their season at Levi Stadium. In the blue corner you have the Seattle Seahawks who have been red hot lately. They’re 8-2 in their last 10 football games and have found a way to close games out down the stretch of the season. That take no prisoners mentality likely comes from Seattle’s two straight Super Bowl appearances. They simply have the big game experience and that level of maturity played a huge factor when their backs were against the wall early on in the season. Now they look to continue their dominance with a win in Carolina Sunday. In order for that to happen they will need another big performance from Russell Wilson. Wilson can serve as a spark plug for the Seahawks offense by making big plays through the air and eliminating turnovers. Besides that the Seattle defense will have to do their best to contain Cam Newton as well. If both Wilson and the Seattle defense have a big day, the Hawks might find themselves heading back to the pacific northwest with a victory.

In the red corner we have the Carolina Panthers. Carolina was the best team in the regular season finishing the year with a 15-1 record. The story of Carolina is a lot like the story of Seattle. Both teams have a dual threat quarterback and both teams have an outstanding defense. If you have to compare which quarterback is better right now you would have to say Cam Newton. Newton threw for 35 touchdowns and 3,837 passing yards. However he also rushed for 636 yards and 10 touchdowns. Putting together an MVP like season and leading the Panthers to the best record in the National Football League. This won’t be an easy win for the Panthers and Seattle could very easily return to championship form and knock off Carolina. Don’t count on it though, the Panthers have been just too good all year. Cam Newton is proving why he has had success at the junior college, division 1, and now the pro level. He is truly that good of a player and one of the best dual threat quarterbacks we’ve ever seen. If you’re a betting man go with Carolina.

Charity of the day: National Breast Cancer Coalition Fund

Go donate! www.breastcancerdeadline2020.org

Steelers face an uphill battle against the Broncos:

Photo credit: Andy Lyons / Getty Images Sport

Author: Jon Kuzma

The Pittsburgh Steelers will be in a tough match up this weekend when they take on the Denver Broncos in the AFC divisional round. The Steelers have been one of the most dynamic offenses in football all year but now late in the year they find themselves banged up and plagued by injuries. It was just announced that the best wide receiver in football right now. Antonio Brown will not suit up for the Steelers this weekend. Brown is out of action with a concussion that was caused by a Vontaze Burfict hit last weekend in the AFC Wildcard. That wasn’t the only Steeler that Burfict was able to hurt in that Wildcard game. Burfict also made his presence felt when he knocked starting quarterback Ben Roethlisberger out of the game on a big hit. On that play Burfict took Roethlisberger to the ground where the Steelers quarterback landed awkwardly on his right shoulder. The results were damage to Roethlisberger’s AC joint and also severe ligament damage. The 12th year quarterback out of Miami (Ohio) hasn’t been ruled out action for this weekend yet. However you have to wonder how effective Roethlisberger could be with a major injury to his throwing shoulder. It must be noted that he did come back and finish the game against the Bengals late in the fourth quarter. Yet things can change quickly with an injury of this magnitude due to the fact that swelling could occur and restrict his range of motion in his shoulder. What makes the injury even more difficult for the Steelers is the fact that it is in Ben’s throwing shoulder. If the injury was in Roethlisberger’s other shoulder than he would have a much greater chance of being able to make all the throws. Instead the Steelers will be without their top wide receiver in Antonio Brown and they will also get a very limited Ben Roethlisberger. That is if he is indeed able to go Sunday. Not the way the Steelers wanted to be entering a playoff game with the stakes this high. We will see if their offense can overcome those big setbacks. Regardless it will be very difficult for Pittsburgh to win this game.

Charity of the day: National Breast Cancer Coalition Fund

Go donate! www.breastcancerdeadline2020.org

Chip Kelly is the new head coach of the San Francisco 49ers:

Photo credit: Rich Schultz / Getty Images Sport

Author: Jon Kuzma

The Chip Kelly era has officially begun in San Francisco. After firing Jim Harbaugh just two seasons ago for being overly controlling and less gregarious than expected. The Niners will now turn to a very similar coach in terms of characteristics. Owner Jed York and General Manger Trent Baalke decided that Kelly’s coaching accolades in the end were just too good to pass up. The former Philadelphia Eagles head coach who was fired for being too unlikeable will get another chance to prove his worth at the NFL level. In order for Kelly to succeed he must understand that it’s better off to retain talent than to ship it off. With the NFL being such a win now league there is no time for development years or rebuilding phases. Coaches simply don’t last long enough to get through those projects. Instead NFL teams will fire a coach for a poor season and look to find an ideal candidate to replace them. Kelly has first hand experience of how fast the coaching carrousel can turn and he will certainly be wiser this time around. It’s not very often that a head coach gets fired and then turns around and lands another gig the following season. Usually coaches are expected to take a step back such as a coordinator position and work their way back up the coaching later. Kelly has to understand that if things don’t go right in San Francisco their may not be another opportunity waiting for him like the Niners job was this time. It’s imperative that the Niners new head coach understands that his actions have a trickle down effect throughout this football team. It all starts with the top position and if Kelly can’t be a leader when it comes to dealing with other coaches and players. He might find himself back in the college ranks. Still it is a good hire for the 49ers and they will get a bright football mind to lead their team.

Charity of the day: Defeat Diabetes Foundation

Go donate! www.defeatdiabetes.org

What’s happening around the league: Divisional Round

Hue Jackson is named head coach of the Cleveland Browns

Hue Jackson has been named the new head coach of the Cleveland Browns. Jackson interviewed with the Browns and had received interest from a number of other teams. In the end Jackson decided that Cleveland would be the best fit for him. Jackson was scheduled to interview with the Giants but ultimately wanted to take a job rather than wait around and miss out on an opportunity. Jackson served as the Oakland Raiders head coach for one season in 2010. After going 8-8 the Raiders decided that moving on would be the best move for their franchise. Now after a great offensive season in Cincinnati Hue will get a another crack at being a head coach in the NFL. Jackson has indicated he will move on from Johnny Manziel and there are going to be plenty of other changes moving forward in Ohio as well.

The Chargers will also be heading to Los Angeles

The Chargers have decided that the 100 million dollar offer to stay in San Diego was not a sweet enough deal. The Chargers will relocate to Los Angeles along with the Rams. At the end of the day the move to the Los Angeles market was too compelling for the Chargers to pass up. There are reports that the Inglewood stadium is going to an amazing spectacle. The city of Los Angles goes from having no pro football team to having two within a matter of days. You have to feel for both the cities of San Diego and St. Louis who lose out on their teams after supporting the NFL for all of those seasons. Truthfully the market in Los Angeles is growing so rapidly it couldn’t be passed up. The revenue made off the public interest of pro football returning to the city of Angels will make the league a lot of money. Hopefully it wasn’t at the expense of their loyal fan base.

Coughlin drawing interest

Tom Coughlin has interviewed with the Philadelphia Eagles and just recently interviewed with San Francisco 49ers. The former Giants football coach is drawing a lot of interest around the league and very well might be coaching in 2016. No deal has been finalized yet but the high praise for the coach speaks volumes about how highly executives around the league hold him. With Hue Jackson taking the Cleveland Browns job and several teams still looking for a head coach. Don’t be surprised if one of the teams offer Coughlin as job. He is a 2x Super Bowl winning head football coach.

Charity of the day: American Brain Tumor Association

Go donate! www.abta.org

Rams stiff arm St. Louis for Los Angeles. Chargers will have the option to join them:

Photo credit: Dilip Vishwanat

Author: Jon Kuzma

The St. Louis Rams are officially no more. The league publicly announced last night that the Rams will be relocating to Los Angeles. The move was made with a number of factors in mind. First the Los Angeles market is booming right now and will only continue to grow in the near future. That means the Rams will be running in the green on the spreadsheet in a lot more columns than they would be in St. Louis. Those extra funds can be used in so many facets of the team and really at the end of the day it was a no brainer for the Rams. Whether it be more sponsorship or more ticket revenue from the excitement of pro football being back in Los Angeles. Business wise you have to tip your hat to Stan Kroenke and the other NFL owners. It wasn’t an easy business decision but at the end of the day it was the right business decision. As much as you could go on and on about the financial benefits of the move, you also have to talk about Los Angeles as a destination. We’re talking about a major hub for entertainment and culture. Los Angeles isn’t just an attractive destination for businesses it will be a great landing spot for free agents in the off-season as well. Players want to play and live in sunny southern California and the Rams should benefit greatly from their new location. California also has a healthier lifestyle than many other cities as well. There are gyms and healthier food choices all around you in California so players will have access to so many amenities if they were to play for the Rams.  Just a few more advantages of moving the team to LA. The only real con of Los Angles is the distractions that will be around the players. Tinseltown has the most talented people in the world. There will always be events going on and things for people to do. The Los Angles Rams have to block out all the distractions and make sure they’re “professional football players.” If they can do that good things are certainly coming for this franchise. The Chargers will actually have the option to join the Rams in Los Angeles. However the Chargers and Raiders both got offered 100 million dollars to stay in their previous locations of San Diego and Oakland. We will see shortly if the Chargers exercise that option. One thing is certain at this point, The Rams are back in LA.

Charity of the day: American Brain Tumor Association

Go donate! www.abta.org

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