The Carolina Panthers will take on the Seattle Seahawks today and it’s going to a battle between two teams that are scraping to make the NFC playoffs. If the postseason started today Carolina would be in but they haven’t been playing great football by any means. Ron Rivera’s team was dismantled two weeks ago against the Pittsburgh Steelers 52-21 and then they lost last weekend to the Detroit Lions 20-19. With poor showings in back to back weeks you have to wonder how serious of a contender this franchise is? It’s hard to believe in them if we’re talking about winning a Super Bowl. They seem more like a team that will wind up as a one and done if they do make it to wildcard weekend. That’s why these final six weeks are so imperative for Cam Newton and the rest of those guys. We need proof that the Panthers are a legitimate contender or they’re going to fizzle out later on. They should be able to beat the Seattle Seahawks but that’s not enough to make up for some of the things that have already transpired. At this point Rivera needs to go above and beyond winning he has to dominate a few opponents and get back to intimidating people. For Carolina that means three things must happen. First and foremost Luke Kuechley and the defense have to clamp down. By forcing punts and creating additional possessions for the offense it’ll significantly benefit this organization. The next key factor is Christian McCaffrey. McCaffrey has been exceptional in every aspect of the game (running, catching, and scoring). Clearly that’s something that has to be maintained moving forward. Then obviously Cam Newton has to play his best football ever. Newton played really well against the Saints in the 2017 playoffs. Those kind of performances can uplift this ball club to new heights.
The Miami Dolphins started off the 2018 season with a 3-0 record but they’ve slowed down quite a bit since September. Miami is now 5-5 but the hope is the return of Ryan Tannehill will get this squad to playoffs. Right now Baltimore has the the final seed so it’s going to take a strong stretch of football from the Dolphins if they want to get back in the hunt. If there’s any good news it’s that Adam Gase’s crew will play the Bills twice, the Jaguars, and the Colts. Those are four must win games and there has to be a red circle around those match-ups. Ryan Tannehill needs to shake off the cobwebs and put it all together against each of those opponents or ultimately this ball club is going to be on the outside looking in. It all starts this weekend against Indianapolis and that’s probably the toughest of the four. Andrew Luck is playing great and Tannhill has to come as close as he can to matching Luck’s output. Which means it’ll likely take 3 touchdowns for Miami to be neck and neck with the Colts late in the game. Obviously the Dolphins defense will play a key role in all of this too. Kiko Alonso, Cameron Wake, and Reshad Jones have to get some stops and make it difficult for Luck. We’re at breaking point for this franchise and a loss against Indy would really set them back. Tannehill and Gase’s future are both at risk if things don’t pan out. So there’s a lot at stake and failure isn’t an option. That’s life in the NFL and these owners turn the page quickly when results aren’t achieved. Proving that this could be this current regime’s final stand if this team doesn’t win at least four out of their next six games.
Earlier in the season Dak Prescott was under a lot of pressure for the Dallas Cowboys lack of offensive production. Cole Beasley even went as far to say that it wasn’t the receivers’ fault for this team’s struggles but it looks like Beasley may have jumped the gun a bit. With the addition of Amari Cooper the Cowboys have become much more potent. Cooper showcased that with a 180 yards and 2 touchdown performance again the Washington Redskins. On one reception the newest Cowboy hauled in a 90 yard pass and went all the way to the end zone. There was three defenders in his area but Cooper broke free and made a clutch play for Dallas. It’s becoming apparent that a change of scenery is helping bring out the best in the former Alabama pass catcher. Jerry Jones may have given up a first round pick but at the moment everything is working out. Nobody expected one player to have such a big impact. This move alone solved so many problems and now America’s Team is back to winning football games. Their 31-23 triumph over the Redskins was a crossroads moment for them because if the Boys didn’t win then their playoff hopes would’ve took a huge hit. Thanks to Amari Cooper though they were able to overcome a tough opponent and now everything is good in North Texas. Jason Garrett was on the hot seat a month ago but it’s very possible Cooper saved his job. Especially if this organization wins their division and goes to the big dance. To be honest that seems to be the direction we’re headed and it’s been an amazing turn around for Dallas. The Raiders got what they wanted with the 1st round pick but they lost a tremendous football player and it’s definitely changed the balance in the NFC East.
The New Orleans Saints keep blowing teams out and last night it was the Atlanta Falcons who were in Sean Payton’s crosshairs. The game started off with Alvin Kamara running hard out of the gate and ended with Drew Brees completely dissecting the Falcons secondary. Brees ended up throwing for 171 yards, 4 touchdowns, and 1 interception on New Orleans way to victory. Believe it or not Atlanta had the better receivers on the field but Brees took a cast of 3rd stringers and still pulled out the win. Proving how much better he’s been than everyone else and at this point it feels like Patrick Mahomes might’ve lost the top spot in the MVP race. Kamara was also good rushing for 89 yards. While Dan Arnold, Tommylee Lewis, Austin Carr, and Keith Kirkwood all caught touchdowns for NOLA. Matt Ryan put up good stats again but Dan Quinn’s squad is struggling to score touchdowns. Ryan finished with 377 yards, 2 touchdowns, and 1 interception but 17 points isn’t going to beat the Saints. Atlanta also gave up on the running game only rushing for 26 yards so they have to be more balanced moving forward. Julio Jones did record 147 receiving yards but there wasn’t much help from the other players on this offense. New Orleans defense was also very tough. Cameron Jordan led the way with 4 tackles, 2 sacks, and 3 TFLs. Eli Apple had a good night too he recorded a team high of 10 tackles. Damonae Kazee was the main guy for Atlanta. Kazee tallied up 4 tackles and 1 interception. Jack Crawford was the other main contributor he added 4 tackles, 1 sack, and 2 TFLs.
Charity of the day: Ovarian Cancer Research Fund Alliance
The Bears defense is known for making plays and they delivered once again against the Lions. With 6 minutes left in the fourth quarter Eddie Jackson intercepted a Matthew Stafford pass and took it the other way for a defensive touchdown. Detroit bounced back and drove it all the way down to the red zone hoping to tie the game. That’s when Chicago intercepted Stafford again and ultimately it killed any chances of a Lions comeback. What makes this win so significant is the fact that Chase Daniel started because Mitchell Trubisky was hurt. Matt Nagy’s team went on the road to Ford Field and beat Matt Patricia’s ball club with a backup quarterback. Clearly that’s a good indication of the Bears future and it’s also why they’ll be fine in the playoffs. Detroit on the other hand are struggling in Patricia’s initial season and they’re a shell of the team they were just a year ago with Jim Caldwell. Daniel ended up throwing for 230 yards, 2 touchdowns, and no interceptions in the victory. Tarik Cohen and Taquan Mizzell both caught touchdown passes and that was a little surprising because they’re both running backs (no receivers caught a TD). Eddie Jackson was the top defender for Nagy’s defense and he changed the entire game with a pick six. Roquan Smith had 11 tackles, 1 sack, and 1 TFL so it was great outing for the rookie as well. Stafford’s troubling day ended with 236 yards, 0 touchdowns, and 2 interceptions. LeGarrett Blount was one bright spot in the defeat. He recorded 88 yards and 2 touchdowns doing his best to rally his teammates. Glover Quin was the biggest standout on the Lions defense. Quin had 7 tackles, 1 sack, and 1 TFL. Damon Harrison also recorded 3 tackles and 1.5 sacks so he was very good in this match-up. In the end it was the Bears who were just the better side. They’re going to win the NFC North and it’s certainly clear we’re witnessing the birth of a new version of the Monsters of the Midway.
Charity of the day: Save the Children
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Eddie Jackson’s 4th quarter heroics helped the Chicago Bears win their 5th game in a row.
The Indianapolis Colts aren’t in the playoffs yet but they’re tied with the Ravens, Bengals, and Dolphins for the 6th seed. If the postseason started today Baltimore would be in but all three of those teams are 5-5. All Indy has to do is keep winning games and the rest should take care of itself. Most of this success also has to be credited to the return of Andrew Luck. Just last year we were wondering if Luck was ever going to be the player he once was? Now he’s looking a lot like the Comeback Player of the Year. Either J.J Watt or Luck is going to win that award and it’s definitely an accomplishment when you consider how far each guy had to go. Luck has 29 touchdowns and 2,769 yards proving that he’s back up to full speed. The veteran quarterback gives the Colts’ offense a 6th gear when they’re on the field and it’s amazing how many additional plays that creates downfield. Indianapolis is still a receiver or two from being where they need to be but Luck covers up any deficiencies. Wait until this organization adds more talent on that side of the ball and they’ll really be dangerous. Not to mention free agents will be more enticed to join this ball club because everyone can see that Frank Reich’s team is heading in the right direction. Making the playoffs will open up even more opportunities and that’s what their goal has to be. Finishing this year are on a high note is going to lay the foundation for the future. So there’s some pressure on Luck to step up and make it happen. He’s already got them though this far so it’s hard to bet against him at this point. This is a situation football fans are going to want to keep their eye on. The drama of Luck sinking or swimming should be awfully entertaining.
Charity of the day: Save the Children
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What a difference a year makes. Andrew Luck is back and playing as good as ever.
Photo credit: Ronald Martinez / Getty Images Sport
Author: Jon Kuzm
We’re in the final stretch of the season and the Dallas Cowboys are doing everything they can to win the NFC East. Jason Garrett’s squad is riding a two game win streak and they’re playing very confident at the moment. The Cowboys also caught a break when Alex Smith broke his leg. Washington has a one game lead in this division and now their future looks bleak. Opening the door for the Cowboys to make up the ground they need and come out victorious. The reason why Jerry Jones is in this position is because of how well their defense has played. Leighton Vander Esch is a rising star and he’s one of the most dominant linebackers we’ve seen in a while. Think of Brian Urlacher, Zach Thomas, and all of those other great run stoppers and Vander Esch fits perfectly into that category. He’s strong enough to fill both “a gaps” and we’ve also seen the rookie pick off a couple of passes in crucial moments. The other guy you really have watch out for is Demarcus Lawrence. Lawrence is ferocious off the edge and can disengage blockers so quickly. That ultimately leads to sacks, TFLs, and strip sacks which help Dallas get the upper hand momentum wise. If those two defenders weren’t tough enough to stop Jaylon Smith and Byron Jones are playing their best football ever. It seems like the Cowboys’ defense has all this talent that is peaking at the same exact time. On the offensive side the ball Amari Cooper has also helped out so you have to like the direction this franchise is heading. The question is whether or not they can put it all together in the next six games? They still have to play catch up and that means there’s no room for error. One loss could end up dooming them.
There’s a lot of really good wide receivers in the National Football League but no one is emerging faster than Tyreek Hill. Kansas City’s vertical pass catcher is known for his blazing speed and he consistently gets behind opposing secondaries. Hill’s eleven touchdowns prove just how much an impact he’s having for Andy Reid’s offense. Cornerbacks have to lineup 10 yards off of this guy or they don’t even have a chance to run stride for stride with him. Even then Hill seems to always beat his opponents for at least two or three big plays per game. Tyreek Hill is also lethal on bubble screen and crossing routes. Basically if the 24 year old wide out has the ball in his hands he’s going to make at least one tackler miss and turn up field for a decent chunk of yardage. We’ve seen that happen since he entered the league back in 2016 and truthfully Hill is better than ever now. It’s still surprising that the Chiefs drafted him in the 5th round but give credit to this coaching staff for tapping into his potential. They did that by playing to his strengths and letting him run those deep routes. Beyond Hill’s speeds he’s also very sure handed. If a pass gets near him it’s almost a guaranteed catch. Obviously all of these different skills are the reason the former West Alabama alum is neck and neck with Antonio Brown stats wise. It’s because of how dynamic he is and god has given Hill some athletic gifts. All of which have been used to win the Chiefs a ton of football games. Playing with Patrick Mahomes doesn’t hurt either. That tandem brings out the best in both players and they’re the future of the league. These two will make defenses pay for years to come.
Last season the New York Giants were absolutely awful and their 3-13 record certainly proved that. And although this year hasn’t been that much better you have to give Big Blue some respect because they haven’t rolled over and quit. Right now Pat Shurmur’s squad has a 3-7 record but they’re riding a two game win streak. Which makes you wonder if they’ve left their struggles in the past? Dave Gettleman and Shurmur have been making subtle changes here and there hoping to get their team in order. They cut Ereck Flowers and traded away Damon Harrison. Surprisingly things started to improve after those departures. For whatever reason this ball club is clicking right now and it’ll be exciting to see if they can keep stacking wins? It’s very unlikely that New York will make the playoffs but this is setting them up for a much better 2019 season. Who knows with another free agency and draft under their belts the Giants might be able to be a winning football team? The good news is the offensive line has been blocking much better and Eli Manning’s play has improved significantly (5 touchdowns and 0 interceptions in the last two games). Saquon Barkley is also a key piece and he has an opportunity to be one of the most dominant players in the entire league (728 yards and 7 touchdowns). Then there’s Odell Beckham Jr. and he’s done a great job of bouncing back from the injury that kept him out all of 2017 (OBJ is headed for a 1,000 yard season). Now it’s all about adding a lineman or two and loading up the defense. Additional blocking upfront will help the running and the passing game. While a couple more defenders should keep each match-up close and give Shurmur’s offense a few more possessions. The final move will obviously be drafting or trading for another quarterback who can eventually replace Manning. Regardless though this organization is getting closer to competing.
Photo credit: Patrick McDermott / Getty Images Sport
Author: Jon Kuzma
There’s a reason Colt McCoy has been able to hang on to an NFL backup quarterback job for so long and it’s because the veteran signal caller has a very strong track record. McCoy won several collegiate awards when he was coming out of the University of Texas (Maxwell award, Davey O’Brien award, Manning Award, Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award). McCoy also took the Longhorns to the 2010 National Championship where they would eventually fall short but people forget that he was knocked out of that match-up in the first quarter. Had McCoy stayed in the game things may have been different. Even as a pro Colt McCoy has had some very bright moments. Back in 2011 and 2014 he threw for more touchdowns than interceptions and it seems like this guy has always made plays when he was leading his team’s offense. Now with Alex Smith out for the remainder of the year the Redskins are hoping McCoy can guide this organization to the postseason. If the 32 year old gunslinger wants to do that he’ll have to stick to his style of play. For McCoy that’s always been lofting the ball downfield and using his feet to move the chains. Quarterback draws are never off the table and he likes to step up in the pocket and take off. McCoy doesn’t have the strongest arm and tends to lack zip on short and intermediate throws but he can drop it in his receiver’s hands on vertical routes. Maybe the biggest reason he’s still in the league is how fundamentally sounds his mechanics are. Making it apparent that the former 3rd round pick (McCoy) has been well coached in the past. Therefore it wouldn’t be that shocking if he does indeed get Washington to the playoffs. Right now Jay Gruden’s squad has a one game lead in the NFC East. Plus the defense has been the backbone of their success so it’s possible that things don’t change too much with their number 2 QB under center.