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2013 NFL Predictions: Division Winners, Super Bowl Champs, Individual Awards and League Leaders 5

Posted on August 21, 2013 by Andy Larmand

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It’s almost here, but if you weren’t excited enough about the NFL returning in a couple weeks, here are a few more reasons. It’s time to make some predictions that will inevitably have clear cut outomes and boggle the minds of some while sparking some pretty intense debates. I think I have them all right, though. Here are my picks for all eight division winners, the four Wild Card teams, each conference’s championship matchup, the Super Bowl, league leaders and major award recipients.

AFC East (2): Patriots - Nine straight division titles when the team has been quarterbacked by Tom Brady? Yeah, make it 10 for New England. While they undoubtedly will be transitioning on the field this season, they are still fairly high above the other three teams in the division. Plus, their quarterback never runs into butts.

AFC North (4): Bengals - Get used to hearing “Dalton to Green” and get used to seeing the Bengals in the postseason (even if it is just for one game) for the third straight year. Cleveland will probably finish fourth.

AFC South (3): Colts - The Colts made an unbelievable turnaround in 2012 and it seems to me they are not done improving. Eleven wins last season was good, but I see them hitting at least 12 this year, including making a push to overtake the Texans late in the year with a huge win over them in Week 15.

AFC West (1): Broncos - Obviously. This one will probably be the biggest division win by any team this season. I say 14-2 for Denver with San Diego the closest to them at 7-9. Welker…and Decker…and Thomas might play a role in their success as well. Read the rest of this entry →

Offense, Offense And More Offense: NFL Division Weekend Storylines 0

Posted on January 15, 2013 by Andy Larmand

Does it have to be over? That was one of the best weekends of sports we have ever seen. The only bad thing about the Super Bowl getting closer is less football games over the weekend.

If it looked familiar to you, there’s good reason for that. The four AFC teams in the divisional round this past weekend were the same final four as last season and it was the first time that phenomenon has ever happened. Defense was certainly hard to come by on both Saturday and Sunday. We have a lot to cover, so let’s get to it.

Obi-WON-Jacoby: Joe Flacco's 70-yard TD pass to Jacoby Jones with 31 seconds left in regulation sent the game to overtime, where the Ravens eventually shocked the Broncos.

Obi-WON-Jacoby: Joe Flacco’s 70-yard TD pass to Jacoby Jones with 31 seconds left in regulation sent the game to overtime, where the Ravens eventually shocked the Broncos.

What. A. Game. The Ravens and the Broncos opened the weekend in one of the best postseason games we have seen in a while. Despite two return touchdowns from Trindon Holliday, Denver fell to the underdog Ravens, 38-35, in the first double-overtime game in the NFL since the Panthers beat the Rams in another divisional playoff game on Jan. 10, 2004 – they ended up making it to the Super Bowl that year. Joe Flacco hit Jacoby Jones with a 70-yard pass to tie the game at 35 with 31 seconds left in regulation and tied Eli Manning for the most road playoff wins with his fifth. If you missed it, start kicking yourself. Peyton Manning, who had won nine straight starts against the Ravens coming into the game, tied Brett Favre for the most playoff losses by a quarterback in NFL history. In 12 playoff appearances, which are tied for the most ever, he is now 9-11, including eight seasons of one-and-done performances. In what has become his typical fashion, he threw two interceptions and lost two fumbles. The Ravens got 17 points off of those turnovers, including the game-winning field goal with 13:18 left in the second overtime period following Corey Graham‘s second pick of the night.

The game featured three return touchdowns, including two in the first 5:11 and also saw a 42-second stretch in which the Ravens scored two touchdowns to take a 14-7 lead. Holliday’s 90-yard punt return was the first ever in Denver postseason history and the longest by any player ever in the playoffs. His 104-yard kick return for a touchdown was also the longest return TD in playoff history and he became the only player to ever return both a kick and a punt for touchdowns in the same playoff game. Finally, Holliday became the first player to ever score two touchdowns of any kind of 90 or more yards in a playoff game. Baltimore lost one fumble on the day and have now lost three in their first two playoff games this year after losing just five in the regular season. The 28 combined points in the first quarter of the game were more than the four games combined for in the first quarter last weekend. It was only the third time in the Super Bowl era that both teams scored 14 or more points in the first quarter of a playoff game. It was also the first ever playoff game with an offensive (Torrey Smith, Brandon Stokley), defensive (Graham) and special teams touchdown (Holliday) in the first quarter.

The 35 points are the most the Ravens have ever allowed in their playoff history. The Broncos lost their first overtime playoff contest as they had been 2-0 in such games entering this one, including the victory over the Steelers last year. Baltimore improved to 1-0 in overtime playoff games. Graham became the sixth player in the last five postseasons to pick off multiple passes in a playoff game. Three of them are Ravens. The combination of Flacco and John Harbaugh is going to its third AFC Championship game in their five seasons together (0-2). Justin Tucker‘s 47-yard field goal to win the game was his only one of the night, the fourth-longest overtime field goal in playoff history and the longest ever by a rookie. Ray Lewis made an astounding 17 tackles and will live to play another week. The game lasted 76 minutes, 42 seconds. It was the fourth-longest playoff game in NFL history and the longest since 1986. Manning fell to 0-4 in his career in the postseason when the temperature was lower than 40 degrees and his 21 career postseason interceptions are the fourth-most ever. Denver committed 10 penalties in the game for 87 yards. Smith’s 59-yard TD reception just before the half was the second-longest in Baltimore postseason history. Manning took a knee with 31 seconds left in the fourth quarter, still possessing two timeouts.

Well, that was a good start. The Ravens will travel to Foxboro for a rematch of their Week 3 game with New England on Sunday at 6:30 p.m.

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A Week For The Record Books: Week 16 NFL Storylines 0

Posted on December 26, 2012 by Andy Larmand

Week 16 gave us plenty of gifts right before Christmas including playoff clinching performances, records being set, quarterback controversies and of course a little Tim Tebow. Like always, it was fun to watch and even more exciting for those lucky enough to be in fantasy championship games.

The Falcons became the first team in the league to reach 13 wins as they got the best of the not-so-mighty Lions, 31-18, to open the week on Thursday/Saturday/Monday Night Football. While their performance was certainly appreciated in Atlanta, it was probably overshadowed around the rest of the country as Calvin Johnson broke the 17-year receiving yards record previously held by Jerry Rice with 11 catches for 225 yards on the night. He surpassed Rice’s record of 1,848 yards and now has 1,892 with one game to go and a real shot at becoming the first ever 2,000-yard receiver. On top of that, Megatron also set NFL records with his eighth straight game of 100-plus receiving yards and fourth straight with 10-plus catches. Matthew Stafford set an NFL record for the most passing yards in a game (443) without throwing a touchdown.

No. 1: Calvin Johnson broke Jerry Rice's record for receiving yards in a season with 225 in his team's loss to the Falcons Saturday night.

No. 1: Calvin Johnson broke Jerry Rice’s record for receiving yards in a season with 225 in his team’s loss to the Falcons Saturday night.

Atlanta did clinch the No. 1 seed in the NFC and home-field advantage throughout the playoffs with the win. Their two big targets, Roddy White and Julio Jones combined for 15 catches, 224 yards and three touchdowns. White had 100-plus yards and two TD catches in the 1st half alone – the second time he’s done that in his career. Jones now has at least five catches in five straight games and has a touchdown catch in four out of five. Matt Ryan continued his dominance at home as he threw four TD passes and set a new career-high with 31 on the year, tying the Falcons single-season record. He completed his first 12 passes of the game and dating back to last week, had completed 22 straight – a Falcons record – while also tying another career-high with the four touchdown passes. With one reception, Tony Gonzalez has caught a ball in 194 straight games. The Falcons improved to 13-2 and the Lions fell to a disappointing 4-11.

Steven Jackson entered Sunday’s game against the Bucs needing 91 yards for his eighth straight 1,000-yard season, but only got 81 as the Rams won the game 28-13. Rookie Janoris Jenkins returned another interception for a touchdown – his third of the year, which tied the rookie record set back in 1981. Josh Freeman tied the Bucs’ career record for TD throws with 77, but also threw four interceptions in his second consecutive game. He also now holds the Bucs’ single season passing yards record with 3,843 through Sunday. Sam Bradford was not sacked at all for the first time in 31 games. St. Louis improved to 7-7-1 and Tampa fell to 6-9 with their fifth straight loss.

Greg McElroy made the first start of his NFL career as the Jets hosted the Chargers in a battle of disappointing AFC teams. It was the first time since 2009 that Mark Sanchez had not started a game for New York and they looked pretty good on offense to start, driving for two early Shonn Greene touchdown runs. San Diego would come back, however, behind two touchdown passes from Philp Rivers, including one to Antonio Gates, who now stands alone as the Chargers’ all-time leader in touchdown catches with 82, and hand the Jets the loss, 27-17. San Diego sacked McElroy 11 times in the win – the most by a team since 2007. McElroy was the second quarterback since the merger to be sacked 11 times in his first start. The Jets fell to 6-9 and Chargers improved to 6-9 with the win.

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Sanchez Finally Benched: Week 13 NFL Storylines 0

Posted on December 05, 2012 by Andy Larmand

Mark Sanchez may have pulled off a miracle by remaining in the New York lineup for 12 weeks, but it appears his reign as starter may be over after being replaced in the 2nd half of Sunday’s game. Surprisingly, without “butt fumble” in there, the Jets got a win. So did 15 other teams.

Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez may have finally found something he’s good at: holding the clipboard and keeping Tim Tebow (left) company on the New York bench.

The Saints traveled to Atlanta to take on the division-leading Falcons on Thursday night in a game that they had to have to keep their slim playoff hopes alive. Drew Brees, however, threw FIVE interceptions and saw his NFL-record streak of consecutive games with a touchdown pass end at 54 in a row. This was the first time since Oct. 4, 2009 that Brees did not throw a touchdown pass in a game and the first time he, or any Saints quarterback, has ever thrown five picks. Roddy White had no catches in the 1st half for the first time in his last 78 games. His first catch came with less than two minutes left in the 3rd quarter.  With four on the night, tight end Tony Gonzalez now has at least 70 receptions in 10 straight seasons, tying the NFL record, and 13th season overall, tying that record as well. Matt Bryant made a 55-yard field goal in the 4th quarter and has now been good on his last seven kicks of 50 yards or more. Atlanta improved to 11-1 with the 23-13 win and has won 46 of 47 games when holding a lead at any point in the 4th quarter. The Falcons converted on just one 3rd down in the game (1-11). With the Tampa Bay loss to Denver, the Falcons clinched the NFC South for the second time in three seasons.

Stevan Ridley scored a rushing touchdown in his fifth straight game as the Patriots improved to 9-3 and won the AFC East, beating the Dolphins 23-16 in South Florida. Tom Brady did throw his first interception in his last 202 passing attempts in the 1st quarter – that had been the longest active streak in the NFL. He also threw a touchdown pass in his 44th straight game – the longest active streak in the NFL since Brees’ was snapped on Thursday night. With a second quarter reception, Wes Welker went over 1,00 yards receiving for the fifth time in his career, extending his Patriots record and he tied Jerry Rice‘s all-time record with 17 10-reception games. He had 10 catches for 89 yards…in the 1st half! If that wasn’t enough his 12 catches for 103 yards got him to the 10-catch, 100-yard mark for the 16th time in his illustrious career – the most all-time. Ridley became the 12th Patriot to run for 1,000 yards in a season. The Patriots clinched the AFC East for the fourth straight year and have won 20 straight games in the second half of the season. Brady became the first QB in NFL history to win 10 division titles. Finally, the Pats have won 12 straight regular season December games, dating back to 2009 and are currently on a six-game winning streak.

Something had to give in the Meadowlands as the 4-7 Jets hosted the 4-7 Cardinals – losers of seven straight following their undefeated start. It certainly was not a pretty thing to watch. Sanchez gave Brees a run for his money, throwing three interceptions in a game that ended 7-6 in their favor. He was finally pulled by Rex Ryan, but not for Tim Tebow – for Greg McElroy, who promptly threw a TD pass. Tebow was inactive for the game with a rib injury. The Cardinals have lost eight straight following this ugly game. New York improved to 4-111 in their history when scoring seven points or less in a game. Arizona did not convert on a 3rd down the entire day (0-15). The Jets improved to 1-6 all-time in games that Sanchez has thrown three or more interceptions. The two teams combined for more punts (16) than points.

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Offensive Outbursts And Injured QB’s: Week 10 NFL Storylines 0

Posted on November 15, 2012 by Andy Larmand

Ravens quarterback, Joe Flacco, accounted for four touchdowns, including one rushing, as the Ravens beat up on the Raiders, 55-20 in Baltimore Sunday.

Week 10 of the NFL season saw some of the highest point totals of the year, some of the most significant injuries and a tie. Yeah, there aren’t just ties in fútbol. There’s ties in football too, apparently. Ten teams put up 30 or more points including the Ravens who went nuts for 55 and four starting quarterbacks went down with injuries including Michael Vick, Jay Cutler, Alex Smith and Ben Roethlisberger. There were also some upsets on the day as the Saints held on to end the undefeated season of the Falcons and the Bengals took care of the Super Bowl champion Giants by 18 points.

The Colts and rookie quarterback, Andrew Luck, continued to roll as they handled the Jaguars 27-10 and won their fourth straight to kick off the week on Thursday night. Luck rushed for two touchdowns in a game for the second time this year and now has five rushing TD’s this season. The rest of the Colts’ team has combined for two. Peyton Manning has never rushed for two touchdowns in a game. Luck’s six wins on the year are tied for the second most by a rookie quarterback drafted No. 1 overall. Indy improved to 9-1 on Thursday Night games since the merger, which is the best win percentage of any NFL team.

The Ravens scored a franchise-record 55 points in their win over Oakland, who has still never beaten Baltimore on the road (0-4). Their offensive outburst was sure welcomed as they had scored less than 20 points three times on the year before Sunday. Joe Flacco threw for 341 yards in the win after he had combined to throw for just 300 in the team’s previous two games. The weird thing though was that Carson Palmer threw for 27 more yards than Flacco. The Raiders allowed a franchise-high 48 points through three quarters and the 55 points they gave up was good for a new franchise record. In the win, Baltimore’s Jacoby Jones became the first player in NFL history with two career kickoff returns of at least 105 yards for touchdowns, according to Elias.

Denver was another team to win big as they took care of the Panthers 36-14 while forcing two turnovers and registering two returns (and interception and a punt) for touchdowns on the day. The aforementioned Manning tied Dan Marino for the third-most wins by a quarterback (147) and for the second-most career TD passes with 420. The playoff-bound Broncos improved to 6-3 following their fourth straight win.

The Bucs also put up 34 points in their win over the Chargers and climbed over the .500 mark in the process at 5-4. In fact, the win marked the first ever by Tampa Bay at home against San Diego (1-5). Bucs’ rookie running back, Doug Martin, rushed for 68 yards on the day. Over his last three games, he has accumulated 605 yards from scrimmage, which is a new NFL record.

In the upset of the day, the Saints beat the previously undefeated Falcons at home, 31-27. With a 2nd quarter TD pass to Jimmy Graham, Drew Brees extended his NFL-record streak to 52 straight games with a touchdown pass. Tony Gonzalez caught both his 100th career touchdown and his 1200th career pass in the game for the 8-1 Falcons.  Marques Colston‘s TD catch in the 3rd quarter was the 55th of his career, which tied Deuce McAllister for the most in Saints history. In the past 10 years, Atlanta is now 1-45 when trailing by 11 or more points in the 2nd half.

Drew Brees and the Saints knocked off the undefeated Falcons for their fourth win in five games.

In Foxboro, the Patriots held on to beat the Bills, 37-31, thanks to a late interception by Devin McCourty in the endzone. Tom Brady improved to 20-2 in his career against Buffalo and the team improved to 10-3 under Bill Belichick following a bye week. Like Brees, Brady also kept his consecutive games with a touchdown streak alive at 41, throwing for two on the day. The Pats have never lost to the Bills at Gillette Stadium and Buffalo has not won on the road at New England since Nov. 5, 2000. New England has won 21 straight home games against AFC opponents.

In a division game that the Lions really needed, they fell to Minnesota 34-24 on the road and dropped to 4-5 on the year. Adrian Peterson rushed for 171 yards and became the first Viking in history to rush for 1,000 yards five times. He has had four straight 100 yard games less than a year after major knee surgery and furthered his case for NFL Comeback Player of the Year. Calvin Johnson finally had a huge game as he caught a season-high 12 balls for a season-high 207 yards and tied his season high with one touchdown.

Down south, the Titans had a day they’d like to see more of as Jake Locker returned and led them to a 37-3 beatdown against the Dolphins. He threw for two touchdowns, but just 122 yards in his return to the team. The 34-point loss for Miami marked the first time that they have lost by 34 or more points at home since the Chiefs had their way with them in 1968. Chris Johnson recorded rushing touchdowns in back-to-back games for the first time since Weeks 14-15 in 2010.

In the day’s other upset, the Bengals crushed the Giants 31-13. The G-Men fell to 0-6 all-time in Cincinnati and Eli Manning went his third straight game without throwing a touchdown pass (1-2). With two straight losses to open the month, Manning fell to 13-19 in November for his career, but is 27-5 in October. He also became just the fifth QB since 1982 to go three straight games without a touchdown pass at any point during the season after winning the Super Bowl, according to Elias. New York allowed just two 1st quarter touchdowns in their first nine games, but allowed two to the Bengals in the first five minutes of this one. Andy Dalton‘s four TD passes were a career-high for the second-year pro. A.J. Green caught a touchdown pass in his eighth straight game as he looks to keep that streak up on his way to the Pro Bowl.

The other team from New York didn’t fare much better. After predicting his 3-5 Jets would make the playoffs, Antonio Cromartie backed it up by letting the Seahawks get in the endzone four times in Seattle’s 28-7 win over the Jets. New York has lost three straight and in their last two games, they have been outscored 58-16. Sunday marked the first time since 1983 that the Jets and Giants have both lost by 18 or more points on the same day. Since Week 15 last season, the Jets are 3-9. Only the Jags and Browns have worse records during that span.

If you haven’t heard, the 49ers and Rams played to the first tie since the Eagles and Bengals finished 13 all in 2008. The 49ers had won 11 straight home games against division opponents, which was good for the longest active such streak in the NFL. San Fran didn’t get off to a very good start and trailed by 14 after one for the first time since 2006. For the Rams, it would have been the first time since the 2003-04 season that they had won three divisional games in a row. Their punter, Johnny Hekker, became the first punter with two pass completions in a game since 2004. The last time the 49ers finished in a tie was in 1986 and the last time for the Rams was in 1976. Alex Smith left the game for San Francisco with a concussion and is questionable for next week. In an interesting subplot, 1:12 of game clock was used in the 1st half during a measurement that no one seemed to see any reason in stopping the clock. Hmm, that time may have been valuable!

We knew 49ers head coach, Jim Harbaugh, wasn’t a big fan of losing, but it doesn’t look like he enjoys tying all that much either.

In the primetime slot, the Cowboys and Eagles met with both teams being below .500 for the first time since 1990 with each of them desperately needing a win. With 21 points in 2:35 in the 2nd half, Dallas bested their division rivals 38-23 to improve to 4-5 while Philly fell to 3-6. Since 1990, only 1.4 percent of teams to start a season 3-6 have gone on to make the playoffs. To make things worse for Philly, they lost Michael Vick to a concussion as well. Though listed as doubtful, he hasn’t officially been ruled out for Week 11, but rookie, Nick Foles, is expected to get the start against the Redskins. The Eagles have lost five straight games for the first time since 1998 and for the first time under head coach, Andy Reid.

Shockingly enough for Cowboys fans, Tony Romo went his second straight game without committing a turnover and also recorded his first game this season with multiple TD passes and no interceptions. Big day for Dallas. The Cowboys became the first team since 1966 to score a touchdown on an interception return, a fumble recovery and a punt return in the same quarter.

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Week 7 NFL Storylines 0

Posted on October 24, 2012 by Andy Larmand

 

Giants quarterback, Eli Manning, celebrated his latest 4th quarter comeback on Sunday, beating the Redskins 27-23.

As always, the latest week in the NFL left us eager for the next one to start.

Here are the biggest feats, news stories and injuries from the week that was around the NFL.

No surprise here, but Drew Brees threw a touchdown pass in a record 49th straight game, extending his own NFL record. The Saints came back from down 21-7 to beat the Buccaneers after a 4th down touchdown catch was refuted by a penalty to end the game. After an 0-4 start, the Saints have won their last two.

Brees ] threw for 313 yards in the 1st half – the most by a quarterback in the 1st half of a game since Michael Vick threw for 329 against the Redskins in 2010. It was also Brees’ 18th career 4-touchdown game, which is good for fourth all-time and 62nd career 300-yard passing game, which is good for a tie for third on the all-time list. He is now tied with Dan Marino for the most career games with 4+ touchdowns and 300 yards with 16.

Patriots quarterback, Tom Bradyremained ten games behind Brees as he threw a touchdown pass in his 39th consecutive game in his team’s 29-26 overtime win against the JetsNew England extended its all-time series lead to 54-52-1 against New York. Rob Gronkowski caught two touchdowns and now has 10 multi-touchdown games since 2010 – more than anyone else.

This was just the fifth time in their history that the Patriots scored 29 points in a game. The last time was on Oct. 14, 2001 against the Chargers and also a 29-26 OT win. New England, who has won 15 of the last 19 meetings with the Jets, scored points with their offense, defense and special teams in the 1st half.

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