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Chiefs, Giants Among Surprises, Luck Ties Impressive Mark: Week 4 NFL Headlines 1

Posted on October 01, 2013 by Andy Larmand
The Saints' offense, led by Jimmy Graham and Darren Sproles, has them off to a 4-0 start.

The Saints’ offense, led by Jimmy Graham and Darren Sproles (43), has them off to a 4-0 start.

For the first time in 2013, the NFL traveled across the pond to Wembley Stadium in Week 4 for a matchup of a couple of surprise 0-3 teams and did not disappoint the locals. Also featured is Andrew Luck matching an impressive quarterback mark, a double-digit, fourth-quarter comeback in Houston, Denver scoring and then scoring some more and the Chiefs improving to 4-0. Perhaps more notably, the blue team in New York is now 0-4.

The 49ers and Rams began the week in an NFC West showdown on Thursday night and after two straight losses in Weeks 2 and 3, the Niners kept a three-game losing streak off of Jim Harbaugh’s resume with a 35-11 rout of St. Louis. Harbaugh has still never lost three in a row as 49ers head coach. The Rams finished the night with 18 total rushing yards on 19 attempts. They have now recorded less than 100 yards on the ground in nine straight games. Also, they were the first team since 2008 with 19-plus rush attempts and 18 or fewer yards. They were also the last team to do that. San Fran improved to 5-0 all-time when Colin Kaepernick throws two or more touchdown passes.

The Vikings scored a first-quarter touchdown for the eighth straight game as Christian Ponder connected with Greg Jennings from 70 yards out to help them get up, 10-0, on the Steelers in London. The eight straight with a touchdown in the first quarter is a team record for them. Pittsburgh is 0-4 for the first time since 1968. Jennings needs just two more 70-yard touchdown receptions to tie the all-time record of nine held by Jerry Rice.

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Panthers Embarrass Giants, Body Parts Lost: Week 3 NFL Headlines 1

Posted on September 24, 2013 by Andy Larmand

As September continues to move toward October, this NFL season is providing us with some truths that stand the test of time and some that have and will continue to shock us all. And then, there are the teams or players who break the norm – finally. Week 3 saw the end of an almost-century-long losing streak, the worst loss ever for one head coach, a potential Cinderella story getting to 3-0, a first for the 49ers since 1958, and the Jaguars, well, being the Jaguars. Here are your Week 3 NFL headlines.

Alex Smith in Kansas City is working out all right so far as KC is 3-0.

Alex Smith in Kansas City is working out all right so far as KC is 3-0.

The Eagles lost their eighth straight game at home and the Chiefs, led by former Eagles coach, Andy Reid, improved to 3-0 with a 26-16 win to open the week on Thursday night. It is just the second time Philly has ever lost eight in a row at home and first time since 1936-37. Lesean McCoy managed his third-highest rushing total in the loss, but only second-highest of the season with 158 yards and Michael Vick posted a career-high 61-yard run. The Chiefs joined the 2002 Panthers as the last team to start a season 3-0 after winning two or fewer games the year before. Alex Smith became the first Kansas City signal caller to win his first three starts with the team since Joe Montana in 1993.

Calvin Johnson tied Torry Holt as the fourth-fastest player to accumulate 8,000 career receiving yards as he did so in his 95th career game and Detroit beat the Redskins, 27-20. The win was the first ever for the Lions in the city of Washington (1-21) as they had not beaten the Redskins on the road since they were in Boston in 1935. The Skins fell to 0-3, but Robert Griffin III’s 975 yards through three games are the second-most all-time by a quarterback who started out 0-3. Matthew Stafford became just the second quarterback since 2001 to throw for 200-plus yards in the first half of each of his first three games of a season. Read the rest of this entry →

2013 NFL Predictions: Division Winners, Super Bowl Champs, Individual Awards and League Leaders 4

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 →

Win Or Go Home: NFL Wild Card Weekend Storylines 0

Posted on January 08, 2013 by Andy Larmand

There were only four football games on TV this weekend – two on Saturday and two on Sunday. But, thats okay. It’s the playoffs! Someone really should have told Andy Dalton, though as some unfortunate quarterback play stole the spotlight on Saturday.

PLAYOFFS?! Jim Mora, made famous for his rant at a press conference in 2001, is getting gained on by Cincinnati coach Marvin Lewis as the coaches the two with the most playoff losses without any wins (Mora: 0-6, Lewis: 0-4).

The Bengals and Texans kicked off Wild Card Weekend for the second straight year on Saturday afternoon in a rematch of last year’s Wild Card game and the first playoff game of  Matt Schaub‘s career (was injured last season). Houston won last year’s game and they won this one too, though it was ugly, 19-13. The game was the fourth rematch in the Wild Card round from the previous year in history and all four times the team that had won the first one has won the second one. In an ugly first half, the only touchdown that was scored was a Leon Hall interception return for Cincinnati, but they trailed 9-7 at the end of two thanks to some very sloppy play. The Bengals were the first team with negative passing yards in the first half of a playoff game since 2006. Dalton had -6 yards through the air in the half. It was the fourth consecutive game with a defensive TD for the Bengals and their first interception return for a touchdown in the postseason since 1973. A.J. Green had no catches or targets in the first two quarters of the game. Cincinnati has not won a playoff game since 1990 and also fell to 0-6 on the road all-time in the postseason. Dalton finished with just 127 yards on 14-of-30 passing.

Both Owen Daniels and Arian Foster were huge for the Texans, who have now won a playoff game in consecutive seasons. Daniels finished the game with nine receptions for 91 yards and Foster finished with 140 yards and the team’s only touchdown as he became the first running back to ever rush for 100 yards in each of his first three career playoff games. His 425 rushing yards in those games are also good for the most by a player in his first three career postseason appearances. Shayne Graham made all four of his field goal attempts in the game. Houston still has a chance to become only the second team to win the Super Bowl after finishing the regular season 1-3 or worse. Schaub nearly doubled Dalton’s passer rating (83.4 to 44.7) as the veteran came out on top in this one. Jermaine Gresham caught just two passes for seven yards and had two drops bounce off his hands. The Texans will head to New England to take on the Patriots in a rematch of their Week 14 game on Sunday at 4:30 p.m. Houston lost the contest 42-14.

Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton struggled hearing the play calls in noisy Reliant Stadium and struggled even more in executing them as Cincinnati's season is done.

Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton struggled hearing the play calls in noisy Reliant Stadium and struggled even more in executing them as Cincinnati’s season is done.

A couple hours before kickoff, Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder determined his injured elbow was not going to allow him to play in the game against the Packers. Joe Webb, who hadn’t thrown a pass this season, got the start and became the first quarterback in NFL history to start a postseason game after not attempting a pass in the regular season. He was the first QB to start a playoff game with only one career win on his resume since Kelly Holcomb in 2003. With all that going against them, it was never really close after the Packers scored 24 unanswered points to win, 24-10, and earn a rematch with the 49ers next week. Dalton may have felt a little better as Webb threw for just six yards in the first half of this game. Adrian Peterson ran for just 99 yards in the game on 22 carries and failed to become just the second 2,000-yard rusher to win a playoff game in the same season. No rushing champion has run for 100 yards in a playoff game since Edgerrin James did in 2000.

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ST&N 2012 NFL Awards 0

Posted on January 03, 2013 by Andy Larmand

While the NFL won’t give out its real awards until Super Bowl time, I will make my predictions for who will be receiving said awards. Only one thing is certain as of right now: the best of 2012 have a lot to live up to next year. It’s time, for me at least, to tell everyone who will win the awards in February and why.

Defensive Rookie of the Year: Luke Kuehly not only led the 10th-ranked defense of the Carolina Panthers in tackles as a rookie. He led the entire division. He led the entire NFC. And just for good measure, he led all of the NFL in tackles as a rookie fresh out of Boston College. Kuechly, a 6-foot-3-inch, 235-pound linebacker, finished the season with 164 tackles, 15 ahead of NaVorro Bowman of the 49ers who had 149 on the year. He’s begun to transform the defense of the Panthers, which just last year, was 28th in the league. Out of the 17 defenders drafted in the first round of this past year’s draft, Kuechly was far and away the most productive. The next most was Bucs‘ safety Mark Barron, who had 89 tackles on the year. Carolina gave up 22.7 points per game in 2012 after allowing 26.8 last season. Kuechly was instrumental in holding strong offensive opponents like the Giants, Seahawks, Cowboys and Chargers to seven, 12, 14 and seven points, respectively. My 2012 Defensive Rookie of the Year: Luke Kuechly.

2012 Defensive Rookie of the Year: Luke Kuechly.

2012 Defensive Rookie of the Year: Luke Kuechly.

Offensive Rookie of the Year: In a season that was definitely going to result in one of the first two picks in the draft winning this award, it just had to be determined whether it would be Andrew Luck or Robert Griffin III. So, with that being said, my offensive rookie of the year is Russell Wilson. Wilson is just as much of a two-way threat as the other two and threw more touchdown passes than his two fellow rookie quarterbacks. In fact, Wilson tied Peyton Manning’s 1998 record for the most touchdown passes by a rookie with 26 on the year. In the month of December, when the games mattered most, Wilson quarterbacked a Seattle team that put up 150 points in a three-game span. And he didn’t even enter training camp as the team’s starter. His 69.6 QBR was eighth in the league, just behind Griffin and just ahead of Luck, while his 100.0 passer rating was fourth in the league, just behind Griffin and well ahead of Luck. Neither the Seahawks, nor the Redskins or Colts would likely be in the playoffs without their rookie quarterback, so it kind of came down to stats in making this decision. My 2012 Offensive Rookie of the Year: Russell Wilson.

2012 Offensive Rookie of the Year: Russell Wilson.

2012 Offensive Rookie of the Year: Russell Wilson.

Coach of the Year: What a year it was for the Colts. It takes a special coach to turn a 2-14 team into an 11-5 team and make the playoffs in the tough AFC South. It’s even more impressive that he did it in an interim role with all that must have been on his mind after head coach Chuck Pagano was diagnosed with leukemia in October. Bruce Arians took over the team and, under his direction, they never lost focus and were able to win 11 games. They became just the seventh team ever to win at least nine more games than they did the previous year. Pagano has since returned and will coach the team in the playoffs, but they would not be there without the job that Arians did. To keep the team composed under those unbelievably difficult circumstances and to actually succeed on the field at the same time is so impressive and incredibly unique. Some season highlights for Indianapolis included wins against teams like the Texans, Vikings and Packers. My 2012 Coach of the Year: Bruce Arians.

2012 Coach of the Year: Bruce Arians.

2012 Coach of the Year: Bruce Arians.

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Season In Review: 32 Storylines From The 2012 NFL Regular Season 0

Posted on January 03, 2013 by Andy Larmand

It’s been a good one and I’m sure I speak for everybody when I say we’re all sad to see it go, but the 2012 NFL season has provided us with exciting finishes, triumphant record-breaking performances, comebacks, winning streaks, losing streaks and of course, replacement officials. Disappointments, pleasant surprises, rookies leading their teams to the playoffs and unspeakable tragedy have all left their marks on the past 17 weeks as well.

Here are 32 of the biggest stories – one about each team – from the 2012 regular season of NFL football.

Ryan Lindley watches as Janoris Jenkins (left) scoots into the endzone, returning another Arizona pass for a touchdown.

Flew into a wall: Cardinals QB Ryan Lindley watches as Janoris Jenkins (left) scoots into the endzone, returning another Arizona pass for a touchdown.

Arizona Cardinals (5-11, 4th in NFC West): Normally, when you lose nine games in a row, that’s the biggest story of the year. That was not the case for the Arizona Cardinals this year, however. Following the rib injury to starting quarterback Kevin Kolb in Week 6, things went from bad to worse in the desert as the Cards spiraled from a 4-0 first place team all the way to the bottom of the NFC West. Arizona’s quarterbacks, John Skelton, Ryan Lindley and Brian Hoyer, were three big reasons why. In that time frame, they combined to go 1-9 and throw 18 interceptions to just three touchdowns. A five-game stretch even resulted in Lindley throwing more touchdowns to opposing teams via interception returns (four) than he threw to his own receivers (zero). A few of the trio’s passing highs included 74, 72 and 64 yards. It probably didn’t help that All-Pro wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald had just 20 catches for 213 yards and no touchdowns in the final seven games of the season. Either they will trust that Kolb will return healthy next season or one would think they spend their first-round pick this spring on a competent quarterback. Head coach Ken Whisenhunt was fired by the team on ‘Black Monday.’

Atlanta Falcons (13-3, 1st in NFC South): The Falcons went 13-3 in 2012 and locked up their second straight No. 1 seed in the NFC playoffs, but that’s not really news – at least not until they actually do something in the playoffs. Matt Ryan improved his home record to 33-4 in five NFL seasons, but that wasn’t even the biggest thing, in my opinion. For the sixth consecutive season, Roddy White played in all 16 games (hasn’t missed a game in his eight-year career) and put up what would seem like Pro Bowl worthy numbers. He did not make it, however, but teammate Julio Jones did. White had 13 more catches and 153 more yards than Jones on the season. Interesting. In fact, White has finished out of the top 10 in receiving yards just once in the last six seasons (2009). In the last six seasons, he has ended up ninth, eighth, second, 13th, fourth and eighth in the NFL in receiving. He has gone to just three Pro Bowls, however, including one due to an injury of another player. The biggest story out of Atlanta this season may just be the fact that one of the most productive receivers in the league from year to year was snubbed from the Pro Bowl after once again bringing that consistent level of exceptional play. Should he be mad? Yes.

Baltimore Ravens (10-6, 1st in AFC North): It was kind of a tale of two seasons for the AFC North champion Ravens. They began the year 9-2 and were in the driver’s seat in the division as well as in good position in the hunt for a first-round bye. Then came injuries, however. Already without Pro Bowl defensive lineman Terrell Suggs, All-Pro Ray Lewis tore his triceps in Week 6 and was out for the rest of the regular season. In Week 7 against Houston, Suggs would return. Their success in the last few seasons shows the importance of those two players to the team. As if the Lewis wasn’t bad enough, cornerback Lardarius Webb tore his ACL in the same game and he, too, was lost for the year. Lewis is slated to make his return this weekend, but without these three players all on the field in the second half of the year, Baltimore went from a 9-2 team to one with an average 10-6 record. Should they face an early exit in the playoffs, these injuries will have likely given them their death sentence as the up-and-down offense can’t really be counted on.

Buffalo Bills (6-10, 4th in AFC East): As one of the most disappointing teams of 2012, the Buffalo Bills were projected by some to be contenders in the AFC East and perhaps even make the playoffs. That illusion was quickly lost, however, after the team began the year with a 3-6 start, including a 48-28 loss to the Jets on Opening Day. They finished 6-10 at the bottom of the division for the fifth straight year. Buffalo has missed the playoffs in 13 consecutive seasons. Of the six teams that they did beat on the year (the Chiefs, Browns, Cardinals, Dolphins, Jaguars and Jets), not one of them had a winning record. In fact, they had a combined record of 27-69. The defense, which was supposed to be solid with the addition of Mario Williams and Marcell Dareus in his second year, gave up 45-plus points four times on the season as the Bills finished 31st in the league in rush yards against, allowing 145.8 per game. C.J. Spiller did have a solid season as he finished eighth in the league with 1,244 rushing yards, but a knee injury to Fred Jackson really ended up hurting the offense, which finished 19th in the league in total yards. Buffalo fired head coach Chan Gailey on Monday.

Rookie linebacker Luke Kuechly led the NFL in tackles this season, but the Panthers still finished below .500.

Rookie linebacker Luke Kuechly led the NFL in tackles this season, but the Panthers still finished below .500.

Carolina Panthers (7-9, 2nd in NFC South): For the third straight year the Panthers finished under .500, but for the second straight year they had a dynamic rookie on the field with them. As the ninth overall pick in the 2012 draft, linebacker Luke Kuechly not only led the team in tackles, but he led the entire league. He finished the season with 164 while also picking off two passes, recovering three fumbles and deflecting eight passes for the 10th-ranked defense in Carolina. He was not selected to the Pro Bowl, however. Kuechly was so impressive that he may have even slightly overshadowed the sophomore season of Cam Newton, who was just the third quarterback ever to lead his team in rushing yards in a season. With the two of them as their foundation, the future looks bright in Carolina if they can build around them. They could return to the playoffs as early as next year for the first time since 2008.

Chicago Bears (10-6, 3rd in NFC North): You can have a good beginning. And you can have a good end. But if you don’t have a good middle, most of the time, success is not on the horizon. The Chicago Bears found this out the hard way in 2012 as they became just the second team since 1990 (out of 53) to miss the playoffs after starting a season 7-1. Unfortunately for them, they lost five of their next six before finishing the season with two straight wins, but by then, it was too late. Jay Cutler‘s injury had a bit to do with it, but ultimately the offense they put out on the field could not get it done in the second half of the year as they averaged just 17.3 points per game in the final eight weeks of the season. Chicago has now missed the playoffs in five of the last six seasons with their only playoff run ending in the NFC Championship Game to the eventual champion Packers two years ago. Head coach Lovie Smith was fired on Monday in a very surprising move that could ultimately result in more bad than good for the team.

Cincinnati Bengals (10-6, 2nd in AFC North): The Bengals are going to the playoffs for the seconds straight year behind their talented second-year playmakers Andy Dalton and A.J. Green. Green really made a leap in his second year as he finished 10th in the league in receiving yards (1,350), tied for fourth in receiving touchdowns (11) and seventh in receptions (97) while making his first trip to the Pro Bowl. He even had a stretch early in the season in which he caught a touchdown pass in nine consecutive games. His 84.4 yards per game also cracked the top 10 in the league. As the team’s biggest name on the offense, Green continued to put up monster numbers even when drawing the best coverage schemes from opposing defenses. His 164 targets in 2012 were tied for fifth in the league behind five of the best receivers of this generation. Green came up seven catches shy of breaking the record for the most receptions by a player in his first two NFL seasons as Cincy opted to rest most of its starters in their season finale. He has a chance to be the most productive receiver in Ohio since Chad Johnson.

Cleveland Browns (5-11, 4th in AFC North): In a backfield that featured two rookie starters in quarterback Brandon Weeden and running back Trent Richardson, the Cleveland Browns were not able to avoid a second straight last place finish in the AFC North, but did win one more game than they did last year (four) if that’s any consolation. Richardson broke Jim Brown‘s franchise record for most rushing yards in a season by a rookie with 950 and also scored 12 total touchdowns. He started every game he appeared in and went over 100 yards three times before being forced to miss the team’s final game with an ankle injury. Weeden also missed the season finale with a shoulder injury. In 15 games at quarterback, he was 297-of-517 passing for 3,385 yards and threw 14 touchdowns. If both of them can come back healthy next year and the Browns can put some other pieces of the puzzle together, they look to be able to contend in the tough AFC North in 2013. Head coach Pat Shurmur and GM Tom Heckert were both fired by the team on Monday.

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    • Rod Carew: Hitting Machine
      July 5, 2014 | 3:42 pm
      Rod Carew

      Rod Carew

      With the Major League All-Star Game being played this year in Minnesota, we recognize as the July Sports Then and Now Vintage Athlete of the Month one of the best hitters of the last half a century who was named to 18 straight All-Star teams, including in each of his 12 seasons with the Twins.

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