Bielfeldt Helps Short-Handed Hoosiers Hold Off Rutgers

The Indiana Hoosiers avoided a bad start to conference play by defeating the Rutgers Scarlet Knights 79-72  in Piscataway, New Jersey on Wednesday to win IU’s first Big Ten game of this season.

The close score and the quality of opponent (Rutgers was ranked as the 245th ranked team according to Kenpom) may have Hoosier Nation very worried going forward but the truth is that this was a good win considering the circumstances.

The Hoosiers faced an uphill challenge from the beginning of the game when James Blackmon Jr. was ruled out due to a knee injury he suffered during one of the practices heading into conference play. The Hoosiers faced even more adversity when Thomas Bryant got in early foul trouble and stayed in foul trouble all game before fouling out in the second half. In total, Bryant played all of six minutes and only contributed three points and a single rebound.

Then there was the turnovers. The Hoosiers finished the game with 23 of them and the biggest problem was that they came from players you’d least expect. Starting Guards Kevin “Yogi” Ferrell and Rob Johnson combined for 11 turnovers (six for Ferrell and five for Johnson) and Troy Williams, who does have a tendency to get too careless with the basketball, had a shockingly bad day even for him as he committed more turnovers (7) then he grabbed rebounds (6).

While most of these troubles were self-inflicted, the Hoosiers should still be given credit for overcoming everything to win their first conference game as well as their first road game of the season (the Maui Invitational counting as neutral site games).

Collin Hartman did a good job filling in for the injured Blackmon Jr. as he finished with nine points, including two three-pointers in the first few minutes of the game, and also added two rebounds.

However, the biggest story was Max Bielfeldt.

Unlike Hartman, Bielfeldt didn’t come into the game knowing he would have to make up for a starter’s lost production. Yet Bielfeldt filled in magnificently for the foul-plagued Bryant by tying a career-high 18 points as well as grabbing a team-high 14 rebounds. His combination of passing, scoring, and interior defense was almost Zellerish at times and was greatly needed for the Hoosiers to beat a very aggressive Rutgers team.

While Bryant didn’t have a great first Big Ten game, O.G. Anunoby did. The freshman from Missouri played his best game yet as he finished with eight points, seven rebounds, and two steals while also making two more three-pointers.

Longtime reserve Ryan Burton also made two three-pointers for an Indiana bench that nearly outscored the starters (42-37). Ferrell had a terrible first half but played significantly better in the second half as he ended up leading the Hoosiers in points (20) and assists (7).

The Hoosiers will get to celebrate New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day but will play again on Saturday at Nebraska before returning home to face Wisconsin next Tuesday.

 

All In The Cards: Week 12 Recap and Ranking Every Team By Category

Welcome to the Week 12 NFL recap! We are entering the final month of the season so that means it’s time for the NFL Playoff Machine! It also means that by now most teams have fallen into a particular category and this week I will designate which category every team falls under. In addition I’ll have my takes on last week’s games but they will be a little shorter this time. I hope you enjoy and if you do make sure to follow me on Twitter @QTipsforsports or just search the hashtag #Allinthecards for in-game thoughts and analysis. Let’s see which category each team falls under with a month to go:

The Super Bowl Contenders: Carolina Panthers (11-0), New England Patriots (10-1), Arizona Cardinals (9-2), Denver Broncos (9-2), Cincinnati Bengals (9-2).

Obviously these aren’t the only teams that can win the Super Bowl (after all we have quite a few examples of fringe playoff teams getting hot over the last month and riding that momentum to a title), but right now I think no one would be surprised if any of these five teams hoisted the Lombardi Trophy in February. I thought about giving the Panthers their own spot as they are the only undefeated team left, but perfect season or not their goal is still to win the Super Bowl. I do think that they have become the favorite thanks to all of the Patriots’ injuries but they are not a lock by any means. The Cardinals will want revenge for losing to the Panthers in last year’s playoffs while the Patriots and the Bengals have offenses capable of overcoming Carolina’s defense and the Broncos have a defense capable of shutting down Cam Newton.

Want A Little More Than Just Make Playoffs: Minnesota Vikings (8-3), Green Bay Packers (7-4), Pittsburgh Steelers (6-5), Seattle Seahawks (6-5), Indianapolis Colts (6-5), Kansas City Chiefs (6-5).

These are teams who will not be satisfied with just making the playoffs. If there is a “hot playoff team” this season, it will probably come from this group with the Seahawks and the Steelers as the likely suspects. The Vikings are here and not in the contenders group for the time being, but could easily jump if they beat the Seahawks this week and either beat or come close to beating the Cardinals next week. The Packers are also a team that could jump up but they have been so unimpressive the last few weeks I don’t think you can call them contenders at the moment. The Chiefs are currently the hot team but I wonder if they might have peaked a few weeks too early and will cool off by the start of the playoffs. The Colts are only in this group because they are still placing high expectations on themselves even though those expectations seem a little unrealistic at the moment.

Just Happy If They Make The Playoffs: Atlanta Falcons (6-5), Houston Texans (6-5), New York Jets (6-5), Chicago Bears (5-6), Buffalo Bills (5-6), New York Giants (5-6), Washington Redskins (5-6).

In college basketball this group would be called the “bubble”. At least one of these teams will make the playoffs (because the rules state someone has to win the NFC East) but there is a possibility that two or even three could play in January. What separates these teams from the group above is that there are no expectations if they make the playoffs. The Texans and Bears have turned things around and can already consider this season a success as long as they don’t self-combust over the last few weeks. The playoffs would just be icing on the cake for them. The Jets and the Bills want to make the playoffs just so they can start off their new coaching regimes with some promise for the future. The Falcons want to make the playoffs just so they don’t become one of the few teams in NFL history to start 5-0 and miss the playoffs. The Redskins just want to make their fans proud of them again and winning the division, and subsequently making the playoffs, would be the best way to do that. Finally, while you can never count out Eli Manning in the postseason, I’m pretty sure that Giants’ fans know that expecting more than a playoff berth would be asking for too much from this team.

Teams Trying To End The Season With Some Momentum: Tampa Bay Buccaneers (5-6), Oakland Raiders (5-6), Detroit Lions (4-7), Jacksonville Jaguars (4-7), San Diego Chargers (3-8).

While the Buccaneers, Raiders, and Lions all still have an outside shot of winning a wild card spot, I placed them in this category because they also still have a chance at a top-10 draft pick if they tank the rest of the season. Honestly, either direction would help the team in the long run but they need to decide now before they go 7-9 and miss out on both. The Jaguars and Chargers on the other hand would actually benefit from finishing 7-9 or 8-8 so they can gain momentum going into next season, where they would have a shot to take a step forward.

Want Nightmare Season Just To End: New Orleans Saints (4-7), Miami Dolphins (4-7), St. Louis Rams (4-7), Baltimore Ravens (4-7), Philadelphia Eagles (4-7), Dallas Cowboys (3-8).

While all of these teams theoretically still have a chance to make the playoffs, all are very unlikely to be in contention much longer due to the turmoil that is currently surrounding them. The Ravens and the Cowboys are actually decent teams that in a parallel world where they avoided injuries and bad luck would be in the thick of the playoff race. The Saints and the Rams are on the fence as to whether or not they should blow things up and start rebuilding. The Dolphins are doing their best not to have to rebuild by getting rid of coaches left and right. Then we have Philadelphia. The Eagles shouldn’t be in this category as they are only one game behind the Redskins and the Giants in the NFC East race. With neither of those teams likely to run the table, the Eagles still have plenty of chances to make up the deficit and win the division. That is, if they hadn’t imploded these past two weeks. I don’t see how they turn things around after just allowing 10 passing touchdowns to Jameis Winston and Matthew Stafford back-to-back. In fact, I’d be surprised if they win another game this season. Even if this team somehow wins the division, I doubt this season would still be considered anything else than a failure unless they won a playoff game.

Fighting For Draft Position: San Francisco 49ers (3-8), Tennessee Titans (2-9), Cleveland Browns (2-9).

The difference between these three teams (since technically they aren’t yet eliminated from playoff contention) and the ones above is that the expectations for these teams were considerably lower heading into the season, making these situations nowhere near as dire. I know some may argue that the 49ers are a proud organization and so this should be considered a nightmare season for San Francisco, but everyone else knew this team would stink this season. You could also make an argument for the Titans and Browns, stating they will probably have to start over after this season. However, neither was expected to do anything this season so a rebuild was always possible from the beginning. There’s a chance that some other team earns the first overall pick, but right now these three teams are the leaders.

How I Did With My Week 12 NFL Predictions:

  • Arizona 19, San Francisco 13: This was maybe the worst officiated game I have ever seen. People have been talking about the terrible “roughing the passer “call on Quinton Dial’s sack of Carson Palmer and how the Cardinals weren’t penalized for snapping the ball after the play clock expired, but there were some equally horrendous call that went against Arizona. The referees called the 49ers’ “too many men on the field” penalty as a live ball foul and cost the Cardinals a down in the redzone and on another play an incomplete pass was ruled as “illegal touching” because they thought the receiver caught it with two feet in-bounds and you can’t review penalties. (1-0)
  • Detroit 45, Philadelphia 14: I actually thought the Lions might obliterate the Eagles but I didn’t have the guts to make the prediction last week. Now that I know that the Eagles’ defense has checked out, I won’t be afraid to make this prediction in the future. (2-0)
  • Carolina 33, Dallas 14: Maybe it’s for the best that Tony Romo got injured again so the Cowboys can tank the rest of the season and get a high draft pick instead of fighting for a useless playoff spot that will do nothing to help the franchise going forward. (3-0)
  • Chicago 17, Green Bay 13: You are on national television, during Thanksgiving, where you are retiring Brett Favre’s number and have the great Bart Starr in attendance, and you play like that? Bears deserve a lot of credit for the win, but I just don’t understand how the Packers have fallen off so much. (3-1)
  • Minnesota 20, Atlanta 10: I gave up on the Falcons last week so this didn’t come as a surprise. What did catch my eye was how the Vikings rebounded from the home loss to Green Bay. Also, I stand by what I said last week about Adrian Peterson deserving to be in the MVP conversation. (4-1)
  • Kansas City 30, Buffalo 22: The Chiefs look like the hot playoff team at the moment but I’m not sure they can keep up this level of play for the rest of the season and during a playoff run. I mean, sooner or later Alex Smith will throw another interception. (5-1)
  • Cincinnati 31, St. Louis 7: Bengals got back on track with a dominant win over a Rams team that is falling apart fast. Also, since the Texans are playing great ball and have a shot at either a division title or a wild card spot, the Bengals no longer have a bad loss on their resume. (6-1)
  • Oakland 24, Tennessee 21: Entertaining game between two young teams. However, the fact it was this hard for the Raiders to win tells me this isn’t the same team from the beginning of the season and that even though they won they probably aren’t in the playoff race anymore. (7-1)
  • Indianapolis 25, Tampa Bay 12: A humbling loss for the Buccaneers, who may have gotten caught up in all the media excitement of them possibly making the playoffs. Also, how well does Matt Hasselbeck have to play before we start talking about whether or not Andrew Luck gets his job back? (I’m talking strictly this season. It may be in the Colts’ best interest to sit him out the rest of this season and guarantee he’s healthy for next season.) (8-1)
  • New York Jets 38, Miami 20: A season-saving win for the Jets, who have somehow found their swagger after looking rather bland the last few weeks. Then again, it may just be a product of facing the Dolphins. Their game against the Giants will be a better test to see if they can make a run. (9-1)
  • Houston 24, New Orleans 6: As I already mentioned, the Texans have not only played their way into a tie for the division, but have also put themselves near the top of the wild card standings. Such a huge turnaround for a team that couldn’t decide on quarterback for the first several weeks. (10-1)
  • Washington 20, New York Giants 14: If the Redskins win the division that means they will play a home game in the playoffs. That means the Redskins will have good Kirk Cousins (11TDs, 2INTs at home) in the playoffs and will give the NFC East a chance to actually win a playoff game. (10-2)
  • San Diego 31, Jacksonville 25: What little hopes of the Jaguars somehow winning the AFC South probably ended this weekend when you combine this loss with how the Colts and Texans are playing right now. However, there’s still a lot going for this team if they finish strong. (10-3)
  • Seattle 39, Pittsburgh 30: A huge win for the Seahawks that currently has them in the final wild card spot. However, in that game they also lost Jimmy Graham (who was starting to click with the offense) and confirmed that the Legion Of Boom is no longer an elite defense, just a good one. (10-4)
  • Denver 30, New England 24: It should be made clear that the Broncos, not Brock Osweiler, beat the Patriots on Sunday night. That being said, with every win Osweiler gets, it becomes harder and harder to argue that Peyton Manning should get his job back. (10-5)
  • Baltimore 33, Cleveland 27: Just read this. It’s a list of all 43 games the Browns have lost in the last minute since they returned in 1999. I thought as a Cardinals fan I had seen heartbreak. Aside from the Super Bowl loss, I can’t begin to comprehend the amount of heartbreak the Browns have endured. (10-6)

 
Week 11 Record: 10-6
Season Record: 110-66 (.625)
Perfect Score Predictions: 2

Mistakes In Maui And How The Hoosiers Can Learn From Them

After starting the season with three dominating wins, the Indiana Hoosiers traveled to Hawaii hoping to add some games against top-tier opponents to their resume. Unfortunately the Hoosiers never got a chance to face the best teams as the Hoosiers stumbled to a 1-2 record and a sixth place finish in the Maui Jim Maui Invitational.

The Hoosiers lost in the first round of the tournament to the Wake Forest Demon Deacons 82-78 and thus were placed in the loser’s bracket for the rest of the trip. The two consolation games ended up being a 83-73 win over the St. John’s Red Storm and a 72-69 loss to the UNLV Rebels.

While the two losses hurt, it was how the Hoosiers lost those games that hurt the most and felt all too familiar.

All of the defensive improvement the Hoosiers showed during their first three games of the season vanished as opponents were able to score at ease, especially on post-ups and drives to the basket. The Hoosiers allowed 50 points in the first half to the Demon Deacons, 42 points in the second half to the Red Storm, and 41 points in the first half to the Rebels. In the case of the two losses, the Hoosiers did make defensive improvements at the start of the second half only to fall short when it came to the closing minutes.

Now while there was some troubling play this past week it doesn’t mean the Hoosiers are doomed to repeat what happened last season. In fact, if the whole team embraces reviewing these games and learns from their mistakes, the season will still have a lot of promise. Here are some of the mistakes that need correcting:

Consistent aggression: The Hoosiers played some of their most inspired defense during the first 10 minutes of the second half against the Demon Deacons. They contested every post-up and never allowed guards the opportunity to drive to the basket. However, whether it was fatigue or playing scared and trying not to lose the lead, the Hoosiers went away from that aggressive play. For a team that tries to wear out their opponent with their pace, I think the switch in mindsets (from being the trailing team to the team with the lead) is what tripped them up the most. Many teams become a lot less aggressive when they have the lead because aggressive play can lead to mistakes. However, despite the possibility of mistakes, aggressive play also puts a ton of pressure on the team that is trailing to be even more aggressive, thus making the opposing team likely to make even more mistakes. If the Hoosiers can continue to play their pace even when they have the lead they can make it harder for teams to come back on them.

Situational defense: I think we all learned this past week that this Hoosier team isn’t going to be a top 25 defense this season but that is OK. The Hoosiers don’t have to be defensively brilliant to reach their ceiling; they just have to focus on which situations require them to play to the best of their ability. Most of those situations occur in the final four minutes of games where a lot of Big Ten games will be won or lost. Knowing the situation is probably the biggest improvement this team can make. In the Wake Forest game, the Demon Deacons were able to drive to the basket simply because a defender was more focused on preventing a pass to the post than cutting off the driving lane to the basket. Preventing driving lanes is one of the best ways to stall out an offense that needs to score quickly and forces the opponent to rely more on jumpshots, which percentage-wise is an advantage for the defense. Knowing how to position yourself in those situations will require a lot of practicing and drills but it will make end-of-games situations a bit more favorable.

Crunch-time offense: This was maybe the most surprising development that happened in Maui. A lot of people expected the defense to be a recurring problem but several times the offense stagnated and thus let opposing teams take advantage of the Hoosiers’ suspect defense. The Indiana offense thrives on ball movement but more often than not the ball was only in one person’s hands for the majority of its late-game possessions and when the ball did move it was more for the sake of just moving the ball instead of trying to get someone open. Again I’m not sure if this has to due with nerves or not, but because the offense stops scoring in crunch time it places a lot of pressure on the defense to hold the lead or keep the deficit small. Some late-game plays may need to be drawn up during practice specifically for these types of situations going forward as it seems the Hoosiers can’t play at their usual pace during crunch time and thus feel uncomfortable in those situations.

There is no doubt in my mind that the coaching staff is already drilling the players on how to improve in these areas. As long as the players learn and implement these lessons going forward this team will be fine. After all, it’s only November.

Stats From The Boxscore:

Due to the drastically different play of some Hoosiers during this tournament, I decided to use this edition of Stats From The Boxscore to highlight some of the main players’ averages during the past three games and compare them to their first three games. There will be no analysis; this will just be for those who are curious about how differently some key Hoosiers played this last week.

  • Kevin “Yogi” Ferrell
    • First three games: 16.7ppg, 7.3rpg, 7.0apg, 1.33spg, 2.7tpg, 1.3fpg, 52.8% FG, 37.5% 3FG, 85.7% FT, 30.0mpg.
    • Three games in Maui: 14.0ppg, 5.7rpg, 7.0apg, 1.33spg, 2.3tpg, 1.3fpg, 40.6% FG, 25.0% 3FG, 73.7% FT, 35.0mpg.
  • James Blackmon Jr.
    • First three games: 18.7ppg, 5.3rpg, 3.0apg, 0.67spg, 3.0tpg, 0.7fpg, 55.3% FG, 55.0% 3FG, 100.0% FT, 24.7mpg.
    • Three games in Maui: 10.0ppg, 4.0rpg, 1.3apg, 1.67spg, 0.33bpg, 4.0tpg, 2.7fpg, 39.3% FG, 33.3% 3FG, 66.7% FT, 23.0mpg.
  • Troy Williams
    • First three games: 13.0ppg, 5.7rpg, 2.7apg, 1.67spg, 0.67bpg, 2.3tpg, 2.7fpg, 53.3% FG, 25.0% 3FG, 50.0% FT, 26.0mpg.
    • Three games in Maui: 10.7ppg, 6.0rpg, 3.3apg, 2.33spg, 1.00bpg, 3.3tpg, 2.0fpg, 54.5% FG, 40.0% 3FG, 75.0% FT, 27.3mpg.
  • Thomas Bryant
    • First three games: 13.0ppg, 7.3rpg, 1.0apg, 0.33spg, 1.67bpg, 1.0tpg, 2.3fpg, 80.0% FG, 20.0% 3FG, 66.7% FT, 22.3mpg.
    • Three games in Maui: 11.3ppg, 4.7rpg, 1.0apg, 0.33spg, 1.33bpg, 1.3tpg, 2.7fpg, 60.0% FG, 0.0% 3FG, 55.6% FT, 25.0mpg.
  • Max Bielfeldt
    • First three games: 7.3ppg, 4.3rpg, 2.00spg, 0.33bpg, 1.0tpg, 2.0fpg, 53.3% FG, 33.3% 3FG, 83.3% FT, 17.3mpg.
    • Three games in Maui: 9.7ppg,  3.0rpg, 0.7apg, 1.00spg, 0.33bpg, 1.3tpg, 3.3fpg, 80.0% FG, 66.7% 3FG, 25.0% FT, 20.0mpg.
  • Colin Hartman
    • First three games: 2.7ppg, 3.0rpg, 1.0apg, 1.67spg, 0.7tpg, 2.7fpg, 36.4% FG, 0.0% 3FG, 18.3mpg.
    • Three games in Maui: 3.7ppg, 2.7rpg, 0.7apg, 0.67spg, 0.67bpg, 1.3tpg, 3.7fpg, 42.9% FG, 42.9% 3FG, 100.0% FT, 17.7mpg.
  • Rob Johnson
    • First three games: 7.0ppg, 2.3rpg, 3.3apg, 0.33spg, 2.7tpg, 2.3fpg, 53.3% FG, 50.0% 3FG, 16.7mpg.
    • Three games in Maui: 7.0ppg, 2.0rpg, 3.0apg, 1.0tpg, 1.3fpg, 38.9% FG, 50.0% 3FG, 42.9% FT, 22.7mpg.
  • Nick Zeisloft
    • First three games: 9.0ppg, 1.3rpg, 1.0apg, 0.33spg, 0.33bpg, 0.3tpg, 1.3fpg, 64.3% FG, 64.3% 3FG, 19.3mpg.
    • Three games in Maui: 9.3ppg, 2.7rpg, 0.7apg, 0.33bpg, 1.0tpg, 0.7fpg, 56.3% FG, 57.1% 3FG, 100.0% FT, 20.3mpg.

All In The Cards: Thanksgiving Edition (Week 11 Recap and Week 12 Preview)

Welcome to a special addition of All In The Cards. Thanksgiving is the only time of the year when you are encouraged to get a second helping. So I’m going to twist that phrase and use it as an excuse to combine both the week 11 recap and the week 12 preview into one article (the real reason is that I’m okay with posting a preview after one game has been played but three games is too many). No in-depth preview for the Cards’ game this week (the only thing different about this week’s matchup and the one in week three is that the game is in San Francisco and Blaine Gabbert is staring instead of Colin Kaepernick) So to make up for that I will give a little blurb for every recap as well as every preview. I hope you enjoy and if you do make sure to follow me on Twitter @QTipsforsports or just search the hashtag #Allinthecards for in-game thoughts and analysis. Let’s get started with the week 11 recap:

How I did with my Week 11 NFL predictions:

  • Arizona 34, Cincinnati 31: The Cards’ first win against a team with a winning record was much deserved as these two teams threw everything they had at each other. Seeing the Cardinals make halftime adjustments and drive down the field in the waning seconds just reminds me how much this team has grown from just a few years ago. (1-0)
  • Jacksonville 19, Tennessee 13: Jaguars have been learning how to hold on to a lead late and now they are learning how to come from behind and win in the final minutes. A lot of progress is being made in Jacksonville while some but not a lot of progress is being made in Tennessee. (2-0)
  • Indianapolis 24, Atlanta 21: I’m jumping off the Falcons’ bandwagon because I’ve seen this before (A team that starts the season undefeated and then loses steam and becomes mediocre? Please don’t make me have to remember the 2012 Cardinals). The Colts need to keep pulling these games out because the Texans are right on their trail. (2-1)
  • Denver 17, Chicago 15: I’ll admit that Brock Osweiler did a lot better than I thought he would do but people need to temper their expectations. For as much improvement the Bears’ defense has made over the last several weeks they are still an average defense at best. If Osweiler can play like he did this week against the Patriots then I’ll start buying the hype. (3-1)
  • Dallas 24, Miami 14: Tony Romo is back and so is the Cowboys’ confidence. It’s amazing how the rest of the team suddenly plays better when Romo is around. It’s a testament to their confidence in him as well as a feeling of familiarity. It’s a shame Dallas wasn’t able to muster up a single win while he was gone. (4-1)
  • Detroit 18, Oakland 13: I’m pleasantly surprised with the quick turnaround the Lions have made. That win over Green Bay has really breathed new life into them but unfortunately it is probably too late to chase a wild card. Meanwhile the Raiders have seemed to regress after making so much progress the first half of the season. (4-2)
  • Baltimore 16, St. Louis 13: After seeing Joe Flacco silently put up with all the change and bad luck the Ravens have endured, it’s a real shame he ended up with such a serious leg injury. Meanwhile I think the Rams have gone on tilt as I’m not sure what they are doing anymore. Again, how can this be the same team that beat both Seattle and Arizona? (5-2)
  • Houston 24, New York Jets 17: Speaking of playing on tilt, things have really gone south for the Jets recently. They still have the talent and the schedule to make the playoffs but I don’t know if they can take advantage of either. The Texans on the other hand are being fueled by a pair of All-pros in J.J. Watt on defense and DeAndre Hopkins (yes I think he deserves an all-pro selection) on offense. (5-3)
  • Tampa Bay 45, Philadelphia 17: The Eagles will likely win a maximum of one more game the rest of the season, they just look dead. The Bucs are becoming everyone’s darlings in the NFC wild card race but I don’t know if this team can keep up this level of play until the end of the season. Regardless, it has been a successful year for Tampa Bay with a bright future. (5-4)
  • Carolina 44, Washington 16: This was a statement by the Panthers that their offense should be feared along with their defense. Could you imagine how good this team would be if they had Kelvin Benjamin? Also the Redskins are a decent team, so don’t take anything away from this blowout. As much as I’m a Cardinals homer, the Panthers should be the favorite in the NFC. (6-4)
  • Kansas City 33, San Diego 3: Remember when the Chiefs lost Jamaal Charles and were 1-4? The team is 4-1 since moving on from their star running back, but it has more to do with their defense stepping up to make up for the offensive shortcomings. Head Coach Andy Reid is also getting creative with the play calls, such as the Dontari Poe TD run. (7-4)
  • Green Bay 30, Minnesota 13: It wasn’t pretty but it was a necessary win for a Packers team that was close to a freefall after losing at home to the Lions. The defense really responded and held the Vikings in check. If the defense continues to play with that passion and Aaron Rodgers and the offense find their rhythm again this team will be just fine. (8-4)
  • Seattle 29, San Francisco 13: We really didn’t learn anything new from this game. I guess the only real thing to take away is that the Seahawks aren’t letting the heart-breaking loss at home to the Cardinals keep them down as they shift gears and chase the wild card. Meanwhile Blaine Gabbert continues to play decently well for the 49ers. (9-4)
  • New England 20, Buffalo 23: The Patriots’ offense continues to lose playmakers as Danny Amendola might miss time. Luckily the defense is playing very well to help mitigate any offensive drop-off. If this team still goes undefeated I think Bill Belichick deserves the Coach of the Year award, even if the Panthers go undefeated too. (10-4)

My Week 12 NFL predictions:

  • Arizona 31, San Francisco 10: Blaine Gabbert may be playing better than Colin Kaepernick, but it’s still nowhere near good enough to beat the Cardinals’ defense. Chris Johnson and the run game could get back on track this week.
  • Detroit 27, Philadelphia 17: Combine the Lions’ renewed energy with the Eagles’ lifelessness and this looks like a win for Detroit. This might be a must-win for Philly after the disaster against Tampa Bay.
  • Carolina 27, Dallas 24: I’m tempted to pick the Cowboys but with Tony Romo playing on a short week after just returning from an injury I think the Cowboys will start slow and the Panthers won’t let them catch up.
  • Green Bay 33, Chicago 20: Packers will want to sustain the momentum they gained from beating the Vikings last week. That plus they can’t lose the game where they are honoring Brett Favre now can they?
  • Minnesota 20, Atlanta 17: Huge game for both teams’ wild card chances. I already said that I jumped off the Falcons bandwagon so there isn’t that much more that I need to say about this pick.
  • Kansas City 17, Buffalo 13: I still think Buffalo is a good team but there is denying that the Chiefs are red hot at the moment. Plus the game is in Kansas City so I have to give them the advantage.
  • Cincinnati 34, St. Louis 10: Bengals need this win to halt their two-game losing streak. The Rams need this win to prevent their season from falling apart. I’ve seen both of these teams play and there is no doubt the Bengals are the better team and will win easily.
  • Oakland 20, Tennessee 14: This is possibly the Raiders’ last chance to regain momentum and chase a wild card spot. I think it may be too late to make a playoff push but I do think they will turn things around against the Titans.
  • Indianapolis 31, Tampa Bay 28: A toss-up game that I’m giving to the Colts because they are at home. It would not shock me at all if the Buccaneers were able to pull out the win.
  • New York Jets 22, Miami 17: Both teams are desperate for a win so I see the loser of this match being eliminated from the wild card race. I still think the Jets are talented enough to make a late-season push but they’re running out of opportunities.
  • Houston 28, New Orleans 20: The Saints may have changed defensive coordinators during the bye week but they still don’t have anyone on defense that can stop DeAndre Hopkins.
  • New York Giants 24, Washington 21: The Redskins will give them a fight, but the Giants know that with the Eagles’ implosion and the Cowboys just starting to play catch-up that this division is theirs for the taking.
  • Jacksonville 23, San Diego 16: Another toss-up game where I’ll side with the home team. That and the fact that I can’t easily forget how the Chiefs obliterated the Chargers last week.
  • Pittsburgh 30, Seattle 27: This pick isn’t a jab at the Seahawks; the Steelers are just really good and have renewed confidence now that the division title is within reach again. The Seahawks still have plenty of chances left to stay in the wild card race.
  • New England 20, Denver 17: Tom Brady is still the best in the NFL but he’ll have a tough time against a tough Denver defense without some of his main weapons. The Patriots will still win but it will be close.
  • Cleveland 19, Baltimore 16: With Joe Flacco out for the year I expect the Ravens to go into full tank mode. Then again, the Browns might also be in tank mode so this will be interesting to watch as both teams will try not to win this game.

 

Week 11 Record: 10-4
Season Record: 100-60 (.625)
Perfect Score Predictions: 2

All In the Cards: Week 10 Recap

Welcome to the week 10 NFL recap! So many things happened this past weekend that I already know I won’t be able to cover everything. Still, I’ll do my best to cover as many as possible as the season is really starting to shape up and teams are either gaining or losing confidence. I hope you enjoy and if you do make sure to follow me on Twitter @QTipsforsports or just search the hashtag #Allinthecards for in-game thoughts and analysis. Without further ado, let’s see how terrible I did with my week 10 picks:

How I did with my Week 10 NFL predictions:

  • Arizona 39, Seattle 32: You may recall that I called the Cardinals’ wins over the Ravens and the Browns “very important” because of how Arizona won those games. Well the importance of those wins and the lessons they taught were crucial for the Cardinals to defeat the Seahawks. In the Browns game, Arizona won its first game of the season in which it lost the turnover battle (4-2). Until that point the Cards had either a neutral turnover margin or won the turnover battle during their victories. Being able to win despite giving your opponent more possessions shows that you are the better team. In the Ravens game, the Cards showed they had the mental fortitude to overcome their mistakes and withstand a late-game charge by making clutch plays to win.
  • Sunday night, or early Monday morning on the east coast, the Cardinals overcame both obstacles to take down “big brother” on the road. The Cardinals overcame a negative turnover margin (Arizona had three turnovers while Seattle only had one) and overcame losing a 19-point lead to drive down the field once to retake the lead and once to put the game away. It was the first time in my time as a fan that the Cardinals won a huge game by taking the victory away from another team instead of just holding on for dear life. This was a championship-caliber win and a declaration to the rest of the league that the Cardinals are the NFC West threat that other teams should fear playing. (0-1)
  • Buffalo 22, New York Jets 17: Both the AFC and the NFC Wild Card race are a mess and it’s because of games like this one where teams who could distance themselves from the pack lose and make the race more crowded. Regardless of what you think of Rex Ryan and the his choice to make IK Enemkpali one of the Bills’ captains, the fact is that the Bills won an important game that for the moment gives them a big tiebreaker in the wild card race. The Jets have the (slightly) easier schedule going forward but with how the Jets have played lately that might not matter. (0-2)
  • Chicago 37, St. Louis 13: You could make the argument that if five crucial plays went the other way over the course of the season, the Bears would be 0-8 heading into this game. That’s what makes their blowout win over the Rams so surprising. The Bears put all of their defensive focus on Todd Gurley and shut him down (12 carries for 45 yards), thus making Nick Foles have to throw to beat the Rams. The fact that Rams Head Coach Jeff Fisher appointed Case Keenum as the starting quarterback for this week’s game should tell you all you need to know about Foles’ performance. The Rams could continue to focus all of their attention on beating divisional foes but going undefeated in the division won’t help if you can’t supplement your record with other wins. (0-3)
  • Pittsburgh 30, Cleveland 9: I stated a couple of weeks ago that the Steelers would need to make a big run in the second half of the season to win a wild card but that task looks a lot easier at the moment. The first thing is that the Steelers currently have either a one or two game lead over all other AFC wild card contenders. The other thing that looks more favorable is the schedule, as opponents such as Denver, Indianapolis, and Seattle look a lot less threatening then they did a few weeks ago. With Ben Roethlisberger still able to be a top five quarterback even when not at 100%, I think the Steelers are one of the few sure things in a cloudy playoff picture. (1-3)
  • Tampa Bay 10, Dallas 6: How weird is the NFC playoff race? These two teams are a combined 6-12 and both of them have legitimate shots of playing in January. The Cowboys have Tony Romo coming back and with no one running away with the NFC East they have a chance to take the division if they finish 6-1 in their last seven games. The Bucs have a tougher challenge as they are two games behind the Green Bay Packers and Atlanta Falcons and are tied with five other teams at 4-5, a group that includes the Seahawks. I think you can call Tampa Bay’s season a success already but why not try for the playoffs if your team still has a shot? (2-3)
  • Detroit 18, Green Bay 16: I give a ton of credit to the Lions, but it still doesn’t make any sense to me that the Packers lost that game. I’ve picked the Packers each of the last two weeks thinking they would rebound only to disappoint. I feel I’m in the same position I was in with the Ravens at the beginning of the season. I knew they were a talented team and just banked my hopes on them turning it around. I think the Packers will eventually turn it around but I don’t think they will do it in time to win the division as they have to travel to Minnesota this week and with how the Vikings have been playing, I wouldn’t be surprised if this losing streak extends to four games. (2-4)
  • Carolina 27, Tennessee 10: People, me included, were having a hard time accepting Cam Newton’s transition to an elite quarterback because his performances weren’t all that impressive. However, this past week I finally saw what I wanted out of Newton. Against the Titans, Newton not only ran the ball well and committed no turnovers; he also threw very accurately, connecting on 21 of 26 pass attempts. Sure the game was a blowout, but we needed to see Newton throw a very accurate passing game to show us he is capable of doing it. Now it’s a matter of if he can do it when the game is on the line. He’s proven he can win in crunch time with his legs; now let’s see him win with his arms. (3-4)
  • Miami 20, Philadelphia 19: This was a crucial win for the Dolphins as it seemed they had lost all of the momentum that they gained when interim Head Coach Dan Campbell first took over. Meanwhile the Eagles give away yet another game and are facing the possibility of having to start Mark Sanchez at quarterback. The Eagles could survive the next two weeks against the Bucs and Lions without Sam Bradford (who has both a concussion and a separated shoulder), but then again they should have won this week and didn’t. (3-5)
  • Washington 47, New Orleans 14: I warned that sometimes a defense’s confidence can be irrevocably shaken when it takes part it an all-offensive shootout. The Saints’ defense wasn’t that good to begin with but the last two weeks have been an aftereffect of the Giants game. In the seven games prior to that 51-48 epic, the Saints were giving up 26.4 points per game (below average but manageable with an offense as great as the Saints). In the two games since the Giants game, the Saints have given up 40.5 points per game. It looks like a small sample size but that shouldn’t sway you as the last two offenses (Titans and Redskins) are considerably weaker than the majority of their first seven opponents (Cardinals, Eagles, Falcons, Colts, and Panthers had better offenses than the Saints’ last two opponents). The Saints can only hope that changing defensive coordinators helps stop the bleeding. (3-6)
  • Jacksonville 22, Baltimore 20: With the Jaguars’ win, this weekend marked the first time all three Florida NFL teams won on the same week in 5 years! Just let that sink in for a little bit. As for the Ravens, their season is literally playing out like one of those spoof movies where everything goes hilariously wrong. At this point I think it would be in the best interest of every Ravens fan and their health (both physical and mental) to look comically at this season and not take it seriously. The best the Ravens can hope for is to use their high draft pick to find an explosive skill position player to give Joe Flacco a playmaker to help him carry the offense. (3-7)
  • Minnesota 30, Oakland14: I know it is a quarterback league, but Adrian Peterson needs more attention in the MVP race. He has single-handedly made Teddy Bridgewater’s job easier and has reclaimed his title as best running back in the game. Peterson is on pace for 1,708 rushing yards, which would rank as his third best season total behind 2008 (1,760) and 2012 (2,097), the latter of which Peterson won MVP. He’s also helped the Vikings equal the same amount of wins they had all of last season after just 10 weeks. This week the Vikings have a chance to take advantage of the slumping Packers and gain a two-game lead in the division with a home win over Green Bay. (3-8)
  • Kansas City 29, Denver 13: Doesn’t matter how old Peyton Manning gets, that kind of performance (5/20 for 35 yards, 0 TDs and 4 INTs) only makes sense if Manning was injured, which he was. People seem ready to bury Manning, with talks of making Brock Osweiler the starter for the rest of the season and I think that is ridiculous. I know I’ve made a point this season to point out how bad the Broncos’ offense has been but this seems like a panic decision after losing two games in a row. Let Osweiler take over until Manning is 100% because a healthy Manning is still the Broncos’ ceiling on offense. (3-9)
  • New England 27, New York Giants 26: You know it was a crazy week in the NFL if Tom Brady and Patriots actually beat Eli Manning and the Giants. All jokes aside, this was huge for the Patriots as they continue to try and make up for the two championships they lost to the Giants by winning last year’s Super Bowl and potentially this year’s Super Bowl. However their chances for this season took a bit of a hit as Julian Edelman required foot surgery and may not be back in time for the playoffs. Brady is still one of if not the greatest quarterback of all time and he’s had success with replacement-level to slightly above-average weapons before but Edelman was possibly the last weapon (even more than Rob Gronkowski) Brady wanted to see go down. (4-9)
  • Houston 10, Cincinnati 6: We all knew that the Bengals weren’t going to finish the season undefeated so it was inevitable they would lose and as a result people were going to jump on the team after that first loss. I’ll admit that a loss to the Texans (especially one to backup quarterback T.J. Yates, who has beaten the Bengals in the playoffs before) is a little hard to swallow at first, but the Texans have a legit shot at making the playoffs either through the AFC South or the AFC wild card. What the Bengals should be more worried about is that they don’t seem to have as reliable of a running game anymore despite having both Gio Bernard and Jeremy Hill healthy.  (4-10)

Week 10 Record: 4-10
Season Record: 90-56 (.616)
Perfect Score Predictions: 2

All In The Cards: Week 9 Recap

Welcome to the week nine recap of All In the Cards! . Quite a few interesting games this week, some with implications that may affect the rest of some teams’ seasons. This week’s recap will be a little shorter than usual but look forward to some new content coming during the next few days. I hope you enjoy and if you do make sure to follow me on Twitter @QTipsforsports or just search the hashtag #Allinthecards for in-game thoughts and analysis. Without further ado, let’s see how I did with my week nine picks:

How I did with my Week 9 NFL predictions:

  • Cincinnati 31, Cleveland 10: Whether it’s because of the short week of preparation or not, for the second straight week the Browns played a contender extremely tough in the first half and then fell apart completely in the second half. I don’t know for sure but my best guess is that the Browns see that their first half game plan is working and they don’t make halftime adjustments, giving the opposing team an advantage when they make adjustments. (1-0)
  • Buffalo 33, Miami 17: It seems the Dolphins have come back to earth after starting 2-0 under Dan Campbell. Meanwhile the Bills are starting to get healthy again and just in time as they looked like where fading after the loss to the Jaguars. A huge matchup with the Jets awaits them Thursday, which hurts the Bills chances of having LeSean McCoy ready for the game. (1-1)
  • Carolina 37, Green Bay 29: While I don’t want to go overboard since the Packer’s last two losses have been on the road against undefeated teams, it’s how the two teams defeated the Packers. A week after being completely shut down by the Broncos defense, the Packers were again slowed down until a late fourth quarter charge almost sent the game to overtime. The Packers’ defense has also been dreadful, letting both Peyton Manning and Cam Newton do whatever they wanted. The Packers are still a playoff team, but they seem to not match up well against aggressive defenses. (1-2)
  • Tennessee 34, New Orleans 28: The Titans look to finally be back on track with this win as well as with the return of Marcus Mariota. However, they have a tough test this week as they face the Panthers. As for the Saints, I knew one or both of the defenses from that epic 51-48 win over the Giants would feel the aftereffects and it looks like the answer is the Saints defense. (1-3)
  • Pittsburgh 38, Oakland 35: While the Steelers were able to pull out a must-win game, they may have to face the daunting task of having to survive without both Ben Roethlisberger and Le’Veon Bell for awhile. Then again, Roethlisberger could start against the Browns because you can never count him out. The Raiders are still looking good as their offense continues to impress. (2-3)
  • Minnesota 21, St. Louis 18: Am I surprised the Rams injured an opposing quarterback? No not at all, but not because I think we have another bountygate brewing. The Rams have a very aggressive defense with the philosophy of hitting the opposing quarterback as much as legally possible. Of course, with that mentality comes the possibility of illegal hits. I think the Vikings could be in real trouble if Teddy Bridgewater misses multiple weeks as they face a competitive Raiders team this week followed by their first duel with the rival Packers the next week. (3-3)
  • New England 27, Washington 10: The loss of Dion Lewis will hurt the Patriots running game a little, but not enough to make Patriots’ fans worry about the team’s championship aspirations. After all, Tom Brady is still playing like an MVP candidate. Meanwhile the Redskins continue to play fairly well as they held the Patriots to their lowest point total of the season. The problem was that the Redskins put themselves in too big of a hole to start the game, so they never had a chance to compete. (4-3)
  • New York Jets 28, Jacksonville 23: The Jets really caught a break when the Jaguars fell apart in the fourth quarter, because if they didn’t the Jets would be on a three-game losing streak with a Thursday night matchup with the Bills next. As for the Jaguars, who showed resilience against the Bills the week before, this was a big step backwards. (5-3)
  • San Francisco 17, Atlanta 16: I have to give credit to Blaine Gabbert as he played a lot better than I expected. The 49ers as a whole really played like the season wasn’t lost yet which is a good turnaround from the previous weeks. Meanwhile the Falcons lose their second straight to a mediocre team and are starting to raise questions about the legitimacy of their record. (5-4)
  • New York Giants 32, Tampa Bay 18: Unlike the Saints, the Giants’ defense was able to turn things around after that 51-48 offensive classic. A lot of that had to do with the return of defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul, who pressured Jameis Winston five times and even got one QB hit in his first game back with the Giants. The Buccaneers continue to go through growing pains, this time not ending drives and having to settle for field goals. (6-4)
  • Indianapolis 27, Denver 24: Everyone knew it would happen eventually. If the Broncos defense has an off-day, can the offense carry them to a win? To Peyton Manning and the offense’s credit, they almost did but it wasn’t enough. Also I need to give a lot of credit to the Colts for finally looking like the Colts we envisioned at the start of the season. Now can the Colts keep it up while having to play without Andrew Luck? (6-5)
  • Philadelphia 33, Dallas 27: The Cowboys remain winless without Tony Romo and realistically will need to stay undefeated with Tony Romo (Cowboys are already 2-0 when Romo starts) to have any shot of still winning the division. That might be too steep of a mountain to climb. Meanwhile, Sam Bradford had arguably his best game as an Eagle as he came in clutch with the overtime touchdown pass to Jordan Matthews. (7-5)
  • Chicago 22, San Diego 19: For all the talk of Jay Cutler being a bad quarterback, it should be noted that all three of the Bears’ wins were won by Cutler leading a late drive for the go-ahead score. As for the Chargers, Philip Rivers was dealt yet another blow as he has lost his second receiver in two weeks, this time losing Malcom Floyd after loosing Keenan Allen last week. (8-5)

Week 9 Record: 8-5
Season Record: 86-46 (.652)
Perfect Score Predictions: 2

All In The Cards: Week 8 Recap

Welcome to the week eight recap of All In The Cards. A lot of wild and crazy things happened last weekend so there are quite a few things to talk about, including the firing of some coaches, some key injuries, and a particular quarterback-benching. The Cardinals are on bye this week but there will still be a regular All In The Cards this week as I will give my midseason grades for each team as well as midseason awards. I hope you enjoy and if you do make sure to follow me on Twitter @QTipsforsports or just search the hashtag #Allinthecards for in-game thoughts and analysis. Without further ado, let’s see how I did with my week eight picks:

How I did with my Week 8 NFL Predictions:

  • Arizona 34, Cleveland 20: This game was a tale of two halves. The first half featured the Cardinals of old, as they continuously shot themselves in the foot and let the Browns rack up a 21-7 lead. The pressure of being the favorite was getting to them and after one Chris Johnson fumble (his first of the season) things started to unravel as both the offense and defense were pushed around by the Browns. Despite a late field goal, it looked like the Cardinals had fallen prey to the trap game. Then the Cardinals did something they never do. Instead of playing scared, the Cards played angry. Right from the second half kickoff, the defense smothered the Browns offense, only allowing 86 total yards and forcing two turnovers. The Browns never scored again while the Cardinals offense scored 24 points in the second half to pull out the victory. To the regular observer this seems like an underwhelming win for the Cards but it is more than that. The Cardinals won their first game this season where they lost the turnover battle (the Cards had four turnovers to the Browns two), thus breaking down the preconception that this team only wins when things go their way. The Cards took this game and now have a bye before they face the Seahawks in what will be the biggest game of Arizona’s season so far. (1-0)
  • New England 36, Miami 7: Even toddlers who can’t put together full sentences know that the Patriots’ offense is excellent, but what we saw Thursday night was that the Patriots’ defense is also a pretty good. They held a Dolphins’ offense that had scored a combined 82 points in their last two games to just a measly seven points. Even more impressive is that the Patriots’ run defense held the Dolphins to 15 rushing yards after Miami accumulated 428 rushing yards over its past two games. If the Patriots’ defense can play like they did Thursday night on a consistent basis, we may see Tom Brady and company complete their second perfect regular season. (2-0)
  • Kansas City 45, Detroit 10: A couple of weeks ago I mentioned that you should never fire a coach unless you know for a fact that the coach, not the players, is the reason you are failing. We saw a couple of teams part ways with a coach this week and for their sake they better be right or else the same thing that happened to the Lions will happen to them. In their first game after firing offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi, the Lions were humiliated by the Chiefs as Detroit tied a season-low 10 points scored. The Lions’ eighth ranked passing game threw for only 195 yards against a Chiefs’ defense that ranks a mediocre 21st in pass defense. Either the Lions replaced Lombardi with the wrong guy or it’s the group of players that should shoulder the blame. (3-0)
  • Tampa Bay 23, Atlanta 20: While fourth quarter comebacks are exciting, at some point you need to ask yourself why do you need to make these comebacks all the time? That’s the position the Falcons see themselves in at the moment as their flare for waiting until the fourth quarter to make a run has finally come back to haunt them. Give credit to the Buccaneers, who had a similar lead last week against the Redskins but collapsed in the second half, for finding a way to win in overtime, but this was a long time coming for the Falcons. Despite being 6-2, the Falcons are nowhere near that good when you realize they have trailed in the fourth quarter during six of their eight games. That means the Falcons are only a few plays away from being 2-6. The Falcons need to find out why they keep falling behind because as you saw on Sunday, those deficits are starting to catch up with them. (3-1)
  • Minnesota 23, Chicago 20: Down seven with less than five minutes left to go on the road at a place where you have lost seven straight. That was the position the Vikings found themselves after Jay Cutler ran in for the go-ahead touchdown to put the Bears ahead late in the fourth quarter. What we saw was a Vikings’ team grow up and pull through in crunch time. Let me say this because I know some people might want to call me a hypocrite for praising the Vikings comeback but criticizing the Falcons for always having to come back: the difference is that the Vikings were tied in the fourth quarter before seeing the Bears retake the lead, thus prompting the Vikings to have to score late to win. The Falcons on the other hand fall behind early by multiple scores and then start to play better in the fourth quarter. The Vikings showed resolve by falling behind late and coming out with the win. That’s the sign of a well-coached team. (4-1)
  • Cincinnati 16, Pittsburgh 10: When you combine this loss with the loss of Le’Veon Bell, this may be the game the Steelers look back to if they don’t make the playoffs. While DeAngelo Williams should be able to keep the running game afloat in Bell’s absence, the home loss to the still undefeated Bengals is what will hurt more. The race for the wild card spots will be tough and with someone from the AFC South guaranteed to make the playoffs, we may yet again see a 10-6 or better team miss the playoffs. However, it’s not looking good for the Steelers to even finish 10-6 with the schedule they have left. They host the surprisingly good Raiders this week and still have home games against the Denver Broncos and Indianapolis Colts. In addition, they still have to play the Seattle Seahawks as well as the Bengals on road. Getting to 10-6 will be an uphill battle as the Steelers currently sit at 4-4. This would have been considerably easier if they were 5-3. (4-2)
  • Houston 20, Tennessee 6: As a Cardinals fan, the firing of Ken Whisenhunt has me conflicted. On one hand he led the Cardinals to their only Super Bowl appearance and to back-to-back division titles. On the other hand there are all the stats of Whiz with/without Kurt Warner (24-18 with Warner, 24-53 without Warner). It seems that what ultimately led to Whiz’s demise with the Titans was his unwillingness to change his offense, which doesn’t surprise me. Whisenhunt’s progression scheme fit Warner perfectly, but since Warner’s retirement, Whiz has focused more on finding a quarterback who can work in his system instead of adapting his system to fit his quarterback. That is the key reason he has gone through so many quarterbacks during his time as a head coach and honestly is sounds like a fatal flaw. I still respect Whiz for leading the Cardinals to the Super Bowl and I wish him the best of luck, but this was a coach firing I agree with 100%. (5-2)
  • St. Louis 27, San Francisco 6: I wanted to talk about how the Rams are now 3-0 against the NFC West or how Todd Gurley has rushed for more yards than any other running back through their first four games since the NFL/AFL merger, but when the 49ers make a decision as dumb as the one they announced this week I have to talk about it. Do people forget how bad Blaine Gabbert was when he last played? Gabbert has the worst career QBR of any quarterback in the last 10 years, sporting a terrible 22.6 during his three years in Jacksonville. For anyone unfamiliar with QBR, all you need to know is that a quarterback with a QBR of 50 is considered to be an average. You can’t use the supporting cast argument either because he has a similar supporting cast now so nothing will change. I know the 49ers are frustrated with Colin Kaepernick, and that the offense is currently last in points scored. It just feels like the 49ers are giving up on the season and trying to distance themselves away from the last link to the Jim Harbaugh-era. I hope another team down the line gives Kaepernick another shot, because this season was hopeless for him from the start. (6-2)
  • New Orleans 52, New York Giants 49: This is the kind of box score you usually see during a Madden game, not an actual NFL game. I can’t help but feel that both defenses have been scarred from this experience. I remember in the 2009 playoffs when Arizona beat Green Bay 51-45 that both defenses took some time to recover after being humiliated by the opposing offenses. Neither the Saints nor the Giants’ defenses were that good to begin with, but you really have to worry about their psyche going forward. Suddenly a stop the defense would usually make doesn’t happen and then the team loses a game they needed to win. It will be very interesting watching both defenses going forward. (6-3)
  • Baltimore 29, San Diego 26: It’s really tough to see a warrior such as Steve Smith go down the way he did. Before the year he called this one his last season but after suffering an Achilles injury Sunday it is hard to believe that this will be the last time we see the future hall-of-famer. As for what the Ravens do without Smith, my answer is run the ball more and hope somebody in the receiving core emerges over the next couple of games to be a go-to receiver for Joe Flacco. As for the Chargers, even more weight is on Philip Rivers now with the injury to Keenan Allen. However, unlike Flacco, Rivers still has Danny Woodhead, Antonio Gates, and Malcom Floyd to throw to. (7-3)
  • Oakland 34, New York Jets 20: Derek Carr became the third Raiders’ quarterback since 1970 to throw for over 300 yards, four touchdowns, and no interceptions (the other two being Rich Gannon and Jeff Hostetler). Even more impressive is that he did it against a Jets’ defense that is one of the best in the NFL. Suddenly the Raiders are over .500 with a win against a good opponent and hope that a future playoff berth could happen as soon as this season. I think it’s a little early to be thinking playoffs, but if the Raiders are able to win one or both of their next two games (at Pittsburgh and then home for Minnesota) then I would probably jump on the bandwagon. The Jets, on the other hand, have lost two straight and while both were against good opponents (the other loss being against New England) the thought of losing Ryan Fitzpatrick for any amount of time really puts their playoff hopes in jeopardy. (7-4)
  • Seattle 13, Dallas 12: The Seahawks did what they had to do and now they go into their bye week 4-4 with a huge matchup against Arizona the week after. The game is important for both teams, as I’ll go further in-depth during that week’s All In The Cards preview, but there is no doubt that the team with more pressure to win that game is Seattle. Even though it seems the Seahawks’ defense has finally gotten back on track, 15 total points allowed in their last two games, they played two of the five worst offenses in the NFL in the 49ers and Romo-less Cowboys. The Seahawks have still yet to beat a team with a winning record and failing to do it against Arizona at home could put the Seahawks so far behind in the standings that they won’t be able to catch up by the end of the season and miss the playoffs. (8-4)
  • Denver 29, Green Bay 10: I didn’t think the Broncos’ defense could continue to carry the team throughout the rest of the season but I was obviously wrong. What we saw against the Packers was one of the best defenses in recent NFL history. You do not simply hold Aaron Rodgers to 77 passing yards. In fact, the Packers offense, which averages 332.1 yards a game, was held to just 140 yards. Broncos’ wide receiver Demaryius Thomas (168 yards) had more yards than the whole Packers’ offense. I still think the offensive shortcomings will eventually bite the Broncos in the butt, but that defense is going to make extremely hard for any team to take advantage of an offensive mistake. As for the Packers they face another tough defense in Carolina this week. I think Rodgers and company will respond but if they don’t then there might be some cause for concern. (8-5)
  • Carolina 29, Indianapolis 26: If reports are true that Pep Hamilton continuously refused to play an up-tempo offense, then this firing makes a little more sense. However, this just seems like the wrong time to bring in a new offense. I understand the concept that in situations like this there needs to be a fall guy, but the truth is that it wasn’t all Hamilton’s fault. Andrew Luck is obviously not himself as he still seems injured and has committed 13 turnovers this season. The offensive line is still bad, the tight ends aren’t as involved, and the defense is ranked 25th in points allowed which puts even more pressure on Luck to perform. If new offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski is able to turn this offense around, then firing Hamilton will have been the right call. The problem is that I don’t think things will change that much under Chudzinski. (9-5)

Week 8 Record: 9-5
Season Record: 78-41 (.655)
Perfect Score Predictions: 2

All In The Cards: Week 7 Recap

Welcome to the Week 7 NFL recap of All In the Cards! I’m still feeling the aftereffects of those final five minutes during the Cardinals-Ravens game so this week’s recap will be a little shorter than usual. Look out for my week eight preview on Friday and the return of Hoosiers In The NBA every Monday!. I hope you enjoy and if you do make sure to follow me on Twitter @QTipsforsports or just search the hashtag #Allinthecards for in-game thoughts and analysis on the Arizona Cardinals. Without further ado, let’s see how I did with my week seven predictions:

How I did on my Week 7 Predictions:

  • Arizona 26, Baltimore 18: Looks like the Cardinals finally won a close game. Of course, the game never needed to be that close. Nevertheless, a good psychological win for the Cards. Through seven weeks I think we know who the Cards are: an explosive offense, an elite defense, and a very shaky special teams unit. Arizona has the offense and defense to make the Super Bowl and win it, but if they don’t it will most likely be the special teams fault. Also the Ravens may be the best 1-6 team in NFL history. (1-0)
  • Seattle20, San Francisco 3: The Seahawks took care of the 49ers easily and seem to be back on track. However, that still doesn’t change the fact that they are two games behind the Cards in the NFC west. Seattle has Dallas and then a bye before its first matchup with Arizona. That will be the game that tells us whether or not the Seahawks are still contenders. (1-1)
  • Jacksonville 34, Buffalo 31: I’d like to thank the Jaguars for always making me look silly when I pick their games. Other than the New England blowout, I think I have been wrong every time I have analyzed Jacksonville (I may not have gotten the pick wrong but it never goes how I thought the game would go). Huge win for an organization that is trying to use this season as a launch pad for a potential breakout 2016 season. On the other side, it seems the Bills have the same injury bug the Cardinals had last season. (1-2)
  • Atlanta 10, Tennessee 7: I’m still trying to figure out why this game was so close. It seems the Atlanta offense doesn’t play with urgency in the fourth quarter unless its trailing The Falcons outscore their opponents in the fourth quarter 55-19 when they come into period trailing. However, when they have the lead going into the final period the Falcons are outscored 28-6. This tells me that what the Falcons have been doing to other teams (fourth quarter comebacks) could happen against them if they continue this trend. (2-2)
  • St. Louis 24, Cleveland 6: Todd Gurley may become the best back in the NFL as soon as next season. He has given life to the Rams’ offense and by extension the Rams’ defense as they can put that front seven to good use against trailing opponents. This is the Rams team the organization has been hoping for, and the Rams team that the other NFC West teams have been dreading to see. (3-2)
  • Minnesota 28, Detroit 19: When I saw Stefon Diggs tear apart the IU defense last year as a Maryland Terrapin, I had a feeling he would make a good pro. I just never envisioned he would be this good and so quickly at that. His 19 catches for 324 yards through his first three games can only be topped by Anquan Boldin (23 catches for 378 yards in 2003 with the Cardinals) in the past 50 years. If Diggs really is going to be as good as Anquan Boldin, the Vikings could be Super Bowl contenders as quickly as next season. (4-2)
  • New Orleans 27, Indianapolis 21: So much for any momentum after a close loss to the Patriots. Just because you have the ability to come back from being down 27-0 doesn’t mean you should make that a regular occurrence. The Colts defense can only do so much, so when the offense turns the ball over three times in the first half (with 13 of the Saints’ points scored off those turnovers), you can’t expect to win games. Now they have undefeated Carolina next. Thank goodness the Colts play in the AFC South. (4-3)
  • Kansas City 23, Pittsburgh 13: Part of what made Landry Jones so effective against the Cardinals is that the defense Jones was facing had gameplaned completely for Michael Vick. Against a defense that has a gameplan for Jones, the Steelers were unable to get anything going as the Chiefs got a much needed win. Good news for Pittsburgh is that they get Ben Roethlisberger back. Bad news is they face the undefeated Bengals in what has become a must-win if the Steelers want to win the AFC North. (4-4)
  • Miami 44, Houston 26: U-G-L-Y! That is the only way you can describe that first half for the Texans. I mean give credit to the Dolphins (first team in 75 years to have four touchdowns of over 50 yards in a single half) but the Texans defense, the supposed strength of the team, looked downright pitiful. I’m a little worried that the Dolphins are riding too much of a high and that they will get a big wake-up call Thursday against New England. (5-4)
  • New England 30, New York Jets 23: This game definitely lived up to all the hype. Any Patriots’ fan dreaming of another 16-0 regular season should be very afraid of the week 16 rematch at MetLife Stadium. Even though they lost in the second half (when Todd Bowles usually shines as a coach), I still walk away from this game believing the Jets are a legit playoff team. (6-4)
  • Washington 31, Tampa Bay 30: The Redskins’ franchise-record 24-point comeback was very impressive but when looking at the state of the two teams the outcome was actually kind of predictable, at least a little bit. The Redskins have been an up-and-down team all season so it’s no surprise they got in a big whole and then proceeded to climb out of it. Meanwhile the Buccaneers looked like a young team that was not used to holding a lead and thus made the mistakes necessary for the Redskins to win. (7-4)
  • Oakland 37, San Diego 29: I called this game perfectly. Don’t let the score fool you: the Raiders annihilated the Chargers. If anything, the Chargers’ 23 points in the fourth quarter just further demonstrates how much pressure the Chargers put on Philip Rivers to win games. Rivers throws two interceptions in the first half and the Chargers trail 30-6 at the break. Sure Rivers made a couple of mistakes but Rivers didn’t give up 30 points in the first half. (8-4)
  • New York Giants 27, Dallas 20: First I need to give some credit to the Cowboys for finally showing some life in the midst of a four-game losing streak and after being obliterated by the Patriots in their last game. In fact they would have won this game had they not turned the ball over four times. The Giants meanwhile bounce back from their embarrassing performance against the Eagles. (9-4)
  • Carolina 27, Philadelphia 16: The Panthers kind of remind me of the last two Seahawks teams, matching a run-oriented offense led by a mobile quarterback with a ferocious defense that always makes teams pay I still think they will get their first loss sometime in the next two weeks (they face the Colts and Packers) but I think it is time we consider the Panthers as a legit contender. (9-5)

Week 7 Record: 9-5
Season Record: 69-36 (.657)
Perfect Score Predictions: 2

All In The Cards: Opinionated Edition (Week 6 Recap)

Welcome to the week six NFL recap of All In The Cards! I thought about writing a whole article outlining the Cardinals current problems, but I was afraid it may end up turning into a 5,000-word rant and I know no one wants to read that so I’ll go straight to the short-recap format, which will still be highly opinionated but at least it won’t be focused all on the Cards. All future recaps will be written in this style since the NBA season is almost here (which means Hoosiers In The NBA is almost here!) and I want to continue posting these on Tuesday. I hope you enjoy and if you do make sure to follow me on Twitter @QTipsforsports or just search the hashtag #Allinthecards for in-game thoughts and analysis. Without further ado, let’s see how these two teams stack up against each other:

How I did on my NFL Week 6 Predictions:

  • Pittsburgh 25, Arizona 13: While it is true that the change from Michael Vick to Landry Jones messed with the Cards’ defensive gameplan, there are other reasons behind the loss. If you look at the game stats, you’ll notice two big differences between games the Cardinals win and lose: turnovers and redzone efficiency. The Cardinals like to take risks on offense, thus they have turned the ball over in five of their six games (the lone exception being against Detroit). That’s not a problem, as long as the Arizona defense also forces turnovers. The Cards defense has been able to make up for the offense’s 10 turnovers by forcing opponents into 13 turnovers through six games. Actually, it would be more accurate to say the Cardinals defense has forced 13 turnovers in their four wins. They forced zero turnovers against the Rams and Steelers. If the offense doesn’t get those extra possessions then each mistake becomes amplified. Just like with the turnovers, redzone efficiency also follows this pattern. The Cards have scored 16 touchdowns in 17 trips to the redzone during wins, while they have only scored two touchdowns in nine redzone trips during losses. Going forward, succeeding in these two categories will be important for the Cardinals to win. It will also be the key to stopping them. (0-1)
  • New Orleans 31, Atlanta 21: Here’s a trick for picking these supposedly “wacky” Thursday night games: Pick the team that benefits most from the shorter week. In this case, the Falcons were coming off their fourth second half comeback as the beat the Redskins 25-19 and were being praised for never giving up and always coming through in the clutch. On the other side, the Saints were coming off an embarrassing 39-17 loss to the Eagles and wanted to forget that game ever happened. So basically the Saints were focused on their next opponent right away while the Falcons were distracted by all the hype they were receiving. You can overcome those types of distractions during a normal week of preparation but not on a short one. (1-1)
  • Cincinnati 34, Buffalo 21: While I personally think Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers are more valuable to their teams, there is no doubt that Andy Dalton is the leading MVP candidate at this point in the season. The main reason is voter fatigue. For anyone who is unfamiliar with the term “voter fatigue”, the best way to understand it would be to look at the history of the NBA MVP. Both Michael Jordan and LeBron James have four MVPs, but both were obviously the most valuable player for more than just four seasons. Voters get tired of giving the award to the same person so they look for someone new to give it to when they can. Rodgers is the reigning MVP and Brady is the reigning Super Bowl MVP, so they’ve been celebrated recently, which means now the voters will feel that it’s Dalton’s turn if he keeps up this performance. (2-1)
  • Detroit 37, Chicago 34: A week removed from being obliterated by the Cardinals, the Lions were able to fend off a recently-improved Bears team and earn their first win of the season. This was a crucial win for an organization that started hearing whispers about possibly going 0-16 again after seemingly turning the franchise around. The Lions still won’t be good this season, but as long as they are not bad either, this season will just be a bump in road instead of a full-on dumpster fire. The Bears will be fine; they just need to score more touchdowns in the redzone. (2-2)
  • Denver 26, Cleveland 23: First off, I’d like to give a big shout out to ex-Cardinal great Karlos Dansby for the spectacular performance this week (seven tackles, two pass deflections, two interceptions and a touchdown).However, the main story is the Broncos continuing to win despite being terrible offensively. I brought up Peyton Manning’s projected stats last week so there is no need for me to rehash them again this week after another subpar performance. Instead let me talk about the Broncos offense as a whole. The offense has accounted for just 54 of the team’s 139 points. The rest of those points were scored by the Broncos kicker (Brandon McManus has made 16 field goals in addition to his 13 extra points) and the Broncos defense (two touchdowns by Aqib Talib and one touchdown each for Chris Harris Jr. and Bradley Roby). Even if you want to credit extra points after offensive touchdowns to the offense, 63 of 139 is still less than 50%. The offense needs to start pulling its own weight or else this great start may end in an epic collapse. (3-2)
  • Miami 38, Tennessee 10: It’s these types of occurrences that make sports management and fans think that firing a coach is an easy solution for turning a team around. I’m not claiming it doesn’t work, it obviously worked this week for the Dolphins, but the circumstances have to be right. You need to make sure that the reason the team is under-performing is because they are either disagreeing or ignoring their coach, and not that the team isn’t good enough to execute the coach’s gameplan. It was obvious that the Dolphins and Joe Philbin were not connecting anymore, and since they had a suitable replacement in Dan Campbell, the Dolphins were right to make the move. However, if a team isn’t 100% sure whether or not the coach is more to blame than the players and it doesn’t have a suitable replacement, it should never make a coaching change just for the sake of change. (3-3)
  • Minnesota 16, Kansas City 10: There’s not much to say about this game other than I feel really bad for Chiefs fans. The offense looks like a complete mess without Jamaal Charles and we’ve known for a long time that Alex Smith is a considerably worse quarterback when he doesn’t have a run game to help him. Meanwhile, the Vikings have to be ecstatic about Stefon Diggs’ performance Sunday as well as the possibility of him becoming the go-to receiver for Teddy Bridgewater in the years to come. (4-3)
  • New York Jets 34, Washington 20: With a coach who has a personality as strong as Todd Bowles, it wasn’t a matter of if the team would take on his personality, but rather how quickly will the team take on Bowles personality? By personality I am specifically talking about his uncanny ability to recognize a problem and, in the short 15 minutes each team gets at halftime, come up with a gameplan to counter those problems. Well it seems like the answer was week six. The defense was already playing like a Bowles defense, but against the Redskins the offense also took that step forward. The Jets, trailing 13-10 at half, scored 24 straight points to start the second half and ran away with the win. As long as this team believes in Bowles, I see a trip to the playoffs as a real possibility this season. (5-3)
  • Houston 31, Jacksonville 20: Here’s hoping Texans’ head coach Bill O’Brien has finally made his decision at quarterback. Brian Hoyer was great in the Texans comeback and finally showed what this offense is capable of when they have consistent quarterback play. It helps that DeAndre Hopkins is having a breakout season and that Arian Foster is back. As for the Jaguars, this is the second time in three weeks they have blown a fourth quarter lead, the other one being against the Colts. If they want to start seeing vast improvement they’ll need to learn how to hold on to those leads. (5-4)
  • Carolina 27, Seattle 23: Speaking of blowing fourth quarter leads, did you know that the Seahawks have had led in the fourth quarter of every game they have played this season? I can already tell you don’t believe me so let’s recap:
    • Week 1 (@ St. Louis): The Seahawks scored 18 straight points in the fourth quarter against the Rams to lead 31-24 with 4:39 left to go, only to allow a game-tying touchdown with 53 seconds left and lose in overtime.
    • Week 2 (@ Green Bay): After trailing 13-3 at half, the Seahawks scored two touchdowns in third and led 17-16 heading the fourth quarter. The Packers outscored Seattle 10-0 in the final period.
    • Week 3 (vs. Chicago): Seattle won 26-0 so obviously they led in the fourth quarter.
    • Week 4 (vs. Detroit): The Seahawks led 13-3 entering the fourth quarter and then proceeded to give up a fumble return for a touchdown and allowed the Lions to drive 90 yards before Seattle was saved by an officiating blunder.
    • Week 5 (@ Cincinnati): A Bobby Wagner fumble return has Seattle up 24-7 after three quarters, only to see Andy Dalton rip apart the Legion Of Boom in the fourth quarter as the Bengals score 17 points in the period and win in overtime.
    • Week 6 (vs. Carolina): At home, the Seahawks had a 23-14 lead halfway through the fourth quarter. Then in the final four minutes the Panthers score two touchdowns to win 27-23.

Now you can take this one of two ways: either you’re still positive because the Seahawks have played well all season but have just had some trouble in the fourth quarter, or you’re wondering if there is something psychologically wrong with the Seahawks for them to continuously fall apart in the fourth quarter. I’m starting to lean towards the latter statement. (5-5)

  • Green Bay 27, San Diego 20: This stat should show you just how much pressure the Chargers place on Philip Rivers to keep this team competitive: Rivers became the first quarterback in NFL history to throw for over 500 yards in a game with no interceptions and still lose the game. I know that when a quarterback is throwing for a lot of yards it is usually because they are trailing, but that still doesn’t change the fact he’s the first to accomplish this and still lose. Talk about not getting any support from your team. Then again one could also consider it as a testament to how well the Packers are playing. (6-5)
  • San Francisco 25, Baltimore 20: Since getting destroyed in Arizona, the 49ers have quietly rebounded. They hung tough with the undefeated Packers for a half, came very close to upsetting the Giants at MetLife Stadium, and held on to beat a desperate Ravens team. They now get a reeling Seattle team on a short week, and as I stated, the team that benefits the most from a short week usually wins the Thursday night game. With as much turmoil as there is with the Seahawks, I’d say a short week benefits San Francisco more. Hard to believe but if the 49ers do pull off the win and then beat St. Louis the following week, they’ll find themselves back at .500 halfway through the season. (6-6)
  • New England 34, Indianapolis 27: Recall what I wrote about the Dolphins: “You should never make a coaching change if you are not 100% sure that the coach is more to blame than the players.” This fits the Chuck Pagano situation perfectly. Was the fake punt risky? Yes, it was extremely risky but it was worth the risk just to line up and see how the Patriots would respond. The center Griff Whalen should have snapped the ball only if the Patriots defense didn’t look prepared. As it turns out, they were prepared and the Colts should have taken the delay of game or called a timeout instead. If the Colts were leading the Patriots then I would switch positions, but the fact was that the Colts were down seven against a team that has owned them for a long time. It’s not as dumb of a decision as people might think. (7-6)
  • Philadelphia 27, New York Giants 7: This is why I didn’t want to say the Giants were in control of the NFC East last week because truthfully no one really has control in that division. That being said, the Eagles now find themselves as the division leaders and have a good chance to stay at the top if their defense continues to play like it did Monday night. The problem is I still don’t completely trust the offense and Sam Bradford in particular. However, the Eagles do have a great opportunity to prove me wrong when as they face the undefeated Panthers this week. (7-7)

Week 6 Record: 7-7
Season Record: 60-31
Perfect Score Predictions: 2

All In The Cards: Which Teams Have Hope And Which Do Not? (Week 5 Recap)

Welcome to the week five recap! With the Cardinals recent signing of Dwight Freeney I’ll be having a separate column tomorrow detailing how the Cards have been able to get the most out of players like Freeney who look old and washed-up before reviving their career in the desert. For now let’s take a look at the week 5 scores and determine which teams are having a slow start and which teams are probably doomed to agonizingly trek through the rest of this season. I hope you enjoy and if you do make sure to follow me on Twitter @QTipsforsports or just search the hashtag #Allinthecards for in-game thoughts and analysis:

How I did with NFL Week 5 Predictions:

  • Arizona 42, Detroit 17: I hate to say this because I have quite a few friends who are Detroit Lions fans and they are dedicated to this team, but the other fans who attended the game really contributed to the Lions collapse against the Cards. Home field advantage is more than just playing in a familiar place. Home field advantage is also knowing that you have a stadium’s worth of people cheering and supporting you and then feeding off that energy to go the extra mile. The Lions had none of that Sunday. Despite turning the ball over twice in the first ten minutes, the Lions held a 7-0 lead over the Cardinals and held them to their only scoreless quarter of the season. Yet the boos kept coming and when the Lions fed off that negative energy they imploded in the second quarter. Let me make this clear: I am not blaming the Lions fans in attendance for the loss. The Cards had a better matchup and would have most likely taken control of the game sometime around the end of the third quarter. However, I do believe the Lions gave up during the game because the fans gave up. I don’t care how many interceptions Matthew Stafford throws, subbing in Dan Orlovsky at quarterback is giving up. While I don’t blame the Lions fans for being frustrated, it is a fans job to support their team through the good times and the bad times. The Lions are going through some bad times right now, and they’ll need the support of my friends as well as other dedicated Lions fans to help get them through this season. (1-0)
  • Indianapolis 27, Houston 20: The Colts have won their last three games after starting the season with two straight losses. Does that mean they have bounced back? Well let’s look at those wins: all three games were against AFC South teams (who are a combined 3-8 this season when you remove the three games against Indianapolis), all three games were decided by one score, and two of those games saw the Colts trailing in the fourth quarter. I’ll give credit for winning the last two without Andrew Luck but Matt Hasselbeck is a lot better than your typical backup quarterback. Indy will probably lose to New England (which is okay because everyone else outside of Denver and maybe one of the two New York teams will lose to them as well) but it will be their next two games afterwards (home against the Saints and away at the Panthers) that will tell us if the Colts have rebounded or not. (2-0)
  • Atlanta 25, Washington 19: The Redskins continue to play very competitively and were almost able to hand the Falcons their first loss. With the way the NFC East has performed so far this season I wouldn’t discount the Redskins from the NFC East race, at least not yet. Meanwhile the Falcons are the physical manifestation of a gambler on a hot streak. Their blowout win over Houston showed that they can control a game from start to finish, which is a relief because that is what they’ll need to do when this hot streak in the fourth quarter inevitably dries up. (3-0)
  • Buffalo 14, Tennessee 13: I still believe the Bills are a good team but they have just been decimated by injuries on offense. With talk of Tyrod Taylor possibly missing time, it may just be one of those circumstances where a team won’t reach their potential due to outside forces. The Bills probably won’t beat the Bengals this week even if Taylor plays but he will be necessary for their next two games against the Jaguars and Dolphins. (4-0)
  • Chicago 18, Kansas City 17: Let’s all take a moment to appreciate Jay Cutler and finally give him his props. That is now two comeback victories in a row for a team that looked like it was vying for the first overall pick just two weeks ago. As for the Chiefs, the loss of Jamaal Charles makes it easier for me to say they are finished. Here’s hoping he is healthy and ready to go by next season and that he doesn’t try to risk playing again this year. (4-1)
  • Cincinnati 27, Seattle 24: During last week’s recap I wrote about how the no call for the Seahawks against the Lions would probably give them the momentum they needed to play like themselves again. At no time did that feel more apparent than when Bobby Wagner scored on a fumble return in the third quarter to put Seattle up 24-7. Then that momentum died. The unimpressive Seahawks team that somehow found their way to .500 appeared in the fourth quarter and the Bengals made them pay. These are the two-time defending NFC champions and I know no one wants to count them out, but at some point we need to look at the present instead of the past. The present does still show promise but it has yet to provide confidence. (5-1)
  • Cleveland 33, Baltimore 30: I was against it at first but it seems the Browns got it right when they decided to stay with Josh McCown at quarterback. Cleveland has had a very easy schedule up to this point so you can’t put too much stock in their record. However, if they can win three of their next five games (which include games against Denver, Arizona, Cincinnati and Pittsburgh with Ben Roethlisberger probably back) then we can talk. As painful as it is for me to say that a talented team like the Ravens are done, they just look too out of sorts to get things turned around in time. (5-2)
  • Philadelphia 39, New Orleans 17: Every team in the NFC East still has a shot at the division title but the Eagles have to feel a lot better about their chances after this performance. Granted it came against a Saints team that will probably get a top ten draft pick, but the important thing was that all of the offseason acquisitions contributed to this win. Whether or not this is a sign of the team finally getting comfortable with each other will be determined in the following weeks against the Giants and Panthers. (6-2)
  • Green Bay 24, St. Louis 10: Things we learned from this game: the Packers defense is a lot better than what I gave them credit for last week, Aaron Rodgers is not a robot and is capable of turning the ball over (though don’t expect it to happen that often), Todd Gurley really does have the potential to be the next great running back, and last but not least the Rams continue to play a lot worse when facing teams outside of the NFC West. (7-2)
  • Tampa Bay 38, Jacksonville 31: Both teams looked impressive and are giving their fans hope for the future. The best sign for the Jaguars is that Sophomore Blake Bortles looks nothing like rookie Blake Bortles. The best sign for the Buccaneers is that Doug Martin is showing life again, rushing for over 100 yards for the second game in a row. Last time Martin had back-to-back 100 rushing yard games was in 2012, his rookie season. (7-3)
  • New England 30, Dallas 6: There’s no denying that the Patriots are the favorites after a quarter of the season. However, for as good as this Patriots team is, their championship hopes are tied directly to Tom Brady’s health. I know that statement is true of many teams who have elite quarterbacks, but the reason I bring it up is that Brady took some terrible hits against Dallas including one where he was leveled on a touchdown pass to Julian Edelman. Because of his age (38), history with serious leg injuries, and the fact he plays for a coach in Bill Belichick who rarely takes him out even during blowouts, Brady and the Patriots are in a position similar to that of Carson Palmer and the Cardinals. Both teams need to be extra careful with their quarterbacks or else the championship dream will disappear. (8-3)
  • Denver 16, Oakland 10: After week five is when you can start looking at season projections as a more reliable way of forecasting a player’s performance. Let’s just say that the forecast looks gloomy for Peyton Manning. Manning is on pace for his first sub-4,000 yard season since 2005, his first 20+ interception season since 2001, and his first season ever with less than 20 passing touchdowns. Sure this could just be a slow start, but he’ll need to produce some big numbers soon as I don’t expect his play to get any better than this when it turns December in Denver. (9-3)
  • New York Giants 30, San Francisco 27: Like the Colts, the Giants started the season 0-2 and have rebounded with three straight wins. If I was to choose which of the two teams has more likely turned things around, I would go with the Giants. Despite the narrow win against a bad 49ers team, the Giants performance over the winning streak has been a little more convincing and against better opponents. However, I’m not ready to hand the NFC East to the Giants just yet. A lot rides on this week’s matchup with the Eagles. A win for the Giants would definitely make them the favorites. (10-3)
  • Pittsburgh 24, San Diego 20: With how the Steelers have been able to perform without Ben Roethlisberger, I’m convinced that the Steelers are one of the top threats to preventing New England from returning to the Super Bowl. Sure the last two games have been close and could have gone either way, but the goal right now is surviving until their quarterback returns, something Dallas hasn’t been able to do. What once seemed like a potential season-ending stretch is now two games at home against Arizona and Cincinnati and a trip to Kansas City against a Chiefs team that is dealing with the loss of their own star. (11-3)

Week 5 Record: 11-3
Season Record: 53-24
Perfect Score Predictions: 2