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The Denver Defense Takes Over The Super Bowl

(photo courtesy Joe Amon/The Denver Post)

(photo courtesy Joe Amon/The Denver Post)

The Super Bowl was a matchup of the old guard and the new school of quarterbacks in the NFL. We had Cam Newton and the high-scoring Carolina Panthers in one corner and veteran Peyton Manning and the gritty Denver Broncos in the other corner. Both teams had fought through different things to make it to the big game. The Panthers lost their top wide receiver and many did not expect much of them to start the year. And for the Broncos, they had their share of quarterback issues and offensive issues as a whole. But there these two stood, battling for the Lombardi Trophy. In the end, the Broncos were able to prevail over the favored Panthers 24-10. And with that, Peyton Manning now has his second Lombardi Trophy to add to his illustrious career. The Panthers fought hard, but they just did not have enough to make it happen. And for the Broncos, their defense definitely won this game.

The Broncos defense had a tall task: stopping the MVP, Cam Newton. He has been terrorizing defenses all year with his feet and his arm. But in this game, the terror was what he faced in the Denver defense. The Panthers offensive line was not very successful in protecting Newton and that led to him being sacked seven times in this game. The main guy who was after Newton all game was pass-rusher supreme Von Miller. The free-agent-to-be and MVP of the game was all over the field and on Cam’s heels all night long. He had a total of 2.5 sacks Sunday night. The pressure on Cam was the most he had seen all season long. And the hits that he took just kept coming all night long. That led to him not having much time to hit any of his wide receivers down field and having to throw away more passes than he had all season long. Because of the disrupting of the passing game by the Denver pressure packages, the Panthers looked disjointed in the passing game and Cam never seemed to get comfortable in the pocket. And when he scrambled, Cam had a few runs of note, but he had the clamps put on him for most of the night.

Coming into this game, the Panthers were the team that was known for forcing turnovers. They had the best turnover ratio in the NFL coming into this game. But in the Super Bowl, the Broncos defense turned the tide. The Broncos forced three turnovers in this game. And the Panthers, they were only able to force three turnovers. Usually the turnovers the Panthers force end up in points. But in this game, they were not able to take those turnovers and convert them at all, as the Denver defense was stingy all night long. The Denver defense, however, forced two big turnovers that led to their two touchdowns. The first big turnover they forced came when the Von Miller sacked Cam Newton. Miller was able to strip Newton on the play and then the Broncos recovered the ball in the endzone for a touchdown. And the other huge turnover was when they were up 16-10 and Carolina had the ball, needing a touchdown and extra point to take the lead. Von Miller again striped Cam Newton of the ball while rushing the passer. That turnover led to the game-clinching touchdown that would seal the game. Those 14 points the Broncos defense helped either score or setup were the difference in the game tonight and helped them hoist the Lombardi Trophy.

Another huge key in this game was the running game. Coming in, the Carolina Panthers were the team that was used to having a consistent running game. With Cam Newton being able to run and Jonathan Stewart running the ball very solid coming into the game, it was thought the Broncos could be the team to have the issue running the football. But the Panthers were never really able to get their running game going. Newton ended up with 45 yards on six carries, but Jonathan Stewart was missing in action all night long. The veteran running back out of Oregon had one big run of 12 yards in this game. But other than that, he had only eleven carries for 17 yards and a touchdown. With the running game never getting started, the Panthers had to depend on the passing game. And if anyone has watched the Panthers play this year, they are not a team that typically depends on the passing game to get them going. Besides their veteran tight end Greg Olsen, the Panthers had a pedestrian receiving corps. In this game, their dropped passes finally caught up to them. And add to that some errant passes from Cam and the passing game was stuck in neutral as well.

Peyton Manning may be retiring after this game and riding off into the sunset as a two-time title and arguably the greatest of all-time. But the Denver Broncos did not win this championship because of his stellar play. They won this game on the strength of their defense. And from the beginning of the season to now, their defense carried the offense on their collective backs. It’s only fitting that the final game of the season was a defensive masterpiece.

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The General’s NFL Proclamations-Super Bowl Special

(photo courtesy Associated Press)

(photo courtesy Associated Press)

It all comes down to one game. Two teams, the Carolina Panthers and the Denver Broncos, have fought hard to make their way to the Super Bowl. One was expected to be a contender from the beginning of the season. The other was not expected to even win six games. But now both are in Santa Clara, California getting ready to try and win the biggest football game in their professional careers. One will achieve that goal while the other will take in the bitter feeling of defeat on the NFL’s biggest stage. Which one will be taking that loss and more in the final installment of the General’s NFL proclamations coming right now!

Denver Broncos at Carolina Panthers

  1. The Panthers are very heavy run-oriented and the Broncos stop the run very well. One of these strengths are going to have to give. The feather in the cap Carolina has is Cam Newton running the football. And with that being said, the Panthers will have 125 yards total on the ground, with Cam acquiring at least two first downs and 50 yards rushing. And just for good measure, let’s add in a touchdown for him as well.
  2. The Broncos have to get their running game going. And in doing so, they will be trying to run against a stingy defense as well. But unfortunately, the Broncos have not been as successful as the Panthers’ offensive line. In this one, look for the running game of the Broncos to not gain over 80 yards rushing.
  3. Cornerbacks Josh Norman and Aqib Talib have played very well for the Carolina Panthers and Denver Broncos respectively. Talib will have his own issues to deal with, but Norman has two really good receivers he will get some time against in Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders. He will not be able to guard both, but he can affect both of them. Look for him to hold whoever he checks defensively to 4 receptions for 70 yards at the least.
  4. The Denver pass rushing duo of Von Miller and Demarcus Ware can cause havoc on opposing offenses. And every game they have played in together, they both have had an impact on the game. Well in this one, they will have their chances. Of course it will be hard for them to get Cam down. But they will get there at least once to get Newton.
  5. Peyton Manning versus Cam Newton has been the story for most of the week leading up to the Super Bowl. Many have wondered which one will have the better game. Well, both will have an interesting one in this game. Both will have at least one turnover and there will be one play made by one quarterback that will be the difference in the game.

Prediction: The Panthers come in riding high off their two big wins in the playoffs. Meanwhile, the Broncos were able to hang on and win two big game to get to the big stage. Both teams need the running game to be effective and both defenses stop the run very well. Eventually, the playmaking of Cam overcomes the nasty defense of the Panthers. And through the air and on the ground, Cam makes the plays for the Panthers to win the game. And although Peyton will come out and play well for a while, he will not be able to keep up the pace for the entire game. The Panthers win their first ever Super Bowl title and it will be a close one. Carolina 27, Denver 21

The Carolina Panthers are Dabbin’ all the way back to Charlotte with the Lombardi Trophy.

(photo courtesy USA Today)

(photo courtesy USA Today)

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Five Factors For Carolina To Win The Super Bowl

(photo courtesy of Jason Getz/USA Today Sports)

(photo courtesy of Jason Getz/USA Today Sports)

The Carolina Panthers have been a revelation this year. When the season began for the Panthers, there was trepidation with how they would do. Carolina lost their best wide receiver, Kelvin Benjamin, to a torn ACL before the season started. But the Panthers passing attack overcame that and ended up being one of the best offenses in the NFL, thanks to soon-to-be NFL MVP Cam Newton. And combined with that stingy defense, the Panthers steamrolled through the regular and the postseason. Now the next challenge awaits them as they take on the Denver Broncos. And while some may think it could be an ugly game for Denver, the Panthers should expect a battle from the veteran Broncos team. Here are five factors that could swing the game in their favor versus Denver.

  1. Turn up the heat on Peyton Manning

The Panthers have been steady in putting pressure on quarterbacks all year long. And the Denver Broncos have not exactly been the best at protecting their quarterback. The Broncos have gotten better over the year, but they are still the same offensive line that had issues to start the year. If Carolina is able to take advantage of that, then they will have Peyton Manning dancing in the pocket more than he would like to. One guy to watch out for up front is defensive tackle Kawaan Short. He seems to be the barometer of their front four and can be a huge force on the game.

  1. Who’s the other corner?

The Carolina Panthers have had cornerback Josh Norman step up all season long. And going into his free agency this offseason, he will be targeted by many teams because of his stellar job. But other than him, who do the Panthers have? The other cornerbacks have done well, but with Charles Tillman out, Cortland Finnegan and Robert McClain have to step up and play well. Based on the Panthers defense, Norman will not be on Broncos’ wide receiver Demaryius Thomas all the time. And with Emmanuel Sanders at the other wide receiver slot for Denver, the Panthers will need someone else to step up and defend him sometimes too. Finnegan and McClain will be key to how the Panthers defend the Broncos’ passing game.

  1. Pound the rock

The Carolina Panthers are a physical team whose mantra is “Keep Pounding”. In this game, they must do so offensively. The Panthers are a run-oriented team with a passing game that works off of it. As far as the Broncos, they are a physical team that limits teams in the running game. The Panthers have to win that battle in the running game versus Denver’s defense. When they run the football with Cam Newton, Jonathan Stewart or Mike Tolbert, it sets up everything that they do. And if they don’t have the running game, then it causes the Panthers to struggle a bit. The Panthers offensive line has to be nasty in this one from start to finish.

  1. Cam being the MVP

Cam Newton has been the MVP of the NFL this season. And in this game, the Denver Broncos will try to do all they can to limit him. But it’s real hard to limit a guy that is 6’6” and 250-260 pounds with a cannon for an arm. Cam has to make those special plays that make a player like him unique. The pressure will be after him all game long, so he has to turn those potential sacks into positive plays. And if he is able to do that and neutralize the Broncos’ pass rush, then the Panthers will be a better position to win the game.

  1. The others receivers

The Panthers receivers have been playing well this season. For example, Ted Ginn Jr has had a career year for Carolina. But there have been some times where Ginn Jr has disappeared and dropped sure touchdown passes. And for him and the rest of the Panthers receiving corps, they will have their opportunities to make some things happen. Denver’s defensive secondary is very good but they do allow some plays to happen. The question is will they make the plays when they present themselves like they have all season or not? The big stage can have a great effect on players and it can also have a damaging effect. If they show up and take advantage of their opportunities, they could be in great position to win.

The Panthers are in a spot where they can make history. Carolina can win their first title in team history if they are to defeat the Broncos. It will not be easy. The Broncos will give them everything they have. But if Carolina can make these five things happen, then they could potentially be Dabbin all the way to Charlotte after this one.

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Carolina Dominates The Cardinals On The Way To The Super Bowl

(photo courtesy of Jason Getz/USA Today Sports)

(photo courtesy of Jason Getz/USA Today Sports)

And then there were two in the NFC. The two best teams all year in the conference, the Arizona Cardinals and the Carolina Panthers, passed their first test in the Divisional Rounds, beating the Green Bay Packers and Seattle Seahawks respectively. And on Sunday night, both teams were trying to get back to the Super Bowl. The Cardinals last went back in the 2008 season, when they lost to Ben Roethlisberger and the Pittsburgh Steelers 27-23 in Tampa, Florida. The Panthers drought has been a little longer, last visiting the Super Bowl in the 2003 season, when they lost to the New England Patriots 32-29. Both teams came out with much to prove in this game. The Cardinals wanted to prove that last week was just an aberration. And for the Panthers, they wanted to prove that they were worthy of being the NFC champions. From the jump, the Panthers let the Cardinals know they meant business. Carolina jumped out to a 24-7 halftime lead, jumping all over the Cardinals. And in the second half, they would continue to jump all over the Cardinals, punching their Super Bowl ticket with a dominating 49-15 win. With that, the Panthers are on to match up against the Denver Broncos.

Offensively, the Panthers were clicking and that all started with the play of their offensive line. Going into the season, the Panthers were a team that was looked at as having a line that was not good enough. But as the season as grown, they have gotten better and better. And now they are the backbone of one of the best offenses in the NFL. In today’s game, they allowed Panthers quarterback Cam Newton to step up in the pocket and complete passes to the tune of 19/28 for 335 yards and two touchdowns. But the offensive line was not only effective in the passing game. They were able to open holes for Newton and running back Jonathan Stewart. Both averaged over four yards per carry in this one. And the offensive line was able to get Cam in the endzone twice on the ground, with the biggest one being a Newton 12 yard run for a touchdown. That run put the Panthers up 34-7 and gave them an insurmountable lead against Arizona. Even though Cam Newton will more than likely be the MVP of the NFL, his offensive line was the MVP of this game.

The Panthers have been a nasty defense all year long. Much has been made of their pieces in the back seven, particularly defensive back Josh Norman and linebackers Thomas Davis and Luke Kuechly. But the key players in this game had to be the Panthers defensive line. They harassed the Palmer all game long and were relentless. And as a byproduct of their pressure, they forced Arizona quarterback Carson Palmer into four interceptions, with one going back for a touchdown. It seemed that Palmer could never get comfortable in the pocket all game long. Some of that was on Carson because he just was out of sorts. But most of that had to be credited to the Panthers front seven. And along with the pressure they were bringing, they were also steady in the running game. They allowed David Johnson to get 60 yards on 15 carries, but they did not allow him to get in a rhythm for much of the game. And by making some stops on first down, Arizona fell behind the sticks and that put additional pressure on the Cardinals offense. Last week, the Packers were not able to catch Larry Fitzgerald, as he torched them in overtime for the win. But the Panthers were on him all game long, only giving up four receptions for 30 yards. Larry was a non-factor along with his fellow wide receiver Michael Floyd. Their offense was rendered helpless by a defense that was flying all over the field.

The Panthers did what many felt they could not do. At the beginning of the season, many wondered if they would even win five or six games. They had lost their best wide receiver before the season started and many felt Cam did not have enough to win ballgames offensively. But little did we know that the combination of the skill people they had along with Cam’s excellent performance this year would carry them to being one of the best offenses in the NFL. Couple their offense with their stingy defense and the Panthers had a well-oiled machine. And as the season went on, they got better and better despite those that thought they would falter. Fast forward to now and the Panthers are now on their way to the Super Bowl. And with a win, they would have made some unexpected history for their organization. We will see what happens under the bright lights in Santa Clara, California on February 7th.

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The General’s NFL Proclamations-Conference Championship Weekend

(photo courtesy of Jeremy Brevard/USA TODAY Sports)

(photo courtesy of Jeremy Brevard/USA TODAY Sports)

It has now come down to Conference Championship Weekend. Four teams with dreams and aspirations still alive to win the title. In these big games, the pressure will be heavy. The plays that are or are not made could go a long way in determining this one. And this is also one of the games where special players play their best or miss their opportunity. For these four teams, the time is now. There is no tomorrow. Without further ado, here is the General’s Proclamation for Conference Championship Weekend!

New England Patriots at Denver Broncos

  1. The Broncos’ defense was good enough to get it done last week versus a depleted and injured Pittsburgh offense. And good thing they were playing well because the Denver offense was decent at best. They were dropping passes right and left and the running game was inconsistent as it has been. In this one, the offense needs to be better. And with that being said, look for them to at least drop less passes in this game, led by wide receiver Demaryius Thomas, who will catch at least five passes for 80 yards and a touchdown, as he shakes off his big-game struggles.
  2. The Patriots looked like themselves offensively because of the return of wide receiver Julian Edelman. The veteran wide receiver can be seen regularly running patterns across the field, constantly getting open. In this game, look for him to have some fun. The Broncos are a team that plays a lot of man-to-man defense and crossing patterns are great for beating that coverage. Look for Edelman to get at least nine receptions for at least 120 yards and one touchdown.
  3. To counteract Tom Brady and his offense, the Broncos will need to mix things up. We all know that Denver Broncos defensive coordinator Wade Phillips does not like to mix up his coverages, but he may be forced to in this one. But no matter what defensive coverage he switches to on the backend, he must get pressure from his front seven. And with that being said, look for the Broncos to get home at least four times, with pass rush specialist DeMarcus Ware getting one that forces a turnover.
  4. Defensively for the Patriots, they will need their linebackers to be good in disguising coverages. If they are not, then that makes it easy for Peyton to figure out what is going on and then attack it (there will probably be tons of “Omaha” calls made). With that being said, look for the Patriots to get Peyton Manning at least once. And by getting him, I mean tricking him into an interception.
  5. Many have talked about this being a Manning vs Brady battle again. But this game is more than that and it speaks to the regression of Peyton Manning. The Broncos ran the ball almost 50% of the time with Peyton on the field and that is unheard of. In this one, they get the lead and force Peyton to have to throw to catch up. And in that situation, that is advantage Patriots. The Patriots win this game 27-17 and we will more than likely be saying goodbye to the Manning vs Brady matchups forever. The Pat

Arizona Cardinals at Carolina Panthers

  1. The Panthers started out strong last week against the Seattle Seahawks. They got out to a 31-0 lead and hung on for the win. A big part of that win was them running the football. It is the thing that gets their offense going. Arizona isn’t exactly the easiest team to run against, so this will be a challenge for them. A challenge that has to be answered first by running back Jonathan Stewart. Look for him to have at least 20 carries in this game and around 80 yards rushing with a touchdown.
  2. The Cardinals did not play their best game, but they were able to fight off a feisty Green Bay team in overtime. Carson Palmer did not play like the guy many thought was in the MVP race this year. And in this game against the Panthers, the Cardinals better hope he plays better than last game. In this game, look for him to be more responsible with the football. He will have only one interception in this game.
  3. The matchup of Panthers cornerback Josh Norman versus Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald will be fun to watch. Both play with an electricity and a passion for the game. And although one is more talkative than the other, they both get the job done. I expect Norman will not be on Fitzgerald all game due to the defensive alignment of the Panthers. But when both are matched up on each other, look for Larry to have only one or two receptions on him. Norman got victimized last week and I expect him to come out ready to go in this one. It’s the most important game he has played in.
  4. The one guy that makes a huge difference for this Cardinals defense is linebacker Deone Bucannon. He is an undersized linebacker, being that he was a safety to start the season. But he has played well and helped the Cardinals defense be solid if not spectacular this season. Look for him to get at least 8 tackles in this game as he flies all over the field. But the key thing to watch in this game is how he gets off blocks in the run game, which is huge for the Panthers.
  5. Both teams have running games and both offenses can be explosive in their own way. But the difference in this one will be the quarterback play. Both defenses will be stingy against the run sans a few good runs to make numbers look better. But for Carolina, having Cam Newton at quarterback will eliminate the bad plays and turn them into good gains on the ground and thru the air. The Panthers head to the Super Bowl on the strength of a 30-20 win. The Cardinals had a great run, but this is the end of it in Charlotte.

Both of these games will have some drama in them. And there will be some moments of doubt for both teams. But it’s about which team can overcome the bad plays and make the least mistakes. And with that being said, look for a Panthers/Patriots Super Bowl. The best two teams will be left standing.

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The Panthers Struggle To The Winner’s Circle Against The Seahawks

(photo courtesy of CBS Sports)

(photo courtesy of CBS Sports)

The matchup between the Seattle Seahawks and the Carolina Panthers was billed as one of the best of this past weekend. Both teams have physical defenses, run the football well and have dynamic quarterbacks. But only one of them could survive this weekend. Many were split on who would win this game. There were some that felt the Seahawks would get it done because of their experience and the way their offense can explode at any time. And there were others that felt the Panthers would win due to being at home, defense and the great play of quarterback Cam Newton. Well, it was a story of two halves in Charlotte Sunday as both teams showed us what they were made of. Carolina got off to a great start to the game and led 31-0 going into halftime. But the Seahawks came roaring back in the second half, getting as close as 31-24 with just a little over a minute left in the game. But in the end, the Seahawks just ran out of time and could not overcome the big lead Carolina got out to. And with that, the Carolina Panthers are in the conference championship and will be hosting the Arizona Cardinals next Sunday night. But the Panthers almost lost this one. Playing conservatively the second half almost cost them. So in moving forward, they must remember what they did to build the lead against the Seahawks going into next week.

The Panthers have a scary defense. Linebackers Luke Kuechly and Thomas Davis are the best tandem of linebackers in the NFL. But the key to this defense is definitely their front four. They were everywhere in the first half of the game. And the pressure they created helped the defense collect two interceptions, with Kuechly returning the first interception for a touchdown. Along with putting pressure on the quarterback, the Panthers defensive line also was able to get penetration against Seattle to stop the run in the first half. But in the second half, it seemed like their foot off the gas. With either the coaches getting conservative or the players getting tired, the pressure seemed to ease up on Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson. As a result, the Wilson started attacking the Carolina secondary relentlessly. In the second half, Wilson was able to get matchups that favored his wide receivers and mostly avoided Panthers cornerback Josh Norman (the last Seattle touchdown went to Jermaine Kearse as Josh Norman whiffed on knocking the pass down). The Panthers were still able to keep Seattle running back Marshawn Lynch under wraps, but Wilson began to figure the Carolina defense out. If the Carolina Panthers want to win next week in Arizona, they have to keep up the pressure. Of course they will probably mix up their blitzes more next week. But in this game, cornerbacks Cortland Finnegan and Robert McClain had some troubles because they relaxed a little as a unit. And if both Finnegan and McClain had some trouble in this game, then they will surely have trouble against the number one offense in the NFL and especially the wide receiver trio of John Brown, Michael Floyd and Larry Fitzgerald.

But the issues the Panthers had in the second half did not only stem from their defense. The Panthers came out aggressive offensively in the first half. The tone was set for Carolina when running back Jonathan Stewart ran for 59 yards on the opening play. The Panthers were running right at the Seahawks and there was nothing Seattle could do about it at all. And along with the running game working, Cam and the passing game were making plays as well. Cam’s passing was particularly solid in the first half of the game on third downs, going 3/4 on third-down throws. But in the second half, it seemed like all that aggression the Panthers had offensively had gone away. The Seahawks began to recognize the Panthers were playing conservatively and would not really take any chances on their defense. Cam completed two more third down conversions through the air for the game, but it seemed like the offense was struggling to the finish line. If they are to play like that against Arizona, then there will be some issues. Getting a lead on the Cardinals will not be enough because they are more explosive than the Seattle offense and have more weapons than them too. If Carolina is to win next week and advance to the Super Bowl, they have to keep their offensive aggression. That second half performance will not get it done.

Cam Newton and many of his teammates are in the conference championship game for the first time. And if they can take anything away from their game against the Seahawks, it’s that they must smell blood in the water. When you have a team down, you have to finish them off right then and there. If not, situations like Sunday can occur. The ante has now been upped and the competition is tougher. Can the Panthers respond to the challenge or was the regular season where their championship resided?

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The General’s NFL Proclamations-Divisional Round

(photo courtesy of Associated Press)

(photo courtesy of Associated Press)

The Wild Card Weekend was indeed wild. We had a missed kick to win the game, a team lose their cool down the stretch, a team pulled a no-show and one team that ran out of steam. And just when you thought it could not get any better, here come the Divisional Rounds of the playoffs. We have some great matchups. In the NFC, we have two rematches. In the AFC, there is one repeat matchup and there also the hottest team in the NFL going against a banged-up Patriots’ team. This weekend, you can look for some unpredictable and mind-boggling plays. Welcome to the General Proclamations for the Divisional Rounds.

Kansas City at New England

  1. Alex Smith was solid versus the Houston Texans last game and that was all because of tight end Travis Kelce. Eight of Smith’s seventeen completions went to Kelce last week. Look for the Patriots to make him a focus. And because of that, he will not have more than 4 receptions in this one and no more than 40 yards receiving with no touchdowns.
  2. For New England, Tom Brady has two weapons that are limping into this one. Both tight end Rob Gronkowski and wide receiver Julian Edelman are both questionable coming into this one. But that means another guy has to step up. Wide receiver Brandon LaFell has had drop issues, but he has an opportunity to step up and make some plays. With so much attention to Edelman and Gronkowski, look for LaFell to have at least 5 receptions for 80 yards and a touchdown.
  3. The Chiefs have a star in defensive back Marcus Peters. The rookie quickly struck fear in opposing teams with his propensity to make big plays. And in this one, he will definitely make one big play. Look for him to pick off Tom Brady in a crucial part of the game.
  4. The Patriots are the walking wounded in this game and the Chiefs are not doing much better. In this battle of attrition, look for the Patriots to survive by the skin of their teeth, 22-17.

Green Bay Packers at Arizona Cardinals

  1. The Packers were destroyed in Week 16 when they visited Arizona last time. Their offensive line was completely destroyed in the last game. In this one, it would be a logical conclusion to think Aaron Rodgers would be spending time looking up at the lights of University of Phoenix Stadium. But he will get sacked less in this game mainly because of the adjustments of Mike McCarthy. Look for the Cardinals to get to him, but only get to him roughly three times.
  2. The Packers also struggled defensively last time when they played the Cardinals. Their cornerbacks were exposed versus the wide array of weapons the Cardinals have on offense. Look for them to equip themselves better, but veteran wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald will still have himself a game. Look for Fitzgerald to have at least 6 receptions for 90 yards and a touchdown.
  3. The running game for both teams will be paramount. For the Cardinals, they have rookie David Johnson leading the charge. For the Packers, they have a tandem of Eddie Lacy and James Starks with wide receiver Randall Cobb sprinkled in there some. Needless to say, the running could be rough for both teams. Look for both team to not get over 100 yards rushing in this one.
  4. The Packers looked like they found their rhythm last week versus the Washington Redskins. But of course, the Cardinals are a different breed of defense than they faced last week. Look for a closer game, but the Packers will still taste defeat. Cardinals win 27-17.

Seattle Seahawks at Carolina Panthers

  1. The Seahawks offense was dormant for almost all the game last week versus the Vikings last week. The biggest thing that held them dormant was the lack of a consistent running game. With Marshawn Lynch apparently ready to go in this one, the threat of the running game increases and will help loosen things up for Russell Wilson. Look for him to throw for at least 250 yards and two touchdowns in this game. But don’t get too confident Russell and test Josh Norman. That would not end well.
  2. The Panthers have been relaxing, waiting to see who they were going to play. In playing the Seahawks, they face a team that is as physical as they are. And in that, the running game will be slowed down. Look for Cam Newton to supplement the running game with his running in this one, making plays out of no plays when Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett are bearing down on him. He will get at least 4 first downs with his feet in this one and run for at least 70 yards.
  3. Both defenses are aggressive, fast and physical. And both of them like to get to the quarterback. But sacking both of these quarterbacks is no easy task. Expect Russell and Cam to both be sacked only two times apiece. But of course the pressure will be on them both all game long.
  4. This one will be a physical ballgame with big plays made on both sides of the ball. But in the end, the Panthers will make more and behind the strength of Super Cam, the Panthers will march on to the Conference Championship Game, 23-17.

Pittsburgh Steelers at Denver Broncos

  1. The Steelers offense is the walking wounded coming into this one. Running back DeAngelo Williams will be sitting out a second game in the playoffs due to a foot injury. Wide receiver Antonio Brown is out, still recovering from a concussion suffered in last week’s win versus the Bengals. And quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is scheduled to play despite a couple injuries to his shoulder. But even in that, the Steelers still have weapons. Look for wide receiver Martavis Bryant to step up and be the man in this one. He will have at least one touchdown and have 100 yards receiving. He has accepted the challenge that Big Ben laid down for him to start the postseason. The Denver defense is tough, but Bryant can be a special player.
  2. The Broncos have decided to go with Peyton Manning at quarterback after the comeback he engineered in the season finale versus the San Diego Chargers in a relief role. It seems that people have hope that Peyton will lead this team to the win this week. But in this game, the running back tandem of Ronnie Hillman and CJ Anderson will be the barometer. Look for both to try and run the ball in this one, but not combine for over 100 yards rushing.
  3. The big matchup in this game for the Pittsburgh defense will be their secondary versus Emmanuel Sanders and Demaryius Thomas. But that matchup will not be decided by the wide receivers and secondary. The offensive line of the Broncos versus the Pittsburgh front seven will be the matchup to determine how the passing game attacks the Steelers. Look for the Steelers front seven to put some stress on the Denver offensive line. The Steelers will get at least three sacks in this one and cause some problems for Manning and his receiving threats.
  4. The Broncos are at home, but the Steelers are tough and battle-challenged. Roethlisberger is injured, but he seems to play better when he is injured, like Rocky used to fight better in his movies when he was getting pummeled. This one will come down to the wire, but the Broncos will succumb to the Steelers 20-17 in clutch fashion.

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The General’s NFL Proclamations-Week 17

(photo courtesy of Bleacher Report)

(photo courtesy of Bleacher Report)

The last week of the NFL season has finally arrived. There are some teams that are glad that it is finally here. At last some can put an end to a season that was a lot less successful than they thought it would be. There are some teams that are trying to get it together for the postseason. Whether some are still trying to get themselves into the postseason or others trying to better their position, the urgency has arrived as the seasons have changed. It should be interesting to see how the end of the year effects the play on the field. Will some coast into the playoffs or will they button down the hatches and bring it for the last week? We shall indeed see on Sunday but for now, here are the General’s NFL proclamations for Week 17.

New York Jets at Buffalo Bills

  1. The Jets are trying to ensure being in the playoffs, so expect them to play hard in this game. And with that being said, look for quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick and wide receiver Brandon Marshall to connect at least two times for touchdowns.
  2. The Bills have found their quarterback in Tyrod Taylor. And he will cement that he is their quarterback by throwing for a least one touchdown and 200 yards and running for one touchdown as well.
  3. The winner of this game will not score more than 24 points. Although the Jets may be capable of scoring over 24 points, the game will have some sloppy moments and that will slow down the pace of the game.

New England Patriots at Miami Dolphins

  1. The Patriots are playing for the first seed in the playoffs, but they will still be resting some guys here. With that being said, expect them to eventually take Tom Brady out of this game.
  2. The Dolphins have not met expectations them and their fans had this season. And one guy that did not play as well as they expected is big free-agent signing Ndamukong Suh. Look for him to do his usual thing, and that means taking plays off and just being a bystander in this one. He will do more watching than making plays in this game.
  3. The Patriots, although they will take players out of this game, will still put up points against the hapless Dolphins. But they will not do it in the way that most expect. Look for them to use the ground game to the tune of running for 200 yards on the Dolphins this weekend.

New Orleans Saints at Atlanta Falcons

  1. The rivalry is still there although both will be out of the playoffs this year. Expect at least three or four scuffles in this game. There is no love lost between these teams.
  2. The matchup between Matt Ryan (Falcons) and Drew Brees (Saints) are always good. And in this one, Brees comes in a little banged up. That nagging foot injury will harm him in this one as he throws at least two interceptions and looks less like the Drew Brees we know.
  3. The Falcons will finish the season with an offensive flurry. That flurry will definitely include wide receiver Julio Jones. Look for him to have at least 120 yards receiving and two touchdowns to cap off his spectacular season.

Detroit Lions at Chicago Bears

  1. The Bears are trying to finish the season strong after the bad start to the season. And if they are to finish this season off right, they must get good play from quarterback Jay Cutler. Look for him to get at least 250 yards passing and at least two passing touchdowns.
  2. The Lions will also be trying to finish the season off strong. And in doing so, they will follow their leader, quarterback Matthew Stafford. The veteran quarterback will be looking to cap off a solid finish and he will have at least 300 yards passing and one touchdown.
  3. Both teams will commit at least two turnovers. Both teams have been bad for a reason and that will show in this game.

Philadelphia Eagles at New York Giants

  1. The Eagles have not scored at the clip they wanted to this season. And in this game with rumors abound that Tom Coughlin will be retiring as head coach of the Giants, the scoring will be even tougher. The Eagles will not score over 17 points in this game.
  2. The Giants want to send out Tom Coughlin with a solid performance if this is his last time on the Giants’ sideline. With that being said, look for Odell Beckham Jr to make up for missed time and score not one but two touchdowns in this game.
  3. The Giants will score over 30 points in this game. They are due for a big game and the Eagles are ripe for the picking in this one.

Washington Redskins at Dallas Cowboys

  1. The Redskins have won the division and are going to the playoffs. But that doesn’t mean they don’t want to take it to the Cowboys. Look for quarterback Kirk Cousins to have at least two touchdown passes and throw for at least 250 yards.
  2. But not only will Cousins get it going, but so will wide receiver DeSean Jackson. Look for him to have at least three receptions for a total of at least 100 yards receiving and one touchdown.
  3. The Cowboys offense has been struggling. And most of that has to do with uneven quarterback play. Look for this game to continue the bad play offensively as the Cowboys will not score more than 16 points in this game.

Tennessee Titans at Indianapolis Colts

  1. The Indianapolis Colts will be starting Josh Freeman at quarterback. No that is not an early April Fool’s Day joke. The fact that he will be starting says something about the ability of the Colts’ offensive line to protect their quarterback. And in this one, Freeman will see what Matt Hasselbeck, Andrew Luck and Charlie Whitehurst saw. He will be sacked at least four times and will be lucky to escape this game unscathed.
  2. The Titans are not going to be the only one getting after the quarterback though. They have not exactly protected the quarterback well either. And with Mariota out, Zach Mettenberger will be sacked at least four times.
  3. Seeing that both quarterbacks will be under duress the entire game, look for this game to have no flow at all. And that means that there will be little scoring in this one. The first team to 20 will win this game.

Baltimore Ravens at Cincinnati Bengals

  1. The Ravens jumped up and beat the Pittsburgh Steelers last weekend at home. That win may have made the Ravens look good, but it also caught the attention of the Bengals. Look for Cincinnati to come out focused and that means they will be putting up at least 35 points in this game.
  2. In those 35+ points, look for the Bengals to raid through the air. That means AJ Green will be having a good time toasting the Ravens’ secondary. Look for him to get at least 140 yards receiving with two touchdown catches.
  3. The Ravens will have at least one highlight in this one and that will be Kamar Aiken. The young Ravens receiver needs 132 yards to get his first 1,000 yard season receiving. Look for him to get that in this game, as the Ravens will be playing from behind all game long and having to pass the football.

Pittsburgh Steelers at Cleveland Browns

  1. The Steelers’ offense looked asleep at the wheel last weekend and they lost the game they needed badly. Although it may be too little too late, the Steelers offense will come out and follow the lead of their leader, Ben Roethlisberger. The veteran quarterback will throw for 300 yards and three touchdowns.
  2. The Browns will be starting backup Austin Davis in this game versus the Steelers. And for a defense needing a break, they just got one. Davis will throw at least two interceptions in this game versus a defense that has struggled this season.
  3. The Steelers will put up at least 30 points in this one. Even though it may not even matter in terms of their playoff hopes, this game will help get the bad taste out of the Steelers’ mouths after last week’s game.

Jacksonville Jaguars at Houston Texans

  1. The Texans have come back from the dead to push towards the playoffs. To cement it, they need a good win versus the Jaguars. And that all comes down to the defense and how they play. Look for the Texans, behind JJ Watt, to get at least two sacks and one interception in this game.
  2. The Jaguars have been explosive in the passing game. And knowing the situation that awaits them, expect them to try and play the role of spoiler in this one. Look for Blake Bortles and Allen Robinson to connect on two huge plays of more than 30+ yards.
  3. The Texans will have multiple running backs touch the football in this one. Look for them to have at least two of those running backs score touchdowns in this game.

Oakland Raiders at Kansas City Chiefs

  1. The Raiders have been dangerous offensively this year. But in this one, the only danger will be Carr throwing interceptions in the direction of defensive back Marcus Peters. The opportunistic defensive back will get at least two interceptions in this game, as he continues his ball-hawking ways.
  2. The Chiefs have been impressive offensively over the last couple of months. And in this one, look for them to take advantage of the Raiders secondary (minus Charles Woodson of course). Jeremy Maclin will have at least 100 yards receiving and one touchdown. He has been everything they have needed in Kansas City this season.
  3. The Chiefs will score at least 30+ points in this game. The Raiders have gotten better, but this game they are running into a Chiefs team that is looking to finish strong.

San Diego Chargers at Denver Broncos

  1. The Broncos clinched their playoff berth last week, but they still have work to do. Winning this game could help them, so expect them to come out with energy on both sides of the ball. And being that the Chargers have had protection issues all season, look for the Denver defense to tee off on the Chargers offense. With that being said, the Chargers will probably be giving up at least 4 sacks in this game to Denver.
  2. Denver offensively got on track last game. This time, they started slow and ended fast. That trend will more than likely continue this week, as Brock Osweiler will finish with two second-half touchdown passes in this one versus the Chargers.
  3. The Broncos will not only terrorize Phillip Rivers by sacking him, but they will make him pay for errant throws. Look for the Broncos to take one of Rivers’ mistakes back to the house for a touchdown.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Carolina Panthers

  1. The Carolina Panthers took their first loss last weekend and many came down on them. Well, this week will show that it only thickened their resolve. The Carolina Panthers will come out and score at least 28 points this week as they recover offensively from one of their worst games of the season.
  2. The Bucs have been up and down all year long. But in this one, the stock will be pointing down. The Panthers will be fired up defensively and that will lead to the Bucs committing at least three turnovers in this game.
  3. The Bucs will not score over 10 points in this game. It may be the end of the year for the Panthers, but they will be fired up.

Seattle Seahawks at Arizona Cardinals

  1. The Seahawks and Cardinals will both be in the playoffs. Expect some players to make early exits because both are already in the playoffs.
  2. The Cardinals will not score more than 24 points in this game. The Seahawks will be as aggressive as they always are, but they will start shutting it down and that will change the outlook of this game.
  3. The Seahawks need to see what they have in their running game. And after this one, they will be glad to have Marshawn Lynch coming back next weekend. Christine Michael will not do much in this game. He will have only around 30 yards rushing and will not score a touchdown.

St. Louis Rams at San Francisco 49ers

  1. The Rams had a big win versus the Seahawks in Seattle last weekend. And in this one, they will try to finish the season strong. Look for them to come out and put it to the 49ers to start the game. The Rams will score at least 20 points in the first half in Santa Clara.
  2. The 49ers will be trying to finish the season strong as well. And the main guy that will be trying to leave a lasting impression is quarterback Blaine Gabbert. Look for him to come out and throw for 200+ yards and one touchdown along with one interception.
  3. The Rams and 49ers will have at least one scrum in this one. Both teams are physical and that can end up spilling over beyond the whistle too.

Minnesota Vikings at Green Bay Packers

  1. The Packers and Vikings will be playing for the NFC North title. With that being said, look for Aaron Rodgers to get it going to the tune of 300 yards passing and 3 touchdown passes.
  2. The Vikings have been playing well, but there is always the legend of Lambeau that happens to get teams. And in this one, the Vikings will come out offensively and not play to their standards. Look for the offense to score under 17 points.
  3. The Vikings and Packers will both give up at least three sacks in this game. Both defensive front sevens will have a good time trying to make things happen in this one.

The season ends on all these division games. The intensity will be high in a lot of them, but in some there will be no energy at all. The end of the season is finally here and the postseason is now coming up quickly.

For more sports talk, feel free to follow me on Twitter or check me out on Facebook.

16 Bold Predictions For 2016

(photo courtesy of Ed Szczepanski-USA TODAY Sports)

(photo courtesy of Ed Szczepanski-USA TODAY Sports)

A new year is upon us and there will be many great sports events that will happen. Some will be expected like the Super Bowl, college football championship game and the college basketball national championship game. But there are also things that happen that catch us all off guard. It’s easy to predict things that will happen, but it is not as easy to predict the unpredictable events that can happen. But with that being said, let me take my shot at it. Without further ado, here are my 16 predictions for 2016

  1. The Alabama Crimson Tide will win the National title

Clemson is a worthy opponent for Alabama in the National Title game. They are solid in each facet of the game and can make some explosive plays. But versus Alabama, the game will be won or lost in the trenches. Alabama is a physical football team and they have dominated teams up front for majority of the season. Clemson is a physical bunch as well and they will not wilt when facing the Crimson Tide. But eventually the physical play and the explosiveness of the Alabama front seven will get to the Tigers.

  1. The Golden State Warriors will not win the NBA title this season

The Warriors are again having a great season. And of course they will be a factor in the West this year. But let’s not forget that there are some other teams that can get it going and potentially knock them off. Teams like the Oklahoma City Thunder and the San Antonio Spurs are talented enough to give the Warriors fits. And this season, one of those teams jumps up and gets the job done, ending the Warriors’ season prematurely.

  1. Kentucky, North Carolina and Duke will not make the NCAA Final Four this year

All three teams are very deep and talented. But in this year’s college basketball, each team has some flaws going with them. Of course North Carolina is the most talented of them all and they are shooting the basketball well this year. But eventually the shooting will fall back to earth and they will have to win a game with defense. That will be where they fall. As far as Kentucky, they have been pushed around more in the post than usual. And even though they are talented, that shortcoming will leave them hamstrung in March. And as far as Duke, they may have their tough guy, forward Amile Jefferson, back before the season is over. But they still don’t have enough scoring from inside that will scare someone. And that will be something that eventually catches up to them.

  1. The Chicago Cubs will win the World Series

This past year, the Cubs went further than anyone thought they would. And heading into this season, the expectations are they will go even further. Some may wilt under those type of goals, but this team may just thrive under them. And with the additions they have made this offseason, the Cubs will finally make it back to the World Series and will win one, breaking the supposed curse that was placed upon them.

  1. The Carolina Panthers will win the Super Bowl

Quarterback Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers are sitting on top of the football world right now, sporting the best record in the NFL at 14-1. But that is not the ultimate goal for them. The thing that they are striving to get is the Lombardi Trophy. And for the Panthers, plenty keep speaking on all the reasons this team cannot win the Lombardi Trophy. Well, Cam and the boys have been listening and they will use that as extra motivation to go to the first Super Bowl for Carolina since 2003. And instead of coming up short like they did against the Patriots the last time they were there, the Panthers will seize the day and win their first Lombardi Trophy.

  1. Steph Curry will win another MVP

Curry was in another world last year. He averaged 24 points per game and eight assists last season while locking up the MVP trophy. And just when it was thought he could not get any better, he shows up this season and is putting up better shooting, scoring and rebounding numbers across the board. He has gone from another world to another stratosphere and there is no doubting that he is the best player in the NBA right now. And with the record the Warriors are currently sporting, he will be the MVP again. As much as some want to give this award to LeBron, it just will not happen again.

  1. The Philadelphia 76ers will swing and miss in the Ben Simmons sweepstakes

The talk around Philly is they are in tank mode once again. And the object of their affection this year seems to be LSU forward Ben Simmons. The Australian forward can do everything on the floor and that combination of size and skill has every NFL scout hoping Christmas comes in June for them. It would seem the perfect storm would have Philly getting the first overall pick this year in the draft. But unfortunately, it will not be for them this year either. The 76ers will get the second or third pick, not the first. And with that, they can kiss goodbye to Ben Simmons ever wearing a Philadelphia uniform.

  1. The Jacksonville Jaguars will make the playoffs next season

Head coach Gus Bradley is building something in Jacksonville. He has a quarterback in place in Blake Bortles, a reliable tight end in Julius Thomas, two young receivers that are making it happen in Allen Hurns and Allen Robinson and running back TJ Yeldon. Defensively, the Jags have taken a step forward this year and will more than likely add a pass rusher next season. That combination of things along with the state of the AFC South could have them either winning the division or making the playoffs as a wildcard.

  1. The Oakland Raiders will make the playoffs next season

The team showed growth this season. Derek Carr showed even more improvement this season. And with the weapons he has offensively, the offense should do nothing but get better next season. And defensively, they have a standout player in Khalil Mack. If they are able to add more defensive backfield help, this team will definitely be ready to make the playoffs next year. The Silver and Black will be back next year.

  1. DeMarcus Cousins will not be a member of the Sacramento Kings

DeMarcus is a very talented player. Unfortunately, he has not been able to wrangle his temper on the court. And with the surroundings in the city of Sacramento, it may not be the place for him to have success and mature as a player. So with that being said, Cousins will be out of Sacramento this offseason. Boston would be one place that has assets to trade for him. But there will be plenty that will be vying for his services. Only time will tell, but he will be playing in another city come next basketball season.

  1. Kevin Durant will re-sign with the Oklahoma City Thunder

Much has been said of where Durant will land next year. There have been rumors floated out there of him landing in everywhere from Golden State to Washington next year. But in the end, the prevailing thought is he will end up staying in Oklahoma City. The chemistry he and Westbrook have is something that he will not find anywhere else. And if they can get some consistent scoring from a third option, then this team will be able to make that magical run like they did when they met LeBron’s Miami team in the NBA Finals.

  1. Peyton Manning will not retire.

It was looking like he would be done at the end of the season last year. But instead of doing so, he decided to come back this season. Needless to say, this has not been the most memorable of seasons for him as a starter this year. And despite the thoughts that he will be retiring at the end of the season (and by looking at him right now, he should), he will more than likely try to play yet another season in the NFL. The question now is where he will play because it surely won’t be in Denver next year.

  1. Hue Jackson and Teryl Austin will get head coaching jobs this offseason in the NFL

Both have been excellent coordinators and Jackson never really got a shot when he was in Oakland. Jackson has been very solid as the offensive coordinator in Cincinnati and Austin has been excellent as the defensive coordinator in Detroit. Both are definitely qualified and you are hearing their names mentioned over and over again in coaching searches. It will only be a matter of time before both become head coaches. And this offseason is the perfect time for both to become head coaches in the NFL.

  1. Luke Walton will be named the next head coach of the Los Angeles Lakers

Unexpectedly, Luke Walton has been the interim head coach of the Golden State Warriors. Some may have expected the Warriors to not do so well without their leader, but Walton has led the team very well in his absence. And he has done so well that he will garner some head coaching looks around the NBA. One place that will be looking for a head coach soon will be the Los Angeles Lakers. With his experience with the organization as a player and his familiarity with the team, he would be a perfect fit for them and their young team.

  1. The Kansas City Royals will not make the playoffs this upcoming season

I know this is something that Kansas City fans will not want to hear, but it could definitely happen. The Royals just won the title, so there is always that moment of relaxation knowing you have achieved your goal. And the Royals will be fighting that all season long as they try to repeat as champions. Unfortunately, they will not be able to overcome that as they miss the playoffs this upcoming season.

  1. Fans will continue to show no chill on social media

As time has gone on, keyboard courage has grown more and more amongst fans of sports. You can see on social media all the people that continue to call people out knowing they will never meet them in real life. Unfortunately, this is not going anywhere and there will be more of it to come. A thing I have proposed is that things would change if people had to attach their employer to the things that they say. I bet the fear of losing their job would change the things that people say.

The new year brings some new things and also some new happenings as well. It will be interesting to see if these sixteen things happen or if these thoughts going flying in the wind.

For more sports talk, feel free to follow me on Twitter or check me out on Facebook.

The General’s Christmas Gifts To NFL Teams

(photo courtesy of Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

(photo courtesy of Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

It’s Christmas time and kids around the world are unwrapping gifts from under their Christmas tree. Some got gifts they were hoping for while others got unexpected surprises. All in all, the gift of giving was in full swing. In that spirit, every NFL team is in need of something. So why not gift them a few things that they need? Here is the list of gifts the General would give to NFL teams going into the end of the regular season.

Arizona Cardinals-A healthy Tyrann Matheiu

The Cardinals are a dangerous team heading into the playoffs. They have multiple weapons on offense and their defense can put pressure on you from all angles. Unequivocally, their best playmaker was defensive back Tyrann Matheiu. But unfortunately, the third-year defensive back tore his ACL in the fourth quarter against the Philadelphia Eagles. The Cardinals are a still a threat to win the NFC, but that threat is less without Matheiu. If only they could be gifted a healthy playmaker like him at this time.

Atlanta Falcons- Better decision-making for Matt Ryan

Matt Ryan has always been said to be one of the great young quarterbacks in the NFL. But this year, he has definitely struggled. He is near the top in interceptions thrown in the NFL and he has just been off ever since the hot start by Atlanta. If he had some better decision-making, then maybe the Falcons win some of those games instead of taking a loss.

Baltimore Ravens- Health

The Ravens have struggled this season. They have also been hit with key injury after key injury. They have lost their top pass-rusher, wide receiver, quarterback and running back this season. Not many teams can overcome that one. Maybe they would have been better with some of their key pieces healthy. But all of that is pure speculation at this point.

Buffalo Bills- Some consistency

The Buffalo Bills are definitely a talented team. But their issue is they show up inconsistently. If they were a solid team, they would have been in the playoffs at this point. But instead, they are on the outside looking in. The key word is consistency with them and they have yet to find it all season long.

Carolina Panthers- A healthy Kelvin Benjamin

The Carolina Panthers have had a storybook season so far. They have won scoring a ton of points and won scoring very little. It just seems like they have the “it” factor. Cam Newton has stepped up as a passer and that is huge for Carolina. But he would probably much rather be throwing the football to Kelvin Benjamin than Ted Ginn Jr. The speedy veteran is having a career year, but he still has questionable hands and Benjamin was the closest thing they had to a sure thing at that position. Hopefully that does not catch up to them in the playoffs.

Chicago Bears- More defensive playmakers

Looking at the Bears, they are not badly set up offensively. Jay Cutler has not played bad this year for the Bears and Alshon Jeffrey has been solid this season. But on the defensive side of the ball, there are not many playmakers there. Besides Darnell McPhee, not many playmakers you can speak of there. Hopefully for them, they are able to bring in some defensive playmakers this offseason. They need them sorely.

Cincinnati Bengals-A postseason win for Marvin Lewis

The Bengals have been great in the regular season for a while now. That used to be something that could never be uttered ever. But now, the Bengals are a perennial participant in the playoffs. Making the playoffs is not enough anymore for the Bengals, as they have lost every playoff game they have had since Lewis has taken over there. For him, it is imperative that they get a win in the playoffs soon. If he doesn’t, he could potentially get the ax.

Cleveland Browns- A moment of clarity

The Browns have not been relevant ever since they reappeared in the NFL in 1999. And the most recent edition is a group that is much in disarray. It seems the front office and the coaching staff cannot ever get on the same page. So for them, a moment of clarity is needed. Maybe with that moment can come some people that actually can be on the same page and build that organization. If that moment never comes, they will continue to be known as “The Mistake By The Lake”.

Dallas Cowboys- A healthy Tony Romo

The Cowboys seemed like they never could get it going this season offensively. They had star wide receiver Dez Bryant get injured early and quarterback Tony Romo was injured early also. He meant a lot to that team because they have only won one game since he has been injured. The Cowboys are now on their fourth quarterback and they would do anything to have their star QB back. Alas, the Cowboys will go from division champs to potentially the cellar dwellers in their division in one year.

Denver Broncos- Consistency offensively

The Denver Broncos were one of the most potent offenses in the NFL last season. They could get it done whether it be Peyton Manning throwing touchdown passes or their running attack chewing up yardage. But John Fox and his coaching staff were let go after the season in favor of former Houston Texans head coach Gary Kubiak. Ever since he has been there, he has changed the offense and not for the better unfortunately. The offense has not been consistently firing on all cylinders all year and if it were not for their defense, the Broncos would be in trouble. And no matter if it were Peyton Manning or Brock Osweiler, there is just that learning curve that it takes to get comfortable in a new offense. Maybe Denver will get consistent one of these days offensively.

Detroit Lions- Some sense of direction

The Detroit Lions had a tumultuous start to the season. They lost six straight games and then there was a shakeup in their coaching staff and their front office. In all that, the Lions have played better since the changes have happened. But honestly, this franchise has no direction at this present time. Maybe with the next hires in their front office and coaching staff they will find some direction and be able to move forward.

Green Bay Packers- A consistent offensive line

The Green Bay Packers have had their issues offensively this year. Some would pin those issues on the loss of wide receiver Jordy Nelson. But their issues are much deeper than the loss of a veteran wide receiver. The offensive line has not been what it usually is. You can consistently see quarterback Aaron Rodgers running around trying to make plays while avoiding defensive players coming for him. A quarterback like Rodgers deserves to have someone consistently block for him. And if the line could block more consistently and the running game show up every week, the Packers may be a more consistent team.

Houston Texans- A consistent defensive playmaker opposite of JJ Watt

The Houston Texans are sitting in first place and much of the credit (at least defensively) should go to JJ Watt. He has fought through all kinds of things to still have an impact on the game. But the thing that is amazing is he has had no consistent threat opposite him most of his career. If they could only find someone to consistently be a threat along the defensive line with Watt, the defense would be even better than they are right now.

Indianapolis Colts- Offensive line help

The Colts have paid many people along their offense. They brought in veteran wide receiver Andre Johnson and running back Frank Gore. They even gave an extension to wide receiver TY Hilton. But they have never really addressed their offensive line. And because of that, they now sit with two banged up quarterbacks and an offense that has been very inconsistent. Maybe they should look at the guys up front when it comes to spending money next offseason.

Jacksonville Jaguars- A defensive pass rush

The Jacksonville Jaguars have made some strides this season. Their young players have stepped up. Allen Robinson has become the receiver they thought he would. Allen Hurns has been excellent in his first two years. And quarterback Blake Bortles has taken a giant step forward. Defensively, they have the pieces, but they are missing one crucial element. The Jaguars need a consistent pass rusher that strikes fear in the opponent. Maybe this offseason, they will be blessed with one.

Kansas City Chiefs- Another wide receiver

The Kansas City Chiefs were known as a team that ignored their wide receivers when it came to the endzone in 2014. Last year they did not have one touchdown to their wide receiver. Coming into this season, they acquired wide receiver Jeremy Maclin from the Eagles to bolster that wide receiver corp. Maclin has done well for Kansas City. But for the Chiefs to get better, they need another wide receiver to expand their offense. If they are able to find that playmaker opposite Maclin, then watch out for what Andy Reid can do with them.

Miami Dolphins- A redo on the Ndamukong Suh contract

Let’s be honest. Ndamukong Suh has not had the impact that he was thought to have when he signed that megadeal in Miami. He has been seen loafing on plays and there have been reports that he has “gone rogue” a few times on the field. I don’t know what the Dolphins thought was going to happen when they signed him, but they have been utterly disappointed and are wishing they had a warranty on Suh so they could trade him in.

Minnesota Vikings-Another playmaking wide receiver

The Vikings have started to make strides towards getting it back on track there. They got Adrian Peterson back and he returned to form. But unfortunately for them, their wide receivers have not panned out like they thought. The trade for Mike Wallace was not as profitable as they thought and rookie Stephon Diggs has turned out to be their best playmaker. The team obviously needs another guy there to help Teddy Bridgewater and that passing game. If they get that added weapon, then the Vikings could be even better offensively.

New England Patriots-Health

The Patriots are always a perennial title contender. But this year, the team has had some health issues. Julian Edelman is currently out injured (although he is practicing now) and running back LaGarrette Blount is out for the year with a hip injury, joining third-down back Dion Lewis (torn ACL) on injured reserve. If the Pats were fully healthy, the team would probably still be undefeated and even more dangerous. But now they are not as dangerous offensively and they need some players to step up.

New Orleans Saints- A redo on Brandon Browner’s contract

The New Orleans Saints have not exactly been where they thought they would have been this season. The team has struggled and they will not be making the playoffs again. One piece that was supposed to make them better was cornerback Brandon Browner. He was brought in from New England to bolster their secondary, but he has nothing but create drama. The veteran corner set a record for most penalties in a season this year and has been a disruption for the team. If only the Saints could have seen the future before they signed him.

New York Giants- Holding on to leads

The New York Giants appear to be heading to another season sitting at home instead of being in the playoffs. They had a bunch of chances to make the situation better for themselves, but they just could not close the deal. If the Giants just could have held on to the leads they had in fourth quarters this season, they would be talking playoffs right now. But instead, they invented ways to lose in football’s most important quarter.

New York Jets- A redo of the Eagles game

The Jets are in the playoff race this year and could make the playoffs. And when you’re in that situation, there is always the thought of what games got away from you. The one that got away from the Jets was the game versus the Eagles earlier this season. They just seemed to be not in the game and when they tried to make a comeback, it was too late and the Eagles had the game at hand. If they had won that game, they would not be in the predicament they are in right now, scratching and clawing for a playoff spot.

Oakland Raiders- Defensive backs

The Oakland Raiders are trying to get it right. The progress is there. Khalil Mack is a wrecking ball defensively and the offense has definitely got the right pieces, led by quarterback Derek Carr. But as far as defensive backs, the Raiders need help there. Safety Charles Woodson was the lynchpin back there and took care of a lot of mistakes that were made. But he is retiring after this season and they will need someone to replace him. Along with that, the pieces they have there are not ones that prove to be a solid secondary. The Raiders may be shopping for cornerbacks this offseason.

Philadelphia Eagles-redo on the contracts of DeMarco Murray and Byron Maxwell

The Philadelphia Eagles have plenty of issues going on that have affected their season. Two of them happen to be players they brought in to make them better. Byron Maxwell was paid handsomely to be their shutdown corner. He has proven not to be that shutdown corner. And although he has had some good moments, he has had others that make you wonder whether it was him or the Seattle defensive scheme. Offensively, Murray never fit the offense that Chip Kelly ran and it showed. He is more of a North/South runner in a scheme that does not cater to that at all. If they could have saw the future, they surely would have avoided these two in free agency.

Pittsburgh Steelers- Late-game adjustments and decisions

The Steelers have a high-octane offense and they have a defense that is growing with each week. But unfortunately, some of the adjustments and calls down the stretch from the coaching staff leave things to be desired. For example, the Steelers had the game won versus the Denver Broncos when offensive coordinator Todd Haley inexplicably called a pass play that was intercepted by the Broncos’ Brandon Marshall. Denver ultimately lost the game and could not capitalize on the gift, but these sort of gaffes and inexplicable coaching decision have happened a lot this year. If the Steelers could clean these decision up and continue to grow as a team, they would give some team fits come playoff times.

San Diego Chargers-A resolution to the stadium issues

It seems like the Chargers and the city of San Diego have been fighting over a new stadium for decades at this point. News is out that the team may be moving to Los Angeles with them getting the new stadium that they craved so much. The move still has to be voted on by the owners in Houston in January, but it seems like the stadium questions may finally be coming to an end for the Chargers and the city.

San Francisco 49ers- An end to the nightmare

The San Francisco 49ers season has been painful. They lost a few players to retirement and others to free agency. And all the while, the team did not really replace those players who left. And this season has some remembering the days when Mike Nolan and Mike Singletary were coaching the team. It is an endless nightmare that seems to have no end in sight currently. For the sake of the 49ers and their fans, they are hoping it ends soon.

Seattle Seahawks- a rebirth of the Legion Of Boom

The Seahawks are soaring right now and their offense is the one leading the way. Russell Wilson is playing at a level he has never played at before. However, the secondary needs to get it together like they have in years past. There have been some breakdowns that normally did not happen in past years. If they can get that together for the playoffs, then all is well. But that has to be alarming though. And it has to be fixed when crunch time comes around.

St. Louis Rams- Consistent quarterback play

The Rams thought they solved their quarterback issues when they traded for Nick Foles from the Eagles. But unfortunately, he has not been what they thought he would be and has been benched in favor of Case Keenum. But let’s not be fooled here, Keenum is not the answer either. If this team had a solid quarterback to depend on, then they would be ready to take the next step. Until then, they will continue to be pretenders.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers- Consistent pass rush

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have made some improvements this season. The offense has become more solid and the running game has gotten better. Defensively, they have had games where they have looked solid and others where they have been missing in action. One thing that would make them more solid is a consistent pass rush. If they are able to add that and maybe more cornerback help, then the progression of this team can continue.

Tennessee Titans- Offensive line help

The Titans drafted quarterback Marcus Mariota with their first round pick this season and he made some headway as a starter. But he also was taking a lot of hits this season behind a makeshift offensive line. In order to protect their investment, the Titans need to invest in the offensive line and that starts in the offseason and in the draft. Once they do that, then maybe the offense will get better.

Washington Redskins- Defensive pressure

The Redskins have been surprisingly good this season. Many did not expect this, including me. But they are in control of their own destiny. If they continue to win, then they will be in the playoffs. But one thing they have overcome this season is consistent pressure up front. If they had that this season, they would be better. But going forward, that would be an investment worth making for them.

Merry Christmas to all and hopefully your NFL teams accept the gifts that await them. They sure could use them.

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