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Thursday, 17 December 2015

NFL Week 14 Recap 2015 (December 16th)

With the Play Offs just three weeks from being put together, the remainder of 2015 is going to bring up some really important games as teams and Head Coaches try and make sure their team is involved in the post-season.

Failing to do that automatically leaves Coaches on the hot seat and there are likely a number of vacancies that will need to be filled in the early part of 2016.

Some don't have to worry about that as the likes of the Carolina Panthers, New England Patriots and Arizona Cardinals have all made sure they are amongst the last twelve teams standing in January. This week we will likely see a couple more teams added to the mix, while others are drinking in the last chance saloon as they try and give themselves a shot to make the post-season.


Andy Dalton's Injury May Cost the Cincinnati Bengals
You have to always use words like 'may' and 'might' in circumstances like this, but it would take a brave individual to suggest the Cincinnati Bengals are still a Super Bowl contender with Andy Dalton likely sidelined the rest of the way.

I won't criticise a Quarter Back that is willing to make a tackle when throwing an Interception, but Andy Dalton and the entire Cincinnati Bengals staff, owners and fans must have hoped he had decided against doing that in Week 14.

It was a decision that saw him fracture his thumb, but likely fracture Cincinnati's post-season ambitions. Dalton might not have won a Play Off game yet, but the Bengals were on course for a First Round bye in the Play Offs and he is arguably playing the best of his career so every chance he would have snapped his negative record in the post-season.

Now the keys are turned over to AJ McCarron who has led the Alabama Crimson Tide to a couple of National Championships. There is no shortage of confidence in the McCarron camp who effectively compared himself to Tom Brady after the game against the Pittsburgh Steelers, but his actual performance was a little up and down and that inconsistency is not going to cut it in the Play Offs.

It's just hard to say this injury to Dalton isn't anything but a huge blow to Cincinnati and likely to extend their wait for a Play Off spot. I wasn't a huge fan of McCarron at Alabama either so I remain extremely unconvinced he has what it takes to be an effective NFL starting Quarter Back and the last three games of the regular season are huge for him to prove anything different and try to lead the Bengals into a First Round bye.


Jacksonville Jaguars Have an Offense Capable of Big Things, Now they Need the Defensive Pieces
For the last couple of years the Jacksonville Jaguars have looked an improving team, but the last couple of weeks have shown that the Offense is perhaps ready to take off.

Blake Bortles, Allen Hurns, Allen Robinson, Julius Thomas and TY Yeldon are young and effective and Jacksonville showed it all off by hanging 50 on Indianapolis this past week.

This is where the pressure begins to build on Gus Bradley as Head Coach, especially next season.

Bradley came over from Seattle where he had the Defensive Co-Ordinator role until 2012 but the Jacksonville Defensive unit is still a work in progress. They have to get better there if this team is to begin to challenge for the AFC South crown and perhaps get back into the Play Offs and the pressure will be on Bradley to get the answers so they can match what the Offense will give to them.

If the Jaguars fail because the Secondary keeps giving up too many big plays, I do think Bradley will be on the hot seat next season, but for now there is a lot of positives at Jacksonville for the fans to look forward to.

And they are also not quite out of the AFC South race this season too!!


Chuck Pagano and the Indianapolis Colts Will Part Way No Matter How the Season Ends
It was a bizarre Press Conference that Chuck Pagano held on Monday and his quotes makes it clear that he knows his time as Indianapolis Colts Head Coach is coming to an end.

This has been rumoured for much of the season thanks to a discord between him and the General Manager and looks to be the outcome even if the Colts were to win the Super Bowl.

It is quite sad that the relationship looks set to end that way as Pagano has done a good job with this Colts team that had been left in a poor spot when he took over. Yes he had Andrew Luck, but the Colts have looked improved the last couple of years and this year looked to be a genuine Super Bowl contender.

Unfortunately they haven't looked that good all season and even winning the poor AFC South isn't enough to paper over those cracks. Many had the Colts as a potential top two Seed in the AFC, but Luck didn't look right even before his injuries and the Defensive unit has been poor for the most part.

Next week is a huge game to see if the Colts will even be playing in the Play Offs as their grip on the AFC South looks tenuous to say the least, although I am not going to be watching a Charlie Whitehurst vs TJ Yates Quarter Back match up any time soon.


Khalil Mack is Going to be a Disruptive Force in the NFL for Years to Come
For the first time in his career, Peyton Manning must have been pleased he was unable to go for a Football game.

If Manning is banged up now, I have no idea what Khalil Mack would have done to him this past week.

Instead it was Brock Osweiler who took five Sacks from Mack alone as the second year player absolutely destroyed the Denver Offensive Line no matter which side of the Offensive Line he lined up.

Mack looked unbelievable and you can understand why so many Linemen described him as their biggest challenge after his ROOKIE season at the end of last season. He looks like a player that wants to make the best of all he has and Mack could be someone that is a future multiple time Defensive Player of the Year.

It was thanks to him that Oakland managed to come back and beat Denver in Week 14 on the road and his is going to be an integral pieced of this Defense for years to come.

With Derek Carr and Amari Cooper on the Offensive side and Mack on the Defensive side, Oakland have a bright future even if that might not be as the 'Oakland' Raiders.


Biggest Wild Card Threat- Seattle Seahawks or Pittsburgh Steelers?
Back in October when the NFL had a couple of their 'fan days' arranged in the UK, I began to mention the Pittsburgh Steelers as a legitimate Super Bowl contender and arguably the best team in the AFC.

As long as Big Ben could stay healthy.

Of course Ben Roethlisberger is battling through his injuries but the Steelers did lose Le'Veon Bell in that time, although the team is continuing to roll and now looks a real dark horse.

The problem for Pittsburgh is they need to win out and hope the Cincinnati Bengals, Kansas City Chiefs or the New York Jets slip up. I definitely see the Jets failing to win all three games, but the point is that Pittsburgh have work to do if they are to get into the Play Offs.

If they do, the Steelers would be my answer to the question I have posed, but right now I have to go with the Seattle Seahawks.

The Seahawks are almost guaranteed of reaching the Play Offs via a Wild Card spot and not many teams are playing better than them right now. Russell Wilson looks very comfortable, the Defensive unit have upped their game and Seattle have the experience of back to back Super Bowl appearances which you just can't buy.

I have little doubt they finish Number 5 Seed in the NFC which means a road game against the NFC East winner and who would back against the Seahawks there? Things then become more haphazard with teams like Carolina and Arizona in the top two positions (remember both have won AT Seattle this season), but that is when the experience Seattle have can make a big difference.

Seattle tend to get hot in December since Wilson took over as Quarter Back and they are a real threat to get to a third consecutive Super Bowl on their current form. However, my only concern would be that they have picked up momentum a little too early and Seattle escaped a couple of fortunate bounces to win through the Play Offs the last couple of years.

Of course you need that luck, so Seattle are the answer to the question I posed right now... But if Pittsburgh make the Play Offs, I don't think anyone stops them from reaching the Super Bowl and perhaps winning a second one for Mike Tomlin and third for Ben Roethlisberger.



Top Ten

1) Carolina Panther (13-0): Home field is almost secured and this looks to be the best team in the NFL, but plenty of big challenges await.

2) Arizona Cardinals (11-2): I love what Carson Palmer and the Arizona Cardinals have done this season, but I have a couple of concerns about their Defensive pass rush that might be exposed later in the season.

3) New England Patriots (11-2): They will likely win the Number 1 Seed in the AFC and perhaps are getting a little healthier Offensively, although Defensively they are picking up more health issues.

4) Denver Broncos (10-3): The Defensive unit is capable of leading the Denver Broncos all the way to the Super Bowl, but Quarter Back and Receivers have to get on the same page.

5) Pittsburgh Steelers (8-5): I honestly think if this team gets into the Play Offs, they are going to be very difficult to stop getting all the way to Super Bowl 50.

6) Seattle Seahawks (8-5): Very few teams have more experience than this Seattle team at going all the way to the Super Bowl and an extremely hot and dangerous Wild Card.

7) Green Bay Packers (9-4): If Eddie Lacy and James Starks can spark the running game, this team is going to be very strong in the Play Offs.

8) Kansas City Chiefs (8-5): Aside from the Carolina Panthers, no team is on a better winning run than the Kansas City Chiefs. Earning the Number 5 Seed might be good enough for a run to the Divisional Round of the Play Offs, but I can't see them going much further.

9) Cincinnati Bengals (10-3): Andy Dalton's injury leads to a significant drop for the Bengals. How AJ McCarron performs in the last three weeks of the regular season will show us how far Cincinnati can go in the Play Offs.

10) New York Jets (8-5): The Jets might be getting hot at the right time, but they have a tough road to negotiate if they are to make the post-season and then try and make some noise.



Bottom Five

32) Tennessee Titans (3-10): I do wonder if Tennessee have given up on the season with an interim Head Coach and being blown out by the New York Jets.

31) San Diego Chargers (3-10): Philip Rivers is the most under-rated Quarter Back in the NFL in my opinion, but San Diego are so banged up on both sides of the ball that he can't carry this team beyond this point.

30) San Francisco 49ers (4-9): An awful performance on the road at the Cleveland Browns might only be saved if the 49ers earn a very high Draft Pick.

29) Cleveland Browns (3-10): Only thing left this season is to see if Johnny Manziel is not the dope he portrays himself to be and CAN be a franchise Quarter Back for the desperate Cleveland Browns.

28) Baltimore Ravens (4-9): You can't lose players like Joe Flacco, Justin Forsett, Steve Smith and Terrell Suggs and expect to replace them with a 'next man up' frame of mind.



Week 14 Picks Recap
After going 8-3 in Week 13, I was just hoping to put together a very solid Week 14 to get the season totals back up after that horrendous 2-10 Week 12.

I got even more than I could have asked for with the picks going 8-2 in Week 14 to put together a very strong 16-5 two weeks that have covered the terrible Week 12.

That means the season totals are now in a very strong position again, but there are three more regular season weeks left and pushing on and improving on the last two weeks is the plan. I'll keep doing what has been successful the last two weeks and keep looking for the bounces to land my way as they have and we all need a little bit of luck for the picks to go the way we anticipate.

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