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Playoff Picks: Wildcard Round

| January 8th, 2016

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Administrative Note: We’ll resume our postseason positional analysis columns on Monday with running backs, Tuesday with wide receivers, Wednesday with tight ends & Thursday we’ll wrap up the offensive side of the ball with our analysis of the line. (Defense will come after the division round.)

KANSAS CITY AT HOUSTON

Am I willing to embrace the notion of Brian Hoyer winning a postseason game? No, I’m not. Am I willing to cast my support unabashedly for Andy Reid in a postseason game? No, I’m not. But since I picked the Chiefs to make the Super Bowl in August I might as well continue seeing red. And on a football note, the Chiefs don’t look to throw the ball downfield so their short passing attack should be able to neutralize the Houston’s greatest asset: Watt, Whitney and the pass rush. Chiefs 20, Texans 13

PITTSBURGH AT CINCINNATI

Here’s what I keep hearing from folks analyzing the wildcard round: nobody wants to play the Pittsburgh Steelers. Here’s my follow-up question: why? The Steelers controlled their road to the postseason and lost to Marc Trestman and Ryan Mallett! (And the game wasn’t particularly close.) Then in Week 17 the Steelers were horrible against Cleveland, with Big Ben throwing ugly picks to second-rate linebackers. If Austin Davis weren’t starting for the Browns and they didn’t decide to fumble away the second half, the Jets would be in the playoffs. So is Pittsburgh just going to turn it on? Bengals 24, Steelers 22

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FrontRowTickets.com Game Preview: Bears & Bucs Play Out the String (Christmas Edition!)

| December 24th, 2015

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THE GAME POEM

THOUGHTS ON THE TAMPA BAY BUCS

  • Bucs offense is simple. They want to hand the ball off a zillion times to Doug Martin and then make plays down the field to Mike Evans off play-action. If their running game is shut down it greatly limits their effectiveness to move the ball/score points.
  • Earlier in the week I paired the Bucs and Bears as two teams that weren’t ready to put themselves in the thick of a playoff chase. Four weeks ago the Bucs were 5-5 and positioned well to make a run at the 6th seed. Since then they’ve lost to a Luck-less Colts, a Saints team playing out the string and were roughed up last Thursday night by the Rams until mounting a late comeback. This is a team with a lot of weapons and a bright future. But they’re not there yet. The question will be whether Lovie can get them over the top in 2016.
  • Tampa’s rush defense is very good, allowing 30 less yards per game on the ground than Chicago. If the Bears think they’re going to control this game on the ground it’s unlikely. The way to attack Tampa is to isolate a couple familiar fellows at the backend of their secondary (Conte, Wright…etc.) and throw the ball down the field. The question will be whether any of the Bears receivers can get any separation.

NEW CHRISTMAS CLASSICS

Each year, from Thanksgiving until Christmas, I (like many) indulge in the joy that is the Christmas movie. And it surprises me that movies and television shows still find their way into the rotation. This last year produced two new additions.

A VERY MURRAY CHRISTMAS

It’s television the way television used to be made in the days of soundstages and cigarette holders and Dean Martin. Everything about it is a throwback and it’s still completely original. The highlight? George Clooney popping out repeatedly from behind Christmas trees to deliver the chorus of Santa Claus Wants Some Lovin’.

DIFFICULT PEOPLE, “DIFFICULT CHRISTMAS”

The best new comedy on television in 2015 was Julie Klausner’s Difficult People and the final episode of the season, the Christmas episode, might have been the best. The highlight? Klausner getting fired from her job as a gift wrapper for reciting the story of Capturing the Friedmans to a customer.

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Money Where My Mouth Is: Three Picks For Week 14

| December 10th, 2015

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Let’s face it. Last week should have been an 0-3 week but Jim Caldwell conspired to get me on the board. Need a winning week to return that warm and fuzzy feeling to the old wallet. Let’s go.

PITTSBURGH & CINCINNATI OVER 49.5 PTS

Pittsburgh has the most exciting passing in the NFL and – arguably – one of the five worst secondaries. Maybe these teams will shock me and revert to the division’s previous form but I see both teams scoring and scoring at will. Steelers 31, Bengals 30

NEW ENGLAND -3 AT HOUSTON

The Patriots lost two weeks ago, right? They lost last week too, right? When’s the last time they lost three games in a row? I won’t do the research and will just assume Pete Carroll was the coach. Buffalo put together a game plan to neutralize J.J. Watt and exposed the backend of the Texans defense. Expect Tom Brady to put the Pats back into the win column, even if he might be the team’s best receiver. Patriots 27, Texans 14

NEW YORK GIANTS -1.5 AT MIAMI

The Giants stink. They also are going to win the Super Bowl. But in order to do that they must make the postseason. They’ll take the pole position in the NFC East after this week’s done. Giants 20, Dolphins 17

Season Record: 20-17-2

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Audibles From the Long Snapper: Ten Thoughts From Around the League

| October 21st, 2015

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THOUGHTS FROM AROUND THE LEAGUE

(1) Eli Manning was the best and worst player in the league on the FIRST TWO DRIVES of the Monday Night Football game. There’s never been a player like him in the league.

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(2) After the first week of the season it became in vogue to question whether Tampa Bay made a mistake selecting Jameis Winston over Marcus Mariota. In the four games since Winston has been undoubtedly the better player and Mariota has shown two features that worried many scouts: inability to absorb contact and lack of ball security. Interestingly enough, nobody has revisited this question in the national media. If Winston wants to know how he’ll be covered an an NFL quarterback, he should just call Cam Newton.

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(3) Is Cincinnati the best team in football right now? New England and Green Bay are not good defensively. Carolina and Denver are not good offensively. Cincy does everything well. They’ll still lose in the playoffs but they may be losing that game in the division round instead of wild card weekend.

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(4) You know what the worst development of the NFL season has been? The games stink.

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(5) I don’t care what the stats say. Brandon Marshall has been the best wide receiver in football this year. He’s transformed the New York Jets offense.

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