Monthly Archives: January 2014

Four Down Journey: #ChampionshipSunday

Welcome to the Four Down Journey where we pick up the shattered pieces of Cam Newton’s heart, where we wonder what happened to Jimmy Graham’s manhood against Seattle, where we wonder if anyone will stop to hit this Blount, & most importantly, where we quickly break down the AFC and NFC championship games coming Sunday night.

Before we get into the Downs, we have to double back and discuss what exactly happened to New Orleans TE Jimmy Graham. Graham — he of the 16 TDs, the All-Pro accolades, the goal post dunking, & the general beasting of defences everywhere this season — went missing vs. Seattle last Saturday night. About two hours before the game, he had to be separated from Seahawks players for trash talking & messing with his pregame routine. I’m sure every Saints fan saw this & said, “Yup, Graham’s gonna kill ’em! Let’s go right now! F*** Da Seahawks!!!” Most footballs fans watching this clip assumed it was on & we were going to get a great back & forth game……but then the Saints went out & scored zero points in the first half. Graham ended the game with one catch for 8 yards total (which he only got on the last drive).

Beyond the stats though, it was the way he got manhandled throughout that was disappointing. He was getting bumped off of routes, guys were popping him right off the line of scrimmage, & what’s worse, he wasn’t fighting for his space. The only thing he did with any consistency was complain to the refs. It was like watching your friend challenge the bully to an after school fight, only to see him get crammed into his locker afterwards by said bully. Unfortunately this actually happened to a friend of mine in high school. His only response after getting stuffed in his locker was to say he’s gonna work out through the summer & come back with his “football friends” to take him on again. It reminded me of those “When I grow up” milk commercials from back in the day. Yeah, still makes me sad when I think about it. Anyway, let’s get into it….

FIRST DOWN: Old School vs New School

These two conference championship games feature the best four teams in the league this year & more importantly, the four teams that everyone wanted to see. Also as important, these next few weeks could possibly determine going forward what the future of the QB position might look like in the NFL. In the AFC, we have the classic pocket QBs in Patriots Tom Brady & Broncos Peyton Manning whose style has proven over and over again to be successful. Both Brady & Manning have set numerous records, collected every accolade and award imaginable between them, & they have won Super Bowls. In the NFC, 49er QB Colin Kaepernick & Seahawk QB Russell Wilson best represent what was long supposed to be a threat to the standard QB style, but never was. Both of these players though have shown that they can command the pocket, make every throw accurately from there, while still making elite-level plays with their legs. They are everything that we wanted Michael Vick to be. Whoever comes out of this game in Seattle will be representing the future at the Super Bowl.

As Deion Sanders mentioned last Sunday on the NFL Network, this might affect the way NFL GM approach this year’s draft when looking for a QB. In pro sports, championship teams create copycats, and football is no different. If by chance, Kaepernick or Wilson is holding up the Lombardi trophy in a few weeks, GMs may start targeting the Johnny Manziels of these upcoming drafts to develop because they will see that you can win the big game with this style. NFL QBs can barely be touched now, so imagine accurate running QBs & the damage they can really do. Steve Young came the closest as a duel threat QB in terms of winning the big games, & Aaron Rodgers has the legs to move out of the pocket to make plays himself in today’s game, but none of these guys have the wheels Kaepernick & Wilson have. Looking at the youth on both Seattle & San Fran’s rosters, they won’t be going away anytime soon. It will be very intriguing to see if these two QBs — as well as Robert Griffin III and Cam Newton — can change the QB standards for the long haul.

SECOND DOWN: The Greatness of Bellicheck

Bill Bellichek has won 3 Super Bowls and is considered to be one of the greatest coaches in NFL history. When he goes into the Hall of Fame someday, they need to mention this season on his plaque. No one thought this team would be one game away from the Super Bowl halfway through the season. Think about it. Their best WR they had in the last 6 years will be catching passes across the field from them today. One of their two elite TEs (Rob Gronkowski) will be rehabbing from yet another season-ending injury, while the other TE (Aaron Hernandez) is too busy doing P90X workouts in his 8×6 cell. They also lost Vince Wilfork and Jerrod Mayo to season-ending injuries, Danny Amendola missed his usual chunk of games due to injuries (which at this point might be written up in his contract to do so), Shane Vereen missed about 9 games, & then the fumbling issues of their leading rusher Stevan Ridley regressed to the point that it’s rumored that the Pats made him hold a football at all times like Omar Epps had to in The Program. It’s understood that they play in a horrible division where they racked up easy wins, but they only went 4-2 against the AFC East. How the hell did this team go 12-4 with a 1st round bye???

Bellichek made the term, “Next Man Up” ring loudly in New England. They have replaced the weapons they lost by turning Julian Edleman into a 100-catch receiver, plugged in players like WRs Aaron Dobson and rookie Kembrell Thompkins wherever he could, Shane Vereen became their main RB catching passes out of the backfield, he’s tightened up the defense immensely, but one of the biggest weapons he help create is turn LaGarrette Blount loose. Blount, who was almost cut by this team at the beginning of the season has been on fire the last few weeks. In his last two games he’s run for 345 yards & 6 TDs. He looks slimmer than he did in his Tampa bay days, but still carried the same power. He has taken the torch from Ridley at this point of the reason to lead this new Patriot power rushing attack who destroyed the Colts D last week for 234 yards & 6 TDs. Why is it that good teams can turn players who were washed up into diamonds on their roster? Is it the foundation of professionalism? The winning mentality? Being within 6 degrees of separation from Gisele Bundchen? Whatever it is, the fact that Bellichek always finds a way to get the very best out of his players was never more true this season, and if they get past the Broncos on Sunday, it will be the most unlikely Super Bowl appearance since the 2001 season when they beat the St. Louis Rams.

THIRD DOWN: The New Rivalry

Let’s get this out of the way right now. The Niners – Seahawks rivalry has officially bumped out the Ravens – Steelers as the best rivalry in the NFL. Forgot about the players for a second, not even the coaches like each other very much, & this is going back to their USC-Stanford days. When Pete Carroll’s USC teams was tearing up the college ranks, it was Jim Harbaugh who came with his Stanford team & wasn’t afraid to punch USC back in the mouth to help end their dominant run of the Pac-10 Conference. It eventually led to the whole “What’s your deal?” beef in the postgame handshake after Stanford blew out USC in a 2009 game. After that season, Carroll left for Seattle. The year after that Harbaugh joins the 49ers & just like that, they’re both in the same division again. So you can see right from then that it would only be a matter of time until the Seahawks & Niners were going to take on that animosity too.

Ironically enough, both teams are built similarly. Both are built around smash-mouth run games, devastating defenses, young dual-threat QBs, & all overseen by head coaches that their players will die for. Since both of these teams have been in the NFC West together in 2011, San Fran leads the series 4-2. However, the home team has won each game in the last two years. Since last year’s Super Bowl, they been making moves & trades with each other in mind. They both knew they were going to be the best teams in the NFC, so they both began loading up on weapons highlighted by the Percy Harvin & Alquan Boldin moves within days of each other. The way those teams play each other is like chaos. Players get pummeled across the middle, guys getting carried off the field, & these are only the regular season games. With the Super Bowl at stake, they may want to clear our a wing at Tacoma General Hospital just in case. Which reminds me….

FOURTH DOWN: Who is heading to Super Bowl 48 in New York City?

AFC – New England vs. Denver

The way this season has been laid out for Peyton Manning, it has all the markings of a destiny-type run. He has a record breaking season for offense both individually and as a team. The team finished with homefield advantage again & this time will use that advantage in the conference title game. He’ll more than likely wrap up his 5th MVP in two weeks & has been by far the best player in the NFL all season. With his age & the fact that he’s had those four neck surgeries, he’s probably seeing that the end is near. Shit, he even said so himself. He can even get the chance to play the Super Bowl where his brother Eli calls home, & win one in his building like Eli did to him two years ago. The main obstacle outside of Brady & Bellichek of course is his own defence. They’ve been able to hide under the explosive offence this year, but they haven’t been the same to me since they lost Elvis Dumervil during the free agency faxing fiasco. Now they’ve lost their top CB Chris Harris on top of losing Von Miller a few weeks ago, I wonder if that will be too much rope for the Patriots to grab onto. With that said, I think the Broncos will barely survive & hop on that flight to New York in two weeks.

Final Score: Broncos 34, Patriots 32

NFC – San Francisco vs Seattle

Wow, this one is hard to decide. I should be thinking the Niners will have this one in the bag, but even I can’t completely dismiss the ass kickings the Seahawks put down on them during their last two visits to Seattle. As much as it pains me to say it……..I love Seattle’s defense, I honestly do. I’ve long been a fan of their secondary led by Richard Sherman because the size they possess is abnormal from what you would normally see from the average NFL corner or safety. Also, the Niners have had a hard time during the last three years controlling MarShawn Lynch in Seattle. He has been a problem for San Fran, he’s had either a TD or 100 yards rushing in the last 5 games vs. the 49ers according to Jamey Eisenberg from Needless to say he’s the weapon that has to be neutralized. Unlike the last two times in Seattle, I think they can and they will. The Niners are the hottest team in football right now, they have all their weapons back on both sides of the ball, & are clicking on all cylinders. It’s the most anticipated game of the year, we all know how much both teams despise each other. In fact, I’m going by my friend Julian’s house (the die-hard Seahawks fan I mention a few weeks ago) to watch tonight’s game, & I’m seriously considering sneaking a tire iron in my winter jacket lining just in case things get a little too rowdy for my liking (you never know what may happen in enemy territory). Everything’s lining up to be the best game of the year, but in the end, I think San Fran’s winning streak continues. Barely.

Final Score: 49ers 30, Seattle 26

Sideline Notes

I see the Cleveland Browns have yet to sign a head coach, with potential candidates having backed out of interviews. Yup, sounds about right. After they let go of a coach after one season in what was supposed to be a rebuilding period, would you trust them??….. After last night, I’m not 100% sure that I can watch Greg Oden play much live games right now. I can’t believe he’s 25 years old because he runs like he’s 55. Looking at him running around last night, I kept cringing every time he jumped in the air, hoping he wouldn’t shatter his bones from the waist down. It’s like I was the parent who watched their 2 year old running around the house with a vase in their hands. Every step they take is potentially devastating. I’m not 100% sure this is going to end well with the Heat, but I seriously hope I’m wrong…… Paul George’s dunk last night was sweet, but still doesn’t hold a candle to Vince Carter’s dunk from back in the day…… speaking of the Pacers, I never thought I’d see the day that I would be saying that Lance Stephenson is an All Star, but here we are. It’s not even because he’s in the East either. He’s been playing extremely well all season, his confidence is through the roof, & his swagger is hovering at the maximum RPMs. If this was the 90s, he would have gotten elbowed in the face by now. It’s true and you know it. BUT he deserves to be and will be in New Orleans during the all star break….. Finally, this may sound weird coming from a Sports Blog, but I’ve always have and will continue to dislike the amount of NBA games they have on Martin Luther King holiday. It should be a time for celebration to honour the one of the greatest men to walk the planet, and in a lot of ways, we do. But when you have ten games starting from the top of the afternoon all the way to the end of the night, it can kind of distract you from paying true homage to Mr. King. It would be nice if they would cut down on the games and have them at night only, but I know the NBA would never do that. I’m not sure where this tradition started, but it should be reduced.

Cal Cee // South Shore Ave

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Four Down Journey: NFL Divisional Playoffs

Welcome to another edition of the Four Down Journey where we look forward to seeing the Luck-Brady matchup, where Peyton Manning tries to prove that he can win as much rings as his younger brother, where three of the best linebackers in the NFL meet up in Charlotte, and where New Orleans hopes that something like this doesn’t happen to them again in Seattle.

As we get closer to the Super Bowl in New York, you have to wonder just how good the actual Super Bowl will be if there’s a blizzard. If the weather on Feb 2nd is as disasterous as it has been across the East coast the last two weeks, the NFL might regret playing this game outdoors in a place that isn’t 85 degrees and balmy. You also have to ask will the skill & talent be affected by trying to adjust to the elements. How good will a receiver run his route when he’s trucking through a foot of snow? I can’t imagine playing in weather this cold, especially after reading an excerpt from Peter King’s Monday Morning Quarterback post about the effects that former Chargers QB Dan Fouts has gone through since playing in the coldest game in NFL History 32 years ago….

“When it gets cold, Fouts feels pain in both feet and both hands from the middle of the hand to the fingertips—and has since Jan. 10, 1982, the day of the AFC Championship Game in Cincinnati between the Chargers and Bengals that was played in wind-chill that reached minus-59 degrees. The San Diego Union-Tribune wrote about this the other day, and Chris Mortensen reported on it Saturday morning. I spoke to Fouts Friday. “Nothing you can do about it,” he said on the phone. “It’s history. You just had to play in the game, and you had no idea this would come of it. The biggest problem, really, was there were no gloves for quarterbacks in those days. Kenny Anderson and I didn’t have the luxury that day that the guys today have.”

Wow. I guess it’s worth the sacrifice….but is it???? It may look great & I may enjoy it as much as I enjoyed watching the Lions – Eagles game back in Week 15, but having a blizzard for example affecting the Super Bowl is much different than having it affect a regular season game with so much at stake. Anyway, continue to bundle up people (for those that are still freezing through this ridiculous cold snap) & let’s get into it….

FIRST DOWN: New Orleans vs. Seattle

To say that the last two times New Orleans had to play in Seattle did not go so well is an understatement. Three years ago, an 11-5 Saints wild card team had to go up to Seattle to face a 7-9 Seahawk team who had the right to host a playoff game as the winner of the shittiest division in league history at the time. With the 12th man in full swing, they ended up losing the game after Marshawn Lynch beasted through the whole team on his legendary drive that might still have Tracy Porter quivering every time he hears the words “Stiff Arm”. The next time they came to Seattle was in Week 13, when they got smashed 34 -7 & was dominated in all facets of the game, making Drew Brees look like J.P. Losman. Can the third time be the time they finally get over the hump?

This is not as crazy as you may think. New Orleans in the Payton/Brees era has proven that they are a reputable team & organization (as long as you ignore “Bountygate”) & will come to Seattle with a different game plan. Last week vs. Philadelphia, they showed off a running game gaining 186 yards. Mark Ingram, who until last week, was playing like his name was James Ingram had 97 yards rushing! If there’s one area where you can have some success against the Seahawks defence this season, it’s against the run. It will help Brees a lot as he will have a difficult time throwing against Richard Sherman and the best secondary unit in the NFL, so if they can open up some running lanes, it gives them a great chance to beat them. The key to this game will be Russell Wilson vs the Saints Defence. They may have looked like garbage their last time in Seattle, but New Orleans has the 4th rated D in the league, & they held Marshawn Lynch to only 45 yards rushing. The last few weeks, Wilson & their offense hasn’t been playing as good since that Week 13 game, & with 2 weeks of rest, they better hope rust doesn’t set into their game. They will be getting Percy Harvin back which is another weapon but I’m not entirely sure how much of a factor that will have considering he’s basically missed all season recovering with hip surgery.

In the end, as much as I’m tempted to take the Saints who I believe will come out playing much differently than they did the last time these teams played, and as much as I believe that some rust can affect the way you start off a football game at times coming off that 1st round bye……. I believe the NFC Championship game will be played in the Northwest. Whatever jitters and rustiness the Seahawks will have, the 12th man will shake that out by pregame warmups. Contrary to what some people may think, this game will be a lot closer than you think it will be.

Final Score: Seahawks 28, Saints 24

SECOND DOWN: Indianapolis vs. New England

First things first, we have to give a hand to the Colts and how they came back to win that game vs. Kansas City. Last week, I wrote that the game between those two teams will be the most boring out of the four games & I largely ignored the game & went to sleep during the 1st quarter. Of course, I woke up & was not only stunned to see the Chiefs score 38 points by the 3rd quarter (w/no Jamaal Charles), but to see them beating the Colts at the time by 24 points. SMH. To watch Luck bring his team back from that major deficit tells me he’s still the best of the new young QBs that’s out there right now. Now mind you, he shouldn’t have been down by so much to make that comeback their last option in the first place (which included Luck’s 3 INTs). However, one thing’s for sure, he is surely comfortable when he’s playing and the pressure is on.

Since the start of his rookie year last season, the man is 18-2 in games decided by a touchdown or less. EIGHTEEN AND TWO!! I had to triple check that stat when I first saw it. This guys doesn’t stop until the whistle is over, & he’s doing this without Reggie Wayne, and with mostly castoffs & underachievers. He’s helped to turn T.Y Hilton into a rising stud, with Donald Brown as his #1 runner out of the backfield, and with an O-Line that got him sacked 32 times this season. Yet, he’s still keeps coming.

Funny enough, across the field, he’s going up against Tom Brady who’s pretty good himself in that category. He & Bill Bellichek have also proven over the course of the last 12 years that they come as consistently as your monthly hydro bill. Both of them probably smirked when watching that game, then spent the next day completely breaking down the tape until they exposed every weak spot the Colts have. Even though the Pats have lost some major weapons on offense this season, they still put together a 12-4 record, got a 1st round bye & made Shane Vereen and Julian Edleman really relevant on this team. I do think that all their losses since last season will come back to haunt them eventually. You can’t lose stars like Gronk, Wes Welker, “Bishop” Hernandez, Steven Ridley’s ability to hold onto any object that are in his hands, take the hits they have on defense and expect to still win a Super Bowl. That time is coming, no question about it. Whichever team knocks them off though, it just won’t be the Colts.

Final Score: Patriots 38, Colts 23

THIRD DOWN: San Francisco vs. Carolina

**Disclaimer: I am a San Francisco 49er fan & have been since the mid 80s. I will try to be as unbiased as possible. Operative word: Try.**

Last week vs. Green Bay, before and during the game I was feeling a lot like French Montana, & in the end I was right. As much as I respect Aaron Rodgers, that’s how much respect I lacked for Green Bay’s defense overall. So I knew the 49ers would find a way to win the game in the Frozen Tundra that is Lambeau Field. Now this game vs. the Panthers in Charlotte? I’m worried ’bout sumthin/***** I’m worried ’bout sumthin’ . Heading to this game, the biggest worries for San Fran will be the Panthers D led by potential defensive POY LB Luke Kuechly, DE Charles Johnson & Greg Hardy. They may not get as much publicity as the Seahawks or the 49ers in terms of their defense, but they are every bit as good as those units. In Week 10, they came down to San Fran & won 10 – 9, holding Colin Kaepernick to 11 of 22 for 91 yards & an INT, sacked him 6 times & specifically confused him with different looks in the second half of the game. At that point, the Panthers officially became a contender in the NFC. The fear as well going into this game is that they don’t have a problem dealing with a strong mobile quarterback in Kaepernick because they play against one every day in practice in Cam Newton.

Newton deserves every bit of the success he’s getting this season. At the end of September when they were 1-3, all of the talking heads & analysts were calling for Coach Ron Riviera to be fired and Newton to sit the bench. Since then Carolina has gone 11-1 & have arguably been the best team in the NFL. Newton has played with a confidence in the pocket that we’ve never seen from him since he’s gotten to the NFL. He’s backed by a 3-headed RB monster in DeAngelo Williams, Johnathan Stewart, & Mike Tolbert, a security blanket in TE Greg Olsen & WR Steve Smith, and still has something in the tank even if he may not be in his prime anymore. Here’s the thing going into this game that I will say: Playoff experience counts for something, & San Francisco has that in spades.

Since 2011 (including playoffs), only the New England Patriots have been to the Conference Championship and Super Bowl while still making it to the second round this season. They will have all of their weapons back on offense and defense & most importantly, they have been in many big games having proved they can win on the road to get where they need to go. Even in the Week 10 game, Crabtree was still rehabbing his achilles, Vernon Davis was concussed during the game, starting safety Eric Reid wasn’t available to play due to a concussion, it was Aldon Smith’s 1st game back from rehab, & Justin Smith was on a snap count. Now they will all be unleashed on Sunday. You can think this won’t make a difference if you want to, and that’s fine. Just know that the chances that the 49ers move on to Seattle (unless New Orleans wins & give San Fran one more game at Candlestick Park) are pretty high. It will be a close, great game, but I think that 1) Harbaugh & his staff will confuse Newton enough to be inefficient again, and 2) San Fran have more playmakers on offense to move the chains consistently and eventually get out of Charlotte with another playoff W.

Final Score: 49ers 28, Panthers 20

FOURTH DOWN: San Diego vs. Denver

Here’s what Peyton Manning has accomplished this season:

  • Guided his team to a 13 – 3 record & home field advantage throughout the playoffs;
  • Helped his team become the first 600-point team in league history (606 pts; 37.8 ppg);
  • Set NFL records for most TDs (55) & yards (5,477) by a QB in a season. Was also 2nd in passer rating with 115 QB rating (2nd highest of his career). He even ran for one TD this season too;
  • Clinched his 5th MVP of his career (two more than the 2nd most NFL MVP winner Brett Favre) by Week 8; and
  • Clinched his status as the best regular season QB in NFL history.

Here’s what Peyton Manning has going at stake going into these playoffs: With all the accolades he’s accumulated, if he does not win his 2nd Super Bowl or at least take his team to the Super Bowl in 3 weeks, we may have to start questioning where he’d be ranked alongside the all-time greats. In no way shape or form can he have 5 MVP awards, & only one ring to show for it after it’s all said & done. He doesn’t have to match Joe Montana, Terry Bradshaw, or even Tom Brady, but he has to have more than one. Has to. If his career was a painting at this moment, it would resemble the Mona Lisa….BUT it would have a faint red hand print across her chest. Still a beautiful portrait but you’re gonna notice the hand print, right? At some point, you’re going to have to ask about that, as great as he is & for everything he’s done for the game.

If he suffers another loss this weekend, his playoff record will go to 9-12 & NINE of those losses will be of the One-and-Done variety (either after a wild card game or after a playoff bye). That’s kinda hard not to look at. I’ll tell you something else, it’s quite possible this weekend that it can happen again. Their division rival San Diego, has played them well this season, with DC John Pagano historically giving Manning fits & Charger Head Coach (via Broncos OC last season) Mike McCoy having a good handle on how to go against him as well. Now last week, I thought the Chargers had no shot of winning whatsoever (Thank you Andy Dalton), but if they can keep Manning & the Broncos D off the field with how Philip Rivers has been playing & how inconsistent the Broncos D has been this year, then they’ll have a shot. Especially if they get an early lead & take the crowd out of the game, then that pressure builds. I’ll be surprised if the Broncos puts up big points vs San Diego, but I do think Manning makes it until next week to face his old Rival (Brady) one more time.

Final Score: Broncos 27, San Diego 17

Cal Cee // South Shore Ave

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South Shore Ave’s Four Down Journey: Wild Card Weekend

Welcome to the Wild Card Weekend of the Four Down Journey where 75% of the playoff games will be freezing cold; where Marvin Lewis hopes to get his first playoff win; where it will be cold wherever you’re watching the games; where Chip Kelly looks to get his first playoff win in his rookie season; & where the Seattle Seahawks spend their bye week loading up on “supplements” while waiting for their next opponent. Was that a shot as a lifelong 49er fan to my friend & diehard Seahawk fan Julian who I hope is reading this sentence right now? In the words of Bernie Mac, “You M****f*****’ right.” (Warning: This hyperlink has explicit language) This comment can backfire on me as soon as Sunday night I know, but I’m willing to risk it. On this edition of the Four Down Journey, we take a quick look at this week’s Wildcard games. Bundle up & let’s get it going…..

FIRST DOWN: Kansas City vs. Indianapolis

The first game to start off the playoff season, as well as the game most likely to be ignored out of the four or watched by most on the highlight reels. These are two teams who weren’t expecting to be here this season. Kansas City wasn’t expecting to be in the playoffs after the last two seasons of futility. They were expected to be a better team, but not to hit the 11-win mark. Indianapolis on the other hand was expected to be a playoff contender, but were not expected to be the champions of the AFC South. Especially not after losing Reggie Wayne for the season, & trading their 1st round pick for Trent Richardson only to watch him make his fellow teammate RB Donald Brown look like Jim Brown in comparison. However, thanks to Houston who decided it would be more fun to go on a 14-game losing streak than to compete for a Super Bowl, here we are.

Two X-factors here: How Indy’s O-Line does against a healthy Chief’s D; and can Alex Smith prove once and for all that he has another gear. The last time Indy played the Chiefs on Week 16, the Chief’s front seven was banged up (OLB Justin Houston missed this game), & barely presented a pass rush to Andrew Luck on the way to a 23 -7 defeat. But with that defence at full strength now, it presents an tough scenario for the Colts who’s had issues throughout the year protecting Luck. As a 49ers fan, I’ll always think about the good times whenever Smith’s name comes up. After seven years of going through coach after coach, he found the right coach in Jim Harbaugh to help him to play the best football of his career leading San Francisco back to glory. Sure, Harbaugh flirted with Manning as soon as the 2011 season ended, & then dumped him for Kaepernick last season when he sat out w/concussion-like symptoms, but I’m willing to look past that if he is.

The one problem with a Smith led offense is if he’s able to lead a comeback from a sizable deficit when his team is down, or will he be able to go blow for blow if the game becomes a shootout. He proved he could once versus New Orleans in the 2011 playoffs when he went toe-to-toe with Drew Brees & came out on top, but it’s not consistent enough which is why he was eventually traded to Kansas City. If he can do so versus the Colts, then they have a very real shot of moving to the next round to face Denver. Do I think this will happen? Not this year. I say that Luck does just enough to keep the Chief’s D at bay & the Colts defense which has been playing well in recent weeks will do just enough to stop Jamaal Charles from having a huge night & will move on to the epic Luck-Manning Bowl II that everyone will be waiting for.

Final Score: Colts 21, Chiefs 16

SECOND DOWN: San Diego vs. Cincinatti

As much as I would like to say that I have absolutely no faith whatsoever in San Diego coming into the frozen Midwest & snatching this game out of the hands of the Cincinatti Bengals, well…. let’s face it, they don’t have a shot here. Can this point of view be skewed to the fact that every time I took Philip Rivers in my fantasy football draft, he turned around & burned me right down to the bone? Or has his poor performances in the past few years directly affected my chances of winning even when he wasn’t my fantasy QB? I won’t lie….yes. More than that, they have a skill of knowing when to screw things up when you least expect it. So much so, that last Sunday afternoon when it was confirmed that they would get into the playoffs with a win over Kansas city & their second-string lineup, I told my friends in our WhatsApp chat group that the Chargers would find a way to screw it up somehow…….& didn’t bat an eye when the Chiefs still took them to overtime before San Diego won by a field goal. This is what they do. My views shouldn’t be so slanted here at the same time because Rivers in the past has proven to be a pretty solid QB in the playoffs. However, considering that he will be going up against a Cincy D that has been downright destructive this season even while losing their two top defensive players in Geno Atkins (Torn ACL) & Leon Hall (Ruptured Achilles), & playing in their elements, this game could get ugly really fast. I can see Rivers throwing at least 2 INTS & the Bengals D scoring at least one TD.

The X-Factors to this game is Chargers RBs Ryan Matthews & Danny Woodhead, as well as Bengals QB Andy Dalton. Matthews in particular had a surprising bounce back season (1,255 yards, 4.4 ypc, 6 TDs Rush, 1 Receiving), coming back from multiple injuries & inconsistent play in the past few years. I don’t see him having a huge game against a defence that was one of the best in the league versus the run. If he can somehow, that will help Rivers immensely in opening up the rest of his offense to get the ball to his old reliable Tight End Antonio Gates & his new prized rookie WR Keenan Allen. With Dalton, he has had some HUGE games this season. If the Dalton who had games throwing for 400 yards &/or 4 TDs at a time shows up (which is possible as absolutely no one scares you on the Chargers Defence), the Chargers have no chance. Whether or not that happens, I expect AJ Green to have a humongous game & have us talking about if he’s the second best WR in the game behind Calvin Johnson by Saturday night.

Final Score: Bengals 41, Chargers 17

THIRD DOWN: New Orleans vs Philadelphia

This is the high-scoring game most people will be waiting for on Saturday without question, but here is the big question:

Can New Orleans play better on the road?

Haven’t proven it all season so far. Now, mind you, they are a better team on the road than their record indicates. They were two last minute plays versus New England in Week 6 & against Carolina in Week 16 from being 5-3 on the road, getting a 13-3 record & clinching a 1st round bye along with Seattle. However, they are a completely different team on the road than they are at home (8-0), which is alarming for what was supposed to be a Super Bowl contender. History shows that normally dome teams play better inside than they do in the elements, but it was disarming how shaky at times they looked this year on the road. Best examples in the last few weeks:

  • Week 13: 34 – 7 L vs Seattle. Thoroughly dominated in a game where Brees threw for 147 yards. Not a typo.
  • Week 15: 27 – 13 L vs. the under .500 Rams, a team that New Orleans should have taken care of, especially since the Rams play IN A DOME!
  • Week 16: 17-13 L vs Carolina. Granted, they weren’t dominated, but their performance was nothing like the 31-13 victory they had at home vs. the Panthers two weeks prior.

Even when they beat the Falcons 17 – 13 & the Buccaneers 16 – 14 earlier this season on the road, it was far from a dominant performance. Now they head outside again to face a hot Philly Team who’s offense is clicking on all cylinders. Nick Foles actually took one of the remaining QB stats this year that Peyton Manning didn’t own, beating Manning in the Passer Rating category 118 – 113, while throwing 27 TDs & only 2 INTs. LeSean McCoy lead the NFL in rushing (1,606) & at times looks like a video game on the field. The defense has played better than they did at the beginning of the year & are heading into the playoffs on a roll.  Desean Jackson is probably even more dangerous in bad weather, & I’m not even sure what to say about Riley Cooper this season. Dude went from N-word bombing with the risk of being cut, to playing like a star WR. I’m sure there’s a joke in there somewhere with Cooper, his performance playing for Michael Vick compared to his performance playing for Nick Foles, but I won’t explore it. I won’t do it.

The key questions to this game: Can NO stop the run? Can Foles continue his streak of not turning the ball over? WIll NO’s new kicker be able to handle the pressure when called upon? Will Philly’s secondary be able to hang with Jimmy Graham & the rest of the Saints receiving core? While I don’t want to say Philly is a team built for winter, they have by far the best run game in the NFL & the most dynamic one in MCoy to get the job done. While Brees is a Top Tier QB & wouldn’t be surprised if he has an incredible game, I’m just not 100% confident that they’ll be able to stop McCoy from gashing them from big plays & controlling the clock. Eagles take this game at home.

Final Score: Eagles 34, Saints 28

FOURTH DOWN: San Francisco vs. Green Bay

In my opinion, this is THE game of the weekend. Green Bay is now considered to be a threat with Aaron Rodgers back behind center & WR Randall Cobb healthy after fracturing his tibia in October. Before I get into this preview, it needs to be said that last week’s game between the Packers & the Bears might have been the game of the year. Considering what was at stake, the back & forth shots between them; the star players stepping up on both teams making great plays; the clutchness of Rodgers. How incredible was that play by Rodgers on 4th & 8, the season on the line, barely missed getting creamed by Julius Peppers for a season ending sack, spinning off that & throwing the game winning TD on the money to Cobb??? Not only that, but that was the THIRD 4th down of that final drive. An amazing performance by a top-tier QB.

However, I think their stakes changes for them playing the Niners Sunday afternoon. Let’s remove the “Warm weather teams cannot play in cold/bad weather” reasoning out of the way right now, because the Niners have proven during the Harbaugh Era that their game travels, no matter the climate. Also, San Fran has won the last 3 meetings vs. the Packers handily (including a 45-31 beating during last year’s playoffs), so Green Bay will have its hands full. The key to Green Bay winning this weekend is Eddie Lacy. A big running back, he has given Green Bay it’s best running attack since Ryan Grant was their lead back 4-5 years ago. Lacy’s 1st pro game this season was against San Fran in Week 1. He collected 41 yards & a TD which isn’t bad for fantasy football, but that won’t get it done on Sunday. He is nursing a sore ankle but should be ready to go this weekend. Considering that the 49ers have had a top 5 run D the last 3 years running, Green Bay will have a lot of work to do.

On defense, unless Packers DC Capers has something up his sleeve, they don’t have an answer for Kaepernick & haven’t proven to have one since he’s been the starting QB. Without Clay Matthews on the other side of the ball after undergoing surgery, it will make things much worse for them. With all the healthy weapons Kaep has at his disposal going into the playoffs, I just don’t see how Green Bay pulls this off, no matter how great I think Rodgers is.

Final Score: Niners 31, Packers 23

Sideline Notes

Jerry Jones really can’t be serious with his desire/wish that the NFL needs to add 4 more playoff teams is he? Seriously speaking, Jones is great for football & has done incredible things to keep the Dallas Cowboys as the largest brand in football, but he might need to stop talking for a while. This is the definition of loser talk if you haven’t heard loser talk before, & yes it looks like he’s on board with this because his teams can’t make the playoffs under the current setup. Also, he needs to step out of his own way and find a real GM that can put his team together properly. I know his ego won’t let him do so, especially since he’s been trying to prove he can put together a Super Bowl winning team that doesn’t have Jimmy Johnson’s hands all over it (since 1997), but his way of running the team doesn’t work. Now he’s bringing back Jason Garrett again for another season & standing behind his 33 year old QB Tony Romo fresh off his second back surgery? Good luck….. Michael Rosenberg from has a good read on the dysfunction of the Minnesota Vikings & the owners Mark & Zygi Wilf, especially on the sketchy details of the lawsuit that the Wilf family lost recently…… What’s with all the injuries with NBA point guards recently? Derrick Rose is done for the year with a torn meniscus in his right knee (I still feel so sorry for him), Russell Westbrook won’t be back after having his 3rd knee surgery in 8 months after never having any kind of prior injury history (he must HATE the living daylights out of Patrick Beverly right now, I don’t care what he says publicly), Deron Williams having problems all season with his ankles, we’re still waiting on the return of Rajon Rondo & hoping he doesn’t have any setbacks, & now Chris Paul separates his shoulder & is done for the next 3-5 weeks. The all star game this year might look really odd in the back court for both the Eastern & Western conference in February if they all don’t come back in time. It’s starting to get a little depressing injury-wise in the NBA this season, & I haven’t even touched the other positions that have players nursing serious injuries or have been shut down for the season altogether…… I’ve seen a lot of things in my lifetime, but thanks to one of my friends this morning, I can’t say that I’ve ever seen a flying midget stripper before. (Warning: Explicit nudity) I can now cross that one off my bucket list…… I don’t mean to keep harping on the New York Knicks. Seriously, I really don’t, & I have no vendettas against them either. But after the whole Bargnani thing, how does another player (who looked at Bargs like the biggest moron in the world after his shot) come & do the exact same thing not even 3 weeks later? JR Smith channeled his inner Andrea & jacked a three after Tyson Chandler (again!!!) grabbed an important offensive rebound to get the last possession at the end of a game. Of course, Houston grabs the rebound & almost predictably, Beno Udrich fouls/tackles the Houston rebounder. Take a wild guess who ended up winning the game? I’m actually starting to feel sorry for Tyson & wondering when in the season will he finally snap & punch one of his teammates in the face. I know he’s a good guy & he won’t do such a thing, but if he channeled his inner Charles Oakley or inner Anthony Mason, you couldn’t blame him. Also, if Bargs & Smith did this on those mid-nineties Knicks teams, let’s just say it wouldn’t have gone over smoothly in the locker room. Look how they use to treat knucklheadededness ON the floor (fast forward to 1:30 mark)……. Wildcard Rider of the Week goes out to this Alabama Football mother who decided to take matters into her own hands against a Oklahoma Sooner fan in the stands of last night’s Sugar Bowl. Listen, anytime a cougar has their eyes on a prey or a target, look out. This goes for private & public gatherings, during & after work hours, at a bar or a stadium. If YOU happen to be their target or prey & they’ve had some drinks in them, I’ll tell you like I do anyone around me who sneezes, “God Bless you.”

Cal Cee // South Shore Ave

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Happy New Year everyone & welcome to 2014! Hope you go after your dreams & achieve them this year. #Achieveyourdreams #Noresolutionsneeded