Pittsburgh Steelers (10-6) vs Denver Broncos (12-4)
January 17th 4:40 PM ET/ 3:40 Central
Last Saturday’s victory over the Cincinnati Bengals was not only impressive, great & epic, it proved to be costly as well. Scoreboard wise the Steelers might’ve won 18-16 but in the minds of many this upcoming game against the Broncos is where the Steelers injury riddled season ends.
Healthy, the Steelers were/are an offensive juggernaut not too many if any teams would like to face. They posses not only an All-Pro Quarterback in Ben Roethlisberger but also an All-Pro Running Back in Le’Veon Bell & an All-Pro Reciever in Antonio Brown. They also have guys like Markus Wheaton, Martavis Bryant & Heath Miller who can make plays as well. Oh, and the Steelers also have a legit guy backing up Bell in DeAngelo Williams.
The bad thing about what I just listed is….The stars are hurt….
Ben Roethlisberger has a separated shoulder. (Injured in the Cincy game.)
Antonio Brown has a concussion so he’s out for the game. (Injured in the Cincy game.)
And Le’Veon Bell has been out since Week 8 with a season ending knee injury. (Injured in a game against Cincy actually.)
Even backup running back DeAngelo Williams is out this week due to a foot injury.
The Broncos on the other hand are a lot more healthy.
Even with the inconsistent play at quarterback this season (Peyton Manning & Brock O) the Denver Broncos were still pretty damn dominant in part because of their defense.
On defense guys like DeMarcus Ware, Shane Ray, Derek Wolfe & Von Miller (linebackers/ defensive ends) can rush the quarterback while guys like Aqib Talib & Chris Harris Jr. can lock down the opposing teams’ receivers.
From top to bottom the Denver Broncos are the scariest defense in football.
On the season Denver has 52.0 sacks, 14int, 25 forced fumbles (13 recovered), two blocked kicks & 5 defensive TDs….
Prediction: win 24-13
No Antonio Brown, Le’Veon Bell & DeAngelo Williams is going to hurt the Steelers ultimately. Throw in the fact that they have half of Ben & I don’t see them having much of a chance…. Peyton could still very much throw the game away. But that’s highly unlikely.
Whenever there’s a discussion about elite Quarterbacks Peyton and Eli Manning are both mentioned. Peyton is universally known as the Greatest Regular Season Quarterback ever, while Eli is known as the only to defeat Tom Brady not only once…. but TWICE. Together they have accounted for 3 Super Bowls, 3 Super Bowl MVPs, 17 Pro Bowl selections and 5 NFL MVP awards.
For the past few seasons both players haven’t sustained great play.
Last season in particular we saw an ailing Peyton fail to make the appropriate throws necessary for his team to be successful. Was his minor thigh injury to blame? Or was it because of his torn right quad? Maybe the neck surgery finally caught up to him…….Whatever the case may be Peyton is not right and he hasn’t been the same since losing to the Seahawks in the Super Bowl a couple of years back. Is he starting to decline or is it too soon to conclude?
Eli on the other hand hasn’t been consistent. After winning the Super Bowl in 2012(season of 2011) his teams have finished with records of 9-7, 7-9 & 6-10 missing the playoffs in each of those years. Here at the start of 2015 his team is facing an 0-1 hole after questionable decision making on his behalf. Is he worth the $84 million contract extension recently signed? Or is he officially overpaid?
Me and fellow writer @deshawnh are about to dive in….
Ryan Fort: In the case of Eli I don’t believe he’s worth $85 million. For a guy whose won multiple Super Bowls he still makes rookie mistakes which doesn’t bode too well for me. In my eyes that displays a lack of growth, leadership and passion for the game. When you look at his numbers you can’t tell if he’s getting better or worse from a year to year basis. Serious question, why do some view him as an elite. Please enlighten me.
Deshawn Hornback: Well where to start? I honestly believe Eli catches a little more criticism than he should because he is not an awful QB. With that being said he has never been elite and the money he is getting paid shows otherwise. Eli makes more money than his brother Peyton, Andrew Luck, Matt Ryan, Tony Romo, Drew Brees and Phillip Rivers. He is not better than any of those I mentioned. He had his best season last year, but I could easily see him relapsing like he has so many times before.
Fort: I believe he deserves every little ounce of criticism. Peyton, Brady, Aaron Rodgers and Brees are all ways viewed as the favorites to win their respective divisions and contend for a Super Bowl while Eli isn’t. Guys like Romo, Michael Vick, Robert Griffin lll and Nick Foles have constantly outshined him. You can pick any year from his career and I guarantee you he wasn’t the best quarterback in his division at that time.
Hornback: I can agree with Eli never being the best QB in the division, but I would not say that the Giants have never been given the expectations of a division title with him at the helm. He had some elite defenses. I have two questions for you. Do you believe that Eli will receive a spot in Canton and do you believe he deserves to be there?
Fort: Yeah, he did have some elite defenses. And as far as the whole Canton idea goes I’m on the fence. I believe he’ll have a spot because his last name is Manning. But as far as deserving a spot goes, it could go either way. What’s your take?
Hornback: I believe he will without a doubt because of that first championship alone and how it all went down, but when it comes to truly deserving it I say no. I really believe that he isn’t a top 50 QB ever. He barely has anything outside of the two championships in terms of accolades and the numbers definitely don’t support the idea of him being a Hall of Famer.
Fort: Agreed. He has a lot of ground to make up if he wants to be mentioned with the likes of Peyton, Joe Montana, Brett Farve etc. Eli Manning is nothing more than a modern day era Trent Dilfer and Brad Johnson. Granted, he is a better passer than the two I just mentioned but that’s not saying very much.
Fort: Let’s get away from Eli for a second and turn our attention towards Peyton… Does he still have it?
Hornback: Well do I believe he still has it. Will he be a top 3 QB this year like he was for about 12 straight years? No. I do still think he can be a top 10 QB that does just enough to win, because the team he has right now is the best overall team he has ever been on in my opinion. They have arguably a top 5 defense, CJ Anderson started to rejuvenate their run game at the end of last year, and their receiving core still has Demariyus Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders. Peyton does not need to be great; he only has to be good. And in that sense I believe Peyton still has something. After the first half of his game in Arrowhead everyone on social media was overreacting and saying how he was done. Then, even though it was the ugliest drive I had ever seen from him, he still got them a tie ball game in the final minute of a crucial division road game.
Fort: I don’t think Peyton has entirely too much left. Ever since he lead Denver to historical numbers offensively a few seasons ago I think he started to fall off. His throwing power isn’t the same nor is his accuracy. Can he still play? Yes, but I don’t know for how much longer.
Hornback: I really believe he has a great chance to lead Denver to a championship this year. He has tremendous talent all around him. The only weakness I see is his offensive line but it is not awful. Of course I don’t have Denver winning the AFC but it would not surprise me one bit to see him representing the AFC again this year.
Fort: It wouldn’t surprise me either because of Wade Phillips’ defense. As far as the offense goes I think Gary Kubiak needs to take a step back. He came to Denver with the intent on extending Manning’s career by having him play the late John Elway role. In Houston and Baltimore that system was better suited because he had Arian Foster and Justin Forsett in the backfield, while having inconsistency in the quarterbacking department as Matt Schuab and Joe Flacco were his leaders. I don’t like that scheme for Denver.
Hornback: I believe the worst thing you can do is take control out of Peyton’s hands. Honestly I don’t believe there is a better play caller in the history of the NFL. He’s the most intelligent QB in NFL history let him use that. I think Elway coming by and saying “Hey Terrell Davis extended my career, allow CJ to extend yours,” is enough to convince Peyton to take a minor step back. Putting the control into Kubiak’s hands is not the answer.
Fort: Yeah I’m guessing CJ is now Terrell Davis good….child please. My main point is that Peyton is without a doubt declining and I believe Kubiak’s system is and will make it more apparent. Last season we saw Peyton drop out of the top 5, (Rodgers, Romo, Brady, Rothlisberger, Luck & Wilson imo were better) and I believe he has a chance to drop even further down the list this season. (Brees, Rivers, Ryan and Flacco could all be better.) His farewell tour has pretty much started in my eyes.
Hornback: First of all I never said CJ=Terell. I’m saying take a cue from what Elway did and hand it off about 350 times like he did with Terrell. Elway differed so much that he got his passing attempts below 400 at one point. Peyton should aim for that. 2nd of all I disagree with Peyton falling that far out. Until I see him fall apart I’m going to stick by him and still say he’s a tremendous QB than could easily win a championship this year.
Fort: In essence Peyton and Eli could both prove me wrong this season… I just don’t think they will. What do you see them accomplishing this season and how much longer do you think they’ll last?
Hornback: I think Eli will play out his contract and Peyton I think should retire after this season before it gets worse but if they (Denver) fool around and win a ring I could see anything happening.
Fort: True. I see Eli blossoming into a trading chip at some point within the next two to three years. As far as Peyton goes I think he’s done after this season regardless of what happens. I don’t see him playing as long as Brett Farve did while being as effective. They’ll both be gone though in five years max…. And as far this season goes Peyton could make a run towards a another Super Bowl, and for Eli he’s and the Giants are in ”No Mans Land….Nothing is happening.
Be sure to voice your opinions… Do you agree or disagree? We’d love to debate with you.
With the NFL Season getting ready to start it’s only right that we answer a few questions in regards to awards, Division winners, Superbowl predictions etc…. Please be sure to sound off and voice your opinions and enlighten us on your predictions.
Wellllll heyyyyyy I know this was a surprise huh? The Oakland Raiders have been a joke since Rich Gannon and Charles Woodson got screwed on the infamous “Tuck Rule”. The Raiders have a little bit of hope. David Carr has been a glimmer of hope showing signs of some great potential. That along with grabbing Amari Cooper in the draft the future’s looking brighter in Oakland than it has in quite some time. Now considering today and these upcoming Sundays? Oakland has pretty much no chance. It’s hard being arguably the worst team in the league and being in one of the league’s toughest divisions. The Raiders will be lucky to win a single division game and it is even less likely they have much success anywhere else in their schedule. I have the Raiders going 3-12 and last in their division.
Kansas City Chiefs
Last season much of the Chiefs season went downhill from the first game. Many defensive key pieces got injured in their first game of the year against the Titans. Going into this season, Andy Reid got one of his old weapons back in Jeremy Maclin. Offensive mastermind, getting one of the most explosive receivers in the game, along with arguably the best running back in the league, should equal success on offense right? Wrong. As long as Alex Smith is the quarterback of this team the passing will always fall short. His inability to throw down the field will continue to plague this team’s offense this year. The offense the last 2 years have relied on the running backs and it will continue to be that way this year. On the other side of the ball Kansas City has been elite for the last 2 years and I see no reason for that to change. The Kansas City Chiefs have an incredibly hard schedule this season and I cannot see them surpassing 7 games this year, being 3rd in their division and outside of the playoffs.
San Diego Chargers
Questions came up in the offseason whether or not Rivers would be with the team at the beginning of the season. Now the season is approaching and Rivers is still at the helm of the offense. The Chargers have one glaring issue, and that is the 4 game suspension of future first ballot hall of famer Antonio Gates. The Chargers grabbed Stevie Johnson and Jacoby Jones to go with Keenan Allen and Malcolm Floyd which should be able to fill the void for the first 4 games of the season; if Gates does not win an appeal to reduce the games. Rivers last year was the leading MVP Candidate for about the first 6 weeks of the season. Now, this season the Chargers hope for their QB to not only repeat that but to have it stretch out for the entire season. With the departure of Ryan Matthews, the Chargers decided to grab Melvin Gordon in the draft, who has a lot of upside. The Chargers are filled with a lot of maybes this year, but I believe they will come out on the positive side of those maybes and end the year 10-6 edging into the playoffs in a wildcard spot.
Peyton Manning has been heralded by many as the best regular season QB of all time and I am one who agrees with that statement. Many believe Peyton may have finally hit that wall that happens to all athletes when they reach a certain age, but until I see it for myself I will have to shove all of those beliefs away. Denver still has pretty much everyone from last year. Near the tail end of the season they found a RB named C.J. Anderson who helped push the Broncos to some hard earned victories near the end of the season when Peyton was playing hurt. Now they get a full season with this dual threat RB which could help Peyton not have to do so much. On defense they have the same core of guys who will continue to give teams hell. This division is a lot like the AFC East in my opinion, that it is the same team that will continue to win the division until another team rises high enough to take them down. The Broncos will have a hold over the division once again going 12-4 and making it to the divisional round once again.
Tippett was a damn good player that had his career cut short to multitude of injuries. His third year in he recorded 18 sacks and followed that season up with 16.5 sacks the next year. From that point forward he was plagued with injuries. In 1985 he was crucial to the Patriots playoff run all the way to the Super Bowl. Causing havoc in anyway he could on the defensive end. He was best known for his jaw dropping hits that looked like they were ending careers out there. Tippett is considered one of the greatest Patriots to ever live.
9. Cornelius Bennett
Bennett came on the scene being deemed the best defensive player out of college, and to this day is the highest picked Alabama defender ever. Impressive enough especially how many pro defenders Alabama pushes out every year. His numbers aren’t as good as they could have been with Bruce Smith another Hall of Famer on his team getting most of the attention on defense but it doesn’t diminish how great of a player Bennett was. He helped 5 teams go to the Super Bowl but lost all 5. Many others could have filled out this list at the number 10 spot but Bennett’s pass rushing ability and ability to stop the run was enough for me to put him over all of the rest.
8. Derrick Thomas
Derrick Thomas for about a four year period was second to none as a pure pass rusher. Although I have seen many other lists and questioned why some put him within the top 3 he was without a doubt. Thomas came in an made an immediate impact winning rookie of the year in 1989. Thomas gets on this list because of how good he was in a short amount of time. If he could have sustained his production for a longer amount of time then he could have easily have been higher.
7. Terrell Suggs
Suggs is a man among boys it seems like a lot of times. Suggs was part of a great defense headlined by Ed Reed and Ray Lewis. Many seem to forget about him a lot, but he deserves a lot of credit for that stout defense. He won defensive player of the Year in 2011. There really wasn’t even a close second that year when he recorded 14 sacks, 2 interceptions, 6 pass deflections, and 7 forced fumbles. He performed well in many playoff runs as well in 2010 recording 5 sacks in just two games. Suggs has been the enforcer on a great defense for many years. Hopefully he won’t be forgotten behind the other great players he got to play with.
6. Rickey Jackson
I’m not gonna lie, if it wasn’t for his longevity he wouldn’t be over Suggs for me. Nonetheless though Jackson dominated in a different aspect it felt like every game. If he wasn’t knocking around the QB he was covering the flat and hook zones effectively. Jackson was the best thing in New Orleans for a long time. Sadly his team was awful for most of that time and when he went to the Niners he just wasn’t the same guy, but was able to get a ring he deserved just for having to play for the Saints as long as he did.
5. Demarcus Ware
Right when I thought it was the decline for Ware he came out this past season with 10 sacks. Ware at one point was the most dominating pass rusher I’ve ever seen. Ware struck fear into QBs and it sucks that he was forced to play on a team that didn’t use his great years to their benefit. Even though I had been pulling for Brady all of this season I would have loved to see Ware get one as well. I still believe it to be an atrocity that Ware did not win defensive player of the year in 2008. He had 20 sacks that season with 6 forced fumbles, and he did all of that while be double teamed it seemed like every down.
4. Kevin Greene
How in the hell Kevin Greene is not in the hall of fame is beyond me. Greene is 3rd in sacks and even though you can debate whether or not he was one dimensional when it came to linebackers, he is still one of the best rushers in NFL history. If you can find me a guy who got 15 sacks and 2 interceptions at the age of 36 and not in the hall of fame please come tell me. Greene was sort of a journeyman which you don’t find often within this elite class of linebackers. He started out on the Rams, then the Steelers, then the Panthers, then the Niners, and then back to the Panthers.
3. Jack Ham
Jack Ham was the 3rd guy you thought of when thinking of the greatest defense of all time. Regardless though Jack Ham was one of the best coverage linebackers ever. His takeaways rank 1st of all non secondary players. Most of the time if you’re the 3rd best player on your unit, you tend to go unnoticed, but Ham had a flair for stepping up in the biggest of moments. The four championships the Steelers won in the 70s are in large part to Ham’s heroics in late game situations.
2. Derrick Brooks
It’s hard to quantify how good Derrick Brooks was. He was a leader and that dominating Buccaneers defense was centered around him and Warren Sapp. In 2002 Derrick Brooks had 11 pass deflections, 5 interceptions and 4 defensive touchdowns. The way Brooks could read a QB was the way Peyton Manning can read a defense. His football IQ was just out the roof. Right as the Raiders tried to make an impossible comeback, Derrick Brooks read the route perfectly jumping it and returning Rich Gannon’s throw all the way back for a TD to seal the game. Without Brooks there is no way the Buccaneers are in that Super Bowl game.
1. Lawrence Taylor
Let’s be honest. Did this come as a surprise to anyone? Taylor is in a very elite class of defensive players to win NFL MVP. He won defensive player of the year three times. There’s only one other guy I can think of that effected the game in as many ways Lawrence Taylor did. If it wasn’t locking down the flats or hook zones, he was right in the QB’s face it the QB managed to barely escape his grasp. LT had the strength to throw linemen out of his way, and somehow seemed quicker than everyone on the field with him. Just sit and watch an entire game from beginning to end and you’ll be as convinced as I am that there isn’t another player in the same conversation as LT outside of maybe Ronnie Lott. Many give LT the title as the greatest defensive player of all time, and any of those people have plenty of reason to do so.
After a wild week in the Wildcard we’ve arrived to the Divisional Round. Within the Wildcard we saw the:
(4) Indianapolis Colts beat the (5) Cincinnati Bengals 26-10
(6) Baltimore Ravens beat the (3) Pittsburgh Steelers 30-17
(3) Dallas Cowboys beat the (6) Detroit Lions 24-20
(4) Carolina Panthers beat the (5) Arizona Cardinals 27-16
Here in the Divisional Round we have:
(6) Baltimore Ravens @ (1) New England Patriots
(4) Indianapolis Colts @ (2) Denver Broncos
(4) Carolina Panthers @ (1) Seattle Seahawks
(3) Dallas Cowboys @ (2) Green Bay Packers
Saturday 4:35 PM ET
(6) Baltimore Ravens vs (1) New England Patriots
Last week Baltimore dominated the Steelers. They were able to stifle the run game, rush the quarterback and make things tough on the receivers. Joe Flacco finished the game with 259 yards 2TDs and 0 interceptions while continuing to show us that he’s an elite quarterback. Despite Justin Forsett not having a great game the Ravens still won. If Forsett isn’t contributing this week things could get ugly.
The Patriots struggled the final two weeks of the season as they barely defeated the Jets and lost to the Bills. But even with the drop off in play to end the season New England was still a dominant team. They beat two division leaders, six teams above .500 and went 4-1 against the teams that made the playoffs.
In previous years the Baltimore Ravens have had the Patriots number. Brady is 1-2 against the Ravens, but a lot of that had to deal with presence of Ray Lewis and Ed Reed. In this specific math-up give me the Patriots over Baltimore 33-24. Gronk is healthy and they have alot of weapons in the backfield along with a defense that can lockup the Raven’s receiving core.
Saturday 8:15 PM ET
(4) Carolina Panthers vs (1) Seattle Seahawks
Last week Carolina struggled early against Arizona, but turned it up later on in the 2nd half. Cam was solid (198 yards 2TDs 1int) as was the run game. Johnathan Stewart ran for 123 yards and had a TD. Carolina’s defense was able to force three turnovers which pretty much was the difference maker.
Seattle finished the season on roll and seem to be dominant once again. (Article about them here https://fortonsports.wordpress.com/2014/12/23/they-are-back/.) The L.OB. is still hell to deal with and Russell Wilson and Marshawn Lynch are dominating on the ground. But even with that success late the San Diego Chargers and Dallas Cowboys provided the blueprint on how to beat them.
Earlier this season these two teams met and the Panthers lost 13-9 having turned the ball over twice and fumbling the ball four times. Johnathan Stewart was solid but the turnovers killed them. This time give me the Panthers over Seattle 23-16. Seattle still struggles to score and the Panthers have hit their stride and the run game is dominant, which is an important asset to have when playing Seattle. FUN FACT: Superbowl Champs are 0-8 the following season in playoff games.
Sunday 1:05 PM ET
(3) Dallas Cowboys vs (2) Green Bay Packers
Last week the Cowboys had a controversial rally against the Lions. In that specific game they got dominated in the trenches resulting in them being average in the passing attack and stagnant in the run game. Defensively they forced a few turnovers and shut down Detroit’s offense in the 2nd half keeping the game close.
The Packers were a very dominate team at home as they went 8-0. A-Rod was a monster throwing over 20+ TDs and having 0ints at home. The Packers also average slightly over 40pts at home and went 3-2 against playoff teams. ever since the infamous R-E-L-A-X quote the Packers have gone 11-2.
This match up features a team that dominates on the road (Boys 8-0) and an undefeated home team. The Packers allow around 5.0 yards per carry. Cowboys running back Demarco Murray averaged about 5.0 ypc meaning he could be primed for a big game. With Rodgers’ torn calf being an issue the Cowboys will have an advantage if they can apply an ample amount of pressure. Give me the Cowboys over Packers 34-17. They’ll dominate on the ground, force a few turnovers and of course dominate the time of possession.
Sunday 4:40 PM ET
(4) Indianapolis Colts vs (2) Denver Broncos
Last week the Colts beat an ailing Cincinnati team that played without key weapons who pose a threat in the passing game. Luck had an alright game throwing for 376 yards and 1TD. That game was more about how the Colts had a game where they actually rushed for over 100 yards.
The Broncos have been a decent team this season. Offensively they aren’t as good as last year’s team, but this year’s defense is much better. They went 8-3 against teams .500 and above. The downside of that is the fact they went 2-3 against playoff teams.
In week one of the season these two teams played and the Broncos were victorious. The Colts turned the ball over multiple times while the Broncos were nearly flawless. But even with that it was only a seven point game. Luck and Manning are 1-1 when playing each other but this time i’m giving the edge to Andrew Luck. If he can be efficient and not turn the ball over they’ll win this game. Give me Indy over Denver 38-34.
After months and weeks of anticipation we’ve finally arrived to the playoffs where we have a clear cut view on who the 12 teams competing for the Superbowl are.
Within those 12 teams you have the:
(1) 12-4 NE Patriots
(2) 12-4 DEN Broncos
(3) 11-5 PIT Steelers
(4) 11-5 IND Colts
(5) 10-5-1 CIN Bengals
(6) 10-6 BAL Ravens representing the AFC
(1) 12-4 SEA Seahawks
(2) 12-4 GB Packers
(3) 12-4 DAL Cowboys
(4) 7-8-1 CAR Panthers
(5) 11-5 ARI Cardinals
(6) 11-5 DET Lions representing the NFC.
Seattle, New England, Denver and Green Bay all get the week off (Top 2 teams in each conference) so that leaves us with eight teams playing this weekend.
Saturday 4:20 PM ET
(5) Arizona Cardinals vs (4) Carolina Panthers
Throughout the season both teams suffered a ton of injuries. Carolina’s injury woe wasn’t as severe as the Cardinals though. Arizona lost key players on the defensive line, in the secondary and in the line-backing core. On the offensive side of the ball the Cards lost starting quarterback Carson Palmer and starting running-back Andre Ellington. Hall of Fame bound receiver Larry Fitzgerald hasn’t been as productive either because of the injuries he’s been battling. Because of the offensive injuries Arizona has been having a tough time generating points.
This season Carolina has been in a funk just like it’s fellow NFC South counterparts. After having a stellar year last season Cam Newton has failed to deliver the same type of success due to the lack of weapons he has in his current arsenal. Despite injuries (distractions Hardy) to the defense and Cam having a somewhat down year the Panthers still managed to win their awful division. Rookie receiver Kelvin Benjamin has shown that he can be a solid weapon and running back Johnathan Stewart has returned to a solid form, for now. They also have tight-end Greg Olsen playing at a high level.
Coming into this game the Cards have lost 4 of their last 6 games and managed to score over 17pts one time. They are on their 3rd-string quarterback and rank 13th in stopping the run and 29th in defending the pass. The Panthers are rolling right now having gone 4-0 in December. They rank 7th in rushing the football and 12th in passing. With Arizona pretty much being a team that relies on the defense to score Carolina should be able to dictate the flow of the game as long as Cam and co. don’t turn it over. The Panthers should win 16-9 with Cam getting playoff win #1.
Saturday 8:15 PM ET
(6) Baltimore Ravens vs (3) Pittsburgh Steelers
The Ravens and Steelers both faced questions going into the season. The Steelers dealt with questions surrounding the defense as well as their running game. The Ravens had to deal with the never ending, traumatizing Ray Rice debacle. With Rice gone there was a void that needed to be filled in order for Baltimore to take the next step. Journeyman running-back, Justin Forsett, stepped into the starting role and complemented Joe Flacco to near perfection. With the addition of Steve Smith SR. and the arrival of Justin Forsett the Ravens offensive dynamic changed.
The Steelers at the beginning of the season were a model of inconsistency. Midway through the season that started to change. Led by the best receiver in football, Antonio Brown and the 2nd best running-back in Le’Veon Bell along with Ben Rothlisberger the Pittsburgh Steelers became a fun, yet rather scary team to watch. They would dominate on the ground as well as kill teams in the air. They went undefeated in December and are on a roll.
Heading into this match-up these division rivals split the season series with the home team winning each game. The Steelers are 4-1 since their Bye while the Ravens are 4-2. In this specific game the Steelers will be without Bell who was the 2nd leading rusher and will also have a limited Troy Polamalu in the secondary. Baltimore on the other hand is healthier and they’ll be getting star defensive tackle Haloti Ngata back to help man the middle. With Bell being out the onus falls on the shoulders of Big Ben. The Steerlers are 2nd in passing while the Ravens are 23rd in passing yards allowed. Big Ben could very well win this game but being one-dimensional could end up costing them. The Steelers will hand Joe Flacco his 1st Wilcard loss. Big Ben is is rolling right now and has more than enough offensive weapons in the passing game to beat Baltimore. Steelers win 34-27
Sunday 1:05 PM ET
(5) Cincinnati Bengals vs (4) Indianapolis Colts
These were two teams that people thought would take the next step, especially the Colts. Andrew Luck was basically enshrined into the Hall Of The Fame without doing anything. Nevertheless the Colts won their porous division with little to no competition. En route to going 11-5 they got dominated by the likes of Pittsburgh, Dallas, Denver and New England. They went 4-5 against teams that are .500 and 2-4 against playoff teams. No resemblance of a running game and having only one stud receiver (TY Hilton) hurts them.
The Bengals started off the season on FIRE. After a few weeks they resembled a Superbowl team but quickly faltered after their Bye week. As of late they’ve been battling injuries that have plagued A.J. Green making the offense somewhat stagnant. Depending on the day Cincy can kill you with an aerial attack led by the likes Andy Dalton with Mouhammed Sanu and Green at his helm. Or they could gash you up on the ground with Jeremy Hill and Gio Bernard. You just never know with them.
Going into Sunday’s game the Colts have won 5 of their last 6. They are the best passing team in football but are top 3 when it comes to turning the football over (Andrew Luck). The Bengals have been solid as of late but got shut out earlier in the year by the Colts, losing 27-0. This game will more than likely not feature AJ Green. Dalton doesn’t have a playoff win nor does head coach Marvin Lewis. Unless Cincy runs the ball over 40 times, AJ Green suits up or TY Hilton isn’t 100% I don’t see the Bengals misfortunes coming to an end. Colts win 45-13
Sunday 4:40 PM ET
(6) Detroit Lions vs (3) Dallas Cowboys
Often sought out as the most talented teams in the NFC, the Lions and Cowboys always seemed to disappoint until this year. Going into the season many predicted this would be Lion’s quarterback Mathew Stafford’s break out year. They changed coaches and gave Stafford more help by bringing in Ex-Seahawks wide receiver, Golden Tate, to complement Megatron. The Lion’s exceeded a few expectations because of how they managed to win games without Megatron. Golden Tate had a career year and the Lion’s defense was arguably the best in the league.
The Cowboys have exceeded everyone’s expectations excluding their own. They’ve discovered a new identity as I stated here (https://fortonsports.wordpress.com/2014/12/23/the-new-dallas-cowboys/) and have improved defensively. They boast arguably the best quarterback of the season in one Tony Romo, the leading rusher in football, Demarco Murray and wide-receiver touchdown leader Dez Bryant. The Cowboys also own the best offensive line in football. The game is won in the trenches and the Cowboys dominate in that aspect.
Ever since the home loss to Philly, the Cowboys have been dominant. They’ve scored 40+ points in 3 of their last 4 games (38 in one game) and are rolling on all cylinders. Dallas also went 4-0 in December. Detroit won 4 of their last 5 and have been very stout defensively. Defensive tackles N.Suh (monster) and Nick Fairley should be good to go giving the defense a boost. The Boys are the 2nd best team running the ball while Detroit is #1 in stopping it. Flipping the script, the Lions are 6th when it comes to turning over the ball and the Cowboys are 2nd in forcing turnovers. The Cowboys will win 27-14. Stafford just isn’t efficient enough to win and is prone to turn it over multiple times resulting in Dallas getting easy scoring opportunities.
Each game this weekend is compelling and should be competitive.
Comment below with who you think will win each game.
Omolade Saka (https://fortonsports.wordpress.com/author/omoladesaka/): The Denver Broncos are obvious contenders. Even though they started off slower than last year this team has a lot of offensive weapons and of course Peyton Manning, who could arguably be a top 5 QB of all time. You just can’t count them out with all of the talent they have offensively. Plus, their defense has improved from last year.
R’Mon Allen (https://fortonsports.wordpress.com/author/mononsports/): There is no question about the Denver Broncos being contenders in the AFC. They are currently the reigning AFC champions, both their offense and defense improved. Also they are extremely motivated after what happened to them in the Super Bowl. Even though they lost their run game in Knowshown Moreno, you have to believe that their all time great QB Peyton Manning, will figure it out.
Ryan Fort (https://fortonsports.wordpress.com/author/ryanfort/): Contenders. Any team that has Peyton Manning at QB has to deemed as a Contender right? Yeah they started off slow but they’re starting to pick it up which could mean trouble for a lot of the teams in the AFC. Gulp, league.
San Diego Chargers
Hornback: The leading MVP Phillip Rivers has his team performing at a contending level and will continue that throughout this season. Don’t be surprised if they steal the division this year.
Saka: The San Diego Chargers are definitely contenders. This team is led by QB Phillip Rivers, who in my opinion is playing like the best QB in the NFL as of right now. Defensively this team is having a very good season. Ranking third in the NFL in Total Offensive yards allowed and fourth in total passing yards allowed. Don’t be surprised if you see them playing for the Lombardi trophy this year.
Allen: The San Diego Chargers are a very legit contender in the AFC. Phillip Rivers is obviously the league MVP and proving all the doubters that buried him years ago wrong. They are vastly improved on the defensive end and their offense is loaded with weapons. Like Denver their running game is suspect due to injury, but a great QB can always cancel that out.
Fort: They are Contenders no doubt. Rivers is having a great year and the team is doing well despite a number of injuries here early on. If any team can dethrone Denver it’s them.
Hornback: The most talented team in the AFC is what I call them despite them always finding a way to come up short. They will win the division by default but I will not call them contenders.
Saka: This team is a pretender. Yes, this team will definitely make the playoffs and more than likely win their division but they have yet to win a playoff game under Marvin Lewis and he has been their head coach since 2003. Plus their No. 1 WR is out till who knows when.
Allen: Despite being the most talented team in the league the Bengals are merely a pretender. They never seem to show up when the big moments arrive. You can have all the talent you want to but it takes heart be a contender in this league.
Fort: Pretenders. In the Playoffs they can never get going. And with Green injured I’m expecting a huge drop with this team.
New England Patriots
Hornback: I always believe in Brady because somehow someway his team will find a way to be successful. But I do believe that they need to capitalize on these receivers being dangled around on the trade block. Contender.
Saka: Tom Brady is just a flat out winner and you can never count him out because he will always find a way to win. I also believe in Bill Belicheck, which I believe is one of the greatest coaches in NFL history. Don’t count this team out just yet. Contender.
Allen: We are finally starting to see decline of The New England Patriots. With Logan Mankins not there to protect their all time great QB Tom Brady and having limited weapons on both the passing and running game the Patriots are going to have a tough time competing with the best in the Conference. Borderline Pretender at best.
Fort: The jury is still out on this squad. They’re starting to put it together but I honestly don’t know…. It all depends on if Gronk can healthy… I’m going with…. Pretender. Brady is in decline.
Hornback: Flacco has been solid and the defense is underrated this year but this team is quietly making noise. I don’t quite see them as a contender without more star power. Pretender
Saka: Pretender. This team can’t compete with elite teams in the AFC and probably won’t even win their division because they have the Bengals in it.
Allen: Contender, you have to love the way the Ravens have improved their passing game by acquiring Steve Smith and their Defense has always been top notch. They will be a force to be reckoned with.
Fort: If they can make it through the regular season above .500 sure they’ll be Contenders. Flacco is currently under the radar which is good. Unlike Peyton, Flacco is the QB you want in the postseason. He’ll be getting called ELITE again by season’s end.
Hornback: Not impressed with anything about this team so far. Horrible run game and Luck is turning over the ball too much. Pretender.
Saka: Contenders. The Colts have the #1 total offense and the #1 passing offense. This team is gonna be hard for any defense to compete with. They can make a run for the championship. It’s all depending on Andrew Luck.
Allen: Not sold on the Colts just yet. They play in the worst division in football (AFC South) and their offense is mistake prone despite of the numbers Luck is putting up. Pretenders for now.
Fort: The Colts are not Contenders, yet. Luck turns the ball over too much for my liking. If he were to play Brady, Manning or Rivers it would get ugly because of his turnovers. We all remember what happened when Luck faced Brady last year. But then again he did dismantle Cincy and beat the Ravens so far…. So hmmm.
Hornback: With Fitzpatrick at QB I’m calling this team a pretender. Despite JJ Watt’s greatness I don’t see this team making any noise this year.
Saka: Pretenders. This team might be very good defensively and they do have the best defensive player in the NFL in JJ Watt but they just can’t win with Fitzpatrick at QB. The guy is just terrible in my opinion.
Allen: Clearly the Texans are pretenders, despite having the best defensive player in the league. Their QB is Ryan Fitzpatrick. Nothing else to say.
Fort: Pretenders. J.J Watt is the best defensive player in Football but let’s be honest here…. Fitzpatrick is a 6th tier QB. You can’t contend with him.
AFC Team That Could Rise:
The Browns could be very interesting if they can stay over.500 by the time they get Josh Gordon back, because if they do they WILL make the playoffs.
This is a weak conference and I don’t see anyone else coming up and becoming contenders. The Playoff teams are very clear in this conference.
At this point in time the race for the AFC seems clear cut and I don’t see much coming from anywhere else in the AFC.
Kansas City is slowly coming up. If they continue to improve their play and Bowe along with Charles remain healthy they could regain last year’s form. Just watch.
How was this even a debate? I mean really, who would even ask this question without laughing? One is consistent while the other one inconsistently inconsistent. They’re both going for records. One’s going for the Int. record while the other is on pace to break numerous records. This topic in general is blasphemy!