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  • NFL Playoffs: All-Out Blitz Staff Picks the NFL Wild Card Games

    January 6, 2018 • Features, Front Page, Lists, NFL Playoffs, PredictionsComments (0)

    This afternoon, the 2017-18 NFL Wild Card weekend kicks off with Tennessee visiting Arrowhead Stadium to take on the AFC West champion Kansas City Chiefs. The Saturday slate will be capped with the Falcons visiting the L.A. Rams at 8:15 p.m.

    Here’s the All-Out Blitz staff writers Ben Heck and Jordan Foote’s outlook on this weekend’s Wild Card match-ups:

    No. 5 Tennessee Titans at No. 4 Kansas City Chiefs (Saturday, 4:20 PM ET)

    Ben’s pick: Chiefs 28, Titans 14

    Tennessee’s offense will have trouble keeping up with Kansas City’s top 10 offensive attack, especially given DeMarco Murray has been ruled out for the WC showdown. Over the past three home Kansas City games, rookie running back Kareem Hunt has racked up 362 rushing yards (120.7 yards/game) and four total touchdowns. I expect to see Hunt’s seventh career 100-yard game and a pair of passing touchdowns from quarterback Alex Smith in KC’s Wild Card win.

    Jordan’s pick: Chiefs 31, Titans 20

    I’ve got Kansas City in this one for a few reasons. First, DeMarco Murray’s absence is going to be felt on the field for Tennessee. Derrick Henry is going to be heavily relied upon to anchor an offense that isn’t too scary, especially given Murray’s absence and Marcus Mariota’s poor play this season. This Chiefs have big play potential and although the Titans are great against the run, Alex Smith should be able to make some plays with Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce at his disposal. This one could be close, but I’m not holding my breath.

    No. 6 Atlanta Falcons at No. 3 Los Angeles Rams (Saturday, 8:15 PM ET)

    Ben’s pick: Rams 24, Falcons 17

    The last time the Rams played a playoff game? A 47-17 loss to, yes, the Atlanta Falcons in 2004-05. Second-year quarterback Jared Goff has had an impressive breakout season for the Rams, but it’s obviously running back Todd Gurley who keeps this offense together as both the leading rusher (1,305 yards, 13 TD) and second-best receiver (64 catches, 788 yards, 6 TD). The league’s top-scoring offense will pick up its first postseason win in 13 seasons.

    Jordan’s pick: Rams 28, Falcons 27

    Jared Goff. Todd Gurley. Aaron Donald. Sean McVay. The Rams have some of the best in the league at quarterback, running back, defensive tackle and head coach. Matt Ryan and Julio Jones are a deadly combo when running at full capacity, but something about Atlanta has been off this year. The offense is no longer the frightening force it once was and this year, the Rams’ unit is. Part of me wants to pick Atlanta but with now consistently good the Rams have been this year, I’ve got to pick them in this matchup.

    No. 6 Buffalo Bills at No. 3 Jacksonville Jaguars (Sunday, 1:05 PM ET)

    Ben’s pick: Jaguars 34, Bills 21

    The Bills are the biggest feel-good story of the NFL postseason this year, finally putting an end to the franchise’s playoff drought dating back to 1999. However, I have a gut feeling that the joy in Buffalo will be short-lived as they travel down south to Sacksonville. This season, Jacksonville has fielded both a top five offense and top five defense, and veteran quarterback Blake Bortles has thrown a career-low 13 interceptions. All Jacksonville needs to do is limit turnovers on offense and the league’s second-best scoring defense should be able to handle the rest against a Bills team that went 3-5 on the road this season.

    Jordan’s pick: Bills 24, Jaguars 20

    The X-factor in this game is Blake Bortles. This season, Jacksonville is 8-0 when Bortles doesn’t throw a pick. This team is downright scary when Bortles is on his game. This same team is also 2-6 when Bortles does throw an interception. Bortles has thrown five interceptions in his past two games. The strength of Jacksonville is its ball-hawking defense but against a very cautious QB in Tyrod Taylor, Buffalo may not turn the ball over. On the other hand, if Blake Bortles makes some bad decisions, Buffalo’s defense could be in for a field day. The unit ranks 9th in the league in takeaways. Jacksonville is the better team and if Bortles shows up, it won’t be close. I don’t see that happening: Bills Mafia lives on to see another week.

    No. 5 Carolina Panthers at No. 4 New Orleans Saints (Sunday, 4:40 PM ET)

    Ben’s pick: Saints 35, Panthers 17

    If, at the beginning of the season, you sat here and told me New Orleans would have the most lethal running back duo in all of football by season’s end, I’d call you crazy. The 38-year old Drew Brees is still slinging it (4,334 yards, 23 TD, 8 INT, 103.9 QB rating) and Mark Ingram and rookie Alvin Kamara combined for 1,852 rushing yards and 25 total touchdowns. I know its tough to beat the same team three times in the same season, but I can’t see the Panthers defense slowing down the Ingram/Kamara duo, especially considering the Saints are 7-1 at home this season.

    Jordan’s pick: Saints 34, Panthers 24

    A good, old-fashioned NFC South matchup is on the books for Sunday evening. Drew Brees, the model of consistency, versus Cam Newton, the model of wild inconsistency. Carolina has the potential to be an elite team in this league but until Newton can play at a high level for more than two consecutive weeks, the Panthers aren’t to be taken seriously. Drew Brees, Alvin Kamara, Mark Ingram and the rest of the Saints are going to take this one. New Orleans’ downfall has always been its defense but this year, things are different. The Saints are clicking on all cylinders and with Brees still playing at a high level, this game is the Saints’ to lose.

    Photo: Justin Edmonds/Getty Images

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  • Flashback: Last Time the Falcons & Rams Met in Playoffs

    January 4, 2018 • Features, Front Page, HistoryComments (0)

    This Saturday night, the No. 6 Atlanta Falcons (10-6) will travel to L.A. to take on the No. 3 Los Angeles Rams (11-5) for the 2017-18 NFC Wild Card showdown.

    In 22 postseason games in Atlanta’s franchise history, the Falcons and Rams have only met once in the playoffs before this weekend.

    The day was Jan. 15, 2005.

    The place: the Georgia Dome for the ’04 Divisional Round match-up between Atlanta and the St. Louis Rams.

    The result?

    A 47-17 Atlanta shellacking of the Rams, with then-Falcons quarterback Michael Vick running for 119 yards and tossing two touchdowns (12-of-16 passing for 82 yards).

    Rams quarterback Marc Bulger tossed for 299 yards and a pair of touchdowns on 23-of-35 passing, but was sacked four times and turned the ball over twice against Atlanta’s Keith Brooking-led defense.

    Back-to-back Warrick Dunn rushing touchdowns, from 62 and 19 yards out, in the first half put Atlanta in control, 21-7.

    With a 35-17 halftime lead, Atlanta shut St. Louis out in the second half to preserve the playoff drubbing and clinching a spot in the following week’s NFC Championship match-up (a 27-10 loss to Philadelphia).

    Between Vick, Dunn and T.J. Duckett, the Falcons put up 327 yards and a trio of touchdowns on the ground in the Divisional Round win.

    Who wins the Falcons/Rams postseason rematch this Saturday night? We’ll have our Wild Card picks up tomorrow!

    Photo: atlantafalcons.com

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  • Browns’ “Perfect Season” Parade Set for Saturday, Jan. 6

    January 4, 2018 • AFC North, Cleveland Browns, Front PageComments (0)

    For weeks and weeks, a group of Clevelanders (headed by Chris McNeil) have been organizing a “perfect season” parade just in case the Browns managed to complete the 2017 season at a “perfect” 0-16.

    And, with last Sunday’s lost at Pittsburgh officially completing the 16-loss season, the parade is set for this Saturday at noon at FirstEnergy Stadium.

    There’s an official website detailing the specifics of the parade: brownsparade.com.

    In just two months, over $13,000 have been raised on the parade’s GoFundMe page. Incredible.

    While 12 teams are making last-minute playoff preparations, the entire city of Cleveland will be parading around First Energy Stadium in below-freezing temperatures and windy conditions.

    Photo: Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

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  • Shazier Making Progress, Regaining Feeling in Legs

    January 4, 2018 • AFC, AFC North, Breaking News, Front Page, Pittsburgh SteelersComments (0)

    It’s been exactly a month since Ryan Shazier’s life-altering spinal injury against the Cincinnati Bengals Monday, Dec. 4, and we’ve received some great news from Shazier’s father (via an interview he did with WPXI): Ryan is regaining feeling in his legs.

    Over the last month, the general public hasn’t received many updates on Ryan’s recovery (it’s nice to give Shazier and his family their much-deserved privacy), but this is great news for the Steelers’ Pro Bowl linebacker. He’s been making daily progress.

    It will take months and months of recovery for Shazier, but it’s always nice to have a positive update.

    Photo: Joe Sargent/Getty Images

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  • Pro Football Hall of Fame Announces 2018 Finalists

    January 2, 2018 • Features, Front Page, HistoryComments (0)

    I always love this time of the year.

    The calendar has officially turned 2018, which means its time for the Pro Football Hall of Fame to announce its latest batch of PFHOF Modern-Era finalists.

    On Tuesday, Jan. 2, the organization announced the final 15 candidates for the upcoming class, and it includes

    RB
    Edgerrin James

    WR
    Randy Moss
    Terrell Owens
    Isaac Bruce

    OL
    Tony Boselli (T)
    Alan Faneca (G)
    Steve Hutchinson (G)
    Joe Jacoby (T)
    Kevin Mawae (C)

    LB
    Ray Lewis
    Brian Urlacher

    CB
    Ty Law
    Everson Walls

    S
    John Lynch
    Brian Dawkins

    All I’ll say, is that if Terrell Owens is not enshrined this year, heads will roll.

    Put the man in the Hall already!

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  • Best Foote Forward: Power Ranking the NFL Playoff Teams

    January 2, 2018 • Features, Front Page, Lists, PreviewComments (0)

    The NFL regular season has concluded and each team now knows either where it will be drafting in April or, in fortunate cases, where it is seeded in the playoffs.
    With that said, last week was the final week featuring all 32 NFL teams in the Power Rankings.
    Last week’s slate of games had little-to-no impact on what would be this week’s full-32 rankings, so we’re going to rank only the 12 playoff teams for this year! Let’s see where your team (hopefully it made the playoffs!) ranks in TBFF’s Wild Card Weekend Power Rankings!

    12. Tennessee Titans

    Tennessee took care of business (although it wasn’t pretty) on Sunday against Jacksonville and clinched a playoff berth. The 5-seeded Titans will travel to Kansas City on Saturday to face the resurgent Chiefs. Marcus Mariota is going to be the key to this game for the Titans because when he’s on target, this team is hard to beat. When the team loses, it is usually because of Mariota’s poor play. It’s going to take a very good performance on offense to outscore a Chiefs team that finished 6th in the league in points per game.

    11. Buffalo Bills

    The moment the Bills realized they were playoff bound was about as cool as you’ll ever see again. Buffalo did its part by beating the Dolphins and the entire team waited in the locker room to see if the Bengals could upset Baltimore and kick them out of the playoffs, sliding Buffalo into the 6th and final seed in the AFC and sending the locker room into a frenzy. Hopefully the Bills can bring that level of energy to Jacksonville on Sunday in an effort to upset the AFC South champions in the Jaguars. LeSean McCoy’s ankle injury is something to keep an eye on as the week goes on, as Shady is currently a game-time decision. I have a feeling he’ll play, which is a big boost for a Bills team facing one of the best defenses in the entire NFL.

    10. Jacksonville Jaguars

    The Jags didn’t end the season so hot, dropping two straight to end the year. Blake Bortles had been playing great football during the team’s three-game winning streak, but went back to bad Blake for the final two weeks of the regular season. If bad Blake shows up against the Bills, Jacksonville could be headed home early. Regardless of which version of Bortles shows up, it’ll be the defense that wins this game for the Jags, just as the case has been all season.

    9. Carolina Panthers

    Cam Newton just can’t seem to figure out which version of himself he wants to be. The Panthers are eerily similar to the Jaguars, but Carolina’s offense is much more dynamic when it’s at its fullest potential. Carolina’s defense is going to be relied upon pretty heavily Sunday night in New Orleans, especially if Newton struggles. Carolina is a very dangerous team when both the offense and defense are rolling but lately, it’s been hit or miss with this squad.

    8. Atlanta Falcons

    Atlanta hasn’t been the most consistent team this season but when Matt Ryan is playing well and the defense is doing its fair share, this team is hands down one of the best in the league. Atlanta is going to need a perfect game from both sides in order to upset the Rams on Saturday in what could be the best game of the weekend. Ryan hasn’t thrown more than one touchdown in a game since November 20 – which will have to change if the Falcons have any hopes of beating LA.

    7. Kansas City Chiefs

    A tale of two seasons for Kansas City. Through the first five weeks of the season, Kansas City was the consensus best team in the league. The team then proceeded to lose 6 of its next 7 games and fall to 6-6 on the year. The same team finished off the year with four convincing wins to end the regular season with a 10-6 record. If Kansas City is truly back on the right track, it is one of the best teams in the league and shouldn’t have much trouble handling the Titans on Saturday. If the bad Chiefs return, it looks like Alex Smith and company will be watching the rest of the playoffs from home.

    6: Philadelphia Eagles

    The Eagles failed to score a single point in week 17 against the Cowboys. I’m hoping this is an aberration, not a trend. If it is a trend, whoever faces Philly in the Divisional Round of the playoffs is in for a treat. Head coach Doug Pederson has reiterated that Foles is his guy for the job, but may be on a short leash. Philadelphia has a week to work out any kinks in Foles’ game before its first playoff game. This team is super talented but without steady QB play, it can only keep a game so close.

    5. New Orleans Saints

    New Orleans deserves to be in the top five of these rankings for many reasons. Drew Brees is playing great football. Sean Payton is still his head coach. Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram are the first RB duo to each have 1,500+ yards from scrimmage in the same season. New Orleans has the leading DROY candidate in Marshon Lattimore. The Saints will come marching in on Sunday looking to defeat a bitter division rival in the Panthers, who have played some very inconsistent football as of late. The Saints have been a model of consistency this season and should bring the same style of play to the field in the Wild Card round.

    4. Pittsburgh Steelers

    Le’Veon Bell. Ben Roethlisberger. JuJu Smith-Schuster. That’s scary enough without arguably the best WR in the NFL in Antonio Brown, whose status for the divisional round of the playoffs is still unknown. Brown is making good progress in his attempt to return from a calf injury, but we’ll see if that translates to him being able to play. Even if Brown can’t go, Pittsburgh boasts one of the best offenses in the league and an athletic defense that can get after you all throughout the game. The Steelers are the main threat to the Patriots in the AFC without Brown. With him, this team can go toe-to-toe with anyone.

    3. Los Angeles Rams

    The Rams lost last week to the 49ers without the majority of their starters, so I’m not going to knock them down a spot or discredit the amazing work Sean McVay has done with this bunch. The Rams’ offense put up more points than any other team this season and the defense has allowed the 12th-fewest points, still very solid. The Falcons are a very good matchup for this team and should prove to be a decent test for the defense. Goff and Gurley are going to have good games no matter who they’re facing, which could be the difference on Saturday.

    2. Minnesota Vikings

    Case Keenum or not, this is still one of the most complete teams I’ve ever seen. Minnesota has playmakers for days on both sides of the ball, a great head coach and a quarterback who knows what he has to do in order to win. Keenum has played his way into a starting job (somewhere) next season and can help his situation even more with a couple solid performances in the playoffs. Many want to write the Vikings off and consider them a great team that isn’t capable of reaching the Super Bowl, but that’s foolish. This team is insanely talented and behind efficient QB play and some dominant defense, Minnesota is a scary opponent to face.

    1. New England Patriots

    Who else would be in the top spot? New England scored the second-most points in the NFL this season while allowing the fifth-fewest point total. Defense was a weakness at the beginning of the year for this bunch and is now something that can help the team, not hold it back. Tom Brady hasn’t been dominant as of late but I’d rather best against any other NFL player than him, especially in the postseason. Brady has more playoff experience than any other player currently in the league and I’m thoroughly convinced he can snap out of this slump at any time and deliver a vintage performance, which is scary for the rest of the NFL. New England is the defending Super Bowl champion and deserves the utmost respect, thus sitting atop these rankings.
    I hope everyone is as excited as I am for the playoffs.
    Stay tuned for my Wild Card Weekend Playoff picks.
    Photo: Adam Bettcher/Getty Images

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  • San Francisco’s Future is Bright with Jimmy Garoppolo

    January 1, 2018 • Features, Front Page, NFC, NFC West, San Francisco 49ersComments (0)

    There’s no team as excited about finishing the season at 6-10 as the San Francisco 49ers.

    With Jimmy Garoppolo under center, the Niners have an incredibly bright future.

    And General Manager John Lynch has already made it clear that JimmyGQ is his quarterback of the future.

    In five starts this season, the 26-year old signal caller tossed for 1,560 yards, seven touchdowns and five interceptions, but the most important stat is San Francisco’s perfect 5-0 record in Garoppolo’s five starts.

    Can you imagine what the 6-10 Niners could have done with a full 16-game slate from Garoppolo?

    The crazy thing is all Lynch gave up for Garoppolo is a second-round pick, as he acquired Garoppolo from the New England Patriots back in October.

    Garoppolo spent three seasons in New England, learning under the great Bill Belichick and Tom Brady. In his two starts last season, Jimmy G went 2-0 with a 113.3 QB rating in six total appearances.

    Photo: Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

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  • Week 17: First Playoff Appearance for Buffalo Bills since 1999

    December 31, 2017 • AFC East, Breaking News, Buffalo Bills, Features, Front Page, HistoryComments (0)

    After Sunday afternoon, the Buffalo Bills are partying like it’s 1999!

    The Bills have officially snapped its playoff drought with a Week 17 win over Miami, and Cincinnati’s 31-27 upset win over Baltimore with a game-winning touchdown pass by quarterback Andy Dalton.

    Check out Buffalo’s reaction to Dalton’s game-winner in the locker room following its 22-16 win over Miami.

    This.

    This is what sports are all about.

    No better feeling than snapping an 18-year playoff drought, even if you do need a little help from other teams in the league.

    This weekend, Buffalo will play its first playoff football game since the Music City Miracle heartbreak in January 2000.

    Photo: Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

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  • Best Foote Forward: Jordan’s Week 17 NFL Power Rankings

    December 30, 2017 • Features, Front Page, ListsComments (0)

    There’s only one more chance for each NFL team to change its record, hopefully for the better.
    Last week was a mixed bag of action that changed the playoff picture in both the AFC and NFC.
    Some teams are hanging on for dear life in the playoff race and are going to need some help next week in order to get in while others have clinched spots in the big dance. Let’s find out where your favorite team ranks in the Week 17 Power Rankings!

    32: Cleveland Browns (LW: 32) 0

    Well, I have to admit I was incorrect on multiple occasions when I picked the Browns to win this season, and last week was one of them. It’s become a reality that this team is going to finish the season winless. DeShone Kizer has done nothing this season to give the front office/coaching staff any confidence in him heading into the offseason. The Browns have found themselves in the 32 spot for quite a while, and this week is no different.

    31: New York Giants (LW: 30) -1

    The Giants are moving down a spot after getting shut out by the Cardinals on Sunday. Any time you fail to score a single point in a game, you’re going to fall in the rankings. Fortunately for New York, it’s hard to fall too far when you’re already 30th out of 32 teams. Eli Manning put forth another disappointing effort and now looks like a league-average QB at best. Maybe he’ll benefit from a change of scenery this offseason? That’s a question the Giants’ brass needs to begin thinking about.

    30: Indianapolis Colts (LW: 31) +1

    The Colts played a somewhat-close game against the Ravens and the Giants got thoroughly dismantled, so Indy moves up a spot. The team is beginning to look at other options at head coach, indicating that Chuck Pagano may be on his way out at the conclusion of the season. There have been contradicting reports about Bruce Arians’ future in Arizona – maybe he can reunite with his old QB in Andrew Luck and turn the Colts back into a contender?

    29: Tampa Bay Buccaneers (LW: 28) -1

    Jameis Winston’s sideline tantrum itself is enough to keep the Bucs here, let alone the loss. Tampa Bay did play the Panthers close but at the end of the day, you’re not going to be a successful franchise is your QB is only good for a small fraction of it, injured for another part and then throwing fits for the rest. There needs to be some serious soul-searching done by the Bucs – a team many expected to contend for the NFC South title – this offseason.

    28: Houston Texans (LW: 27) -1

    Houston looked completely done with the season on Monday night against Pittsburgh. If it weren’t for one of the best catches of the season by DeAndre Hopkins, Houston wouldn’t have scored in the entire game. This team desperately misses DeShaun Watson and can only play the waiting game until next season, when he’ll be healthy and ready to go.

    27: Denver Broncos (LW: 26) -1

    Brock Osweiler followed up his great game in typical Brock Osweiler fashion with one of the lesser performances I’ve seen this season. Until Denver gets the QB position figured out, there’s no way this team is going to be competitive. Paxton Lynch is getting the start this Sunday against the Chiefs, giving the team one more look at what it has in the young signal caller before the offseason.

    26: Chicago Bears (LW: 28) +2 

    It’s not hard to beat the Browns, and that’s exactly what the Bears did on Sunday. Defeating a winless team shouldn’t warrant moving up two spots in the rankings, yet here the Bears are. 5-10 seems like a fitting record for this team, with 5-11 or 6-10 both seeming appropriate after next week’s action as well. This defense has some pieces to build around and although he hasn’t been good, Mitchell Trubisky has done enough for the front office to not want to draft a QB in next year’s draft.

    25: New York Jets (LW: 25) 0

    Bryce Petty. Enough said. The Jets are one of the worst teams in the NFL but out of sheer respect for how well the team has overachieved this season, I’m going to try my best to keep them out of the bottom 6 or 7 spots in these rankings. Sunday’s game against San Diego LOS ANGELES (it’s still hard to picture) was an inspiring performance on the defensive end and a brutal one to watch on the other side of the ball. It looks more and more likely that the Jets are going to take a long, hard look at a QB in the draft next April.

    24: Miami Dolphins (LW: 24) 0

    Those poor ‘Fins. With Ryan Tannehill at QB, this squad might be in the middle of the playoff picture. Jay Cutler has been, well, Jay Cutler this season – resulting in the Dolphins sitting at 6-9 heading into week 17. There are a lot of question marks for this team heading into the offseason, with not too many answers readily available.

    23: Green Bay Packers (LW: 19) -4

    Aaron Rodgers = Green Bay Packers. Easier math problem than 2+2. Instead of doing his best impression of a starting QB on Saturday, Brett Hundley did his best local-grocery-store-bagboy-attempting-to-play-QB impression. There is going to need to be a serious overhaul of the Packers’ defense if the team has any hopes of being a serious Super Bowl contender next season, barring Aaron Rodgers playing MVP-level football for 16 games, which is a possibility.

    22: Oakland Raiders (LW: 20) -2

    Oakland continued its trend of being the most disappointing team in the NFL on Monday night, losing to the Carson Wentz-less Eagles by a final score of 19-10. Derek Carr continued to look like he took a step back and the morale of the team continued to look dismal at best. Jack Del Rio’s seat may not be steaming hot, but it’s got to be warming up a bit.

    21: Arizona Cardinals (LW: 23) +2

    The Cardinals continue to find ways to win games behind stellar defense and somehow-not-horrible offense. With David Johnson and Carson Palmer, this team may be competing for a playoff spot. This late-season consistency leaves hope for Cardinals fans that there will be a decent squad on the field at the beginning of next season. The only downside to this winning is… draft position.

    20: Cincinnati Bengals (LW: 22) +2

    Cincinnati eliminated the Lions from playoff contention on Sunday and looked like a decent football team. With Marvin Lewis departing at the end of the season, perhaps this is the wake-up call the team needed: there needs to be change. Cincy is the typical “there’s always next year” team but now, there really might be next year. New year, new faces, new Bengals. Grabbing another win doesn’t hurt.

    19: Tennessee Titans (LW: 18) -1

    Tennessee is starting to scare me. I wasn’t a believer in this team at the beginning of the year and after dropping three straight, I’m definitely not changing my mind. The Jaguars have already locked up the AFC South, so it’ll be interesting to see if they field all starters on Sunday in an attempt to knock Tennessee out of the playoff picture. Marcus Mariota is going to need to snap out of his season-long slump this week and keep it going into the playoffs if this squad has any hopes of winning a playoff game – let alone a Super Bowl.

    18: San Francisco 49ers (LW: 21) +3

    Jimmy Garoppolo is 4-0 as a starter for the San Francisco 49ers. If you were to predict that before the season, I’d bet you $1000 it wouldn’t happen. During Sunday’s upset over Jacksonville, Garoppolo passed Kurt Warner for first all-time in passing yards in a player’s first four games with a team. Is Jimmy G the next Kurt Warner? Maybe not. Is he going to be good in this league? It sure looks like it. San Francisco got away with highway robbery when it acquired Garoppolo from New England earlier in the season.

    17: Washington Redskins (LW: 17) 0

    Everyone knows what they’re going to get this offseason with Kirk Cousins – a solid-to-good QB who isn’t going to be great, but can get you into the playoffs. What he can do outside of that is questionable. Denver may have got a firsthand audition out of Cousins on Sunday. Washington is going to try its best to keep Captain Kirk but if all else fails, it’ll be back to the drawing board for this bunch.

    16: Buffalo Bills (LW: 15) -1

    For those of you who were/are mad about Kelvin Benjamin’s catch/no catch: the Bills were going to lose anyway. There’s no way that catch impacts anything more than the spread in this one. Tom Brady is Tom Brady. Glad we got that out of the way. On the bright side, Buffalo can still get into the postseason by winning Sunday, along with losses by the Titans and Chargers OR by picking up the win Sunday and Baltimore losing. It’s possible.

    15: Detroit Lions (LW: 12) -3

    Detroit is no longer a playoff team and as someone who supported the team throughout the season and wanted to see Matthew Stafford get another chance to win a playoff game, I can’t say I didn’t see this coming. The running game in Detroit is nonexistent and the defense is not where it should be among the NFL’s ranks. Stafford is not Aaron Rodgers, meaning he is going to need a bit more help in order to qualify for and win playoff games. Until the Lions recognize that, they’ll be stuck in the 7-9 win range year in and year out.

    14: Dallas Cowboys (LW: 11) -4

    What a rollercoaster this year for Dallas. From Dak Prescott’s struggles, to Ezekiel Elliot’s suspension and now to Jason Garrett’s job security being questioned by the media, it’s been a wild ride. A team many wrote of weeks ago wasn’t mathematically eliminated from the playoffs until Sunday against the Seahawks. Don’t expect this team to go away next year. Ezekiel Elliot will be back for the entire season and Dak Prescott will have a full offseason to work out the kinks in his game, so this squad will be fine.

    13: Los Angeles Chargers (LW: 16) +3

    It wasn’t pretty, but the Chargers beat the Jets Sunday and remained alive in the playoff race. LA needs to win, Baltimore to win and Tennessee to lose in order to get into the playoffs. If this team can get into the playoffs, it’ll be dangerous. Philip Rivers has enjoyed a good season and his defense is no joke. All LA can do is win this week and hope everything else falls into place.

    12: Seattle Seahawks (LW: 13) +1

    Seattle eliminated Dallas from playoff contention on Sunday when it defeated the Cowboys 21-12. The Seahawks can make the playoffs if they win vs Arizona Sunday and the Falcons lose to the Panthers. The fun thing about Sunday is that those two games happen at the same time, so it’ll be interesting to see if there is any scoreboard watching taking place

    11: Jacksonville Jaguars (LW: 9) -2

    This team can be as good or bad as Blake Bortles makes it. When Bortles is playing efficient football, this squad can compete with the best in the NFL. When he’s throwing interceptions left and right (see Sunday’s game vs. San Francisco), the Jags are going to have a difficult time winning ball games. In the playoffs, Doug Marrone is going to need his QB to play at his absolute best.

    10: Atlanta Falcons (LW: 8) -2

    Atlanta is in the playoffs unless it loses and Seattle wins on Sunday. Both of those outcomes are possible, so the Falcons need to take care of business against Carolina in order to ensure they secure the sixth and final playoff spot in the NFC. Matt Ryan has been playing some so-so football the past few weeks and needs to elevate his game in order to get this team past the wild card round, especially against such a stacked NFC.

    9: Kansas City Chiefs (LW: 14) +5 *BIG RISER*

    Kansas City seems to have found its swag and winning formula after losing it for a month. Alex Smith is back to playing great football, Kareem Hunt is back to his rookie of the year ways, Travis Kelce is getting involved and Tyreek Hill has emerged as one of the best young wideouts in the league. Not to mention, the defense has been playing a lot better as of late. Is this a product of the teams KC is facing? We’ll find out in the postseason.

    8: Baltimore Ravens (LW: 10) +2

    Joe Flacco in the playoffs is a scary thought. We’ve seen it before, and we might just see it again. The Ravens can get into the playoffs by winning or the Titans/Bills losing. If the season ended today, Baltimore would be facing the Chiefs in the wild card round of the playoffs. That’s a good matchup; here’s to hoping the Ravens can make it happen.

    7: Philadelphia Eagles (LW: 7) 0

    Last week, a certain someone (me), said the Eagles are going to be just fine with Nick Foles at QB. A certain someone (me) might have been wrong. Foles looked uncomfortable all night against the Raiders and the team mustered just 13 points on offense. If it weren’t for so many Oakland turnovers, Philly’s offense may have struggled even more. At the end of the day this team is still talented, but it’s getting harder to picture it beating the Vikings or Rams in a playoff scenario.

    6: Carolina Panthers (LW: 4) -2

    Bad Cam Newton showed up last week, and the team still won. That’s a testament to the talent and coaching of this squad. Perhaps the most frustrating thing in the NFL this season has been Cam Newton’s inconsistency. When he’s good, Carolina is great. When he’s average, Carolina is good and when he’s bad, the team is average. Average isn’t going to win playoff games, so Cam has to at least play somewhat well.

    5: New Orleans Saints (LW: 6) +1

    Everyone talking about Drew Brees’ falling off needs to relax for a minute. No, he’s not the 5000-yard force he once was, but he’s still one of the best QB’s in the NFL and one of the best to ever do it. Brees doesn’t have to pass for 5000 yards anymore because he now has one of the best running games in the NFL and a defense that has exceeded expectations. What began as another season down the drain has turned into one with legitimate Super Bowl hopes for the Saints, something not many of us expected.

    4: Pittsburgh Steelers (LW: 5) +1 

    Pittsburgh is Pittsburgh. No one expected anything short of dominance against the Texans on Monday night. Ben Roethlisberger, Le’Veon Bell and JuJu Smith-Schuster is one of the best QB, RB, WR trios in the NFL – and that’s forgetting the injured Antonio Brown (arguably the best WR in the league). The only thing to worry about for this team is James Harrison’s signing with the New England Patriots but other than that, expect the Steelers to be in a good position to compete in the playoffs.

    3: Los Angeles Rams (LW: 3) 0

    Another week, another win for the Rams. Todd Gurley has a legitimate shot at winning MVP and Jared Goff’s TD:INT ratio is now 4:1 on the season. If these two are playing great football, it doesn’t matter how the defense plays. When the entire team plays well at once, forget about it: this is one of the best teams in the NFL. Look out playoffs – Los Angeles is coming.

    2: Minnesota Vikings (LW: 2) 0

    It came against Brett Hundley and the Rodgers-less Packers, but a shutout is a shutout. Minnesota’s defense is one of the best in the league and it certainly showed up to play Saturday night. Case Keenum didn’t have to do much at all and the team ended up winning 16-0. As long as the defense remains intact, this team should be among the favorites to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl.

    1: New England Patriots (LW: 1) 0

    New England is going to be New England. Tom Brady hasn’t been single-handedly dominating games lately, but his squad is still one of the best in the NFL. Signing James Harrison is the icing on the cake for the Pats. Having home-field advantage throughout the playoffs is going to be huge for this team, so there is still something to play for next week.

    Thanks for reading this week’s power rankings.

    Here’s to your favorite team rising a spot or two in next week’s rankings!

    Photo: Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

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  • NCAA: Barkley Leads Penn State Past Washington in Fiesta Bowl

    December 30, 2017 • Front Page, NCAAComments (0)

    In what could turn out to be Penn State running back Saquon Barkley’s final game in a college uniform, the 20-year old ran for 137 yards and a pair of touchdowns in a 35-28 Fiesta Bowl win over No. 11 Washington.

    The No. 9 Nittany Lions used 175 total yards on 25 Barkley touches to pull away with the seven-point win.

    Now the question remains: will Barkley declare for the 2018 NFL Draft, or will he return for his senior season at PSU?

    This is certainly one of the many college football storylines to monitor closely over the next few weeks.

    Photo: Jennifer Stewart/Getty Images

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