Tag Archives: NFL Playoffs

NFL Buckeyes (2017, Divisional Round)

The Final Four of the 2017 NFL Playoffs is set. The New England Patriots will host the Jacksonville Jaguars in the AFC. While the Philadelphia Eagles will host the Minnesota Vikings in NFC. We’ll have to wait another week to find out who will meet up in the Super Bowl in February, regardless we know there will be some Buckeyes playing for the Lombardi trophy.
Malcolm Jenkins and the Philadelphia Eagles beat the Atlanta Falcons 15-10. Jenkins made 6 tackles in the victory.

The Jacksonville Jaguars defeated Cam Heyward and the Pittsburgh Steelers 45-42. Heyward made 1 tackle in defeat.

The last game of the the weekend had the most Ohio State Alumnus on the field. Michael Thomas, Ted Ginn junior, Vonn Bell and rookie sensation Marshon Lattimore faced Pat Elflein and the Minnesota Vikings. Minnesota won on a last second touchdown pass 29-24. Thomas caught 7 passes for 85 yards and 2 touchdowns, Ginn 8 catches for 72 yards and 1 rush for 11 yards in defeat. On the defensive side, Bell made 5 total tackles, while Lattimore made 4. 

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Will the Third Time be the Charm for Pittsburgh?

Tomlin is 2-5 vs. Belichick in the regular season. The AFC title game will be their first playoff meeting.

Here we are again. For the third time, the Pittsburgh Steelers will play the New England Patriots for the right to go to the Super Bowl. This time, the New England Patriots have the number one seed and home field advantage. A scenario the Steelers were in the other two times they met with the AFC crown on the line.

Those other two times, New England has beaten Pittsburgh. Each loss ended a sensational season by the Steelers that appeared to be destined to bring home another Lombardi trophy. 2001, the second seeded Pats defeated the 13-3 and number one seeded Steelers 24-17 in Heinz Field. That was the game Tom Brady was knocked out and Drew Bledsoe had to be dusted off from the bullpen to rescue the Pats. New England would go on to win their first of four Super Bowls in the 2000’s.

2004, Ben Roethlisberger’s rookie season. The Steelers were 15-1 and the number one seed again. In the regular season, Pittsburgh defeated New England 34-20 and ended their record 21-game winning streak. Steelers Nation thought they finally had Brady and Bill Belichick’s number. But in the playoffs, the second seed Pats thumped them 41-27. Roethlisberger threw three interceptions, one returned for a touchdown by safety Rodney Harrison.

It feels like they have their number. Four of the last five times these two teams have played, Pittsburgh has lost. It’s payback time.

These aren’t the same Steelers the Patriots defeated in week seven 27-16. Ben Roethlisberger didn’t play that game due to injury. James Harrison wasn’t starting and wasn’t heavily used in the linebacker rotation. Bud Dupree was still on the injury list. Those rookies in the secondary, Sean Davis and Artie Burns were still inexperienced. And Brady had Rob Gronkowski in the lineup. Number 87 won’t be there Sunday.

What does that mean? As I sit here on Monday afternoon and write this, not much. But the Steelers defense that allowed 362 total yards, 127 rushing and two touchdowns to LeGarrette Blount, and 93 receiving yards and a touchdown to “Gronk” on that late October afternoon, is very much improved.

In this 9-game winning streak dating back to week 11, the defense allows 87.6 rushing yards per game and 230.6 passing yards per game. They’re also plus 7 in turnover margin. The D is the only thing anyone worries about when it comes to Pittsburgh, and in the divisional round against Kansas City, they showed they can be counted on to do their part and even win a game.

Offensively everyone knows Roethlisberger and offensive coordinator Todd Haley have the weapons to put up points with Brady and crew. After the divisional matchup against the Kansas City Chiefs where they only mustered 5 field goals, and went 0-4 in the red zone, Pittsburgh has several questions to answer. Can Big Ben minimize his turnovers? Will he get rid of the ball instead of trying to extend plays, risking taking sacks that put the offense behind the chains? Will they learn from the stalled drives against the Chiefs and give the ball to Le’Veon Bell and let him wear out the defense while eating time off the clock, keeping Brady on the sidelines?

The Steelers will likely need to score the 27 points per game they’ve been averaging in their win streak to pull off the upset. The defense will need to come up with that one turnover, or that key sack on third down to get the ball back for the Killer B’s.

This is it. Brady is nearing the end of his career. This will likely be Roethlisberger’s last, and best shot to get a major win over the four-time Super Bowl Champ and prove he belongs in the top of the elite QB conversation that so many times he’s mentioned in as an after thought.

This is also Mike Tomlin’s moment to get his critics, like Terry Bradshaw and a significant portion of Steeler fans, off his back. Legacies are at stake on both sides. I can’t see a more better way of alleviating the pain and frustrations this organization has caused Steelers Nation than celebrating an AFC Championship in their building, the same way they’ve ended so many promising seasons of ours. Third times gotta be the charm.

Kickoff is set for Sunday at 6:40 pm in Gillette Stadium.

EXTRA POINTS

  • The last team to win a playoff game without scoring a touchdown was the 2006 Indianapolis Colts, also in the divisional round, against the Baltimore Ravens. The next week, they played and beat the New England Patriots in the AFC title game, then went on to win Super Bowl XLI.
  • New England is making their 6th consecutive AFC Championship game.
  • The Steelers are making their 16th AFC Championship game appearance. That’s the most since the 1970 NFL-AFL Merger.

 

 

Steelers Avenge Ugly Early Season Loss

Steelers Nation knows they’ve got the best offensive weapon in the NFL. Photo Credit: Steelers.com

Remember when the Miami Dolphins beat the Pittsburgh Steelers 30-15 in week six? The Steelers avenged that ugly loss that started their mid-season 4-game losing streak, with a 30-12 domination in the Wild Card round.

It was the first postseason game the “Killer B’s” of Ben Roethlisberger, Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell played together. And they didn’t disappoint. From the first drive, you could see the explosion coming.

Bell, in his first postseason action of his 4-year career, ran for 11 yards for a first down on the first play. The 2nd play Roethlisberger threw a strike to Brown for a 7-yard gain. Two plays later, Big Ben hit AB on a screen-pass for what looked like it was going to be a 5-yard gain, but Brown showing the patience that we see week after week from Bell, set up a block from tight end Jesse James to spring for a 50-yard touchdown. His first postseason touchdown of his career. 5 plays, 85 yards in 2:45 minutes. Pittsburgh 7-0. 

The second drive, after the defense forced Miami to punt, went 6 plays, 90 yards and another six points for AB in 3:10 minutes.  Just that quick, 14-0 Pittsburgh, before Miami knew what happened. Brown had 3 receptions for 119 yards in the first quarter. He finished the game with 5 catches for a buck-twenty four.

From there offensive coordinator Todd Haley made a concerted effort to run down the throat of the 30th ranked rush defense. On the third Pittsburgh offensive drive, Bell carried the ball all 10 plays, for 78 yards and a touchdown to bleed 5:27 off the clock. 20-3, Pittsburgh. Bell once again showed why he’s the best back, and possibly best offensive weapon in the League.

I said in my preview of this matchup that Bell would touch the ball 25+ times. That’s the formula this team has followed during this 8-game win streak going back to week 11. Sunday versus the Dolphins he rushed 29 times for a Steelers postseason record 167 yards, and caught 2 passes for 7 yards. Down in South Florida, he rushed only 10 times for 53 yards down, and caught 6 passes for 55 yards. Anybody with any football knowledge knew that he wasn’t going to have only 16 touches again. 

While his two interceptions will be scrutinized over the next seven days, Roethlisberger set the table nicely for Bell to eat the way he did. #7 connected on a postseason career high 11 consecutive completions in the first half to keep the Miami defense off balance. In the first half he was 11 of 12 for 188 yards and those 2 touchdowns to Brown. He finished the game with 197 yards on 13 of 18 and a 105.3 rating.

While everyone will gush over the offense, it’s the defensive performance that gives Steelers Nation more confidence that a trip to Houston in February isn’t a pipe dream.

Keith Butler’s unit avenged their worse defensive performance of the season, when they allowed Ajayi to rush for 204 yards and 2 touchdowns, 8.2 yards per carry. Go back and watch the highlights of that embarrassing loss, and on those long runs by Ajayi you won’t see jersey numbers 92, 50, 48, 28 and 25 anywhere in the plays. That’s because they weren’t in the game at the time. They all were there in the Wild Card game, and he only carried the ball 16 times for 33 yards, for a 2.1 yard per carry average.

A more focused defensive unit showed up from the jump. The first drive they only allowed 16 total yards (-1 rushing) in 4 plays. The D that’s been brutally scrutinized all season long brought their A game.

James Harrison’s (10 tackles and 1.5 sacks vs. Miami) strip sack of Matt Moore, recovered by Stephon Tuitt, in the final seconds of the first half in the red zone killed any momentum the Dolphins were building to close the deficit from 20-13 or 20-9 before the break.

A strong positive drive to start the second half by Miami ended when another strip sack fumble, this time by Mike Mitchell, thwarted another ‘Phins scoring opportunity.

On the day they forced 3 turnovers (1 interception, 2 fumbles) by Matt Moore. He was sacked 5 times for negative 36 yards and hit a total of 9 times. Miami was 6-14 on third down and 2-4 on 4th down.

Pittsburgh is clicking on all cylinders, and backing up Bell’s comments that no one wants to see them in these playoffs. This is the most complete performance this Steelers team has had on both sides of the ball all season. Teams already feared the offense, but now the defense is playing complimentary football and that makes them even more dangerous.

The Steelers will attempt to avenge offensive coordinator Todd Haley against the team that gave him his first head coaching job, the Kansas City Chiefs, while trying to avoid allowing them to return the favor from the 43-14 week four beat down at Heinz Field.

Kickoff is Sunday at 1:05 pm in Arrowhead Stadium.

EXTRA POINTS

  • With the win, Pittsburgh won their 35th postseason game, an NFL record.
  • James Harrison became the second oldest player to record a sack in the playoffs.
  • Roethlisberger threw a touchdown pass for the 44th consecutive game, the second longest active streak.
  • Bell 167 yards is a Steelers postseason single game rushing record.

The Philadelphia Eagles Mt. Rushmore

Fly, Eagles Fly! This franchise is one of the oldest ever, going back to 1899. Photo Credit: ESPN.com

The Philadelphia Eagles are one of the oldest franchise in Pro Football history, having been around since 1899, first as the Frankford Yellow Jackets as an independent team, then as the Eagles from 1924-1931 in the NFL. But since 1933, they’ve been the Eagles as we know them now, with the exception of the 1943 season when they were the Phil-Pitt Steagles when they had to merge with the Steelers because both teams lost players to fight in World War II.

So you see, they’ve been around for a while. That is why they’re 6th in NFL history in regular season victories (548), won 3 NFL Championships (1948, 1949, 1960) before the AFL-NFL Merger, 13 Division titles with 24 playoff appearances.

With such an extensive history, you can imagine there have been several greats that have worn the green and white, which makes it harder to narrow it down to four players who are the most significant in Eagles history. But, that’s why these exercises are fun.

CRITERIA:

  • No owners, unless they were also coaches, and their place on this list is based on their contributions as coach. No General Managers or Personnel executives. Just those who directly affected the games on Sunday. I will make a separate list for those contributors soon. 
  • Key contributors to the team’s history and success, not just fan favorites or box office draws.
  • Can you tell the franchise’s story without them? If no, they’re on the list.

Reggie White (1985-1992) 124 sacks with the Green and White rank first in team history, and his 794 tackles with the team are still good for 4th on the team’s all-time list. The “Minister of Defense” gained some serious consideration for being on the Green Bay Packers Mount Rushmore as well, the franchise he won Super Bowl XXXI with. White was a 7-time 1st-Team All-Pro and Pro Bowl selection, 1987 NFL Defensive Player of the Year, 1987 & 1991 NFC Defensive Player of the Year, and twice led the NFL in sacks (1987,1988) while playing in the “City of Brotherly Love.” The 2005 Pro Football Hall of Fame inductee is also a member of the NFL’s 75th Anniversary All-Time Team, as well as its 1990’s and 1980’s All-Decade Teams. The team in his honor retired his Jersey number 92. In 2010, NFL.com ranked him 7th on their “100 Greatest Players” list.

Donovan McNabb (1999-2009) was booed by the Philly fans on draft day after being selected second overall in the 1999 NFL Draft, and all he did was become the most accomplished QB in franchise history, and led the team to its second only Super Bowl (XXXIX), five NFC East titles (4 consecutive 2001-2004) and five NFC Championship game appearances while becoming the team’s all-time leader in passing yards (32,873), touchdown passes (216), completions (2,801) and game winning drives (23). McNabb still holds 16 Eagles records, and was the first QB in NFL history to ever throw for more than 30 touchdowns and fewer than 10 interceptions in a season (2004). The 6-time Pro Bowler is a member of the Eagles Hall of Fame, its 75th Anniversary Team and has his number jersey, number 5, retired.

Chuck Bednarik (1949-1962) has an award named after him, therefore like a couple of other players on in my Mount Rushmore’s series for each team, it’s a given he’s on the list. He played both center and linebacker during his time with the Eagles, while leading the team to two NFL Championships (1949, 1960) and earning 10 All-Pro and 8 Pro Bowl selections. Bednarik is a member of the NFL’s 50th and 75th Anniversary All-Time Team’s, as well as its 1950’s All-Decade Team. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1967 and The Eagles inducted him into their Hall of Fame in 1987. His jersey, number 60, is retired by the organization. In 2010, NFL.com ranked him 35th on their “100 Greatest Players” list.

Brian Dawkins (1996-2008) was the leader of the Eagles defense that became NFC Champions in 2004 and won 4 consecutive NFC East titles, while playing in five NFC Championship games. Dawkins is the first player in NFL history to have 30 interceptions and 30 sacks in a career, and to record a sack, forced fumble, interception and catch a touchdown pass in the same game. He made 5 All-Pro (4 1st-Team) teams and 7 Pro Bowls as an Eagle. He’s a member of the NFL 2000’s All-Decade Team and the Eagles 75th Anniversary team. The team retired his jersey, number 20, and he’s eligible for the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2017.

What you think Philly fans? I know how tough you guys can be. Would this be your Mount Rushmore, or is there a name missing you’d put on here? And if so, you would you replace?

Steelers-Bengals Put the Wild in Wild Card Weekend

 I don’t even know how to write this, or where to began. Before the fourth quarter began I was ready to spend my time talking about how the Pittsburgh Steelers defense put up a dominating performance by holding the Cincinnati Bengals to 0 points. I was also ready to praise the Steelers running back tandem of Fitzgerald Toussaint and Jordan Todman for rushing for a combined 123 yards in the absence of DeAngelo Williams.

But then the fourth quarter happened, and these two teams who have butted heads in the most ugly of meetings in recent memory, put the wild in wild card.

The last two minutes alone involved an interception by Steelers backup quarterback Landry Jones that appeared to seal the Bengals first playoff win in 24 seasons, followed by a Cincinnati fumble by running back Jeremy Hill as they tried to salt the game away. Then it got real wild and ugly on the ensuing Pittsburgh drive when the Bengals were called for two 15-yard personal foul penalties, one in which concussed Antonio Brown and set up the game winning 35-yard field goal by Chris Boswell.

There were 18 combined accepted penalties for 221 combined yards in the game. The Steelers 142 penalty yards were 3 away from tying the record set by the 1981 San Francisco 49ers versus the New York Giants in the Divisional round. In a way, didn’t we get what we expected from these two heated division rivals who racked up over $140 thousand dollars in fines just about a month ago?

I’ll let other folks discuss the out of control nature in which the Bengals snatched defeat from the jaws of victory. I’ll focus on the actual play on the field.

At the start of the day, if I had told you the Steelers would rush for 167 yards without Le’Veon Bell and DeAngelo Williams, against the 7th ranked rush defense (92.3 ypg) in the regular season, you would’ve laughed and told me to get out of your face because I didn’t know anything about football.

Pittsburgh rushed for 167 yards on Saturday night. Photo Credit: Steelers.com

The Steelers started the game looking to establish the run game. The combo of Toussaint and Todman gained 50 yards rushing in the first quarter, 73 in the first half for an average of 4.3 yards per carry. Pittsburgh ran the ball 29 times at a 5.8 yard per carry clip. It led to the 15-0 lead. To Steeler fans, it looked like old school Steeler football. Dare I say, Cowher Power football.

For three quarters the Steelers D even resembled the efforts of Cowher’s old teams, and completely dominated the Bengals. Defensive Coordinator Keith Butler’s unit only allowed the Bengals to gain 2 first downs in the first half, while holding them to 1/7 on 3rd downs for 56 total yards (2.3 ypp) in the first 30 minutes.

The much maligned pass defense only allowed 188 yards through the air, created 4 turnovers and sacked A.J. McCarron 3 times. But, they were once again exposed in the second half. 142 of those passing yards came in the last 30 minutes, and they gave up 17 first downs, 11 via the pass. Cincinnati took advantage of the secondary to take a 16-15 lead on 25-yard TD pass from McCarron to A.J.Green. It once again looked like the defense had given another playoff game away.

But of course, #7 did what he has done several times for the Steelers, and shrugged off the pain and went 5/7 for 40 yards on the 9 play 74 yard final drive, with the aide of the out-of-control Bengals penalties that set up the Steelers game winning field goal.

Shazier made 13 tackles (9 Solo) anf forced 2 fumbles vs. Cincinnati. Photo Credit: Steelers.com

The player of the game without a doubt goes to Ryan Shazier. The 2nd-year linebacker out of Ohio State forced two fumbles that led to 6 points. He also collected 13 tackles (9 solo), batted 2 passes and 1 hit on the quarterback.

Overall I’d give the defense a C+. I say that because while they played awesome for 45 minutes. They also had an epic collapse that would’ve had Steeler Nation questioning Coach Mike Tomlin and the Black & Yellow had the Bengals and Marvin Lewis hadn’t turned back into… well the Bengals.

However, the Steelers are on to the Divisional Round and will play at the number 1 seeded Denver Broncos next Sunday. Kickoff is scheduled for 4:40 p.m.

Steelers celebrate first playoff win since 2010 AFC Championship Game. Photo Credit: Steelers.com

OTHER NUGGETS: Steelers are now 8-3 when scoring first in the postseason since 2004. Ben Roethlisberger is now second in NFL history with 4 postseason game-winning drives in the 4th quarter or overtime. Tom Brady and Eli Manning share first place, each have 5. The Bengals are now 0-14 in their playoff history when trailing at any point.

Here Comes the Killer B’s

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The Steelers offense led by #7 is closing in on the top spot
in the NFL. Photo Courtesy: Getty Images

The last time the Pittsburgh Steelers were in the NFL playoffs, the top ranked overall and passing defense that season made Tim Tebow look like a real NFL quarterback (10-21 for 316 yards and 2 Tds, 0 INTs) in a 23-29 loss at Denver. Since then, he’s been fired from the NFL twice and works for the World Wide Leader. After going 8-8 two consecutive seasons, you could see why many fans of the Black and Gold were clamoring for Head Coach Mike Tomlin to possibly join him.

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Tomlin has the Steelers poised to make a run at Lombardi #7.

But don’t look now, the most Bi-polar team in the NFL appears to have taken the right medication. After alternating wins in their first six games of the season, and losing three games to teams at least three games under five hundred at kickoff—the Bucs were 0-3, Jets 1-8 and Saints 4-7—Tomlin’s Crew has to be the most feared in the AFC winning 7 of their last 9.

Pittsburgh has the second ranked total offense in the NFL. Let me say that again. The Steelers, notoriously known for smash mouth, take the air out of the ball, ground and pound, three yards and a cloud of dust football, has the number two total offense in the league—only 13 yards behind New Orleans coming into week 17.

Antonio Brown leads the NFL in receptions (122) and receiving yards (1,570) to go along with 12 TDs. Le’Veon Bell is the second leading rusher (1,341) in the league and has 77 receptions for 774 receiving yards and Ben Roethlisberger, the most disrespected quarterback with two Super Bowl rings in three appearances is second in passing yards (4,635)—just 36 yards behind Drew Brees for 1st coming into Sunday—and closing in on 5K for the first time in his career. Don’t forget, Big Ben’s new favorite toys, Rookie wide receiver Martavis Bryant (25 Rec, 528 yards and 7 TDs in 9 games ) and second year pro Markus Wheaton (50 Rec, 627 yards and 2 TDs).

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Brown leads all receivers in catches (122 and 1,570 yards).

The Steelers have already played two of their possible AFC playoff opponents in the Colts and North division rival Cincinnati. The results, not good for the opposition. Indianapolis gave up 51 points with 6 TDs and 522 passing yards to Roethlisberger, 92 rushing yards to Bell and 133 receiving yards and two TDs to Brown. The Bengals were blown out 42-21 in Cincy less than a month ago giving up 25 4th quarter points with a winner take the division title matchup tonight in Pittsburgh. Oh, by the way, Roethlisberger is 8-0 in season finales.

Of the other three teams that could be playoff opponents for Pittsburgh, the top ranked defense is Denver at number three giving up 21.6 points per game and 309 yards per game—before the Bengals carved them up for 353 yards (207 yards rushing) on last Monday night. Next is New England at number thirteen and they give up 349 total yards per game, but only 19 points. Do they really want to face the Killer B offense in a one and done situation?

Maybe they do, because if you’re Tom Brady and the Patriots or Peyton Manning and the Broncos, you’re licking your chops to go against that Steeler Defense. It’s no secret the Steelers struggle against the pass. Defensive Coordinator Dick LeBeau’s D gives up big plays like Houston Rocket guard James Harden; 50 plays over 20 yards and 15 over 40 yards. They’re twentieth in total defense, giving up 354 yards a game and 23 points and number 27 out of 32 against the pass (255 ypg).

Safety Troy Polumalu is breaking down in his twelfth season and starting Cornerback Ike Taylor, who was injured most of the season with a broken forearm is showing his age (34) and why this may be his last season playing on the shores of the Three Rivers.

Bringing back Super Bowl Champion veterans Defensive End Brett Kiesel and Linebacker James Harrison out of semi retirement stabilized the unit midseason, which helped lead to the three game winning streak that propelled them back into the North Division title hunt. As LeBeau gets more of his young linebackers back healthy and out on the field, maybe he can dial up enough pressure to keep opposing QBs from exposing the Steeler secondary. If he can restore the D to some resemblance of “Blitzburgh”, the Steelers could make a deep playoff run.

But, it’s a new era in Pittsburgh, so make no mistake, if the Steelers are to get to Arizona in February with a shot to reclaim the Lombardi trophy, and be the first franchise to win seven of them, it will rest on the right arm of Big Ben, feet of Bell and hands of Brown. Bzzzzzzz, bzzzzzzz, here comes them Killer Bee’s.

2014 NFL Season Predictions (blame Madden NFL 15 if I’m wrong)

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Let’s see what Madden thinks. Photo Courtesy: goodgamepro.com

The NFL Football season finally kicks off tonight when the defending World Champion Seattle Seahawks host the Green Bay Packers. But, there’s no need to bother watching the 2014 NFL season (I’m kidding I’m watching every game possible), I can tell you what’s going to happen a week before the season kickoffs, thanks to EA Sports newest edition of Madden NFL. Yes, you’re right, I’ve been on this game too much since it released midnight last Tuesday. But, these results came strictly from CPU Simulation. I didn’t play one game so as to not skew the results.

Oh, in case you were wondering about tonight’s “Fail Mary” rematch…..

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Green Bay Packers 22-Seattle Seahawks 25. Courtesy: EA Sports.

FYI, this exercise was done with injuries on and with the most recent roster update as of 9/3.

First up, your Division and Wild Card winners.
AFC North: Baltimore Ravens (11-5)
NFC North: Green Bay Packers (12-4)
AFC East: New England Patriots (13-3)
NFC East: Washington Redskins (11-4-1)
AFC South: Tennessee Titans (10-6)
NFC South: Tampa Bay Buccaneers (11-5)
AFC West: San Diego Chargers (11-5)
NFC West: Seattle Seahawks (11-4-1)
AFC Wild Cards: Buffalo Bills (11-5) and Denver Broncos (9-7)
NFC Wild Cards: New Orleans Saints (11-5) and San Francisco 49ers (9-7)

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2014 NFL Award Winners
NFL MVP: Green Bay Packers’ QB Aaron Rodgers, Passer Rating of 87.5, throwing for 4,003 yards on 67% completed passes to go with 25 TDs to 15 INTs.

Defensive Rookies of the Year: Houston Texans’ DE Jadeveon Clowney (AFC) 75 tackles, 12 for losses, 9 sacks and 1 forced fumble; Green Bay Packers’ DB Ha Ha Clinton-Dix (NFC) 118 tackles, 7 interceptions, 2 forced fumbles.

Offensive Rookies of the Year: Buffalo Bills’ WR Sammy Watkins (AFC) 53 receptions for 650 yards and 5 TDs; San Francisco 49ers’ RB Carlos Hyde (NFC) 221 rushes for 575 yards and 8 TDs.

Offensive Player of the Year: New England Patriots’ QB Tom Brady (AFC) 91.8 Passer Rating with 3,592 yards passing with 20 TDs and only 7 interceptions on a 66% completion rate; Dallas Cowboys’ QB Tony Romo (NFC) 91.0 Passer Rating with 4,246 yards, 26 TDs to 11 interceptions on 65% completion rate.

Defensive Player of the Year: Denver Broncos’ LB Von Miller (AFC) 125 tackles, 22 for loss, 19 sacks, 1 interception and 1 forced fumble; Seattle Seahawks’ LB Bobby Wagner (NFC) 137 tackles, 6 interceptions and 1 forced fumble.

NFL Coach of the Year: Bill Belichick (13-3)

Some key injuries to point out that may have affected the season. The Redskins QB Robert Griffin III only played in 12 games after suffering a torn ACL, also Browns Johnny Manziel was limited to 11 games after suffering a broken jaw while the Colts Andrew Luck missed 3 games.

Other key injuries:
Denver Broncos RE DeMarcus Ware had a torn achilles that caused him to miss the final 4 games of the season plus the playoffs.
Cleveland Browns LB Carlos Dansby missed 8 due to a fractured knee cap.
San Diego Chargers RB Ryan Matthews, missed 10 games with a broken femur.
Kansas City Chief RB Jamaal Charles, missed 11 games with a fractured knee cap.
Seattle Seahawks RB Marshawn Lynch, missed 3 games due to a broken tailbone.

2015 NFL Playoff Results:

Wild Card Round: The playoffs kicked off with a rematch of Baltimore’s “Miracle At Mile High” from the 2013 Playoffs. This time the game was in “Charm City” where the Ravens sent Peyton Manning and the Broncos home 29-0. Meanwhile in the other AFC matchup, the Bills got a taste of revenge over Titans from the “Music City” miracle of the 2000 NFL playoffs, 17-16.

The theme of rematches continued on the NFC side where the 49ers enacted revenge from last season’s playoff loss to the Seahawks by sending the defending champions home, 19-16. In the third battle of NFC South rivals, the Saints squeezed by the Bucs 27-24.

Divisional Round: In the AFC, The New England Patriots and Buffalo Bills squared off for the third time this season. The Patriots took this one 20-17. In the other Divisional matchup, the Baltimore Ravens knocked off the San Diego Changers 20-16 to set up a third matchup in four seasons in the Conference Championship game against the Patriots.

In the NFC, the 49ers defeated NFL MVP Aaron Rodgers and the Packers 33-18 on the frozen tundra, while the New Orleans Saints dismantled the RG III-less Redskins 38-20, setting up a matchup of contrasting styles between the 49ers ground and pound attack versus the aerial assault of the Saints.

Conference Championship Round:The New England Patriots got revenge over the Baltimore Ravens from their 2013 AFC Championship loss 23-20 and the San Francisco 49ers, playing in their fourth consecutive Conference Championship game, toppled Drew Bree’s and the Saints 27-13.

Super Bowl Champions: Just like Super Bowl 48, the NFC West dominated the show. In his return to the big game, Colin Kaepernick led the San Francisco 49ers to a 27-9 victory over Tom Brady’s Patriots. The vaunted 49ers D picked off Brady 3 times.

Super Bowl MVP: 49ers QB Colin Kaepernick

There you have it. Go ahead and bet on it, Just don’t call me if you lose. For the record, since the Madden series begin simulating the Super Bowl in 2004, the game has correctly predicted the Super Bowl Champion out seven out of ten times. So let’s sit back and see how correct my predictions are over the next six and a half months.