Arizona Cardinals at Carolina Panthers – NFC Championship Game

carolina-panthers-arizona-cardinalsPanthers host the Cardinals in NFC championship game

The Carolina Panthers held on to beat the Seattle Seahawks 31-24 on Sunday with their 12th straight home win. Now they’ll host the NFC championship game for the first time in franchise history. The Arizona Cardinals beat the Green Bay Packers 26-20 in a wild overtime game on Saturday night to advance. The Panthers and Cardinals have not played this season but this game has a potential to be high scoring. The Panthers averaged more than 31 points this season and the Cardinals were a close second at 30.5. These two teams couldn’t be much closer to one another and home field advantage is the only thing separating them. The NFC Championship Game  between the Arizona Cardinals and Carolina Panthers is scheduled for Sunday, January 24, 2016, at 6:40 p.m. ET at Bank of America Stadium. The matchup will be broadcast on FOX.

The Arizona Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer threw for 349 yards and three TDs with two picks during their win against the Packers. Palmer had issues hitting his receivers and one of his touchdowns was of a fluke pass that was intended for a different receiver and landed in the hands of Michael Floyd. The other touchdown was a big catch and run by Larry Fitzgerald. The Arizona receivers Floyd, Fitzgerald and John Brown are all very good, and are sure to have a big impact in this game also. For the second game in a row, the Cardinals had trouble running the ball, gaining just 40 yards on 19 attempts.

The Carolina Panthers defense wore down last week after going up 31-0 over Seattle, and had to recover an onside kick to pull out a 31-24 victory. Carolina has a very talented defense however they don’t have a particularly deep unit. Arizona could take advantage of this if they can stay on the field for a majority of the time. The Panthers are going to rely on quarterback Cam Newton during this NFC championship game. Against Seattle, Newton completed 16 of 22 passes for 161 yards and a touchdown. The Panthers running back Jonathan Stewart was able to run over 100 yards on the ground against Seattle, who has the league’s best rush defense.

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Pittsburgh Steelers at Denver Broncos – NFL Divisional Playoff

Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger (7) throws in the fourth quarter of the NFL football game against the Denver Broncos in Denver on Monday, Nov. 9, 2009. Pittsburgh Steelers center Justin Hartwig (62) blocks Denver Broncos defensive end Chris Baker (75). The Steelers won 28-10. (AP Photo/Chris Schneider)Denver Broncos Favored To Win Against Pittsburgh Steelers

The Broncos couldn’t have had a better Wild Card weekend. Pittsburgh won giving Denver a shot at taking down Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers. The health of Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is a big factor ahead of this game. Denver would be favored by a field goal, at least, even if Big Ben was healthy. It might be the last playoff run for Peyton Manning who will start for the Broncos. The matchup between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Denver Broncos is scheduled for Sunday, January 17, 2016, at 4:40 p.m. ET at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. The game will be broadcast on CBS.

The Pittsburgh Steelers finished the year ranked third in total team offense. They averaged almost 400 yards and 26 points per game. Pittsburgh beat the Denver Broncos with a 34-27 win  during Week 15. Roethlisberger was the only quarterback the Broncos faced this season who had more than 300 yards passing. Also, wide receiver Antonio Brown torched the Denver defense for 189 yards receiving in Pittsburgh’s Dec. 20 win. With Roethlisberger and Brown getting hurt Saturday in Cincinnati, the Steelers offense certainly won’t be the same. If Roethlisberger can’t start, expect Michael Vick to be active. Steelers running back DeAngelo Williams has an injured foot and is questionable. The Steelers run game is in the hands of Fitz Toussaint and Jordan Todman. The pair did well against Cincinnati, but things will be different against Denver’s best defense.

The Denver Broncos have had injuries in the offensive line and quarterback Peton Manning’s left foot. The Broncos have played many grind out games. They were 9-3 in games decided by seven or fewer points this season. Denver used the bye week to get several defensive players ready for the next game. Linebacker Demarcus Ware and defensive backs Darian Stewart and Chris Harris are likely to play. The Denver Broncos don’t need to play a perfect game against the Steelers to win. Manning and the passing game will be exciting, but the work they do in the trenches could be the difference.

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Seattle Seahawks at Arizona Cardinals, Week 17

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The Seahawks vs Cardinals finale may not be meaningless

The Seattle Seahawks lost to the St. Louis Rams at home last Sunday for the first time in 10 years which ended their 5 game winning streak. The Seahawks don’t want to go into the postseason playing like they did against the Rams, so they’ll be looking to put up a strong performance. The Arizona Cardinals back on November 15 went on the road and beat the Seattle Seahawks and haven’t lost a game since.  A Arizona Cardinals win combined with a Panthers loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers next week will give Arizona home field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs. The Week 17 game between the Seattle Seahawks and Arizona Cardinals is scheduled for Sunday, January 3, 2016 at 4:25 p.m. ET at University of Phoenix Stadium. The game will be broadcast on FOX.

The Seattle Seahawks must rely on quarterback Russell Wilson or the Seahawks aren’t moving the football. Wilson is a man completing 68.1 percent of his passes and averaging 8.4 yards per pass attempt. Running back Marshawn Lynch is still very likely out, and the ground game without both he and Thomas Rawls is virtually not there. The Seahawks offense need to be able to hold off the relentless Arizona Cardinals defense long enough to give Wilson a chance to get set. The Cardinals defense picked up nine sacks on Aaron Rodgers last week and that scheme may not be changing. 15 different players have sacks for Arizona this season. If the Seahawks offensive line problems continue, it could be a long day for them.

The NFL has scheduled both the Seahawks-Cardinals and Panthers-Bucs for 4:25 p.m. ET on Sunday, so the Cardinals won’t know ahead of time if they have something to play for. The Arizona Cardinals is very likely to start and pull out their starters, if the Panthers start to blow out the Buccaneers. The first player the Cardinals will likely pull is quarterback Carson Palmer, and the second is wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald. If those two men are out and the Seattle defense is playing up to par, the Cardinals will have a hard time scoring any more points.

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Green Bay Packers at Arizona Cardinals, Week 16

Green+Bay+Packers+Arizona+CardinalsPackers travel to Arizona to play the Cardinals

The 12-2  Arizona Cardinals have already laid claim to the NFC West title and one more win would earn them a first round bye. A win for the 10-4 Green Bay Packers would keep their hopes for the No. 2 playoff seed alive entering the final weekend of the regular season. This should be a great matchup between two teams that could easily face one another again in the postseason. The matchup between the Green Bay Packers and Arizona Cardinals is scheduled for Sunday, December 27, 2015, at 4:25 p.m. ET at University of Phoenix Stadium. The game will be televised on FOX.

While Green Bay Packers offense isn’t as high-octane as it has been in past seasons, it has been getting the job done and the defense is playing well recently, allowing only 16.4 points per game over the team’s last six games. The Packers rank 26th in the league in average yards allowed per rush at 4.45 and have given up at least 100 yards on the ground in four straight. Quarterback Aaron Rodgers ranks No. 2 in the NFL with seven games this season with two-plus touchdown passes and zero interceptions. Cornerback Sam Shields, who likely would be assigned to cover Arizona Cardinals Pro Bowl receiver Larry Fitzgerald on Sunday, may miss his second straight game. Shields has yet to clear the concussion protocol and is in danger of missing his second straight game.

The Arizona Cardinals remains one of the most complete teams in the NFL this season behind a high-powered offense that is ranked No. 2  in the league with 31.8 points and a  defense that is allowing only 19.2 points a game. Last Sunday against the Eagles, rookie running back David Johnson went off with 187 yards rushing and three touchdowns on 29 carries to add more to the Cardinals offensive attack. The game showed what strength Arizona has on both sides of the ball. They scored over 30 points for the fourth time in the last seven weeks and holding their opponent to under 21 points for the fourth straight game. The team that wins the ground battle will probably win this game, and that team is more likely to be Arizona.

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Oklahoma Sooners vs. Clemson Tigers in Orange Bowl

Oklahoma-sooners_Clemson-tigersThe Sooners and Tigers are squaring off in the Orange Bowl for a shot at the title.

The No. 1 Clemson Tigers are the only  team in the nation in 2015 that haven’t lost a single game this year at 13-0. The Tigers have only one national title in their 114-season history and are opening as a 3.5-point underdog. The No. 4 Oklahoma Sooners are known for being a successful football program and have won seven national titles in their 107-year history. The Sooners secured a spot in this season’s College Football Playoff by winning the Big 12 title with an 11-1 record. Two of the best quarterbacks in the country will square off in Florida against two very good defenses. The game between the Oklahoma Sooners and Clemson Tigers is scheduled to take place on Thursday, December 31, 2015, at 4 p.m. ET at Sun Life Stadium, in Miami Gardens, Florida. The game will be broadcast on ESPN.

The Oklahoma Sooners quarterback Baker Mayfield elevated his team into national championship contention with his stellar play. Mayfield passed for 3,512 yards and 30 touchdowns with  just 5 interceptions, and rushed for 420 yards and seven scores. The Sooners are balanced on the offensive side of the football with receiver Sterling Shepard and running back Samaje Perine adding to the Sooners talent. The trio helped the Sooners average 52 points during their seven-game winning streak. Shepard is the main threat in the passing game with 79 receptions for over 1,200 yards and 11 scores. Perine has 1,291 rushing yards out of the backfield and 15 touchdowns.  Perine is running behind a big offensive line, and that may allow the Sooners to take control in the second half.

The Clemson Tigers quarterback Deshaun Watson is also one of the best quarterbacks in the nation, throwing for over 3,500 yards on the year to go along with 30 touchdowns against just 11 picks. He’s also been an efficient passer, completing nearly 70% of his throws. Watson is a dual-threat player, rushing for 887 yards and an additional 11 scores in the regular season. Clemson has the high-powered offense and aggressive defense to make up for most mistakes, but turnovers are an issue. The Clemson defense is better but not by much. The Tigers defense rank fifth in the nation with 38 sacks, 13th in total defense, and 18th in points allowed per game. They are excellent against the pass and are fifth in the nation in yards per game, and they always rise to the challenge when it is needed.

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Michigan State Spartans vs. Alabama Crimson Tide in Cotton Bowl

Spartans vs Crimson TideCan the underdog Spartans upset of the Crimson Tide?

Michigan State Spartans (12-1) is an underdog to SEC powerhouse Alabama Crimson Tide (12-1) and Heisman Trophy tailback Derrick Henry in the College Football Playoff semifinal game. The Michigan State Spartans surprised a lot of people and only a one-point loss to Nebraska prevented them from entering the playoffs undefeated. They also had a few bounces go their way to help with their lofty record. The No. 3-ranked Spartans are as much as a 10-point underdog against the No. 2 Crimson Tide headed into the game in Arlington, Texas. The matchup between the Michigan State Spartans and Alabama Crimson Tide is scheduled for Thursday, December 31, 2015, at 8 p.m. ET at ATT Stadium. The game will be broadcast on ESPN.

The Alabama Crimson Tide has one of the best offensive lines in the country and tailback Derrick Henry is the difference maker.  Henry has ran for 100 yards nine times and 200 yards four times while rushing for an SEC record 1,986 yards and 23 touchdowns.  Henry has carried the football a combined 90 times over the Tide’s last two games. The Tide will use Henry and its bid offensive line to try and wear down a pretty good Spartans Defense.

The Michigan State quarterback Connor Cook had time to heal his injured shoulder and the Spartans will try to move the ball through the air. The Spartans will find it difficult to move the football on the ground against the Alabama defense. Cook will be pressured by a relentless Alabama front and the short passing game should work. There won’t be many yards after the catch because the Tide doesn’t miss many tackles. The Spartans has won the last seven of eight games in matchups of top 10 teams. Alabama will wear down the Spartans in the late stages, but the Spartans are here because they are a gritty team.

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Denver Broncos at Pittsburgh Steelers, Week 15

ben-broncosDenver Broncos invade Heinz Field to play the Pittsburgh Steelers.

The 8-5 Pittsburgh Steelers with their top tier offense is going against the 10-3 Denver Broncos with their number one defense in the NFL. The Pittsburgh Steelers has been on a roll going 4-1 thanks to an offense that’s produced 35.2 points per game. The Denver Broncos had their first loss with Brock Osweiler at quarterback last week. Denver has the best defense and has not allowed an opponent to score 30 points or throw for 300 yards all season. The game between the Denver Broncos and Pittsburgh Steelers is scheduled for Sunday, December 20, 2015, at 4:25 p.m. ET at Heinz Field. The game will be broadcast on CBS.

The Pittsburgh Steelers (8-5) has scored at least 30 points in five straight games, and quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has averaged 363 passing yards during the streak.  Ben Roethlisberger, is playing as well as he ever has and has a fantastic trio of wideouts to support him. Pittsburgh’s trio has 170 catches for 2,658 yards and 16 touchdowns. The Steelers offense has the second most yards per game at 404.8, just 13 yards per game behind the Arizona Cardinals. With 404.8 yards per game, the Steelers are fifth best in passing with more than 284 yards per game and ninth best in rushing with more than 120 yards per game. The Broncos might slow Roethlisberger and his crew, but they won’t stop him.

The Denver Broncos have the best unit in total defense, scoring defense and pass defense, and they are third in rush defense. The Denver defense  Denver has silenced the best aerial attacks in the game with excellent secondary play and a strong pass rush. Denver has allowed 17.3 points per game this season. The Denver defense lead the NFL with 44 sacks and have surrendered just 22 pass plays of at least 25 yards and just nine pass plays of more than 30 yards.  The Denver offense struggled against the Raiders last week and need to work things out before their game with Pittsburgh. Last week the Denver quarterback Brock Osweiler took a safety and got sacked five times. The run game was non-existent without C.J. Anderson and the protection was poor.

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Arizona Cardinals at Philadelphia Eagles, Week 15

Larry+Fitzgerald+Arizona+Cardinals+v+Philadelphia+EaglesEagles In For Big Challenge Against Cardinals Sunday Night

The Arizona Cardinals will roll into Philadelphia with the best record in the NFC. The Cardinals are 11-2 and looking to lock in a first-round bye week in the upcoming NFC Playoffs. With the last two wins over New England and Buffalo, Philadelphia is still battling for the NFC East crown. The matchup between the Arizona Cardinals and Philadelphia Eagles is scheduled for Sunday, December 20, 2015, at 8:30 p.m. ET at Lincoln Financial Field. The game will be televised on NBC.

The Philadelphia Eagles have a difficult matchup in the Cardinals, the only team ranked in the top four on both offense and defense. The Eagles would like to build on their back-to-back victories and prove they can compete with the class of the NFC. Quarterback Sam Bradford returns to the lineup and the Eagles rattle of wins over the Patriots and Bills. Sam Bradford has played well recently, but he hasn’t been nearly as good as Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer. The Eagles top two outside receivers Riley Cooper and Josh Huff, have combined for 41 catches and 557 yards this year. The Eagles special teams and defense has come up big in assisting their recent victories.

The Arizona Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer is one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL this season. Palmer ranks 12th in completion percentage, first in yards per attempt, second in touchdowns, and second overall in passer rating. The Cardinals are the No. 1 offense in the league and are the only team in the NFL to have three receivers with 40-plus catches and 650-plus yards. The Cardinals have three good receivers who are very different. Future Hall of Famer Larry Fitzgerald, was one of the best outside receivers in the league, and now has become one of the league’s best slot receivers. Through 12 games, Fitzgerald  has 96 catches for 1,088 yards and seven touchdowns. The Cardinals two outside receivers have been very good too. Michael Floyd has 69 catches for 652 yards and six touchdowns. Floyd at 6-3, 225 pounds, is a big-bodied, physical target. Also, John Brown is a deep threat and has 55 catches for 895 yards and five touchdowns. The Cardinals outside receivers have different styles and because of that the Eagles cornerbacks will have their hands full.

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New York Giants at Miami Dolphins, Week 14

New+York+Giants+v+Miami+Dolphins

Giants try to snap a three-game skid against Miami Dolphins

Even though both the Miami Dolphins and the New York Giants are 5-7 heading into the final quarter of the season, they are still both alive in their respective conference playoff races. The game between the Miami Dolphins and New York Giants is scheduled to take place on Monday, December 14, 2015, at 8:30 p.m. ET at Sun Life Stadium. The matchup will be broadcast on ESPN.

The New York Giants that don’t have a particularly good offense, have arguably the best receiver in the league right now.  Giants receiver Odell Beckham Jr.makes catches that just shouldn’t be humanly possible. He has five straight 100+ yard games and at least one touchdown in four of the five. So far Beckham has 78 catches, 1,154 yards and a team-leading 10 touchdowns, and he leads the world in one-handed catches. The real variable though, is how bad the Giants are on defense. They’ve allowed a ton of passing touchdowns this year to seemingly every opponent.

The Miami Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill is likely going to throw a pick in this game and he’s probably throwing a touchdown as well. Wide receiver Jarvis Landry will make some plays, but the rest of the passing game is likely to be pretty dull. The Miami Dolphins defense pretty much can’t stop much on offense. They rank No. 22 in the league against the pass and No. 30 against the rush. They give up an average of 25.0 points per game, a number which includes giving up at least 33 points three times since the start of November. Miami’s pass defense is woeful at 255.6 yards per game, so it’s clear that Eli Manning is going to have another one of these games where he puts the ball in the air at least 35-40 times. That’s all good news for Beckham.

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Buffalo Bills at Philadelphia Eagles, Week 14

Eagles-vs-Buffalo_1

The Philadelphia Eagles are flying high after defeating New England last week.

The Buffalo Bills win over Houston put them back in the AFC race, and the Philadelphia Eagles upset win over New England put them back in the NFC East race. This is making for a critical game in terms of playoff positioning in both conferences. The matchup between the Buffalo Bills and Philadelphia Eagles is scheduled for Sunday, December 13, 2015, at 1 p.m. ET at Lincoln Financial Field. The game will be broadcast on CBS.

The Bufallo Bills have the NFL’s fourth-best rushing offense this season, averaging 140.9 yards per game. Their passing game is ranked 29th and among the worst in the NFL with Tyrod Taylor at quarterback this season. Running back LeSean McCoy ran for 112 yards last week, the third time in five games he’s had that exact total. He has also rushed for just three touchdowns this season. McCoy spent six seasons in Philadelphia before the offseason trade that sent him to Buffalo in exchange for Kiko Alonso. McCoy isn’t putting up the big numbers he may like but at least he’s having a more productive season than the man who replaced him in Philadelphia, DeMarco Murray.  The Bills could be in a good position if McCoy can continue his current hot streak. The Bills defense are 14th in the NFL against the run, allowing 104 rushing yards per game. With the way the Eagles have been running the football, it could be hit-or-miss against the Bills on Sunday afternoon. The Bills pass defense sacked opposing quarterbacks 31 times this season, but they also only have seven interceptions this season, so the Bills will be more likely to bring Bradford down than they will be picking him off. One thing Buffalo does particularly well is force fumbles. The Bills lead the NFL in 18 forced fumbles, but have recovered just seven of those loose footballs.

The Philadelphia Eagles upset the Patriots last week, using two special teams and one defensive touchdown and they did it against a team that doesn’t get beat by special teams. Najee Goode picked up a blocked punt and returned it 24 yards for a touchdown to tie the game. Malcolm Jenkins returned the first-ever interception of Tom Brady by an Eagles player 99-yards for a score and a 21-14 lead. Three minutes later, Darren Sproles raced 83-yards with a punt return. The Eagles managed three touchdowns on 206 yards worth of returns. The Eagles were once again shorthanded in their backfield, as Ryan Mathews remains sidelined with a concussion. Many expected Murray’s opportunities to increase with Mathews out of the lineup, but Murray’s carries went in the opposite direction against the Patriots. The leading running back for the Eagles instead was Darren Sproles, who was on the field for 35 plays and tallied 66 rushing yards on 15 attempts. Kenjon Barner also out-rushed Murray, finishing with 39 yards on nine carries. The Eagles should feel good about what they accomplished in New England, and building on that will help them knock off the Bills at home.

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