Wednesday was a tough day for veterans in the NFL as A.J. Hawk, Jacoby Jones, and Reggie Bush were both released by their high profiled teams.
Linebacker, A.J. Hawk, is the leading tackler in Green Bay history with 1,118 in nine seasons. After the season was over he had surgery to remove bone spurs from his ankle.
“A.J. is a consummate Packer and we are grateful for all that he has given and how he represented the organization over the past nine seasons,” “He was a durable and consistent contributor to our success, but more importantly, he is a great person and teammate. The Packers are grateful for all that he has done on the field and in the community. We wish A.J., his wife Laura, and the rest of their family all the best.” Green Bay general manager Ted Thompson said.
ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported via Twitter reported that Reggie Bush, Lions running back, was shown the door after two seasons. This will save the team over $3 million in 2015. In the 2014-2015 season he only played in eleven games. Detroit has two stud backs, however. Joique Bell and Theo Riddick have the capabilities of being a great combo back duo.
I would think that both players will be highly sought after as second tier players who are still capable of being great.
Photo by: Joe Robbins / Getty Images North America
Juan Martin del Potro will miss the 2015 Australian Open due to a nagging wrist injury. This injury has plagued him for nearly the entire 2014 season. Ten months to be exact.
Last week, del Potro played in the Apia International Sydney to prepare for the Aussie Open. There he did win two matches before losing.
He said this in a Facebook post:
The 2009 US Open champion also said this recently:
“I have to do what the doctor says. I’m still positive. I want to play tennis. It doesn’t matter how. But after seeing my level in Sydney, I think if I am in good shape and I’m healthy, without pain, I could be competitive again very soon.”
After going a perfect 4-0 last week I return to inform everyone of what’s going to occur during the 2015 divisional round of the NFL playoffs. The “few notes section” does come from ESPN.
Baltimore vs. New England 4:35 EST NBC
Personally, I believe the first game of the divisional round will be the best one.
Joe Flacco leads a hot Ravens squad into Foxboro. He passed for nearly 4,000 yards over the regular season and Justin Forsett rushed for over 1,200. Their balanced attack has been elevated thanks to the Smith twins, Steve and Torry. The biggest weapon that Baltimore has, however, is the defense. No one will run the ball against them. NOBODY! Which means it will be tough for the non-existent Pats running game. Jonas Gray and LaGarrette Blount will not rush for over 50 yards combined.
New England does have Tom Brady and Bill Belichick. Do they need any more? I can’t tell you anything you do not know about what they will do. Expect Gronk to have at least 6 receptions for 120.
Tom Brady is 1-2 in his postseason career at home against the Ravens, and 11-1 against everyone else.
Joe Flacco has 10 playoff wins (5 straight) since he entered the league in 2008, twice as many as any other QB in the NFL. His 7 road playoff wins and 11 road playoff starts are most by any QB in NFL history.
In Tom Brady’s career, he has 7 postseason game-winning drives, more than 3 times the amount of any other remaining QB in the playoffs. In fact, if you added up the total game-winning drives in the playoffs from the other 7 QB in the postseason, Flacco, Wilson, Romo, Manning, Luck, Rodgers and Newton they would equal…7…the same amount of game-winning postseason drives as Brady.
Baltimore rolls once again. The defense will win it for them and Flacco won’t lose it. Brady will at least have two picks.
Carolina vs. Seattle 8:15 EST FOX
It’s the battle of the read offense and the two best mobile quarterbacks in the NFL.
The Panthers are riding a five game winning streak and Cam is looking better than ever. Who knew that getting in a wreck could be a good thing? Carolina has always been a running team and the help of healthy running backs, Stewart and Williams, the Panthers could be a tough out.
The defending champs seem to be everyone’s pick to win it all. I’m not sure why. Maybe it’s because they have home field advantage and the Legion of Doom is back. Russell Wilson is carrying the offense because he doesn’t have a respectable receiver. Doug Baldwin has been MIA for the majority of the season.
The Panthers and Seahawks follow the same plan: run the ball and play defense. Since Week 12, the two teams have been the best in several key rushing and defensive stats.
At least one road team was won in the Divisional playoffs in the previous nine seasons (2005-13), the second-longest streak in NFL history (road team won in 13 straight years from 1975-87). 2004 was the last season in which all four home teams won on Divisional weekend.
The Panthers and Seahawks have combined for 69 points in their previous three meetings and the two teams have only scored touchdowns on two of their 15 red-zone drives.
This will be a tough defensive game. The score will be tight. Seattle will soar.
Dallas vs. Green Bay 1:05 FOX
This game will be played on the frooooozen tundra. The running backs will be the feature of this contest. I see big games for both Eddie Lacy and DeMarco Murray.
Dallas was lead by the great of the referees last week. That was not professional, but the ‘boys should have lost. I still can’t ignore the great play of Tony Romo. He has lead this team far better than in years before. In the second half last week, it was fair for spectators to assume he was going to throw a costly interception but he didn’t.
Green Bay has a gigantic quarterback question. Is Aaron Rodgers healthy? We will be able to see how good that leg is after kickoff. Lacy will have to be driving force behind the Packers offense.
Aaron Rodgers’ calf injury could limit his mobility. No QB has more Pass TD (33) from out of the pocket than Rodgers the last 5 seasons.
Including playoffs, Aaron Rodgers hasn’t thrown an interception at home in his last 477 pass attempts. He’s played 16 games since his last interception at home, throwing 38 Pass TD in that time.
The Cowboys went 8-0 on the road this season. The Packers went 8-0 at home this season. According to Elias, only once since the merger has an unbeaten home team hosted an unbeaten road team in the playoffs. In 1972 the Dolphins (7-0 on the road) defeated the Steelers (7-0 at home) 21-17 in the AFC Conference Championship game.
How Bout Dem Cowboys?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!? Especially, if Chris Christie shows up.
Indianapolis vs. Denver 4:40 EST CBS
This is the battle of old versus new. Many people have already proclaimed Andrew Luck as a Hall of Famer and G.O.A.T. but he will still has yet to go to a conference championship. Is he Peyton Manning? No!
As I stated last week, it will be difficult for Indy to do anything on offense because of their ability to run the ball. He will have to pass over 45 times if his team wants an opportunity and his defense will have to show up and stop the run for once. CJ Anderson cannot have a huge game. If he does, the Colts don’t stand a chance.
The Broncos have Peyton Manning. End of story.
Over the last five weeks of the regular season, Peyton Manning ranked 30th in red zone completion percentage (39 percent) and 22nd in red zone Total QBR (18) out of 32 qualified quarterbacks. Manning ranked first in both completion percentage (78 percent) and Total QBR (97) in the red zone in the season’s first 12 weeks.
Peyton Manning was off target on seven of his 16 red zone passes to Demaryius Thomas in the last five weeks of the regular season. Thomas had more drops (2) than receptions (1) in the red zone during that span.
On Sunday, the world said goodbye to arguably the most charismatic sports anchor to ever live, Stuart Scott. He was the guy who revolutionized the sports anchor desk. Because of Scott, none of minded watching a SportsCenter rerun for the fourth time. He made sports hip and funny.
Personally speaking, Stuart was my favorite because he was the most different and the most relatable. His phrases made broadcasts more interesting. No one cared about a Royals/Orioles game, but when Scott said, “the Lord said you got to rise up.” you listened and you felt more emotionally invested in that game. Not everyone can do that.
As a kid of the 90’s, he is what excited me about athletics. Could anyone talk about Pookie and ReyRey in the middle of a show and make it seem so effortless?
Will there ever be another Stuart Scott? No, but there will be a lot of imitators
The UNC graduate, 49, will be remembered for making broadcasting and life as cool as the other side of the pillow and not for beating cancer.
Last year, Scott received the Jimmy V Perseverance Award.
Thank you, Stuart. Boo-yah!
Fans took to Twitter.
Stuart wasn't covering heroes & champions, it was the other way around. Thinking of my friend & his daughters.
The 2015 NFL Wild Card round is will begin this weekend and there will be four great contests. All of the “few notes” are from ESPN Stats and Information.
Arizona vs. Carolina
I would not want to face the Panthers in the post season. This team is smoking hot. They’re riding a four game win streak and the defense is firing on all cylinders. They beat Atlanta 34-3 last week to get into the playoffs. Just because they are 7-8-1 DO NOT take this team lightly. Since Cam Newton’s wreck they have seemed to be invincible.
For the banged up Cards, they must be feeling like they are the most underrated team remaining. Injuries have mounted at nearly every skill position, but they have been able to implement the next man up philosophy. Ryan Lindley is a third string quarterback who will have to lead this team to possibly four victories. Is it possible?
Over the last 10 seasons, the Panthers are the 5th team to make the playoffs with a record of .500 or worse…each of the previous 3 teams went on to win in the Wild Card round.
Teams that finished .500 or worse in the regular season have won 5 of their last 6 Wild Card games. No team that finished .500 or worse has made it past the Divisional Playoffs, however.
From Elias: If Ryan Lindleystarts for the Cardinals, he will be the 7th QB since the 1970 merger to start a playoff game after having 1-or-fewer regular-season wins as a starter. Those QBs are a combined 2-4 and haven’t won since Gifford Nielsen won in 1979 for the Oilers.
I believe that this game will not be close. Bruce Arians has done a phenomenal job at motivating his team and preparing his troops for the next battle. However, Carolina is clicking and it will be tough for Arizona to stay in it.
Baltimore vs. Pittsburgh
This is the only divisional contest this weekend and it is fueled by hatred and that alone. The squads split the regular season contests by both winning on their home turf. Pittsburgh leads the all-time series 17-14.
Baltimore clinched the final playoff spot by defeating the Browns in there finale 20-10. They have a balanced offense that is being fueled by the strong running of Justin Forsett. He shockingly ran for over 1200 yards.
It’s still no secret that I have had it in for the Steelers all season. The Philadelphia 76ers have been more consistent than the Steelers. Remember this is the same team that lost to both the Bucs and Jets. They have won four games straight so they will be looking to keep their spark lit. The biggest question mark for Pitt is the health of arguably the best running back in the NFL, Le’Veon Bell. He has a right knee injury and he did not practice on Thursday.
Bell said, “I feel really good. I didn’t expect to be feeling this well this early. But I am, so I’m just going to take it day by day and see where it goes.”
Pittsburgh leads the all-time series 17-14
The Steelers were an NFL-best 6-1 against teams that finished over .500 this season.
The Ravens are 6-1 in the Wild Card Playoffs in team history, the best record in the NFL among the 29 teams to play at least 4 Wild Card games.
Well if I have not been that excited the Steelers through the regular season, do you really think I pick them now. Baltimore wins by a field goal.
Cincinnati vs. Indianapolis
I have no idea what to expect in this contest. Both teams have the ability to put up points, but they can also stink up the joint. On paper we can expect a high scoring game, but if it is low scoring I would not be surprised.
The only way Cincinnati can win is if AJ Green plays. He did not practice on Friday due to the NFL concussion protocol. Can Andy Dalton lead this team to victory win it counts? Will the Jeremy Hill and Giovanni Bernard run for at least 150 to take some pressure off of Dalton? There are way too many questions and I have no answers.
I have the same doubts about Indy. They can’t run the ball. The defense is more off pitch than Idina Menzel singing at a New Year’s Eve performance. Click here for the performance.
Marvin Lewis has lost his 1st 5 postseason games as head coach. Lewis has won 100 games in the regular season and joins Jim Mora as the only coaches with at least 100 wins and 0 postseason wins in NFL history.
The Colts defense allowed just 7 pass TD and a 27.1 Total QBR at home this season, both best in the NFL.
The Bengals had 135 yards of offense and went 1-of-13 on 3rd down in the Week 7 shutout loss to the Colts. It was the Bengals worst offensive performance since getting shutout in Week 17 against the Jets in 2009, when the starters didn’t play the full game.
Andrew Luck has thrown 8 interceptions in 3 career playoff games. Luck is the 1st QB to throw 8+ interceptions in his 1st 3 playoff games since Dan Fouts (1979-80 seasons).
By default I have to give the win to the Colts.
Detroit vs. Dallas
This will be the best matchup over the course of the weekend. This will be a battle of the lines. Can the Cowboys o-line stop the Detroit d-line? The Lions have been the best team against the run this season only allowing 69 yards per outing.
Matthew Stafford will have to have a perfect game if he wants to beat the ‘Boys. I’m sure Joique Bell and Reggie Bush will some pressure off of Stafford, but he cannot have another playoff letdown.
Dallas very well may be the best team in the league. They can pass, run, and defend. Murray and Romo have both made claims for the MVP award. They finished 6-1 to polish a very good regular season.
If history tells us anything, the Cowboys should go ahead and pack their bags for Green Bay. Matthew Staffordis 0-16 in road games against teams that finished the season with a winning record, the 3rd-most losses without a win in such games for any quarterback since the 1970 merger.
The Lions allowed an NFL-low 3.3 yards per rush on first down during the regular season. Only three teams have allowed fewer yards per rush on first down in a season in the last five years.
With Nick Fairleyreturning to practice, the Lions run defense could get another boost after Ndamukong Suh’s suspension was overturned earlier in the week. The Lions allowed 2.48 yards per rush against 86 carries with that duo on the field together this season. Those numbers dropped off significantly when 1, or both were out of the game.
There is a big bear in the room and we need to address it. I like Jay Cutler there I said it. (See week 11 post and week 8) Should he have been the highest paid offensive player in the league? No, but who else could Chicago have gotten to be their starter. This has been a let down season for Cutler, but this is not completely his fault. I blame coaching and defense. When the defense allows so many points, the quarterback must take more risks to catch back up. Matt Forte is one of the best backs in the league, why is he not touching the ball? It’s a shame Jay played better under Lovie Smith, a defensive minded coach, than Marc Trestman. The entire front office should be cleared out.
Jimmy Clausen will get the start this Sunday.
Crazy Stat of Day: Jay Cutler is making $22.5 million this year, more than Wilson, Luck, Rodgers, Newton and Sanchez COMBINED.
The Marcus Mariota Bowl will be on Thursday, as the Titans will face the Jags. Is that a reason to watch? Uh no.
Really, who wants to win the NFC South?
Can RG3 save his Washington roster spot?
Will DeMarco Murray play just days after having hand surgery?
Is Phillip Rivers healthy enough to lead his team to a possible playoff spot?
Offensive Rookie of the Year
Odell Beckham Jr.
I don’t understand the argument against JJ Watt winning the MVP. The Texans would still be a contender for the number one pick without Watt. According to ESPN Watt has 16.5 sacks, 64 combined tackles, 5 fumble recoveries, and 5 total touchdowns. I think of JJ the way I think of a pitcher in baseball A pitcher has a specialty but they can affect the scoreboard and momentum and the same applies to Watt. Clayton Kershaw (in the regular season) = JJ Watt.
The former Oakland and Tampa Bay coach announced Monday night that he signed an extension to remain in the Monday Night Football booth through 2021. Hopefully, this puts an end to all of the rumors about him heading back to the sidelines. This is a huge announcement for the Gruden family. His brother Jay, coach of Washington, may need a new gig in the next couple of years.
Head Coaching Vacancies
These are the jobs that are certain to be open on Black Monday:
New York (N)
New York (A)
Possibly Tennessee & Jacksonville
Last Week: 12-4
JACKSONVILLE over Tennessee
Philadelphia over WASHINGTON
San Diego over SAN FRANCISCO
Baltimore over HOUSTON
Detroit over CHICAGO
Kansas City over PITTSBURGH
New England over NEW YORK (A)
CAROLINA over Cleveland
Green Bay over TAMPA BAY
MIAMI over Minnesota
Atlanta over NEW ORLEANS
Buffalo over OAKLAND
ST. LOUIS over New York (N)
Indianapolis over DALLAS
Seattle over ARIZONA
CINCINNATI over Denver
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Since 1999, the Cleveland Browns have had twenty starting quarterbacks. Let me reiterate that. Since 1999, the Cleveland Browns have had twenty quarterbacks. Some how this sorry excuse of a team finds themselves in a quarterback controversy. Brian Hoyer has led the team to a 7-5 record. 7-5 is outstanding for the Browns and it’s all because of Brian Hoyer.
Because the team was down by 17 in the fourth quarter last week head coach, Mike Pettine, decided to put in Johnny Manziel who led the team down field and scored a touchdown. Oh, happy day.
This organization has been looked down upon more than any other team in the NFL since the team resurfaced. They have an opportunity to go to the playoffs, but they will eventually cater to what people want instead of what works.
Last time I checked Johnny Manziel is not Aaron Rodgers, Steve Young or Doug Flutie. Hell, he’s no Earl Morrall. Those players just waited. Their Hall of Fame head coaches knew when the right time was to put them in and not a second sooner.
Cleveland may never experience success like this again. Ride the horse that brought you to the dance. If Manziel is the guy for next year play him then. Until then, stifle yourselves!
Is the beginning of another miserable December for the Cowboys?
Will someone actually step in front of the NFC South?
Will the Cardinals get a much-needed win against the Chiefs?
Can the Bengals extend their AFC North lead?
Can the Giants ever play like a NFL quality team?
Last week, Rice was reinstated back into the NFL like he should have been. Calm down please. This guy did the time he was originally awarded and then some. No one cares about public opinion. He has the right to make a living just like everyone else. Any team in the league can pick him up. If a team does not want to be surrounded with his baggage they have the option to not sign him.
I don’t believe Ray Rice will be signed this season because it’s just too late. However, he will be signed right after the draft next year. Expect him to be a vengeful player.
Which team in the NFL lost to New Orleans, Tampa Bay, and the Jets this season? Yep, that would be Pittsburgh. Well, I said it in week 11, but no one believed me. The Steelers are worse than the Philadelphia 76ers. Good thing the team remains dedicated to their coaches because Mike Tomlin would have been fired with any other team.
The team that may be trending at the right time has to be the Lions. If Matthew Stafford can place the ball in the receiver’s hands this team may be unbeatable in January. I like the way Joique Bell is running and that defensive line is nasty. Be on the lookout.
The Seahawks seem to be playing like the Seahawks again. Their defense shut down San Fran on Thanksgiving and it seems is though the running game is what’s moving the ball. It’s never been mentioned, but is Russell Wilson a MVP contender? Without him Seattle may be 4-12.
Why would the Niners consider trading Jim Harbaugh? Yes, he may be a pain in the behind, but he wins every place he goes. He even brought this team to the Super Bowl and they are not appreciative. At some point in time we all have to step outside of our comfort zone. Apparently, Frisco is not wiling to do that.
The Pro Bowler will miss the last four games of the season because of the use of Adderall. The defensive leader will be missed. We will see how the team reacts in a must win game against the Miami Dolphins on Sunday.
Hot Seat part 2
It appears as though Rex Ryan is a lame duck, so he is excused from this conversation.
Mike Smith- The head coach of the Falcons on their way to another disappointing season. Though Atlanta is still tied for the NFC South lead, they are still an awful team. The defense is dismal and the high-powered offense is weaker than Dodge Charger with a Ford Pinto motor. I believe the writing is on the wall for Smith.
Marc Trestman- Da Bears are possibly a bigger disappointment than the Falcons. Jay Cutler has underperformed and their defense has allowed over 149 points since week 8. I don’t believe his position is savable under any circumstance.
For other Hot Seat candidates please see my post from week 9.
RIP Bryan Burwell of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch
On Thursday, December 4, the world lost one of the best sports journalists of our time. Maybe you have read his column in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch or you could have possibly seen him on ESPN’s The Sports Reporters. Burwell was 59.
Welcome back to Down the Line Sports. In case you are wondering last week we were minutes away from having a PERFECT week 5. We said it would be a week for home field advantage, but no one listened. Apparently, Cleveland, Chicago and Buffalo didn’t care about a 15-0 week because the teams combined scored a joint 27-10 in the fourth quarter to be carried of the field for a W. We’ll get back to picks in a minute.
On a positive note cheers to the New England Patriots for what they did for Devon Still. The Patriots cheerleaders wore jerseys to show support for Still’s daughter who is battling pediatric cancer.
Things to know going into Week 6:
Indy has won nine straight against the AFC South, can that continue in Houston?
Tom Brady showed he is very much alive, but will he show up in Buffalo?
Will someone be bored enough to watch the Jags vs Titans game?
How will Tony Romo screw up in Seattle this week?
Can Eli keep rolling?
Will Vick be “prepared” to come into a game the Jets will be down big in?
Did Tony Sparano bury his Raiders with that ball, if not can he?