Closing the Chapter on the 2015 NFL Season

2015 NFL Season Sumary

It’s in my nature to always have something to look forward to, which is why I immediately started a countdown to 2016 training camp after the Patriots lost to the Broncos in the AFC Championship. Don’t get me wrong – I was still experiencing rage and disappointment from the game (the type that only spoiled New England fans can really understand at the end of a season that doesn’t result in Tom Brady lifting the Lombardi), but I knew it was time to move on, even knowing that Peyton Manning still needed to face off against Cam Newton.

It doesn’t seem right to move onto 2016 without a recap of the some NFL season highlights. Here’s what we thought of 2015…

It was a good year for:

  • Cam Newton and the Panthers – They almost had a perfect season (15-1), but we’re guessing that a Super Bowl win would make everything good for this gutsy team from the NFC South. They spent the whole season with a chip on their shoulder, trying to ignore the haters who pointed to the difficulty (or lack thereof) of their schedule as the reason for their success. Cam is a front-runner for MVP.
  • Kirk Cousins – He won the starting QB position in Washington this year and gave us the best soundbite of the year with his fired-up, “You like that?!!”
  • The Houston Texans – This may seem like an odd choice because they were decimated by the Chiefs during wildcard weekend this year after winning the pathetic AFC South. However, they did give us one of the best Hard Knocks seasons yet and I think they deserve some praise for that.
  • Aaron Rodgers – The season may not have ended the way he wanted, but the guy had not one, but two spectacular Hail Mary catches this year. He’s an exciting player to watch.
  • The Bengals’ half-time monkey – Why doesn’t this happen at all football games? SOMEBODY PLEASE EXPLAIN!
  • Women in the NFL – We’ve still have much ground to cover when considering the involvement of women in the old boy’s club known as the NFL. However, seeing Jen Welter as an intern pre-season coach for the Cardinals and Sarah Thomas as the first full-time official felt like small victories and we’ll take what we can get. With the Bills promoting Kathryn Smith to become the first full-time assistant coach in the league earlier this month, hopefully this will be a sign of more female hires to come. Have we figured out the domestic violence issues linked to the sport? No, but hiring women into higher-profile positions and hearing rising sports world stars like Katie Nolan call people out seems like a good start.

 

It was a bad year for:

  • Injured players – Yes, everyone gets injured in the NFL. However, there were a lot of “big names” that went on injured reserve or missed a significant number of games due to injury, upsetting fans and fantasy football participants everywhere. A lot of these “big names” were quarterbacks, including Andrew Luck, Peyton Manning, Tony Romo, Ben Roethlisberger, Andy Dalton, and Joe Flacco. (Personally, all I can think about is how things would have been different if the Patriots didn’t have so many significant injuries. Sweet Jesus, it would have been great to see Roger hand the Lombardi over to Mr. Kraft and Brady.)
  • Officials – You couldn’t pay me enough to be an NFL official. The job is too stressful and the stakes are too high for something that is not full-time employment. The officials seemed to go through a rough patch in the middle of the 2015 season. Mistakes are understandable, but it was the size of the mistakes and how much of an effect they had on game outcomes that made them so newsworthy.
  • Catching – No one knew what exactly justified a catch this year. Expect this to be a topic addressed by the rules committee for 2016.
  • FanDuel and DraftKings – These two daily sports fantasy companies started out having a good year and then seven states declared that activities on these sites were a form of gambling. While there is certainly a lot of money to be had in the fantasy world, every day new hurdles seem to pop up and everyone wants their piece of the pie.
  • Rams fans in St. Louis – Can you imagine having your football team taken away from you? That’s what happened when Stan Kroenke and his mustache decided to follow the big money and move the team back to LA. Read these fan reactions and tell me you don’t feel bad for some of these people.

Other things worth mentioning:

  • Moving the extra-point line back – The NFL moved the PAT (point after touchdown) line from the 2-yd line to the 15-yd line this year. Kickers still made the majority of their PATs, but it did add an interesting twist to the game and we didn’t hate it.
  • Concussions – The NFL recently announced that diagnosed concussions rose 32% this season (including preseason and training camp), with a 58% increase when only considering regular-season games. The movie “Concussion” kept the topic in the headlines, highlighting this as a significant problem the NFL will have to contend with in the long term.
  • Shame on you – The Falcons lost a 2016 draft pick and president Rich McKay was suspended after the team was found guilty of pumping in sound noise during home games in 2013 and 2014. Browns GM Ray Farmer was suspended and the team was fined after a sideline texting scandal. The Browns and the Bills had to suspend coaches after alleged assault incidents.
  • Color rush uniforms – The NFL experimented with color rush uniforms and some of them were just hideous. We were not fans. Please don’t do that again.
  • Deflategate – Believe it or not, it’s not over yet, as the NFL’s appeal of Judge Berman’s ruling will be held on March 3. I think I speak for all of us when I say, just drop it Roger.

How will you remember the 2015 season? What do you think 2016 will bring us? Comment below to let us know.

– Michelle

 

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Our Thoughts – 2015 NFL Week 10 Recap

Our Thoughts NFL Weekly Summary 10 2015

Chances are that you don’t care about week 10 in the NFL since week 11 has already started, but we could never forgive ourselves if we didn’t share a video of a monkey riding a dog during halftime.

Seeing as though that monkey video is at the bottom of the post, you may as well skim some of our other game recaps. After all, this was a really weird week in the NFL and we would hate for you to still be questioning why you had so many incorrect picks in Weekly Pick ‘Em.

Here’s what we thought about week 10 in the NFL…

Buffalo (22), New York Jets (17) – Bills coach Rex Ryan was victorious in his return to MetLife Stadium to play his former team. It was an ugly game in the rain with turnovers, missed snaps, dropped passes, and questionable play calls. Jets QB Ryan Fitzpatrick had an off-game, but part of that could be due to the fact he had torn ligaments in his thumb (he had surgery last Friday for that injury). Bills QB Tyrod Taylor had a rough night but was able to rely on his run game to pull through. However, Taylor’s fashion game was on…

Interesting tidbit – The NFL is conducting color blindness tests after this game. Both teams sported Nike’s new “Color Rush” uninforms (all green for the Jets, all red for the Bills). Colorblind fans couldn’t tell the difference between the two uniforms, especially with the Jets green against the playing field. For those of us that could, it looked like a bunch of Christmas elves running around on the field.

Detroit (18), Green Bay (16) – The Lions tried their best to let the Packers win (2 missed PATs, 1 failed on-side kick), but instead won their first game in Green Bay since 1991 (a quarter of a century!) after the Packers missed a 52 yard field goal on the last play of the game. Green Bay’s offense is struggling, having scored less than 20 points in three games, and got booed by the home crowd. Ouch. Their WRs dropped a lot of passes and their starting RB was demoted this past week. This popular pre-season Super Bowl pick team is on pace for their worst statistical year of QB Aaron Rodgers’ career.

Jacksonville (22), Baltimore (20) – The Jaguars broke their 13 road game losing streak, which dated back to 2013, on a field goal as time expired. Initially, the Ravens sacked QB Blake Bortles as time ran out, but they were called for a facemask penalty. Since a game cannot end with a defensive penalty, the Jags got one more shot at field goal. To add insult to injury for the Ravens, the NFL released a statement on Monday saying the Jags should have been penalized for a false start penalty that would have negated the field goal and resulted in a Baltimore win. Ravens QB Joe Flacco is doing the best he can with his depleted group of offensive players.

Miami (20), Philadelphia (19) – The Dolphins can thank their defense and some pure luck/Eagles mistakes for this win. Their offense struggles to be productive, and they tied a NFL record by giving up a safety for the third week in a row. Their go-ahead touchdown bounced off an Eagles player’s helmet. Eagles QB Sam Bradford left the game with a sprained AC joint and concussion. Backup QB Mark Sanchez came in the game and missed a lot of chances to win this one for the Birds. Bradford’s injured shoulder is not his throwing shoulder, but he is expected to miss next Sunday’s game as well as Thursday’s game.

Cleveland (9), Pittsburgh (30) – Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger was supposed to be the back-up QB as he deals with a mid-foot sprain. However, QB Landry Jones was carted off with an ankle injury so Big Ben stepped in and had his way with the Browns, who have not won in Pittsburgh since 2003. The Browns had trouble with their run game, blocking, and racking up penalties. The Browns have decided to start Johnny Manziel at QB for the remainder of the season – at 2-8 they need to see if he has the skills to be their quarterback of the future.

Chicago (37), St. Louis (13) – St. Louis’ offense is basically plays that feature RB Todd Gurley or gadget plays with WR Tavon Austin. After the Rams fell behind by two scores, they let QB Nick Foles start throwing the ball to play catch-up. It didn’t go so well. On Monday, coach Jeff Fischer announced that Foles was being benched in favor of backup Case Keenum in an attempt to spark the offense. Kudos to the Bears for getting the most out of the talent on their roster, and continuing to mess up game picks for those of us still saying “well, they’re the Bears/Jay Cutler, they’re going to lose” as we pick against them incorrectly week after week.

Dallas (6), Tampa Bay (10) – That’s 7 games lost in a row for the Cowboys since QB Tony Romo was injured (Romo is expected to return next week). WR Dez Bryant missed some key plays that would have helped the team. The Bucs managed to score a touchdown with 54 seconds left after a rough game for rookie QB Jameis Winston, who threw two interceptions and a goal-line fumble.

Carolina (27), Tennessee (10) – The undefeated Panthers became the first team since the 1989-1990 Bears to rush for over 100 yards in 20 consecutive games. While QB Cam Newton got in trouble for #Bannergate last week, this week he’s being criticized by the Titans for too much dancing in celebrating his touchdowns. Cam says if teams don’t like his dancing, they should keep him out of the end zone. Touché. (We’re surprised their isn’t more criticism for his cropped pants, but that’s besides the point.) The Titans defense is underrated, but QB Marcus Mariota needs more weapons on offense.

New Orleans (14), Washington (47) – What a beat down by Washington. After more sideline arguments by players and coaching, cue more stories on a change of coaching regime in New Orleans by next season. Defensive coordinator Rob Ryan didn’t make it past Monday; he was let go as the team starts its bye week. The Saints became the first team in NFL history to allow 4 touchdown passes and no interceptions three weeks in a row (vs WAS, NYG, TEN). The Saints defense let Washington QB Kirk Cousins throw for 324 yards, 4 touchdowns, and a perfect passer rating of 158.3. Kirk was able to give a game ball to his father – this was the first game he was able to attend all season while he fights cancer.

Minnesota (30), Oakland (14) – The Vikings handed the ball off to RB Adrian Peterson as much as they could, and it worked well as he ran for 203 yards as the Vikings won their fifth straight game. With the Packers loss, this puts them in first place in the NFC North division. The Vikings are fortunate to have a strong defense to back second year QB Teddy Bridgewater as he continues to develop. Raiders QB Derek Carr has already matched his rookie year total of 21 touchdowns.

Kansas City (29), Denver (13) – The good news for Broncos QB Peyton Manning is that he passed Brett Favre to become the all-time passing yards leader in NFL history. The bad news is he was unable to break Favre’s all time regular season wins record – he was benched in favor of Brock Osweiler as the Chiefs blew out the Broncos. Manning had a really rough day; his first pass was intercepted, and it would be his first of four interceptions on the day as he finished with a 0.0 passer rating. (Not a typo.) Broncos coach Gary Kubiak said there is no QB controversy and Peyton will start going forward as long as he is healthy. Kubiak took the blame and said he should have made the call to sit Peyton, who is dealing with foot and rib injuries. The Broncos announced Monday that Peyton is dealing with plantar fasciitis, and will not play next week, perhaps longer. Peyton can’t entirely be blamed for the loss – the Bronco’s o-line, run game and route running did not play up to par. The Chiefs defense has picked up steam as the season has continued, and helped their team pick up a victory that will be critical in the contest for a play-off wild card spot.

New England (27), New York Giants (26) – “I feel like I’m going to throw up.” Those were Momma O’s words after this game, where the Giants led in the 3rd quarter, and twice in the 4th. In the last 1:47 of this game, Pats QB Tom Brady drove his team down the field and set kicker Steve Gostkowski up to kick the game winning 54 yard field goal with one second left on the clock. Yes, slightly stressful for Pats fans. It was not Brady’s best day; these two teams always play each other tough (see Super Bowls XLII and XLVI). Giants WR Odell Beckham scored an 87-yard touchdown, which is the longest touchdown allowed by the Patriots since Bill Belichick became coach in 2000. After that play, Super Bowl hero cornerback Malcolm Butler kept Beckham in check to the tune of 3 catches for 17 yards on 11 targets. Pats TE Rob Gronkowski had a 76-yard touchdown of his own. Bad news for the Pats is that WR Julian Edelman broke a bone in his foot and will miss the next 6-8 weeks. The Giants also announced WR Victor Cruz is heading to IR following calf surgery; he has not played in any games this year. Rest assured, Momma O recovered from the game just fine as her post-game rant included “I hope Roger was choking” in reference to Commissioner Roger Goodell being in attendance at this game.  Just venting a little Post-Deflategate frustration.

Arizona (39), Seattle (32) – If Panthers QB Cam Newton wants to have a dance-off, we have a candidate: Cardinals back-up QB Drew Stanton. Check out his moves as RB Andre Ellington was scoring the go-ahead touchdown for the Cardinals…

As far as the football game went, it was a great one. The Seahawks came back from a 19 point deficit, and then managed to convert two Arizona fumbles into two touchdowns, which gave them a 4 point lead. That lead didn’t last – in fact, in all five of Seattle’s losses this year, they’ve given up the lead in the 4th quarter.  Aside from those two big fumbles, QB Carson Palmer had his way with Seattle’s secondary with the help of WRs Michael Floyd and Larry Fitzgerald. We’re used to seeing the Seahawks play at such a high level after their last two Super Bowl appearances, but that’s a standard that is hard to maintain in the NFL. This was a division game they needed to win to start closing the gap between themselves and the Cardinals, and it didn’t happen. Realistically, barring injuries or a Cardinals collapse, they’re looking at a race to a wild card spot at best if they can get their act together.

Houston (10), Cincinnati (6)  – The Texans came off their bye ready to play! After QB Brian Hoyer left the game with a concussion, backup TJ Yates came in and threw the only touchdown of the night to WR DeAndre Hopkins, who has excelled this season despite the Texans’ carousel of quarterbacks. The Texans defense has not surrendered a touchdown in 10 quarters, and forced a 4th down fumble on the Bengals last drive to seal the win. Bengals QB Andy Dalton and Co. had a tough night. Texans defender J.J. Watt, who had one sack of Dalton, said “Our goal was to come out here and make the Red Rifle look like the Red Ryder BB Gun. I think we did that tonight.” Not going to disagree, J.J. The Bengals had a tough time swallowing their first loss of the season and apparently this statement upset Dalton, who said it was an insult to the integrity of the game. If you don’t want your opponents to be able to say things like that about you, then beat them. It’s all ok Andy – your team wrangled up some exciting halftime entertainment.

OK, one more monkey video. Sorry, we’re not sorry.

What does Soneil324 know that the rest of us don’t? Apparently, he’s got some insider info regarding NFL games. He widened his lead this week in our pick ’em league and doesn’t appear to be slowing down anytime soon. Other than that, not much movement in the top 5. Here are this week’s standings in our Weekly Pick ‘Em league.

Weekly Pick 'Em 2015 - Week 10

– Val and Michelle

Our Thoughts -2015 NFL Week 4 Recap

Week 4 2015 - NFL Summaries - The Snap

Ladies and gentlemen, we’d like to have a moment of silence for the first head coaching casualty of the 2015 NFL season. Joe Philbin, thanks for the memories and best wishes on your future coaching endeavors.

We would also like to take this opportunity to have a moment for all of the NFL kickers out there who are struggling to make the extra point. Here’s to hoping you do better next week, if you’re still employed.

If you’re short on time, we’ve bolded the most important takeaway from each game.

If you’ve got lots of time, you should make a drinking game out of this post. Take a shot every time we tell you a kicker missed a kick. Take two shots when we note that said kicker is now unemployed.

Here’s what we thought about week 4 in the NFL…

Baltimore (23), Pittsburgh (20) – This game was a classic division rivalry game and actually cost the Steelers’ kicker his job. After missing two field goals in the final three minutes of the game, which would have sealed the win for PIT, the Steelers cut K Josh Scobee after trading for him from the Jaguars in August. This means the Steelers are now on their fourth kicker of the year after losing their first two to injury. Pittsburgh’s Heinz Field is one of the toughest stadiums to kick in (lots of wind), but Ravens K Justin Tucker had no problem kicking the game winning field goal in OT and save the Ravens from a 0-4 start. The Steelers were in control most of the game, but missed QB Ben Roethlisberger and couldn’t utilize their full playbook with Michael Vick under center.  The Ravens were lucky to leave this one with a W – they’re running out of people to for QB Joe Flacco to throw the ball to. WR Steve Smith fractured his back and will be out for at least a week, leading the Ravens to trade the Rams for another WR to supplement their depleted WR corps. Additionally, it will put Steve Smith and his retirement tour hit list on hold.

New York Jets (27), Miami (14) – This game was part of the NFL’s international series, taking place at Wembley stadium in London, England. The Jets and their 350 rolls of toilet paper owned this game. Miami’s head coach, Joe Philbin was fired on Monday, a victim of the team’s slow start. The Dolphins defense continues to disappoint with the big name players they have – their defensive line has yet to register a sack this year.

Houston (21), Atlanta (42) – The Texans have now benched their starting QB in half of their games this season. Brian Hoyer was sent in to replace Ryan Mallet in the third quarter after the Texans fell behind 42-0. They scored their 21 points in garbage time. Can anyone say hot mess? Texans RB Arian Foster played for the first time this season after sustaining an injury in training camp, but did not have a big impact. J.J. Watt still manages to pad his stats – he deflected two passes, had three tackles for a loss, and a sack. To the dismay of fantasy owners (including our mother), Julio Jones was placed in bubble wrap on the sideline by the third quarter when the outcome of the game was no longer in question. Falcons RB Devonta Freeman did his fantasy team owners a solid for the second week in a row by scoring three touchdowns, and now leads the NFL in scores. The Falcons look like a completely different team than last year under their new coaches.

New York Giants (24), Buffalo (10) – The Bills committed 17 penalties, the second most by any team in a game so far this year and looked like a different team than the one that put on a clinic in Miami last week. QB Tyrod Taylor missed RB LeSean McCoy and WR Sammy Watkins, who both missed the game due to injury. The Giants offense had a good first half and slow second half, but in combination with all of Buffalo’s penalties, it was enough to win the game. Despite the loss, Bills QB Tyrod Taylor continues to school all other quarterbacks on post-game press conference style.

Oakland (20), Chicago (22) – While other kickers are job hunting this week, Chicago K Robbie Gould hit a 50 yard field goal with 2 second remaining for Da Bears to notch their first win of the season. QB Jay Cutler returned from injury in a typical performance – some ups, some downs. Raiders QB Derek Carr performed well, but Oakland had trouble getting its run game going. Coach Jack Del Rio is getting criticism for going for the go-ahead field goal with two minutes left instead of a touchdown, giving the ball back to the Bears with plenty of time on the clock to get down the field for their own field goal after the Raiders hadn’t been able to stop the Bears all day.

Kansas City (21), Cincinnati (36) – The Bengals are now 4-0, with QB Andy Dalton getting praise for playing with more confidence and making clutch plays. For the first time in his career, he has had a passer rating of more than 100 for four straight games. It helps that he has a good run game to rely on, plus the services of WR A.J. Green. The Chiefs offense doesn’t look so bad – QB Alex Smith is taking advantage of having a legit WR in Jeremy Maclin. However, the Chiefs defense has given up more than 30 points in each of the last three games, which is the worst for the franchise since 1987. All of the Chiefs points came from field goals – their kicker Cairo Santos went 7/7. He will probably not be on the unemployed kicker list this week. 

Jacksonville (13), Indianapolis (16) (OT) Colts QB Andrew Luck missed his first NFL game due to the shoulder injury he sustained last week. Backup Matt Hasselbeck stepped in and got the job done, despite drops by WRs and RBs and another uninspiring performance by RB Frank Gore. The Jaguars didn’t score again after half time, even though they had the ball five times within the final 8 minutes of regulation and overtime. In another tale of this being a rough day for kickers, their kicker missed two field goals in the game (if you’re doing the mental math, yes, those points would have won them the game).

Carolina (37), Tampa Bay (23) – TB had 5 turnovers, including 4 interceptions by rookie QB Jameis Winston, who has had your typical rookie up and downs to start his NFL career. In another tale of kicker woes, TB rookie K Kyle Brindza was booed by the home crowd when he came on to the field to attempt an extra point – he’s missed 5 of 7 field goal attempts this year, and later in the game missed a PAT. He’s now unemployed. Carolina QB Cam Newton continues to hold the team together offensively without any big playmakers to help him out.

Philadelphia (20), Washington (23) – The Eagles lost several players to injuries during the game that were not able to return, which did not help them. In what seems to be a pattern of “a bad day for kickers” around the league, Philly’s kicker, signed this week to replace their injured kicker, missed a field goal, as well as an extra point attempt. Yes, those missed points would have helped Philly take the lead. QB Sam Bradford had a slow start before putting together two touchdown drives. Philly needs to get their run game in gear, and needs their o-line to improve. Last year’s leading rusher, DeMarco Murray, signed from the Cowboys in free agency, has only 47 rushing yards so far this year. Washington QB Kirk Cousins managed to put together a game winning touchdown drive, but didn’t get help from the ground game and had to throw the ball more than the coaches probably would have liked.

Cleveland (27), San Diego (30) – Browns QB Josh McCown had a great game, tying the game with a touchdown drive and two-point conversion with two minutes remaining. The Browns defense just could not stop Chargers QB Philip Rivers and RB Danny Woodhead, who had a career day. The Chargers managed to win despite injuries leaving them with only two starting offensive linemen, two healthy WRs, and two CBs by the last quarter. Rivers set rookie K Josh Lambo up with a 39 yard field goal with two seconds left on the clock to win . . . and he missed. But, the Browns had committed an off-sides penalty, so Lambo got a second shot from 5 yards closer. The rookie sailed it directly through the uprights. He will not be joining the “unemployed kicker” club this week.

St. Louis (24), Arizona (22) – Will the real St. Louis Rams please stand up? This looked like the team that everyone talked up all summer, earning the Cardinals their first loss of the season. Rookie RB Todd Gurley showed everyone why he was a top 10 pick of this year’s draft, despite missing most of his last college season with an ACL injury. He ran for 136 yards in the second half alone and had the smarts to burn time off the clock at the end of the game rather than score and give the ball back to the Cardinals with time left on the clock. St. Louis’s defense hit Cardinals QB Carson Palmer 9 times, forced 3 fumbles, deflected 6 passes, and intercepted Palmer in the end zone. This is the best defense the Cardinals have faced so far, so no reason to panic in the desert.

Minnesota (20), Denver (23) – The Vikings almost got into field goal range at the end of the game, which would have forced OT, but Denver’s defense strip-sacked Vikings QB Teddy Bridgewater with less than a minute remaining. Denver’s defense is for real, and probably the main reason why the team is 4-0. They sacked Bridgewater 7 times! Denver QB Peyton Manning will be in the Hall of Fame one day, and while he’s still playing well enough that most teams would trade for him as their starting QB in a second, his arm strength is not what it used to be.

Green Bay (17), San Francisco (3) – The 49ers did a decent job at holding Aaron Rodgers in check, but unfortunately for them, the Packers defense did a better job at doing the same to SF QB Colin Kaepernick. His o-line didn’t protect him; he was hit on more than half his dropbacks and sacked 6 times. The Packers effectively stopped the 49ers run game, and when Kaepernick had to throw the ball he was often holding onto it too long, missing receivers, and just making some bad decisions. 49ers players and coaches were visibly frustrated on the sidelines.

Dallas (20), New Orleans (26) (OT) – Cowboys backup QB Brandon Weeden is holding his own in Tony Romo’s absence. He tied the game with less than two minutes remaining, but then Saints QB Drew Brees led a two-minute drill and set his kicker up with a 30 yard field goal with 12 seconds left . . . which the kicker missed. The game went into OT, where it only took a few seconds for Brees to throw his 400th career touchdown pass. During this game Brees also reached 5,000 career completions (Brett Favre and Peyton Manning are the only other quarterbacks who have done this). Brees’ shoulder appeared to bother him more as the game continued, but he still led his team to their first victory of the season.

Detroit (10), Seattle (13) – The big story line coming out of this game was a missed penalty call that would have given the Lions a chance to score at the end of the game. Seahawk (and recent holdout) Kam Chancellor batted the ball out of Megatron’s hands around the 1-yard line. The ball subsequently went into the end zone, where Seahawk LB K.J. Wright batted the ball out of the end zone, which is apparently illegal. The NFL VP of Officiating said that it was an officiating error and now people are questioning why this type of call isn’t reviewable.

 

Here are this week’s standings in our Weekly Pick ‘Em league. If you’re disappointed in your performance so far, just remind yourself that you are not an unemployed NFL kicker being blamed for a team’s loss. Not so bad now, is it?

Weekly Pick 'Em 2015 - Week 4

– Val

Our Thoughts – 2014 NFL Playoffs – Divisional Round Recap

Our Thoughts NFL Recap Divisional Round Games

Just a warning: These are some of our longest recaps yet. Sorry we’re not sorry.

Here’s what we thought about the divisional round games in the NFL…

New England (35), Baltimore (31) – Talk about an emotional roller coaster for a Patriots fan. Where to start?

The Patriots were down by 14 points…twice. No team in NFL history has come back from that large of a deficit twice in the playoffs. The game went until the final second when the Ravens unsuccessfully attempted a Hail Mary pass.

The Joe Flacco-led Ravens came into this game confident, holding a 2-1 post-season win advantage against the Patriots, with both of their victories taking place on the road in Foxboro. Flacco tore up the Patriots defense for the first two and a half quarters, before ruining his 13-0 touchdown to interception ratio over his last five play-off games with two picks.

The Pats’ defense did struggle – cornerback Darrelle Revis was called for multiple penalties after being called for just three throughout the regular season. The Ravens won the battle of the trenches on both sides of the ball, giving Joe Flacco plenty of time to throw and creating running lanes while also shutting down the Pats’ run game and getting lots of hits on Brady. The Patriots’ 14 rushing yards was the fewest ever by winning team in playoffs.

Patriots’ QB Tom Brady had a rough start – he took a sack to push the team out of field goal range, and an interception allowed the Ravens to get another touchdown on the board before halftime. Then Tom went to work and threw a pretty much perfect 23-yard touchdown to wide receiver Brandon LaFell to put the Pats up for good.

Brady broke two records in this game – he became the quarterback with the most postseason yards in history (previously held by Peyton Manning), and passed Joe Montana for the most touchdowns (46) in postseason history. A big difference in this game was the health of Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski – he was either missing or playing injured during the previous two Ravens’ playoff victories against the Pats. He was able to draw extra coverage from the Ravens’ secondary, which many considered their weak spot, to allow other players to get open.

The play of the game might have been the trick-play 51-yard touchdown pass from Patriots’ wide receiver Julian Edelman, who, after taking a lateral pass from Tom Brady, threw the ball to wide receiver Danny Amendola.

Edelman and Amendola have been practicing the play for over five years during off-season training. Edelman was actually a quarterback at Kent State in college. Amendola also had a great game – he had two touchdowns, which was more than he had in the regular season.

The other storyline of this game was the Patriots’ creative use of only four offensive linemen (typically there are five lined up). Ravens coach John Harbaugh was so flustered by this that he walked out onto the field and took a penalty to get the attention of the officials as he felt the personnel use was not appropriate and his team was not given enough time to substitute players. The league has stated the Pats’ tactics were in accordance with the rules. If you want a good explanation, check this one out from our friends at Football by Football.

The Patriots will host the Indianapolis Colts next week in the AFC Conference Championship at 6:40pm EST on Sunday. This time, we’ll be prepared with paper bags to breathe into when the hyperventilating starts.

 


 

Seattle (31), Carolina (17) – This game was close until the fourth quarter because that’s how Seattle rolls. Carolina QB Cam Newton played really well until then, when two of his three turnovers led directly to Seattle touchdowns that put the game out of reach. He has done the best he could all season while lacking skill position players on offense. The Panthers also deserve credit for being prepared for a big road game while dealing with in-house distractions – Head Coach Ron Riveria’s house sustained major damage in a fire on Sunday night. Luckily, his family was able to escape unharmed.

Seattle QB Russell Wilson carried the offense, which they needed since they only got 59 rushing yards from running back Marshawn Lynch. He finished 8-of-8 on third down, threw three touchdowns, and averaged 12.2 yards per attempt with a 149.2 passer rating, which is the fifth-highest in post-season history. However, the most impressive player might have been Seahawks safety Kam Chancellor. He jumped over Carolina’s offensive line twice in a row to almost block two kicks, and then he intercepted Carolina QB Cam Newton and returned it 90 yards for a touchdown – the longest score in Seattle post-season history. This play has since been named the “Kam Quake” as CenturyLink field briefly registered on the Richter scale when the crowd went wild.

Promising Seattle rookie wide receiver Paul Richardson tore his ACL in the game and will miss the rest of the playoffs. This is a story line to watch as Seattle already had a limited receiving corp after letting Golden Tate leave in the off-season and trading Percy Harvin to the Jets. Seattle now prepares for Green Bay to come to town next Sunday at 3:05pm EST.

 


 

Green Bay (26), Dallas (21) – Not a good look for the league when for the second week in a row a game ends with a controversial officiating call. With five minutes left in the game and trailing by 26 to 21, the Cowboys went for it on a fourth down. Wide receiver Dez Bryant caught a 31 yard pass from Tony Romo that would have put Dallas at Green Bay’s one yard line. Packers coach Mike McCarthy challenged the ruling and after review, the refs decided what was originally called a catch was not. Unfortunately for the Cowboys, the technical language of the rule around a catch seems to support this was the right call, and most are saying this needs an update. Tough for the Cowboys’ season to end this way.

(On a side note, some cheeky person manning the Detroit Lions’ Twitter feed enjoyed this after the Cowboys were the beneficiaries of a non-call in last week’s Detroit/Dallas game – Detroit had a similar call go against wide receiver Calvin Johnson several seasons ago based upon the league’s definition of a “catch.”) 

The Cowboys actually jumped out to a 21-13 lead, which was the first time the Packers trailed at home in a game since week 2 of the regular season. QB Tony Romo had a great game – he’s often the scapegoat in Dallas, but can’t be this time around. Packers QB Aaron Rodgers did not look like himself for most of the game due to his calf injury as he struggled to incorporate his legs into his throwing motion. The Cowboys also forced his first turnover at home since week 14 of the 2012 season. Of course, being the MVP candidate that he is, he came back to the tune of 10 consecutive completions for 163 yards, including the winning touchdown. The Packers leaned heavily on running back Eddie Lacy to take some of the pressure off Rogers, and will likely need to take the same approach next week as Rodgers’ injury is one that normally takes two months to heal, so he is not likely to be playing at full capacity next week either.

Dallas has some big names to take care of this off-season – wide receiver Dez Bryant and league-leading rusher DeMarco Murray are set to become free agents, and head coach Jason Garrett’s contract also expires.

As for the Packers, they travel to Seattle next week, where they lost a week 1 game to the Seahawks by a score of 36-16.

 


 

Indianapolis (24), Denver (13) – This game could probably be considered the upset of the weekend, as the fourth-seeded Colts beat the second-seeded Broncos by limiting Denver QB Peyton Manning to 211 passing yards. Peyton will go down as one of the best quarterbacks in history, but the truth is he was not as effective the second half of the season. (There are plenty of teams that would consider themselves lucky to have the less effective Peyton Manning as their QB – he did finish second in the NFL in touchdowns this year.) He’d been dealing with a quadriceps injury, and his arm strength seemed to deteriorate down the stretch. After the game, Coach John Fox insinuated that Peyton was not completely healthy – in fact, reports leaked on Monday morning that Peyton has been playing through a torn right quad. The Colts defended the middle of the field, forcing him to throw to the outside. He finished just 6 for 21 on passes greater than 5 yards. Most of his long throws were off-target. This was his ninth “one and done” playoff appearance, which will undoubtedly be compared to New England QB Tom Brady’s nine AFC Championship game appearances. No other quarterback has lost his first play-off game more than four times.

Expect many changes in Denver this off-season, starting with head coach John Fox parting ways with the team, which was confirmed Monday night.  Offensive coordinator Adam Gase, who is viewed as a better long-term coach for the team, is a possible replacement. Peyton Manning almost seemed to leave the door open for retirement in his post-game press conference. Denver also has some key players set to hit free agency, including wide receiver Demaryius Thomas and tight end Julius Thomas, two of Peyton’s favorite targets.

This was a true team win for the Colts. The offensive line did not allow any sacks or hits to QB Andrew Luck, who continues to make several throws during a game where you just say “wow.” Their cornerbacks played aggressively and their offense has almost been rebooted since the end of the regular season as they’ve transitioned responsibilities to other players starting to show promise, such as tight end Coby Fleener, running back Dan Herron, and wide receiver Donte Moncrief. This has meant less playing time for veteran wide receiver Reggie Wayne, and deactivating disappointing running back Trent Richardson, whom they traded a first round pick to the Browns for last year.

The Colts will journey to Foxboro next week to face the Patriots. In their week 11 match-up, the Patriots embarrassed the Colts on Sunday Night Football by a score of 42-20. In fact, the last three times these teams have played each other, including last year’s Divisional Round game, the Patriots have outscored the Colts 144 – 66.The Colts defense has gotten healthier since the week 11 game, but between Peyton Manning and Bengals QB Andy Dalton, the Colts have beaten QBs the last two weeks with a combined 13 “one and dones” in the playoffs, whereas Tom Brady has played in the AFC Championship game nine times.

 


 

The Snap now has a Pinterest if anyone is interested in following us on there. We brought on a Pinterest professional who we just happen to be related to, to get us going and it’s looking pretty good. We’re pinning links to interesting things (game day snacks, inspiring football quotes, football fashion, pugs wearing football gear, etc.) in addition to some our own content that you see here on The Snap in hopes that other people can discover it. So next time you are pinning things (and asking yourself where the last 5 hours went), you should check us out!

– Val and Michelle

Our Thoughts – 2014 NFL Playoffs – Wildcard Weekend Recap

Our Thoughts Wildcard Weekend 2014 NFL

Talk about a first world problem – I told Val that we’re running out of selfies / pictures of the two of us to use for Our Thoughts game recaps. As you can see above, we’re scraping the bottom of the barrel here. Now that I think about it, though, the above picture is a good representation of all the wild and wacky things that went down during this first week of NFL playoffs.

Here’s what we thought about wildcard weekend in the NFL…

Carolina (27), Arizona (16) – Let’s start out by saying that the best part of this game was Brian McKnight singing the national anthem. If you missed it, watch it now:

The Panthers were lucky they were playing the version of the Cardinals on their fourth-string quarterback (Ryan Lindley), rather than the team that started the season leading the league in wins. The Panthers defense held the Cardinals offense to a NFL post-season record low of 78 yards, and the final score of the game makes this look like it was closer than it really was. Carolina QB Cam Newton had a so-so game, and there were lots of special teams blunders from both teams. The Panthers could be in a tough spot if #3 wide receiver and deep threat Philly Brown can’t recover from his injury to play next week, but they do have running back Jonathan Stewart, who has been on a roll since returning from injury.

Arizona Coach Bruce Arians is definitely in contention for coach of the year after bringing his team this far with a multitude of injuries on both sides of the ball, but especially at the quarterback position. Arizona defensive coordinator Todd Bowles deserves kudos as well for adjusting his scheme to fit his personnel due to injuries, and he is being interviewed for open head coaching positions. Arizona needs to upgrade their run game over the offseason. Can’t help but feel bad for Arizona wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald, a talented player and classy guy still looking for his first Super Bowl ring, but also facing the fact that he might not return to Arizona next year due to his large salary cap hit. (Larry, we would absolutely love it if you came to New England. We bet Tom would too.)

The Panthers head to Seattle to face the Seahawks in the Divisional Round on Saturday at 8:15pm EST.

 

Dallas (24), Detroit (20) – This was the best game of the weekend. The Cowboys, specifically QB Tony Romo and coach Jason Garrett, finally have a come from behind playoff win (the Lions jumped out to a 14-0 lead) and can’t be accused of choking.

There’s lot of discussion about a non-call made by the refs – actually, they threw a flag and announced a pass interference penalty against Dallas, then changed their minds and took it back. Things went downhill for the Lions from there – coach Jim Caldwell decided to punt, and the punt only went 10 yards, giving the Cowboys prime field position for their go-ahead touchdown drive. The Lions got the ball back with 2:32 to go and QB Matt Stafford proceeded to fumble the ball twice. Up until that point, he’d played one of his best games of the season.

Dallas Coach Jason Garrett made some aggressive play calls on offense, despite the Lions defense playing lights out through the first three quarters of the game. As the Lions begin their off-season, look for one of the big story lines to be if they are able to resign Ndamukong Suh (yes, the same man that stepped on Aaron Rodgers last week, was initially suspended for this game, which was then reduced to a fine). Despite some of his questionable on-field antics, the boy can play football and is looking to get paid when he becomes an unrestricted free agent.

Also notable – New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and a bunch of (we’re assuming) rich guys celebrated in Jerry Jones’ (Cowboys owner) press box and got caught on camera. Chris, can we remind you that you represent a state full of Eagles and Giants fans, all of which hate the division rival Cowboys? I don’t know much about politics, but I’m questioning this life choice.

The Cowboys now visit the Packers next week at frigid Lambeau Field to play their Divisional game on Sunday at 1:05pm EST.

 

Baltimore (30), Pittsburgh (17) – Unfortunately for Pittsburgh, they were without the services of running back Le’Veon Bell after he injured his knee in their week 17 game, which resulted in an unbalanced offense. The Ravens’ defensive coordinator, Dean Pees, came up with some crazy blitzes to keep Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger on his toes, or maybe more accurately, on his back – the Ravens’ front seven sacked him five times. (In comparison, Big Ben had been sacked just twice in the last four regular season games.) He actually had to leave the game for a series of plays because he suffered whiplash from one of the hits.

After another sub-par December reminiscent of the month that preceded their last Super Bowl run two years ago, Ravens QB Joe Flacco decided it was time to really play football. He now has a crazy 13:0 touchdown-to-interception ratio in his last five playoff games. The Steelers need some upgrades on the defensive side of the ball over the off-season.

The Ravens will face the top-seed Patriots next Saturday at 4:35pm EST, which will be their fourth trip to New England in the last six post-seasons.

 

Indianapolis (26), Cincinnati (10) – For the fourth year in a row, the Bengals have lost their first-round playoff game with quarterback Andy Dalton under center. In fact, in these last four play-off games, they’ve only managed to score six (6!) points in the second halves combined and Dalton tied an NFL record for the most consecutive playoff losses by a quarterback to start his career. The Bengals were without the services of wide receiver AJ Green and tight end Jermaine Gresham (and loss two of their top defensive players during the game), so offensive coordinator Hue Jackson tried to establish the run game with Jeremy Hill.

The Bengals could not put any pressure on Colts QB Andrew Luck. Luck came through with a few of his signature clutch plays and made the throws he needed to in order to win the game, Dalton did not. Fans of less fortunate teams must be wondering how the Colts could get so lucky to go from Peyton Manning as a QB to Andrew Luck. The Colts threw the ball 44 times compared to only 9 run plays – not great balance, but with Luck as your QB, it worked in this situation. However, it could cause problems if they want to go deeper in the playoffs and have to face an opponent in colder weather. The Colts have not played as well on the road this year and don’t have much of a pass rush, but you can’t really count them out.

The Colts travel to Denver to face Peyton Manning and the Broncos next week in the Divisional Round at 4:40pm EST on Sunday. The Colts and Broncos faced off in week one of the regular season – the Broncos won by 7 points, but the Colts almost staged a comeback.

 

OK, that’s what we’ve got for you this week. Follow us on Twitter to see when we publish new posts, re-tweet interesting things, or get a little weird and dedicate posts to players’ adorable babies. That’s not stalker-ish at all, is it?

– Val and Michelle