Play Fantasy The Most Award Winning Fantasy game with real time scoring, top expert analysis, custom settings, and more. Play Now
 
Tag:Detroit Lions
Posted on: January 6, 2012 2:15 pm
Edited on: January 6, 2012 5:44 pm
 

Super Bowl Odds: Pre-Playoffs Gambling Guide

Who's got the best odds to win the Super Bowl? (Getty Images)
By Will Brinson

You might think gamblers are degenerates. And you might be right. But the guys who create the lines (read: "Vegas") are usually pretty good with their NFL-related accuracy. Let's take a look at what Vegas thinks about the various Super Bowl contenders.

In the meantime, check out a special edition of the Pick-Six Podcast with Paul Bessire of PredictionMachine.com, where we break down the best bets for Wild-Card Weekend as well as the Super Bowl favorites:

Team: Green Bay Packers
Super Bowl Odds
: +160
How it Ranks with Other Odds: 5
What Has to Happen: The Packers only have to win three games, two at Lambeau Field and one in Indy. They'll have to beat, if the seeds hold up, some combo of the Falcons/Giants and Saints/49ers. What makes things problematic for the Packers is that every single team in the NFC playoffs, with the exception of the 49ers, has to the firepower to keep pace with them offensively. The defense needs to get hot and commit turnovers. And Greg Jennings and the offensive line need to get healthy quickly. On the bright side, three of the other five playoff teams are dome teams; Lambeau is not the friendliest place for them.
Fun Prop to Play for Wild-Card Weekend: Super Bowl (re) Matchup of Packers vs. Steelers at +700. Because the NFL will make this happen just to take care of all the fans who got screwed out of their seats in last year's game.

Team: New England Patriots
Super Bowl Odds: +350
1-12 Scale Value of Bet: 6
What Has to Happen: The Pats defense has to get much better than it was in the regular season. An upset would be a huge help for the Patriots, since they'd get either the Bengals or the Broncos, instead of having to play both the Steelers and (most likely) the Ravens in order to get to the Super Bowl. A team that can score and play defense is kind of nightmare for New England.
Fun Prop to Play for Wild-Card Weekend: Super Bowl (re) Matchup of Patriots vs. Giants at +1900. Then you can email your favorite Boston sports fan clips of "The Catch" for two consecutive weeks.

Team: New Orleans Saints
Super Bowl Odds: +500
1-2 Scale Value of Bet: 7
What Has to Happen: The Saints have to win three games, and two of them could be on the road and outdoors. So it's a little nuts that they have better odds than the Ravens and 49ers, both of whom are No. 2 seeds in their respective conferences. That's partially playing to the public, though, as well as
Fun Prop to Play for Wild-Card Weekend: Longest touchdown will be OVER 55.5 yards. The odds on this are basically even (-115) and you could argue that under's a much better bet. But this means for 60 minutes, every time Drew Brees and Matthew Stafford start to uncork a pass you're going to be screaming your face off. And that's always fun. Oh, also: MEGATRON.

Team: Baltimore Ravens
Super Bowl Odds: +600
1-12 Scale Value of Bet: 9
What Has to Happen: Just two games and a couple things stand out. 1) If Houston can hang on, Baltimore will probably only play the Texans and the Steelers or Patriots to get to Indy. 2) They only have to play two games! 3) They're 8-0 at home in 2011. 4) They've either beaten everyone who's in the playoffs (twice in the case of the Steelers and Bengals) or they match up well with those teams.
Fun Prop to Play for Wild-Card Weekend: The OVER of the Super Bowl at 53 ... without knowing who's there. Even if the Ravens only give up 16.6 points per game on defense, we'll gamble they end up in shootout with the Saints/Packers/Lions. If the 49ers and Broncos play, this blows up in your face.

Team: Pittsburgh Steelers
Super Bowl Odds: +1000
Value of Bet: 8
What Has to Happen: Three games on the road with a gimpy Ben Roethlisberger? Yeah, that seems impossible but consider this: Pittsburgh has to beat Denver in Denver (which should happen), then travel to New England and Baltimore in some order. They've got the personnel to beat the Patriots and are the Ravens really taking down the Steelers three times in one year?
Fun Prop to Play for Wild-Card Weekend: A non-touchdown score to happen first in Steelers-Broncos, which pays off at +115. The under of this game (which I love as well) is already down to 33.5. You're telling me people won't be cranking field goals in Mile High Stadium? Lock it up!

Team: San Francisco 49ers
Super Bowl Odds: +1200
Value of Bet: 10
What Has to Happen: OK, look, this is the "best value bet" on the board, but that doesn't mean I love it. The Niners probably have to beat the Saints, Packers and then someone from the AFC to win the Super Bowl. But a No. 2 seed with a shot at two home games (if the Packers are upset), a stifling defense, a strong run game and only needing two games to get to Indy with 12:1 odds to win the Super Bowl? That's kind of silly.
Fun Prop to Play for Wild-Card Weekend: OVER on number of Gatorade baths given to members of the Harbaugh family at 2.5*. Jim might dunk himself twice if the Lions upset the Saints and he gets to spend a week smack-talking Jim Schwartz.

Team: New York Giants
Super Bowl Odds: +2000
Value of Bet: 11
What Has to Happen: The Giants have to win three games, and the road could very well go through Green Bay and New Orleans. But they've played everyone seeded above them and kept it close against the 49ers and Packers so we know they can play with the best teams. (I think they're losing to the Falcons but that doesn't make it a bad value play.) But remember 2007? Yeah, never forget.
Fun Prop to Play for Wild-Card Weekend: Longest touchdown score OVER at 45.5. Any time you have Victor Cruz and Julio Jones in the same game, the over is a reasonable bet here.

Team: Houston Texans
Super Bowl Odds: +3500
Value of Bet: 3
What Has to Happen: Matt Schaub has to hire Kobe Bryant's doctor. The Texans rushing game and defense is great, and it's possible they could get a second home game (beat the Bengals, beat the Ravens, play Denver/Pittsburgh in the AFC Championship Game), but the odds just aren't great for Houston to make it to Indy.
Fun Prop to Play for Wild-Card Weekend: UNDER for T.J. Yates pass attempts (29.5) and completions (16.5). Both pay good money (-115 and even, respectively) and there are two ways to win: a Texans blowout and tons of rushing attempts, or a Bengals blowout and Yates getting yanked for Jake Delhomme.

Team: Atlanta Falcons
Super Bowl Odds: +4000
Value of Bet: 4
What Has to Happen: A casual stroll into New York, New Orleans AND Green Bay, provided the seeds hold up. Consider this: they only played five games this year that weren't in a dome, thanks to convenient scheduling. Those were: a loss at Chicago, a loss at Tampa Bay, a loss at Houston, a two-point win at Seattle and an eight-point win at Carolina. Yikes.
Fun Prop to Play for Wild-Card Weekend: Tony Gonzalez to score the first touchdown at +1500. Um, really? Because last I checked Matt Ryan kind of likes him in the red zone.

Team: Detroit Lions
Super Bowl Odds: +5000
Value of Bet: 12
What Has to Happen: As the No. 6 seed, the Lions are guaranteed to be on the road for three games if they make it to the Super Bowl. And they have to play the Saints first. But they've kept things tight with the 49ers, the Saints, the Packers and the Falcons. Matthew Stafford's as hot as anyone and they have the defensive line to pressure opposing elite quarterbacks. They can score in a dome or on the road (see: at Denver, at Green Bay, at Dallas). And they're a fun story.
Fun Prop to Play for Wild-Card Weekend: Calvin Johnson OVER receptions at 6.5 and UNDER receiving yards at 98.5. This is a hedging combo, because if he goes over 6.5 he could go over 98.5 as well. But Johnson caught six balls for 69 yards the last time against the Saints, primarily because he was dealing with double teams. Stafford will still look his way but maybe

Team: Denver Broncos
Super Bowl Odds: +6000
Value of Bet: 1
What Has to Happen: Remember that ridiculous stretch of games where the Broncos won an (un?) holy six straight games to climb into first place in the AFC West thanks to great defense, some ridiculous luck and clutch play by Tim Tebow in the fourth quarter? That needs to happen again.
Fun Prop to Play for Wild-Card Weekend: Tim Tebow over on passing attempts at 24.5. Yeah, that's a bunch, but if the Broncos are down he'll have to be winging it. Plus, you get the bonus of getting comedic value on your bet even if you lose.

Team: Cincinnati Bengals
Super Bowl Odds: +7000
Value of Bet: 2
What Has to Happen: Andy Dalton needs to stop pooping himself first of all; with Dalton feeling awful, it's kind of tough to back the Bengals even making it past the Texans (though I am). And then the Bengals need to win three road games despite posting victories against teams with a winning percentage of like 37.5 percent (or thereabouts). The Bengals are a great story but they're not going to the Super Bowl.
Fun Prop to Play for Wild-Card Weekend: Will A.J. Green score a touchdown at +130 and the over on Greens' receiving yards at 65.5. I don't care that Johnathan Joseph is covering him. He gets his.

*Made-up prop

For more NFL news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnNFL on Twitter, Like Us on Facebook, subscribe to our NFL newsletter, and while you're add it, add our RSS Feed.
Posted on: January 6, 2012 12:27 pm
 

Wild-Card Weekend podcast preview

By Will Brinson & Ryan Wilson

It's playoff preview time and that means our full-on Wild-Card Weekend preview.

Before we dive into the games, we debate the Penn State hire of Bill O'Brien (and wonder what the hell is wrong with all these members of the Penn State "family" who are ripping the hire publicly), discuss the possibility of Ray Horton going to St. Louis and some other coaching moves.

Then we dive into the games and ask all the important questions: Are the Bengals and Texans too similar? Can Johnathan Joseph keep A.J. Green in check? Will the Bengals rush defense show up on Saturday?

How about the Lions? Did Wilson really pick them to win? Can Ndamukong Suh make a difference? Are the Falcons the worst nightmare for Eli Manning? Will the Giants pass rush show up on Sunday? And, of course, will Tebowmania finally die?

(Did we mention that you should subscribe to the podcast via iTunes? And if you can't listen to the podcast below, download it here. And if you'd like to keep working while listening in your browser, pop that puppy out in a new tab here.)


For more NFL news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnNFL on Twitter, subscribe to our NFL newsletter, and while you're at it, add our RSS Feed.
Posted on: January 4, 2012 4:15 pm
 

Film Room: Saints vs. Lions wild-card preview

Posted by Eye on Football Analyst Andy Benoit


This wild card contest, featuring the NFL’s No. 1 and No. 5 offenses, might play out more like a college bowl game, with a back-and-forth barrage of points and yards. Unlike a bowl game, however, we can be sure that the barrage is a product of great quarterbacking and not mistakes from shaky underclassmen defenders.

Oh, also, unlike a bowl game, the outcome actually matters in the bigger picture, as the winner will still be in contention for a title.


1. Any hope of stopping the Saints’ offense?
Not really. The Lions gave up 31 points and 438 yards when these teams squared off in Week 13. They were without starting corner Chris Houston and starting free safety Louis Delmas that night, but attributing the loss to those players’ absence would be like attributing The Simpsons early-2000s popularity dip to the death of Maude Flanders.

The last team to slow Sean Payton’s offensive juggernaut was – believe it or not – St. Louis. They did it with a feisty four-man rush, press-man coverage outside and zone coverage inside. But that was 10 weeks ago – before Saints left tackle Jermon Bushrod found his groove in pass protection (the first-time Pro Bowler has improved tremendously after being a major pass-blocking liability his first 4 ½ years).

Of course, the Lions will still have an effective pass-rush even if Bushrod can contain the relentless Kyle Vanden Bosch. And they have linebackers and safeties who have the speed to be rangy in coverage. And their corners, while primarily off-coverage zone defenders, have actually been impressive at times in man-to-man on third down this season.

But in the end, this is still a vanilla Cover 2 defense that would be nothing more than a house of straw if it got away from its foundation against Drew Brees. Not that Brees and the Saints can’t exploit Cover 2:

Something the Saints do as well as any team in football is create favorable matchups for wide receivers by aligning them in tight splits. This is easy to do against a Cover 2 defense like Detroit’s. In this shot, Devery Henderson is aligned tight, and Marques Colston (New Orleans’ top slot weapon) is even tighter. Because Cover 2 defenses always keep their outside corners on opposite sides of the field, the nature of this offensive alignment dictates that either Colston or Henderson can run an inside route against a linebacker or safety. In this case, we show you the option for Colston.

2. A crazy idea…
The Lions should do what all Cover 2 teams essentially do: commit to bend-but-don’t-break defense. Only in this case, they actually can break – as long as they bend a lot first. The Saints thrive on fast tempo and big plays – especially at home. If they have the ball, they’re going to score.

The Lions should try to make those scores come after 10 or 12 plays, rather than four or five. Coaxing an offense into long drives may sound insane, but think about: The more plays the Saints run, the more chances there are for a freak turnover. Also, the more chances for a red zone stop. Most important, long drives eat clock and shorten the game. That could keep the contest artificially close down the stretch.

Of course, this extreme bend-but-don’t-break idea is based on Detroit’s offense being able to dominate New Orleans’ defense ... which didn’t happen in Week 13.

3. Recapping the last meeting
A lot of Matthew Stafford’s 408 yards passing in the last meeting were empty, as the Saints held the Lions to just 17 points. Defensive coordinator Gregg Williams took an uncharacteristically cautious approach, often rushing only three or four and focusing on double-and triple-team tactics against Calvin Johnson.

Williams often had his best corner, Jabari Greer, shadow Megatron, with plenty of help over the top and inside. Because Johnson devours man coverage, the Saints stayed mostly in zone (though they did match up man-to-man a bit when Detroit went to base personnel).

This formula held Johnson to 69 yards on six catches, though the numbers would have been much different if Stafford hadn’t underthrown him on what would have been a 53-yard touchdown in the third quarter. The rest of the Lions receiving targets took advantage of their opportunities against the Johnson-intensive coverage.

TE Tony Scheffler had 41 yards receiving; RB Kevin Smith had 46; Nate Burleson posted 93 (though his performance was overshadowed by three offensive pass interference flags); second-round rookie Titus Young had 90 yards (though he too overshadowed his performance with mistakes – mainly a boneheaded personal foul after the whistle).

In the end, though, it was the lack of big plays from Johnson that stood out.

4. Forecasting this meeting
Gregg Williams may go conservative again. His defense aims to create turnovers and chaos through fervid six-man blitzes, but that aggression is part of the reason the Saints’ yielded a league-high 14 passes of 40-plus yards this season. Against a top-notch aerial attacks like Detroit’s, a high-risk/high-reward approach is unlikely to go in your favor.

But Williams also knows that when Detroit has struggled, it’s been due to Stafford’s waffling accuracy and decision-making. Those issues calmed down considerably over the season’s final month, but there’s no telling how the 23-year-old might respond under the pressure of dueling with Brees in Detroit’s first playoff game since 1999. Williams will want to find out.

Stafford isn’t the easiest quarterback to blitz, though. He has a strong arm, quick release and the willingness to make stick throws with defenders racing at him. The Lions don’t have elite pass-blockers, but because they operate almost exclusively out of the shotgun, Stafford can be tough for defenders to reach.

Williams might find a happy-medium by playing coverage but giving his back seven defenders extra freedom in moving around and disguising their looks before the snap. That would get Stafford’s mental gears grinding. The Lions don’t like motile defensive presnap looks – that’s why they rarely use presnap motion themselves.

5. The X-factors
Figure Williams is going to do all he can to make someone other than Calvin Johnson beat him. The guys who must step up are tight ends Brandon Pettigrew and Tony Scheffler.

They both give the Lions formation versatility from base personnel by lining up along the front line, in the slot or split out wide. This is often done to create mismatches for, but on Saturday it will create mismatches for THEM.

If the Saints blitz, the tight ends are logical quick-strike outlets. If the Saints play coverage, one of the tight ends will draw a favorable matchup against strong safety Roman Harper (who got destroyed in coverage at Seattle in last year’s wild card).

So who will win? Check our NFL expert picks for all wild-card games

Follow @Andy_Benoit on Twitter or contact him at Andy.Benoit-at-NFLTouchdown.com.
Posted on: January 4, 2012 1:11 pm
Edited on: January 4, 2012 1:28 pm
 

Kevin Smith, Scheffler collide at Lions practice

By Will Brinson

The Lions are going to need everything in their arsenal to take on the Saints in the NFC wild-card round in New Orleans on Saturday, so it's not good news to hear that running back Kevin Smith suffered an injury when colliding with tight end Tony Scheffler during Wednesday's practice.

That's according to our Lions Rapid Reporter John Kreger, who reports that Smith was "helped from the field at the conclusion" of practice on Wednesday following the collision.

Scheffler "did not appear to be injured" according to Kreger, which is good news obviously. But it may not outweigh the nightmare of losing Smith for the game against the Saints.

As you know, Detroit's run game is virtually non-existent. They rank 29th in the NFL with just 95.2 yards per game and have attempted just 356 rushes this season, the second-lowest total in the league.

Smith was signed off the street prior to the Lions matchup against the Bears in Week 10, and exploded on the scene against the Panthers the following week. Smith hasn't taken the world by storm or anything, but he averaged 4.9 yards per carry this season, piling up 356 rushing yards on 72 attempts. Additionally, he caught 22 balls for 179 yards and found the end zone a total of seven times.

He's had a tremendously positive impact on the Lions offense as a whole and as Kreger notes, his absence could severely complicate things for Detroit, who might have to give up on running the ball at all without Smith healthy enough to play.

Perhaps most devastating? The fact that Smith's second-most productive game of this season came in Week 13 when the Lions played the Saints the first time. Smith rushed for just 34 yards, but he averaged 5.7 yards a carry, and he also caught six passes for 46 yards and a touchdown.

For more NFL news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnNFL on Twitter, Like Us on Facebook, subscribe to our NFL newsletter, and while you're add it, add our RSS Feed.
Posted on: January 4, 2012 10:23 am
Edited on: January 4, 2012 1:47 pm
 

2012 NFL Postseason Awards

Brees and Rodgers could square off three times this year, if you count awards. (Getty Images)
By Will Brinson

We won't bore you by listing our preseason predictions (you can read those here), but suffice to say, all of mine were correct. Take a peak at the midseason hardware if you want too, but right now we're interested in dishing out the awards for the full season.


Speaking of which, I've already ranted on Drew Brees vs. Aaron Rodgers for the MVP, but I find it fascinating that at midseason, no one even picked Brees for Offensive Player of the Year, much less MVP. I'm not here to knock Brees, I'm just saying the award's for an entire season's worth of work.

Anyway, below are our full season picks. (You can also read Pete's full season picks here and Clark's full season picks here.)

Most are obvious but "BFA" is "Best Free Agent Addition," "WFA" is "Worst Free Agent Addition," and "DOH!" is "Pick I'd Like to Have Back." (Haha, yes I did pick the guy who eventually iced his own kicker to win "Coach of the Year." At least I was driving the Camwagon though.)

Dive in below and leave your gripes and complaints in the comments.

Award Brinson
Wilson
Katzowitz
Prisco
Judge
MVP
Aaron Rodgers Aaron Rodgers Aaron Rodgers Aaron Rodgers Aaron Rodgers
OPOY
Drew Brees Aaron Rodgers Aaron Rodgers Drew Brees Drew Brees
DPOY
Jared Allen Terrell Suggs Jared Allen Jason Pierre-Paul Jared Allen
OROY
Cam Newton Cam Newton Cam Newton Cam Newton Cam Newton
DROY
Von Miller Aldon Smith Aldon Smith Von Miller Von Miller
COY
Marvin Lewis Jim Harbaugh Jim Harbaugh Jim Harbaugh Jim Harbaugh
ASST
Rob Chudzinski Rob Chudzinski Wade Phillips Wade Phillips Wade Phillips
BFA
Darren Sproles Darren Sproles Darren Sproles Darren Sproles Darren Sproles
WFA
Sidney Rice Braylon Edwards Santonio Holmes Ray Edwards Ray Edwards
Comeback
Steve Smith D'Qwell Jackson Aaron Maybin Matthew Stafford Matthew Stafford
Most Improved
Matthew Stafford Antonio Brown Victor Cruz Rob Gronkowski Rob Gronkowski
Surprise
Bengals Broncos Broncos Bengals 49ers
Disappoint
Eagles Jets Eagles Eagles Eagles
Executive
Rick Smith Rick Smith Rick Smith Martin Mayhew Mike Brown
DOH!
Garrett for COY Rivers for MVP Rivers for MVP Fins in/Lions out Rams in NFCW

For more NFL news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnNFL on Twitter, Like Us on Facebook, subscribe to our NFL newsletter, and while you're add it, add our RSS Feed.
Posted on: January 1, 2012 11:39 pm
Edited on: January 2, 2012 8:53 pm
 

Sorting the Sunday Pile, Week 17: Brees for MVP?

Posted by Will Brinson


Sorting the Sunday Pile takes all of Sunday's NFL action, figures out the winners and losers and asks the big questions. Send your complaints, questions and comments to Will Brinson on Twitter. Listen to the Pick-Six Podcast Week 17 recap below and don't forget to
subscribe via iTunes
.

Drew Brees for MVP?

Over the next month, until the MVP is announced before the Super Bowl, there's going to be an intense debate about whether or not Drew Brees' incredible hot streak to close out the season vaulted him past Aaron Rodgers for the MVP award.

Four weeks ago, this wasn't a debate. Even with Brees having a monster year, the Packers were undefeated and Rodgers was eviscerating defenses on a weekly basis.

Their numbers were close enough to tell anyone suggesting a debate to kindly close their piehole.

Now? Well it's a lot closer than it was. The numbers (below) make that much obvious even though the actual premises behind the argument are just frustrating from the sense of measuring a season by its full extent.

Player
Comp % Pass Yards
Pass TDs INT
W-L
Aaron Rodgers
68.3 4,643 45 6 14-1
Drew Brees
71.2 5,476 46 14 13-3

The bigger problem for Rodgers may be a confluence of events around 4:00pm ET Sunday afternoon: as Brees was throwing his fifth touchdown pass (hey, just one more than Rodgers!), Packers backup Matt Flynn was going absolutely bananas against the Lions, slicing up Detroit's secondary for six touchdowns and 480 yards, a Packers franchise record.

Take a look at the list of the guys who've thrown for six teeters in a game since the merger. Spoiler alert: it's short, and full of awesome quarterbacks.

Flynn's on the list now and as a result, he's blatantly going to cost Rodgers a ton of "Well if the backup can do that" votes, while Brees staying in much longer than needed against the Panthers netted him a significant boost in the eyes of "What have you done for me lately?" voters.

But let's get one thing out of the way first: Aaron Rodgers is not a "system quarterback." Yeah, there's actually a debate raging as to whether he is or not. And if you believe that Rodgers is only successful because of the Packers "system" then you're as foolish as anyone who thought Tom Brady was a system quarterback when Matt Cassel had a big year filling in for the Patriots.

Every team has a "system" on offense and some -- the Packers and Patriots stand out -- are better than others. But Flynn's a good quarterback who's succeeded before (he nearly beat the Patriots in prime time last year), has a great pedigree (BCS title anyone?) and has spent multiple years working behind Rodgers. That's not going to make him worse. There's a reason the Packers, winners of 21 of 22 games since LAST Christmas, have him on the roster. And it's not because he makes a mean gumbo.

Look, less than two weeks ago, Rodgers carved up a very (very) good Bears defense on Christmas night. All season long he commanded the Packers offense like a conductor, made ridiculous throws that no one else in the NFL can make and generally let the world pencil his name in for MVP. 

His season's been so magnificent that it's somehow getting railroaded by the Packers losing to the Chiefs late (but don't forget, the Saints lost to the Rams and, uh, the Packers), sitting out Week 17 (a smart move with homefield clinched) and Sean Payton and Brees running up the score in order to break records (which is fine, but let's call it what it is).

There's no question that Drew Brees is a viable MVP candidate. He's had an all-time season in 2011. But judging the MVP race based on a what-have-you-done-for-me-lately attitude is shortsighted, and it diminishes the incredible season Rodgers had in Green Bay.

Winners

Tom Coughlin: Coughlin won the NFC East, despite sitting on the hot seat most of the season, and the Giants suddenly have a look of a team that could absolutely be a playoff sleeper. They can rush the passer mercilessly when they get hot, Victor Cruz is turning into a salsa-dancing monster and Eli Manning's smoking hot right now. Given the success wild-card teams have had in recent years -- hello, 2007 Giants! -- it would be foolish to count them out.

Maurice Jones-Drew:
"Mojo" ripped off a season-high 169 rushing yards on Sunday against Indy. That not only gave him the NFL rushing title for 2011, but also gave him the Jaguars single-season record for rushing yards, as he broke Fred Taylor's previous high of 1,572 in 2003. In a very dismal season for Jacksonville's offense, MJD's been an absolute workhorse. He's up there with Tony Boselli, Fred Taylor and Jimmy Smith in terms of all-time greats for the Jaguars.

Jason Taylor
: The only way Taylor's exit -- as a Dolphin, on the shoulders of his teammates after taking down the Jets -- could have been better is if the fumble he returned for a touchdown wasn't overturned. Taylor's a classy dude, a gamer, a hell of a dancer and at sixth all-time on the sack-leader list (not to mention a media favorite!), he'll find his way into Canton. Awesome career.

Matt Flynn: As noted above, Flynn had a decent day on Sunday. That's going to translate well when he becomes an unrestricted free agent and potentially becomes the most desirable quarterback on the market. There are lots of teams that need a quarterback and Flynn will be on everyone's radar just as much as Robert Griffin III and Andrew Luck. If someone falls in love with him, he might get Kevin Kolb money.

Cincinnati Bengals: Nothing like losing and still ending up in the winner's column, huh? The Bengals played the Ravens well on Sunday but Ray Rice was too much for them. Fortunately, KC beat Denver (or, if you prefer, San Diego beat Oakland) and the Bengals backed their way into a playoff matchup against a Texans team that will either start T.J. Yates or Jake Delhomme.

Sanchez is no lock for the Big Apple in 2012. (AP)

Losers

Mark Sanchez: The Jets never even got a shot at backdooring their way into the playoffs, as Sanchez picked apart his own offense and gave the Dolphins nine points off of three interceptions, two of which were to defensive lineman Randy Starks. It wouldn't ultimately matter, because the Titans won and eliminated Rex Ryan's crew, but anyone who justified Sanchez' performance with the old "He just wins!" argument has packed up their shanty and moved to Denver to make that argument. He didn't play like a $14 million quarterback this year -- even though he got paid like one -- and it would almost be surprising if the Jets didn't make a swap at the position.

Detroit Lions: They haven't won at Lambeau since 1991 now, dropping a mind-blowing 20 consecutive games at the Packers homefield. Of course, that's not why they're on this list, although it doesn't help. They're on this list because they just gave up 480 passing yards to the Packers backup and losing in Green Bay (coupled with Atlanta rumbling over the Bucs) means Detroit's next game will be in New Orleans. Against Drew Brees. You should go ahead and put your mortgage on the over.

Raheem Morris: I'm hesitant to include Morris because I'm pretty sure he'll have already been fired by time I hit publish. I mean, if there was ever a time not to let your opponent get out to a 42-0 lead it's definitely the final game of the season when you're riding a nine-game losing streak and barely clinging to your job.

Rob Ryan: Dallas looked absolutely flat early on Sunday night and somehow managed to storm back on the Giants, only to have the secondary shredded by Eli Manning when they cut the lead to seven points. Ryan's defense hasn't backed up his mouth all season long and even though you want your coach to make better late-game decisions and you don't want your quarterback turning the ball over late, there

John Elway: Kyle Orton didn't do anything crazy like throw for 500 yards to beat the Broncos on Sunday, but they win that game against Tyler Palko. Not that it mattered, because the Broncos made the playoffs anyway when the Chargers topped the Raiders. But Elway put himself in the position to miss the postseason by releasing Orton and even if it helped the team's chemistry they're barely hanging on right now and look like a lock for a first-round exit.

The Big Questions

 
The Broncos didn't exactly storm into the playoffs. (AP)

1. Is the Tim Tebow magic finally gone?
It just might be. The Broncos still made the playoffs, of course, and anything can happen once you get to the postseason. But Denver limped their way there, backing into a title at 8-8 on a three-game skid. Teams seem to have figured out that playing press-man coverage against Tebow severely limits what he can do on offense (he's much better at picking apart zones and makes fewer mistakes) and Denver proved that if they can't generate turnovers, they're in trouble. It's hard to imagine them beating the Steelers, even at home.

2. Who's the AFC favorite going forward?
The Ravens are my pick. They get homefield up to the AFC Championship and only lose it then if they have to play the Patriots. They've beaten the Bengals twice and they've beaten the Steelers twice. They've beaten New England in New England in the playoffs before, and the Pats have no defense. And the Ravens are nightmare matchups in Baltimore for Houston and Denver, neither of whom can keep pace if the Ravens start scoring.

3. How about the NFC?
Say what you want about how hot the Saints are -- and they are white hot -- but the Packers are still the favorites. They've got homefield throughout, they have two weeks to rest their starters and they can score on anyone. One bad week against the Chiefs does not a 15-1 team unseat. Their defense isn't great, but few teams do have a good defense and if they matchup against New Orleans in the NFC Championship Game, it's going down at Lambeau Field.

4. Who're the most dangerous non-playoff teams in 2012?
Eagles, Panthers and Chargers for me. The Snooze Buttons finished 8-8 and if they'd had a full offseason, they might have won the NFC East. Their dominant defense down the stretch is reason for optimism if you're an Eagles fan. Carolina needs defense, but they suffered an insane amount of injury-related attrition in 2011 and if they draft all defense and get healthy, they can contend in the NFC South. Plus: Cam Newton. And the Bolts showed this year they could be as good as playoff teams but just made stupid mistakes. A new coach could clear those problems up.

5. Any chance Jerry Jones changes his mind on Jason Garrett?
Jones has been incredibly supportive of Garrett so probably not. But someone's taking the fall for the Cowboys not making the playoffs and the best guess here is that it's Rob Ryan. He runs his mouth constantly and his defense doesn't back up all the talk -- their secondary got absolutely shredded by Eli Manning right after they got back into the game Sunday night.

6. What is Stevie Johnson thinking with his celebrations?

He's not thinking, actually. Johnson's scheduled to be a free agent in what's a really, really deep wide receiver class in 2012 and reportedly wants $7.5 million. The only problem is he's now developed a stigma for dropping really important catches and oftentimes costing his teams 15 yards with penalties like he did on Sunday. Wishing everyone "Happy New Years!" is a cool thing to do ... when it's not bad for your job and you're looking for a raise. Johnson's one of the most fun and interesting guys in the NFL but he has to be smarter than that.

7. How smart do the Steelers look for that Santonio Holmes trade now?
You don't even know the half of it. Not only did the dump a guy who's clearly a locker room distraction (Holmes) and not LaDainian Tomlinson-approved as a captain, but Pittsburgh allowed Mike Wallace to emerge as one of the best wideouts in the game and let someone else (the Jets) pick up the tab for Holmes' long-term deal. Oh, and in case you didn't know, they used the pick they got from the Jets to draft 2011 breakout wide receiver Antonio Brown

8. Should my team draft a running back early this year?
Negative, ghostrider, the pattern is full. Full of guys who weren't drafted in the first round leading the league in rushing anyway.

Player
2011 Rush Yards
2011 Rush YPG
2011 Rush TDs
2011 YPC
Year/Round/Pick
Maurice Jones-Drew
1,606 100.4 8 4.7 2006/2/60th
LeSean McCoy
1,309 87.3 17 4.8 2009/2/53rd
Arian Foster
1,224 94.2 10 4.4 2009/None/UFA
Frank Gore
1,211 75.7 8 4.3 2008/2/55
Ray Rice
1,173 78.2 10 4.4 2005/3/65

This doesn't mean teams should avoid drafting someone who's a special talent in college (see: Adrian Peterson) but there's a real sweet spot developing in the draft for undersized, pass-catching running backs (go ahead and add in Jamaal Charles too) who turn out to be a lot better than where they were drafted.

9. How's that Carson Palmer trade working out now?
Not so good. The Raiders could have arguably won the trade if they made the playoffs. All they had to do was beat a downtrodden Chargers team at home and they couldn't, so they miss the postseason and give up a first-round pick and a second-round pick to the Bengals (who made the playoffs, naturally). With Palmer, the Raiders were 6-4 and he threw 13 touchdowns and 16 picks. Whoops. Add in the fact that Hue Jackson just coached the most-penalized team in NFL history and he has some explaining to do.

10. Is Romeo Crennel the Chiefs next head coach?
Hard to imagine he's not. KC finished 6-9 on the season and two of those wins were with Crennel in charge; they also nearly beat Oakland in Week 16 too. Surely Scott Pioli thinks that with Crennel in charge this season and better injury luck the Chiefs would've won the division. He might be right, actually, and that's why Crennel will get the gig.

11. How many records did the Saints break on Sunday?
Eleventy billion or thereabouts. Brees and Sean Payton were basically rubber-stamping their signatures all over the NFL's offensive record books. They set the record for points scored in a season, most points scored at home in a season, most passing yards in a season (Brees' own record), best completion percentage in a season (again, Brees'), most completions in a season, most all-purpose yards in a single season (Darren Sproles owns it) and most receiving yards by a tight end in a season (only Rob Gronkowski broke that one a little while later). I can't confirm it, but I'm pretty sure the Saints broke the record for most broken records as well.

GIF O' THE WEEK

Bryan Braman is going to get fined for a helmet-to-helmet hit that he made ... without a helmet.

Worth 1,000 Words


For more NFL news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnNFL on Twitter, Like Us on Facebook, subscribe to our NFL newsletter, and while you're add it, add our RSS Feed.
Posted on: January 1, 2012 10:13 pm
Edited on: January 2, 2012 10:05 am
 

2012 NFL Wild Card/Divisional Playoff Schedule

By Will Brinson

The NFL announced the schedule for the first two rounds of the 2012 playoffs on Sunday night.

Here's all you need to know:

NFL Wild Card Weekend

Saturday, January 7
AFC: 4:30 PM (ET) -- Cincinnati Bengals at Houston Texans (NBC)
NFC: 8:00 PM (ET) -- Detroit Lions at New Orleans Saints (NBC)

Sunday, January 8
NFC: 1:00 PM (ET) -- Atlanta Falcons at New York Giants (FOX)
AFC: 4:30 PM (ET) -- Pittsburgh Steelers at Denver Broncos (CBS)

NFL Divisional Playoffs

Saturday, January 14
NFC: 4:30 PM (ET) -- New Orleans/Dallas-N.Y. Giants/Atlanta at San Francisco (FOX)
AFC: 8:00 PM (ET) -- Denver/Pittsburgh/Cincinnati at New England (CBS)

Sunday, January 15
AFC: 1:00 PM (ET) -- Houston/Denver/Pittsburgh at Baltimore (CBS)
NFC: 4:30 PM (ET) -- Dallas-N.Y. Giants/Atlanta/Detroit at Green Bay (FOX)

For more NFL news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnNFL on Twitter, Like Us on Facebook, subscribe to our NFL newsletter, and while you're add it, add our RSS Feed.
Posted on: January 1, 2012 11:35 am
Edited on: January 1, 2012 12:50 pm
 

Calvin Johnson about to unlock $4.5M bonus?

Do not get in the way of Mega and his money. (Getty Images)
By Will Brinson

Incentive clauses in NFL contracts are pretty standard business. But the one that Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson could unlock on Sunday is quite the doozy, as it's worth $4.5 million.

Johnson, according to ESPN's Adam Schefter, needs to complete five of seven possible goals in order to unlock the contract. Those seven goals are: record 12 or more receiving touchdowns in a season (check), get in Pro Bowl and play (check), play in 80 percent of the Lions plays in the season and have Detroit wins 9 games (check), lead NFC in receiving TD (he currently does), lead NFC in receiving yards (he currently does), lead NFL in receiving TDs and lead NFL in receiving yards.

So to recap, Johnson has completed five of those goals (with the exception of playing in the Pro Bowl, though he'd probably get out there with one leg if it was worth $4.5 million) and currently has two more tentatively completed.


Johnson has 1,437 receiving yards on the season, putting him just 81 yards behind league leader Wes Welker and 79 yards ahead of the Giants Victor Cruz, who's second in the NFC. (He's also 129 yards behind Steve Smith for those wondering.)

Johnson's 15 touchdowns pace the NFC with only Jordy Nelson (12) and Jimmy Graham (10) also in double-digit touchdown receptions this season. (Rob Gronkowski also has 15 teeters, but he's in the AFC, clearly.)

Since we can pencil in the NFC touchdown title for Megatron, there's a very good chance he unlocks this bonus on Sunday. All he needs is to catch the same number of scores as Gronk or have Cruz stay within 80 yards of his total. In this scenario, 100 receiving yards and a touchdown likely lock down the bonus for Johnson.

And it will likely mean that the Lions will happily hand him the money and then, already heavily invested in the NFL's best wide receiver, try to get him even more during the offseason before Megatron gets to his first contract year, which should be a scary thought for NFL defensive backs.
Follow all the Week 17 action live: Inactives | Scoreboard

1 p.m. ET games:
DET-GB | TEN-HOU | IND-JAC | NYJ-MIA | CHI-MIN | BUF-NE | CAR-NO | WAS-PHI | SF-STL

4 p.m. ET games:
TB-ATL | BAL-CIN | PIT-CLE | SEA-ARI | KC-DEN | SD-OAK


 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com