Post-Season Injury Excuses are as Lame as the Injuries

Manning
Manning

Peyton Manning allegedly had a torn quad muscle. Do a little research and you'll find there's a little misinformation there.

The Pittsburgh Steelers had been eliminated from the 2014 National Football League Playoffs and within minutes afterwards, safety Mike Mitchell announced that he’d played most of the season with a torn groin.

Yes, I just reached for my crotch in pain as well…

Yesterday morning, news out of Denver was that Peyton Manning had played the last month of the season with a torn quad muscle.

Injuries in the NFL are as mysterious as aliens and Bigfoot himself. Tom Brady was once on the injury report every week for what seemed like a full decade. Whether or not anything was actually wrong with him is unknown but highly doubtful since amazingly he played in all of those games.

It’s always interesting to hear players suddenly start talking about injuries they’ve been fighting through because 99 times out of 100 the general public doesn’t know anything about the injuries until the season has ended and ended with a loss.

Mitchell

Mike MItchell announced following the Steelers' final game that he played with a groin tear.

In Mitchell’s case, the overwhelming response from the Steelers’ faithful was one of total doubt. Mitchell was supposed to be the team’s free agent gem when they signed him in the offseason to replace Ryan Clark who had worn out his welcome in the Steel City.

As it turns out, Mitchell wasn’t any better. His poor tackling and even worse positioning on the field left Steelers’ fans seriously questioning how this guy could even warrant a starting job. When the injury announcement was made, the collective “ya sure” from the fans was as loud as a football stadium on the opening kickoff.

Mitchell is however, small potatoes when compared to Manning. In both cases, I have no doubts that these men were probably hobbled by injury. When you play a full season of professional football it’s rare to find any player that is 100% healthy.

That said, I have a hard time buying Manning’s injury. A torn muscle, especially one on the top of your thigh is crippling regardless of how often you get shot up.

Did Manning have a strained quad? That I can buy just like I can buy that Aaron Rodgers has a strained calf. But a torn quad? C’mon!

What the Denver Broncos medical folks are not telling is whether this was a grade one, two or three tear. Both one and two will allow for some participation in normal daily activities but playing in the NFL is not “normal daily activity.”

The grade three tear results in total immobility so it’s safe to assume this was not a “torn quadriceps.” What would also be nice to know is whether this was just a tear, where the fibers of the muscle come apart or a full tear where the fibers tear in half.

We’ll never find out the exact diagnosis of Manning but it’s safe to say he certainly had some discomfort in his quad. For a quarterback, the only thing more important than his arm is his legs which he uses to drive the ball down-field.

It was obvious to even the novice among us that Manning was struggling to get the ball down-field Sunday. He had little zip on the ball and his accuracy was as poor as we’ve ever seen it.

I don’t believe Manning or Mitchell set out to have excuses for their poor performances but we as fans and viewers have to take these injuries with a grain of salt because more often than not, they aren’t as bad as we are told they are.

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Breaking Down Sunday’s NFL Divisional Playoff Games

Romo
Romo

As vulnerable as Aaron Rodgers is, Tony Romo could be in the same position with his bad back.

On Thursday I gave you the breakdown of today’s games while right now I’m giving you an up close look at tomorrow’s game. Let’s get to it.

Dallas (+6) at Green Bay - If the forecast holds, it’s going to be extremely chilly in Green Bay and that will favor the hometown Packers unless the Cowboys resist the temptation to throw it too much and stick the ground game. DeMarco Murray can in fact lead the Cowboys to victory if that offensive line gets rolling.

The Packers will hope that Aaron Rodgers’ bad calf has had enough time to heal but we’re hearing he hasn’t practiced and the calf is “strained.” This means there are definitely tears in the calf muscle. Either way, I expect them to stay as balanced as they can be behind Eddie Lacy. Of all the games this weekend I think turnovers will dictate more about the outcome than the others. This could favor Green Bay because Rodgers hasn’t thrown an interception at home since Bill Clinton was in office.

OK, that’s an exaggeration but you get the point. One thing we can’t forget here is that Tony Romo has been playing a bad back for most of the second half of the season. One hit in the frigid cold and Romo could be out.

Trends: Dallas is 1-4 against the spread in their last five games at Green Bay… The total has gone OVER in five of the Packers last seven games at home against the Cowboys… The Cowboys is 8-0 on the road in 2014… Green Bay is 8-0 at home in 2014.

Key Injuries: Dallas T Doug Free DOUBT/Knee, Green Bay QB Aaron Rodgers PROB/Calf

The Pick: I like Dallas getting the points but Green Bay wins a tight one.

Luck

If Luck gets time to throw, he could be all smiles by game's end.

Indianapolis (+7) at Denver - Don’t be a bit surprised if the Colts come into Denver and pull off the upset. Yes the running game is pathetic and the defense is susceptible to getting beat either on the ground or through the air but if any game has the feel of an upset it’s this one. The Broncos have relied heavily on C.J Anderson in the second half of the season and I’m guessing the Colts will look to take him away first.

That will more than likely give us a passing duel between Peyton Manning and Andrew Luck. While I believe Luck will turn the ball over once or twice, I’m also not convinced that Manning is 100% especially with regards to his arm strength. If the Colts can bottle up Anderson enough to force the Broncos into second and third and long situations then that will test my theory about Manning’s arm strength.

The Denver defense could make any of my thoughts useless because if they can force the Colts into sacks and early turnovers then things could ugly early and often but I see a competitive game in this one.

Trends: The Colts are 6-1 straight up in their last seven games against Denver… The Broncos are 0-5 against the spread in their last five games against Indianapolis… The total has gone OVER in four of Indy’s last six games at Denver… Denver is 5-0 SU in their  last five games at home.

Key Injuries: Indianapolis LB Jerrell Freeman PROB/Abdomen, Denver LB Brandon Marshall QUEST/Foot

The Pick: The Colts have had pretty good success against the Broncos in recent years and despite leaking oil into the playoffs I like the Colts and the OVER.

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An Early Look at the NFL Divisional Playoff Lines and …

Suggs
Suggs

If Suggs has the same impact in New England that he had in Pittsburgh then another Ravens' win is possible.

Things are liable to change slightly as injury reports come out later this week, but right now I’m focusing on the lines for the Divisional Playoffs as they stand today. Below, you’ll find the latest Super Bowl odds as well.

Baltimore (+7) at New England – Tom Brady has lost just three times at home in the NFL Playoffs but two of those losses were to the Baltimore Ravens who come to town yet again. The Patriots are typically very good coming off of a well-deserved bye, but questions will certainly arise about whether they are all in sync with the time off.

The Ravens come to Gillette Stadium with nothing to hide. They know they have a pedestrian secondary and will rely heavily on the pass rush to slow down the Patriots. Offensively Joe Flacco will need to be his unflappable-self in order for the Ravens to win and advance. Ultimately however, the Patriots’ offensive line will do a better job than did Pittsburgh’s and Tom Brady will expose that secondary. I like the Pats to cover as of right now.

Newton

Cam Newton will need a Superman-type performance if his Panthers are to pull the upset in Seattle.

Carolina (+11) at Seattle – This is more than likely going to be the least interesting game of the weekend yet somehow it has garnered the Saturday night primetime spot. That probably isn’t fair because if the Carolina defense can limit the Seahawks’ offense then there’s a chance this could be a close game.

My gut tells me otherwise though. Cam Newton is less than 100% and running back Jonathan Stewart can only do so much. I have to believe the Seahawks will be primed for this game as a return to the playoffs has been their top goal since day one. Right now, I like Seattle to cover.

Dallas (+6) at Green Bay – If the forecast holds, it’s going to be extremely chilly in Green Bay and that will favor the hometown Packers unless the Cowboys resist the temptation to throw it too much and stick the ground game. DeMarco Murray can in fact lead the Cowboys to victory if that offensive line gets rolling.

The Packers will hope that Aaron Rodgers’ bad calf has had enough time to heal. Either way, I expect them to stay as balanced as they can be behind Eddie Lacy. of all the games this weekend I think turnovers will dictate more about the outcome than the others.

I like Dallas getting the points but Green Bay wins a tight one.

Indianapolis (+7) at Denver – Don’t be a bit surprised if the Colts come into Denver and pull off the upset. Yes the running game is pathetic and the defense is susceptible to getting beat either on the ground or through the air but if any game has the feel of an upset it’s this one. The Broncos have relied heavily on C.J Anderson in the second half of the season and I’m guessing the Colts will look to take him away first.

That will more than likely give us a passing duel between Peyton Manning and Andrew Luck. While I believe Luck will turn the ball over once or twice, I’m also not convinced that Manning isn’t 100% especially with regards to his arm strength. If you’re looking for a game to go with the underdog then I love the Colts in this one.

Latest Super Bowl Odds

Seattle 2/1

New England 10/3

Green Bay 11/2

Denver 6/1

Dallas 7/1

Indianapolis 16/1

Baltimore 18/1

Carolina 28/1

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Broncos, Bengals Hook Up With a Lot to Play For Tonight

Dalton
Dalton

Andy Dalton must play well in order for the Bengals to beat the Broncos tonight.

Playoff implications abound as the Broncos head into Cincinnati for a Monday night battle.

Denver (-4) at Cincinnati (O/U 48) – Here’s where these two teams sit heading into tonight’s game in Cincinnati: The Denver Broncos are 11-3 and have won the AFC West. They trail the New England Patriots who are 12-3 in the race for the top seed in the AFC. The Pats own the tie-breaker with Denver because of their win over the Broncos earlier this season. They can clinch at worst the two-seed with a win or tie this evening.

For the Bengals, they are 9-4-1 and can get a playoff berth with a victory tonight or a tie. Regardless of what happens though this evening, next Sunday’s game at Pittsburgh will determine the champion of the AFC North. At this time that can mean two things; either a home game or a wild-card game on the road.

Fox

John Fox has been relying heavily on running back C.J. Anderson to power the Broncos rushing attack.

Both teams come in tonight with pretty good offenses. Denver ranks fifth overall and Cincinnati ranks 14th. The difference between the two units however is consistency. The Broncos have found a running game behind C.J. Anderson and that has taken some of the pressure off of Peyton Manning to do every, single thing for the team.

The Bengals’ offense has seen some success with both the running and passing game but the consistency has been lacking. One week they are a house of fire and the next they can’t seem to find their way to the line of scrimmage. It goes without saying that they’ll need to bring their ‘A’ game against the Broncos.

Defensively, the Broncos are among the best in the NFL and have sacked opposing quarterbacks 38 times so far in 2014. They are actually better against the run though limiting teams to just 3.4 yards per rush.

The Bengals have struggled to find consistency on defense just like they have on offense and now they are without tacking machine Vontaze Burfict for the season. The major problem for Cincy has been the lack of pass rush. They have just 18 sacks on the season which ranks them second to last behind Atlanta.

To be utterly honest here, Andy Dalton needs to play well. This offense cannot function at a high level unless he takes care of the ball and can distribute it to his playmakers. Most notably among those of course is A.J. Green who will need to be a part of Dalton’s “good game.”

Key injuries: DEN LB Brandon Marshall OUT/Foot, CIN TE Jermaine Gresham PROB/Toe

Trends: Denver is 5-2 straight up in their last seven games on the road at Cincinnati… The Bengals are 12-4-1 against the spread in their last 17 games at home… The total has gone UNDER in six of the Broncos last nine games when they play the Bengals… The total has gone OVER in four of the Bengals’ last five games at home.

The Pick: The last time the Bengals were at home they were blitzed by the Steelers 41-21 but have since gone on the road to gain two wins. Denver has won four in a row despite very “normal” stats by Manning. I think they ride Manning a bit more tonight as Cincy loads up to stop the run and the Denver defense gets after Dalton.

Take the Broncos to cover and the OVER.

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Early NFL Lines With Playoff Implications All Over the …

Bortles
Bortles

Blake Bortles and Jacksonville host division rival Tennessee in what could be a real yawner on Thursday night.

Tennessee (+3) at Jacksonville – The Jags nearly upset Baltimore on the road; the Titans nearly beat the Jets at home.

The Pick: Jags getting the points at home.

San Diego (+2.5) at San Francisco – Talk about contrast… The Niners are playing for nothing while the Chargers need a win and a loss by someone in the AFC North to sniff the playoffs.

The Pick: Take the Bolts getting the points.

Philadelphia (-8.5) at Washington – The Eagles have looked awful the last two weeks so maybe the game away from home will do them some good. Either way, Mark Sanchez has to play better. Washington continues to be an absolute mess.

The Pick: Take the Eagles to cover.

Philbin

Is Joe Philbin down to his final days as head coach in Miami?

Minnesota (+6.5) at Miami – The Vikings deserved a better fate in Detroit on Sunday but they’ve still shown tremendous improvement under Mike Zimmer. For Miami, another late-season slide appears to be dooming the job of Joe Philbin.

The Pick: I like the Vikes getting the points.

Green Bay (-10) at Tampa Bay – I take little consolation in calling Green Bay’s loss at Buffalo other than this; “I told you so!” Now that that’s over I expect a much better and much more focused Packers team on Sunday.

Tampa will not just let them Packers come in and roll over them though. They are keeping games close and I expect them to play hard again here.

The Pick: Take the Bucs getting double-digit points.

Detroit (-4.5) at Chicago – At some point the pathetic Lions’ offense is going to cost them but it won’t be this week. The Bears are a mess from inside the locker room to out on the field. I have no reason to believe the Lions defense won’t stifle Jay Cutler the way they did on Thanksgiving Day after giving up early scores.

The Pick: Still, I like the Bears getting the points.

Atlanta (+6.5) at New Orleans – This is week one of the Battle for the NFC South.

New England (-10) at NY Jets – If this were week 17 I’d probably tell you to take the Jets because the Pats will rest everyone. Still, I think you may see Jimmy Garapalo in the second half. The Jets are just lousy and Bill Belichick hates them.

The Pick: Take the Pats to cover.

Kansas City (+3) at Pittsburgh – Monster game for the Chiefs who need to win to keep their playoff chances alive while Pittsburgh can get into the playoffs with a victory. Big match-up here will be how the Steelers offensive line handles the pass rushers of the Chiefs.

Steelers have dropped home games to Tampa and New Orleans already this season.

The Pick: Take the Chiefs getting the points.

Cleveland (EVEN) at Carolina – Johnny Football take two.

The Pick: Take the Panthers at home.

Baltimore (-4.5) at Houston – The Texans will be starting Case Keenum or Tom Savage against a defense that recorded eight sacks last week.

The Pick: Take the Ravens to cover.

NY Giants (+5) at St. Louis – Can the Rams slow down Odell Beckham? Does it matter? Look for the stingy Rams D to give a little but they’ll get enough offense I think.

The Pick: Rams to cover.

Buffalo (-6) at Oakland – Bills have a great pass rush but can they win on the road?

The Pick: Take the Raiders getting the points.

Indianapolis (+3) at Dallas – This is a huge game for the Cowboys against a Colts’ team that tried its’ hardest to give away a game at home on Sunday to Houston.

The Pick: Take the ‘Boys to cover.

Seattle (-7.5) at Arizona – This doesn’t look good for Arizona. They’ll play hard but Seattle smells blood in the water. Take the Seahawks to cover.

Denver (-3.5) at Cincinnati – The Broncos have wrapped the division out West while the Bengals, who have led the North all season, could see it slip away in their final two games against Denver and Pittsburgh. The Bengals’ defense was impressive against Manziel but this will be a different test.

The Pick: Take Denver to cover.

 

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As Promised, Here are Your Late NFL Games for Today

Wilson
Wilson

Russell Wilson looks to play the right tunes against the 49ers today in Seattle.

Friday I gave you the early National Football League lines and today I’m giving you the late games including the Monday night game. This way, you have a few more hours to decide where your money is going…

Minnesota (+8) at Detroit (O/U 42) – Right now the Lions are like that tennis player who just needs to hold serve long enough until they can get that one, good shot to turn the tide. Detroit has the second wild-card locked up right now but in the final week of the season, they’ll get Green Bay with a chance to take the division. This theory only holds true if both teams keep winning.

The Vikings are showing some real improvement in recent weeks and will not be an easy out here for the Lions even at home in Ford Field.

The Pick: Take the Vikes and the UNDER.

NY Jets (-3) at Tennessee (O/U 42) – OK, both teams stink and are out of the playoffs. The Jets are more “stable” at QB right now.

The Pick: Take the Jets to cover and the UNDER.

Thomas

Look for Demaryius Thomas to have a big day in San Diego.

Denver (-6) at San Diego (O/U 51) – While a lot of the attention will be on the game in Seattle today, this one could be the game of the day. The Chargers in a massive battle for a wild-card spot with most of the AFC North and really can’t afford a loss. Denver is looking to clinch the division with a victory and is still hoping to get home-field advantage.

The Broncos have become a bit more dangerous with a solid running game with C.J. Anderson but don’t sleep on Peyton Manning not throwing the ball a lot today. The Bolts need to find balance on offense and come up with some turnovers on defense.

The Pick: I like San Diego getting the points and take the UNDER.

San Francisco (+10) at Seattle (O/U 38) – How the mighty have fallen huh? A loss today knocks the 49ers out of the playoffs and ramps up the “Jim Harbaugh to (fill in the blank) rumors. QB Colin Kaepernick has been average this season and will need to play well in an effort to get this team in position to win. The defense is banged up though and now they have to face a streaking Seattle team.

The Seahawks have cranked up their defense to the level that got them a Super Bowl title and that’s scary for the rest of the league. Look for another solid performance from them today and look for heavy doses of Marshawn Lynch as well.

The Pick: Take the Niners getting double-digit points and take the UNDER.

Dallas (+3.5) at Philadelphia (O/U 55) – Two weeks ago, the Eagles put a beatdown on the Cowboys in Dallas on Thanksgiving Day and now these two meet again with the division lead at stake. A Philly win will be tough for the Cowboys to overcome with just two games remaining while a Dallas win will make for some great drama down the stretch.

The Eagles were manhandled by Seattle last week so look for them to bounce back offensively. For the Cowboys, it’s simple; protect Tony Romo.

The Pick: Take the Eagles and take the OVER.

New Orleans (-3) at Chicago (O/U 54) – So the Saints lost three-straight at home, go to Pittsburgh and throttle the Steelers, then return home to get blitzed by the Panthers. Good luck figuring them out…

The Bears are a mess on the field and in the locker room.

The Pick: Take the Saints to cover and the OVER.

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Brady and Manning Highlight Pats hosting Broncos

casino-11

Sunday afternoon in New England is usually about seeing the foliage or picking apples at the neighborhood orchard. This Sunday however will be about the New England Patriots hosting the Denver Broncos in a matchup of two of the league’s top teams and two of the best quarterbacks to ever play in the NFL.

On Sunday afternoon, the Broncos will take on the Patriots in what is expected to be a high scoring back and forth contest that likely will be determined by who has the ball last.

During New England’s current winning streak of four games, the Patriots are averaging just less than 40 points a game. During that stretch, New England quarterback Tom Brady has 11 touchdowns and 0 interceptions.

Nevertheless, the Patriots are home ‘dogs in this game by 3 points. Each team enters the matchup having won 4 consecutive games and something has to give today.

A number of odds makers are undecided on this matchup. One system that uses just computer calculations with trends and recent play has New England favored in the game and not the Broncos.

Thus far, Brady is averaging 292 yards passing per game. If he can throw for at least 300 yards and have at least 2 touchdowns passing then the Patriots chances of winning improve dramatically.

On the other side of the ball, Peyton Manning is having another strong season for the Broncos. The veteran is averaging just over 300 yards per game, but has thrown an impressive 22 touchdowns to just 3 interceptions.

The rivalry between the two star signal callers will be the focal point of this game.

Brady’s teams have been able to defeat Manning’s teams (Indianapolis, Denver) 10 times in 15 career head-to-head meetings.

However, the Broncos last season were able to get the win when it really mattered in the AFC Championship.

Denver will come in rested as they played on Thursday night in their last game and have not played since October 23.

On defense this season, the Broncos have improved dramatically. Von Miller their defensive end was named the NFL Defensive Player of the Month in October. Aqib Talib was a Pro Bowl cornerback for New England last season and now suits up for Denver.

New England is 5-0 SU over its past five games played at home. The Pats have won SU or ATS at home versus Denver the past four games the two teams have played and Manning played in two of those games.

I like Denver 35-24. I think their defense can get in Brady’s face and disrupt the Pats offense.

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