There’s seemingly nothing more polarizing than honesty. We respect it, but that doesn’t mean we have to like it. Cam Newton has shown us that first-hand.

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We all love honesty until it’s the wrong time to be honest. (Photo credit: Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

Newton seems to know himself really well and owns it. His smiles, first-down dabs, touchdown tradition of handing footballs to children, and sideline photoshoots have all been genuine. He’s living the life of a football star the way we wish we could, and boy do we love that (most of us, anyways).

What don’t we seem to love? A sullen press conference that not only provides three-word answers, but is also cut short because of frustration. If you’re going to celebrate during the wins, you better be gracious during the losses. Anything less than humility after a loss? We don’t take too kindly to that.

But even that can be forgiven and defended. Give the guy a break, he just lost the biggest game of his life. You’d act the same way. Regardless of whether that argument is fair, Cam was still being himself. Writhing on the ground, complaining to the refs, quiet during the press conference…that’s as honest as every dab he’s ever performed. And because it’s at least honest, we can respect it and defend it.

But you know what we absolutely hate? What is apparently inexcusable? Beyond even saying the unpopular, not-so-humble thing? When you’re honest but say the wrong thing:

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Yeah, we hate that.

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For once, it’s unanimous: Cam was wrong here. He should’ve swallowed his honesty for once and said the thing we all wanted to hear.

Seriously, now we’re all going to turn on Cam? After his most honest answer of all? I’m not going to say I love his explanation, but I actually don’t mind it. He evaluated the situation and decided his body couldn’t make the play without enduring serious pain. Are we really crushing him for following his instincts in a split-second decision? We all want honesty until it’s disrespectful and selfish. Don’t get me wrong, criticism is fine and more than fair. Just because Cam is honest doesn’t mean you have to agree with it. But don’t ask him to lie when the truth doesn’t fit your values.

Some of Cam’s antics rubbed me the wrong way (especially at the expense my Giants), but I wasn’t asking him to change then and I won’t now. I don’t want him to hire a PR team that specializes in canned answers. I want a potential face of the league to say what he means, even if it bothers people. We’re running out of Cam Newtons. Please don’t give me another Russell Wilson.

Cam’s wild ride of honesty will, hopefully, not end with this. These type of athletes are one of the best parts of professional and collegiate sports. They interest me beyond the game itself at times and because of that, I can’t get mad at Cam for these type of quotes. Give me the person, not the robot.

The formula was simple: go 1 for 14 on 3rd down.
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The 50th edition of a legendary game goes to a legendary player, and that’s pretty cool. (Photo credit: Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

Before the game, I felt that no matter who the confetti fell on, it would be a fitting end. It could’ve been Carolina sticking the landing to a near-perfect season, with Cam smiling next to the trophy while the talking heads praise his improved maturity and leadership. Instead, it’s what we saw last night. A game that, through both its quality of play and eventual winner, epitomized an NFL season that should be remembered for its surplus of flawed teams. Even with a record number of undefeated teams through six-plus weeks, we were somehow still left wondering, “Is anyone great?” And of the undefeated teams, “Who have they beaten?” And now, after watching Denver go 1 for 14 on 3rd down while Peyton threw for under 150 yards and no touchdowns, we’re asking similar questions. “Is anyone really great?”

Yes, one is. That Denver defense.

With doubts of Denver’s ability to win this game, I asked how they could possibly pull this off. I settled on the obvious: Denver’s defense must be great. Carolina launched into huge leads in their first two playoff games and it was too much for even the most spirited of comebacks. If the same happened here, it was over. Denver’s offense simply did not possess the firepower. And so, the defense had to be great. And holy crap, were they ever.

If you watched the game, you saw. Denver abused a great offensive line and harassed Cam Newton all night. Carolina faced 15 third downs and converted just three of them. They may have gained 315 yards and 21 first downs, but they lost the ball four times. Defensive games are almost always within reach, but Denver’s defense was suffocating. The frustration boiled over in the 4th quarter as Cam writhed on the ground in pain. The Denver defense didn’t just beat Cam, they broke him.

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Even during his sullen and reserved press conference, Cam Newton offered three words of hope: “We’ll be back.” (Photo credit: Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

Perhaps the most telling aspect of Denver’s dominance is the fact that we’ve gone this far without mentioning Peyton Manning’s legacy or retirement. If this is indeed the end for Peyton, it’s a strange one. He’s a legend, one of the best ever, and he went out in the way every player dreams of: walking into the sunset with a Super Bowl win as their last game. Yet, this “walk” into the sunset was more of a ride on the backs of his defense. He didn’t play particularly well this game or all season. There was even a time midway through the season where we wondered if he had played his last game. How will history remember him for this? It’s impossible to say less than 24 hours later, but history does have a knack for leaving out the details. The hard numbers are this: four Super Bowl appearances under four different coaches and two different teams. Two rings with two different teams. That’s something no other QB can say and that’s pretty memorable.

As for Carolina? Pain, for now. Plenty of blame will go around as it always does with losing teams. In this case, I don’t think that’s warranted. Cam didn’t choke. Rivera didn’t gameplan poorly. Denver simply played better, but it still hurts. The future, however, is extremely bright for Carolina. Cam is just now entering his prime and the defense will retain its young, growing stars. As much disbelief as I had throughout this whole run, this was no fluke season for the Panthers. Yesterday’s loss was just their second since November 30, 2014. This is a winning team and I don’t expect that to change.

Overlooked in this game: Denver up 16-7; with 5:44 left in the 3rd quarter, Cam Newton throws an interception to TJ Ward. Ward fumbled the ball at the Denver 14-yard line, which was somehow recovered by Denver’s Danny Trevathan at the 7. If Carolina recovers that fumble and scores, the game is 16-14 with an entire quarter left to play. Instead, Carolina never sees the inside of Denver’s 20-yard line again.

These are the type of plays that define a season. And with it, the Denver Broncos are Super Bowl 50 Champions.

The 2015-16 NFL season is over, but that doesn’t mean we have to be. In the coming weeks, we’ll take a look back on some preseason posts and see what we learned from another yet another weird year.

 

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One of my favorite parts of the Super Bowl is finally here: prop bets. On Thursday, Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook and Bovada.lv released over 5oo prop bets that gamblers can actually place money on. They range from the mundane (Will Cam Newton score a touchdown?) to the absurd (Will Peyton Manning be seen crying at any point during the broadcast?) to the completely obvious (Will Mike Carey be wrong about a challenge?). I’ve sifted through the wagers and placed my favorite ones on the sheet above. I even added some of my own. I’ve split up the bets and grouped them under Special (not related to football) or Game (related to football). Together, they form Inside NFL’s Prop Bet sheet. Print it out, pass it out, and see who wins.

I used the odds on the betting sites to roughly match the point totals for each option. For instance, Bovada placed the wager for Coldplay first performing Adventure of a Lifetime at +200, Fix You at +350, etc. I’ve made some adjustments to the others but the idea is that each option provides a chance to earn some points. Obviously, the lower the point total, the more likely that option is to occur. If you want to have the most points by the end of the night, it’s time to get ballsy.

Note: There is a second prop sheet included at the end of this post that is designed for people who arrive early. It includes the coin flip and national anthem props, and removes the Panther touchdown ball prop.

Now let’s break these down and see if we can win some money:

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Super Bowl seats and an official game ball? One kid, likely more, will be one of the luckiest fans on the planet. (Photo credit: ESPN.com)

Will the Panthers player who scored the first touchdown give the football to a boy or girl? (Boy: 200 points, Girl: 300 points)

By now, you know the Panthers players–Cam Newton especially, but not exclusively–have a tradition of giving a touchdown ball to a child in the front row. Vegas set the winnings slightly higher on a girl getting the ball because there is almost certainly going to be more males in attendance (I assume this is the reason). That being said, I bet a girl gets the ball after the first touchdown. Kids in general are not afraid of being loud and obnoxious, but little girls especially have a knack for catching the attention of people. This really could go either way, so we might as well take the higher return.

My pick: Girl

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Please don’t open with “Fix You.” (Photo credit: The Sun)

What song will Coldplay perform first? (Adventure of a Lifetime: 200, Fix You: 350, A Sky Full of Stars: 450, Viva la Vida: 500, Clocks: 750, Speed of Sound: 900, Paradise: 1000, Other: 1000)

This is a really tough one, for multiple reasons. First, this bet in itself has eight choices, two of which offer an 1000 point return if correct. That’s already enticing. Second, it’s often hard to predict how a band wants to kick off a concert. At least, for me it is. It seems logical to start off with a “banger,” but Coldplay doesn’t exactly have a lot of those to offer. If they kick off the show with A Sky Full of Stars, they aren’t left with a lot of songs to get a crowd pumped up in the middle or end. Adventure of a Lifetime lends itself to a good leading song. It’s one of their newer songs and it’s “dance-y” enough without being too intense, hence being the favorite. I’m going to play it safe here and stick with the oddsmakers. Adventure will make a good starting song with Sky Full of Stars and, hopefully, Paradise ramping things up later on.

My pick: Adventure of a Lifetime

What color will Beyonce’s footwear be? (White: 200, Black: 250, Gold/Brown: 350, Silver/Grey: 500, Other: 700)

The color bets are always fun because there’s no real logic to picking them…..is what a bad gambler would say. It’s true, we don’t have any real idea what color Beyonce’s shoes will be when she joins Coldplay on stage. White and black are the obvious favorites because they’re the base colors of most shoes. But this isn’t just any show. This is the Super Bowl Halftime Show. Not only that, it’s Super Bowl 50, a.k.a. the “golden” game. Golden logo, golden lettering on the field, and golden Beyonce shoes to go with it.

My pick: Gold/Brown

 

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Southern housewives of America, hide your kids. Super Bowl 50 will feature plenty of dabbing. (Photo credit: Follownews.com)

How many times will Cam Newton dab (over/under 5.5)? (Over: 300, Under: 300)

This is one of the ones I created myself and I’m actually surprised it’s not something we can wager on in Vegas. Besides the Superman, Cam’s dab is his staple celebration, not to mention the dab is the latest dance move everyone loves to do. It just seems logical to count Cam’s dabs. Vegas does have a wager proposing how many times the announcers will mention the word “dab,” so that’s something. Anyways, I set the over/under at 5.5 because I figured Cam dabs almost every time he scores and often when he runs for a first down. On top of that, he could dab on the sideline with teammates (note: the bet ends when the game officially ends). A touchdown here, a couple of first down runs there, some teammate fun on the sideline and Cam is dabbing around 5-6 times a game in my estimation (I could be way off). Cam says he wants to look back on his career and say he had fun playing in the NFL, for better or for worse. It’s the Super Bowl, the ultimate party. Expect Cam to dab it up.

My pick: Over

 

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Chances on the color being blue two years in a row? Not high if you ask me. (Photo credit: Masslive)

What color will the Gatorade dumped on the winning coach be? (Orange: 150, Blue: 250, Clear/Water: 300, Yellow: 300, Red: 450, Green/Purple: 750)

Ah, the ol’ classic. No prop bet sheet is complete without the Gatorade shower. The color is often pretty hard to predict. I’m guessing orange and blue are the favorites because they’re the team colors of Denver and Carolina, respectively. On top of that, the Gatorade dumped on Ron Rivera in the both the NFC Championship and the NFC South clinching victory was orange. I’m going to play it safe again here and follow the research. I doubt Carolina would risk changing up the color in such an important game and even if Denver wins, there’s a chance they use orange (team color) as well! This is a good opportunity to steal some points over the people that will automatically assume blue just because of Carolina’s colors. Although I have to say, two reasonable colors (Green/Purple) sitting at 750 is super tempting. If you’re feeling gutsy, go for it.

My pick: Orange

What will be the result of Cam’s first pass? (Complete: 300, Incomplete: 600)

We’re now onto the football-related prop bets. They’re admittedly not as fun as the “Special” bets, but I still tried to pick some interesting ones. I like spreading out the bets across the entire game; some in the beginning, some at halftime, and some totals at the end. This is one we can look forward to right away. And it’s deceptively tough. My first instinct is to go with complete. Cam Newton is a great passer and I think he’ll start off with an easy throw to get in rhythm. On the other hand, it’s a huge game and even Cam should be nervous. Some early-game jitters could be enough to force his first ball to hit the turf. Add in the amazing Denver defense and I’ve got my pick.

My pick: Incomplete

What will the first score be? (Field goal: 300, Touchdown: 400, Safety: 1500)

This bet offers the highest possible point total. Correctly predict a safety as the first score and that’s 1500 points right there. Before telling me it’s too far-fetched, don’t forget that it happened in Super Bowl XLVI, just four short years ago. Also, Super Bowls 46-48 featured a safety at some point in the game. Something to think about. With two incredibly good defenses, I have to go with the field goal. Touchdown is just not enough points to make it worthwhile. I have a feeling it’ll be tough to get into the endzone early.

My pick: Field goal

Who will commit the first penalty? (Broncos: 200, Panthers: 300)

Broncos are the favorite here because they rank 9th in most penalty yards per game, whereas Carolina ranks 10th least. I could go with the logic, but I have a hunch that the Panthers defense will get called earliest. I only lose out on 200 points if I’m wrong.

My pick: Panthers

Will the game be tied at halftime? (Yes: 600, No: 50)

Only two Super Bowls have been tied at halftime in the past 20 years (XLIX, XXXIX). Not only is it unlikely to happen at all, but it’s extremely unlikely to happen two years in a row. Again, the temptation for the 600 is there. And this time, we take it. Unlike the other enticing bets with lots of options, you only lose 50 if you’re wrong here. If you’re right, it’s 600 points and you look like a genius.

My pick: Yes

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Missed extra points just make the game more exciting. (Photo credit: Charlotte Observer)

Will there be a missed extra point? (Yes: 700, No: 200)

A new rule this season? Gotta include that. We’ve seen the number of missed extra points increase noticeably this season, but will we see one when it matters most? Carolina kicker Graham Gano missed three this season (none in playoffs), but he’s also attempted the most. Denver kicker Brandon McManus missed one all season. We find ourselves in a similar case as the halftime prop. A high ceiling and small loss if we go with Yes. Instead, I’ll take the easy 200 with two decent kickers in the game.

My pick: No

Who will have more rushing yards? (CJ Anderson: 300, Ronnie Hillman: 500)

I find this particular one interesting because these two Denver backs have shared carries all season, making it pretty tough to figure out who will gain more yards on a game-to-game basis. Here’s what makes it even tougher: Hillman gained more on the season than Anderson (863 vs. 720), yet Anderson has led Hillman in both playoff games. It’s not hard to see either back breaking a big one and throwing off the entire bet. However, I have to assume this won’t happen and go with the trend.

My pick: CJ Anderson

How many total sacks in the game (over/under 5.5)? (Over: 200, Under: 200)

Carolina and Denver are #2 and #3 in total sacks this postseason. There’s no doubt these defenses can get to the QB. The real question is, can the offensive lines protect the QB? Cam has only been brought down twice these entire playoffs, Peyton four times. It’s a tough call because these lines haven’t dealt with the caliber of pass rush of the other, but I’m going to go under. Get rid of the ball!

My pick: Under

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Demaryius Thomas’ drops could very well determine many other prop bets. (Photo credit: Tim Rasmussen/The Denver Post)

How many drops will Demaryius Thomas have (over/under 1.5)?  (Over: 300, Under: 300)

This is another one I created myself. Thomas, a great receiver, is building a reputation as a dropper. I predict many will take the over here for the comedic effect (“You should’ve put the over/under at 11.5! Hahaha!”), so I’ll go the other way. I don’t mind putting my faith in Demaryius for one game. Please, DT, don’t drop the ball on this one.

My pick: Under

How many total points will be scored (over/under 44)? (Over: 300, Under: 300)

This is a pretty low over/under. A 24-21 game already hits over. This makes it tough because that’s exactly the score I think this game will hover around. I’ll follow my gut again and take the under. I don’t see Carolina lighting it up like in the last two games.

My pick: Under

Who will win Super Bowl 50? (Broncos: 600, Panthers: 200)

Most of the time, the point of prop bets is to bet on things other than the winner. Not here. Picking the winner is the cherry on top and it’s always more fun with an underdog. Carolina opened as clear favorites and will stay that way, but expect the actual line (at -6 last time I checked) to keep moving. Do you have the guts to go with Denver and steal 600? I hope so, because I sure don’t. A small part of me thinks this game could get ugly. More on that later in the week.

My pick: Panthers

For the early birds:

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How long will the National Anthem be (over/under 2:20)? (Over: 300, Under: 300)

Lady Gaga was finally announced as the singer of the National Anthem for Super Bowl 50. It’s a good choice. She has a great voice and will respect the moment. The bettors set the length at 2:20, which is LONG. The average length of these SB anthems are around 1:55 (last year’s was around 2:04), so they have her enjoying the spotlight. I have to take the under here, 2:20 seems like a lifetime.

My pick: Under

Result of coin flip? (Heads: 200, Tails: 200)

Coin flipping physics says that if a coin is tossed and caught, it will land on the same face it started on 51% of the time. I’m serious. Now, the SB coin will not be caught and will hit the turf, adding randomness. However, I’m willing to bet the weight of the coin won’t let it flip much, if at all, once it slams into the grass. I’m also fairly confident the ref will flip with heads facing up. Using those assumptions, I have to go with heads. If you don’t, you’re just asking for Vegas to take your money.

My pick: Heads

Well this isn’t what I expected. Despite 27 wins between them, 21 of which came without a loss (7-0 and 14-0), the Denver Broncos and Carolina Panthers were two teams I refused to buy into. Now they play for the Super Bowl.

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Peyton Manning reminded us his window is closing, not closed. (Photo credit: ESPN.com)

Denver rattled off seven straight to begin the 2015 season. Seems like a good barometer for success, but something felt off. Five of those wins were within one score and they came against relatively weak competition. They scraped by against the Ravens (5-11) and Browns (3-13), just two of many games that highlighted their struggles on offense. The defense, however, could not be ignored. They allowed under 20 points in all but one of those first seven games, forcing turnovers and absolutely punishing QBs. The defense really shined in Week 8 in a highly anticipated matchup with the high-flying Packers. In a game most–including me–expected to see Denver’s struggles catch up to them, the Broncos made a statement. They crushed Green Bay 29-10 and gained a lot of respect.

Then, things started to fall off the rails. A struggling Peyton Manning got injured, setting the scene for what would be a rocky second half of the season. Brock Osweiler filled in nicely for Peyton, going 5-3 in his eight starts, including impressive wins over the Pats and Bengals. Still, it was the defense that shined in the wins. When the defense stumbled and allowed 27 to Indy, 29 to KC, and 34 to Pitt, Denver didn’t have an answer. The offense couldn’t generate enough points to make up for any major lapses on the other side of the ball. A team that one-dimensional was hard to believe in. To their credit, the defense has shown up in the postseason and a healthy Peyton has backed them up with two decent performances. It’s strange; Denver’s problems haven’t gone away, they’ve just been able to overcome them enough to make it further than I ever would’ve thought.

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Before the season, I would’ve said a Super Bowl run for Carolina would require an MVP performance. With limited offensive weapons, Cam Newton has delivered just that. (Photo credit: ESPN.com)

My reluctance to accept Carolina into my life began well before the season started. How could I believe in a team that went 7-8-1 last season, especially after losing their star wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin? Gotta admit, I had no hope for this team. I had them going 6-10 and placing last in their division. Seven consecutive wins later, I still wasn’t convinced. Much like Denver’s hot streak, the wins were hardly dominant. One score wins over the Saints, Texans, and Colts had to be indicative of a future letdown. Seven games and seven wins later, the letdown finally came. A 20-13 loss to the Falcons finally showed the world the real Panthers.

If only.

By that time, it was clear. Carolina was a great team. A fantastic team. But a Super Bowl caliber team? My mind still couldn’t accept it. I had a red-hot Seahawks team finally exposing them in the second round of the playoffs. Instead, it was more of the same from Carolina. A vicious beatdown of both the Seahawks and Cardinals will surely have the Panthers opening as Super Bowl favorites. At 17-1 and all smiles, the Panthers cannot be ignored. It’s strange to say considering my preseason expectations, but it wouldn’t surprise me to see this Panthers team complete a near-perfect season with a Super Bowl victory.

I was wrong about these teams. All that remains to be seen is who I was more wrong about.

All 32 teams started off with a chance in early September, even the Browns and Titans. Now 28 are irrelevant. Despite all four lower seeds winning in the first round of the playoffs, we’re left with the top four teams in the NFL battling for a spot in Super Bowl 50. After a week of review and analysis (from others), the only thing that remains to be seen is who will play on February 7th. There’s a bunch of numbers and rankings we could look at to make a well-informed prediction, but it can be tough to actually find what matters. On the eve of Championship Sunday, I’m here to do just that. Here’s what could very well decide the fate of this NFL season:

Which mascot would win in a fight to the death? 

Ah the ol’ classic. There’s often no better way to predict who has an edge than using the essence of the team. A team’s mascot is its heart and soul; it drives their playing style. We’ve got a diverse group of mascots left and here’s how they stack up:

  1. 368px-Carolina_Panthers_logo_2012.svgCarolina Panthers: This is a no-brainer. A panther is a natural born killer, forced to survive by killing its prey. The aggression and agility of a panther is no match for the other three mascots.
  2. New_England_Patriots_logo.svg.pngNew England Patriots: A human mascot is always a strong contender. Humans are cunning and resourceful, using their mental ability to exploit any weakness it can find in an opponent. Where the Patriot (Revolutionary War solider) falls behind is in its weaponry. Relying on a slow-loading musket would cost a Patriot dearly if he misses his first shot against a panther. One miss and you’re forced to rely on melee weapons (knife, sword) to take him out. More than possible against a bronco or cardinal, but a panther? Sorry, but I’ll take the carnivore.
  3. 1280px-Denver_Broncos_logo.svg.pngDenver Broncos: A bronco is aggressive by horse standards, known for bucking if untrained. Beyond that, I don’t see much of an advantage that a bronco could find against a panther or patriot. Even the matchup with the cardinal is a tough call, but I default to the bronco for its size.
  4. Arizona_Cardinals_Logo.pngArizona Cardinals: You can make the cardinal look as angry as you want, but it’s still just a bird. Not only that, but a cardinal, as far as I’m concerned, is one of the least threatening birds I’ve encountered. Never have I felt intimidated or even startled by a cardinal. This is an easy choice for last place. Better luck next category.

 

Best-looking head coach

This category was shamelessly stolen from the Around the NFL podcast, but for good reason. You can’t respect a leader who isn’t good looking, that’s just a universal fact. Let’s take a look at these guys:

  1. 11_Kubiak_News.jpg Denver Broncos–Gary Kubiak: He’s 54 but looks to be in the best shape of his life. Gary’s got a classic, clean-shaven look that emanates leadership on the sideline, yet he could just as easily play the aloof-but-tough Dad in a feel-good sitcom. I get a Kevin Costner vibe from Gary and it works.
  2. 9503754_G.jpg Carolina Panthers–Ron Rivera: Thanks to the Dan Le Batard show, I will now forever see Ron as “the guy who wears a lei for his entire vacation in Hawaii.” If you can get past that, Ron is actually a decent looking guy. He owns the look with his trademark photochromic lenses and reminds you he was a former player with his tough build.
  3. arians.jpg Arizona Cardinals–Bruce Arians: Ron is hardly the only one with a signature look. Bruce dons the thick frames and always a hat of some sort. Some have described him as a typical “Guess Who” character, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. To me, he comes off as the lovable curmudgeon we can all learn to love with enough time.
  4. billbelichick.jpg New England Patriots–Bill Belichick: Bill has often been likened to a Sith Lord or even the Emperor Palpatine of a New England empire that just won’t die. Although this parallel is found primarily for the Pats’ reign of terror, Bill’s old and tired look fits perfectly with that of an evil leader.

 

Coolest Names

This is quite possibly the most competitive category of them all. All four teams have great names to offer. We can only hope at least one of them makes a major splash this Sunday.

  1. 368px-Carolina_Panthers_logo_2012.svgCarolina Panthers: Like I mentioned before, this was no easy choice, but I am still confident that the Panthers deserve the top spot here. Star Lotulelei and Fozzy Whittaker headline a deep, deep name roster for Carolina. Included in this depth is Kony Ealy, Bene Benwikere, Amini Silatoli, and Kawann Short. Perhaps the cherry on top is that the face and leader of the franchise is Cam Newton, an easy and relatable name fit for a movie star quarterback.
  2. Arizona_Cardinals_Logo.pngArizona Cardinals: Guys like DJ Swearinger and Ifearnyi Momah made this a close race for 1st. Alani Fua, Tyrann Mathieu, and Calais Campbell are all names I envy myself, but they just don’t have quite the spark the Panthers’ names did.
  3. 1280px-Denver_Broncos_logo.svg.pngDenver Broncos: Denver owns quite a few great names as well, just not quite enough that see the field. Shiloh Keo, Darius Kilgo, and Brock Osweiler are all fantastic names, but they are 2nd string or worse. Shoutout to a great starter-backup tandem in Ty Sambrailo and Michael Schofield (Prison Break star) at left tackle. And we can’t forget Aqib Talib and Demaryius Thomas, classic names for NFL stars.
  4. New_England_Patriots_logo.svg.pngNew England Patriots: They may place 4th, but the Pats can be proud knowing that they quite possibly employ the best name in the entire NFL: Ishmaa’ily Kitchen. This wonderfully weird name carries an otherwise sparse roster of names. LaAdrian Waddle, Rob Gronkowski, and Dont’a Hightower cannot be overlooked, however.

 

Best Uniforms

If you look good, you play good. Another NFL reality. It’s why Jacksonville and Tennessee have struggled to reach the playoffs for so long. These teams have to be doing something right if they’ve made it so far, but whose threads can carry them all the way?

  1. Patriots_12uniforms.pngNew England Patriots: Silver and navy blue is a tough color scheme to work with, but the Patriots pull it off amazingly. The jersey gives off a classic look while also looking modern. I love the red border around the letters and along the leg. Some might find the overall look boring, but I see a timeless uniform that’s easy on the eyes.
  2. NFCS-Uniform-CAR.PNGCarolina Panthers: Tough pick here for 2nd, but I’m a sucker for the lightning blue and black combination. It may look a little “arena-footbally” at times, but the bright blue highlights on the arms and legs really light up the team. I could do without the weird stripes on the helmet that end halfway down the back. This uniform could’ve easily been botched by trying too much, but they made it fit. The classic number font keeps it from getting out of hand.
  3. Broncos_uniforms.pngDenver Broncos: Another good color scheme here but too many awkward parts hold it back. The stripes that curl down the leg and come to an end just look out of place. The suddenly-ending collar is also odd. Still, the bright orange is a fun, modern look for Denver and the number font isn’t too wacky for me to have a problem.
  4. Ariz_Cardinals_uniforms.pngArizona Cardinals: Easy choice for last place here. These unis are just plain boring and uninspiring. They suffer from the same problem Denver does with the weird leg stripe. The primary problem, however, is the bland color scheme and the way it’s presented on the jersey. No other color besides red and white make an appearance on the primary uniforms and that’s a problem. The blacks alternates, however, are gorgeous. Make this slick look the primary and Arizona shoots up to the top.

Well we broke down these teams in just about every way possible, now it’s just time to form a prediction. The Panthers found an edge in many of these categories but I can’t go against myself. I picked the Cardinals and Patriots to meet in Super Bowl 50 before the playoffs began, so that’s who I am sticking with here.

Patriots 24, Broncos 21

Cardinals 28, Panthers 21

 

Everyone will take a deep breath when the Seahawks are finally out of the playoffs. Problem is, somebody has to be the team to actually do it.

Everyone will take a deep breath when the Seahawks are finally knocked out of the playoffs. Problem is, somebody has to be the team to actually do it. (Photo credit: ESPN.com)

Yesterday, we briefly covered the two AFC wildcard teams playing on Saturday. Kansas City’s fantastic defense propelled them to a rout of Houston while the Steelers’ playmakers came alive just enough to edge the Bengals. Can the two NFC wildcard teams follow suit and win both their games?

Seattle Seahawks (10-6)

at Minnesota Vikings, 1:05pm on NBC

Seahawks are hot and in the playoffs. Sound familiar? We’ve gotten to know Seattle as a top-tier playoff team over the past few years now. Perhaps the only thing unfamiliar about them this year is their role as a wildcard team. They performed slightly below expectations to begin the season (2-4 start), paving the way for other NFC teams like the Cardinals and Panthers to take the spotlight for once. But sure enough, Seattle re-discovered that winning formula and finished the season 8-2. Would you want to face a hot Seahawks team? I’m guessing not because it’s extremely difficult to begin a Super Bowl run when you have to face a QB that’s thrown multiple TDs and no picks in seven of his last eight games (Russell Wilson, in case you didn’t make the connection). Also, good luck lighting it up against a defense that’s allowing just 17.6 points per game, the lowest in the entire league. Seattle’s struggles were real, but make no mistake, they’re back. Behind yet another top defense and a QB that just keeps churning out wins, this Seattle team is poised for their third-straight Super Bowl appearance.

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Aaron Rodgers blew a chance to win the division. Will that propel him to perform even better in the postseason? (Photo credit: ESPN.com)

Green Bay Packers (10-6)

at Washington Redskins, 4:40pm on FOX

Speaking of teams we’re used to seeing in January, we have the Green Bay Packers. Their game in Washington marks their seventh straight postseason appearance. Even with all those chances, however, the Packers have only managed to win one Super Bowl. Can they steal a second from the lowly wildcard position? With Aaron Rodgers, anything is possible. Rodgers has that unique ability of making the Packers contenders no matter where they stand. Defenses can plan all week and perform excellently, but one stunning performance by Rodgers can undo everything an opponent has worked for. And he’s kind of a pro at delivering stunning performances. His numbers may have dipped a little this year, but Rodgers still has a solid team around him that is quietly doing great things. The much-maligned defense is actually 12th in the NFL in points against (20.2 per game). And despite the struggles of Eddie Lacy, the running game is holding up nicely (115 yards/game). They face an uphill battle, but these Packers still have plenty of weapons to take out the NFC elite.

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Image  —  Posted: January 9, 2016 in Uncategorized

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Potential ROTY Marcus Peters makes the Chiefs fun to watch. (Photo credit: ESPN.com)

The best part of the NFL season is right on top of us. Wildcard weekend starts tomorrow and it could be the beginning of an unbelievable ride to the Super Bowl. This ride, however, is usually reserved for division winners and top seeds. Only six wildcard teams have ever won the Super Bowl. These teams may have scraped and clawed their way to a postseason birth, but that’s where the fun usually ends. This year, however, I wouldn’t be surprised if all four extended their fun to the second round and beyond. All four teams–Chiefs, Steelers, Seahawks, Packers–have their starting QB and face their opponent’s backup. Save for the Packers, no team has more than one loss in the last five games. And save for the Chiefs, every team has relatively recent playoff success (aka Super Bowl wins). But enough about the similarities, let’s take a brief look at why these four teams have a shot at being that seventh wildcard team to win the big one:

Kansas City Chiefs (11-5)

at Houston Texans, 4:20pm on ABC/ESPN

What an incredible run this team has had this season. They started off as a boring, struggling 1-5 mess that I absolutely couldn’t stand. Now, they’ve won 10 (!) in a row and are actually watchable. As usual, Alex Smith throws interceptions at a frustratingly low rate (seven all year), which makes scoring 20 points fairly painless. Why 20? That’s the number that will usually win a game for the Chiefs when their incredible defense only allows 17.9 per game (3rd in NFL). In fact, only one team (Bills) have scored over 20 and that was still a win for KC. How can you argue with a team that’s won 10 in a row? Behind defensive talents Justin Houston and Marcus Peters, this once-unwatchable Chiefs team could wreak havoc in a struggling AFC field.

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Pittsburgh’s receiving corp will make defensive backs pay for the smallest of mistakes (Photo credit: ESPN.com)

Pittsburgh Steelers (10-6)

at Cincinnati Bengals, 8:15pm on CBS

Pretty tough to build a strong case for a team that needed another team to lose just to clinch a playoff spot. That is, unless that team is this year’s Steelers. Pittsburgh had some ups and downs this season mainly due to Ben Roethlisberger missing multiple games. With Ben, they’ve gone 8-4 and won six of their last eight. Their receiving corp is my absolute favorite in the league by far. Antonio Brown, Martavis Bryant, and Markus Wheaton are all different variations of super-fast, ultra-athletic, smart route-running freaks. It’s incredibly difficult to cover all three effectively if you don’t have enough bodies back. They’ve helped Pitt become top-5 in both total passing yards (3rd) and points scored (4th). This offense alone is enough to make Pittsburgh a legitimate AFC championship contender. If the defense can play above expectations, the Super Bowl is a real possibility.

We’ll look at the Sunday wildcard teams tomorrow!

December football is all about the playoff race. Which teams will stay afloat and which ones will sink?
Can we trust the Bills and Chiefs to make a run? Photo credit: ESPN.com

Can we trust the Bills and Chiefs to make a run? Photo credit: ESPN.com

A new month means it’s time for a new Buy or Sell. We can all see that some playoff spots are pretty much locked up (Panthers, Patriots, Bengals, Broncos, etc.), so I’m gonna focus on those wildcard teams that absolutely need a good December to have a shot. But first, let’s see how I did last month:

BUY: San Diego Chargers (2-5) → (3-8) = 1-3 in November — Severe Failure

BUY: New York Jets (4-2) → (6-5) = 2-3 in November — Mild Failure

BUY: Seattle Seahawks (3-4) → (6-5) = 3-1 in November — Great Success

BUY: New Orleans Saints (3-4) → (4-7) = 1-3 in November — Severe Failure

SELL: Indianapolis Colts (3-4) → (6-5) = 3-1 in November — Severe Failure

SELL: Washington Redskins (3-4) → (5-6) = 2-2 in November — Mild Failure

Wow, November was rough. It’s actually hard to do as bad as I did on purpose, let alone on accident. But this won’t stop me from uselessly speculating. This month, I’m narrowing my focus to just three teams in the AFC. It seems everyone is getting hot right now in pursuit of that wildcard spot. Can they stay hot in the month that matters most? How they fare will determine if we’re watching them in January. Here are two teams I think will give themselves a shot until the very end, and one I see sinking under the pressure:

Kansas City Chiefs (6-5): BUY

I used to absolutely despise this team earlier in the year. They were losers and even worse, they were boring. They love to establish a run game and play it safe through the air with short passes. They’re one exciting player Jamaal Charles even got knocked out for the year midway through the season. At 1-5, there was no hope for this team. But then somehow–right around Charles’ injury–they just started winning! They have now won five straight and are actually leading the AFC wildcard race. They’re still as boring as before, but to their credit, they’ve stuck to their identity and nearly perfected a winning formula. Their defense is quietly one of the best in the last month, allowing over 13 points in just one of their past five games. Alex Smith’s last interception was in September, making it so hard for opponents to turn the tide if they’re trailing. I have to admit I was wrong about the Chiefs earlier this season and now I’m jumping on this bandwagon with all I’ve got. Usually I’d avoid buying such a hot team, but their December schedule sets them up for success. All four opponents (Raiders, Chargers, Ravens, Browns) have losing records. If they stick to what they’re doing, they should be able to pull at least three of these and have a great shot at one of those two AFC wildcard spots.

Behind JJ Watt, Houston's defense has put them in contention. Photo credit: ESPN.com

Behind JJ Watt, Houston’s defense has put them in contention. Photo credit: ESPN.com

Houston Texans (6-5): SELL

If the Chiefs aren’t the hottest team in the league, then it’s the Texans. They’ve won four in a row after a bad start and like Kansas City, have established themselves as AFC wildcard contenders. They’re defense has been fantastic, allowing just two touchdowns in their last 16 quarters. Brian Hoyer has proved that he was the right choice from the very start, keeping the turnovers low while getting the ball to DeAndre Hopkins, one of the top receivers in the league. Having said all that, I just can’t bring myself to trust this team. I don’t have a lot to back that up besides a gut feeling. Looking at their upcoming schedule doesn’t help that feeling much either. To make a serious playoff push, they have to survive the 5-6 Bills, the 10-1 Patriots, the 6-5 Colts, and the 2-9 Titans. It’s not the most brutal stretch in the world, but the Bills and Colts game will be the make or break games. I can see those going either way and based on my gut, the Texans will revert back to the team they were in the beginning of the season and fall out of the race.

Buffalo Bills (5-6): BUY

Unlike the Chiefs or Texans, the Bills are a step behind some good teams. They’ve lost two close games to the Pats and Chiefs and it seems like people are starting to forget about them. What a perfect time to buy a solid team. Buffalo won’t impress anybody with their wins resume–wins over Colts and Jets are their best–but they’ve got a solid defense and one of the best running games in the NFL. My feeling about this team comes from a similar place as my feeling about Houston. I just have that gut feeling that Buffalo can string together a few wins. Tyrod Taylor has been better than we expected and like Smith, limits the turnovers and keeps his team in the game. Their game today against Houston is huge. A win here will give them a much needed tiebreaker advantage and also set them up to win over their NFC East slate (Washington, Philly, and Dallas). They have the capability to beat Washington, though that will be a tough game. Where they have to pick up wins is against struggling Philly and battered Dallas. If they manage to go 3-1 in these, they have a real shot. When everybody is looking at hot teams, I’m looking at the slow and steady Bills in December.