Winners and losers from the Divisional Round of the 2019 NFL playoffs

The Divisional Round of the NFL playoffs got underway Saturday night with the AFC’s top-seeded Kansas City Chiefs in action against the Indianapolis Colts. A week off did nothing to slow the Chiefs’ offensive momentum.

Led by Patrick Mahomes, who did not find his first career playoff start nearly as intimidating as the pundits thought he would, the Chiefs jumped out to a 24-7 lead in the first half, and never looked back. The Colts hardly looked ready to play, nothing like the team that rode a 10-1 streak into the weekend. The Chiefs went on to win by a final score of 31-13.

The Cowboys and Rams met in LA for the late game on Saturday night to decide the first of the NFC Championship entrants. The Rams’ running game had no troubles against a usually stout Cowboys defense, and the home team rolled on for a 30-22 win.

On Sunday, the Patriots had no problems running around and through the Chargers, winning 41-28 to lock down their eighth consecutive appearance in the AFC Championship game.

The Saints turned aside the Eagles, sinking their hope of a Super Bowl repeat with a 20-14 win in New Orleans. The Saints will host the Rams there next weekend.

Winner: Michael Thomas

The postseason hasn’t been filled with inspiring performances from offensive skill players. But the Saints wide receiver changed that. He and Drew Brees single-handedly got the Saints offense rolling again after a slow start. His best catch of the day — and there were A LOT of them — was on the Saints’ go-ahead touchdown in the third quarter. Just watch it.

https://twitter.com/NFL/status/1084599206159908864

He finished the game with 171 yards and a touchdown on 12 catches.

Loser: Nick Foles’ magic

You can’t impugn what the guy did prior to this game. The Eagles wouldn’t have been playing this weekend, or last, if Foles hadn’t stepped up as the team’s “closer” again this season with Carson Wentz hurt. But he turned into a pumpkin again, underthrowing his receivers and just unable to get the ball to his receivers when the Eagles needed it the most.

With free agency looming this spring, Foles may have cost himself some money with his performance this week, maybe not much, but enough to notice.

Winner: Time of possession

It feels like we haven’t had a good conversation about time of possession since the early days of the Chip Kelly experience in Philly. This time it was the Saints putting on the clock clinic.

It happened in the third quarter. Trailing 10-14, the Saints got the ball at their own 8-yard line. From there they put together a grinding 92-yard touchdown drive over 18 plays and 11:29 minutes, essentially monopolizing the entire third quarter.

Winner: The Patriots defense

Absent most of the season, the Patriots defense looked like one of the NFL’s most fearsome in the first half of the game. Philip Rivers never had a chance against a pass rush that was previously dormant.

Loser: Philip Rivers’ legacy

He’s got more yards, more touchdowns and fewer interceptions over the course of his career than either Eli Manning or Ben Roethlisberger, but unlike those other two first-round picks from the 2004 draft, he does not have a Super Bowl ring. Instead, he and J.P. Losman have something in common.

Winner: Patriots running backs

The Chargers defense put on a clinic for how to stop a creative running game in last week’s win against the Ravens. Apparently, Patriots OC Josh McDaniels was able to find some holes in their game plan.

Sony Michel rolled up nearly 100 yards and scored three touchdowns … in the first half. He’s the first rookie running back in franchise history to rush for more than 100 yards in a playoff game. He finished the day with 129 yards and three touchdowns on 24 carries.

James White, who led the team in receptions during the regular season with 87, was Tom Brady’s favorite receiver on the day, catching 15 of 17 passes for 97 yards.

The Patriots chewed up the clock with their running backs, leaving little time for Rivers and Co. to put points on the board. It also helped keep the workload light for their defense, and teased out what their game plan might be next week against Kansas City.

Winner: C.J. Anderson

The Rams signed C.J. Anderson in mid-December, when Todd Gurley was dealing with a knee injury. Anderson had been released by both the Panthers and Raiders earlier in the season and was really just supposed to be a warm body while Gurley could heal up.

Instead, Anderson has bulldozed every defense he faced. In two games to end the season, he carried the ball 43 times for 299 yards and two touchdowns — that averaged out to 7 yards per carry. But that was against two of the worst teams in the NFL, the Cardinals and 49ers. Next up was the playoffs — and a Cowboys defense that ranked fifth in the league against the run during the regular season. Last week, they held the Seahawks’ top-ranked rushing offense to just 73 yards on the ground.

Anderson had more than that in the first half alone: 12 carries for 78 yards. Even with a healthy Gurley back in the lineup, Anderson was a force in the Rams’ first playoff win in 14 years. He used his, uh, rotund frame to help the Rams dominate the time of possession and scored what proved to be the game-winning touchdown.

Anderson was the leading rusher with 123 yards and two touchdowns. Plus, he did this:

All the Winners and Losers here

 

 

Top takeaways from Sunday’s Week 14 NFL action

Sunday’s Week 14 NFL action was about as crazy as it gets. From the Miracle in Miami to Amari Cooper’s brilliant performance in Big D, we were treated to a whole heck of a lot of drama.

The early-afternoon slate included Baker Mayfield and the Browns making a major statement in a win over the reeling Panthers. Meanwhile, the Cowboys pretty much ended the NFC East race with a win over the defending champions later in the afternoon.

These are among the top takeaways from one of the most eventful Sunday’s of NFL football we’ve seen in some time.

Rams offense exposed in a big way

The Chicago Bears’ recipe for success Sunday night against a one-loss Los Angeles Rams team was pretty obvious. Their Vic Fangio-led defense focused primarily on stopping Todd Gurley, forcing Jared Goff to pretty much go it alone. The end result was an offensive performance from the Rams that we have not seen since the Jeff Fisher days.

Goff competed 20-of-44 passes for 180 yards with four interceptions in the 15-6 loss. Meanwhile, Gurley went for just 28 yards on 11 attempts. Making the Rams’ offense one dimensional proved to be successful for Chicago. And we can expect other teams to follow suit as the season comes to a conclusion.

Mark Sanchez makes Colin Kaepernick’s case for him

The Washington Redskins’ decision to avoid Colin Kaepernick in free agency has come under fire recently. Once Alex Smith was lost for the season to a potentially career-ending leg injury, the Redskins decided to bring in Mark Sanchez off the streets. When Colt McCoy also suffered a serious lower-body injury, Washington added a quarterback in Josh Johnson who has not attempted a regular season pass since 2011.

All the while, Kaepernick remains unsigned as he continues with a collusion case against the NFL. If Sanchez’s performed during Sunday’s 40-16 loss to the Giants is any indication, Kaepernick is smiling ear to ear. Sanchez completed just 5-of-13 passes for net 16 passing yards with two interceptions in the first half alone. That included an absolutely brutal pick-six. All said, Sanchez finished the game with nine net passing yards, zero touchdowns and two interceptions before getting benched in the blowout loss. Gross.

Dallas avoids meltdown, takes control of NFC East

There’s a reason the Cowboys exhausted a first-round pick in a trade for Amari Cooper back in October. The former Oakland Raiders Pro Bowler has been absolutely dynamite since joining the Cowboys, catching 30 passes for 425 yards in five games. Cooper was back at it Sunday against the division rival Philadelphia Eagles. He nabbed 10 catches for 217 yards and three touchdowns. That included this long score to put Dallas up late in the third quarter.

Even then, the Cowboys couldn’t separate themselves from Philadelphia. Instead, the Eagles forced overtime despite having yielded nearly 600 total yards of offense. That’s when Cooper came up big time. On third down and long from the Eagles’ 15, Cooper caught his third score of the game in walk-off fashion. By virtue of the 32-26 win, Dallas now boasts an almost insurmountable two-game lead in the NFC East.

Panthers are now completely toast

Losers of four consecutive heading into Sunday’s game against the Browns, Carolina needed to get off the schneid in order to remain in the NFC Playoff race. Whether it was the team’s inability to stop Baker Mayfield or Cam Newton’s struggles in the red zone, it just didn’t happen. In the end, these Panthers lost by the score of 26-20 to fall to 6-7 on the season.

For his part, Newton completed 26-of-42 passes for 265 yards with zero touchdowns and one interception. Four of the Panthers’ drives in Cleveland’s end of the field resulted in a grand total of three points. That included a turnover on downs inside the 10 with the game on the line. Yeah, these Panthers are now officially declawed.

Broncos drop the ball big time

There wasn’t really any reason to believe that the Broncos would go to Santa Clara and come away with a loss against the two-win San Francisco 49ers on Sunday. San Francisco had lost three consecutive games by a combined 49 points. The Broncos were in the midst of a three-game winning streak with victories over the Chargers and Steelers during that span.

Unfortunately for head coach Vance Joseph and Co., the team simply didn’t come to play in the first half. Denver trailed 20-0 at halftime with 49ers tight end George Kittle putting up north of 200 yards in the first two quarters. A valiant second half comeback attempt fell short. Now at 6-7 on the season, one can reasonably conclude the Broncos won’t be playing playoff football. If so, this one loss will be a primary reason why.

Patrick Mahomes is the NFL MVP

All the Takeaways

By Vincent Frank

 

NFL Fantasy Sleepers For 2016 Season

Fantasy Sleeper Picks

As the NFL preseason draws to a close, that can only mean one thing…..Fantasy Football is back! If you haven’t drafted a team yet, or simply play in daily leagues, sleeper picks are necessary. Sometimes they pan out (like drafting Todd Gurley last year), sometimes they don’t (like drafting Toby Gerhart in any year). Either way I will be going through each position and giving a few fantasy sleepers that can help your team make it to the playoffs. Let’s get after it:

Quarterbacks:

Blake Bortles, Jacksonville Jaguars: Bortles is not an elite quarterback, but he does put up monster numbers. With two thousand yard receivers, Bortles is poised to break through the glass ceiling of Quarterbacks. If the Jags defense underperforms, watch for Gus Bradley to rely on Bortles’ arms.  Barring any injury, Bortles is ready to be one of the best fantasy QBs’ in the league.

Andrew Luck, Indianapolis Colts: You might read this and think I’m crazy; how can a former #1 overall pick, let alone one as good as Luck be a sleeper? Because of the injury struggles he dealt with last year. Luck is the best quarterback prospect since Peyton Manning, and while last year he couldn’t stay on the field, watch for this to change in 2016. Besides that, watch for Luck to come out guns-a-blazing, trying to discredit critics who claimed he was finished after last year. Add in the fact that Luck actually has a competent running back in Frank Gore, and the Colt’s offense looks very dangerous.

Dak Prescott, Dallas Cowboys: This one might stand out. Prescott is a rookie drafted in the 4th round of this years draft. He was expected to be the third string quarterback for the Cowboys, until Kellen Moore got hurt early in training camp. He then moved into the backup role and performed well in the preseason. Everything changed for Prescott this past week, when starter Tony Romo went down with a back injury. The rookie now has the keys to the Cowboy kingdom, and if his preseason numbers are any indication, the Mississippi State Bulldog will do just fine in the NFL.

Runningbacks:

Ameer Abdullah, Detroit Lions: Abdullah was the third running back drafted in 2015, after Rams’ superstar Todd Gurley and Chargers running back Melvin Gordon. While Gurley’s transition to the NFL was seamless, Abdullah struggled adapting to the professional level. Rushing for only 597 yards last season, Abdullah could potentially double his career total in one season. In addition, the Lions offense will need help, due to losing Calvin Johnson to retirement earlier this offseason. If Abdullah can play like he did at Nebraska, watch for the Lions to be one of the better rushing offenses in the NFL.

Alfred Morris, Dallas Cowboys: Morris’ rushing totals have gone down each year he was in the league. After tearing up teams with Robert Griffin III in 2012, he has gotten slightly less effective each year since. So why would he be considered a sleeper? Because of the question marks for the Cowboys at running back. Zeke Elliot was the 4th pick in the 2016 draft, but now has some character questions after a video tape surfaced of Elliot leaving a marijuana dispensary in Seattle, prior to playing the Seahawks last week. Darren McFadden started for the ‘Boys last season, but he already broke his elbow in the offseason because he “slipped”. All signs point to Alf being given the chance, and behind the best O-Line in football, I could rush for 100 yards per game.

Duke Johnson, Cleveland Browns: Johnson looks as if he will replace Isaiah Crowell as the Browns starter. He also is much more elusive than Crowell. With 39 less touches last year, he broke 17 more tackles than Crowell. If Head Coach Hue Jackson wants to replicate RG3’s success from 2012, Johnson could benefit from a read option offense. In PPR leagues, Johnson will be a better option because of his ability to catch passes out of the backfield

Wide Receivers:

Amari Cooper, Oakland Raiders: Cooper is one of the better wideouts in the NFL already, and he will continue to get better and better. Derek Carr is emerging as a franchise quarterback, and his favorite target is Cooper. Cooper is very much like another wide receiver from Alabama, in Julio Jones. Both possess speed and the ability to catch an 80 yard bomb. If you can’t draft Jones, then lock up Cooper and get similar production.

John Brown, Arizona Cardinals: John Brown is the best 3rd receiver in football. Behind Michael Floyd and Larry Fitzgerald, Brown is dominant. He has the talent of a #1 receiver but is lucky enough to play in the slot, thus giving him more chances against lesser defensive backs. Brown also has big play potential, with the deep threat ability. Brown is a sleeper that you should take advantage of.

Stefan Diggs, Minnesota Vikings: Diggs can make phenomenal diving catches, and is a great player to take a chance on. Diggs suffers from not having a franchise quarterback. Teddy Bridgewater is improving, but he isn’t a top 15 QB. If Bridgewater can improve, watch for Diggs’ numbers to go through the roof.

Tight Ends:

Jordan Reed, Washington Redskins: Jordan Reed had a monster year last season, gaining over 1000 yards. He has struggled with injuries in the past, but if he can stay healthy, he might be the second best tight end in football, behind Gronk. Reed is a valuable addition to any fantasy team.

Kickers:

Dustin Hopkins, Washington Redskins: Hopkins steadied the kicker position for the Redskins, after years of poor kickers. He made 25 of 28 field goals last year, as well as making 39 out of 40 extra points. Hopkins was perfect from 20-39 yards, and missed only one from 40-49 yards. Watch for Hopkins to break out this season for the Redskins.

Winston Win’s Rookie of the Year

Written by Tim Daniels at BleacherReport.com

Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston was named the 2015 Pepsi NFL Rookie of the Year on Saturday after accounting for more than 4,200 yards of offense and 28 touchdowns.

Greg Auman of the Tampa Bay Times and NFL Canada confirmed Winston’s triumph following a fan vote. He edged out fellow finalists Amari Cooper (Oakland Raiders), Todd Gurley (St. Louis Rams), Tyler Lockett (Seattle Seahawks) and Marcus Peters (Kansas City Chiefs) for the honor.

Jenna Laine of Sports Talk 1040 in Tampa Bay provided a statement from the winner:

Winston arrived in Tampa with incredibly high expectations after beating out Marcus Mariota to become the first overall pick of the 2015 draft. He did nothing during his rookie season to lessen the long-term outlook and is well on his way to establishing himself as the Bucs’ franchise QB.

The 22-year-old Florida State product threw for 4,042 yards and 22 touchdowns with 15 interceptions en route to an 84.2 passer rating. He also added 213 yards and six touchdowns on the ground while appearing in all 16 of the team’s games.

Even though Winston led Tampa Bay to a fifth-place finish in yards per game (375.9), the Bucs only managed to win six games. That left them in the basement of the NFC South and four games out of a playoff spot.

It’s from that perspective Winston entered the offseason looking for more. Rick Brown of ESPN passed along the quarterback’s thoughts on starting to build a contender:

“I know everyone on this team wants to win. It’s just the way that you do it. It’s about preparation and having that mindset of I want to win at all costs. That has to be developed and that has to be molded.

It starts with actions. We have to have a good offseason. … If we are really serious about winning here [and] if we’re serious about changing the culture, we will dedicate ourselves in the offseason so we can be successful.”

To continue reading this article, click here.