What You Need To Know…#SB50 Weekend Update

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1.

Orange Crushed:

Everyone was betting on Carolina. All the experts were picking Cam and company. Good thing the powers that be decided to go ahead and play the game on the field anyway. After all the intensity of the regular season, Super Bowl 50 was pretty anti-climatic and one of the more boring ones. The highlight video alone is less than 4 minutes long letting you know there weren’t that many. You can check it out here.

Denver must not have known they were supposed to lay down as the underdog. The Broncos opened up the scoring as Manning drove the offense easily down the field before settling for a field goal. 3-0 Denver with the oldest quarterback in Super Bowl history looking healthy and sharp.

Read: Super Bowl 50 High Anticipation Low Return for Cam Newton’s Panthers Plus those ads


On Thursday, three days before the winningest quarterback in NFL history would play The Last Game (or at least the game we’re sure is the last one), he lined up his offense around the defensive 20-yard line and barked out signals. This would be the last full series of plays in the Super Bowl 50 practice week for Denver at Stanford Stadium, their home for the week … and maybe the last full series of practice plays in Peyton Manning’s life.

The sun was nearly touching the top of the west stands of the stadium on this beautiful California winter afternoon, creating an image of a sunset and lengthening shadows on the field as Manning directed traffic.

“Be alert! Be alert!” he called out, motioning Emmanuel Sanders across the formation. And Manning shouted out the play, which began with “Z Motion!” And then the snap, and then … nothing. No one open.

“One more time!” Manning yelled, annoyed. “Do it again!”

And the offense did, Sanders trolling the back of the end zone and Manning hitting him for a touchdown.

Read: Peyton Manning, Denver Broncos beat Panthers in Super Bowl 50 | The MMQB with Peter King


The dirty secret about all Super Bowls is that ultimately they’re just football games. Take away the halftime shows, the $25 glasses of wine, the tired commercials with tired celebrities doing tired lines, all of it, and these Super Bowls have to rise and fall on the games themselves. Last year, the Super Bowl seemed like the pinnacle of American popular culture because Left Shark and the dead Nationwide kid and all the other memes nestled themselves comfortably alongside a taut, terrific game between two all-time teams at the peak of their powers. Cap it off with one of the most infamous boneheaded play calls in the history of the sport at the end, against the most hated (and successful) team, and damn, that’s entertainment.

That is not what happened this year.

Read: Broncos’ Super Bowl win wasn’t pretty, but it was dominant.

+ Denver wins Super Bowl despite low yardage total

The Broncos defeated the Panthers, 24-10, to win Super Bowl 50 despite gaining only 194 yards. That was the lowest yardage total by any of the 50 teams to win a Super Bowl. In fact, only seven teams that lost a Super Bowl gained fewer than 200 yards; Denver’s was the lowest total by any team in the big game, win or lose, since the Giants were held to 152 yards when the Ravens won Super Bowl XXXV 15 years ago.

+ High-scoring Panthers neutralized by Broncos defense

Carolina led the NFL with an average of 31.3 points per game during the 2015 regular season. Denver was the sixth team to win a Super Bowl by holding the league’s highest-scoring team to 10 or fewer points. The others were Green Bay vs. Kansas City, 35-10 (following the 1966 season); Kansas City vs. Minnesota, 23-7 (1969); L.A. Raiders vs. Washington, 38-9 (1983); Pittsburgh vs. Seattle, 21-10 (2005); and, ironically, Seattle vs. Denver, 43-8, just two years ago.

+ #2 outplays #1 in Super Bowl

Von Miller, who was named the Most Valuable Player of Super Bowl 50, had 2.5 sacks againstCam Newton on Sunday. As even Stephen Colbert noted last night, Miller was the second pick in the 2011 draft, chosen immediately after Newton. Colbert failed to mention that there was no other Super Bowl in which the top two picks from the same draft faced each other. But it did happen in the 1942 NFL Championship Game, when the Redskins defeated the Bears, 14-6. Ki Aldrich, the top pick in the 1939 draft, played for Washington, and future Hall of Famer Sid Luckman, taken second in 1939, played for Chicago.

null+ For this one time, Manning is carried by his mates

Peyton Manning, the first quarterback in 30 years to start a Super Bowl with a sub-70 passer rating during the season, passed for 141 yards and no touchdowns in the Broncos’ win. Inevitably it will be said that Denver and its top-ranked defense reached and won Super Bowl 50 not because of its quarterback but despite him. Only three other QBs started and won a Super Bowl passing for less than 150 yards and no TDs: Bob Griese (following the 1973 season), John Elway (1997), and Ben Roethlisberger (2005).

But let’s give Manning his due: Each of his three previous Super Bowl starts was made for a team that ranked in the bottom half of the NFL in defense (that is, yards allowed): the 2006 Colts (21st), 2009 Colts (18th), and 2013 Broncos (19th). Only two other quarterbacks started even two Super Bowls for “bottom-half” defensive teams: Jim Kelly with the Bills (27th in both 1991 and 1993) and Tom Brady with the Patriots (24th in 2001, 31st in 2011).

null+ Broncos’ kicker is flawless in Super Bowl run

Finally, let’s not overlook the role of Brandon McManus in Denver’s run to the Super Bowl. McManus made all 10 of his field-goal attempts during the postseason. Only one other player in NFL history kicked as many as 10 field goals in one postseason: Adam Vinatieri was 14-for-15 for Indianapolis in the playoffs following the 2006 season. The previous record for FGs without a miss in one postseason was nine, by Chuck Nelson of the Vikings (1987).

After 38 Seasons, Wade Phillips Is A Guy With A Super Bowl Ring

2.

Between Cam Newton’s unraveling and Peyton Manning’s brand smooching, you might be having a hard time finding something to be unabashedly happy about in the wake of Super Bowl 50. Allow me to submit Broncos defensive coordinator Wade Phillips as a target for adulation.

What do you think about when someone says Wade Phillips’s name? The question is easy to answer this morning: he’s the engineer behind the fearsome Denver defense that spent the last month making all-world quarterbacks look like rattled third-stringers.

Read: After 38 Seasons, Wade Phillips Is A Guy With A Super Bowl Ring

3.

Cam Newton had a dreadful performance in Sunday’s Super Bowl. The league’s MVP followed that up with an even uglier showing in his press conference.

Newton, who abruptly walked off the podium, was unenthusiastic, brief and clearly dejected. Understandably so.

Newton, however, drew some criticism from NFL Media’s Deion Sanders after his presser.

Read: Deion Sanders sums up Cam Newton’s ugly press conference perfectly | FOX Sports

4.

On the field, the Super Bowl might not have been the most fast-paced of all time, but at least the ads provided some extra entertainment. Here’s a look at the commercials that rose above the rest.

Read: What were the best ads of Super Bowl 50?

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5.

Marshawn Lynch, Done?

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6.

After the Golden State Warriors fended off the Oklahoma City Thunder in a 116-108 win, Ron Adams, Golden State’s assistant coach and defensive guru shrugged, “I don’t know how to stop him. I coached him and I don’t know how to stop him.”

Adams was referring to Kevin Durant, whom he worked with as an assistant in Oklahoma City from 2008 to 2010. That’s quite a concession from Adams, known to be one of if not the top defensive assistant in basketball. The admiration is mutual. Before the game, the two warmly greeted each other. The 27-year-old Durant said of the 68-year-old Adams, “We always had a great relationship. He was hard on me. He expected a lot out of me and that’s the type of coaching I like and he never shied away from how he thought.” Durant continued, “Always spoke his mind to me so I’m always going to respect him, always going to be family to me. Whatever team he goes to man, he imposes his will and just changed the whole thought process of the team. He’s a great assistant.”

Read: NBA: Kevin Durant can’t overcome Warriors

null+ Curry and Warriors on record pace after beating Thunder

The Warriors equaled the best 50-game start in NBA history by defeating the Thunder, 116-108, in Oakland. Golden State improved to 46-4 on the season, which is tied with the 1966-67 76ers for the best start to any season in league history. In fact, only one other team besides Golden State and Philadelphia won 46 of 50 games at any point of a season – the Mavericks had a 46-4 stretch in the 2006-07 campaign.

Stephen Curry led the Warriors with 26 points and 10 assists in their victory over Oklahoma City. Including Saturday’s contest, Golden State has earned a win in each of the last 20 games that Curry has compiled at least 20 points and 10 assists, including a 7-0 record in such games this season.

null+ Durant posts big numbers versus defending champs

Kevin Durant had a huge night in a losing effort, scoring a game-high 40 points for the Thunder while securing 14 rebounds, one shy of the team lead. In the last 40 seasons (1976-77 to 2015-16), only two other players totaled at least 40 points and 14 rebounds in a game against the defending NBA champions. Karl Malone (45 points, 17 rebounds) did that in 1995 against the Rockets, and Blake Griffin (43 points, 15 rebounds) did so in 2014 versus the Heat.

These Things I Think Tuesday – #GroundhogDay Edition

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1.

Un-Sink-able Levi Stadium:

Will the turf at Levi’s Stadium swallow a player during Sunday’s Super Bowl the way it nearly did with Baltimore Ravens kicker Justin Tucker in a game earlier this season?

The NFL’s playing-surface guru says no way.

“I think we’re in great shape,” Ed Mangan, the league’s field director, said in a phone interview Monday.

The field has had its issues during Niners’ home games. Tucker missed a key field goal attempt during the Ravens’ loss to the 49ers in October when the turf gave way beneath him and his left leg slipped on the kick.

Read: NFL vows sinkhole field at Levi’s Stadium will be Super Bowl-worthy – The Washington Post


2.

Opening Night…

I’m not sure if you’ve heard, but there’s a football game scheduled for Sunday. The game isn’t set to be played for another six days, but, really, Monday night marked the beginning of Super Bowl 50.

Welcome to Opening Night of Super Bowl 50, formerly known as Media Day, where seemingly half of the West Coast’s population congregated on Monday night.

The press certainly showed up.

 

So did Katy Perry’s dancing shark pal.

 

And so did the players, from the quarterbacks — Peyton Manning and Cam Newton — to the outspoken cornerbacks — Aqib Talib and Josh Norman. If you missed Opening Night, we’ve got you covered.

Read: Broncos, Panthers star on Opening Night for Super Bowl 50: 11 takeaways – CBSSports.com


3.

No Sunset Yet…

There was no hiding for Peyton Manning. Faced with the prospect of sitting at a podium for an hour on Media Day at Super Bowl 50, Manning was locked into getting questioned about his potential retirement in the wake of comments to Bill Belichick about his “last rodeo.”

His only real defense? Humor.

Read: Super Bowl 50: Peyton Manning finally explains his ‘last rodeo’ remark – CBSSports.com


3.

Free and Risky WiFi…

The free high-speed wireless Internet access being offered at Super Bowl 50 events is “very likely” to attract significant cyber threats, according to the FBI’s cyber threat assessment.

An FBI document obtained by CBS San Francisco warns that hackers could target open Wi-Fi networks at the events.

“Open Wi-Fi is just that, it means that there is no security on the Wi-Fi system, they need to realize whatever they are sending out there, it can be viewed by others,” said Jeff Harp, a former FBI agent and CBS San Francisco security analyst.

Read: Super Bowl 2016 cyber threat? Free, open Wi-Fi could be risky – CBS News


4.

He Gone…

The room was dark and there was a table in front of him. That much Justin Tuck remembers about his dream. That and what was written on the sheet of paper that slid in front of him.

Tuck’s dreams are usually nonsensical. This one, though, was poignant and perhaps an answer to his prayers for guidance. Though he’s not sure who passed him the note, he’s perfectly clear about what was written on it.

Retire.

Read: Justin Tuck is retiring after 11 seasons with Giants, Raiders | FOX Sports


5.

No Thanks…

The Phoenix Suns have strong interest in former star guard Steve Nash for their coaching vacancy, but Nash is not interested in going into full-time coaching at this time, according to league sources.

Sources told ESPN that Suns owner Robert Sarver, even before firing Jeff Hornacek early Monday morning after the team’s overnight arrival in Phoenix following a four-game road trip, has had Nash high on his list of potential targets to take over the team.

Read: Steve Nash not interested in Phoenix Suns coaching vacancy, despite team’s interest


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6.

#FanDuel Ultimate Value Lineup

Giving you the Perfect Lineup is easy and we tweet it, post it on Facebook and create an entire post about it in our RESULTS, so……What about if you had the greatest value lineup of all time?  A Lineup that every player chosen had low ownership, way less, and never cost you more than $6,500 – well my friends this is the #NBA Ultimate Value Lineup – culled directly from the numbers and our reports – Check Back Before 4:30p MST everyday and see who we like, and let us Teach You How To #Win!!!

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United Stats of America #NBA Edition + 6 Other Things

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Steph Curry and the dominant Warriors aren’t just beating teams anymore, they’re throwing staggering knockout punches against the NBA’s best – make that second-best.

In a span of eight days, Golden State have 30-point wins over Cleveland, Chicago and San Antonio. Curry scored 37 points and hit six three-pointers in three scintillating quarters Monday night, and the reigning champions showed they still rule the West by routing the Spurs 120-90.

“No moment’s too big, obviously,” Curry said. “We know this is just another regular-season game, but there was some hype around it. Every time we have an opportunity to prove who we are and take another step in the journey, we’re ready for it. It wasn’t always that way. This core has been together for a while and understands how to mentally prepare for nights like this.”……(Continue Reading: Gregg Popovich: Warriors’ slaughter of Spurs was ‘like men and boys’ | The Guardian)

+ Warriors win the first round of 2015-16 duel with Spurs

In a highly anticipated matchup, Stephen Curry (37 points) and the Warriors coasted by the Spurs, 120-90, in what was the first matchup in NBA history between two teams with winning percentages of .830 or higher (minimum 40 games played for each team). Golden State’s 30-point victory soundly ended the Spurs’ 13-game winning streak. That’s the third largest margin of victory against an opponent with a winning streak of at least 13 games entering the matchup. The Knicks defeated the Mavs, 128-94, in March 2010, ending a 13-game streak, and the Magic routed the Rockets, 114-82, in March 1991, stopping a Houston winning streak at 13.

+ Cousins with another huge game

DeMarcus Cousins scored 56 points and grabbed 12 rebounds in the Kings’ double-overtime loss to the Hornets on Monday. Cousins, who totaled 48 points and 13 rebounds in his last game on January 23, is the fourth player with at least 100 points and 25 rebounds in consecutive games over the last 40 years. Michael Jordan did so in March 1990 (118 points and 30 rebounds; the first of the two games was his 69-point performance against the Cavaliers), David Robinson in April 1994 (100 points and 30 rebounds; he scored 71 points in the second of the two games), and Antawn Jamison accomplished this feat in December 2000 as a member of the Warriors (102 points and 27 rebounds).

Cousins’ 104 points over his last two games are the most for any player in Kings history; the previous high was 92 points by Oscar Robertson in February 1965 (when the franchise was known as the Cincinnati Royals). The last player with 100 points over a two-game span wasKobe Bryant in March 2007, netting 110 points.

+ A rare 50-point and 20-assist pairing

As though DeMarcus Cousins‘ 56-point performance was not enough, his Kings teammate Rajon Rondo dished out 20 assists in Sacramento’s overtime loss to the Hornets. It’s just the fourth game in NBA history in which one player scored at least 50 points and his teammate had at least 20 assists. The first such game was on March 2, 1962, in Wilt Chamberlain‘s 100-point game for the Warriors versus the Knicks; his teammate Guy Rodgers had 20 assists. And just under a year later, Chamberlain and Rodgers were at it again; Chamberlain scored 54 points and Rodgers totaled 20 assists for the Warriors against the Royals on March 1, 1963. The third instance was on February 10, 1998, when the Wizards’ Tracy Murray (50 points) and Rod Strickland (20 assists) did so versus the Warriors. In all three of those prior instances, the 50-point/20-assist team won the game.

+ A first for three young players

Karl-Anthony Towns scored 26 points, Zach LaVine added 21 points, and Andrew Wiggins had 20 of his own in the Timberwolves’ loss to the Cavaliers on Monday night. Towns, LaVine, and Wiggins, all 20 years old, are the first trio of teammates under 21 years old to put up at least 20 points in the same game in NBA history. Only one other trio did so at 21 years or younger: Kevin Durant (21 years old), Russell Westbrook (21), and James Harden (20) for the Thunder against the Wizards on November 20, 2009.

Towns also grabbed 11 rebounds, becoming the first rookie with at least 25 points and 10 rebounds in a game against LeBron James.


1.

Wait A Second…

MLBPipeline.com will unveil its 2016 Top 100 Prospects list on Friday on MLB.com. The Top 50 will be revealed during a one-hour show on MLB Network at 9 p.m. ET. Leading up to the release, we look at baseball’s Top 10 prospects at each position. There has been quite a bit of turnover from last year to the 2016 edition of the Top 10 second-base prospects, with six new names joining the list, thanks to two graduations and four who dropped off the list. Scouting reports, grades, stats and video on Prospect Watch……(Continue Reading: Prospect Watch: Top 10 second basemen for 2016 | MLB.com)


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2.

Helping The Homeless…

With the Mets bringing back Yoenis Cespedes, most of baseball’s big-name free agents are off the board.

That doesn’t mean the cupboard is bare, however. There are many players left who could help plenty of teams.

Still, finding a spot at this point in the game of musical chairs is a challenge. Many clubs have filled their vacancies and/or reached their budgetary limits.

Pitchers and catchers are now less than a month from reporting, which means time is running out for the stragglers to sign before their unemployment lags into Spring Training. With that in mind, let’s spend other people’s money and see if we can find a home for 10 of the top players remaining on the market……(Continue Reading: Let’s play matchmaker for MLB players still unsigned.)


3.

Where There’s A Will There’s An Elway…

If Peyton Manning soon has the option to pull a John Elway and end a Hall of Fame-bound quarterbacking career in the glorious aftermath of a Super Bowl triumph, it will be because Elway provided him with a team capable of making it happen.

But few people in the room deserved more credit than the quarterback already enshrined in Canton who…...(Continue Reading: John Elway has put Peyton Manning in position to follow in his footsteps – The Washington Post)


4.

Get Over Yourself…

Seattle fans are still upset about something the Carolina Panthers QB did to the 12th man flag. Nevermind the crouch-grabber on your own team Seattle Fan.  Cam Newton has long moved on from thinking about the Seattle Seahawks, the team his Carolina Panthers beat two playoff rounds ago before beating the Arizona Cardinals last weekend to reach the Super Bowl.

Angry Seahawks fans have not forgot about Cam, though. #Stalker #StayClassy

Continue Reading: Bitter Seahawks fan starts petition to ban Cam Newton from CenturyLink | FOX Sports


5.

A Look Back…

Even though the Bears were 10-point favorites, the New England Patriots approached Super Bowl XX in New Orleans with confidence.

“We’ve been underdogs all year,” cornerback Raymond Clayborn said a few days before the game. “I accept it. We’ll go out and beat the Bears just like we beat everybody else. Do football players pay attention to the spread? We notice it. But we have confidence in ourselves.”……(Continue Reading: Pats thought they’d win Super Bowl XX)


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6.

#FanDuel Ultimate Value Lineup

Giving you the Perfect Lineup is easy and we tweet it, post it on Facebook and create an entire post about it in our RESULTS, so……What about if you had the greatest value lineup of all time?  A Lineup that every player chosen had low ownership, way less, and never cost you more than $6,500 – well my friends this is the #NBA Ultimate Value Lineup – culled directly from the numbers and our reports – Check Back Before 4:30p MST everyday and see who we like, and let us Teach You How To #Win!!!

pablo (2)

Your #NFL Weekend Update + #Superbowl50 Forecast

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Daniels helps Denver punch ticket to Super Bowl 50

In the 17th and quite possibly the final edition of “Manning versus Brady,” it was Peyton Manning and the Broncos emerging victorious over Tom Brady and the Patriots in the AFC Championship Game. Manning completed 17 passes for 176 yards and threw two touchdowns, both to tight end Owen Daniels. Daniels caught a 21-yard touchdown pass in the first quarter and a 12-yard TD pass in the second quarter, and those were his only two receptions of the game. Daniels tied the NFL postseason record for receptions in a game, all of which went for scores, last done by the Colts’ LaVon Brazill, also against the Patriots, in the 2013 playoffs.

Daniels is the fourth player to catch two touchdown passes from Peyton Manning in a playoff game. The previous three did so for the Colts against the Broncos: Marvin Harrison and Brandon Stokley in the 2003 playoffs and Reggie Wayne a year later.

Rare struggles for Patriots’ offense

Though a late touchdown pass from Tom Brady to Rob Gronkowski made the final score close, it was a day-long struggle for the Patriots on offense. Brady completed 27 of 56 passes, marking the first time in his professional career that he completed fewer than half of his passes in a postseason game. The 29 incomplete passes on Sunday were also a career-high for Brady in a postseason game.

The Patriots as a team converted two of 15 third-down attempts, good for just 13.3 percent. That’s New England’s lowest third-down percentage in a postseason game under Bill Belichick. The last time the Patriots converted a lower percentage of third downs in a postseason game was Super Bowl XX – New England lost to the Bears, 46-10, and were 1-for-10 (10%) on third downs.

Panthers pound Cardinals in NFC Championship

The Panthers are headed to Super Bowl 50 after overwhelming the Cardinals, 49-15, in the NFC Championship Game. The 49 points by Carolina are the second-most scored by a team that clinched a berth in the Super Bowl – the Bills scored 51 points in the AFC Championship Game in January 1991 against the Raiders. The Panthers, who forced seven turnovers in their blowout victory, are the second team in the last 20 postseasons to score at least 49 points and record seven or more takeaways in a postseason game. The other team to accomplish that feat in that span is the Jaguars, who racked up 62 points and forced seven turnovers in their divisional round victory over the Dolphins in January 2000.

nullSuperman Cam is clutch for Carolina

Cam Newton put up an MVP-like performance in the Panthers’ victory, throwing for 335 yards and two touchdowns while also running for a pair of scores. Newton is the fourth quarterback to total multiple touchdown passes and touchdown rushes in a single postseason game. Otto Graham had two such games for the Browns in back-to-back NFL Championships (1954 and 1955). The other two players to do so prior to Newton were Jay Cutler (Jan. 2011 against the Seahawks) and Colin Kaepernick (Jan. 2013 versus the Packers).

nullPalmer ties ignominious record in loss

Carson Palmer struggled against the mighty Panthers defense, throwing four interceptions and losing a pair of fumbles. Palmer’s six turnovers are tied for the most turnovers by a player in a postseason game. The last player to turn the ball over six times in a postseason game also did so in a Panthers-Cardinals matchup – Jake Delhomme had five interceptions and lost a fumble for Carolina in January 2009 against Arizona.

A first look at Super Bowl 50: Denver Broncos vs. Carolina Panthers

LAS VEGAS – The Carolina Panthers will go to San Francisco favored by more than a field goal to win the Super Bowl for the first time in franchise history.

Oddsmakers didn’t even wait until the Panthers finished off the Arizona Cardinals to install them as favorites for the game against the Denver Broncos on Feb. 7. At most books, the Panthers were a 4-point pick, though the early line varied, with the over/under settling in at 45.

Five Quick Hits

* I wish there had been more time in between games on Sunday. The nail-biter in Denver ended minutes before kickoff in Carolina, and if the game had gone into overtime, that creates a conflict for viewers.

* Even if you DVR the NFC Championship Game while you watch the end of the AFC Championship Game, good luck avoiding the scroll at your bottom of your screen, telling you that it’s 17-0 Carolina before you’ve even switched over. There should be a hour, minimum, between the conference championship games. Probably one and a half. I’d rather watch a pre-game show for 15 minutes than miss the first drive of the NFC Championship Game.

* Anyone else catch Rob Gronkowski complaining to the back judge near the end of the early game? He mimed that the Broncos had basically attempted to murder him, on a play that rightfully drew no penalties. Hey Gronk, there’s another sport where crying and faking does draw penalties. It’s called soccer. Either sign with the New England Revolution, or grow up.

* Cam Newton is an all-pro QB and league MVP, and he played great on Sunday. But I’ve never seen a quarterback so willing to throw a 4-yard pass on 3rd-and-10.

* Congratulations to this year’s finalists for the Walter Payton Man of the Year Award: Anquan Boldin, Eli Manning, and Ben Watson. Boldin is the favorite. This is the second year in a row he’s been a finalist. Thomas Davis, who won last season, had also been a finalist for the second year in a row.

* Get an early look at the 2016 Super Bowl commercials.

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The Ghost of Christmas Future

Super Bowl 50: Carolina Panthers vs. Denver Broncos
Santa Clara, California
February 7, 2015

For the third year in a row, the top seeds from both conferences will meet in the Super Bowl. But this result wasn’t as likely as that stat would imply. The hottest teams coming into the playoffs were the Chiefs (on a 10-game win streak), the Cardinals (who lost a 9-game streak with a half-hearted Week 17), and the Seahawks (whose last four wins came by a combined 139-32). The Panthers had a tough road to the big game, and the Broncos just didn’t look particularly intimidating at the end of the regular season.

This is the first Super Bowl for both head coaches, though both have been to Super Bowls in other capacities. The Broncos’ Gary Kubiak becomes the seventh head coach to make a Super Bowl in his first year with the team, joining Don McCafferty, Red Miller, George Seifert, Bill Callahan, Jon Gruden, and Jim Caldwell. Additionally, Peyton Manning will become the oldest QB to start a Super Bowl, breaking the record held by his employer, John Elway.

CAROLINA ON OFFENSE

Denver has a great defense, but this is a bad matchup. The Broncos thrive on pressure, but Cam Newton’s running ability means he can evade pass rushers, and he’ll run through openings if you leave them. The Broncos will get some sacks, but their pressure won’t have the same effect it did against the Patriots. Denver’s pass defense is better than its rush defense, and Carolina is one of the most balanced offenses in the league, with a good ground game. New England prefers to throw, which played to Denver’s strength, but if Mike Shula is smart, I’d expect the Panthers to run about 50% of the time, more if they get a big lead. I’d also look for some sort of trick play to break things open.

The Broncos need to contain the rush, while preventing big plays downfield: make Newton throw short and intermediate passes, string together long drives. He’s capable of that, but the Broncos can’t get run over on the ground, or killed on sudden, momentum-generating big-play strikes. The Broncos have won with their defense all year, and they’ll need a low-scoring game if they’re going to win, so giving up a 50-yard TD would be devastating. Force the Panthers to work the ball down the field, preferably through the air, and hope you can force a couple of turnovers.

DENVER ON OFFENSE

This still seems weird to say about a Peyton Manning offense, but the Broncos are best when their offense is smart and conservative, with an emphasis on ball control. You expect to see what the team has shown its last few games. They’ll stick with the run, mostly grinding out short gains to keep the defense honest, and probably break a long one at some point. Manning has to take a few shots downfield, but his role is more to find the right plays and pick up first downs on 3rd-and-6. The priority is avoiding turnovers. The Broncos aren’t going to win a shootout, and they’re not expecting to win with explosive offense; they want big plays from their defense.

Carolina’s priority is probably to prevent Denver from establishing its run game and getting into a rhythm. Don’t make mistakes, and force Manning to win with his arm. The Panthers are effective ballhawks, as we saw in the NFC Championship Game, but they probably don’t need to force turnovers as long as they’re solid throughout the game. They need to be creative enough that Manning doesn’t pick them apart with his calls at the line, but they don’t need to be aggressive, exactly. Luke Kuechly and Josh Norman are terrific players, but Carolina’s most important defender in this game might be Kawann Short. Manning can’t overcome a good interior pass rush.

SPECIAL TEAMS

This might be a small advantage for Denver, which has a slightly better kicker, slightly better punter, and a more consistent return game. For the Broncos to win, they’ll probably need an edge from special teams: a big return or a blocked kick or something.

THE FORECAST

The three best teams in the NFL this year were all in the NFC: the Panthers, Cardinals, and Seahawks. The Panthers have already beaten the other two, pretty handily, and they’re 4-point favorites to win Super Bowl 50. Denver has a great defense, though, and you should never underestimate great defensive teams in a championship. The Broncos were in the Super Bowl two years ago, so they have Super Bowl experience, which the Panthers do not – not that it matters a damn. And it’s widely assumed that this will be Manning’s last game. I hate to imply that players don’t always perform at their peak, especially in a game of this magnitude, but sometimes you see a little more when emotions are running high. Who’s to say the Broncos don’t find something extra to help the Sheriff ride off into the sunset?

All the intangibles point in Denver’s direction. But the Panthers are a better team. They have a good defense, too, as their seven takeaways against Arizona would attest, and they have an offense that scores more points. Their ground game plays away from Denver’s strengths, and interior defensive pressure could radically disrupt Manning’s gameplan.

Source: Sports Central NFL – Super Bowl 50 Preview

5 Things To Know: #NFL Tuesday Morning Quarterback

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1.

It’s A Clown-Show Bro!

If you want to hoot with the owls, you have to be able to soar with the eagles – the problem for Manziel is, he’s a turkey.  Allegedly, he was spotted in Vegas.  Allegedly Johnny was wearing a Ric Flair-wig and a Bobby Valentine-mustache and went by the name Billy.  Allegedly he showed up drunk to the Browns facility.  We say allegedly because there is an Instagram of him on Sat.Night with his dogs.  Documenting, that Johnny-Boozeball was home.

We know better.  We are watching the vortex of dumb that is Manziel play out like he is Charlie Sheen and we all get to witness the Adonis DNA, mixed with tiger blood that still cannot read a defense and no one believes that Johnny even cares.  But hey, the Browns have the 2nd pick – ain’t that right Jimmah?!


2.

FanDuel – 2×4’s and Milk

Source: NFL Week 17 Retrospectacle: Peyton Manning’s Return Makes Things Interesting

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QB Cam Newton, Carolina Panthers (32.72 FanDuel points)—He finished as the No. 1 fantasy quarterback with his 293-2 passing and 6-10-2 rushing. Now, he will get WR Kelvin Benjamin (knee) back next season and has turned WR Devin Funchess (7-120-1 Sunday) into a strong sidekick. It is tough to be better than Newton was this season, but his arrow is still pointing way up, even if his price will make him tough to afford this postseason and in 2016.

WR Antonio Brown, Pittsburgh Steelers (29.2)—Usually, a strong supporting receiving corps cuts a No. 1’s production from elite to very good or even merely good. The Steelers’ weaponry hardly dents Brown’s status. He is the clear No. 1 fantasy wideout and legitimately in the conversation for the No. 1 overall player in fantasy for 2016. He’s already certain to be the priciest player in FanDuel’s postseason contests after his 13-187-1 monster finish to the regular season.

Houston Texans Defense (29.0)—That was some performance against a red-hot Jacksonville Jaguars offense: eight sacks, four turnovers and a touchdown. This will be an interesting Wild Card Weekend FanDuel play at home against the Kansas City Chiefs. The Seattle Seahawks or Chiefs might be the only others in the conversation for your defensive play.

QB Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh Steelers (25.76)—If he could stay upright and healthy for a full season, he might have a chance to average the near 350-3 he put up Sunday against the Cleveland Browns. A healthy Big Ben, Le’Veon Bell (knee), Brown, Martavis Bryant and Markus Wheaton is a scary proposition. The Cincinnati Bengals better be ready for a shootout, especially since Big Ben hasn’t played well against them this season. Payback might be coming in spades.

QB Kellen Moore, Dallas Cowboys (25.4)—His 435-3 is as surprising as it is worthless for fantasy owners. There is no way he’s a starter in the NFL, but he might have earned himself a solid backup role for 2016.

QB Matthew Stafford, Detroit Lions (24.92)—Something really started clicking for Stafford and the Lions offensively after the coordinator change. There is likely an offseason of turnover coming, but Stafford (298-3) is smack dab in his prime with his arrow is still pointing up in fantasy for 2016.

WR Calvin Johnson, Detroit Lions (24.7)—He is no longer a first- or second-round draft pick, but his 10-137-1 caps a strong finish and makes him a steady 80-1,100-10 candidate at age 31 next season.

RB Rashad Jennings, New York Giants (24.6)—The Giants saved the veteran’s legs in the early season, but his 27-170-1 came too late to help most fantasy owners. The fact he will be 31 next season should preclude him from being slotted as a feature back or even a starter ever again, either.

QB Ryan Tannehill, Miami Dolphins (23.7)—As much as you might not be impressed with Tannehill yet, he is going to be due for a 4,500-30 breakthrough next season with a burgeoning star in WR Jarvis Landry (111-1,159-4) and 2016 breakout threat WR DeVante Parker (5-106-1 Sunday). Here’s to hoping the Dolphins get a gunslinging play-caller as offensive coordinator with their new regime.

WR Brandon Marshall, New York Jets (22.6)—Whether or not you care for the Jets or Marshall, FanDuel players are going to miss having him as an option in postseason contests. The 31-year-old finished 8-126-1 and posted arguably the best season of his strong, but controversial career at 109-1,502-14. You have to crop his 2016 projections down to 80-1,000-10, but he should still outproduce expectations that are set low by the game-manager at quarterback, Ryan Fitzpatrick.

WR Terrance Williams, Dallas Cowboys (21.3)—He saved his best for last with 8-173-0 and should be a sleeper to go 80-1,000-10 next season at age 27 if the Cowboys can find more health and consistency at quarterback.

QB Russell Wilson, Seattle Seahawks (21.18)—His monster second half, capped by his 197-3 Sunday, puts him in the conversation for one of the top five fantasy quarterbacks for 2016. You might not love his matchup at the Minnesota Vikings next Sunday, but that matchup returned monster production in Week 13. We will be curious to see how the return of Marshawn Lynch (hernia) might affect the Seahawks’ offensive approach, because it took the Lynch injury for Wilson to take off this season.

WR Jordan Matthews, Philadelphia Eagles (20.9)—There is change coming in Philly, but Matthews proved with his strong finish (7-54-2) and season (85-997-8) that he is a No. 1 fantasy wideout no matter who the quarterback is or whom is calling the plays.

QB Matt Ryan, Atlanta Falcons (20.36)—He has proven he is no longer a star fantasy quarterback, but he will lead the pack of the drafted backups. There are going to be 350-3 performances, but the Falcons need someone to play off WR Julio Jones (136-1,871-8).

WR Demaryius Thomas, Denver Broncos (20.2)—His 5-117-1 was highlighted by his long catch and run with QB Brock Osweiler in the game, but he is far more intriguing for the second week of the postseason with a healthy Manning under center. We cannot wait to see what his price and matchup are, because there should be some FanDuel value coming our way here.

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QB Blake Bortles, Jacksonville Jaguars (5.56)—Despite the 35-touchdown Year 2 breakthrough, he choked in his fantasy finale with two interceptions, a fumble and no touchdowns. This performance proved he’s not ready to be an elite fantasy quarterback. Those are guys immune to tough matchups, which Bortles clearly wasn’t here. It’s a shame after all he has done for us in FanDuel action this season.

QB Tom Brady, New England Patriots (5.26)—Our bitter FanDuel selves might be seeking retribution from Brady and the Pats by watching them regret not putting away the AFC home-field advantage against the lame-duck Dolphins. Just 134 yards and no touchdowns? We haven’t seen a performance like that from Brady since Week 17 of 2014. On second thought, perhaps we should have known better.

RB DeAngelo Williams, Pittsburgh Steelers (3.1)—The matchup against the Browns should have revealed a stud, not a dud. He rushed just five times for eight yards, ruining what was a fantasy MVP-like second half.

WR Martavis Bryant, Pittsburgh Steelers (0.5)—One catch for no yards? Come on, dude. This was the Browns, not the ’85 Bears. The only good thing to say about this is Bryant will be a cheap option if he can avoid the injury report this week.

TE Julius Thomas, Jacksonville Jaguars (2.2)—He had some moments with Bortles this season, but his 2015 finished the way it started…in the toilet. Just two catches for 12 yards and another Jags player who proved he is not elite because he is not immune to tough matchups.


3.

Cam Newton And Antonio Brown Co-#DFS-MVP’s

It was good year in Daily Fantasy Football and it is made even better when several people #win big using your reports, along with the Lineup-Analyzer – Straight-Ca$h-Homey!  With that, let’s took a look back with performances from “Eli Manning’s and Drew Brees’s shootout to David Johnson’s clutch performance in the fantasy playoffs,” Michael Beller presents the 12 best performances of the 2015 fantasy football season.


4.

These Times They Are A Changin’

Television is going to change.  It already has for most of us, and just like newspapers, if the cable/satellite companies continue to fail in understanding how people are consuming media – they will find a similar fate.  The first battle is being fought with Major League Baseball and as outlined in the Hollywood Reporter, MLB, its 30 teams, DirecTV and Comcast will have to defend the status quo in a class-action lawsuit that will change how games are distributed.  This could mean that small-market clubs and TV revenues are in danger by cord-cutters.


5.

Ultimate Value Lineup – Week 17

All we want to do is provide you valuable information at a great price.  We’ve already helped hundreds of people learn how to make some extra lettuce playing fantasy sports; so let us Teach You How to #win!

Giving you the Perfect Lineup is easy and we tweet it, post it on Facebook and create an entire post about our RESULTS, so……What about if you had the greatest value lineup of all time?  A Lineup that every player chosen had low ownership, way less, and never cost you more than $6k – well my friends this is the Ultimate Value Lineup – culled directly from the numbers and our reports – look for us on twitter when we post the less than 12% lineup and follow along with the value-madness!!!

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Peyton Manning responds to HGH allegations; #NFL Week 16 upsets – MMQB with Peter King

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A strange weekend of football

The 10 stories that hit me over the head Sunday:

There’s one head-to-head division title game in Week 17, and it will be game 256. Minnesota (10-5) at Green Bay (10-5) was flexed to the Sunday night game next week, meaning the last game of the regular season will be a second straight frigid Sunday night game in the Great North. Forecast for Green Bay next Sunday: no snow, wind chill of about 10 degrees. But will the friendly confines help? Green Bay, trying for its fifth straight NFC North title, is 4-5 since Halloween (and would be 3-6 if not for Aaron Rodgers’ Hail Mary of all Hail Marys on Dec. 3 at Detroit). Incredible to think the team that started 6-0 with visions of home-field through the playoffs is now one loss away from traveling to Washington to play a wild-card game in two weeks. “We will bounce back,” said Green Bay coach Mike McCarthy. “That’s the way we are wired.” Perhaps. But the Packers haven’t looked like the Packers since September, and it’s too late to think McCarthy can just flip a switch and life will return to normal.

Pittsburgh? Really? My Pittsburgh friends shrieked “Tomlin must go” after Sunday’s totally embarrassing 20-17 loss at Baltimore, which made Pittsburgh’s playoff chances sub-50 percent. For the Steelers to make the postseason, they’d need to beat the Browns Sunday while Rex Ryan beats the Jets … or while Denver loses Monday night to the Bengals and next week to the Chargers, both games at home. Who knows? Rex would trade five years off his life to keep the Jets from the playoffs, so we shall see. But the Steelers were my fifth-ranked team last week, and to see them dominated by first-time Ravens starter Ryan Mallett was a stunner. The Steelers forgot this was a rivalry game, and Ben Roethlisberger was surprisingly mediocre, with his second touchdown-less game in the last three weeks.

Pop the corks, Dolphins. For the 43rd straight season, there won’t be a perfect NFL team. Formerly 14-0 Carolina is now 14-1 Carolina. This one felt different for the ’72 Dolphins, though, because coach Don Shula’s son Mike is the Carolina offensive coordinator, and Mike Shula said his dad wanted Carolina to be unbeaten more than he (Mike) did. But Carolina was flawed for the second straight week. Last week they gave up a 28-point lead to the Giants before pulling out a late win; this week they were flat, and Cam Newton played his first average game in a while. Carolina could still lose home-field in the NFC with a loss to Tampa Bay and a Cardinals win over the Seahawks on Sunday.

Did Cam open the MVP door a bit for Carson Palmer? I discuss below, but it’s not impossible.

There’s a difference in the J-E-T-S Jets Jets Jets. It’s called offense.Against the best team in the AFC on Sunday, New York rushed for 143 yards, threw three touchdown passes, protected the quarterback serviceably against a good Patriots pass rush, and drove 80 yards to start overtime after New England coach Bill Belichick chose to begin OT by giving the ball to the Jets. In all, the only thing that could have made the day better for the Jets would have been Rex Ryan losing.

LaAdrian Waddle—yes, that LaAdrian Waddle—could all of a sudden be a key player for the Patriots. Waddle, waived by the Lions and picked up by New England two weeks ago, became the fifth left tackle for the Patriots in 15 games Sunday when Sebastian Vollmer went out against the Jets with an ankle sprain. New England is the black hole of injury reporting, so no one knows how bad Vollmer is … and then Waddle went out with what appeared to be shoulder or neck injury. Cameron Fleming finished the game on the left side. Waddle and Fleming combined to give up five pressures, according to Pro Football Focus, and Tom Brady was pressured, sacked or hit 17 times against the Jets. Seemed like more……(continue reading)

Source: Peyton Manning responds to HGH allegations; NFL Week 16 upsets | The MMQB with Peter King

10 takeaways from #NFL Week 15

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How is that for some drama-filled NFL action?

The New York Giants mounted an amazing comeback attempt against the Carolina Panthers with a backdrop of tempers flaring on both sides.

Meanwhile, the Arizona Cardinals clinched the NFC West title after obliterating the Philadelphia Eagles on the road Sunday night.

In the AFC, the Pittsburgh Steelers may have changed the playoff race on a dime with a 17-point comeback win against the Denver Broncos.

Staying in that conference for a second, a Buffalo Bills loss to the Washington Redskins guaranteed that Rex Ryan’s squad will miss the playoffs for a 17th consecutive season. It also gave Washington a clear path to the NFC East title.

These are among the top 10 takeaways from Sunday’s Week 15 NFL action.

A frustrated Odell Beckham Jr. should face a suspension

It’s understandable that this talented young New York Giants receiver would be frustrated going up against one of the top corners in the NFL in Josh Norman of the Carolina Panthers.

It’s not understandable to react in a manner that shows him in a classless way.

What we do know now is that the NFL believes Beckham Jr. should have been ejected from the game. It remains to be seen what the league office will do during the week, but all options should be considered to be on the table here.

On a micro level, this could end up being really bad news for a Giants squad that needs a ton of help in order to win the NFC East. If it is forced to take on the Minnesota Vikings without its top receiver, that could be the end of the line for New York’s playoff aspirations.

More than this, the spats between Beckham Jr. and Norman, which resulted in five personal foul penalties, was a black eye for a league that has had too many of them in recent months/years.

For that, Beckham Jr. — as the unofficial face of young players around the NFL — should be ashamed.

Time to take the Kansas City Chiefs seriously

Following a blowout 34-14 win over the hapless Baltimore Ravens, Kansas City has now won eight consecutive games. And at 9-5 on the year, the Chiefs find themselves in control of their own destiny as it relates to the fifth seed in the AFC.

This is big for numerous reasons. First off, if the Chiefs are able to maintain this seeding, they would take on the winner of the AFC South in the wild card round of the playoffs.

Considering how bad that division has been, Kansas City might very well have an easy road to the divisional round of the playoffs.

The other thing to look at here is what could be a potential wild card game in the AFC that could see an Andy Dalton-less Cincinnati Bengals host the sixth seed. What’s so big about that is that Kansas City could find itself taking on the Denver Broncos in the divisional round.

Not to put the carriage before the horse, Kansas City still has two games remaining — each against a team that is currently under .500 on the season.

This scenario also includes the possibility that Kansas City could win the AFC West outright should the Denver Broncos do them some favors in the final two weeks of the season.

If the Chiefs are able to take care of business in those two outings, they will head into the playoffs with a 10-game winning streak.

Based solely on what we saw Sunday against Baltimore, there’s a good chance this will happen.

Alex Smith had a workmanlike 21-of-25 day with 171 yards as the Chiefs avoided turning the ball over for the sixth time during this eight-game winning streak. Meanwhile, Kansas City forced two turnovers itself to bring its eight-game differential to plus 18.

Washington Redskins look to be NFC East favorites

Kirk Cousins compiled a perfect quarterback rating en route to a four-touchdown outing against the Buffalo Bills on Sunday. It was the team’s sixth win in its past seven home games, a span of games that has seen Cousins throw 19 touchdowns compared to zero interceptions.

Now one game up on both Philadelphia and New York, the Redskins control their own destiny in the division. Though, the team is going to have to find success on the road in order to wrap this mediocre division up. With just one road win on the season, Washington closes out the season in Philadelphia and Dallas.

As it relates to Sunday’s performance, the rest of the team helped Cousins put up a statement against a Bills squad that needed a win in order to remain alive in the AFC playoff race. Alfred Morris and Matt Jones led a rushing attack that went for 123 yards on 27 attempts.

Meanwhile, the defense did just enough to fend off a second half Bills rally that saw the team put up 25 points en route to bringing a 21-point halftime deficit down to 11 at the end of three.

It wasn’t a tremendous performance from Washington’s defense in a 35-25 win, but that unit held on two huge possessions midway through the fourth quarter to put the game away.

Indianapolis Colts and Jacksonville Jaguars blow golden opportunities

Indianapolis lost at home to a Brandon Weeden-led Houston Texans team. It’s highly unlikely you need us to repeat that sentence, but here goes. Indianapolis lost at home to a Brandon Weeden-led Houston Texans team.

That pretty much sums up just how bad the Colts have played this season. It also came in a game that could have sent the team into sole possession of first place in what has been a horrible AFC South this season.

Instead, Indianapolis now finds itself one game back with two remaining. The Colts were also eliminated from wild card contention, meaning the division title is the team’s only path to the playoffs.

With the second season now looking like a long shot, the larger question here is whether Chuck Pagano will be back next year. Based on Sunday’s performance in particular, that also seems like a long shot.

You simply can’t lose at home against a team that was led by a third-string quarterback that found himself picked up off the street just earlier this month. Excuses surrounding Andrew Luck’s injury are one thing. Not coming to play in an important game is a completely different thing.

Taking on an Atlanta Falcons team that had lost six of its past seven heading into Sunday’s action, the Jacksonville Jaguars also blew a golden opportunity.

With a win at home, Gus Bradley’s squad would have found itself one game back in the AFC South with two games remaining.  Instead, it is on the verge of being eliminated from playoff contention following a game it had every opportunity to win.

The biggest play in this one came in the second quarter with the clock winding down to halftime. With Jacksonville driving down to Atlanta’s one-yard line, Blake Bortles threw an ill-time interceptions into the hands of Falcons safety Kemal Ishmael, who proceeded to return the ball 84 yards down to the Jaguars 16.

This came with Atlanta up 14-3 and the Jaguars threatening to make it a one-score game. Instead, the Falcons opened up a 17-3 lead heading into the half and didn’t look back.

As good as Bortles has been this season, these types of mistakes have been too common. It’s also the difference between earning a playoff spot and finishing below .500.

Jacksonville surely does have a bright future, but it doesn’t appear to be there quite yet. That much was evident on Sunday.

Another season without playoff football in Western New York

By virtue of their loss to the Washington Redskins on Sunday, the Buffalo Bills will miss the playoffs for the 17th consecutive year.

It’s a harsh reality for a team that headed into the season with high expectations and a confident mentality under first-year head coach Rex Ryan.

And in reality, there isn’t a whole lot pointing to the Bills finding a way to rebound from this near two-decade long span of mediocrity.

To be sure, there is a ton of talent on this team. Tyrod Taylor has proven himself to be a legitimate starting quarterback in the NFL — something Ryan himself hasn’t had since Mark Sanchez’s first couple seasons in New York.

There is also a ton of talent at wide receiver, especially second-year player Sammy Watkins. Heck, LeSean McCoy has proven himself worthy of a potential Pro Bowl spot at running back this year.

On defense, the Bills boast a really good young secondary and a front four that should continue to perform at a relatively high level.

Still, there seems to be something missing here. The past several weeks were defined by close losses and an uncharacteristically bad defense. Prior to that, the Bills’ struggles were mainly summed up by injuries and a lethal amount of penalties.

The talent is surely here for Buffalo to contend for a playoff spot. But something larger needs to change moving forward. This is something Ryan and Co. will have to figure out prior to taking the field next September.

Ship righted in Minnesota

It took Adrian Peterson leaving the game for a bit due to an ankle injury for Teddy Bridgewater to finally break out of his year-long slump Sunday against the Chicago Bears.

He completed 17-of-20 passes for 231 yards with a career-high four touchdowns in a dominating 38-17 home win.

It was the first time all season that Minnesota’s offense ran through its quarterback rather than the future Hall of Fame running back.

It also tells us a story of an offense that could be looking at more balance heading into the final two weeks of the season — something that will be a necessity when all is said and done. It’s rather simple for the Vikings to get into the playoffs. If they are able to win one of the final two games, they are in.

More than this, Minnesota isn’t completely out of the NFC North race. It takes on the Giants next week before squaring off with the Green Bay Packers to close out the regular season. If the pieces all into place here, Minnesota could very well earn the division title.

Antonio Brown is a freak of nature

Following a 16-catch performance against the Denver Broncos on Sunday, Brown has now caught 245 passes in his past 30 games. Yes folks, that’s an average of over eight catches per game. He’s also caught 70 percent of the whopping 165 passes thrown in his direction this season.

It doesn’t take a genius to realize that Brown is playing at a level we have rarely seen as it relates to NFL receivers. On Sunday against a top-ranked Broncos defense, that was magnified to a T.

And in reality, Pittsburgh needed every one of those catches — including a game-clinching first-down reception late in the fourth quarter — to complete what was an amazing 17-point comeback to put his team in a position to control its destiny in the AFC playoff race.

Brown isn’t going to break the single-season reception record unless he finds a way to nab 24 receptions over the final two games. This doesn’t discount the fact that he’s been a historical figure for Pittsburgh over the past two seasons.

It just remains to be seen whether that will be enough to get his team in the playoffs in what has proven to be a remarkably good AFC this season.

Cam Newton: NFL’s MVP

The Carolina Panthers survived an incredible comeback attempt by the New York Giants to remain undefeated on the season. They are now just the fourth team in NFL history to start a year 14-0.

With two more wins, the Panthers will earn a bit of history by being only the second team to go through a 16-game regular season with a perfect record.

To be clear: Newton is the primary reason for what has been one of the most-surprising seasons for a team in the recent history of the league.

With five more touchdown passes on Sunday, Newton has reached that plateau in three of his past five starts and has now compiled 40 total touchdowns compared to just 10 interceptions on the season, including a 19-to-1 split over the past five games.

It’s not a coincidence that Carolina is averaging a league-best 32 points per game, including nearly 40 points over the past four games.

We can talk about Russell Wilson’s recent run of excellence. We can also include New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady in the conversation. Heck, both J.J. Watt and Josh Norman might deserve some consideration on the defensive side.

None of them have done more with less than Newton. After all, Ted Ginn is his No. 1 receiver on the outside and Michael Oher has been tasked with protecting his blindside.

Despite all this, Newton has his Panthers two games from perfection in a season that seemed to have mediocrity written all over it. That’s the true representation of most valuable.

Carolina needs to watch out for those western teams

Arizona and Seattle have both clinched playoff spots. They are coming off a week of action which saw them outscore their opponents by a combined 40 points.

Arizona has now won eight consecutive games by an average of 11 points per outing. Meanwhile, Seattle has won five consecutive by an average of 20 points since losing to the Cardinals back in Week 10.

Outside of Carolina and Kansas City, these are the two hottest teams in the NFL. They also boast some of the best all-around talent in the league.

While the Panthers will likely avoid having to play Arizona until the NFC Championship game if both teams were to advance that far, they might have to host Seattle in the divisional round of the playoffs. That would be a less-than-ideal scenario for the unbeaten Panthers.

Not that any of this really matters. Cam Newton and Co. know full well that the road to Santa Clara and Super Bowl 50 will run through Carolina.

It’s now all about continuing to take care of business on the field and not worrying about those squads breathing down their backs. If that happens, the Panthers will be just fine when all is said and done.

Playoff picture taking shape

Six spots, two in the AFC and four in the NFC, have been wrapped up heading into Week 15. Outside of one final wild card spot and the NFC East, playoff positioning is the only drama remaining in the NFC.

Meanwhile, it’s possible we could be looking at tiebreakers making the decision as it relates to the two wild card spots in the AFC.

Here’s what we do know right now.

The Arizona Cardinals, Carolina Panthers and New England Patriots have all clinched division titles. Meanwhile, the Green Bay Packers, Seattle Seahawks and Cincinnati Bengals have locked up playoff spots.

In the ultra-competitive AFC, the Pittsburgh Steelers hold the tiebreaker over the New York Jets for the sixth and final playoff spot.

Winners of eight in a row, Kansas City has a clear hold on the fifth spot. It can also earn the AFC West title with wins in the team’s final two games and help from the Denver Broncos, who have not clinched a playoff spot themselves quite yet.

There is actually a scenario in play here that could exclude the Broncos from the postseason. This would require the Jets winning out with Pittsburgh finishing in a virtual tie with a Denver team that loses one of its final two games. If that were to happen New York would make it in over the Broncos.

Head spinning yet?

Just wait until Week 16 action. Washington travels to Philadelphia for a chance to wrap up the division against an Eagles team that actually still controls its destiny in the NFC East following its blowout loss to Arizona on Sunday.

The Jets host New England in a game it must win in order to remain viable in the AFC playoff race.

Meanwhile, Green Bay travels to the desert to take on a Cardinals team that’s looking to wrap up a first-round bye. A win here by the Packers and they could in fact remain alive for said first-round bye.

Then on Monday night, Cincinnati heads to Denver to take on the Broncos in a game that could decide the No. 2 seed in the AFC — a game that could also help Kansas City earn what would be one of the most shocking division titles in recent NFL history.

Stay tuned. It’s going to be an absolute blast.

Source: Top 10 takeaways from Sunday’s Week 15 action