NFL Divisional Playoffs Preview: Patriots, Cards, Panthers, and Broncos move on

By Joe Hawkes-Beamon

After a 4-0 record last weekend in the wild card round, I can pat myself on the back for accurately picking that Kansas City, Pittsburgh, Seattle and Green Bay would win, but the divisional round is a whole different animal.

Oh yeah, it was the first time in NFL history that all four road teams won in the wild card round.

With three of the four games rematches from the regular season, there is a chance that all four games are going to come down to the wire. The teams that can execute in crunch time, limit the bone-head mistakes, and penalties will have the greatest chances of playing in next week’s conference championship games.

In the divisional round this weekend, it will be the home teams that will protect their turf with impressive victories and move one step closer to Santa Clara and Super Bowl 50.

Kansas City Chiefs (11-5); 5th seed at New England (12-4); 2nd seed –  Saturday 4:35 p.m. ET/1:35 p.m. PT – CBS

The divisional round is kicked off with Kansas City again, but this time the Chiefs are flying to Foxborough to take on a Patriots team fresh off a bye week.

Kansas City has been the hottest team in football, winners of 11 straight after destroying the Texans 30-0 in Houston last Saturday’s AFC wild card game. It was Kansas City’s first playoff victory in 22 years.

Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce was a difficult cover for the Texans, finishing the game with eight catches for 128 and provided quarterback Alex Smith with a reliable receiver.

Smith’s top playmaker, wide receiver Jeremy Maclin, is dealing with a high-ankle sprain and is a game time decision. Should Maclin play, he will draw the attention of Patriots cornerback Malcolm Butler, who was voted to his first Pro Bowl team this season.

Kansas City does have a solid running game with Charcandrick West and Spencer Ware, who racked up 67 rushing yards. Those two will be heavily involved in the game plan as the weather in Foxborough calls for rain, which makes Kansas City’s running game that much vital if they have a chance to knockoff New England. Ware is dealing with an ankle injury as well, but should be ready to go.

The last time Kansas City played New England, the Chiefs thumped the Patriots 41-14 at Arrowhead last season, prompting talks that Patriots quarterback Tom Brady was old and it was time for him to retire.

Brady, who finished the regular season with 36 touchdowns and a 102.2 passer rating (his best numbers in four seasons), should have his full compliment of targets in tight end Rob Gronkowski, and wide receivers Danny Amendola, and Julian Edelman at his disposal.

All three players missed time during the regular season, but New England continued to find ways to win games, but are entering the playoffs with a 2-4 record, the worst six-game record under head coach Bill Belichick to end the season.

Brady was sacked 38 times in the regular season, third-worst in his career. Kansas City has one of the best pass rushes in the league, finishing with 47 sacks, which was two behind New England’s defensive unit.

Kansas will have to provide pressure on Brady and force him to be uncomfortable in the pocket. If you allow Brady to have time to survey the field, he will find the open man and will hurt you.

“Any time you can get to the quarterback and put pressure on him, or make him uncomfortable in the pocket, you can create turnovers,” said Kansas City linebacker Justin Houston this week. “Every week that’s our plan, that’s our goal: Dominate every snap.”

Kansas City forced 29 turnovers this season after just mustering 13 last season. Rookie cornerback Marcus Peters finished tied in the NFL with Bengals safety Reggie Nelson with eight interceptions.

The player to watch for New England is defensive end Chandler Jones, who was hospitalized last Sunday for a “medical emergency.” Jones did apologize to his teammates and coaches Thursday for what he termed as a “stupid mistake” on his part.

Jones recorded 12.5 sacks this season, which was fifth in the league.

The Chiefs look to snap a five-game losing streak in New England, but it’s really tough to pick against Belichick and the Patriots when they’ve had two weeks to prepare.

Chiefs 21 – Patriots 30

Green Bay (10-6); 5th seed at Arizona Cardinals (13-3); 2nd seed –  Saturday 8:15 p.m. ET/5:15 p.m. PT – NBC

In Week 16, Arizona hammered Green Bay 38-8, in which the Cardinals registered nine sacks. The game got out of hand very quickly as the Cardinals held the Packers to just 178 yards of total offense, which was their second-worst offensive output this season.

In addition to the nine sacks, Arizona’s defense scored two touchdowns as Green Bay’s offensive line had no chance at protecting quarterback Aaron Rodgers.

Green Bay found themselves down 11-0 in a NFC wild card game last week to Washington, before waking up and pulling away from the Redskins 35-18.

One player who really wanted to get another shot at the Cardinals is Rodgers, who was sacked eight times on Dec. 27.

“We kind of felt like this was a possibility to be able to go back after that loss,” said Rodgers per the Packers’ official website. “We’re coming off, obviously, a big win, and in (the Cardinals’) last game they got beat by a lot. So it’s going to be a more competitive game, I bet.”

Arizona got ran out of its own building by NFC West rival Seattle 36-6 in Week 17 to close out the regular season.

Carson Palmer, Arizona’s 36-year-old signal-caller, will attempt to win his first career playoff game for the third time. Palmer set franchise records for a quarterback in passing yards (4,671) and touchdown passes (35). The 13-year veteran leads a Cardinals’ offense that finished first in the league in total yards per game (408.3) and second in points per game (30.6).

In the Dec. 27 meeting, Palmer finished 18 of 27 for 265 yards, two touchdowns, one interception and was sacked twice.

Green Bay’s defense harassed Washington’s quarterback Kirk Cousins, sacking him six times.

Cousins is definitely not Palmer, but Green Bay’s defensive coordinator Dom Capers will need to neutralize Palmer and prevent him from getting the ball to wide receivers Larry Fitzgerald (109 catches, 1,215 yards, 9 TDs), John Brown (65 catches, 1,003 yards, 7 TDs), and Michael Floyd (52 catches, 849 yards, 6 TDs).

Rookie running back David Johnson, who has stepped in nicely for injured starting running back Chris Johnson (no relation), combined for 127 yards receiving and rushing and a touchdown against the Packers this season. Johnson finished the season with 13 total touchdowns and could prove to be the difference maker for Arizona.

The game will be closer than it was in Week 16, but the Cardinals are tough at the University of Phoenix Stadium this season (7-1) in what could be a Saturday night spectacular.

In their previous playoff meeting in 2009, Rodgers threw for 423 yards, four touchdowns, and one interception, but it was the forced fumble and recovery by then-Cardinals linebacker Karlos Dansby for the game winning score that prove to be the difference in Arizona’s 51-45 overtime victory.

That was Rodgers’ first playoff start.

Packers 27 – Cardinals 33

Seattle (10-6); 6th seed at Carolina Panthers (15-1); 1st seed –  Sunday 1:05 p.m. ET/10:05 a.m. PT – FOX

This is the marquee game of the weekend in my eyes. Two teams that are so evenly matched with two outstanding quarterbacks and defenses that will hit you in the mouth.

In all honesty, Seattle has no business even playing this weekend.

The Seahawks’ season were brought back from the dead after Minnesota’s kicker Blair Walsh missed a 27-yard field goal that would’ve won the game, but held on to a 10-9 victory on the road in Minnesota in last Sunday’s NFC wild card game. Seattle is looking to advance to the NFC Championship game for the third straight year, but will need to put up a herculean effort if they are going to get passed Carolina.

Let’s not forget it was Carolina who went to Seattle last year in the divisional round and lost to the Seahawks 31-17, en route to Seattle’s second straight Super Bowl appearance.

This season, Carolina enacted a bit of revenge when they traveled to Seattle again in Week 6 and beat the Seahawks in a gritty, 27-23, come-from-behind victory. Panthers quarterback Cam Newton threw two first-half interceptions before leading Carolina back from a 13-point deficit in the second half, and hitting his favorite target in tight end Greg Olsen for a 26-yard touchdown catch down the middle of the field with 32 seconds remaining in the game.

Newton, who is one of the favorites to win the league’s MVP award, especially with being the only quarterback in NFL history to throw for 30 touchdowns and rushing for 10 touchdowns, completed 20 of 36 passes for 269 yards. Newton also racked up 30 yards rushing and a touchdown.

After the game, Panthers head coach Ron Rivera said that game was “one of the bigger victories we’ve had since I’ve been here.”

Panthers safety Roman Harper recently said that Carolina is “the better team.” “We need to go out and show confidence in who we are and the things we have done all year – and don’t shy away from the pressure.”

“After we played them, (in Week 6), we said “We’ll see you again in the playoffs,” Josh Norman, the Panthers’ Pro Bowl cornerback told Carolina’s official website.

Boy, I can’t wait for this game!

Carolina would make a huge statement in knocking off Seattle. Carolina hasn’t been to the NFC Championship game since 2005, where they lost at Seattle 34-14.  Many believe Seattle are peaking at the right time.

Dealing in the frigid conditions of Minnesota where the temperature was below-zero, Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson completed 13 of 26 passes for 142, one touchdown and one interception.

Wide receiver Doug Baldwin caught five passes for 52 yards and a touchdown. Baldwin had a breakout season, finishing with 78 catches for 1,069 yards and 14 touchdowns. Seattle’s top receiver should see a lot of Norman, who can get under a wide receiver’s skin with his trash talking and suffocating-like cover skills.

Running back Marshawn Lynch is expected to play this week after not making the trip to Minnesota last week. Lynch should provide Seattle with a much needed running game to take a little of the pressure off of Wilson.

Seattle’s top-ranked run defense (81.5 yards per game)was on full display last week, holding NFL rushing champion Adrian Peterson to 45 yards on 23 carries.

One thing is for certain, there will be a streak that will come to an end Sunday, either Carolina’s 11 game home winning streak, or Seattle’s franchise record six game road playoff win streak – which includes last week’s victory in Minnesota.

Its a toss up, but Carolina looks like the time is now for them to take the next step.

Seahawks 17 – Panthers 20

Pittsburgh (10-6); 6th seed at Denver (12-4); 1st seed –  Sunday 4:40 p.m. ET/1:40 p.m. PT – CBS

With quarterback Ben Roethlisberger hampered by a shoulder injury and will be limited Sunday and wide receiver Antonio Brown out with a concussion, there is no way that Pittsburgh is going to travel to Denver and take out the Broncos Sunday to close out the divisional round.

Denver’s secondary is much healthier now than it was on Dec. 20 where Roethlisberger completed 40 of 55 passes for 380 yards and three touchdowns, and Brown caught 16 passes for 189 yards and two touchdowns, all season-highs for any opponent against Denver’s tough defense.

Denver did record two interceptions and three sacks off of Roethlisberger in the Week 15 encounter.

Roethlisberger is the only quarterback to throw over 300 yards against Denver this season.

“We got lucky the first time,” said Roethlisberger via the Pittsburgh Post Gazette. “We made plays, they had guys injured, we were at home. It’s not going to be that easy (again).”

Pittsburgh slipped by AFC North rival Cincinnati 18-16 last Saturday in an AFC wild card match up. The Steelers were aided by back-to-back Cincinnati penalties in the fourth quarter that setup kicker Chris Boswell’s 35-yard game winning field goal in the closing seconds of the game.

Denver will start quarterback Peyton Manning in Sunday’s contest. Backup quarterback Brock Osweiler completed 21 of 44 passes for 296 yards and three touchdowns, but this will be Manning’s show.

Wide receivers Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders combined for 15 catches, 242 yards and three touchdowns on Dec. 20, gives Manning the necessary targets to exploit a Steelers’ defense that ranks 30th in the NFL in passing defense yielding 271.9 yards per game this season.

Denver has won eight of their last 11 meetings against Pittsburgh at Mile High, including a 29-23 overtime thriller in a AFC wild card game on Jan 8, 2012 behind a Tim Tebow 80-yard touchdown pass to Thomas.

Steelers 21 – Broncos 35

Stats provided by Elias Sports Bureau,,  and STATS LLC.


NFL Wild Card Weekend Preview: Road teams get it done

By Joe Hawkes-Beamon

emblem from: NFL logo

If you’re like me, you have to love the single-elimination that is the NFL playoffs. One game to decide who moves on and who is packing up for a long offseason after a grueling 17 weeks (16-game) NFL season.

No disrespect to the NBA, MLB, and NHL for their playoff series’s where if you lose a game, its not the end of the world, but when you talk about the playoffs in any sport, in all honesty, the NFL playoffs is where its at.

The march to Super Bowl 50 on Feb. 7 in Santa Clara starts Saturday with Wild Card Weekend and with some intriguing match ups, I hope you’re like me (a football die-hard), ready for the games to begin.

Since the NFL instituted the Wild Card round in 1978, only 10 teams have made it to the Super Bowl.

Out of those 10 teams, six have gone on to win the Lombardi Trophy (the 1980 Oakland Raiders, the 1997 Denver Broncos, the 2000 Baltimore Ravens, the 2005 Pittsburgh Steelers, the 2007 New York Giants, and 2010 Green Bay Packers.)

With all that said, it wouldn’t be a surprise if the road teams get it done this weekend.

Kansas City Chiefs (11-5); 5th seed at Houston Texans (9-7); 4th seed –  Saturday 4:35 p.m. ET/1:35 p.m. PT – ESPN

Sure its been 22 years since Kansas City has won a playoff game (currently tied with the Detroit Lions for the most consecutive playoff losses with eight), but the Chiefs are arguably the hottest team in the NFL closing out the season with 10 straight wins.

Remember, people counted out the Chiefs when they were 1-5 and lost star running back Jamaal Charles for the season with a torn ACL.

Quarterback Alex Smith has played some of his best football for a Chiefs team that defeated the Texans 27-20 in Week 1 down in Houston. Smith threw for 243 yards and three touchdowns, two to tight end Travis Kelce in that game.

Kansas City’s seventh-ranked defense harassed Texans quarterback Brian Hoyer, sacking him four times and intercepting the signal caller once.

Houston does have a dynamic player on offense in wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins, who caught nine passes for 98 yards and two touchdowns against Kansas City in Week 1.

Hopkins had a career year with 111 catches for 1,521 yards and 11 touchdowns (all Texans records), while becoming the only wide receiver in NFL history to have 100-yard receiving games with four different quarterbacks this season (Hoyer, Ryan Mallet, T.J. Yates, and Brandon Weeden.)

No wonder why Hopkins, along with teammate defensive end J.J. Watt (NFL-best 17.5 sacks), were selected as All-Pros at their respective positions.

This could be a close game, but the Chiefs look prime to snap its playoff drought.

Chiefs 24 – Texans 19

Pittsburgh (10-6); 6th seed at Cincinnati Bengals (12-4); 3rd seed –  Saturday 8:15 p.m. ET/5:15 p.m. PT – CBS

These two AFC North rivals are meeting up for the third time this season after splitting two games during the regular season, each winning on the others’ home field.

Cincinnati won the AFC North, but are heading into the game with backup quarterback A.J. McCarron under center. McCarron will make his fourth start for the Bengals after coming in for starter Andy Dalton, who broke his thumb in Cincinnati’s 33-20 home loss to Pittsburgh on Dec. 13.

Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis (0-6) is still seeking his first career postseason victory. If Cincinnati doesn’t win Saturday, will Lewis be patrolling the sidelines for the Bengals in 2016?

Just like Chiefs, the Bengals are on a seven-game losing streak in the playoffs (25 years to be exact.) In fact, Cincinnati is the only team in NFL history to have lost four consecutive opening-round games.

Sure with Dalton being out, Lewis does have a built in excuse, but the way coaches are being fired left and right in the NFL, Lewis’ chair is no longer hot, its got to be near nuclear.

Pittsburgh is led by two-time Super Bowl-winning quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who may have to win the game with his arm since the Steelers’ ground game has been decimated by injuries.

Starting running back Le’Veon Bell was loss for the season with a knee injury in Week 8, while backup DeAngelo will not suit up Saturday night after suffering an ankle injury in Pittsburgh’s 28-12 victory in Cleveland. Fitzgerald Toussaint and Jordan Todman will share carries in the backfield.

It was Pittsburgh’s fourth win in five games to close out the regular season.

Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown is a match up nightmare for any team. Brown finished tied with Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones with 136 catches, and second behind Jones with 1,834 yards, and 10 touchdowns.

Pittsburgh’s defense, which hasn’t been as dominate this year as its been in years past, are an opportunistic bunch. The Steelers’ 48 sacks trailed only Denver and New England and their 17 interceptions were tied for sixth in the season.

In their last 16 trips to Paul Brown Stadium, Pittsburgh is 13-3.

As much as I want to pick Cincinnati, there is something that is telling me that Pittsburgh will continue its dominance in the Queen City.

Steelers 27 – Bengals 23

Seattle Seahawks (10-6); 6th seed at Minnesota  Vikings (11-5); 3rd seed –  Sunday 1:05 p.m. ET/10:05 a.m. PT – NBC

If there is one team that is the most dangerous in the playoffs, its got to be the sixth-seeded Seattle Seahawks.

We’ve become accustomed of seeing the two-time NFC champion hammer teams behind the deafening sound of the 12th Man at the CLink during their last two Super Bowl runs, but if there is a team that isn’t afraid of going anywhere and playing anybody with the stakes are at their highest, its Seattle.

Whenever you have a quarterback like Russell Wilson, who became the first quarterback in NFL history to pass for over 4,000 yards, 30 touchdowns, and rush for over 500 yards, and a take no prisoners defense headlined by cornerback Richard Sherman and free safety Earl Thomas, you definitely have a chance to win.

Running back Marshawn Lynch was ruled out for Sunday’s game after being listed as questionable throughout the week. Lynch missed Seattle’s final seven games of the season with a sports hernia.

“Beast Mode” is a big-time playoff performer, rushing for over 100 yards in six of his 10 career playoff games.

Seattle steamrolled Minnesota 38-7 on Dec. 6 thanks in large part to the NFL’s second-ranked defense limiting Vikings running back Adrian Peterson to a season-low 18 yards rushing on eight carries.

If Minnesota has any chance to win on Sunday, they will need more from the NFL rushing champion. With the temperature expected to be below zero at kickoff, Peterson is expected to get a lot of carries.

I’m not sold on Vikings quarterback Teddy Bridgewater.

Bridgewater tends to lock on his receivers and rarely takes chances down field and in the playoffs, you need a quarterback who isn’t afraid of throwing the ball and  Bridgewater looks like a deer in headlights.

Yes, Minnesota does have a good defense, but Seattle and Wilson with their championship pedigree will find a way to make a few more plays than the Vikings, who are hosting their first playoff game in six years Sunday.

Seahawks 27 – Vikings 9

Green Bay Packers (10-6); 5th seed at Washington Redskins (9-7); 4th seed –  Sunday 4:40 p.m. ET/1:40 p.m. PT – FOX

Wild Card Weekend concludes with what has to be the trickiest game to decipher when the Packers travel to Landover, MD to face the Redskins.

Which Packers team will show up on Sunday? The one that looked virtually unbeatable with a 6-0 start, or the team that went 4-6 down the stretch that saw Green Bay lose the NFC North crown to Minnesota at Lambeau Field in Week 17?

Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers finished the season with his lowest completion percentage (60.7) since 2006, and his lowest passer rating (92.7).

Since Rodgers led the Packers to a Super Bowl victory in 2010, Green Bay has lost thee of its last four playoff games. During that march to the Super Bowl, the Packers became just the fourth team to win back-to-back-to-back road playoff games.

Washington is playing with some serious house money with starting quarterback Kirk Cousins having his best season of his career.

Since Week 7, the fourth-year pro leads the league in completion percentage (72.4) and passer rating (119.1) to go along with 23 touchdown passes and only three interceptions. Cousins is one of four quarterbacks to throw at least one touchdown in all 16 games this season, helping Washington win the NFC East.

I like the weapons that Cousins has at his disposal, in particular smooth tight end in Jordan Reed emerging as Cousins’ top target. In his last four games, Reed has been on a tare hauling 29 catches for 378 yards and five touchdowns.

This game could be a shootout as both teams’ defenses are nothing special to write home about. Green Bay is ranked 15th in the league in total defense, while Washington is ranked 28th.

Green Bay has to do a better job of protecting its franchise quarterback, who has been sacked 13 times over the past two games.

In the team’s most recent victory over the Redskins, a 38-20 victory at Lambeau Field for Green Bay, Rodgers shredded Washington throwing a career-high 480 yards and four touchdowns.

Green Bay has won five of their last six meetings against Washington.

Green Bay 30 – Washington 24

Stats provided by Elias Sports Bureau,,  and STATS LLC.







Raiders look to slow down Rodgers, Packers

By Joe Hawkes-Beamon

photo credit: Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rogers

OAKLAND — At 6-7, the Raiders have a chance to reach the .500 mark this late in the season for the first time since finishing 8-8 in 2011 but it will be a tall order with quarterback Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers visiting Coliseum Sunday for Week 15.

Kickoff is at 1:05 p.m. PDT with rain predicted for the forecast. This the first meeting between the two teams in Oakland since 2003, as each of the previous two match-ups occurred in Green Bay.

After a 1-4 stretch in November when the Packers found themselves behind the then first place Minnesota Vikings in the NFC North, Green Bay (9-4) has won back-to-back games and have overtaken Minnesota, who have dropped back-to-back games in December.

If there is ever a game where fans can see two exceptional quarterbacks that are eerily similar in playing styles, then the battle between Chico’s own Rodgers and Fresno’s own Derek Carr is the game.

Both quarterbacks are tied for fourth in the NFL with 28 touchdown passes, while Carr has the advantage in passing yards (3,313 to 3,175), Rodgers has thrown four less interceptions (five to nine) than Carr.

Seven of Carr’s nine interceptions have come in the fourth quarter. Fourth quarter interceptions have been Carr’s Achilles’ heel this season.

Carr and the Raiders had -12 yards of total offense in the first half, but turned things around in the second half with two touchdown passes to lead Oakland to a shocking 15-12 victory in Denver last Sunday.

Carr completed just 12 of 29 passes for 135 yards. His 41.4 completion rating was his lowest for any game this season.

Oakland held a very good Broncos’ offense to just 34 yards rushing, and have held eight of their last 11 opponents under 100 yards rushing. Dissecting the Raiders’ run defense further, they have yielded an average of 55.7 yards rushing per game in the last three games.

Amari Cooper, Oakland’s talented rookie wide receiver who came into the game with a team leading 920 receiving yards, was held without a catch against Denver’s tough secondary. Cooper might be hitting the rookie wall this late in the season, has been dealing with a foot injury this week.

The real story from Oakland’s victory in Denver was the tremendous play from defensive end Khalil Mack.

After being quiet in the first half, Mack was a house on fire in the second half tormenting Denver’s maligned offensive line by recording five sacks, seven tackles (six solo) and a forced fumble while being named the AFC Defensive Player of the Week for his performance. It was Mack’s third straight game with at least two sacks.

Mack, who leads the NFL with 14 sacks, is just two sacks away from Derrick Burgess’ franchise record of 16 sacks he set in 2006,  will have the Packers’ full attention Sunday.

Rodgers and Co. are coming off a 28-7 home victory over the down-trodden Dallas Cowboys in Week 15.

Green Bay’s signal caller completed 22 of 35 passes for 218 yards and two touchdowns against Dallas. The two-time NFL MVP has his lowest completion percentage (61.2) and passer rating (97.5) since becoming the team’s full-time starter in 2008.

Rodgers is hoping that facing Oakland’s 28th ranked pass defense (271.5) will improve those numbers, but Rodgers must be aware that Oakland has gotten to the quarterback as the defense has recorded 19 sacks in the last five games.

Rodgers has been sacked 31 times this season, fourth-most in the NFC.

Sunday will also be the first time that current Raiders’ safety Charles Woodson and Packers’ wide receiver James Jones face their respected former teams.

Woodson, 39, was released by Green Bay in 2013, returned to Oakland and has found the fountain of youth.

The 18-year veteran who helped Green Bay win the Super Bowl in 2010, has played steady this season tied for third in the NFL with five interceptions and ranks first with four forced fumbles.

Jones, who was released by Oakland last year after leading the team with 73 catches and six touchdowns, is tied with tight end Richard Rodgers for the team lead with seven touchdown catches, and second on the team with 660 receiving yards behind fellow wide receiver Randall Cobb’s 737 yards.

Jones’s 18.9 yards per catch leads all NFL wide receivers with 30-plus catches.






The Silver and Black Readies for Green Bay

By Joe Hawkes-Beamon

OAKLAND — After splitting the first two preseason games against the Minnesota Vikings and Detroit Lions, the Oakland Raiders will play their third and final NFC North opponent when they head to Green Bay to take on the Packers Friday night. Friday night’s encounter with the Packers will be a nationally televised game, airing on CBS with JimNantz and Phil Simms in the booth.

The Silver and Black are coming off a dramatic, 27-26, victory at home against the Lions last Friday night.

Matt McGloin engineered a 13-play, 68-yard drive that was punctuated by a 19-yard touchdown strike to wide receiver Brice Butler with just 0:06 remaining. McGloin finished 7-of-15 for 114 yards passing after replacing Derek Carr midway through the fourth quarter, after Carr left the game with what was later diagnosed as a concussion and bruised ribs. Carr did play well before leaving the game, finishing 9-of-16 for 109 yards, including a 3-yard touchdown to tight end Jake Murphy in the third quarter.

Carr passed the standard concussion test as per protocol by the NFL, but won’t play in Friday’s game due to the linger pain in his ribs.

Oakland’s defense got off to a rough start early, finding themselves down 13-0 in the first quarter, but settled down as the game wore on.

One of the team’s key free agent acquisitions in the offseason, cornerback Terrell Brown was burned for a 28-yard touchdown by Detroit’s wide receiver Golden Tate (Detroit’s biggest offseason acquisition).

Linebackers Nick Roach and Khalil Mack each recorded a sack. Mack also finished with two tackles, and appeared more active on the field as he transitions to the speed of the NFL.

Green Bay went into St. Louis and imposed their will on the Rams, leaving the Edward James Dome with a commanding 21-7 victory Saturday night.

Quarterback Aaron Rodgers looked nearly flawless win short work, running the no huddle offense to perfection. Rodgers went 11-of-13 for 128 yards passing, including a 3-yard score to wide receiver Randall Cobb.

Packers linebacker Brad Jones had four tackles, and rookie safety Ha-Ha Clinton-Dix finished with two tackles, and a sack.

The game can be seen locally on KPIX Channel 5, and heard on 98.5 KFOX with the voice of the Raiders, Greg Papa and two-time Super Bowl winning coach, Tom Flores with the call.

Both teams finish up the preseason next Thursday, when the Raiders host the Super Bowl champions Seattle Seahawks, and the Packers will face the Kansas City Chiefs at Lambeau Field.

49ers head to the Frozen Tundra for Wild Card round

By Gabe Schapiro

Playoff football is upon us, and for the San Francisco 49ers the quest for six begins in the not-so-friendly confines of the Frozen Tundra. They’ll be taking on the Green Bay Packers, this Sunday at 1:40pm, at the legendary Lambeau Field. On the final day of the regular season the Packers clinched the NFC North title with a win over the Chicago Bears. The 49ers head into the playoffs as the fifth seed, after winning a Wild Card spot.

In Green Bay, San Francisco will be taking on a team that has and continues to battle injuries, and went through several ups and downs this season. On the bright side for the 49ers, star linebacker Clay Matthews has already been ruled out for the contest. On the not-so-bright side for the 49ers, last weekend the Packers got back the face of their franchise, quarterback Aaron Rodgers. In addition, talented wideout Randall Cobb is also back and is already making an impact.

With Rodgers, Green Bay has a lethal offense. They lost tight end Jermichael Finley earlier this season, but are still loaded with weapons; namely Jordy Nelson, James Jones, and rookie of the year candidate, Eddie Lacy. Despite being without Rodgers for eight games, as a unit they still finished tied for eighth in the league in points scored. They were ranked sixth in passing yards, and in a new development, thanks in large part to Lacy, they ranked seventh in rushing.

Their big weakness is on defense. They’re missing multiple starters, and have been shaky much of the season. They gave up the ninth most points this season, the ninth most passing yards, and the eighth most rushing yards.

Finally, the last potential cause of concern for the 49ers, will be the harsh elements. As of this writing the expected high temperature this Sunday in Green Bay is a freezing -5. No, that’s not a typo. Add in wind chill, and the forecast is calling for Ice Bowl-esque numbers of -30 degrees or lower. It is expected to be one of the coldest games in NFL history.

The Packers are more accustomed to dealing with such frigid weather, but when you’re talking about record-breaking levels of cold, both teams will certainly be feeling the ill effects. I wouldn’t expect it to be a major factor to swing the odds in either direction.

With such bad conditions, look for the winner to be the squad who makes the least mistakes, and establishes the better running game. Thankfully for San Francisco, in the regular season they topped the Packers in both categories.

In addition, of late the 49ers have just had the Packers number. You can throw numbers and everything else out the window, that’s just been the trend. Back in Week 1, San Francisco came away with a 34-28 win over Green Bay. In last years divisional round, these foes faced off, and again the 49ers were victorious, 45-31. Colin Kaepernick has struggled at times this season, but you’d think he was the best QB on the planet if you were just looking at the last two times he faced off with the Packers.

The normal high-scoring affair expectations might need to be tempered because of the conditions. I would expect both sides to lean more heavily on their run game. And generally speaking, that plays in the favor of the 49ers. They have a strong run game, and a significantly better run defense.

With all of that said, anything can happen in the playoffs. Expect the cold, expect some snow, and expect the unexpected.

After Seahawks and Colts loses 49ers are now on four game win streak

by David Zizmor

SANTA CLARA–It’s funny the 49ers looked really good against the Green Bay Packers on opening day they won that first game and they looked really good. 49er quarterback Colin Kaepernick threw for over 400 yards and then they played Seattle and Indianapolis back to back and lost both games in what you might call embarrassing fashion.

The Niners really just got outclassed in both of those games maybe after those two games something woke up with them, maybe the embarrassment was enough for them to get back on track and maybe it was that they were playing two good teams. We all knew that Seattle was going to be tough and that the 49ers had their struggles up in Seattle.

So losing in Seattle wasn’t quite a big surprise losing to he Colts was a surprise at the time but in retrospect losing to the Colts wasn’t such a big surprise. It turned out that the Colts are a really good team, they weren’t only able to beat the 49ers but they beat the Seahawks just a couple of weeks ago. Then they went out on Monday night and beat the Denver Broncos.

The Colts are a good team and their a playoff force to be reckoned with the 49ers may have lost that game but you can’t be embarrassed about losing to the Colts because their apparently quite good. Someone said their one of the top five teams in the league if not top three. So no shame to losing a team that good the 49ers have used it to their advantage.

They have taken and fixed some of the problems in their offensive scheme and moved forward and their playing a lot better football even though they’ve had several injuries they had to fight through and they lost a couple of players here and there for a couple of games Patrick Willis lost a game or two, Ray McDonald was banged up, Aldon Smith is out on indefinite leave as he deals with his problems, and the 49ers are having continuing issues at wide receiver.

The 49ers they got back to do what they did best, their running the ball and passing when the opportunity presents itself and in the last several weeks running back Frank Gore has been just fantastic this is a guy who a lot of people wanted to write him off at age 30 who they said is washed up I don’t know why they would do that in the fact a lot of running backs tend to slow down when they hit that age.

You have to look at each player individually and at age 30 Gore looks just as good as ever maybe he’s not as quick as he once was but nobody is as patient as he is and nobody blocks better than Gore. While maybe he’s not going to break off a 70 yard run he breaks off more double digit runs than anybody in the league. Gore is as dependable as they come in this league he had a great game against the Titans scoring a couple of touchdowns from inside the ten yard line this is a guy whose a leader and when he does well you know the 49ers are going to do well.

David Zizmor covers the NFL for Sportstalk Radio

49ers vs Packers, week 1 preview

By Gabe Schapiro

As the now famous song goes, are you ready for some football? The games that count are finally upon us. Football fans everywhere officially have plans for at least the next 17 Sundays, Mondays, and the occasional Thursday. For the San Francisco 49ers (0-0), the hopeful journey back to another Super Bowl run begins this Sunday at 1:25 PM at Candlestick Park, where they will be taking on the Green Bay Packers (0-0). The matchup is a rematch of last year’s divisional playoff round, where, in a game featuring almost nothing but offense, the 49ers eliminated the Packers on the back of a record-breaking 181 rushing yard performance from QB Colin Kaepernick.

Green Bay, the reigning NFC North Champions, went 11-5 last season, but lost some veteran leadership this offseason. Most notably, WR Greg Jennings and S Charles Woodson were lost to free agency, and WR Donald Driver retired. They still feature a high-powered offense, however, led by the newly anointed highest paid player in the NFL, QB Aaron Rodgers. His receiving corps of Jordy Nelson, James Jones, and Randall Cobb remains strong, TE Jermichael Finley is a coverage headache, and new second round draft pick Eddie Lacy from Alabama should give the team a better running threat then they’ve had in years. On the defensive side of the ball they aren’t elite but they have talent, headlined by OLB Clay Matthews, DE B.J. Raji, and their first round pick from this years draft, DE Datone Jones out of UCLA.

They present a very tough opening week for San Francisco, but it’s one that they matched up well against last season. The 49ers have their stout defense returning, one that allowed just two touchdowns in four preseason games. The Packers weak link on offense is their offensive line, one that the likes of Aldon Smith, Ahmad Brooks, Justin Smith and company hope to take advantage of to give Rodgers some trouble. The San Francisco offensive attack, especially with Kaepernick leading the read-option, was one that Green Bay simply had no answers for. They’ve had an offseason to learn and adjust, but whether they will be able to slow down the dual-threat that Kaepernick brings to the table remains to be seen.

Beyond Kaepernick, the 49ers final 53-man roster consists of several weapons that the Green Bay defense will have to account for. At receiver, hoping to pick up the slack for the injured Michael Crabtree and Mario Manningham, they have the new additions of Anquan Boldin through free agency and their fourth round pick Quinton Patton. Boldin is a battle-tested veteran who already appears to have an established chemistry with Kaepernick. Patton, who due to a finger injury only played in two preseason games, has already shown flashes of his explosiveness and potential. Of course, the immensely talented Vernon Davis is back at tight end, as well as the workhorse Frank Gore in the backfield. Davis had a down year last season, but flourished in the playoffs, and Gore has been the definition of consistency through his career.

These two historic franchises both appear to have the pieces in place to be strong contenders again this season. One way or another, it should prove to be an awfully entertaining game as this rivalry intensifies.

Game Notes: This week the Packers added two recently cut 49er quarterbacks, Scott Tolzien and Seneca Wallace…The 49ers traded LB Cam Johnson to the Colts for a future seventh round draft choice, and signed WR Chris Harper, a fourth round pick this year, from the Seahawks practice squad.