That’s Amaury’s News and Commentary: Rams and Patriots–Amaury takes aim at who will be the winner in Super Bowl LIII

Photo credit: @NBCSAuthentic

On That’s Amaury’s News and Commentary podcast:

#1 The Super Bowl is here, but not without controversy in the AFC Championship game, a call that went against the Kansas City Chiefs for roughing Tom Brady, the Patriots quarterback, changed the direction of the game and the Chiefs lost by a touchdown.

#2 In the NFC Championship, the Los Angeles Rams got a no call from the officials when the Rams’ Nickeel Robey-Coleman went helmet to helmet with the New Orleans Saints’ Tommylee Lewis and there was no personal foul call against Coleman on the play. Again, a loss for the Saints 26-23 and no Super Bowl.

#3 Does Amaury believe that these non-calls or bad calls led up to New England and Los Angeles getting in the Super Bowl and the fix was in to get the larger TV market teams or was it just coincidence that it turned out this way?

#4 Who does Amaury like in Super Bowl LIII?

#5 Amaury talks about his past experiences covering Super Bowls.

Amaury Pi Gonzalez does News and Commentary each week at http://www.sportsradioservice.com

The Fantasy Football Doctors Podcast Gets Real: Who will win the Championship games on Sunday?

rams vs saints
Rams vs. Saints in the early game Photo: @NFL

Your hosts: Dr. Vasu Vaddiparty & Dr. Charlie O

  • Is it unusual to have teams that met in the regular season face each other in the Conference Championship games?
  • How will those previous meetings affect the games on Sunday?
  • New England will not have home field advantage on Sunday — How will that play into that outcome of their game?
  • What effect will the “Full Blood Wolf Moon” have on the games?
  • How much influence will Special Teams have in these games?
  • What effect will the weather in Kansas City have in that game?
  • Will offense or defense win the games?
  • Vegas is being very conservative with these games – do you agree?
  • We go on the record picking who we think is going to the Super Bowl!

Come on and join the fun … Push play now!

Headline Sports podcast with London Marq: Former pitcher Wetteland up on child sex abuse charges; NFL Championships game predictions; plus more

Photo credit: @nypost

On the Headline Sports podcast with London:

#1 Former Major League pitcher John Wettland, who pitched for the Los Angeles Dodgers, Montreal Expos, New York Yankees and Texas Rangers, was arrested for continuous sexual abuse with a child under 14. The abuse was reportedly to have taken place between 2004-2009.

#2 NFL Championships game and the road to the Super Bowl. London makes his predictions: New England and the Kansas City Chiefs in the AFC.

#3 In the NFC Championship: The Los Angeles Rams and New Orleans Saints. One of these teams are just one game shy of getting into the Super Bowl.

#4 The Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck will be replacing the Los Angeles Chargers quarterback Phillip Rivers in the Pro Bowl. In the regular season, Luck completed passes 67.3 percent of the time for 4,593 yards and 39 touchdowns.

#5 The NHL All-Star game will be in San Jose on Saturday, January 26 without Alex Ovechkin, who’s the Washington Capitals star.

London Marq does the Headline podcast at http://www.sportsradioservice.com each Wednesday

Sports Monday: The NFL Playoffs never lacks excitement

Photo credit: @NFL

By Joe Hawkes-Beamon
SRS Contributor

Like most football fans, I was glued to my couch for most of the weekend watching the NFL’s best weekend of the year: the divisional round of the playoffs.

The divisional round usually features the best competitive games of the year as the eight remaining teams fight for their right to play in the conference championship games the very next week; with the winners heading to the Super Bowl.

With the Falcons losing to the Eagles, 15-10, in Philadelphia to kickoff the divisional round Saturday, their will be a new NFC Champion heading to Minneapolis on Feb. 4 for Super Bowl 52.

Sixth-seeded Atlanta (11-7) was trying to make a return trip to the NFC Championship Game and eventually back to the Super Bowl after last year’s painful loss in the Big Game to the New England Patriots after dropping a 28-3 lead, but Matt Ryan and Co. couldn’t get pass an Eagles team that were heavy underdogs coming into the game even as the NFC’s top seed with a 13-3 regular season and home field advantage.

And oh yeah, Philadelphia was playing without MVP front-runner and franchise quarterback Carson Wentz, who was lost for the season with a torn anterior crucial ligament in his left knee he suffered against the Rams in Los Angeles in Week 14.

Backup quarterback Nick Foles made every Eagles fan hold their collective breaths whenever he took a snap, played efficient football throwing for 246 yards on 23-of-30 passing with no touchdowns, but more importantly, zero interceptions. Foles kept Atlanta’s defense off guard for most of the afternoon as Philadelphia controlled the football for 32 minutes, compared to 28 minutes for the Falcons. Philadelphia converted 6-of-13 on third downs, while the Falcons were just 4-of-13 on third down conversions.

But the Falcons still had a chance to win a game, but Ryan and superstar wide receiver Julio Jones couldn’t connect on fourth-and-two from the Eagles’ own two-yard line with 1:05 left in the game. Jones, who finished with nine catches for 101 yards, slipped in the end zone and saw the pass slip right through his hands. Even if Jones makes the catch, his feet would’ve been out of bounds when you look at the replay.

Jones felt that he should’ve came up with the catch and made no excuses after the game.

“It was a sprintout, a rollout to me,” said Jones after the game per ESPN’s Vaughn McClure following the game. “Trying to take advantage of one-on-one [coverage] down there.

“I don’t know, but at the end of the day, I can make those plays. I ended up on the ground when I came out of my route. And that’s a tough call [for the official] to make during that situation in the game. That was it.”

Ryan finished the game throwing for 210 yards on 22-of-36 passing. Atlanta’s franchise quarterback did throw a six-yard touchdown to running back Devonta Freeman to give the Falcons a 10-6 lead in the second half, but Atlanta’s red zone woes that haunted them in the regular season (23rd in the NFL in red zone efficiency at 49.1-percent per ESPN Stats and Info), reared its ugly head.

“Just keep on disrespecting and we’re going to keep proving people wrong,” said Eagles wide receiver Alshon Jeffrey after the game to David Murphy of the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Philadelphia (14-3) will host the Minnesota Vikings next Sunday at Lincoln Financial Field for the NFC Championship at 6:40 p.m. ET, which should be a great matchup given what the Vikings had to do to setup a date with the Eagles with a chance to play the Super Bowl in their own building, which would be the first time a team would play in the stadium where the Super Bowl is being held in NFL history.

Minnesota (14-3) had to rely on a 61-yard touchdown thrown from quarterback Case Keenum to wide receiver Stefon Diggs with 10 seconds remaining down the sideline to pull out an improbable 29-24 victory over the New Orleans Saints in the other NFC divisional playoff game Sunday. The play was reminiscent of a walk-off home run in baseball for the home team.

Diggs’ heart-pounding score sent a raucous sold out crowd at U.S. Bank Stadium into a frenzy as the stadium reached 118 decibels per reports. Diggs finished with six catches for 137 yards and the game-winning touchdown that cemented the Vikings’ first trip to the conference championship game in eight years.

“It’s a storybook ending — and it never ends that way,” Diggs said after the game to Ben Goessling of the Minneapolis Star Tribune. “Usually, it’s reality. It’s real life. Things go, you walk home and worry about tomorrow. But today had other plans. I give it all to God, because things like this just don’t happen.”

After falling behind 17-0 to the Vikings at halftime, the fourth-seeded Saints stormed back with 14 unanswered points behind two touchdown passes from quarterback Drew Brees to wide receiver Michael Thomas that trimmed Minnesota’s lead to 17-14. Thomas’ two touchdowns came within a span of 3:09 that spanned into the fourth quarter.

Following a 49-yard field goal from kicker Kai Forbath that gave Minnesota a 20-14 lead early in the fourth quarter and an interception thrown by Keenum to rookie safety Marcus Williams that set up the Saints at the Vikings’ 40-yard line, Brees threw his third touchdown in the second half when he connected with rookie running back Alvin Kamara from 14-yards out that gave the Saints a brief 21-20 lead.

Brees finished the game throwing for 294 yards on 25-of-40 passing with three touchdowns and two interceptions, both coming in the first half.

“We’re still a bit shell-shocked after what happened there at the end,” said Brees after the game per the Associated Press.

But it was the big play by Diggs, who avoided a would-be hit by Williams and never looked back as he raced for the end zone for arguably the biggest touchdown in Minnesota’s history, a perfect delivered pass from the NCAA’s all-time passing leader in Keenum, who threw for 318 yards and matched Brees’ 25-of-40 passing.

On the AFC side, the top-seeded Patriots (14-3) made short work of the visiting Tennessee Titans (10-8), winning 35-14 on Saturday night advancing to their seventh straight AFC Championship Game next Sunday in Foxborough with a dominating performance over the sixth-seeded Titans in the chilly New England weather where game time temperature were in the 20s.

After taking a 7-0 lead in the first quarter, Tennessee saw New England roll off 35 unanswered points that led to the Patriots’ dismantling of the Titans. Patriots quarterback Tom Brady threw for 337 yards on 35-of-53 passing and three touchdowns, his 10th career postseason game in which he’s thrown three touchdowns moving past Hall of Fame quarterback Joe Montana for most in the NFL per the Elias Sports Bureau.

“To be in the playoffs, to play well and to advance, that’s just really great for this team,” Brady said to Jeff Howe of the Boston Herald. “We’ve got to do it again next week.”

Wide receiver Danny Amendola, one of Brady’s most dependable pass catchers, finished with a team-high 11 catches for 112 yards. Tight end Rob Gronkowski hauled in six catches for 81 yards and a touchdown over Titans safety Kevin Byard, who predicted that Tennessee would make the future NFL Hall of Famer look like Blake Bortles.

More on Bortles and the Jacksonville Jaguars, who stand in the way of Brady from making his eighth Super Bowl appearance in his 18-year career that includes five wins in seven appearances, in a bit.

After the game, Brady was business as usual after leading New England pass by an overmatched Titans team that were doomed from the start. Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota played through a strained quadriceps muscle that he suffered on run in the first quarter that limited the Mariota’s mobility and Tennessee’s playcalling for the remainder of the game.

Mariota completed 22-of-37 passes for 254 yards and two touchdowns, but was under siege from Patriots’ pass rush that sacked Mariota eight times on Saturday night, a franchise record for one postseason game.

“Embarrassed,” said Mariota, standing at the podium after the game per the Associated Press.

“You play to win the whole thing. Yeah, it’s nice to be in the playoffs, but again, you don’t play to get in, especially coming into the divisional playoff losing the way we did.”

Raise your hands if you had the Jacksonville Jaguars heading to their first AFC Championship Game since 1999 at the start of the 2017.

Anybody?

Don’t feel bad if you didn’t because you aren’t alone, especially with the aforementioned Bortles leading the way. For most of his four seasons in Jacksonville, Bortles was the favorite punching bag for Jaguars fans (and the media) to hit for the team’s lackluster play even with a vastly improving defense with to lean on.

But the perception of Bortles is rapidly changing, especially after help leading the third-seeded Jaguars (12-6) to 45-42 victory over the second-seeded Steelers (13-4) at Heinz Field to close out the divisional round weekend. Bortles didn’t have earth-shattering numbers, completing just 14-of-26 passes for 214 yards and a touchdown, but didn’t throw an interception nor was he sacked in Jacksonville’s second win in Pittsburgh this year. Pittsburgh set a franchise record with 55 sacks this season, leading the NFL this season.

Jacksonville dispatched Pittsburgh 30-9 in Week 5 behind a punishing defense that forced five interceptions, returning two of those interceptions for touchdowns.

In that regular season game, Bortles was a non factor as he threw for just 95 yards on 8-of-14 passing and an interception, but the offense was carried by ground game as rookie running back Leonard Fournette rushed for a career-high 181 yards on 28 carries and two touchdowns, one of which went for 90 yards, the longest scoring run by a rookie against the Steelers per the Elias Sports Bureau.

This time around, Bortles appeared more confident and comfortable against Pittsburgh.

Jacksonville’s 45 points are the most points scored by an opponent against the Steelers in franchise history. Fournette scored two first half touchdowns, while backup running back T.J. Yeldon added another score that gave Jacksonville a 21-0 lead early in the second quarter before the Steelers answered with a touchdown of their own from quarterback Ben Roethlisberger to wide receiver Antonio Brown that cut Jacksonville’s lead to 21-7.

Fournette, who left the game briefly with an ankle injury, rushed for a 109 yards on 25 carries and scored three touchdowns.

Shortly before the two minute warning and with Pittsburgh on the Jacksonville 47-yard line, defensive end Yannick Ngakoue sacked Roethislisberger forcing a fumble which was returned by middle linebacker Telvin Smith that gave Jacksonville a 28-7 lead. It was Smith’s second defensive touchdown against the Steelers this season, also finished with a team-high 14 tackles.

Roethlisberger would throw a 36-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Martavis Bryant before the end of the first half, then a 19-yard touchdown pass to running back Le’Veon Bell pulling the Steelers closer, 28-21, in the third quarter.

But Bortles made the biggest play of the game in my book, throwing a 45-yard bomb down the middle of the field in double coverage with 11:55 left in the fourth quarter that was hauled in by rookie wide receiver Keelan Cole that set up the Jaguars at the Pittsburgh 3-yard line before Fournette plowed into the end zone for his third rushing touchdown that re-opened a two-touchdown lead for Jacksonville making the score, 35-21.

“These guys played with confidence all day,” Bortles said after the game per the Florida Times-Union.

Jacksonville would add 10 more points in the fourth quarter, while the Steelers played catch up (pun intended) for the majority of the day despite big performances by Pittsburgh’s “Killer Bs” of Roethlisberger, Bell and Le’Veon Brown.

Roethlisberger threw for 469 yards on 37-of-58 passes, with five touchdowns and one interception. Brown, who appeared healthy following a torn left calf muscle he suffered in Week 15 against the Patriots that caused him to miss the Steelers’ final two games of the year, finished with seven catches for 132 yards and a pair of spectacular touchdowns.

Bell finished with 155 total yards from scrimmage (67 rushing and 88 receiving) and two touchdowns (one rushing and one receiving).

“Its disheartening” said Brown per the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “I thought we had the right group of guys.”

The conference championship games between Minnesota-Philadelphia in the NFC and Jacksonville-New England in the AFC weren’t what people imagined when the 2017 season started, even though most fully believed that the reigning Super Bowl Champion New England Patriots had the strongest chance at making another Super Bowl run.

Minnesota and Philadelphia did enter the season with postseason expectations, and should be a fierce matchup led by unwanted quarterbacks in Keenum and Foles along with strong defenses, and fan bases thirsty for a major championship.

Jacksonville wasn’t suppose to crash the postseason party, but here are the Jaguars who now must travel to New England and try to dethrone Brady and the Patriots to earn the franchise’s first trip to the Super Bowl.

“I’m sure there will still be tons of people that are going to disapprove and talk negative or hate or do whatever they want,” Bortles said before the Jaguars left Pittsburgh. “But we get to keep playing and we get an opportunity to play in Foxborough next week  for another week. Just honored to be able to do this especially with this group of guys.”

“Its been an awesome year. Just want to keep it going.”

NFL Playoffs Podcast with David Zizmor: A look at eight teams that’s battling it out for the Super Bowl

Photo credit: @NFL

NFL Playoff Podcast with David Zizmor:

Sunday’s game AFC: Jacksonville 10 Buffalo 3

AFC Divisional Round

Saturday: Tennessee Titans @ New England Patriots

Sunday: Jacksonville Jaguars @ Pittsburgh Steelers

Sunday’s game NFC: New Orleans 31 vs. Carolina 26

NFC: Divisional Round

Saturday: Atlanta Falcons @ Philadelphia Eagles

Sunday: New Orleans Saints @ Minnesota Vikings

David goes through the NFL Playoff schedule for this weekend at http://www.sportsradioservice.com

 

 

Raiders’ Instant Report Card: Carr delivers for Oakland in stunning win over Saints

By Joe Hawkes-Beamon
Sports Radio Service Writer

AP photo: New Orleans Saints kicker Will Lutz (3) gets sympathy from holder Thomas Morestead after missing a 61 yard field goal attempt which would have won it for the Saints as the Oakland Raiders defensive tackle Darius Latham (75) and strong safety TJ Carrie (38) celebrate a one point victory on Sunday at the Superdome in New Orleans

NEW ORLEANS, La — The Raiders, who many have picked to be one of the more dominate teams heading into the 2016 season, proved that the hype around the team is real by pulling out a thrilling, 35-34 road win against the Saints in both team’s season opener.

New Orleans’ rookie kicker Will Lutz missed a 61-yard field goal wide left as time expired.

Checkout each unit’s grade from Oakland’s (1-0) big win in New Orleans Sunday below:

Quarterback (A) – Raiders’ quarterback Derek Carr continues to grow as an NFL quarterback, leading Oakland back from a two-touchdown deficit in the second half. Carr completed 24-of-38 passes for 319 yards and one touchdown, a 10-yard dart to slot receiver Seth Roberts with 47 seconds left in the game that pulled Oakland within an point of New Orleans, 34-33.

You’d expect the Raiders to kick the extra point and force overtime, right?

Nope.

Carr looked to the sideline and both he and head coach Jack Del Rio agreed to roll the dice and go for two, which Carr found wide receiver Michael Crabtree for the go-ahead conversion.

At one point, Oakland’s offense stalled going scoreless on six offensive drives.

Running Back (B+) – Latavius Murray scored Oakland’s first touchdown of the season, a 6-yard run that gave Oakland a 10-3 lead in the first quarter. Murray finished the game with 14 carries for 59 yards and one touchdown, but Jalen Richard was the story for me.

Richard, the rookie from Southern Miss. and Louisiana native, only had three carries, but it was the 75-yard run up the middle of the soft Saints’ defense while eluding would-be tacklers in the fourth quarter with Oakland trailing 27-19 was what ignited the Raider comeback.

It was Richard’s first-career touchdown run.

Richard finished with 84 yards and a touchdown, while fellow rookie DeAndre Washington carried the ball five times for 14 yards.

Offensive line (B) – The key for Oakland’s offensive line was to protect their signal-caller and establish the run and stay healthy.

They were 50/50.

Even though Carr wasn’t sacked and Oakland’s ground game racked up 167 yards, the Raiders lost two offensive linemen when Menelik Watson (groin) and Matt McCants (knee) left the game.

Oakland’s offensive line is regarded as one of the best as a group coming into this season because of its depth, was tested Sunday.

Wide Receivers/Tight Ends (A-) Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree combined for 225 receiving yards and 13 receptions (on 20 targets).

Cooper (6 catches, 137 yards, 11 targets), had no trouble getting open hauling passes of 34, 43, and 45 yards through a suspect Saints’ secondary.

Crabtree overcame a slow start (1 catch for 8 yards in the first half), to finish with seven catches for 87 yards on eight targets.

Clive Wafford caught three passes for 25 yards on five targets to lead the tight ends.

Defensive line/front seven (C+) – Bruce Irvin’s strip-sack (fumble recovered by rookie defensive tackle Jihad Ward)  on Saints’ quarterback Drew Brees on New Orleans’ first drive of the game was one of the lone bright spots for a unit that hadn’t done a much in the game.

Khalil Mack was relatively unheard of for the game, as he fought through countless chip blocks and double teams.

Linebackers Ben Heeney and Malcolm Smith combined for seven tackles (six assisted).

Secondary (D) – Brees and the Saints passing attack carved up Oakland’s revamped secondary for 423 yards passing and four touchdowns on 28-of-42 passing. Brees tied Peyton Manning for the most 400-yard passing games in NFL with 14.

Oakland’s high-priced cornerback tandem of Sean Smith and David Amerson were abused by New Orleans wide receivers Willie Snead (9 catches, 172 yards, 1 TD, 9 targets), and Brandin Cooks (6 catches, 143 yards, 1 TD, 9 targets).

With Oakland trailing 17-10 midway through the third quarter, Cooks ran right by Smith, who was playing man-to-man, and free safety Reggie Nelson, for a 98-yard touchdown catch that gave New Orleans a 24-10 lead. The scoring play established a new franchise record for the longest score for the Saints, and it was also the longest play in Brees’ career.

After that play, Smith was benched for the remainder of the game and was replaced by former first rounder, D.J. Hayden.

Overall, the defense gave up 507 totals yards to the Saints.

Special Teams (B+) – Kicker Sebastian Janikowski converted both of his field goals (31 and 47-yarders), while punter Marquette King booted four punts (42.0 yard average).

Up next: Oakland returns home to prepare for their own opener when the visiting Atlanta Falcons travel to the Bay Area next Sunday.

 

 

 

 

 

Raiders kickoff the season in the Big Easy

By Joe Hawkes-Beamon
Sports Radio Service Writer

AP file photo: You might see a lot of this more often Oakland Raiders quarterback Derek Carr (4) and wide receiver Amari Cooper (89) jumping for joy in this Aug 27th photo against the Tennessee Titans as they open up in New Orleans on Sunday

OAKLAND, Calif — With the preseason in the rear view window, the 2016 regular season begins for real for the Oakland Raiders as they open up on the road in New Orleans against the Saints in Week 1 action.

Kickoff is at 10:00 a.m. PT at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome where the Raiders are a 3-point favorite to notch their first win of what people are predicting will be a great year for the Silver & Black. The game can be seen locally on KTVU/FOX Channel 2, making breakfast and football a perfect match.

Sunday’s game will mark the first time Oakland has opened up against an NFC opponent on the road since 1999, where Oakland traveled to Green Bay to start that season.

This will also mark the first time that Oakland and New Orleans face each other in the regular season opener.

With the Raiders hosting the Atlanta Falcons next week in Oakland’s home opener, it will also mark the first time since 1999 that Oakland (who played the Packers and Vikings), will begin the season facing two NFC opponents in back-to-back weeks.

Quarterback Derek Carr leads a promising Raiders’ offense headlined by wide receivers Michael Crabtree and Amari Cooper. In four preseason games, Crabtree and Cooper combined for 10 catches for 162 yards and a touchdown.

Crabtree and Cooper are primed to have huge seasons for Oakland, which is looking to end the team’s playoff drought, dating back to 2002, the team’s last playoff appearance.

Oakland is hoping with the additions of rookie running backs DeAndre Washington and Jalen Richard added to the backfield with starter Latavius Murray can make the offense more diverse. Oakland was a pass-first, run-second team last season, even though Murray was one of only seven running backs in 2015 to rush for 1,000 yards (1,066 rushing yards to be exact).

Defensively, Oakland had trouble stopping the run in the preseason.The Raiders were getting gashed by beefy running backs like Green Bay’s Eddie Lacy, and Tennessee’s duo of DeMarco Murray and rookie Derrick Henry.

Oakland will be without defensive tackle Mario Edwards Jr. for at least the first eight weeks of the season due to a hip injury. Edwards Jr., along with defensive tackles Dan Williams and Justin “Jelly” Ellis are so critical to the Raiders’ run defense.

New Orleans features former Heisman trophy winner Mark Ingram, Tim Hightower, and C.J. Spiller in the back field and each can run the ball well between the tackles, a weakness for Oakland.

The Raiders’ rebuilt secondary could be in for a long day when it faces one of the premier quarterbacks in the NFL in Drew Brees.

Brees, who enters his 16th year in the NFL, is coming off a season where he threw for a league-leading 4,870 yards in 2015. It was the seventh time in Brees’ career that he threw for over 4,500 yards in a season.

The future Hall of Fame quarterback continues to get better with time and still plays at a high level at age 38, as evident of the new deal he signed on Wednesday.

Details of Brees’ new deal, provided by Spotrac, Brees will pocket roughly $44 million in guaranteed money over the next two seasons, with $20 million coming in 2016 and only $17.25 million going towards the salary cap.

The deal will almost certain guarantee that Brees finishes his career in New Orleans, the franchise he led to a Super Bowl title in 2009.

Wide receiver Brandin Cooks leads a dangerous Saints’ passing attack. The third-year wide receiver from Oregon State, recorded his first career 1,000-yard receiving season finishing with 84 catches, 1,138 yards, and nine touchdowns, which Cooks led the team in all categories in 2015.

One Saints player to really keep an eye on is second-year wide receiver Willie Snead, who burst on to the scene last season for New Orleans recording 69 catches for 984 yards and three touchdowns.

Former Raiders head coach Dennis Allen enters his first full season as the Saints’ defensive coordinator. Allen, who has seven total seasons on New Orleans’ defensive staff, looks to improve a defense that ranked 31st last season in rushing yards per game allowed (129.8), passing yards per game allowed (284.0) and total yards per game allowed (413.8).

With the additions of veterans in defensive tackle Nick Fairley, linebacker James Laurinaitis, and defensive end Paul Kruger, to go along with mainstay in defensive end Cameron Jordan, the Saints are hoping to provide more pressure to the quarterback this season.

With both teams having suspect defenses heading into the match up, this game could be an offensive barrage by both teams and could come down to which team has the better, more confident quarterback in the fourth quarter.

Will it be Brees, who is one of the most accurate quarterbacks in NFL history and holds a 8-2 career record (19 touchdowns and four interceptions) against Oakland?

Or will it be Carr, who is 4-12 on the road in his young career, but has thrown 24 touchdowns and nine interceptions in those games?

Sunday is almost here.

Marshawn Lynch: Enough Said

Photo courtesy of Seattle Times

By Joe Hawkes

Marshawn Lynch, who has carried Seattle to its second Super Bowl appearance with his ferocious running this season, has been getting some flack by members of the press for abruptly ending his press conference after six minutes on  Tuesday and Wednesday during Super Bowl media access.

My advice is this: deal with it.

Lynch is a running back that is like no other and doesn’t need to speak or brag that he is a top-ten running back in the NFL. Nor does he need to grant every reporter access into his inner-circle and ask questions if he is uncomfortable.

Lynch is a man of few words that flat out lets his game do the bulk of his talking.

Case in point by Lynch’s spectacular 2013 season in which he finished in the top-ten among running backs in rushing yards (1,257), touchdowns (12), and carries (301) while playing all 16 games, a rarity for running backs in the hard-hitting NFL.

Then Lynch really turned it on in the playoffs.

Against New Orleans in the NFC Divisional round, Lynch steamrolled the Saints rushing for 140 yards (a playoff career-high and Seahawks record) and two touchdowns on 28 carries in Seattle’s 23-15 victory.

Then against the hated NFC West division rival the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC Championship Game, Lynch thumped San Francisco with 109 rushing yards, one thunderous 40-yard touchdown run, on 22 carries leading Seattle to a 23-17 victory and the NFC crown.

The 109 rushing yards Lynch racked up was the first time that a running back gained over 100 yards against San Francisco all season.

Lynch’s dominance in the regular season and postseason (with the help of a punishing and hard-nosed defense), were clearly the talk of the NFC and football world when Seattle touched down in New York Sunday.

For Seattle to hoist the Vince Lombardi trophy Sunday night after what should be an excellent game against the AFC Champions, Denver Broncos, Lynch will have to turn in a career performance on the biggest of stages. The Super Bowl has a way of humbling you in a New York minute and if you aren’t focused and prepared, the Super Bowl can be unforgiving.

We know that Lynch oozes confidence, but what Lynch must continue to run with that “Beast Mode” mentality that make opposing defensive backs cringe when linebackers miss tackling the 5’11, 215-pound bulldozer from Oakland, CA.

It’s no secret that Lynch will have all eleven members of Denver’s defense (along with millions of fans on Super Bowl XLVIII Sunday) watching his every move. If you are a defense, you will be ok with allowing two to three yards a carry by Lynch, its the10 to 15-yard runs that you need to concern yourself with.

If Lynch gets through Denver’s front seven on a consistent basis Sunday, it’s almost certain that Seattle will have a fighting chance at delivering the Pacific Northwest its first major world championship since the Seattle SuperSonics took home the NBA title in 1979.

Sixty minutes in the Big Game with Lynch carrying a city and a region on his back toward a championship: enough said.

49ers in for another tough matchup in New Orleans

By Gabe Schapiro

This Sunday at 1:25pm the San Francisco 49ers (6-3) will be taking on the New Orleans Saints (7-2) at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. The 49ers sit in second place in the NFC West, two games behind the Seattle Seahawks. The Saints are in first place in the NFC South, one game up on the Carolina Panthers.

Last weekend San Francisco lost in a tough low-scoring affair against the Panthers, to a final score of 10-9, snapping their five-game winning streak. In many regards it lived up to the billing heading into the game, as it was truly a battle of the defenses. Three first half field goals was enough to give the 49ers the lead for much of the game, but it wasn’t enough to hold up. Carolina got a late field goal of their own with three minutes remaining in the game to give them the one point lead. San Francisco had another possession to try and retake the lead, but their offense simply couldn’t get anything going against the stingy Panthers defense.

The 49ers finished last weekends game with just 151 total net yards, a respectable 105 on the ground, but just a measly 46 through the air. As expected they tried to lean more heavily on Frank Gore and their rushing attack, but when forced to pass Colin Kaepernick couldn’t gain any traction. He completed 11-of-22 passes for 91 yards and an interception. He was also sacked six times. Gore finished with 82 yards rushing on 16 carries.

San Francisco will look to bounce back this week, but they will once again have their hands full with possibly an even tougher matchup against New Orleans. The Saints are tied for the fourth best record in the NFL, and feature a high-flying offense led by one of the best quarterbacks in the game, Drew Brees. Brees currently ranks second in the league in passing yards, touchdowns, and passer rating. He spreads the ball around a lot, but his primary target is Jimmy Graham, possibly the league’s best tight end in his own right, and the all-purpose weapon of Darren Sproles. As a unit they are the second highest scoring offense in football, behind only the record-breaking Denver Broncos.

It’s no surprise that the Saints once again have a high-powered offense, but what has been a bit of a new and unexpected development this season is how well their defense has performed. In both points and yards allowed they rank just one slot behind the 49ers, at fifth in the league in both categories. They don’t contain the stout personnel that Carolina does, but they are no longer a defense that can be scoffed at by any means.

The bright side for the 49ers is that the Saints primary weakness on the defensive side of the ball is stopping the run, where they tank 23rd. With Kaepernick still struggling, once again you can expect a heavy dose of Gore, Kendall Hunter, and the run game as they try to exploit New Orleans’ biggest weakness. Regardless, to keep pace with the Saints they will need a better more complete game from Kaepernick.

On the other side of the ball San Francisco will have their hands full containing the Saints offense. The 49ers have the defensive talent to do it, but they’ll need to be on top of their game. With Brees it is often just about containing him, rather hoping you will be able to stop him.  

This week San Francisco got great news when it was reported that Vernon Davis and Eric Reid both avoided a major injury, and are expected to suit up and be fine for this Sunday. Each player had to be removed from last weeks game with concussion-like symptoms. Reid will be a big plus in trying to slow down Brees, and Davis has been Kaepernick’s favorite red-zone target so far this season.