2010 NFL Playoffs Fan Battle: Ravens vs. Colts Preview

To get you ready for the Ravens-Colts’ Divisional Round battle in Indy this Saturday, here’s a preview of the game via a mock dialogue between two fans.

Colts Fan: If you think the Colts are going to be as disinterested in playing the Ravens as the Patriots were last week, then you’re delusional.

Ravens Fan: Oh, I see – the Patriots lost, but the Ravens didn’t win. Do I have that right? Face it, the better team won last weekend in Foxboro. We came prepared to play and they couldn’t match our intensity. And if I were you, I’d be highly concerned that the Colts haven’t played in three weeks.

Colt Fan: No, the starters haven’t played in three weeks – there’s a difference. But Peyton Manning, ahem, the MVP this year, will be ready to go as always. And if anyone should be concerned, it should be Baltimore’s pass defense.

Raven Fan: Have you even been watching lately? The Ravens are tied for eighth in passing yards allowed per game with 207.3. Our total defense ranks third in the NFL and we’re allowing just 16.3 points per game. Plus, we almost beat you in the regular season.

Colt Fan: There’s no prize for “almost,” my friend. Plus, that game was in Baltimore; now you have to travel to Indy this time. Had Jim Caldwell not pulled the starters in the second half against the Jets, we would have easily gone undefeated at home this season.

Raven Fan: Now who’s talking about whoulda, coulda, shouldas? Speaking of Caldwell pulling the starters, that same philosophy has hurt the Colts in the past. Bill Polian insists that momentum means nothing for teams heading into the playoffs but he must be trying to block out all the times that his team has choked after resting starters before.

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NFL Week 16 MVP Power Rankings

It’s been two weeks since we last did these rankings, and while not much has changed at the top, the teams our top two guys play for have been very shaky. In fact, Philip Rivers’ Chargers are the only one on a roll heading into the postseason.

1. Peyton Manning, Indianapolis Colts—If Jim Caldwell benching his starting quarterback in the third quarter against the Jets proved anything, it’s that Manning is clearly and unequivocally valuable. His numbers (4405 yards, 33 TDs) don’t suck either.

2. Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints—There is no question that Brees hasn’t been the same since DeMarcus Ware terrorized him two weeks ago in the Superdome. But the MVP race is not based on a few games and Brees still has a league-high 109.6 QB rating, and leads the NFL with 34 touchdown passes.

3. Chris Johnson, Tennessee Titans—This guy was racking up yards even before the Titans started winning games this season. And he’s so far ahead of the pack right now, with his sights on 2000 yards and even Eric Dickerson’s record of 2105 yards for a single season. That’s saying something.

4. Philip Rivers, San Diego Chargers—Yes, he has numbers — 4155 yards, 27 TDs to 9 picks, second to Brees in QB rating with 104.5. But here is why Rivers belongs on here—because all he does is win games.

5. Brett Favre, Minnesota Vikings—Let’s not lose sight of the fact that Favre brought his Vikings back from a 17-point deficit in chilly Chicago before losing in OT. His season has been and continues to be bordering on magical.

Honorable Mention— DeSean Jackson, Eagles; Aaron Rodgers, Packers; Cedric Benson, Bengals; Reggie Wayne, Colts; Jared Allen, Vikings; Vince Young, Titans; Elvis Dumervil, Broncos; Darren Sharper, Saints; Wes Welker, Patriots; Darrelle Revis, Jets; Andre Johnson, Texans; Dallas Clark, Colts; DeMarcus Ware, Cowboys

Quick-Hit Reaction: Colts 35, Jaguars 31

Here are five quick-hit observations on the Colts’ 35-31 win over the Jaguars on Thursday night.

1. You want perfection? Try Peyton Manning.
The Colts’ 14-0 record is impressive, but if you’re truly looking for perfection, look no further than Peyton Manning’s night. Outside of a fluke interception that was more Dallas Clark’s fault than his, Manning completed 23 of 30 passes for 308 yards and four touchdowns. He completed his first 16 passes in the game and was absolutely brilliant once again this season.

2. Garrard was just off the mark all night.
For all intents and purposes, David Garrard played a fine football game tonight. He completed 23 of 40 passes for 223 yards and three touchdowns, but the interception he threw on the final possession to seal Jacksonville’s fate was indicative of his night. While he made some great throws on third downs and late in the ball game to help the Jags stay in it, he also overthrew three open receivers in the first half and another handful in the second. He completes a couple of those throws and the Jags win.

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NFL Week 9 MVP Power Rankings

With Drew Brees and Peyton Manning leading their teams to victory again, barely, there is no good reason to drop them in the rankings here. Meanwhile, Brett Favre and Jared Allen did not play, so we held spots for them, but moved Cedric Benson up based on a second 100-yard rushing performance against the Ravens.

1. Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints—Halfway through the season, Brees and his Saints are 8-0 and have a three game lead in their division. Suffice to say, this team appears to be headed toward a first round bye, and their QB is one of the biggest reasons.

2. Peyton Manning, Indianapolis Colts—After a subpar start to 2008 after knee surgery, Manning wanted to get off to a fast start this season, and he has done just that. But what might be more impressive is that after Reggie Wayne and Dallas Clark, he’s throwing to guys named Garcon and Collie.

3. Cedric Benson, Cincinnati Bengals—He rushed for 120 yards against the Ravens in Week 5, and 117 yards against them in Week 9. Read that back. That’s two 100 yard games against the Baltimore Ravens, and that’s just sick.

4. Brett Favre, Minnesota Vikings—The old man still has it, much to the dismay of everyone in Northern Wisconsin. You think Ted Thompson is sleeping well lately?

5. Jared Allen, Minnesota Vikings—He’s had two weeks to rest those wheels that never seem to stop moving. Next on Allen’s hit list is that poor Stafford kid in Detroit.

Honorable Mention–Elvis Dumervil, Broncos; Andre Johnson, Texans, Tom Brady, Patriots; Adrian Peterson, Vikings; Maurice Jones-Drew, Jaguars, Chris Johnson, Titans; Reggie Wayne, Colts; Michael Turner, Falcons; Reggie Wayne, Colts; Steve Smith, Giants

2009 fantasy football is coming soon—a look back at 2008 tight ends and kickers

When you are drafting your fantasy football team, you’re picking running backs, receivers and quarterbacks first. Tight ends and kickers are usually taken in the mid-late rounds because their value isn’t as high, and, especially in the case of kickers, you can still get a decent one in the draft’s final round. Here is a look back at the 2008 leaders at the two positions and how we think those numbers will project to 2009:

TIGHT ENDS

1. Tony Gonzalez, Kansas City Chiefs—During a season in which he was kind of auditioning for other teams, Gonzalez had one of his best campaigns—96 catches for 1058 yards and 10 touchdowns. Those are, like, Torry Holt numbers. Gonzo is now with the Atlanta Falcons, where he should have the opportunity to put up similar numbers in 2009.

2. Antonio Gates, San Diego Chargers—Gates had a disappointing season overall, with zero 100 yard games. But he was hurt most of the year, so even when he played he was hobbling. Still, 704 yards and 8 scores is not too shabby. This season, Gates should top that by at least 50%.

3. Dallas Clark, Indianapolis Colts—Clark was injured to start the 2008 season, but he really came on strong toward the end of it, just like his Colts team did. Clark owners were treated to a 12-catch, 142-yard, 1 TD game in week 15, and overall he finished with 77 catches for 848 yards and 6 touchdowns. There is no good reason to expect any less in ’09.

4. Visanthe Shiancoe, Minnesota Vikings—Shiancoe made more headlines for inadvertently showing his bare ass on camera, but he finished the season with one huge game to pad his 2008 stats, too. That was in Week 16, known in the fantasy world as title week—so Shiancoe no doubt helped some of you win your league by catching 7 passes for 136 yards and 2 scores, giving him totals of 42-596-7 on the season. But dude is too streaky to consider drafting earlier than the 12th round or so.

5. Anthony Fasano, Miami Dolphins—Fasano was streaky but, like Shiancoe, he had a 2-TD game in Week 16, which boosted his season value. Fasano finished with 34 catches for 454 yards and 7 TDs, but I’d be surprised if he’s even drafted by 50% of you. I mean, Jason Witten didn’t even make this list due to being hurt most of ’08.

KICKERS

1. Stephen Gostkowski, New England Patriots—The Patriots didn’t score as many TDs as they did in 2007 so Gostkowski only had 40 extra points as opposed to 74 the year before. That meant more field goal opps, and he converted 36 of 40 to lead all kickers with 148 points. He also had four field goals and five PATs in week 16 to help some win titles. With Tom Brady back, there is no reason to think Gostkowski’s numbers will dip much, but he may have more extra points in ’09.

2. David Akers, Philadelphia Eagles—He’s had a history of injuries, but when he’s in the lineup, Akers is one of the game’s most accurate kickers. Last season he had two 4-field goal games and three 3-field goal games. The Eagles are going to put points on the board, so Akers is draft material for sure.

3. John Carney, New York Giants—This was almost a fluke, as Carney had to fill in for the injured Lawrence Tynes. He did so well that he made the Pro Bowl, kicking 35 of 38 field goals and 38 of 38 on extra points. But with Tynes healthy, Carney is once again looking for work in ’09.

4. Matt Bryant, Tampa Bay Bucs—Bryant had to endure the death of his infant son a few games in, but he battled admirably. However, this is the Bucs we’re talking about, and they only allowed Bryant 36 PAT chances. Overall he had 32 of 38 field goals and 35 of the 36 extra points. But guys like Bryant are valuable because they play on teams that don’t score a lot of TDs, giving them more field goal chances. He should have similar numbers this season.

5. John Kasay, Carolina Panthers—Kasay had a 4-field goal game in week 1 and another in week 17, but only 20 field goals in the other 15 games. I’m just saying, I probably wouldn’t draft the guy.

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