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Playoff expansion may be coming, but not for at least a couple of years.
The Cincinnati Reds will kick off the season this afternoon by hosting the St. Louis Cardinals at Great American Ballpark. A lot has changed since last April. The Reds reached the playoffs last year for the first time since They had their first Cy Young Award winner, but he left via free agency in the offseason.
All of the bad football being played this season has finally caught up to us. The combination of parity, injuries and too many teams that just flat out stink has left us with a late-season slate of games that looks more like a preseason docket. It's rough. There are 15 games I am previewing here, and not a single one includes two teams that we absolutely know for sure will be in the postseason.
Not one. That seems a little crazy to me, even in this year where not all that much has been decided just yet from a playoff perspective. How can that be? Even the best game of the week -- Broncos at Steelerson none other than CBS -- isn't an all-out lock, given that Pittsburgh could still need help to reach the playoffs even despite its recent surge. There isn't a single game that stands out as a big-time playoff preview.
I guess the good news is this means we must have plenty of top-flight games still to come in Week 16 and 17 right?? No way around that when more than half the league is playing a brand of football that's Lets watch Cincinnati game flirt even not all that attractive. Of course, some of these bad games will turn out to be wildly compelling, or at least feature crazy finishes. And we're running out of weekends, period, in this football year, so let's savor them all. Just not sure how much more of the playoff situation will really be set when Week 15 is complete.
Why To Watch: The Broncos are at yet another crossro with their quarterback position. Brock, Brock, 'Til You Drop Osweiler has been enough of a facilitator, but coach Gary Kubiak has kept the shackles on him and not allowed him to do much downfield. The offense has cut down on turnovers, but it can't put people away and he finally lost a game and you can bet that all of a sudden Peyton Manning 's foot is feeling much better as he starts to practice again.
So how long does Kubiak stick with Brock? As long as he possibly can. He wants this to work. Having to go to Pittsburgh is a daunting task, and having to keep pace with that record-setting Steelers offense won't be easy. If anything, he'll need a return to form from his run game to slow this pace down.
That run game has been much better with Osweiler under center than it was with Manning in the pistol or shotgun. Denver needs wins to try to preserve a first-round bye, while the Steelers know that catching the suddenly-wounded Bengals is not out of the question. This is the game of the week. There is so much intrigue, with the Broncos facing major questions that could end up dictating the outcome of their season, and future for years to come.
The top-ranked Denver D faces its toughest test yet in Pittsburgh. What To Watch For: Osweiler was actually stellar in the first half last week and if the Broncos had their normal run game, they probably have the Raiders put away at the half. He completed his first 10 passes and had a 6-for-6 stretch on another drive, but Denver averaged 1. Anderson back to be a red-zone plow-horse and finish drives.
Would expect he goes this week barring a setback in practice … The Broncos defense slipped big time in the second half Lets watch Cincinnati game flirt even week after a record-setting first half.
Big Ben will like what he sees on film there. It's absolutely imperative that Denver DC Wade Phillips dials up a way to pressure Roethlisberger … DeAngelo Williams is nearing his career mark in receiving yards despite only seven starts and sharing a backfield with Le'Veon Bell for half the season.
Something's gotta give in pittsburgh where the high-flying steelers face the broncos' top-ranked d needing a win to keep pace in the wild-card race.
His 27 catches are two off his career high and he has 14 catches in the past three games. He's emerging as part of an already robust offense … The move to Denver has been unkind to TE Vernon Daviswho dropped a potential game-changing pass late last week. He needs to bounce back … The Broncos better sort out some offensive line issues before this game. Osweiler holds the ball too long at times, but he's not getting much help up front … Osweiler's QB rating remains roughly 20 points higher than Manning's, and, most importantly, his INT percentage is 1.
The Broncos can't cover everyone … The Steelers are an incredible for on third downs the last two weeks … Pittsburgh has held the ball for at least 32 minutes in four of the past five games. Arizona at Philadelphia Sunday, Dec. ET NBC. Why To Watch: This one is pretty rich. Bruce Arians, former coach at Temple University and a Jersey native, returns to Philly in prime time, and this isn't just any game.
Sure, both teams are in the playoff hunt and the Cards are trying to secure a first-round bye and the Eagles are trying to win the crappy NFC East. But it also runs deeper than that. Arians badly wanted that Eagles gig a few years ago and the stud coach has taken a veiled and not-so-veiled shot or two at Chip Kelly's offense since then.
He's knocked them holding up cards and over-emphasizing tempo. He's lauded it as a "great college offense. Everything said or written about his team gets back to him and he takes it very personally. The Eagles have responded well to adversity recently and just may be stabilizing their season, but they'll get a legit test here. This is a battle of the minds as much as it is a battle of the bodies. What To Watch For: Sam Bradford has played his best football in a long time the past three weeks, but Lets watch Cincinnati game flirt even still prone to brain cramps.
Thought the Bills would rush him more than they did a week ago, and I'd anticipate an uber-aggressive defensive approach from Arizona here … Have to love what David Johnson has given the Cardinals since being thrust into a more prominent role due to injuries.
They've lacked a sustained pass rush thrust in general lately … During Arizona's seven-game winning streak, five games have been decided by one score. Carson Palmer has been very good on game-deciding drives. Those guessing about DeMarco Murray 's status were always going to be wrong.
He's a contrarian and he badly wants this running back shuffle to work out in his favor and he feels like he needs Murray now. Of course, come February he'll probably trade him for a bag of balls. But the idea he was now de-activated or fourth-string is ridiculous … Fletcher Cox is playing dominating football right now and the Cardinals interior offensive line Lets watch Cincinnati game flirt even in for one of their bigger challenges of the season. He's been as big a contributor as anyone as the Eagles have starting winning games again … Have to wonder if the additional rest for the Cardinals plays a role.
They last played on a Thursday night and healed up some for this game. That should help for the travel cross-country and the prime-time start this was originally a day game should help their biological clocks as well … Nelson Agholor actually showed up last week and made a huge play.
Eagles badly need him to build on that to try to round out this offense. True fact. Pretty hollow, but it is what it is.
Two teams, likely forced into using quarterbacks they never expected to play a snap for them this season, meet in Indianapolis coming off lopsided losses with a chance to gain control of the division with two weeks to play. Who isn't fired up for that? Well, regardless of what we think any team from this division is poised to do in the postseason, the reality is this amounts to a playoff game, particularly if the Colts were to win and secure a season sweep over their rivals.
Even if it is Charlie Whitehurst vs. J Yates, it's still a big game, more or less. If Andrew Luck manages to come back from his lacerated kidney in time to play, obviously even more intrigue comes into play, as the youngster will try to salvage what has been a brutal season for him.
Watt figures out a few things about playing with that club on his broken hand this week, but he's going to have a helluva time being the same game-wrecking force while playing through this injury. He can't be himself wearing the club he wore last week. Luckily for the TexansJadeveon Clowney is playing far and away his best football and is setting the edge better than most would have expected … This looks like the end for Frank Gore. When it goes for running backs, it goes quickly … Now that the Colts have lost a divisional game for the first time in forever, you have to wonder if things slip a little in that regard.
Might be another shot to a team that hasn't looked very confident this season in general … Even Yates must be licking his chops with the Colts giving up like points the past two weeks … The Texans need to limit their Wildcat tendencies. Didn't work nearly as well last week as ly … Look for Houston to start feeding DeAndre Hopkins early Lets watch Cincinnati game flirt even often no matter who is at quarterback.
And if it's a close game, he could be the difference. He might implode if this game goes anything like the last two … Should the Colts lose, it'll be some press conference. Coach Chuck Pagano has been placed in an untenable situation all season and with his contract expiring things are only getting more awkward by the week ahead of an eventual coaching change there.
ET FOX. Why To Watch: The Panthers continue to flirt with immortality and they are making what could be a perfect season look far too easy. They are usually rolling over opponents and they fear no one and each week Cam Newton puts a firmer grip on that MVP award. You can start handing Ron Lets watch Cincinnati game flirt even the Coach of the Year award as well. It's been that kind of season. Of course, the Giants are a desperate opponent here, trying to stay alive in the NFC East, and the Giants and coach Tom Coughlin know a thing or two about derailing an unbeaten season late in the year.
They've been New England's nemesis at times in the past and nearly handed the Pats their first loss of this season and this might be the last, best test the Panthers get in the regular season. Is Coughlin one step closer to the end? A lot to take in here. Can Eli and the Giants spoil another team's perfect season again? Not much more to be gained by the Panthers once they clinch the first overall seed, and for the overly physical way in which this man plays quarterback he is a linebacker at heart I truly believesparing him any excess beating.
Odell BeckhamJr. That's worth the price of admission right there … Doubt this is the week the Giants find a run game actually doubt that week comes this year at all.
The Panthers are allowing just 3. That's the power of Cam right there. And managing to knock off the Broncos and Packers in successive weeks would provide a huge boost as well. It still looks as if the Packers' offense is working through plenty of kinks, even with Mike McCarthy back to calling the plays, though I suspect they get a little better by the week in that regard. It could be that the Hail Mary at Detroit is the turning point to get the Packers' season back on track.
Continuing to string together wins down the stretch would provide a boost heading into the playoffs. Aaron Rodgers has the look of a guy who isn't going to let this season go easily, and he's a bad man when he's angry. Aaron Rodgers and the Packers need to be on upset alert Sunday.