Tom Brady and the Patriots are back in the Super Bowl

In what is seemingly Groundhog’s Day for NFL fans, the New England Patriots are in the Super Bowl once again. Tom Brady somehow managed to throw for almost 300 yards and two touchdowns with an injured hand in a 24-20 victory on Sunday over the Jacksonville Jaguars. The defense wasn’t at its best, but it did what it had to and made the stops in the end.

Standing in the Patriots’ way of back-to-back world championships are the Philadelphia Eagles, who come into Super Bowl LII after a thrashing of the Minnesota Vikings. It’s a rematch of Super Bowl XXXIX back in 2005, which was won 24-21 by Brady and the Patriots. Don’t forget to reserve your spot for this Sunday FanPicks Super Bowl contest.

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5 Reasons Why the New England Patriots Will Win Super Bowl LII

1. Been there, done that

There is so much involved with the Super Bowl and it’s all old hat for New England. This squad has 10 appearances in the Big Game and while a lot of the players weren’t around for all of them, they know what it takes to win. The Eagles have just a few veterans who have been in this situation, but they are so young that it could be an issue. Halftime is longer and the pregame is run differently. Players in the NFL are creatures of habit and the Patriots have been through it all before.

2. Tom Brady

A stitched-up hand is not going to stop New England’s quarterback. Outside of a few poor throws, Brady looked stellar against the NFL’s No. 1 pass defense, completing 26 of 38 attempts for 290 yards in AFC Championship Game win over Jacksonville. Brady is 27-9 in the postseason, throwing for 68 touchdowns to just 31 interceptions in those games. For the most part, good quarterbacks win Super Bowls and while Nick Foles has been good in his last two starts, he’s no match for the quarterback that already has five Super Bowl rings. If Brady gets time in the pocket, then the Eagles are in trouble.

3. Last hurrahs and haters

It’s no secret that coordinators Josh McDaniels (Indianapolis) and Matt Patricia (Detroit) are leaving for head coaching gigs elsewhere once the season is over. Not that this team needs any more motivation, but I’m sure they’d love to send these guys out with another ring. McDaniels’ offense averages nearly 400 yards per game while Patricia’s defense has some soft spots, but also does what is needed in order to win. The squad also has had to deal with residue from the ESPN article on the dynamic between owner Robert Kraft, head coach Bill Belichick and Brady. America is sick of the Patriots and their winning and you know that also fuels them in what they do. Motivation of this sort is always good especially for a team that enjoys being the heel.

4. No deficit big enough

The Patriots were down 10 points in the fourth quarter of the AFC Championship Game against the Jaguars, but there was no panic and eventually there was a victory. This one came without Rob Gronkowski, who was out due to a concussion and he’s a huge part of the offense. New England’s comeback win over Atlanta in the Super Bowl last year is the biggest in the game’s 51-year history, but not the only such rally this team has pulled off. Teams get mighty conservative against New England in hopes of trying to drain the clock, but it seems like you leave even the slightest crack or time on the clock, Brady and the boys will make you pay. It’s funny because you could almost say they enjoy coming from behind then being front-runners. Every decision you make has to be right in order to slay the Pats.

5. Bill Belichick

The head coach is the best in the sport and is great at taking away what you do well. He’s got two weeks to look over an Eagles squad with a backup quarterback and a secondary that is very vulnerable at times. Belichick (above, right) also has to have the edge over his counterpart, Doug Pederson, who, like his team, is doing this all for the first time. Jacksonville running back Leonard Fournette averaged only 3.2 yards per carry on Sunday because Belichick’s preference was to have to Blake Bortles try and beat the Patriots with his arm. Even though Belichick’s personality is dry, his knowledge is endless. He’ll find your weaknesses and exploit them.

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The “underdog” Eagles are one more victory away from claiming the franchise’s first Lombardi Trophy

One month ago, critics felt the Philadelphia Eagles’ Super Bowl hopes snapped right with Carson Wentz’s ACL. But after an up-and-down finish with replacement Nick Foles, the quarterback caught fire during the playoffs.

Impressive performances against the Falcons and Vikings had the Eagles fighting back as an overlooked top seed. Labeled an underdog for two straight weeks, they proved doubters wrong and will need to do so a third time against the defending Super Bowl champs, the New England Patriots.

After seeing Sunday night’s performance, I wouldn’t bet against them. Here are five reasons why these Eagles can topple the Belichick-Brady dynasty. Don’t forget to reserve your spot for this Sunday FanPicks Super Bowl contest.

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5 Reasons Why the Philadelphia Eagles Will Win Super Bowl LII

1. Nick Foles just had the game of his life

Foles has played in three career playoff games. He’s now racked up QB ratings of 100-plus in all of them, throwing for five touchdowns and no interceptions. Guess who else has accomplished such a feat? Waiting… waiting… The answer is no one. Not Joe Montana. Not Troy Aikman. Not even the man named Tom Brady, who has five Super Bowl rings and four MVPs on his resume will be on the opposite sideline on Feb. 4.

Peaking when it matters, Sunday night was easily Foles’ best postseason performance. He had four completions of 35 yards or more, making the Eagles forget about Wentz in Sunday night’s rout of Minnesota. He threw for more than 300 yards for the first time in over three years, ending the night turnover free. Suddenly, a scheme that once looked too daunting for a backup has been reconstructed perfectly around his strengths.

Could Foles be running on borrowed time? Sure. But look at what the Patriots’ defense allowed to much-maligned Jaguars starter Blake Bortles Sunday — 293 passing yards, a touchdown, no turnovers and a QB rating hovering around 100.

Outside of that game, Bortles has a career QB rating of around 80.8. Foles? He’s at 87.4 and even made the Pro Bowl (2013). So don’t count out another monster game against a Patriots defense whose “bend but not break” scheme nearly broke them.

2. The Eagles’ defense causes turnovers

The pick-six of Case Keenum was the game-changer that ultimately tilted momentum in Philadelphia’s direction for good. The Eagles’ 31 takeaways during the regular season ranked fourth in the NFL, and their five defensive TDs trailed only Jacksonville for the league lead.

There’s talent up and down the Eagles’ 11-man front, from Pro Bowl defensive tackle Fletcher Cox to Sunday’s hero Patrick Robinson in the secondary. There’s experience, too, from former Patriots Super Bowl defensive end Chris Long and eight-year veteran Brandon Graham. Other than the first drive against the Vikings Sunday, no one flinched. Minneapolis miracle worker Keenum looked like a chump just seven days later.

Certainly, the high-powered Patriots offense could prove a tougher challenge. But the Eagles have the talent on this side of the ball to go punch for punch.

3. It’s a true team effort on offense: no one person can bring them down

With the exception of maybe Foles, whose backup Nate Sudfeld hardly inspires confidence, the Eagles are a combination of quality offensive pieces. They’re not built like the Patriots, who have struggled through short stretches without star tight end Rob Gronkowski.

This team had zero players with 1,000 rushing yards or receiving during the regular season. But their running game was feared through teamwork: LeGarrette Blount, midseason pickup Jay Ajayi, and young Corey Clement all shared the load. Any one of them is capable of a breakout performance in Super Bowl LII.

There also is a trio of 700-yard receivers, with Zach Ertz, Alshon Jeffery and Nelson Agholor all making an impact. Sure, there may not be a legendary name in there, but there’s such a variety of strong targets it’s nearly impossible to stop them all.

It’s strength in numbers that means someone will likely be positioned to have their moment to shine.

4. Rob Gronkowski might not even play

The Patriots’ star tight end and easily the second-best player on the team got knocked out of the AFC Championship Game with a concussion. There’s no telling how the protocol will go over the next two weeks but you have to think Gronk will do anything to get cleared.

However, the injury history of one of the NFL’s most fragile stars is well-documented. Would anyone be surprised if Gronk suffered the poor luck of post-concussion syndrome? Or if the injury hampered his ability to be 100 percent? While the Pats made a gutsy comeback, surging back in the second half against the Jags they’ve also wilted in late-season losses without him.

5. The Eagles have nothing to lose — and they’re playing like it

“We’ve been kicked to the curb since Carson got hurt,” head coach Doug Pederson said in comments that were aired on FOX during the NFC Championship Game. Pederson has played up the underdog role with his team and they’ve bought it hook, line, and sinker.

No one expected this team to be here after Carson Wentz went down with a season-ending injury. Even better yet, they’re positioned to be in the big game for years to come with their franchise quarterback on the mend. Reaching the Super Bowl this year with a young, growing team feels like an extra credit bonus.

That means the Eagles will be playing Super Bowl Sunday as a hungry team with little to lose. It sounds a lot like the Jaguars in the AFC Championship Game and we know how close they came.

At some point, David will hit Goliath with a slingshot that knocks Brady and Belichick off the top of the mountain. Why can’t that moment come with these Eagles?

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Embracing their underdog standing, the Philadelphia Eagles will get to play the role once more, in the Super Bowl.

Nick Foles tossed three touchdown passes, and the Eagles scored 38 unanswered points en route to a 38-7 win over the Minnesota Vikings in the NFC Championship Game on Sunday at Lincoln Financial Field.

LeGarrette Blount rushed for a touchdown, the Philadelphia defense forced two turnovers, and the Eagles advanced to the Super Bowl for the first time since the 2004 season, when they lost the title to the New England Patriots.

The Eagles will face the Patriots once again with a chance at a Super Bowl championship, this time on Feb. 4 in Minneapolis.

Despite being the No. 1 seed in the NFC playoffs, the Eagles were home underdogs both last week against the Atlanta Falcons and Sunday against the Vikings.

“I don’t think many people had us in the Super Bowl before the season started,” Eagles center Jason Kelce said. “When the injuries started piling up, people didn’t have us there. When (quarterback) Carson Wentz got injured? Doubt anyone had us penciled in. We made it. We’re a team in every way. It feels so great, man.”

The Eagles will aim for the first Super Bowl title in franchise history. Before falling to the Patriots in Super Bowl XXXIX, they lost to the Oakland Raiders in Super Bowl XV following the 1980 season.

The Vikings, meanwhile, dropped their sixth consecutive NFC Championship Game appearance.

Minnesota had been in search of its first trip to the Super Bowl since the 1976 season.

“I’m going to take this feeling, bottle it up and make sure it doesn’t happen again,” Vikings quarterback Case Keenum said.

Foles connected on a 41-yard touchdown with Torrey Smith on a flea flicker on the first drive of the third quarter as the Eagles extended their lead to 31-7.

Alshon Jeffery caught made his second touchdown catch of the game, a 5-yarder from Foles, with 14:10 left in the fourth for a 38-7 lead. The Eagles moved 92 yards in 12 plays, and the outcome was sealed.

“I’m excited to be going for a Super Bowl with this group of guys,” Blount said. “I love this team. My teammates are the greatest. We stick together through everything and rally around each other. We have one more to go.”

The game didn’t start perfectly for the Eagles. Minnesota moved effectively on its opening drive, going 75 yards on nine plays, culminating with a 25-yard touchdown pass from Keenum to Kyle Rudolph with 10:14 left in the first quarter.

“You have to give those guys credit,” Keenum said of the Eagles’ defense. “This was the best front we’ve faced this year.”

The Eagles tied the game at 7 when defensive end Chris Long hit Keenum leading to a Patrick Robinson interception. Robinson returned the pick 50 yards for a score with 6:26 remaining in the first.

When Blount rumbled through the middle for an 11-yard touchdown run with 13:37 remaining in the second, the Eagles went ahead 14-7. The drive covered 75 yards in 12 plays.

The Vikings looked to tie the game — or at least kick a field goal — late in the first half, but Keenum was sacked by Derek Barnett on third-and-5 from the Philadelphia 16. Long recovered the fumble.

Foles proved his mettle on the ensuing possession as he tossed a spectacular 53-yard touchdown pass to Jeffery on third-and-10, giving the Eagles a 21-7 lead with 1:09 remaining in the half. Foles was able to move around long enough to be able to deliver the deep pass.

After the defense did its job, the Eagles didn’t run out the clock. They quickly moved down the field and Jake Elliott booted a 38-yard field as time expired for a 24-7 lead at halftime.

Foles wound up 26 of 33 for 352 yards. Tight end Zach Ertz led the Eagles with eight receptions for 93 yards, while Jeffery had five catches for 85 yards. Jay Ajayi paced the Philadelphia ground game with 73 yards on 18 carries.

Keenum finished 28 of 48 for 271 yards with one touchdown pass and two interceptions. Running back Jerick McKinnon had 11 receptions for 86 yards and added 10 carries for 40 yards.

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There is no one the New England Patriots would rather have with the ball in his hands when a game is on the line than Tom Brady, even when his hands are battered and bruised.

Although questionable for the Sunday game against the Jacksonville Jaguars due to a right hand injury, the ageless 40-year-old quarterback proved his mettle again while orchestrating yet another game-winning drive to send New England back to the Super Bowl.

Brady’s 4-yard touchdown pass to Danny Amendola with 2:48 remaining put the Patriots ahead for good in a 24-20 victory against the Jaguars in the AFC Championship Game at Gillette Stadium.

New England will meet the Philadelphia Eagles in the Super Bowl at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis on Feb. 4.

All week long, Brady ducked questions from the media about his hand, which required stitches after he was hurt on the practice field Wednesday when he accidentally struck teammate Rex Burkhead’s helmet.

“Well, I said, ‘We’ll see (if I play),'” Brady said while accepting the Lamar Hunt Trophy, awarded to the AFC champion, at midfield after the game. “So how’d it go?”

Following the Patriots’ go-ahead score, Jacksonville faced a fourth-and-15 after driving to the New England 43-yard-line. However, Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles’ deep toss down the sideline to Dede Westbrook was broken up by Stephon Gilmore.

“We had a two-minute drive at the end of the game to win the AFC championship, so there’s not a whole lot more you can ask for than that,” a reflective Bortles said.

Amendola finished with seven catches for 84 yards and two scores for the Patriots, who extended their own NFL record with an unprecedented 10th trip to the Super Bowl.

“You cherish these moments and opportunities, and I know we’ve had quite a few of them, which we’ve been very blessed to do,” said Brady, who completed 26 of 38 passes for 290 yards and two TDs. “It’s just been an unbelievable run, and I think everyone should be really proud of what we accomplished.”

Last year, New England erased a 28-3 Super Bowl deficit to beat the Atlanta Falcons 34-28 in overtime and claim their fifth championship.

“This is what I dreamt about as a fan in the stands just like all of you, and now we have to go to Minnesota and finish the job,” Patriots owner Robert Kraft, who purchased the Patriots 24 years ago to the day Sunday, told the crowd during the trophy ceremony.

“It’s just been a great year,” Brady added. “It’d be really great if we take care of business in a couple weeks, so we’ll see.”

Bortles threw for 293 yards (23 of 36) and a touchdown, and Leonard Fournette rushed for 76 yards and a touchdown on 24 carries to lead the Jaguars.

Jacksonville was playing in its third-ever AFC title game and its first since 1999.

“(Our locker) room fully expected to win this game, and I think everybody is shocked, disappointed and upset,” Bortles said.

Josh Lambo’s 54-yard field goal with 10:23 left in the third quarter and another from 43 yards seconds into the fourth bumped Jacksonville’s lead to 20-10.

Brady led New England down the field quickly and hit Amendola for a 9-yard touchdown with 8:44 to go to bring the Pats within three.

Bortles marched the Jaguars down the field 76 yards and found a wide-open Marcedes Lewis for a 4-yard touchdown pass at 14:15 of the second quarter, making it 7-3.

With 7:06 to play in the quarter, Fournette’s 4-yard rushing score capped a 77-yard drive to extend Jacksonville’s lead to 14-3.

“We were able to get the lead. Then we did not make enough plays to keep the lead. We had an opportunity at the end of the game to win it, and we did not do that,” Jaguars coach Doug Marrone said.

Rob Gronkowski’s 21-yard catch on the second play of ensuing drive moved him past Dallas Clark into first place on the NFL’s all-time postseason receiving yardage list for a tight end.

Minutes later, Gronkowski left the game with a head injury after taking a helmet-to-helmet hit from Jaguars safety Barry Church at the Jacksonville 40-yard line with 1:23 remaining before halftime.

Although Gronkowski was deemed questionable to return, he never did.

“It’s hard when you lose such a critical part of your team and offense, and hopefully he’s OK,” Brady said of Gronkowski. “It was a tough shot he took, and he’s as tough as they come.”

Church was flagged for unnecessary roughness, helping to set up a 1-yard TD run by James White three plays later to bring the Patriots within four at the break.

New England led 3-0 after one quarter.

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Falcons at Rams

The Atlanta Falcons rolled through the playoffs en route to the Super Bowl a year ago behind a high-powered offense that led the league in scoring. For the Falcons to take the first step toward a return trip to the title game, they will have to slow the NFL’s No. 1 scoring offense when they visit the Los Angeles Rams on Saturday night.

Sixth-seeded Atlanta blew a 25-point lead over New England in a stunning collapse before falling in overtime in Super Bowl LI and has not looked like the same team this season despite registering 10 wins. “We’ve been tested,” Falcons coach Dan Quinn told reporters. “We’re battle-ready. … This week will be another battle. This is now also when we get to test what we’ve done over the last 20 weeks to see how we can work together, and we’re really excited to do it.” The Rams won four games last season but earned their first trip to the playoffs behind second-year quarterback Jared Goff and star running back Todd Gurley, who are among the leading MVP candidates. “We certainly don’t shy away from what a great opportunity it is to be able to play on Saturday night, prime time,” Los Angeles first-year coach Sean McVay told reporters. “I think it’s something that our guys will be excited about, going against the defending NFC champs.”

TV: 8:15 p.m. ET, NBC.

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ABOUT THE FALCONS (10-6): Atlanta won six of its last eight, with the only two losses coming against division winners Minnesota and New Orleans, but Matt Ryan had only five touchdown passes versus four interceptions in the final six games. He still has one of the league’s most dangerous targets in Julio Jones, who caught 88 passes and eclipsed 1,400 yards (1,444) for the fourth straight season. The Falcons also feature the backfield tandem of Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman, who rushed for a combined 1,493 yards and 12 touchdowns while adding 63 receptions and four scores. Atlanta surrendered 19.7 points per game and allowed only one 100-yard rusher.

ABOUT THE RAMS (11-5): Goff hardly looked ready for the bright lights after the 2016 No. 1 overall pick threw for five touchdowns and seven interceptions in seven games as a rookie, but he tossed 28 scoring passes against only seven picks this season. Gurley rushed for 1,305 yards and led the league in touchdowns (19) and yards from scrimmage (2,093) while rushing for more than 100 yards six times. Gurley also topped the team with 64 receptions while rookie Cooper Kupp and Robert Woods recorded five TDs apiece while making 62 and 56 catches, respectively. The Rams ranked 28th against the run despite the presence of stud tackle Aaron Donald (11 sacks).

EXTRA POINTS

1. The Rams are the second team in history to lead the league in scoring after ranking last the previous season.

2. Ryan has thrown 12 touchdown passes and one interception in his last four playoff games.

3. Gurley was held to 61 yards in Atlanta’s 42-14 victory in December 2016.

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Titans at Chiefs

Arrowhead Stadium has provided the Kansas City Chiefs one of the best home-field advantages in the NFL – until the postseason. The Chiefs will try to record their first home playoff victory in 24 years when they host the Tennessee Titans on Saturday in an AFC wild-card matchup.

The back-to-back AFC West champion Chiefs have won four straight following a midseason lull and again look like a contender. Their defense made a dramatic turnaround over the final month of the regular season, holding each of their last four opponents under 350 total yards while forcing 12 turnovers. The Titans are in the playoffs for the first time since 2008, squeaking in by snapping a three-game skid with a 15-10 victory over Jacksonville on Sunday. Tennessee went 3-5 on the road, where it averaged just 17.5 points and 270.8 total yards.

TV: 4:35 p.m. ET, ESPN.

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ABOUT THE TITANS (9-7): Tennessee’s offense has shown flashes of brilliance but has been inconsistent, with everything hinging on the running game. DeMarco Murray is doubtful with a torn MCL, meaning Derrick Henry likely will carry the load and try to establish the run to open up the passing game for Marcus Mariota. Tennessee’s defense ranks fourth against the run and came up big last week against the Jaguars with four takeaways.

ABOUT THE CHIEFS (10-6): Kansas City’s offense went through a slump while losing six of seven games in the middle of the season, but everything clicked again in its last four contests. Rookie Kareem Hunt finished as the NFL’s leading rusher while Alex Smith joined Tom Brady and Drew Brees as the only quarterbacks in the league to pass for more than 4,000 yards with fewer than 10 interceptions, finishing with 4,042 yards and five picks. The Chiefs’ once-suspect secondary played well down the stretch.

EXTRA POINTS

1. Chiefs WR Albert Wilson has caught a touchdown pass in each of his last two postseason games.

2. Mariota has thrown 39 touchdown passes and no interceptions in the red zone in his three-year career.

3. Kansas City’s Travis Kelce and Tennessee’s Delanie Walker are the only NFL tight ends with at least 800 receiving yards in each of the last four seasons.

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Vikings at Packers

The Minnesota Vikings already have wrapped up the NFC North title but there still is plenty at stake when they pay a visit to the Green Bay Packers on Saturday night. While Green Bay is out of playoff contention, the Vikings are in the hunt for a first-round bye and have an outside shot at home-field advantage throughout the postseason.

While Minnesota would need Philadelphia to lose twice to have a chance to secure the No. 1 overall seed, it will clinch a first-round bye with a win over the Packers and a loss or tie by Carolina. The Vikings received a boost when Green Bay was knocked out of the playoff chase and quarterback Aaron Rodgers was placed on injured reserve, but they are not taking their bitter division rivals lightly. “I feel like any team that’s not in it, that should be their mentality. Be the spoiler,” said defensive tackle Linval Joseph, one of Minnesota’s four Pro Bowl selections. “Be the team who has the opportunity to expose that team. Right now, we’re playing this game not to be exposed.” Rodgers, who returned from a broken collarbone in last week’s 31-24 at Carolina, went on injured reserve Tuesday — one day after the Packers were eliminated from the playoff chase for the first time since 2008.

TV: 8:30 p.m. ET, NBC.

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ABOUT THE VIKINGS (11-3): Case Keenum had a pedestrian performance against the Packers two months ago, but he has posted a passer rating above 100 in five of the last six games, including a 138.4 mark last week when he completed a season-high 87 percent (20 of 23, 2 TDs) of his passes. Wideout Adam Thielen, also named to the Pro Bowl on Tuesday, had nine catches in the first meeting this season and torched Green Bay for a career-high 202 yards with 12 catches and two TDs last December at Lambeau Field. The backfield tandem of Latavius Murray and Jerick McKinnon continues to supply outstanding production, with each going over 100 yards from scimmage last weekend. The Vikings lead the NFC in both points (17.3) and total yards (283.9) yards, and are yielding 85.3 yard on the ground.

ABOUT THE PACKERS (7-7): After Rodgers had his collarbone broken in the first meeting against the Vikings, Brett Hundley stepped in and threw three interceptions while being sacked four times in a 23-10 loss. Hundley did get better as the season progressed, going 3-4 as a starter and tossing six touchdowns versus one pick in his last three games, but he could be without the services of top wide receiver Davante Adams, who is in the concussion protocol after taking an illegal hit to the head in last weekend’s loss. Wideout Jordy Nelson had only 22 catches in Hundley’s seven starts, but Randall Cobb has come alive with 15 receptions and a TD over the past two games. The Packers are allowing an average of 23.8 points and have held only once team (Chicago, twice) under 20 points since Week 1.

EXTRA POINTS

1. Keenum has five games this season with a passer rating of at least 115 and completion percentage of 70, tying Brett Favre and Daunte Culpepper’s franchise record.

2. Nelson has seven touchdowns in his last nine games against Minnesota.

3. Vikings TE Kyle Rudolph has at least one TD reception in four straight games.

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Redskins versus Cowboys Preview

The Dallas Cowboys are a decidedly different team than the one that coasted to a 33-19 win against the Washington Redskins last month, especially considering Ezekiel Elliott rolled up a season-high 150 rushing yards and two touchdowns in that outing. With Elliott suspended, the Cowboys’ overall offense hasn’t been as potent and mustered just 22 points during the team’s three-game losing skid heading into Thursday’s contest versus the visiting Redskins. The Redskins versus Cowboys will be broadcast at 8:25pm on NBC. Play this game as part of Thursday GoW cross sports contest starting at 8:25pm ET.

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The Redskins reached 30 points in back-to-back losses before tightening their defense in a 20-10 win over the sputtering New York Giants on Thanksgiving. Kirk Cousins (NFL second-best 3,038 yards), who tossed a pair of touchdown passes against the Giants, has thrown for 625 passing yards, six TDs and no interceptions in his last two encounters with the Cowboys.

ABOUT THE REDSKINS (5-6)

While coach Jay Gruden was pleased to see left tackle Trent Williams (knee) participate in practice in a bid to end a one-game absence versus Dallas, the coach doesn’t have high hopes for the return of tight end Jordan Reed. Reed has missed each of the last four games with a hamstring injury. Rookie running back Samaje Perine has looked healthy with 217 rushing yards in his last two contests, and a season-best 130 scrimmage yards (100 rushing, 30 receiving) last week.

ABOUT THE COWBOYS (5-6)

Dak Prescott and the Dallas passing game have taken a hit with the threat of Elliott removed from the offense. Prescott tossed five interceptions in his last two games to eclipse his total of four during his rookie season in 2016. Wideout Dez Bryant has struggled to get untracked without Elliott, failing to crack 40 yards receiving in two of the last three games.The Cowboys are averaging a solid 4.4 yards per carry in Elliott’s absence.

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Giants versus Redskins

The Washington Redskins have only four days to pick themselves up after a late collapse and a crushing defeat that dealt a jarring blow to their postseason hopes. Losers of two in a row and four of their last five, Washington faces what basically amounts to a must-win scenario when it hosts the New York Giants on Thanksgiving night. The Giants versus Redskins will be broadcast at 8:30 pm on NBC. Play this game as part of Thanksgiving GoW cross sports contest starting at 7:30pm ET.

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The Redskins blew a 15-point lead in the final six minutes of an eventual 34-31 overtime loss to New Orleans and dropped to 11th place in the NFC — two games out of the final playoff slot. New York has been relegated to spoiler since opening the season with five consecutive losses, but it halted a three-game skid with a 12-9 overtime victory over AFC West-leading Kansas City on Sunday.

ABOUT THE GIANTS (2-8)

New York put forth a strong defensive effort, limiting Kansas City to three field goals after surrendering a staggering 106 points during its three-game slide. The Giants won despite Eli Manning completing 54.3 percent of his passes and throwing for only 205 yards while failing to toss a touchdown pass for the first time since the season opener. Running back Orleans Darkwa rushed for at least 70 yards for the third consecutive week and added a touchdown on 20 carries, but none of the team’s receivers had more than three catches on Sunday. Safety Landon Collins led to strong defensive effort by intercepting a pass and recording a career-best 14 tackles.

ABOUT THE REDSKINS (4-6)

Washington wasted a superb effort by Kirk Cousins, who threw for 322 yards and three touchdowns with zero interceptions against the Saints. Cousins will be without some of his best weapons as Chris Thompson, who leads the team in touchdowns, rushing and receptions, was lost for the season after suffering a broken fibula on Sunday. Wideout Terrelle Pryor was placed on injured reserve, tight end Jordan Reed remains a question mark and the offensive line could be without three starters and the top two centers. Rookie Samaje Perine ran for a season-high 117 yards, but the defense has allowed at least 33 points in the past four losses.

Ole Miss versus Mississippi State

Although Mississippi State’s Nick Fitzgerald had already emerged as one of the best dual-threat quarterbacks in the country well prior to last season’s Egg Bowl, his record-breaking rushing performance in that contest pretty much cemented that label. The dangerous junior signal-caller looks to maintain the 17th-ranked Bulldogs’ recent dominance in their Thanksgiving Day rivalry game with Ole Miss when they host the Rebels. Ole Miss versus Mississippi State will be broadcast at 7:30 pm on ESPN. Play this game as part of Thanksgiving GoW cross sports contest starting at 7:30pm ET.

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Fitzgerald accounted for 367 total yards – including a school-record 258 yards on the ground – and five total touchdowns (two rushing) in last year’s 55-20 thrashing of Ole Miss, allowing Mississippi State to avenge a defeat in 2015 and take home the Golden Egg Trophy for the fifth time in eight tries under coach Dan Mullen. The Bulldogs reached the eight-win mark for the fifth time under Mullen following last weekend’s 28-21 thrilling victory at Arkansas, getting two touchdown passes from Fitzgerald over the final 3:57 to pull it out. Win or lose, the Rebels will be playing their final game of the season as a result of a self-imposed postseason ban, which came in February after the NCAA found the program committed multiple violations under former coach Hugh Freeze. Ole Miss guaranteed itself its second straight non-winning season after losing at home to Texas A&M 31-24 over the weekend.

ABOUT OLE MISS (5-6, 2-5 SEC)

A.J. Brown finished with seven catches for 70 yards and a touchdown against the Aggies; the 6-2, 225-pound sophomore wideout leads the conference in receptions (69), receiving yards (1,085) and receiving TDs (10). Senior running back Jordan Wilkins, who rushed for a season-high 147 yards on a career-high 19 carries last weekend and is averaging 108.2 yards on the ground over his last four outings, is 99 yards shy of becoming the Rebels’ first 1,000-yard rusher since Dexter McCluster in 2009. Gary Wunderlich is on the verge of breaking multiple school records, needing one more field goal, two more points and one more successful point-after try to break Jonathan Nichols’ career marks in each category.

ABOUT MISSISSIPPI STATE (8-3, 4-3)

Fitzgerald extended his own SEC record for 100-yard rushing games by a quarterback to 14 after rushing for 101 against the Razorbacks and needs only 52 more yards to move past ex-Bulldog Dak Prescott (2,521) and into third place on the conference’s all-time rushing list from a quarterback. Since totaling 73 yards on the ground in back-to-back losses to Georgia and Auburn at the end of September, Aeris Williams is averaging 89.2 yards rushing over his last six outings and needs 56 more to reach 1,000 for the season. Despite giving up two sacks versus Arkansas, the Bulldogs have allowed a league-low eight – tied for the fourth-best mark in the country.

Happy Thanksgiving

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Posted in CFB, NFL

Falcons versus Seahawks Preview

The Seattle Seahawks spent much of the days following their last victory grousing about playing on a short week, but there will be no such complaints when they host the Atlanta Falcons on Monday night. Seattle will be playing for the first time since losing All-Pro cornerback Richard Sherman for the season in a win over Arizona on November 9. The Falcons versus Seahawks will be broadcast at 8:30 pm on ESPN. Play this game as part of Monday GoW cross sports contest starting at 8:30pm ET.

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The Seahawks, who are one game behind the first-place Los Angeles Rams in the NFC West, suffered a rash of injuries in their matchup at Arizona. The most prominent being the ruptured Achilles sustained by Sherman. Atlanta, which had lost four of five before dominating Dallas last weekend, also is expected to be without a marquee player after running back Devonta Freeman sustained a concussion against the Cowboys. It will be a rematch of last season’s NFC Divisional Round playoff matchup, won by the Falcons 36-20 behind three touchdown passes from reigning league MVP Matt Ryan.

ABOUT THE FALCONS (5-4)

Atlanta is averaging a dozen points fewer than last season’s league-leading average of 33.8 and had failed to score more than 17 in its last four losses before posting its highest point total since Week 3. Backup Tevin Coleman, who rushed for a season-high 83 yards after Freeman was injured early last week, ran for 57 yards on 11 carries and had a receiving score in last season’s playoff win over Seattle. With Sherman out, expect Ryan to make a concerted effort to get the ball into the hands of star wideout Julio Jones, who has 49 catches but has reached the end zone only once. Defensive end Adrian Clayborn is coming off a monster game with a franchise-record six sacks.

ABOUT THE SEAHAWKS (6-3)

Sherman is not the only member of Seattle’s vaunted secondary that could be out — safety Kam Chancellor suffered neck stingers in the last game and was still being evaluated, although fellow safely Earl Thomas is expected to return after missing two games (hamstring). Running back Eddie Lacy is expected to return after sitting out one week with a groin injury, but the ground game has been ineffective since rookie Chris Carson was lost for the season. Russell Wilson has carried the offense, leading the NFC with 2,543 yards while throwing for 19 touchdowns against six interceptions. Doug Baldwin has a team-high 54 catches while tight end Jimmy Graham has six TDs in the past five games.

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Posted in NFL

Seahawks versus Cardinals Preview

The Seattle Seahawks were fit to be tied after seeing their four-game winning streak come to a halt last week following three missed field-goal attempts and a season-high 16 penalties. Speaking of ties, the Seahawks return to the site of a rare draw last season when they visit the Arizona Cardinals on Thursday. The Seahawks versus Cardinals will be broadcast at 8:25 pm on NBC. Play this game as part of Thursday GoW cross sports contest starting at 7:30pm ET.

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Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson threw multiple touchdown passes for the third straight week and fifth time in six games in Sunday’s 17-14 loss to Washington. The 28-year-old tossed four scoring strikes in a 34-31 setback against Arizona last season on Christmas Eve after both teams were limited to field goals in a 6-6 tie on October 23, 2016. Adrian Peterson was not a member of the Cardinals for those contests, but the 32-year-old is making up for lost time in a hurry with a career-high 37 rushes for 159 yards in Sunday’s 20-10 victory over winless San Francisco.

ABOUT THE SEAHAWKS (5-3)

Blair Walsh had reason to hang his head after missing field-goal attempts of 44, 39 and 49 yards versus the Redskins, but coach Pete Carroll didn’t want those misfires to lead to the 27-year-old kicker worrying about his job security either. Doug Baldwin, who made a career-best 13 catches for 171 yards and a touchdown in the last encounter with Arizona, has 22 receptions on 34 targets for 254 yards and two scores over his last three games.

ABOUT THE CARDINALS (4-4)

Drew Stanton traditionally has stepped up when called upon, and the 33-year-old did precisely that by extending his winning streak to four starts – albeit spread over nearly three years – by tossing two touchdown passes versus the 49ers. J.J. Nelson rolled up 132 receiving yards in his last encounter with Seattle but has made just three catches for 54 yards in his last three overall games.

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Posted in NFL

Bills versus Jets Preview

The Buffalo Bills aim to grab a share of the division lead while giving the spiraling New York Jets plenty of space in the cellar on Thursday, when the AFC East rivals meet at MetLife Stadium. The Bills versus Jets will be broadcast at 8:25 pm on the NFL Network. Play this game as part of Thursday GoW cross sports contest starting at 8pm ET.

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Buffalo, which is off to its best start since 2008, has won two in a row to remain one-half game behind first-place New England while New York has dropped three in a row following a promising 3-2 start. Buffalo owns a league-best plus-14 turnover margin and is third in the league with 115 points allowed, and continued opportunistic defensive play like that could go a long way in helping the team end its 17-season playoff drought. The Jets have been rather generous with the ball this season, committing 14 turnovers (seven interceptions, seven fumbles), including Jeremy Kerley’s costly muffed punt in Sunday’s 25-20 setback against Atlanta.

ABOUT THE BILLS (5-2)

LeSean McCoy recorded season highs in carries (27) and rushing yards (151) while registering his third touchdown in two games during Sunday’s 34-14 romp over Oakland. The versatile 29-year-old added at least six receptions for the fourth time this season and rolled up 159 yards from scrimmage in Buffalo’s season-opening 21-12 win over New York. Tyrod Taylor, who has impressed McDermott with a pair of strong performances since the team’s bye week, threw for 297 yards and three touchdowns in Buffalo’s 37-31 setback against New York on September 15, 2016. The Bills added a jolt to their passing game by acquiring wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin (32 receptions, 475 yards, two touchdowns) from Carolina for two draft choices prior to Tuesday’s trading deadline.

ABOUT THE JETS (3-5)

Frustrations are mounting as the losses pile up for New York, which saw veteran Matt Forte openly question the play-calling of offensive coordinator John Morton as the team appeared to abandon the run in the rainy and sloppy conditions versus the Falcons. Josh McCown, who recorded his highest completion percentage of the season in that contest (26-of-33, 78.8 percent), has thrown nine touchdown passes in his last four games after being limited to three in his first four. Robby Anderson, who leads the team with 435 receiving yards, has found the end zone in back-to-back weeks.

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Posted in NFL

Thursday Games of the Week

Begin the football weekend with the College Football game between Stanford and Oregon State. Mix it with some NFL Thursday Night Football and you’ve got your Games of the Week. Check out both games preview below and come play FanPicks cross sports contest!!! >>>Click here to join the game<<<

Stanford Cardinals vs Oregon State Beavers

Following a much-needed week off, No. 20 Stanford aims for its fifth straight victory Thursday in Corvallis against a re-energized Oregon State team under interim coach Cory Hall. The game will start at 9pm ET and will be broadcast on ESPN.

The Beavers have dropped five in a row and will be hard-pressed to slow down Heisman Trophy hopeful Bryce Love. Love leads the nation in rushing at 198.1 yards per game and has 18 carries of 30 yards or more. He has a remarkable 1,387 rushing yards through seven games despite carrying only once in the second half of Stanford’s 49-7 rout of Oregon on October 14.

Stanford’s offensive line has gone four straight games without allowing a sack while creating opportunities for quarterback Keller Chryst, who turned in one of his best games of the season against Oregon, throwing for 181 yards and three touchdowns with one interception. The Cardinal are tied for first in the Pac-12 North but need to avoid a letdown against Oregon State, which headed into its off week after playing one of its most competitive games of the season in a 36-33 loss to Colorado.

STANFORD (5-2, 4-1 Pac-12)

Love ranks second nationally with 200.9 all-purpose yards per game to lead the Cardinal, who have averaged 295 rushing yards with 12 touchdowns during their four-game winning streak. Linebacker Curtis Robinson had a team-high seven tackles against Oregon but the Cardinal run defense struggled again as the Ducks rushed for 276 yards. The Cardinal have been stronger in the secondary where safety Justin Reid (five) and cornerback Quenton Meeks (two) have combined for seven interceptions.

OREGON STATE (1-6, 0-4 Pac-12)

Hall took over for Gary Andersen on October 8 and immediately placed a greater emphasis on the run game as Ryan Nall finished with 172 yards rushing and three touchdowns against Colorado. Junior wide receiver Seth Collins, who leads the team with 43.3 receiving yards per game, missed the contest because of an unspecified illness and could be out for the rest of the season. Senior linebacker Manase Hungalu has been a bright spot on defense with 59 total tackles, five for loss, 2.5 sacks, two interceptions and three quarterback hurries.

Miami Dolphins vs Baltimore Ravens

Journeyman Matt Moore is fresh off a brilliant comeback performance and now will serve as the starting quarterback when the Miami Dolphins visit the Baltimore Ravens on Thursday. You can catch that game at 8:25 pm on CBS.

Moore came off the bench after Jay Cutler suffered multiple cracked ribs on Sunday to rally Miami from a 14-point deficit and record a 31-28 victory over the New York Jets. He threw two touchdown passes during a 17-point fourth quarter and brings a more boisterous approach than the introverted Cutler, who could miss multiple contests. Miami has won three straight games, so it is experiencing better times than the Ravens, who have allowed an average of 27.6 points while losing four of their last five contests.

DOLPHINS (4-2)

Running back Jay Ajayi (442 yards) is saddled with a 3.5-yard average that is well below the 4.9 mark of last season’s breakthrough campaign, but he will have a shot at posting his third 100-yard performance of the year against a Baltimore squad that ranks last in the NFL in rushing defense (145.3 yards per game). Moore will try to pump life into a sagging offense that ranks 31st in scoring (15.3 points) and dead last in total offense (261.8 yards) as well as try to make a downfield threat out of receiver Jarvis Landry, who is averaging just 8.1 yards on 45 receptions. Defensive end Cameron Wake has recorded six sacks after posting 2.5 against the Jets, but the defense has made only two interceptions.

RAVENS (3-4)

Baltimore ranks 23rd in the NFL in scoring offense (18.8 points) and 28th in total offense (277.6 yards) while quarterback Joe Flacco has been an underwhelming performer with five touchdown tosses and eight interceptions. Cornerback Brandon Carr has recorded a club-leading three interceptions. Outside linebacker Terrell Suggs (team-best 4.5 sacks) is expected to play through a knee injury.

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Posted in CFB, NFL