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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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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NFC West biggest needs in the 2017 NFL Draft

Every team in the NFL’s worst division has serious question marks

The Seahawks, Cardinals, Rams and 49ers collectively finished the 2016 NFL season – playoffs included – with a combined 24 wins. To put that in perspective, the New England Patriots won just seven fewer games than the entire NFC West combined. As you might have expected, the NFC West was easily the worst division in the league from a win-loss standpoint. All four teams are in need of a overhaul if they want to compete for a Super Bowl appearance anytime soon. Step one is making the right decisions on April 27th in what looks to be a fairly loaded NFL Draft.

 Arizona Cardinals

The Cardinals finished with a disappointing 7-8-1 record after entering the season as the top pick to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl. A pedestrian season from Carson Palmer combined with injuries on the offensive line was enough to doom Arizona’s season. The Cardinals are a good mix of experience and youth, but it’s beginning to look like the championship window might be closing on its veteran core. For starters, it’s time to find Palmer’s successor at quarterback. There are plenty of guys available in this draft with the potential to be a franchise quarterback after some time on the sidelines to get settled. Arizona also needs help on the offensive line – specifically at guard. Getting younger at receiver is another priority.

First-round pick: No. 13 overall

Potential picks: The Cardinals are going to take a long look at Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson if he’s still around when they are on the clock. That said, if one of the top two receivers – Clemson’s Mike Williams or Western Michigan’s Corey Davis – falls to them, both will be hard to disregard.

 Los Angeles Rams

The Rams were bad enough to get Jeff Fisher fired and subsequently bring in the youngest head coach in modern NFL history. They finished 4-12 in their first year back in Los Angeles, averaging a league-worst 14 points per game. The Rams also were among the worst teams in the league when it came to getting after the quarterback, collecting less than two sacks per contest. The Rams will need to be patient and rebuild from the ground up. They need depth at every position on the offensive line and more playmakers at wide receiver. They may even need to draft another quarterback, despite taking Jared Goff with the No. 1 overall pick last year.

First-round pick: None

First pick: No. 37 overall

Potential picks: You’ll likely see the Rams go with the best player available at this point. Matching that with their biggest needs, you could see them go with Indiana guard Dan Feeney, Penn State receiver Chris Godwin or Notre Dame quarterback DeShone Kizer.

 San Francisco 49ers

The 49ers ended the season 2-14 amidst the Colin Kaepernick kneeling controversy. What really did them in was a defense that couldn’t keep anyone out of the end zone, as they allowed 480 points (30 points per game) on the year. There is some young talent scattered around the depth chart, but like the Rams, the 49ers appear to be a couple of year away from being taken seriously. A franchise quarterback is a priority for the team. They need a line that can protect that quarterback. They need receivers who can consistently get open and catch passes from that quarterback. The need talent everywhere on defense so that quarterback doesn’t need to win a shootout every week.

First-round pick: No. 2 overall

Potential picks: You’d be hard-pressed to find many mock drafts that don’t have San Francisco taking Stanford defensive end Solomon Thomas. If the new regime defies the experts and go another direction, it will maybe be North Carolina quarterback Mitchell Tribusky or Alabama defensive tackle Jonathan Allen.

 Seattle Seahawks

Another year, another trip to the playoffs for Seattle. That said, this was not the dominant Seahawks team that played in back-to-back Super Bowls not too long ago. They were very inconsistent, struggling with the Rams and 49ers while defeating the Patriots on the road. The running back position was a revolving door and Doug Baldwin seemed to be the only receiver you could count on each week. Seattle needs reinforcement at both guard and offensive tackle if it wants to keep Russell Wilson healthy for the better part of the next decade. The Seahawks also need to get younger quickly in all three levels of their defense.

First-round pick: No. 26 overall

Potential picks: The wise move would be to select the best available offensive lineman at this point, which could be Utah tackle Garrett Boles. Seattle also could decide to go in a different direction and take Washington cornerback Kevin King or Wisconsin linebacker T.J. Watt. All three would be safe picks.

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NFL Playoffs Divisional Round Recap

There was no shortage of surprising wins and dramatic wins during the 2017 NFL Playoffs Divisional Round. Before moving forward to next week Conference Finals (Enter contest), here’s what happen this weekend.

Seattle Seahawks vs Atlanta Falcons

Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan may be 0-4 in the playoffs against all other teams, but he is 2-0 versus the Seattle Seahawks. Ryan, building off a spectacular regular season, threw for 334 yards and three touchdowns and the Falcons lived up to their billing as the highest-scoring team in the NFL with a 36-20 victory Saturday at the Georgia Dome.

Houston Texans vs New England Patriots

It wasn’t an artistic success, but it was enough for the New England Patriots to return to the AFC title game for a record sixth straight time. Bill Belichick’s team moved on with a 34-16 victory over the Houston Texans in the divisional playoff game on Saturday night.

Green Bay Packers vs Dallas Cowboys

The score was tied with 35 seconds remaining to this game and the ball at the hands of Aaron Rodgers. The rest, as they say, was history. The NFL’s hottest quarterback put the Green Bay Packers in position to advance to the NFC Championship and kicker Mason Crosby did the rest, booting a 51-yard field goal at the final gun to beat the Dallas Cowboys 34-31 Sunday afternoon at AT&T Stadium.

Pittsburgh Steelers vs Kansas City Chiefs

It’s not the type of performance that wins many games in the NFL playoffs. Going for 60 minutes without a touchdown generally leads to a sorrowful end to postseason hopes. At least it did until Sunday night at Arrowhead Stadium. The Pittsburgh Steelers did not score a touchdown, yet won the AFC divisional round game against the Kansas City Chiefs 18-16.

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NFL Divisional Playoff Preview

The NFL Divisional Playoff match-ups are set and every game will be a rematch from the regular season.

NFC Matchups

In the NFC, it’s the Packers visiting the Cowboys, and the Seahawks on the road to face the Falcons. The often overlooked Falcons have quietly gone about their business this season and clinched the No. 2 seed in the NFC.  They differ from previous years in that it seems they may finally have a reliable defence to go along with their potent offence.  If the Falcons want to make others take note and earn respect they will have to get past the Seahawks. Seattle coming off a less than stellar regular season did manage to win the NFC West with relatively easily by beating the Lions 26-6 in the NFC Wild Card Game.  The big question here is whether Russell Wilson can find consistency in his game, and can the Seahawks defence get past its injury issues and stop the high flying Falcons offense?

The Green Bay Packers are the hottest team in the NFL right now after winning their seventh consecutive game Sunday, defeating the New York Giants 38-13 in the Wild Card.  After a slow start, the Packers offence got going in the second half after ending the first half on a hail mary touchdown from Aaron Rodgers to Randall Cobb.  The Packers hope to continue their hot play and upset the top-seeded Cowboys next Sunday.  The Cowboys are favorites, but they are going to have to depend on rookies Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott to beat the Packers and advance to the NFC Championship game.

AFC Matchups

In the AFC, it’s the Texans looking to play the roll of spoiler as they travel to Gillette Stadium to face the favored Patriots. The Patriots begin their run toward a fifth Super Bowl title with a home game Saturday night.  Not many seems to think the Texans can even keep this game close, let alone come up with the upset. After all, lets not forget that the Patriots blasted the Texans 27-0 earlier this year with their third string QB.  Now with a healthy, rested and focused Brady back under center it is hard to fathom anything but a lop sided Patriots win.

Many believe the Steelers may be the most dangerous team in the postseason, and they will get a chance to prove it Sunday at Arrowhead when they face the Chiefs.  Earlier this year the Steelers punished the Chiefs 43-14.  Will the Steelers defenseThe  continue to shine, and will big Ben’s ankle be ready for the Chiefs pass rush?

Which teams will prevail to play in the Conference Championships on January 22nd?  Make sure to jump in on all the NFL Divisional Playoff action at Fanpicks.com where we always offer you multiple ways to win.

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NFL Wild Card Weekend

Detroit Lions vs Seattle Seahawks Preview

The Seattle Seahawks are making their fifth consecutive playoff appearance on the heels of trading wins and losses over their last six games, while the Detroit Lions’ bid to capture the NFC North title was dashed by three straight defeats to end the season. Both teams will look to get it in gear on Saturday night. They will meet in a wild card tilt at CenturyLink Field in Seattle (Enter contest).

Seahawks coach Pete Carroll, along with quarterback Russell Wilson, has yet to suffer a playoff loss in the Pacific Northwest. Detroit hasn’t won a postseason game since 1991. Wilson (career-high 4,219 passing yards) threw a touchdown pass in a 25-23 victory over San Francisco on Sunday and found Doug Baldwin for a scoring strike in the last encounter with the Lions, resulting in Seattle’s 13-10 triumph on October 5, 2015.

While Wilson reportedly is contemplating removing his knee brace for the playoffs, Detroit quarterback Matthew Stafford said he hasn’t been affected by wearing a glove on his throwing hand to protect an injured finger, although he has registered two touchdowns and three interceptions in his last three games after recording 22 TDs and seven picks prior to the injury. Stafford threw for 347 yards and two scores in a 31-24 setback against Green Bay on Sunday and has averaged 351.5 yards in two career playoff appearances.

ABOUT THE LIONS (9-7)

Former Seattle wideout Golden Tate overcame a horrendous start to the season to lead the team with 1,077 receiving yards, with 404 and two touchdowns coming on 33 receptions in his last four road games. Tate has made himself at home in his third season with Detroit after signing a five-year, $31 million contract on the heels of helping the Seahawks win Super Bowl XLVIII. Zach Zenner has given Detroit’s 30th-ranked rushing game a jolt with 136 yards and three touchdowns in his last two contests. Defensive end Kerry Hyder recorded six of his team-leading eight sacks on the road this campaign.

ABOUT THE SEAHAWKS (10-5-1)

Seattle’s ground game has struggled to get untracked since the retirement of Marshawn Lynch, with Thomas Rawls plagued by multiple injuries while Christine Michael (now with Green Bay) and C.J. Prosise (shoulder) also saw their paths to stardom slowed. Wideouts Jermaine Kearse (six touchdowns in seven career playoff games) and Baldwin (four TDs in last six postseason contests) have come up large in the passing game. Former Lion Cliff Avril recorded six of his team-leading 11.5 sacks in his last six home games while fellow Pro Bowl defensive end Michael Bennett has registered one in back-to-back postseason contests.Line backer Bobby Wagner led the NFL and set a franchise single-season record with 167 tackles in the regular season.

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Los Angeles Rams vs Seattle Seahawks

The Seattle Seahawks are trying to put the pieces together after a lopsided loss while the Los Angeles Rams are attempting to tackle a much bigger puzzle with an interim head coach at the helm during a short week. The first-place Seahawks look to capture the NFC West title for the third time in four years and remain perfect in the Pacific Northwest on Thursday night when they host John Fassel and the reeling Rams (Enter Contest).

Seattle, which needs just a win or an Arizona loss to clinch the division crown, hardly looked like a playoff contender on Sunday as Russell Wilson threw a career-high five interceptions in a 38-10 setback in Green Bay.  He threw for 254 yards back on September 18 against Los Angeles. The Seahawks suffered their third straight loss to the Rams with a 9-3 decision. The 28-year-old Wilson was hampered by an ailing ankle.

The Rams parted ways with Jeff Fisher on Monday. They temporarily handed the keys to special teams coach Fassel just hours after the club sustained its eighth loss in nine games with a 42-14 shellacking by Atlanta. Fassel’s task is a formidable one as Los Angeles ranks last in the NFL in points (14.9 per game) and total yards (286.2), and 30th overall in both rushing yards (81.1) and turnover differential (minus-11).

ABOUT THE RAMS (4-9)

Todd Gurley has been limited to 3.3 yards per carry and five touchdowns in 13 games this season after an impressive 4.8 average and 10 scores in his rookie campaign. Top overall pick Jared Goff is still getting his feet wet after sitting in favor of Case Keenum, throwing two interceptions on Sunday before finishing with respectable numbers (24-of-41 for 235 yards) due in part to the game being out of hand in a hurry. Both Goff and Gurley scored a rushing touchdown last week, with the former’s serving as his first of his career.

Wide receiver Kenny Britt has reeled in a touchdown pass in two of his last three games and resides 63 receiving yards shy of his first 1,000-yard campaign. He owns a career-best 63 receptions this season. Linebacker Alec Ogletree ranks fourth in the NFL in tackles (117) and recorded nine along with a forced fumble and fumble recovery in the first meeting with Seattle.

ABOUT THE SEAHAWKS (8-4-1)

Seattle entered Sunday’s game versus Green Bay as the league’s top defense but saw that designation shredded after surrendering a season high in points in the first contest without former All-Pro safety Earl Thomas (broken leg). Seattle limited Gurley to just 51 yards on 19 carries with linebacker K.J. Wright collecting a team-high nine tackles in Week 2 and 49 with two sacks and a forced fumble over his last six games at home. Wideout Doug Baldwin has 20 receptions in his last three contests, but was limited to season lows in catches (three) and yards (20) in the first meeting with the Rams. Linebacker Bobby Wagner leads the NFL with 139 tackles while defensive end Cliff Avril ranks fourth in the NFC with 10 sacks.

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Buffalo Bills vs Seattle Seahawks

Following a pair of six-point losses to open the season, Buffalo Bills coach Rex Ryan opined that playing a difficult opponent might be just what his team needs to get back on a winning track. That mindset will be in play Monday night for Buffalo (Enter Contest), which pays a visit to perhaps the league’s toughest venue, when it visits the Seattle Seahawks.

The Bills have dropped two in a row to AFC East rivals Miami and New England. The division title looks to be out of reach with the Patriots having another solid season at hand. A third straight defeat could seriously jeopardize Buffalo’s wild-card hopes. Seattle also needs to get back in the win column after coming up empty in back-to-back road games. They fell in New Orleans last weekend and had a tie in Arizona one week prior. The Seahawks are a different animal at CenturyLink Field with a 3-0 record this season, although two of the wins have come by two points.

ABOUT THE BILLS (4-4)

The No. 1 topic for Buffalo is the health of star running back LeSean McCoy, who sat out last week’s game after being limited to 11 yards against the Dolphins in Week 7. McCoy, who rumbled for 470 yards and five touchdowns in Weeks 3-6, was limited at Thursday’s practice but expressed optimism that he would be available Monday night. Quarterback Tyrod Taylor would benefit most from the return of McCoy, with the Bills’ passing game ranking 31st at 179.4 yards per game. Wide receiver Percy Harvin, who played parts of two seasons with Seattle, was signed by Buffalo this week. Lorenzo Alexander, the league sack leader and AFC Defensive Player of the Month, is battling a hamstring injury and is questionable for Monday’s game.

ABOUT THE SEAHAWKS (4-2-1)

Despite guiding Seattle to 10 points in the final five minutes of a come-from-behind win over Atlanta in Week 6, quarterback Russell Wilson has struggled over the past three games. Wilson, who battled knee and ankle injuries, has zero touchdown passes and one interception in the last three and has rushed for only 16 yards in 10 carries in that span. The 3-time pro-bowler has 20 scoring passes versus two interceptions in his last seven games against AFC opponents. Rookie running back C.J. Prosise appears ready to assume a bigger role in the offense behind Christine Michael after accumulating 103 yards scrimmage last week. Seattle allows 89.7 yards on the ground, but defensive end Michael Bennett is out and safety Kam Chancellor is as well.

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