Posts tagged Minnesota Vikings
79th and Halas - From Worst to First

The Bears go worst to first! Flows and Scott talk about Sunday’s season-ending sweep of the Vikings before looking ahead to the Bears’ first playoff game in eight years this Sunday against the defending champion Eagles!

79th and Halas - Pick your poison

Flows and Scott get you ready for Sunday’s season finale with the Vikings. Join them on 79th and Halas throughout the Bears playoff run!Celebrate your division champs by grabbing one of the NEW shirts straight from The Barber's Chair merch store!

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79th and Halas - "Three Up, Three Down" feat. JR Bang

JR Bang of the First Black Champ podcast joins Scott and Flows to celebrate the Bears’ sweep of the divisional gauntlet, and discuss the keys to the Bears’ success before previewing Sunday’s game against the New York Giants

Ball Don't Lie - "Shanghai Melo"

It's the final Ball Don't Lie before the Thanksgiving holiday! Pierce is back with Joe and Scott to talk the latest news in the Association and the NFL.

Bears-Vikings preview
Golden State Warriors drama
Jimmy Butler to the Sixers
Is Melo's NBA career done?
The new look Duke Blue Devils
Aaron Donald's not for the ray tay
Panthers not a top tier NFC team
Steelers byke
The "Is the Pats dynasty over" narrative is back
What's wrong with the Eagles?
A Gruden is not to be trusted
Sound byte of the week
Cooper Kupp tears ACL
Dez tears Achilles
Loudpack Leveon missing the 2018 season
Week 11 predictions
Goofy Mog of the Week

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2018 NFC Playoff Outlook

Every season we tend to see around five new teams emerge during the season and make their way into the playoffs.  Most of them are surprises too. 

Last season the Rams and Eagles took two giant premature steps forward.  I didn't expect much from either team last year but now they both have the appearance of perennial contenders.  An injury to Aaron Rodgers allowed for three NFC South teams to book a playoff ticket. 

A lot can happen so let's take a look at a few certain contenders along with some of those potential surprises.   

Tier 1: Locked In

New Orleans Saints
Minnesota Vikings
Los Angeles Rams

The Saints were one Stefon Diggs touchdown away from having a real shot at winning the Super Bowl last year.  No more wonders of how Adrian Peterson is going mesh with the offense. Mark Ingram will be suspended for the first four games but they have no problem making Alvin Kamara the focal point of the offense until then. Michael Thomas, Cameron Meredith, and Ted Ginn Jr. are already a solid foundation but rookie Tre'Quan Smith adds even more raw speed.

Speaking of rookies, first round DE Marcus Davenport makes his way onto a stout defense led by sophomore CB Marshon Lattimore. 

The Vikings made all the way to the conference finals on the back of Case Keenum before getting embarrassed by the Eagles. They've been contenders for the past several seasons thanks to their elite defense so they have no concerns on that side of the ball. Their offense has gotten better every year and now it takes another step forward.

Replacing Keenum is Kirk Cousins, who's is a more willing runner and deep ball thrower. Dalvin Cook returns from an injury that derailed his rookie season after four games.  He possesses the best traits of both Jerick McKinnon and Latavis Murray and was actually on pace to lead the league in rushing at the time of his injury. 

Sean McVay was the blessing that Jared Goff and Todd Gurley needed. New life was injected into the Rams' passing game and the addition of Andrew Whitworth at left tackle gave Gurley some actual lanes to run through. Sammy Watkins was a great asset in the red zone but I think Brandin Cooks is an upgrade for the type of uptempo offense they run.

The defense lost Trumaine Johnson but added Marcus Peters, Aqib Talib, Sam Shields, and Ndamukong Suh so they should be all set. 

Tier 2: Not Far Behind

Philadelphia Eagles
Carolina Panthers
Green Bay Packers
Atlanta Falcons

The only reason I have the defending Super Bowl Champion Eagles right here is because Carson Wentz and Alshon Jeffrey are currently working their way back from injuries. If they're forced to missed time then that may cost them a couple of games. Regardless, their defense alone should win them games. I'm not concerned.

The Carolina Panthers have one of the most consistently disciplined defenses in the league regardless of who they plug in there. The offense tends to be a tad on the inconsistent side but everything is currently aligning. Greg Olsen and Curtis Samuel are back and healthy. Christian McCaffrey is expected to take a big leap this year as the projected three-down back.

On top of that, first-round rookie receiver DJ Moore was viewed by many as the most talented prospect in his position's draft class. If everything clicks, they could beat anybody.

Green Bay still had a chance to make the playoffs even with all of the time that Aaron Rodgers missed. Ted Thompson is no longer the GM so now they'll actually participate in free agency going forward.  Brian Gutekunst made that apparent with the signings of Muhammad Wilkerson and Jimmy Graham this offseason.  Graham has surely lost a step but he'll have no problem hauling in all those red zone targets that Jordy Nelson left behind.

From a fantasy perspective, their RB situation is messy. From a real-life perspective, they have three guys (Ty Montgomery, Aaron Jones, Jamaal Williams) that can start and produce on any given week. We all know their offense is a threat but their defense is sneaky good and is loaded with talent at all three levels. 

The Falcons' offense looked watered down in 2017 as they transitioned from a Kyle Shanahan offense to a Steve Sarkisian-led side.  Despite the step down, they still made the playoffs in a difficult division.  If they can get a better grasp on Sarkisian's scheme then they have all the pieces to return to form.  

Tier 3: Don't Be Surprised

New York Giants
Chicago Bears
San Francisco 49ers
Arizona Cardinals

In 2016 we saw the emergence of a stingy Giants defense that paved a way to the playoffs.  We didn't see that same defense in 2017.  The offense couldn't help them at all.  The entire receiving corps was depleted with injuries and there was zero semblance of a run game.  Now that 2016 team gets Evan Engram and Saquon Barkley.  I'm sure they're excited about a healthy Odell Beckham too. 

The Bears had a top 10 defense last year which a lot of people don't realize.  It's pretty impressive considering their offense was at the bottom of the league in terms of total plays ran. Jordan Howard has managed to be successful in vanilla schemes but now the training wheels are off in Matt Nagy's new offense.

Just like the Giants, they didn't have anybody to throw the ball to last season. Allen Robinson, Trey Burton, Taylor Gabriel, and Anthony Miller hope to aid Mitchell Trubisky make a leap similar to Jared Goff with his revamped team.

If I wrote this a couple months ago then I might have had the 49ers a tier higher. The hype surrounding them has been immense so I've tried to temper my expectations recently. The once elite defense has been a place mat in recent years but the front seven is young and promising. Richard Sherman also provides a type of intelligence and star power the team hasn't seen since Patrick Willis and Navarro Bowman were together. Jerick McKinnon isn't as good between the tackles as Carlos Hyde but has a better knack for catching the ball which is what Kyle Shanahan is looking for.

The Cardinals could hover around 8-8 or even 9-7 this season, but they face a similar problem to the other teams in their tier. If everything goes right for the previous teams then the conference may be too crowded to let everyone into the playoffs. The Cardinals are probably one more year out from returning to prominence.

Their defense always lands in the upper half of the league, David Johnson is back, and they have a Hall of Famer in Larry Fitzgerald at wide receiver. The glaring problem is the quarterback situation. Sam Bradford is talented enough to lead a playoff team but can never stay healthy for a full season.  Even if he is healthy, they may be too eager to get Josh Rosen on the field. Rosen will probably have the QB position set in stone by next season but Larry Fitz may be gone by then.

NFL divisional playoff preview

If the divisional round of the NFL playoffs is anything near the excitement of the wild card round, NFL fans should get ready to be on the edge of the couch all weekend! Let’s look at this week’s matchups.

Atlanta Falcons @ Philadelphia Eagles, 4:35pm ET - NBC, Saturday,  January 13

(Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports)

(Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports)

The battle of the birds. The Falcons are coming off a huge win over the Rams and will look to carry that momentum into Philadelphia this weekend. The Falcons have playmakers all over the field with an experienced group of wideouts in Julio Jones and Mohamed Sanu and a veteran quarterback in Matt Ryan who is looking to lead the Falcons back to the Superbowl. The Eagles defense is stingy giving up only 306.9 yards per game, good for fourth in the league, so a big day from Julio is needed for Atlanta to put up some points.

The Eagles go into the playoffs without star quarterback Carson Wentz, who was having an MVP caliber season before going down with a season ending ACL injury. Nick Foles will have a tall task in trying to prove himself against a Falcons secondary that came up huge last week, but if the Falcons can manage to keep pressure on Foles, expect Saturday to be a long day for the Eagles.

Tennessee Titans @ New England Patriots, 8:15pm ET - CBS, Saturday, January 13

(Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports)

(Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports)

Are we really expecting the Titans to go into New England and dethrone the Patriots? Anything is possible after the Titans pulled off the unlikely upset last week against the Chiefs in a tough environment. The Titans will look to be road warriors again and defy the odds and they are not looking to back down.

“It’s a playoff game," safety Kevin Byard said about the upcoming game, "so it’s not like it’s the preseason where I can go out there, ‘Oh, it’s Brady,’ and I’m chillin’…This is a playoff game. So I don’t really care if it was Joe Montana... I’m trying to go out there and win the game. I want to make him look like Blake Bortles.”

Beard led the league with eight interceptions and had two huge picks in the season finale against the Jaguars to help clinch a playoff spot. But the Patriots aren’t the Jags or the Chiefs. Tom Brady is 6-1 all time against the Titans and has only thrown one interception against them in his career. This is a David and Goliath matchup, but expect Brady and the Patriots to try and put the Titans away early.

Jacksonville Jaguars @ Pittsburgh Steelers, 1:05pm ET- CBS, Sunday, January 14

(Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)

(Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)

The Jaguars handled the Steelers in a 30-9 week 5 win in Pittsburgh. The Steelers have been much better since then, finishing 13-3 and proving to be one of the best teams in the league. The league’s leading receiver Antonio Brown has been out since week 15 with a calf injury, but he plans to play against the Jags. Bne Roethlisberger was terrible in their first matchup, throwing five interceptions and no touchdowns.

Blake Bortles was no better last week against the Bills, having more yards rushing than he did passing, and with a hot crowd behind them, the Steelers defense could get after the Jaguars offense. Jacksonville will need to play tough defense and grind this one out on the ground to keep the Steelers offense off the field if they plan to keep up in this game.

New Orleans Saints @ Minnesota Vikings, 4;40pm ET - FOX, Sunday, January 14



The Vikings flexed their muscles on the Saints at home, defeating them 29-19 in week one. But since then, Sam Bradford and Dalvin Cook have both went down to injury. Insert running backs Jerrick McKinnon and Latavius Murray, and quarterback Case Keenum, who has been efficient all season throwing for 3547 yards with 22 touchdowns 7 interceptions and a 67.6 completion rating. The Vikings boast the top ranked defense in the league in yards per game and the Saints explosive offense ranked second in total yards during the regular season.

The Saints will have their hands full trying to shutdown receiver Adam Thielen, who caught 91 balls for 1276 yards this season. But don't count out the Saints, who always have a chance with Drew Brees at quarterback. This game could go either way, and it will take all four quarters (and maybe more) for this game to be decided.