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Today's Rundown

NFL:  The “Who made the Playoffs?” Edition

Yesterday the NFL closed out its regular season and now the playoffs are upon us. Find out who’s in and who’s out below!

Um, playoffs? I have absolutely no idea what you are talking about.  Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered.  Find out more in our Football Primer here.

 

AFC

Back by popular de-Manning (27-20).  Last night, in an unexpected turn of events, legendary QB Peyton Manning came off the bench to lead the Denver Broncos to victory over the San Diego Chargers.  Manning started off the game as the backup QB to Brock Osweiller.  This was his first time playing backup in 21 years, since his freshman year of college at the University of Tennessee.  When Osweiller’s offense faltered due to a number of fumbles and interceptions, Head Coach Gary Kubiak decided to put Manning in the game halfway through the third quarter.  With Manning in the driver’s seat, the offense settled in and was able to collect a win.  This victory makes the Broncos the #1-seed for the AFC, thanks to a surprising loss by the New England Patriots to the Miami Dolphins yesterday. 

Thanks, Rex! xoxo, The Steelers (28-12).  The Pittsburgh Steelers are in the playoffs thanks to a victory over the Cleveland Browns and a New York Jets loss to the Buffalo Bills.  The Steelers’ defense and QB Big Ben Roethlisberger took care of business at home. Meanwhile Bills Head Coach Rex Ryan got his revenge against the Jets who fired him at the end of last season.   The Bills succeeded in knocking the Jets out of the playoffs in spectacular fashion (22-17), including intercepting Jets QB Ryan Fitzpatrick on each of his last three possessions.  

The AFC playoff picture is now complete with the top 6 teams as follows: #1 Denver Broncos, #2 New England Patriots, #3 Cincinnati Bengals, #4 Houston Texans, #5 Kansas City Chiefs, and #6 Pittsburgh Steelers.

 

NFC

Who would you rather play? (20-13).  The Minnesota Vikings are the new NFC North division champs, after their 3rd straight win against the Green Bay Packers last night.  Both of these teams had already clinched playoffs spots before the game, but the winner would become the #3 seed in the playoffs and have home field advantage for the first round.  With last night’s win, the #3 Vikings will play the #6 Seattle Seahawks, who are just hitting their stride and are known for being a team you don’t want to play if you can avoid it.  Maybe the Packers loss was a blessing in disguise, as instead they will take on the #4 Washington Redskins.  

The NFC playoff picture is now complete with the top 6 teams as follows: #1 Carolina Panthers, #2 Arizona Cardinals, #3 Minnesota Vikings, #4 Washington Redskins, #5 Green Bay Packers, #6 Seattle Seahawks.


Spotlight on the NFL Playoffs

Rejoice!  The NFL Playoffs will begin this Saturday with the Wild Card Round.  Each day this week we’ll spotlight a different one of the games, so you know what to look out for when you’re watching this weekend. 

Today we’ll focus on the top 4 teams who each have a bye week and will be chillaxing for this first round.

The Reigning ChampsOf course, you know the New England Patriots.  They boast stars TE Rob Gronkowski and man-with-the-perfect-life QB Tom Brady.  The Patriots won the Super Bowl last year and started this season off to a promising 10-0 start. Then they started losing player after player to injury.  Now, they have lost 4 of their last 6 games and yesterday’s loss to the Miami Dolphins certainly didn’t inspire much confidence.  But don’t count the Patriots out yet, several of their injured players should be returning to the field just in the nick of time for their first playoff game, including star wide receiver Julian Edelman.  

The Old Timer or the Young Buck?  The Denver Broncos started off with an impressive 7-0 start to the season, but then future Hall of Famer QB Peyton Manning was sidelined due to a foot injury.  For the next 7 games, back-up QB Brock Osweiller showed a lot of natural ability and promise.  But last night in their game against the San Diego Chargers, Osweiller’s offense struggled and Manning was put back in the game to lead them to victory.  Now Head Coach Gary Kubiak is staying tight-lipped about who will start in the playoffs.  Regardless of who is at the helm on offense, opponents will be wary of the Broncos fierce defense.  

Nobody is Perfect.  The Carolina Panthers had a nearly perfect regular season, except for one unexpected loss last week to the Atlanta Falcons.  The Panthers are known for their impressive defense and their athletic QB Cam Newton.  Newton can throw on a dime and is just as comfortable evading defenders and running with the ball.  In fact, last night he matched the record (43) for most career rushing touchdowns by a QB.  Even though they have the best record going into the playoffs this year, the Panthers have their fair share of skeptics

Hey, we’re here too!  The Arizona Cardinals quietly collected their wins this season, while detractors quickly dismissed them for their easy schedule.  Then last week, everyone suddenly sat up and took notice of their resounding victory over the Green Bay Packers.  The Cardinals are known for having a very complete and talented young team, equally dominant on offense and defense.  Be sure to keep an eye out for their overwhelming pass rush and QB Carson Palmer who is having the best season of his career.  


Hot Read

NFL

Black Monday.  No, this isn’t a shopping day.  It’s the day after the regular season when NFL teams that didn’t live up to expectations give their coaches the axe.  Stay tuned to see who’s out and who survives to see another season.

NBA

Don’t forget it’s basketball season!  Today’s game to watch is the Toronto Raptors vs. the Cleveland Cavaliers.  The Cavs are the team to beat in the East, and the Raptors think that they are up for the challenge.  Tune in to see the Cavs back to full force, with Kyrie Irving looking more like his old self after returning from injury a couple weeks ago.