Mass. College Football: Locals Invited To NFL Rookie Mini Camps

Merrimack's Isaiah Voegeli signed his undrafted free agent contract with the Philadelphia Eagles on Monday! (Photo Credit: Merrimack College Athletics)

Merrimack’s Isaiah Voegeli signed his undrafted free agent contract with the Philadelphia Eagles on Monday! (Photo Credit: Merrimack College Athletics)

By Matt Noonan

As noted on our blog yesterday, Bentley University graduate student Nick Halloran was invited to this weekend’s New England Patriots’ Rookie Mini Camp.

“Just amazing news, not a better way to start the day,” Halloran told the Boston Globe on Tuesday.

Halloran isn’t the only local college football player to earn an invite to a rookie mini camp this weekend as Framingham State’s James Muirhead will attempt to earn a spot with the St. Louis Rams, while Middlebury College’s Ryan Moores, who prepped at Governor’s Academy, will tryout with the Atlanta Falcons.

“I’m braced for it,” Muirhead told the Brockton Enterprise on Tuesday. “I understand what’s going to happen. But you know what? I’m not there to make any friends. I’m there to compete. I’m going there to get a job.”

Merrimack College’s Isaiah Voegeli became the fourth player in program history to sign with a professional team as the Hyannis native inked his name on an undrafted free agent contract Monday with the Philadelphia Eagles.

“I am so grateful for this opportunity,” Voegeli said in the college’s release.  “I can’t thank head coach Dan Curran enough for his help and guidance and preparation to get me to this point. This is a dream come true that I’ve dreamt about since I was 7, to just have a shot and I’ve been blessed this opportunity.”

Voegeli will leave the North Andover campus as the all-time receiver in multiple receiving categories, which includes catches (211) and yards (3,554). He also ranks second in program history with 34 touchdown receptions, too.

Prior to this year’s NFL Draft, the Boston Herald reported that Muirhead, Voegeli and Moores, along with Assumption College’s Nick Haag and Boston College’s Jim Noel worked out with the Falcons, Patriots and New Orleans Saints.

New England Patriots vs. New Orleans Saints (Post-Game Links)

The New England Patriots earned their first preseason win on Thursday, as they defeated the New Orleans Saints, 7-6! (Photo Credit: SportsNola.com)

By Matt Noonan 

Thursday’s preseason match between the New England Patriots and New Orleans Saints is officially in the books, as the Pats earned a 7-6 victory. New England will return to the gridiron in 10 days when they host the Philadelphia Eagles, but before that particular kick-off, here are some links/stories from their one-point victory.

* ESPNBoston’s Mike Reiss provides an interesting analysis on the game with a few good, bad and ugly moments.

* The Boston Globe’s Shalise Manza Young crafted a piece about Dane Fletcher, who apparently tore his ACL on special teams.

* In case you’re looking for the AP recap — NFL.com has it on their website.

* The Metro West Daily News has an interesting take on the Patriots first preseason game, as well as the play of Tom Brady, too.

* In Friday’s Boston Herald, Jeff Howe wrote about the Patriots defense, which only surrendered two field goals in a span of 60 minutes. Also, Karen Guregian provides an interesting take on Brandon Lloyd‘s first game.

The Wackiest Wednesday In NFL History

By NoontimeSports.com

It’s been a busy day in the NFL.

* The Denver Broncos traded quarterback Tim Tebow to the New York Jets in exchange for two draft picks.

* The NFL announced that New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton would be suspended for the upcoming season without pay due to his team’s bounty program, which began when defensive coordinator Gregg Williams was hired in 2009. Williams has officially be suspended indefinitely, while the team’s GM Mickey Loomis has been suspended for the first eight games of the 2012 season. Also, the Saints will be fined $500,000, too.

* Finally, beneath the Tebow trade and league ruling on the Saints – the San Francisco 49ers resigned quarterback Alex Smith to a three-year contract. According to the Associated Press, Smith will earn $8 million per year with $16.5 million guaranteed.

So, without further ado – we’d like to know your thoughts on what was the biggest story of the day thus far? Cast your vote below!

NFL 2012 Hall Of Fame Game Announced

By NoontimeSports.com 

The NFL announced on Wednesday that the New Orleans Saints, who were originally selected to to play in the Hall of Fame Game, will face-off against the Arizona Cardinals on August 6, 2012.

The Cardinals haven’t made a trip to Canton, Ohio since they were the St. Louis Cardinals in 1986, while the Saints haven’t played in this particular game since their 20-7 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2007.

Finally, the NFL Network will broadcast the exhibition game, too.

Noonan: AFC/NFC Conference Championship Predictions

Can Ray Rice repeat his 2009 postseason performance against New England's defense on Sunday? (Photo Credit: Zimbio.com)

By Matt Noonan

Last week, I went 3-1. This week, I am expecting to go 2-0, but let’s see what happens!

New England 27, Baltimore 24 – I am super excited for this matchup, especially since these two teams always find a way to end the game with a dramatic sequence. Baltimore defeated New England last time these two teams met in the postseason, 33-14. Running back Ray Rice tallied 159 yards on 22 carries, and two touchdowns, while quarterback Joe Flacco finished the game 4 of 10 for 34 yards. Although, the true matchup to watch on Sunday will be the Ravens defense against the Patriots offense. Tom Brady tossed six touchdowns last weekend against Denver, and certainly is capable of tearing apart Baltimore’s secondary. However, if Baltimore’s front seven can pressure Brady, as well as control the time of possession on offense, then they’ll win the game. Yet, if New England can control the time of possession, and contain Rice, they’ll win.

San Francisco 24, New York 20  - I am not exactly the biggest fan of head coach Jim Harbaugh, but what he’s done in San Francisco has been rather impressive. Harbaugh revamped the 49ers defense to become one of the best in the league, and against Eli Manning, I’m expecting the front seven to not only pressure him, but also record two or three sacks, too. Alex Smith proved he’s a clutch quarterback, as he tossed three strikes to the end zone last weekend against New Orleans, which included the game winning touchdown to Vernon Davis. San Francisco handed New York a loss earlier this season, and once again, I am expecting them to defeat the Giants in the City By The Bay.

Noonan: NFL Divisional Playoff Predictions

Can Tim Tebow and the Denver Broncos keep their playoff magic going on Saturday against New England? (Photo Credit: Zimbio.com)

By Matt Noonan 

Here are my predictions for the NFC Divisional Round.

New Orleans 30, San Francisco 21: The Saints cashed in on five offensive series in the second half against the Detroit Lions last weekend, and are expected to keep their high-flying offensive attack going against the 49ers on Saturday. Drew Brees clearly is on a mission, which is why I believe they’ll defeat San Francisco, and advance to the NFC Championship game for the second time in three seasons.

New England 28 – Denver 16: The story of Tim Tebow has been fascinating, but against the Patriots at Gillette Stadium, I’m expecting him to struggle, and possibly throw two or three interceptions.

Baltimore 28 – Houston 21: Earlier this season, the Ravens defeated the Texans, 29-14. Joe Flacco completed 20-of-33 passes for 305 yards and one touchdown, while Billy Cundiff kicked five field goals. Can Baltimore duplicate their week five performance against Houston on Sunday? My answer… YES!

New York 24 – Green Bay 21: This is a total shot in the dark, but the Giants have gained a great deal of momentum over the past few weeks, and might have what it takes to knock out the defending NFC and Super Bowl champions. I like New York’s front seven on defense, especially since they could provide a great deal of chaos toward quarterback Aaron Rodgers. If the Giants pressure the Packers, and force a few turnovers, then expect Big Blue to walk away winners on Sunday.

NFL Postseason Schedule Announced

By NoontimeSports.com 

The NFL announced the 2011 playoff schedule on Sunday, and here are the potential match-ups.

Saturday, Jan. 7, 2012 – Wild Card Round 

* (No. 6) Cincinnati at (No. 3) Houston Texans — 4:30pm eastern 

* (No. 6) Detroit at (No. 3)  New Orleans — 8:00pm eastern 

Sunday, January 8, 2012 — Wild Card Round 

* (No. 5) Atlanta at (No. 4) New York — 1:00pm easter 

* (No. 5) Pittsburgh at (No. 4)  Denver — 4:30PM eastern 

Saturday, January 14, 2012 — Divisional Round 

* Atlanta/New York/New Orleans at (No. 2) San Francisco (Afternoon) 

* Cincinnati/Denver/Pittsburgh at (No. 1) New England (Evening)

Sunday, January 15, 2012 — Divisional Round 

* Denver/Houston/Pittsburgh at  (No. 2) Baltimore (Afternoon)

* Atlanta/Detroit/New York at (No. 1) Green Bay (Afternoon) 

Sunday, January 22, 2012 — AFC/NFC Championship Games

* AFC Championship — 3:30pm eastern 

* NFC Championship — 6:30pm eastern 

Sunday, January 29, 2012 — NFL Pro Bowl

* AFC vs. NFC — Time TBA 

Sunday, February  5, 2012

* AFC Champion vs. NFC Champion — Time TBA 

Breaking Down The NFC Playoff Picture

Photo Credit: Bleacher Report

By Brian Willwerth 

With one week to go in the regular season, here’s the lowdown on the NFC playoff picture….

The Green Bay Packers will be the No. 1 seed. They’ve won the North, and have clinched home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.

The San Francisco 49ers are champions of the West. They can clinch the No. 2 seed and first-round bye if they beat the Rams in St. Louis on Sunday.

The New Orleans Saints won the South last night, with Drew Brees’ record-breaking performance.  They can still get a bye if they beat Carolina, and San Francisco falters.

The  Detroit Lions and Atlanta Falcons are the wild cards. That’s etched in stone.

The real drama lies in the NFC East, where the Dallas Cowboys and New York Giants will face off in a winner-take-all showdown in primetime at the Meadowlands. The winner wins the division; the loser is out. Think NBC is licking its chops?

NFL Playoff Update

The NFL playoff race is alive and well!

By NoontimeSports.com 

With four games left in the regular season, here’s a quick look at the races for the division titles and wild cards.

AFC

EAST:  Nothing has changed since last week. The Patriots and Jets both won on Sunday, so New England still owns a two-game lead over New York, as well as the tiebreaker.

NORTH:  This is now a two-team race. Baltimore and Pittsburgh are both [9-3], with the Ravens owning the tiebreaker. The Bengals pretty much lost any hope of winning the division when they got blown out by the Steelers yesterday.

SOUTH:  The Texans continue their amazing season. They’re [9-3], and remain two games ahead of the resurgent Titans. These two teams meet on the final weekend of the season. Houston won the first meeting in Nashville.

WEST:  This should be fun to watch down the stretch. The Broncos moved into a tie for first place with the Raiders at [7-5]. Denver rallied to beat Minnesota, while Oakland got blown out in Miami on Sunday.

WILD CARDS RIGHT NOW:  Pittsburgh and Cincinnati. The Bengals are in a four-way tie for the final spot with the Raiders, Titans and Jets.

NFC

EAST:  The Cowboys and Giants both lost on Sunday, so Dallas still has a one-game lead. These teams still play each other twice in the next four weeks, starting with next Sunday night.

NORTH:  The Packers have clinched the division.

SOUTH:  The Saints increased their lead over the Falcons to two games. New Orleans is hitting on all cylinders right now, and has already beaten Atlanta once.

WEST:  The 49ers have clinched the division.

WILD CARDS RIGHT NOW:  Chicago and Atlanta are both [7-5]. So is Detroit.

Willwerth: Breaking Down the NFC

Can Aaron Rodgers lead the Green Bay Packers to five more wins? (Photo Credit: Zimbio.com)

By Brian Willwerth 

A quick overview of the division races in the NFC with five games remaining…

NFC EAST

This is a two-team race between the Cowboys and Giants. As of now, Dallas has a one-game lead, but these teams still have to play each other twice down the stretch: the first matchup is in two weeks, the second is the season finale. It will ultimately be those two games that decide the division winner. The other note from the East: Philadelphia [4-7] gets my vote for biggest disappointment in the NFL, at least for the moment.

NFC NORTH

You know the headline here: will the Packers go undefeated? Their five remaining games are against the Giants, Raiders, Chiefs, Bears and Lions. Three of them are at home. Four of those teams are over [.500], (KC being the exception) so it’s hardly a given that Green Bay will fly through them. The Lions are Bears are both in the thick of the wild card race at [7-4]. They split the head-to-head meetings this season. But Chicago has questions at quarterback, while Detroit will have to play the next two games without Ndamukong Suh, thanks to his “stomping” job against the Packers on Thanksgiving Day.

NFC SOUTH

Here’s another two-team race. The Saints and Falcons are separated by one game. Both teams are peaking at just the right time. New Orleans has already beaten Atlanta in the Georgia Dome (in the “Mike Smith 4th Down Gamble” game.) The second meeting is the day after Christmas on Monday Night Football.

That game could be for the division title.

NFC WEST

The 49ers can wrap up the division with a win at home Sunday against the Rams.  San Francisco also has the inside track to a first-round bye. The one game that sticks out on their remaining schedule is a Monday night game against the Steelers on December 19thJim Harbaugh gets my vote for Coach of the Year, though it might be hard to bypass Mike McCarthy if the Packers go undefeated. Remember that tremendous game between the Saints and Packers on opening night? Wouldn’t you love to see a rematch in the NFC Championship game? I hope I’m right.