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.

Thanksgiving Football Prediction: Baltimore-San Francisco

Are you ready for the "Brother Battle" on Thanksgiving?

By Matt Noonan 

If the Ravens are going to be deemed one the best teams in the NFL, then they need to beat the 49ers on Thanksgiving.

Baltimore has struggled this year against under performing squads like Arizona, Jacksonville, and Tennessee, but has somehow managed to defeat Pittsburgh twice. The Ravens defense continues to impress and has held opponents to roughly 25 points per game and 344 offensive yards, as well as bailed out quarterback Joe Flacco too.

San Francisco’s offense has averaged roughly 26 points and 323 offensive yards per game, while quarterback Alex Smith has recorded 13 touchdowns and is on pace to match his career high from the ’09 season, (18 TDs). Running backs Frank Gore and Kendall Hunter have combined for seven rushing scores and 1,154 yards on the ground, so expect the 49ers offense to challenge a Ravens unit that will most likely be without linebacker Ray Lewis for the second straight week.

Finally, this matchup will also mark the first time in league history that two brothers, who’re head coaches, will face-off against one another.

FUN FACT – If San Francisco wins this holiday clash, it’ll be the first time the 49ers reached 10 wins since the ’02 season.

Prediction – Expect both squads to come out of the gates with loads of energy, but once it’s all said and done, I expect the Ravens to give their home crowd an early holiday present – their eighth win of the season. Baltimore 20 – San Francisco 14  

NFL Week Eight – Rapid Reactions/Thoughts

Ray Rice rushed for three scores against the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday, and helped his team rally to score 24-points in the second half!

By Matt Noonan 

It’s been a rather interesting season.

No one would have imagined that after roughly eight weeks, (excluding Monday’s game between Kansas City and San Diego), Buffalo, Cincinnati, and Detroit would be in contention for playoff spots.

Did anyone expect the Indianapolis Colts or Miami Dolphins to be winless, especially after eight weeks of the regular season?

Finally, who truly believed that Matt Hasselbeck and the Tennessee Titans were going to be a good team?

Again, it’s been quite an up-and-down season, but here are some rapid reactions and thoughts from Sunday’s slate, enjoy.

Philadelphia Runs Past Dallas’s Defense: Against the Cowboys defense, which was ranked first in the league against the run, the Eagles rushed for 239-yards and two scores thanks to LeSean McCoy, who finished the game with 185 yards on 30 carries, and quarterback Michael Vick, who added 50 yards on seven carries.

Indeed, Rob Ryan’s defense has experienced a great deal of success this season against the run, but perhaps a game like Sunday’s against the Eagles might help sure up the front seven for the remainder of the season.

Both squads are currently in a three-way tie for second place with Washington, and two games behind New York.

Blame Game – Bill Belichick:Against the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday, New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick once again proved that he’s human.

In the fourth quarter, Belichick chose not to challenge a Rob Gronkowski catch, which appeared to be a touchdown. He also elected to attempt an onside-kick that completely failed.

In some ways, many fans might consider this the second coming of 4th-and-2 from ’09 against the Colts, but all in all, there’ll certainly be a lot of questions directed toward the field general on Monday at Gillette Stadium when he meets with the media.

Great Endings: Sunday featured some bizarre, yet interesting endings.

In Baltimore, running back Ray Rice finished the game with three touchdowns, and 63 yards on 18 carries, as the Ravens beat the Arizona Cardinals, 30-27. Quarterback Joe Flacco completed 31-of-51 passes for 336 yards, but didn’t toss a single touchdown.

In Carolina, Christian Ponder led the Minnesota Vikings down the field, and set up a Ryan Longwell field goal, which helped the “Purple People Eaters” defeat the Panthers, 24-21, as well as end snap a two-game losing streak.

In New Jersey, the New York Giants rallied to score 10-points during the final quarter to beat Miami, 20-17. Quarterback Eli Manning connected with wide receiver Victor Cruz on a 25-yard pass late in the final quarter, which secured the win for Big Blue.

Finally, in St. Louis, the Rams snapped their six-game losing streak by upsetting the New Orleans Saints, 31-21. Running back Steven Jackson rushed for 159 yards and two scores, while quarterback A.J. Feeley completed 20-of-37 passes for 175 yards and tossed one touchdown too. Saints quarterback Drew Brees finished the game with one touchdown and two interceptions.

Daily Noontime – October 26, 2011

Ben Cherington is in and Theo is out!

Happy Wednesday to everyone and welcome into another splendid edition of the Daily Noontime! Here’s some great news and notes to kick-start your day! 

Headlines: 

* The Boston Red Sox introduced the team’s new General Manager on Tuesday, Ben Cherington, while the Chicago Cubs named Theo Epstein their president of baseball operations.

* According to the Red Sox, John Lackey will undergo Tommy John surgery on his pitching elbow and will most likely not pitch again until the 2013 season.

* Toronto Blue Jays manager John Farrell has made it clear – he’s staying with his team, and won’t relocate to Boston or Chicago.

* Baltimore Ravens offensive coordinator Cam Cameron and quarterback Joe Flacco admitted they both deserve the blame for Monday’s loss against the Jacksonville Jaguars.

* Apparently Bill Cowher and Jon Gruden are interested in obtaining the Miami Dolphins head coaching job next season.

Games to Watch: 

* Philadelphia at Montreal (NHL) – 7:30pm eastern 

* Texas at St. Louis (MLB/World Series/ Game 6) – 8:05pm eastern 

Video of the Day: 

What’s better – the broadcast or Hail Mary? 

NFL 2011: AFC North Predictions

Expect a decent season from Colt McCoy and the Cleveland Browns.

By Matt Noonan  

One of the toughest divisions in football will be on display all season, as Baltimore, Cleveland and Pittsburgh will duke it out for the top-spot. Yes, I mentioned the Browns, but don’t worry Steelers and Ravens fans, they’ll most likely be a third place squad. Expect another solid year from the Steelers unless an injury derails the defending AFC champions.

Pittsburgh Steelers [10-6] – Despite their aging defense, the Steelers practically have the same team intact from last season, although sadly they just didn’t have enough in the tank to beat the Green Bay Packers in the Super Bowl. One of the biggest questions this year will be if safety Troy Polamalu gets a new contract, but also, how many fines will linebacker James Harrison register? All in all, the Steelers are a solid pick to win this division, as long as quarterback Ben Roethlisberger remains focused.

Baltimore Ravens [9-7] – This has got to be the year for quarterback Joe Flacco, who enters his fourth season with the Ravens. The young quarterback has performed quite well over the years, but this season he needs to step-up and become a true leader. If Flacco can lead his offense, then expect good things from an all-around solid wild-card team.

Cleveland Browns [7-9] – I’m really excited for the Colt McCoy era to truly begin. The Browns will be somewhat decent this season, however, not the greatest. Of course they’ll struggle, but again, expect another quality season from running back Peyton Hillis too.

Cincinnati Bengals [2-14] – This team has been nothing, but a media circus. Rookie quarterback Andy Dalton will get pulverized this season under center, while rookie wide-out A.J. Green will struggle immensely. Overall, this is not going to be a good season for the “Bungles.”

NFL Preseason Comments, Questions and Thoughts

The 2011 NFL Preseason kicks-off on Thursday, however, despite it not being the regular season, we still have questions!

By Matt Noonan 

It’s Thursday, but not just any ordinary Thursday, yet instead, the official kick-off to the 2011 NFL preseason. So, with that being said, here are a few hot topics to get you set for some early pigskin action, enjoy.

To Play or Not to Play: Preseason football is usually the time when coaches don’t normally play their starters. However, due to this past off-season being condensed into the past few weeks, it should be expected that the main players, (first-team) should attempt to play roughly one quarter. Yet, don’t be fooled if you see back-ups or third-string players that won’t make the roster in September. Although, due to the lockout, it’s also possible that all 32-teams will most likely hold out a majority of their starters, so they don’t sustain any injuries. In fact, almost every team has experienced the “injury bug,” due to no practices the past few months, as well as the CBA (collective bargaining agreement) reconstruction.

Tim Tebow vs. Tony Romo: Thursday will mark yet another intriguing matchup between the Dallas Cowboys and Denver Broncos. In fact, these teams have met quite frequently during the month of August; however, this year in particular is an important one, especially for both quarterbacks, Tony Romo and Tim Tebow.

Romo, who according to multiple league sources is on his “game,” yet, what exactly does that mean? Some analysts believe he’s destined to have a Pro-Bowl season, but again, it’s too early to tell, right? Expect Romo and his offense to be somewhat in-sync against an average Broncos defense, but again, it’s still too early to predict Romo’s season numbers.

So, instead of barking about Romo’s past five-seasons in the league, why don’t you turn your attention to Denver, Colorado, where besides the Rockies, the Broncos have encountered some issues. Yet, what exactly is the matter with Denver’s football team? Well, according to some, there’s a quarterback controversy, but is that entirely true?

Seriously, quarterback,Kyle Orton, drives this offense, not Tim Tebow. However, while the youngster is waiting in the wings, it’ll be expected that he won’t be handed the starting position, especially if he plays flawless football for the next few weeks. He’ll be the starter one day, but in the meantime, he needs to slam on the breaks, as well as understand that he’ll only improve if he listens and watches Orton under center.

Michael Vick and the Philadelphia Eagles kick-off their preseason slate on Thursday, however, are they truly a team that is destined to win the Super Bowl?

Possible Super Bowl Preview: The Baltimore Ravens and Philadelphia Eagles will meet under the lights of Lincoln Financial Field on Thursday; yet, some believe this could be a possible Super Bowl preview. However, I think not. In fact, it’s way too early to predict, which teams will be playing in February.

Both teams still have major questions to address, especially the Ravens, who said so long to wide receiver Derrick Mason (New York Jets) and tight end Todd Heap (Arizona Cardinals), but did manage to acquire one of the leagues original “bad boys,” Ricky Williams from the Miami Dolphins. Expect quarterbackJoe Flacco to begin his preseason on a good note, yet, don’t expect great things off the bat. Some questions could be answered, but again, one game doesn’t illustrate true definitions, especially for Baltimore. However, they should dominate the run and pass defense, especially against Philadelphia’s quarterback, Michael Vick, who loves to scramble out of the pocket.

As for the Eagles, well, all eyes should be on the defense, especially their cornerbacks, as well as newly acquired defensive lineman, Cullen Jenkins. The Eagles have some questions too, but certainly, one game won’t tell how good their squad will be this season. In fact, it’s way too early to be labeling them, “super bowl bound,” so instead, let’s just grab some popcorn and see what they have to offer, OK?

Chad Ochocinco Needs to Play: The New England Patriots have been quite sneaky this off-season, as they’ve attempted to add more depth to their defense. Yet, despite the signing of Albert Haynesworth, the acquisition of Chad Ochocinco has brought a great deal of excitement to the city of Boston, as well as New England. Although, before he is deemed an immediate starter or someone who’ll provide the necessary spark for Tom Brady’s offense, it’s vital that he suit up for all four preseason games, so head coach Bill Belichick can get an accurate gauge on the animated, yet talented wide-out. Ochocinco, who hasn’t been on a “super bowl contender,” wants a ring, but before he strives for one, he isn’t the second coming of Joey Galloway.