Happy Monday, everyone, and welcome to the first day of February!
We’re expecting a nor’easter to arrive in our neighborhood shortly, so please make sure your car is parked on the correct side of the street as we certainly don’t want complaints of parking tickets flooding our email inbox tomorrow, Wednesday and Thursday.
Yet, before the snow, rain, and slush arrive, allow us to kickstart the day with a brand new Daily Noontime for Monday, February 1, 2021.
As usual, be well, stay safe, hold the line, and smile – we’re almost there!
Monday’s Headlines & Links (February 1, 2021)
Let’s start the day with perhaps the biggest news blast (and update) in our email this morning: Theo Epstein, who guided both the Boston Red Sox and Chicago Cubs to World Series victories as en executive for both ball clubs, has joined Arctos Sports Partners, which is a firm that buys minority shares of pro clubs.
As we all know, Rob Manfred is the current MLB Commissioner, but putting Theo Epstein in charge may not be a bad idea as the sport could certainly use his help with being just as innovative as the other professional leagues.
Welcome to Super Bowl week, which promises to be quite different due to the coronavirus pandemic. But as one sports writer – Jay Mariotti – wonders (and writes), is reaching the championship game a win for the National Football League (NFL) or perhaps a sign that our country has turned a blind eye to this deadly virus?
Similar to NCAA D-I college football, the college basketball season has not been pretty – we have seen a lot of starts and stops, along with some programs calling it quits, but don’t be surprised if you see some teams or conferences pull the plug on their respective postseason.
The Los Angeles Rams apparently have a new quarterback for the 2021 season as they sent Jared Goff to the Detroit Lions in exchange for Matthew Stafford. But prior to acquiring Matthew Stafford late Saturday evening, the Rams tried to trade for Aaron Rodgers, but the Green Bay Packers said, “no way!”
Monday’s Podcast Alert 🚨
Today on the Noontime Sports Podcast, Matt Noonan welcomes Scottie Rodgers, who is the director of communications with the Cotton Bowl in Dallas, Texas.
Noonan and Rodgers discuss how the sports communication world has changed due to the pandemic, including how Zoom press conferences could be part of the “new normal.” Rodgers also discussed his role (and involvement) with the Racial and Social Justice Initiative Planning Committee and Diversity and Inclusion Committee.
You can listen to today’s interview, as well as past shows by visiting our Anchor page!
We’ll be back with more later today, but for now, be well, stay safe, and smile, everyone!
By now you probably have heard that Tom Brady – yes, the former New England Patriots quarterback – is headed back to the conference championship for the ninth time in the last ten seasons. Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneersrallied to beat the New Orleans Saints, 30-20, last night in the NFC Divisional Round to secure a date next Sunday with Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers.
For the most part, Brady’s trips to the conference championship have resulted in trips to the “big game” – that would be the Super Bowl, to be exact – while some have ended in disappointment. But Sunday will mark the veteran signal-caller’s first appearance in the NFC Championship after appearing in 13 AFC title games.
Being a history nerd, as well as a lifelong football fan, I thought we could get ready for this weekend’s big game by revisiting all of Tom Brady’s past appearances in the conference championship round, beginning with his initial appearance against the Pittsburgh Steelers in January 2002.
January 27, 2002: Eight days after leading the Patriots past the Oakland Raiders in what has been dubbed the “snow bowl,” Brady received some help from Drew Bledsoe, who replaced the young quarterback who sustained a sprained ankle late in the second quarter. Bledsoe completed 10 of 21 passes for 102 yards and one touchdown while the defense limited Pittsburgh to just two touchdowns during the final two sessions.
January 18, 2004: Eight days after a dramatic win over the Tennessee Titans, Tom Brady and the Patriots outlasted Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts, 24-14.
While Brady tossed one touchdown in the win, it was the New England defense, specifically Ty Law, who highlighted the victory – the unit intercepted Manning four times while recording four sacks.
New England would advance to the Super Bowl and beat the Carolina Panthers.
January 23, 2005: Supposedly, Tom Brady was sick prior to his team’s championship meeting with the Pittsburgh Steelers, but he looked pretty good once the game commenced. Brady completed 14 of 21 passes for 207 yards while Corey Dillon led all rushers with 73 yards on 24 carries.
New England would represent the AFC in the Super Bowl two weeks later where they would beat the Philadelphia Eagles by a score of 24-21.
January 21, 2007: After scoring back-to-back wins over the New York Jets and San Diego Chargers, the New England Patriots entered the 2006 AFC Championship game with a lot of momentum. However, it slowly disappeared early in the third quarter as Indianapolis erased a 21-6 deficit to beat the Patriots, 38-34.
The Colts limited Tom Brady and the Patriots offense to just 13 points in the second half while Peyton Manning finished the game with 349 passing yards and two touchdowns (one passing and one rushing).
January 20, 2008: Tom Brady played the role of gunslinger in this particular match-up with the San Diego Chargers by completing 22 of 33 passes for 209 yards, two touchdowns, and three interceptions as the Patriots won their 18th straight contest before falling to the New York Giants two weeks later in the Super Bowl.
January 22, 2012: This was perhaps the most dramatic AFC Championship game for Tom Brady and the Patriots as they somehow edged the Baltimore Ravens, 23-20, thanks to a missed field goal by Billy Cundiff.
Tom Brady rushed for one score in the win, while BenJarvus Green-Ellis rushed for a game-high 68 yards on 15 carries.
Sadly, the dramatic win was quickly forgotten two weels later when New England lost to the New York Giants in the Super Bowl for the second time in four seasons.
January 20, 2013: Tom Brady completed 29 of 54 passes for 320 yards and one touchdown – he also threw two interceptions – but it wasn’t enough to send the Patriots past the Ravens at Gillette Stadium. Baltimore erased memories of the 2011 championship meeting with an impressive 28-13 victory, thanks to three touchdown passes from Joe Flacco.
January 19, 2014: For the second-straight season, the Patriots won 13 of 18 contests, but their final outing with the Denver Broncos concluded with a 26-16 setback. Peyton Manning completed 32 of 43 passes for 400 yards and two touchdowns while the Broncos defense limited Tom Brady to just two touchdowns – one through the air, one on the ground.
New England’s defense intercepted Andrew Luck twice – they also limited Dan Herron to 51 rushing yards on 10 carries.
The Patriots returned to the Super Bowl for the first time since the 2011 season to beat the Seattle Seahawks, thanks to a late-game interception by Malcolm Butler.
January 24, 2016: Weeks after losing to the Denver Broncos in the regular season, the Orange and Blue scored their second victory of the 2015 season against Tom Brady and the New England Patriots. Brady was sacked four times and picked-off twice, but he did toss one touchdown against a talented Broncos defense.
Peyton Manning concluded the game 17 of 32 for 176 yards and two touchdowns. He was also sacked three times.
January 22, 2017: Tom Brady and the New England Patriots were the better team in this meeting with the Pittsburgh Steelers. Brady tossed three touchdowns, including two to Chris Hogan, who concluded the contest with nine grabs on 12 targets for 180 yards.
January 21, 2018: After knocking off the Tennessee Titans eight days earlier, the Patriots scored their second-straight postseason win against a member of the AFC South. New England rallied to beat the Jacksonville Jaguars, 24-20, thanks to two touchdown passes from Tom Brady to Danny Amendola.
Sadly, the exciting win against the Jaguars would follow with a disappointing setback to the Philadelphia Eagles.
January 20, 2019: Sony Michel and Rex Burkhead highlighted an overtime win against the Kansas City Chiefs by combining for 154 rushing yards and four touchdowns. Burkhead clinched the victory in overtime while Tom Brady concluded the contest with 348 passing yards and one touchdowns.
Kansas City did intercept Brady twice while Patrick Mahomes completed 16 of 31 passes for 295 yards and three touchdowns. New England would go onto capture their sixth Super Bowl with a 13-3 victory over the Los Angeles Rams.
It’s time for another BUSY weekend of professional football – are you ready for the National Football League‘s (NFL) Divisional Round?
I am, despite picking four of six games correct last week – I thought the Chicago Bears were going to upset the New Orleans Saints and the Seattle Seahawks were going to beat the Los Angeles Rams, but like I sad in 2020, what do I know?
Let’s see if I can go four-for-four with picks this weekend – fingers crossed, of course! – but in the meantime, I hope everyone continues to stay safe, happy, and healthy!
Have a great weekend and let’s get ready for some great football – let’s go!
Get ready for a BUSY weekend of football by listening to the Football Friday Podcast with Andrew Pezzelli and Zach Weiss on Apple Podcasts and Spotify!
Los Angeles Rams at Green Bay Packers (Saturday, Jan. 16 at 4:35 p.m.): The last time the Rams beat the Packers in the postseason they were representing St. Louis, not Los Angeles. And it happened to be in the second round of the 2001 postseason – January 2002, to be exact. Can they do it again? Maybe, but for the Rams to score an upset win over Aaron Rodgers and the Packers, they must control the time of possession while receiving some help from their defense. Prediction: Green Bay 24, Los Angeles 14
Baltimore Ravens at Buffalo Bills (Saturday, Jan. 16 at 8:15 p.m.): This is a toss-up – both teams are capable of winning this matchup! – but the Ravens may have the edge, thanks to its rushing attack. But the same could be said for its defense, too, which limited Derrick Henry to just 40 yards on 18 carries (2.2 yards per carry) last week. Buffalo received some help last week from the Indianapolis Colts‘ coaching staff, which made some strange decisions in both halves. PREDICTION: Baltimore 28, Buffalo 17
Cleveland Browns at Kansas City Chiefs (Sunday, Jan. 17 at 3:05 p.m.): The Browns have not appeared in the Divisional Round since 1994 when they lost to the Pittsburgh Steelers by a score of 29-9. Cleveland beat Pittsburgh last week in a bizarre and crazy first-round matchup, but I am not sure they’re capable of slowing down the defending Super Bowl champions. Kansas City will push ahead for good early in the third quarter and secure a home date for the AFC Championship. PREDICTION: Kansas City 30, Cleveland 21
Tampa Bay Buccaneers at New Orleans Saints (Sunday, Jan. 17 at 6:40 p.m.):Tom Brady and the Buccaneers are peaking at the right time. Sure, they didn’t manhandle the Washington Football Team last week, but they certainly looked pretty good. And while Tampa Bay may have lost both meetings with Drew Brees and the Saints earlier this season, I think the third time is the charm for Bruce Arians‘ team. PREDICTION: Tampa Bay 28, New Orleans 25
It’s hard to believe, but somehow the National Football League (NFL) made it through an entire season while finding ways to combat the ongoing coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic.
I was unsure if and how the NFL would keep its coaches and players safe these past few months, along with each team’s staff, too, but somehow they did it. And now it is time to move onto the postseason.
Every week, I will share my thoughts on each matchup – this weekend we will be treated to six games – along with a prediction for each contest.
So, without further ado, here is our Noontime Sports NFL Wild Card predictions – enjoy the games, everyone, and let me know what you think by sending me a tweet to @NoontimeSports.
Make sure to listen to our Football Friday Podcast with Andrew Pezzelli and Zach Weiss on Apple Podcasts and Spotify.
Indianapolis Colts at Buffalo Bills (Saturday, Jan. 9 at 1 p.m.): In my opinion, Josh Allen is the best quarterback drafted in the first round of the 2018 Draft – yes, I know Baker Mayfield was the first signal-caller selected, but Allen has enjoyed his best season as a pro with 37 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. Allen and the Bills enter the postseason with a lot of momentum – I believe they have won their last six contests? – and should have no problem getting past the Colts on their home field. PREDICTION: Buffalo 28, Indianapolis 17
Los Angeles Rams at Seattle Seahawks (Saturday, Jan. 9 at 4:40 p.m.): It’s hard to pick against Russell Wilson and Pete Carroll in the postseason – somehow, this quarterback-coach duo knows how to lead the Seahawks to victory, especially on the road. But I expect them to find a way past a Rams team on their home field – earlier this season, I thought the Rams were going to be the best team in the NFC, but they haven’t been that impressive (in my opinion, to be exact) over the last few weeks. PREDICTION: Seattle 17, Los Angeles 9
Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Washington Football Team (Saturday, Jan. 9, at 8:15 p.m.): The Washington Football Team has been a great story, despite their seven wins. Ron Riveraovercame cancer last fall while Alex Smithreturned to the field after sustaining a devastating injury two years ago. As much as I would love to see this team advance to the second round, I just don’t think they will be able to keep up with Tom Brady and the Buccaneers’ offense. Tampa Bay is going to win this game – hopefully, it will be close! – but I think Washington is a team to watch over the next few years. PREDICTION: Tampa Bay 23, Washington 10
Baltimore Ravens at Tennessee Titans (Sunday, Jan. 10 at 1:05 p.m.): The Ravens enter the postseason with a lot of momentum – in fact, they have won five straight and boast perhaps the best rushing attack amongst all the playoff teams. Last week, they racked up 404 yards against the Cincinnati Bengals, which is something they won’t do this weekend against Tennessee. However, I believe this rushing attack will be the reason why Baltimore scores its first postseason victory since January 3, 2015. PREDICTION: Baltimore 27, Tennessee 21
Chicago Bears at New Orleans Saints (Sunday, Jan. 10 at 4:40 p.m.): Do I smell a possible upset? I think I do! Chicago has won five contests on the road this year and almost beat New Orleans on their home field last November. According to ESPN, the Bears enter this year’s postseason “with nothing to lose.” PREDICTION: Chicago 24, New Orleans 20
Cleveland Browns at Pittsburgh Steelers (Sunday, Jan. 10 at 8:15 p.m.): It’s been a LONG time since the Browns last played in the postseason, so you know their fans are eager for the kickoff to arrive as soon as possible. This is certainly a winnable match-up for Cleveland, which beat Pittsburgh last week. Yes, I know Pittsburgh sat a few starters last Sunday, but I just don’t think this Steelers team is that good. But as I said a few times in 2020, what do I know? PREDICTION: Cleveland 28, Pittsburgh 26
Another week of the National Football League (NFL) is set to kickoff this evening – are you ready for some football?
Whether you’re eager to watch tonight’s contest between the Indianapolis Colts and Tennessee Titans or Sunday’s bounce back win for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, it is time to dish out our second-straight ‘What If‘ NFL Playoff Predictions for the tenth week of the 2020 season.
Like last week, I will list the current postseason teams in order for both conference, as well as highlight the best opening round matchup (in my opinion!), along with who will win their respective conference crown and yes, the Super Bowl!
Let me know what you think – send me a tweet to @NoontimeSports or an email to MattNoonan@noontimesports.com.
Who’s in the AFC Playoffs?
Pittsburgh Steelers (8-0)
Kansas City Chiefs (8-1)
Buffalo Bills (7-2)
Tennessee Titans (6-2)
Baltimore Ravens (6-2)
Las Vegas Raiders (5-3)
Miami Dolphins (5-3)
Who’s in the NFC Playoffs?
New Orleans Saints (6-2)
Seattle Seahawks (6-2)
Green Bay Packers (6-2)
Philadelphia Eagles (3-4-1)
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (6-3)
Arizona Cardinals (5-3)
Los Angeles Rams (5-3)
Most intriguing first-round matchup:
Miami Dolphins at Kansas City Chiefs: The Dolphins are trending in the right direction while it appears as if the Chiefs are sleepwalking their way to victory. Sure, this match-up may not occur once the postseason begins, but I would love to see this Dolphins defense against Patrick Mahomes. Most likely, the Chiefs would prevail, but no one should count out these Dolphins, which have scored some impressive wins over the past few weeks.
Green Bay Packers vs. Arizona Cardinals: These two teams have met previously in the postseason, but who wouldn’t want to watch Kyler Murray face-off with Aaron Rodgers? Pending how the rest of the season goes, this matchup could occur, but again, who knows? Both Murray and Rodgers have been players to watch this season, so you know it would be a game every football fan would want to watch next January.
AFC Championship Prediction: Kansas City Chiefs vs. Pittsburgh Steelers: Like last week, this is my AFC Championship prediction, but maybe the Baltimore Ravens, Las Vegas Raiders or Miami Dolphins replace one of these two teams listed above? I could also see the Tennessee Titans in the championship game for the second-straight season, but in the end, the Chiefs are the defending champions and will beat the Steelers by a field goal, not a touchdown. PREDICTION: Kansas City over Pittsburgh
NFC Championship Prediction: Green Bay Packers vs. New Orleans Saints: The New Orleans Saints are the best team in the NFC – sorry, Seattle Seahawks fans, but your defense needs to improve its defense immediately. Additionally, I don’t think Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers will go on a deep postseason run – maybe they lose in the opening round to the Philadelphia Eagles in the opening round? – but this matchup would feature two of the best quarterbacks in the game. And in the end, the Saints offense will make a few more plays to beat the Packers and celebrate a conference championship on their home field. PREDICTION: New Orleans over Green Bay
Super Bowl Prediction: Kansas City Chiefs vs. New Orleans Saints: This has the potential for an offensive showcase, but which defense will not break? My answer: the Saints! PREDICTION: New Orleans over Kansas City