Tag: NFL

Noontime’s NFL Wild Card Predictions

By Matt Noonan

Ah, the National Football League’s (NFL) second season has arrived – are you ready for playoff football

I am and hope you are, as well!

With the Wild Card round set to begin tomorrow — that would be Saturday, January 15, 2022, with a pair of games, — it is time to share some thoughts on all six matchups, as well as make some picks.  

As usual, let us know what you think (of what I predicted below) with a comment or connect with us on social media.

Enjoy the games and make sure to circle back for more football (and maybe, some non-football content?) throughout the weekend. 


Las Vegas Raiders at Cincinnati Bengals (Saturday, Jan. 15 at 4:30 p.m.): Earlier this year, I thought the Silver and Black were going to be one of the toughest teams to beat, especially in the postseason. And despite winning four straight contests, including an-end-of season win against the Los Angeles Chargers, I don’t think their momentum will travel with them to Ohio where quarterback Joe Burrow and the Bengals will be able to score the franchise’s first postseason win since January 6, 1991, against the Houston Oilers. PREDICTION: Cincinnati 30, Las Vegas 20 

New England Patriots at Buffalo Bills (Saturday, January 15 at 8:15 p.m.): Quarterback Mac Jones exceeded expectations — he played much better than I thought he would as a first-time professional starter. Yet, the former University of Alabama signal-caller has hit the “rookie wall,” which makes me think that these Patriots will have a tough time keeping up with Josh Allen and the Buffalo Bills. PREDICTION: Buffalo 25, New England 13 

Philadelphia Eagles at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Sunday, January 16 at 1 p.m.): Somewhere, Doug Pederson is smiling as his former team somehow secured a playoff spot with an unknown first-year coach named Nick Sirianni. As a Dallas Cowboys fan, I have been impressed with what Sirianni and his staff have been able to accomplish this season — hey, they’re a pretty good running team! But unfortunately, I don’t think this particular Eagles squad will be able to keep pace with Tom Brady and the Buccaneers on Sunday. Had this matchup pitted the 2017 Eagles against the 2021 Buccaneers, then I would have picked Philadelphia. PREDICTION: Tampa Bay 28, Philadelphia 17 

San Francisco at Dallas Cowboys (Sunday, January 16 at 4:30 p.m.): The last time these two teams met, the 49ers beat the Cowboys in the 1994 NFC Championship Game en route to winning Super Bowl XXIX. Could a win on Sunday provide the winning team with the necessary momentum to capture the title next month? It’s possible, but in the end, the team that makes fewer mistakes will win this particular matchup. And as a Cowboys fan, I believe this particular Dallas squad will be ready to make one — maybe two or three more plays than San Francisco to win Sunday’s meeting. PREDICTION: Dallas 28, San Francisco 27 

Pittsburgh Steelers at Kansas City Chiefs (Sunday, January 16 at 8:15 p.m.): Earlier this week, I picked the Chiefs because they will be at home. But these are not the same Chiefs from 2018, 2019, and 2020. I think they’re vulnerable. Additionally, I think the Steelers defense will pose problems for Patrick Mahomes. So, I am taking the road team in an exciting upset win — why not? PREDICTION: Pittsburgh 20, Kansas City 18 

Arizona Cardinals at Los Angeles Rams (Monday, January 17 at 8:15 p.m.): When the Cardinals defeated the Cowboys two weeks ago, it seemed as if their late-season slide was over. But last week, they fell to the Seattle Seahawks in their regular-season finale to secure a matchup with the Los Angeles Rams next Monday. Quarterback Kyler Murray has been inconsistent over the last few weeks. He looked like he was going to have an amazing season in September, but between his up-and-down play, along with some not-so-great plays by the offense and defense over the last few weeks, it would be hard to pick them to beat the Rams. PREDICTION: Los Angeles 30, Arizona 24 

Noontime Commentary: Learning More About The Ever-Changing QB Position

Tom Brady is the greatest quarterback — he has also evolved with the position. (PHOTO COURTESY: Boston.com | AP Photo/Mark LoMoglio)

By Matt Noonan

When I was growing up, I always wanted to play quarterback (sadly, I never did).   

I loved watching Troy Aikman, Brett Favre, and Steve Young – all three played the position extremely well. But as much as I loved watching all three compete on Sunday, I fell in love more with the position from watching Tom Brady quarterback the New England Patriots.

Brady, as we all know, has become the greatest to play the position. Sure, some might argue that Joe Montana or someone else is better, but I believe Brady is the best because he continues to raise the bar and elevate the position on a yearly basis.

The former New England Patriots quarterback inspired all of us in this region, including the backyard signal-callers to those spotted under center on Friday evenings at various high school stadiums, to mimic his play, which is certainly not easy. And while Brady continues to impress, especially these days as a member of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, he is what I, along with others in the football community consider one of the last remaining drop-back/pocket passers.

Sure, it might be hard to call Brady a drop-back passer knowing his footwork and agility have improved over the last few years. But saying he is the same type of signal-caller as Lamar Jackson, a cerebral quarterback that relies more on his legs than his arm, would be a hard comparison.

Jackson, along with Josh Allen and Patrick Mahomes, are what some coaches might consider the “modern-day quarterback.” And the same could be said for Aaron Rodgers, who entered the National Football League (NFL) five years after Tom Brady and has shown similar improvements, especially in his ability to attempt acrobatic off-balanced throws from all angles. Ever see Rodgers’ “pop pass?”

Aaron Rodgers, along with Tom Brady and Patrick Mahomes, were just three names a few coaches mentioned when speaking with them about producing a piece on the “modern-day quarterback” — well, more what has changed about the position. We all know how amazing these three quarterbacks are, but one might not realize that their Sunday or Monday performances are just a sliver of what makes them great signal-callers.

As I learned from recent conversations, playing quarterback at any level does not mean you have to possess the strongest and accurate arm. Nope, there is much more to the position than just throwing the ball 30, 40, or 50 yards.

For starters, coaches believe their quarterback must possess a slew of skillset, including the following: leadership, accountability, knowing how to read multiple defensive schemes, making the necessary changes at the line of scrimmage, and watching a lot of film.

Of course, there are other intangibles and thoughts that were generated by coaches in both the college and high school world, but one thing many harped on is that their team must find the right individual to operate a popular offensive scheme: the spread offense.

What’s the spread offense?

It’s an offensive scheme that finds the quarterback in the shotgun formation with three, four, or five skill position players – think halfbacks, fullbacks, wide receivers, and tight end – spread out along the line of scrimmage. When defenses see this formation deployed, they must be ready to defend different zones/areas of the field, as well as be alert for a possible running play.

(Hopefully what I described above makes sense, but if not, I have included an introduction video to the spread offense below!)

To say the spread offense is a major reason the quarterback position has changed would be an understatement – the same could be said about how the game’s speed has changed, too.

Like anything in life, change can be perceived as both good and bad, but when it comes to the quarterback position, I believe this new wave makes the game fun and enjoyable. It is certainly a different position than the one I watched growing up in the 1990s, but now, I am ready to mimic Lamar Jackson, Patrick Mahomes, and Josh Allen in the backyard.

Anyone up for a game of pick-up football?

The Early Outlook for the NFL’s Wild Card Matchups

Derek Carr and the Las Vegas Raiders secured a spot in the 2021 NFL Playoffs with an end-of-season victory over the Los Angeles Chargers. (PHOTO COURTESY: Getty Images | New York Post)

By Matt Noonan

The 2021 National Football League’s (NFL) regular season concluded last night.

Now, it is time for the playoffsare you ready?

The 2021 season came down to the final day, as well as its last matchup between the Las Vegas Raiders and Los Angeles Chargers.

In some way, this season mirrored the New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC) from the last two seasons (2019 and 2021) where every matchup and week was needed to determine not just divisional winners, but overall seeding for the 14-team playoff.  

Saturday cannot come soon enough – I am eager for yesterday’s excitement to continue. Does anyone know how to hit fast forward in the next few days?

Either way, I am excited – and I hope you are, as well – for some playoff football!

Over the next few days and weeks, Noontime Sports will be keeping its focus on football – consider this some “overtime” coverage from last summer and fall. We will have some op-eds and commentary pieces to previews, along with a piece about quarterback progression (I guess I can thank those armchair quarterbacks calling Boston radio stations!) over the next few days.

Let’s jumpstart the week with some early thoughts on all six Wild Card matchups — have a great day, everyone!

AFC Wild Card Matchups

Los Angeles Raiders (10-7) at Cincinnati Bengals (10-7): The Raiders concluded their 2021 campaign by winning four-straight contests, including back-to-back games against the Indianapolis Colts and Los Angeles Chargers. The Silver and Black have been quite the story this season – sure, there was some negative press over the first few weeks, but somehow, they managed to go on a late run to secure an opening round meeting with the Bengals. Don’t overlook the Raiders in this matchup.

New England Patriots (10-7) at Buffalo Bills (11-6): The Patriots ended their season with a disappointing setback to the Miami Dolphins – they also lost two other games before their divisional meeting with the Buffalo Bills and Indianapolis Colts. But something tells me this was the matchup coach Bill Belichick and his team wanted. They beat Buffalo last month by running the ball and attempting three passes. But a few weeks later, New England struggled to contain quarterback Josh Allen. The rubber match between the Bills and Patriots should be fun!  

Pittsburgh Steelers (9-7-1) at Kansas City Chiefs (12-5): The Chiefs may not be the explosive offense they once were – in fact, it seems as if their defense has played better, especially down the stretch. But here’s my question: will this unit be able to stop a Steelers squad that has averaged 17.75 points in their last four outings? My initial answer: yes, but I also wonder if the Pittsburgh defense is good enough to stop Patrick Mahomes?

NFC Wild Card Matchups

Philadelphia Eagles (9-8) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (13-4): With a big win on Sunday over the Carolina Panthers, Tom Brady and the Buccaneers were able to move up to the second seed, thanks to some help from the San Francisco 49ers and Seattle Seahawks. Tampa Bay is not the same team as last year – they have some issues on both sides of the ball, which makes them vulnerable. Yet, the Buccaneers should be able to win this game, however, they must find a way to stop an impressive Eagles rushing attack led by quarterback Jalen Hurts. Hurts concluded the regular season with 784 rushing yards on 139 carries and 10 touchdowns while completing 265 of 432 passes for 3,144 yards and 16 touchdowns.

San Francisco 49ers (10-7) at Dallas Cowboys (12-5): This is a classic matchup – go ahead and break out those Steve Young and Troy Aikman jerseys. Neither signal-caller will be spotted under center next Sunday, but the 49ers’ offense will provide some challenges for a Cowboys defense that struggled initially at slowing down Philadelphia’s Gardner Minshew and Kenneth Gainwell this past weekend. But while the 49ers’ come-from-behind win yesterday against the Los Angeles Rams was impressive, the question I have heading into this contest is can this defense — San Franciscos’s, to be exact — slow down Dak Prescott and the Cowboys’ offense? This game presents some interesting storylines, as well as features two coaches that used to work together: Kyle Shanahan (San Francisco) and Dan Quinn (Dallas).  

Arizona Cardinals (11-6) at Los Angeles Rams (12-5): Arizona and Los Angeles both scored one win against each other, so like Buffalo-New England, this is a rubber match. To be honest, I did not anticipate this would be a first-round match-up – in fact, I thought Arizona or Los Angeles would be heading to Dallas this weekend. But instead, the Cardinals and Rams will square off once more this season – I am not confident in the Rams’ defense, which struggled to contain the San Francisco offense yesterday, especially in the final minutes. Additionally, will we see a great or subpar Kyler Murray against the Rams? Similar to Dallas-San Francisco, this game also presents some unique storylines.

Holy Cross, Sacred Heart Seek First Postseason Victory

Quarterback Matthew Sluka has guided the Holy Cross football team to a 9-2 overall record this fall. (PHOTO COURTESY: Mark Seliger Photography/Courtesy of Holy Cross Athletics)

By Matt Noonan

Saturday will be a special day for either Holy Cross or Sacred Heart University.

The two teams secured a date in the opening round of the 2021 NCAA FCS Playoffs with the winner advancing to the second round next Saturday, December 4 against Villanova University.

Neither team has won a postseason contest, but this is certainly not the first time either school has competed in the playoffs.

Holy Cross, which is making its sixth appearance in the postseason, has lost three first-round matchups, a quarterfinal meeting with Western Carolina, and their first and only trip to the Orange Bowl in 1946 to the University of Miami.  

Sacred Heart has made three trips to the playoffs and dropped a pair of first-round contests to Fordham University in 2013 and 2014. This past spring, the University of Delaware outlasted the Pioneers, 19-10.

Both teams captured their respective conference title this fall – the Patriot League for Holy Cross and Northeast Conference (NEC) for Sacred Heart – and boast identical six-game winning streaks, which began last month.

Holy Cross appears to be the “favorite” in this matchup – currently, the Crusaders are ranked 24th in the latest FCS Coaches Poll with the 10th best rushing attack (the team is averaging 217.7 yards per game). Additionally, their defense is very good. The Purple and White have forced 24 turnovers, including 18 interceptions, which is the second-most in the FCS behind Austin Peay with 19 and held opponents to 76.6 rushing yards per game.

Linebacker Jacob Dobbs was named the Patriot League Defensive Player of the Year, while coach Bob Chesney earned the conference’s Dick Biddle Coach of the Year award (Dick Biddle was previously an assistant and coach of the Colgate University football team). Both are also being considered for national awards.

Holy Cross quarterback Matthew Sluka, who was named the Patriot League Rookie of the Year this past spring, has tallied 23 touchdowns this fall, including a team-high 13 scores on the ground. He will certainly be a player to watch, along with halfback Peter Oliver and linebacker Liam Anderson.

The most intriguing matchup to watch on Saturday is the Holy Cross rushing defense against Sacred Heart’s Malik Grant, who led the Northeast Conference with 1,288 yards on 226 carries and nine touchdowns. He is currently averaging 117.09 yards per game and one of 12 FCS halfbacks to rush for 1,000 yards or more this season.

In addition to Grant, fans should keep an eye on halfback Julius Chestnut, who only played four times this fall, but is gaining attention from NFL scouts. The Bowie, Maryland native has rushed for 100 yards or more in three contests while locating the end zone three times.

Holy Cross has won a pair of meetings against Sacred Heart with their last win coming in 2009 when the Crusaders won nine games like they did this fall.

Kickoff is scheduled for 12 p.m. with the game being streamed on ESPN+.

Player Perspective: George Lampros (Mass. Maritime Academy)

George Lampros converted five field goals last Saturday, October 23 in Massachusetts Maritime Academy’s 22-20 victory over Western Connecticut. (PHOTO COURTESY: James Bazzano)

By NoontimeSports.com

George Lampros was quick to credit his coaches and teammates for his performance last weekend against Western Connecticut.

“We have really developed (a strong rapport) over the years,” said Lampros, a graduate kicker for the Massachusetts Maritime Academy football team. “And it plays a huge role (for me) during games.”

Lampros enjoyed his best outing of the 2021 season by converting a season-best five field goals, including a career-long 46-yard boot late in the fourth quarter, which helped the Buccaneers edge the Colonials, 22-20, and snap a six-game losing streak.

The Bridgewater, Massachusetts native also tallied one extra point to go with four punts for 163 yards with one kick landing inside the Western Connecticut 20-yard line and was named the Massachusetts State Collegiate Athletic Conference (MASCAC) Special Teams Player of the Week.

The 16-point outing, which was the most Lampros has tallied this season, was a testament to a program that continues to put him “in the right position” to succeed as both a kicker and punter.

Lampros has enjoyed his best season with the Buccaneers by converting all 14 field goal attempts to go with nine extra points.

Noontime Sports recently caught up with George Lampros to discuss his most recent outing against the Colonials, as well as how he has improved his kicking and punting skills since his first season in 2017.

Take me through your final kick in the fourth quarter. Were you nervous about attempting a 46-yard field goal? And when the ball sailed through the uprights, what sort of emotions did you experience? 

Obviously, the stakes were a bit higher and as soon as I started walking onto the field the level of the crowd escalated. Everybody understood the situation. Yes, I was a little nervous, but I’ve made that kick a thousand times before, so I knew I was ready ahead of the snap.

And when I saw the football sail through the uprights, I couldn’t help but get excited. I knew that we were close to sealing the deal, and I had done what I needed to do to help my team be successful against the Colonials.

Including the five field goals you made last Saturday, you have converted all nine attempts this fall. So, what’s the secret to your recent success as a kicker? 

I have realized the importance of taking advantage of each opportunity you are presented, which motivates me to put in the work every day. After the 2020 season was canceled due to the Covid-19 pandemic, I thought my journey was over, but now that I’m back on the field I know I’m not done with this sport. I’ve got a blessing on my hands, and I’ve got a lot to prove, so this is my chance to prove it. 

How have you improved your kicking skills from your initial season in 2017 to this fall? Did you watch any video of yourself in action or tweak your training? 

I have seen a few videos of myself and worked on tweaking a couple of small things. Other than that, I have just focused on getting stronger and converting every opportunity that I am presented with on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis. I’ve also learned how to not overwork myself, which has led to previous injuries, but when I am not kicking field goals or PATs in practice, I am thinking about different scenarios that I could face during a game.

Who are a few kickers you have watched that have inspired you to become the kicker you are today? 

I’ve always looked up to guys like Adam Vinatieri, who deserves to be in the National Football League (NFL) Hall of Fame – he has always been known as the guy who comes through in the clutch. I’m also a big fan of Justin Tucker (Baltimore Ravens) and Greg Zuerlein (Dallas Cowboys), as well as Pat McAfee, who has established a voice for kickers and punters through his unique personality. He is certainly entertaining.

If you could only kick or punt for a team, which would it be? I know you do both for the Buccaneers, but we had to ask! 

I’ve always thought I could perform better if I just focused on punting, but then again, I like putting points on the board after our team scores a touchdown.  

Finally, you majored in international maritime business – what interested you in pursuing this degree? Also, what do you hope to do with it after the current school year concludes?

Since graduating with that degree, I’ve worked in project management for a large company in Weymouth. I have enjoyed the experience thus far while learning a lot which is important to me. I’m very optimistic about my future once I finish my master’s program, but I do intend to continue my training with hopes of possibly kicking at the professional level.