Sep 19, 2022; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA; Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts (1) and Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins (8) meet on the field after the game at Lincoln Financial Field. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Eagles, Vikings can clinch playoff spots this week

Clinching a spot in the playoffs is a realistic possibility for the Philadelphia Eagles and Minnesota Vikings entering Week 13.

The Eagles (10-1) and Vikings (9-2) play home games on Sunday with a shot at sealing a postseason bid with a month remaining in the regular season.

Philadelphia hosts the Tennessee Titans (7-4) and the Eagles are 4-0 this season against AFC teams. In addition to beating the Titans, the Eagles need a Washington Commanders loss to the New York Giants, Seattle Seahawks loss to the Los Angeles Rams and San Francisco 49ers loss to the Miami Dolphins.

Clinching the NFC North is less complicated for the Vikings.

If Minnesota beats the New York Jets (7-4) and the Detroit Lions lose to the Jacksonville Jaguars, the Vikings are division champions.

–Field Level Media

Feb 6, 2022; Paradise, Nevada, USA; AFC tight end Mark Andrews of the Baltimore Ravens (89) runs with the ball against the NFC during the second quarter during the Pro Bowl football game at Allegiant Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

AFC pours on points, beats NFC for fifth straight Pro Bowl win

Justin Herbert threw two touchdown passes, Mac Jones added one more and the AFC held on for a 41-35 win over the NFC in the Pro Bowl on Sunday afternoon in Las Vegas.

Mark Andrews had five catches for 82 yards and two touchdowns to lead the AFC. Hunter Renfrow also had a touchdown catch, and Stefon Diggs notched a rushing touchdown. It marked the AFC’s fifth straight Pro Bowl victory.

Kyler Murray threw three touchdown passes for the NFC, and Kirk Cousins had another touchdown toss. Kyle Juszczyk, Mike Evans, Kyle Pitts and Dalvin Cook each hauled in touchdowns in the loss.

The AFC opened the scoring on a 45-yard interception return for a touchdown by Darius Leonard with 12:17 remaining in the first quarter. Leonard, who had four interceptions to go along with a league-high eight forced fumbles this season, stepped in front of a high pass from Murray.

The NFC pulled even at 7-7 on a 14-yard touchdown pass from Cousins to Juszczyk with 9:57 to go in the first quarter.

Less than a minute later, Andrews grabbed a 15-yard touchdown pass from Herbert to make it 14-7 in favor of the AFC.

The NFC pulled within 14-13 on a pick-six by Antoine Winfield Jr. of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on the final play of the first quarter. Winfield faked a pitch and kept the ball for a 63-yard return to the end zone, but a two-point conversion attempt failed moments later.

In the first minute of the second quarter, Myles Garrett had a 22-yard fumble recovery for a touchdown. Jones followed that with a successful two-point conversion, finding Diontae Johnson in the end zone to put the AFC on top 22-13.

Murray fired a 19-yard touchdown to Evans with 10:41 left in the second quarter. Murray then connected with CeeDee Lamb for a two-point conversion that pulled the NFC within 22-21.

A 7-yard touchdown pass from Herbert to Andrews, followed by an unsuccessful two-point attempt, gave the AFC a 28-21 lead with 5:01 left in the second quarter.

Next came a 6-yard touchdown pass from Jones to Renfrow — again followed by an unsuccessful two-point attempt — to make it 34-21 with 7:24 to go in the third quarter.

The AFC’s advantage increased to 41-21 on Diggs’ 4-yard run late in the third quarter.

The NFC cut the deficit to 41-28 on a 5-yard touchdown pass from Murray to Pitts with 10:18 remaining in the fourth quarter.

Murray notched his third touchdown pass on a 5-yard strike to Cook with 2:36 left.

–Field Level Media

Dec 26, 2021; Arlington, Texas, USA; Washington Football Team wide receiver Terry McLaurin (17) and Dallas Cowboys cornerback Trevon Diggs (7) in action during the game between the Washington Football Team and the Dallas Cowboys at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Diggs brothers excited to face off in Pro Bowl

The Pro Bowl is annually a game in which many players opt out and some participate while disinterested.

In the midst of all the roster turmoil, there are at least two players highly eager to play in the Sunday game between the NFC and AFC at Las Vegas: the Diggs brothers.

NFL interception champion Trevon Diggs of the Dallas Cowboys can’t wait for that moment when he is staring across the line of scrimmage and sees older brother Stefon Diggs of the Buffalo Bills just a couple yards away.

“Probably one of my favorite moments of this year, for real, because that’s my brother,” Trevon Diggs recently told reporters. “I love him to death and just being able to go up there (to the Pro Bowl) with him, that’s fire.”

Trevon Diggs, a 23-year-old cornerback, had a breakout campaign in his second NFL season. With his league-best 11 interceptions, he matched Everson Walls (1981) for the Cowboys’ single-season record, and he returned two for touchdowns.

A big reason for his rapid rise is the offseason workouts he conducted with Stefon. The 28-year-old wideout is in his second straight Pro Bowl after catching 103 passes for 1,225 yards and a career-high 10 touchdowns this season.

On the day of the Pro Bowl selections, Stefon and Trevon were on FaceTime with 15 other family members and close friends. Stefon was pleased to earn another berth, but seeing his brother’s face appear on television as a selection was the highlight of the call.

“I was more happy for him than I was for myself,” Stefon Diggs said. “I was just more proud than anything. … I saw his face, and I’m like, ‘Yeah, that’s my little brother.’”

Stefon Diggs’ usual quarterback, Josh Allen, is one of the many star players who won’t be in Las Vegas. Allen initially was an alternate for the game, but he turned down an invitation last week, citing body soreness.

Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson (ankle) also declined a recent invitation, leading to Mac Jones of the New England Patriots getting the call as the AFC’s third quarterback. Justin Herbert of the Chargers is the AFC’s starting quarterback with Patrick Mahomes of the Kansas City Chiefs in reserve.

The top two candidates for NFL Most Valuable Player aren’t playing for the NFC — Aaron Rodgers (undisclosed injury) of the Green Bay Packers and the now-retired Tom Brady of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

The NFC quarterbacks are now-starter Kyler Murray of the Arizona Cardinals and two replacements — Russell Wilson of the Seattle Seahawks and Kirk Cousins of the Minnesota Vikings.

Packers receiver Davante Adams (undisclosed injury) is among the others who pulled out.

Mike Vrabel of the Tennessee Titans is coach of the AFC and Matt LaFleur of the Packers leads the NFC. The Titans and Packers both tied for the best regular-season record in their conference.

There will be no opening kickoff in this year’s game as the league experiments with the “Spot and Choose” method that the Ravens proposed to the Competition Committee last year.

The team that wins the coin toss will be able to spot the ball on any part of the field and choose the direction. The other team will then choose whether to start on offense or defense from the designated spot.

–Field Level Media

Jan 17, 2022; Inglewood, California, USA; Los Angeles Rams wide receiver Cooper Kupp (10) is introduced before playing against the Arizona Cardinals in the NFC Wild Card playoff football game at SoFi Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Playoff parlay play: Rams at Buccaneers

Sunday’s NFL doubleheader opens with the Los Angeles visiting the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, a rematch of Week 3 game won by the Rams.

From a betting perspective, there is a reasonable argument that either team could win this game — and reach the Super Bowl out of the NFC with another victory next week — which ratchets up the investment intrigue.

To get into the action with a bet, we cooked up a Same Game Parlay that includes some extremely high hit-rates on the season. This particular SGP was constructed on FanDuel.

Rams vs Buccaneers SGP: +173 on FD
This parlay is four legs, and before we break down why each is a part of this bet, let’s show the entire SGP.

The SGP:
Cooper Kupp 70+ Receiving Yards
Tom Brady 225+ Passing Yards
Tyler Johnson 25+ Receiving Yards
Rams +10.5

If you wanted to increase the odds, you could bump up each of these prop totals, but we went with the safer route with some low totals.

–Cooper Kupp 70+ Receiving Yards
We start with Cooper Kupp. Kupp was the best wide receiver in football this season, leading the league in receptions, yards and touchdowns.

His over/under for this game is currently at 100.5 yards, so 70-plus should be well within grasp against a sagging secondary.

Kupp hit this total in 16 of 18 games this season, good for an 89% hit rate. Considering he’s averaging 111.6 yards per game and seeing 11 targets per game from Matthew Stafford, I feel comfortable with this number.

The Buccaneers secondary is where you’ll want to attack if you’re the Rams, with a strong run defense poised to shut down the combination of Sony Michel and Cam Akers.

In a game that should have plenty of scoring, Los Angeles will turn to the passing game, and in turn, Kupp.

–Tom Brady 225+ Passing Yards
We hit another low alternate line for Brady, needing just 225-pus passing yards to secure the second leg of our parlay.

Brady hit this total in 15 of 18 games this season, including against the Rams — finishing with 432.

Los Angeles has the best run defense in football, and no team throws more often than Tampa Bay.

If you wanted to bump your odds up, Brady at 250+ brings the odds up to +201. I prefer the safer route.

Brady is averaging 310.4 passing yards per game this season.

–Tyler Johnson 25+ Receiving Yards

I like Johnson to exceed 25 receiving yards, which he’s done in two of the last three games since Chris Godwin went down with a torn ACL.
Johnson is third on this team in targets and the WR2 in this offense.

Los Angeles allows the third-most receptions per game to wide receivers, and Johnson is sure to get some looks from Brady.

–Rams +10.5
This is another underdog that I think can win this weekend, so we bump the spread to +10.5 for some insurance.

Los Angeles matches up well with Tampa Bay, especially if Pro Bowl right tackle Tristan Wirfs misses the game as expected.

Brady’s biggest losses in the postseason have typically come against teams with an elite pass rush. Well, Aaron Donald and Von Miller make up just a part of what has been the best defensive line in football this season. The Rams’s 50 sacks are third in the NFL and they should be getting to Brady all game.

If Stafford can pick apart a vulnerable secondary and this Los Angeles defense comes to play, the Rams can at minimum keep this game within 10 points.

This is another I would be comfortable bumping to less of a spread to boost your SGP odds.

This NFC battle on Sunday should be a good one, so enjoy the game and the entire weekend of football!

–By Griffin Carroll, Field Level Media

Oct 24, 2021; Glendale, Arizona, USA; Arizona Cardinals head coach Kliff Kingsbury looks on as Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray (1) warms up prior to the game against the Houston Texans at State Farm Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

Cardinals eye NFC West crown, wary of wounded Seahawks

Arizona clinched a playoff berth for the first time since 2015, but the Cardinals have plenty to play for on Sunday.

The Cardinals can still win the NFC West title and earn a home playoff game by taking care of business against the Seattle Seahawks — and getting some help — in Week 18.

The Cardinals (11-5) are a game behind the Los Angeles Rams in the division chase entering Sunday’s regular-season finale with the Seahawks (6-10) in Glendale, Ariz.

Last week, the Cardinals snapped a three-game losing streak with a 25-22 victory at Dallas as Kyler Murray completed 26 of 38 passes for 263 yards and two touchdowns and also rushed for 44 yards.

The Cardinals are just 3-4 at home, having lost four in a row.

“I think we just gotta play better at home. I think that’s what it comes down to. Nothing more, nothing less,” Murray said. “I definitely feel like as a team, it’s about getting hot at the right time and going into the playoffs. You wouldn’t want to go into the playoffs feeling how we felt three weeks ago, that’s for sure. I think that was a good head start to win this past Sunday and hopefully get the job done this weekend that we can feel even better going into the playoffs.”

Running back James Connor, whose 14 rushing touchdowns are two shy of the franchise record, missed two games in a row with a heel injury and has been limited in practice this week.

Chase Edmonds rushed for a game-high 53 yards against the Cowboys before leaving with an ankle injury and is also questionable for Sunday’s game.

“We’ll see how they progress in the next couple days. I don’t know how much we’ll use them, but we want to make sure they’re ready for the playoffs,” Cardinals coach Kliff Kingsbury said of Connor and Edmonds. “That’s when we’ve been at our best when both guys are healthy and getting to play and taking some snaps off of each other. We’d like to get back to that …”

The Seahawks will finish with a losing record for the first time in the decade-long Russell Wilson/Bobby Wagner era. Seattle snapped a two-game skid last weekend with a 51-29 victory against visiting Detroit.

Wilson threw four touchdown passes – three to DK Metcalf – and Rashaad Penny rushed for a career-high 170 yards and two scores.

“Watching the film against Detroit, they were tremendous in all three phases, playing hard, playing to win,” Kingsbury said. “You would never guess that they aren’t going to the playoffs, honestly watching that team play.”

Wagner suffered a knee injury on Detroit’s first offensive play and didn’t return. The linebacker said he hopes to play Sunday.

“I think it’s just always important to try your best to finish what you start,” Wagner said. “So regardless of how the things play out, you never want your circumstances or what’s going on around you to dictate whether or not you’re going to play or how hard you’re going to play.”

Wagner is one of 10 Seahawks who have missed practice this week with injuries. The list includes linebacker Carlos Dunlap II (ankle), safety Quandre Diggs (knee) and tight end Will Dissly (heel).

The Cardinals won earlier this season in Seattle 23-13 behind backup quarterback Colt McCoy, who threw for 328 yards and two touchdowns. Conner scored on a 1-yard run with 2:20 remaining to clinch the victory.

–Field Level Media

Comparing Team vs Divisional Wins

It’s no secret that the New England Patriots have pretty much owned the AFC East for the past decade. However, did you know that the rest of the AFC East have averaged fewer than 8 wins in the same time frame? If the goal is to make the playoffs, it certainly helps when the rest of your division tends to produce losing records. The flip side of the AFC East is the AFC North. The Bengals, Steelers, and Ravens have had many strong seasons, often sending two of the three teams to the playoffs (in 2011, all three teams advanced to the playoffs).
The graphic below allows you to choose a division and a team, and it displays the wins for the selected team vs. the average wins for the rest of the division.
{{CODE1}}

How Every Team and Division Has Fared in NFC vs. AFC Matchups

In 2018, we’ll get to see Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers battle it out on the field for the second – and possibly final – time. Fans have had to wait 4 years since the last matchup because of the NFL’s division-heavy schedule. Every season, there are 64 regular-season games in which a team from the NFC plays a team from the AFC. Some teams, like the Patriots and Cowboys have fared well in these inter-conference matchups over the past 4 seasons. Some other teams haven’t been so fortunate. This graphic shows the success of teams and divisions over the past four years. Play around with the drop-down lists, and hover over the bars to see the results!
{{CODE1}}

Team preview: Arizona Cardinals

<p> In January of 2013, Steve Keim was promoted to general manager of the Arizona Cardinals. His first order of business was to hire a head coach and he immediately brought in Bruce Arians. Since then, a lot has gone right for the Cardinals.</p> <p> Arizona finished the 2013 season with a 10-6 record which, in most seasons, will get a club into the playoffs. But that wasn’t the case for the Cardinals, who unfortunately missed out on a playoff berth. Still, the Cardinals went 7-2 over their last nine games and have a lot of momentum going into 2014. Their main problem is that they play in the ultra-competitive NFC West which, right now, is the best division in the NFL.</p> <p> Can Arizona reach the playoffs in 2014? Let’s look at the roster.</p> <p> <strong>Quarterback</strong></p> <p> Carson Palmer is the man in Arizona. He had one of his best seasons as a pro last year, throwing for over 4,200 yards and 24 touchdowns. Still, he needs to improve, as Palmer threw 22 interceptions as well. That number has to come down.</p> <p class="co_image co_image_right inline_right"> <img alt="Carson Palmer" src="http://cdn.cloudfiles.mosso.com/c1910342/media_center/images/rendered/blog/wysiwyg/palmer2-6138.jpg" />Does Palmer have enough gas left in the tank to get the Cardinals to the playoffs?</p> <p> Since this is Palmer’s second year in Arians’ system, he should feel more comfortable. The only things working against him are age (he is 35 this season) and the lack of mobility he had as a younger player.</p> <p> The backup will be nine-year veteran Drew Stanton. While Stanton has talent, he hasn’t thrown a pass other than in the pre-season in three years. The Cardinals drafted Virginia Tech’s Logan Thomas to be a developmental guy, but I don’t think you will ever see him as an NFL quarterback. He lacks the instincts to play the position in the pros. Still, with his size and arm strength, Thomas will get every chance to succeed.</p> <p> <strong>Offensive line</strong></p> <p> With Palmer lacking any kind pf mobility, the offensive line will play a key role in the Cardinals’ success. The have to give Palmer time to throw.</p> <p> The key addition for Arizona during the off-season was the signing of Jared Veldheer away from Oakland to play left tackle. Veldheer is just beginning to come into his own as a player and gives Arizona a quality left tackle.</p> <p> Who plays right tackle will be determined during training camp. Three guys are battling for the job, with Bradley Sowell leading the pack entering camp. The others in contention are Bobbie Massie and third-year man Nate Potter. What hurts Potter is a lack of natural size, but he has the athleticism to also play inside.</p> <p> Last year’s first-round pick in Jonathan Cooper missed his rookie season with a broken leg. He is healthy and will give the Cards a very strong and athletic left guard. The right guard should be second-year man Earl Watford. Like Cooper, Watford is very athletic and explosive. At center is the consistent Lyle Sendlein, who is the group leader and makes all the line calls. Brought in to compete at center and guard is Ted Larson, who was with Tampa Bay last year.</p> <p> <strong>Running back </strong></p> <p> Earlier this spring, leading rusher Rashard Mendenhall retired. Also, former second-round disappointment Ryan Williams was cut. With those players gone, the lead running back becomes second-year man Andre Ellington, who ran for 652 yards as well as a 5.5-yards per carry average last season. While Ellington isn’t built to be a 20-carry per game guy, he just may have to assume that role, as there is not a lot of depth at the position.</p> <p> The two backups will be Stefan Taylor, who is an explosive inside runner, and free agent Jonathan Dwyer. Both Dwyer and Taylor are similar in that they are inside pounders. Ellington is the more elusive big-play threat with speed to get outside and the hands to be a factor in the passing game.</p> <p> <strong>Receivers and tight ends</strong></p> <p> Even though Larry Fitzgerald’s production has slipped a bit over the last couple of years, he is still one of the most respected receivers in the game. He caught 85 passes and notched ten touchdowns a year ago.</p> <p> Opposite Fitzgerald is third-year man Michael Floyd. Like many receivers, it took Floyd a year to get acclimated to the NFL. Last he finished with 65 receptions for over 1,000 yards. He is just beginning to scratch the surface of what he can be.</p> <p> The slot receiver should be the speedy Ted Ginn, who was signed away from Carolina. He is also a respectable return man. Keep an eye on rookie John Brown from Division II Pittsburg State. Brown has 4.3 speed, but will need to adapt to the NFL. He may be a year away from being a big contributor.</p> <p> At the tight end position the Cardinals brought in John Carlson from the Vikings. Carlson is a very steady, consistent player who is good as both a blocker and receiver. In the second round, Arizona took Notre Dame tight end Troy Niklas, who only played the position for two years. He was previously a defensive player. Niklas is an outstanding blocker, but is raw as a receiver. He missed a lot of practice time during OTA’s after having sports hernia surgery in the spring.</p> <p> <strong>Defensive line</strong></p> <p> Arizona has a strong defensive line and after the draft they have enough solid contributors to play a rotation. The starting ends are Calais Campbell, who is entering his seventh year and keeps getting better, and Darnell Dockett, who has been a consistently good player for over ten years.</p> <p class="co_image co_image_right inline_right"> <img alt="Patrick Peterson" src="http://cdn.cloudfiles.mosso.com/c1910342/media_center/images/rendered/blog/wysiwyg/Patrick-Peterson3.jpg" />Peterson has become one of the best cornerbacks in the game.</p> <p> The depth at the end position comes from rookies Kareem Martin and Ed Stinson. Stinson, who played at Alabama, is a perfect 5-technique type. Martin is an athletic pass rusher and may also play on his feet at time.</p> <p> At the nose tackle position is starter Dan Williams, who is a tough run stopper, and Alameda Ta’amu, who is coming off ACL surgery. Frostee Rucker is a valuable veteran reserve on the D-Line.</p> <p> <strong>Linebackers</strong></p> <p> The linebacker unit has to overcome two huge losses. Karlos Dansby left via free agency and Daryl Washington <a href="http://footballpost.wpengine.com/Suspended-Daryl-Washington-issues-apology-acknowledges-marijuana-use.html" target="_self">has been suspended by the league</a>. One of the new starters will be 2013 second-round pick Kevin Minter. Minter has the physical tools to be outstanding, he just has to settle down and play.</p> <p> The other starter inside may be free agent Larry Foote. While Foote’s best football is behind him, he still has the experience to play a mistake-free game.</p> <p> On the outside, one starter will be old pro John Abraham. Abraham may be 36-years-old, but he went to the Pro Bowl last season. On paper, the other starter outside is Sam Acho, who is coming off an injury. He will be challenged by Matt Shaughnessy, who contributed after being signed as a free agent away from Oakland last year. The other player who will challenge is Lorenzo Alexander, who is more known for his special teams play.</p> <p> <strong>Secondary</strong></p> <p> When you talk about the Arizona secondary, the first playe
r who comes to mind is All-Pro corner Patrick Peterson. Peterson is entering his fourth year in the league and is already one of the premier players at the position.</p> <p> The other corner will be Antonio Cromartie, who is a tall shut-down CB who can be very physical. With the signing of Cromartie, last year’s starter in Jerraud Powers figures to be the nickel corner. Those three give Arizona a very strong corner group.</p> <p> Who starts at safety is still a question mark. Tyrann Mathieu played great football as a rookie, but suffered a knee injury late in the season and might not be ready to go at the beginning of camp.</p> <p> First-round pick Deone Bucannon should be the other starter. While I agree that Bucannon is talented, I didn’t see him as a first-round pick. The depth at safety is Tony Jefferson and Rashad Johnson.</p> <p> <strong>Outlook</strong></p> <p> If the Cardinals played in any other division besides the NFC West, they may very well be a favorite to win the division. The problem they have is that both Seattle and San Francisco are not only in their division, but they are two of the best teams in the NFL. That said, Arizona has to work just to be a wild card selection.</p> <p> If the Cardinals find stability at the linebacker position, Arizona could very well duplicate last year’s 10-6 record. That should get them a spot in the playoffs.</p> <p> <strong>Follow Greg on Twitter:</strong> @<a href="http://www.twitter.com/greggabe" target="_blank">greggabe</a></p>