The final four, NFL Conference Championships will be played this coming weekend and the match-ups are intriguing, as they usually are every year. Water Cooler Talk will give you the insight of each game and tells you what to watch for when the game play occurs. So kick back, relax, hide the monitor from the boss and let Water Cooler Talk help you be the sports guru of the office this week.

Since the playoffs expanded to the current 12-team format in 1990, this is the first year in which the #1 and #2 seeds from each conference have met in the conference championships. What makes this weekends games so intriguing, is that each of the four teams have had completely different paths coming into this weekend.

The Carolina Panthers started 14-0 before losing Week 16, but finished strong at 15-1 and clinched home-field advantage throughout the playoffs Week 17.

The Arizona Cardinals started their season 4-2 before ripping off 9 straight wins before losing Week 17, a loss in which head coach Bruce Arians sat his starters in the second half of the game after Seattle was trouncing them on both sides of the ball and knowing Carolina had all but sealed their home finale.

The Denver Broncos offense has fluttered all season with and without Peyton Manning and didn’t clinch the AFC West and home-field advantage until Week 17 thanks in part to the Kansas City Chiefs long winning streak and the Bengals and Patriots late-season blunders.

The New England Patriots lost 4 of their final 6 games which ultimately led them to the #2 seed. Injuries to the offensive line and their two biggest play makers in Gronk and Julian Edelman had a lot to do with their late season stumble.

New England at Denver:  The Patriots seem to be healthy with the return of OL Sebastian Vollmer, WR Julian Edelman and TE Rob Gronkowski. Each of these players had an impact on Saturday that helped lead the Patriots past the Chiefs. Brady wasn’t sacked, Gronk had 2 TDs and Edelman had 10 receptions for 100 yards. Seeing how a depleted Steelers offense weaved their way through Denver on Sunday, this offense should be licking their chops.

While the Patriots confidence in their offense should be high, the same can’t be said for the Broncos offense or defense. Manning struggled at times to throw the ball and his receivers had numerous drops. The wind may have factored into most of the mistakes, but numerous mistakes need to be avoided in the playoffs. In order to advance to the Super Bowl, the Broncos need to get their pass rush to Brady to throw off the timing patterns on defense while limiting turnovers and converting third downs to avoid giving the ball to Brady on offense. If Denver can do this, with what should be a very energetic home crowd, they may just make it to San Francisco.

Many are hoping for Manning to get to the Super Bowl and ride off into the sunset with another championship. While that would be a good story, I just don’t think it’s going to happen. Brady and Belichick have the winning ingredient which will lead them to their seventh appearance in the Big Game. The Patriots will win a scrappy, hard fought affair, 26-20.

Arizona at Carolina:  When looking at Arizona’s season between weeks 7-16, you’d have said they’re legitimate Super Bowl contenders, but their last two games have to say otherwise. After getting embarrassed in their regular season finale, they were barely able to escape the Packers last week, a team in which they dominated in Week 16. The loss of Tyrann Mathieu was a big blow and his absence is really starting to show defensively. Their offense has big-play ability on seemingly every snap, but the run game is a huge factor into that success. If David Johnson can’t get rolling early, those big plays may not be there for Arizona on Sunday against a stingy Panthers defense.

The first 30 minutes of games have been fantastic for Carolina for much of the season to this point, but it’s the last 30 minutes of the game which has Carolina fans referring back to the 2003-2004 Cardiac Cats. Big leads have turned into small margins of victory against the Colts, Packers, Giants and now the Seahawks. Besides this obvious mishandling of the offense and defense after halftime, there really isn’t anything bad to look at. The offense has big-play ability on the ground and through the air and the defense simply smothers runners and receivers at will while threatening to get to the quarterback on nearly every play. The Panthers need to frustrate Carson Palmer early and limit the run game like they did against Seattle early. Big lead or not after halftime, in-game adjustments will play a major factor if they hope to advance.

I anticipate smash-mouth football for a full 60-minutes on Sunday thanks in part to two physical defenses on the field. One turnover could mean the difference, so both QBs will need to protect the ball and not take unnecessary risks. I think the home-field advantage will ultimately help Carolina move on to San Francisco and they’ll move on to face the Patriots with a score of 28-21.

There you have it, the Patriots and Panthers will advance in what will be a rematch of Super Bowl XXXVIII.

That’ll do it for this week’s edition of Water Cooler Talk. Be sure to follow me on Twitter (@JasonSaulter) if you like what you’ve read and be sure to check out other blog entries. Enjoy the games on Sunday and have a great week and weekend everyone.


Half of our football enjoyment is now over after last night’s College Football Playoff National Championship, Water Cooler Talk has the reaction and will discuss who to watch out for at the start of the 2016 season. With Wild Card Playoff weekend behind us, we’ll look ahead to this weekends games and gives you the predictions you need to put some extra cheddar in your pockets. Sit back, relax, don’t think about all the snow you’ll have to shovel when you get home, and let Water Cooler Talk help you be the sports guru of the office this week.



The Alabama Crimson Tide are your 2015 National Champions, and what a championship it was as they fought and scrapped for 60 minutes with a very talented Clemson Tigers squad. With their 45-40 victory, the Crimson Tide have earned their 16th championship over their well documented and proud history. Head coach Nick Saban earned his fifth title (4 with Bama, 1 with LSU) to put him in a category with Bear Bryant as the only two coaches with 5 or more titles (Bryant won 6 with Bama).

The game took a dramatic turn in the 4th quarter with the scored knotted up at 24 when Nick Saban rolled the dice to keep his struggling defense off the field. Keeping DeShaun Watson and the Tigers offense off the field with this call may have been the clincher for Alabama as Clemson was able to score at will against the Alabama defense.

Senior QB Jake Coker didn’t have to impress much over the regular season, but he stepped up in a big way on the big stage. Against Michigan State two weeks ago, Coker had a career-high 286 yards passing while completing 83.3% of his passes. Last night, Coker again set a career-high with 335 yards on just 16/25 passing with 2 TDs. The young man who hails from the state of Alabama finishes off a career that was more tumultuous than glorious, but he made his dream come true by bringing his home state another national title.

Junior RB Derrick Henry most likely played his last collegiate game last night, and if that’s the case, what a way to bow out. 3 TDs on the ground along with 158 yards. On the season, Henry finishes with 2,219 rushing yards and 28 TDs and of course, a Heisman Trophy.

Clemson made a valiant effort this season to be the first team to finish 15-0. Had it not been for one DeShaun Watson INT and a gutsy onside kick call from Saban, we most likely would be talking about a historic season. I’ll assume now that DE Shaq Lawson will not be returning for his senior season as he’s projected to be a 1st-round talent, but that doesn’t mean Clemson won’t compete for another title next season or over the next few seasons to come. Clemson came into this season with a plethora of sophomores and freshman, so skies the limit for this team in 2016.

Let’s take a look at the crystal ball and predict who will be the top five teams to start the 2016 season:

  1. Clemson
  2. Alabama
  3. Ohio State
  4. Stanford
  5. Oklahoma


NFL-logoAnd then there were eight. Regardless of how you feel about the Seahawks and Steelers advancing to this weekend, both squads will have to earn hard-fought victories if they hope to advance to the conference championship. Kansas City and Green Bay made their wins over the weekend look easy, but they each have tough tests this weekend with trips to Foxborough and Glendale respectively. Let’s take a look at the four matchups that await this weekend, shall we?

Kansas City at New England – The Chiefs defense has to be licking their chops while they await the New England offensive line. Kansas City is no stranger when it comes to sacking the QB, and Tom Brady has found himself on his backside more often than not over the last several weeks due to constant line changes due to injuries. The Patriots however will be healthy on offense for the first time in two months with the return of Julian Edelman and Danny Amendola. The Pats still have a defense that can get to the QB as well, which may spell trouble for Alex Smith and the running game if Jeremy Maclin can’t suit up. Bill Belichick just flat out doesn’t lose these games, and with two weeks of preparation, I think he’ll lead his squad to a pretty easy win. Patriots win this game to move on to the AFC Championship, 27-14.

Green Bay at Arizona – Do you remember what happened between these two squads Week 16? While I don’t think this game will be exactly like this one, I do think Arizona puts another whooping on the Packers. Green Bay’s offensive line is in turmoil right now, which gives the Cardinals hope in recording what could be another 9-sack night versus Green Bay. Arizona gets an easy win thanks to their stout defense, 30-13.

Seattle at Carolina – The Seahawks may very well be the luckiest team in the league, but they’ll need more than luck this week if they hope to advance. Carolina is riding a 15-win season and will look to get some offensive playmakers back for what should be a slugfest. After missing the regular season finale, Ted Ginn Jr. will help Cam Newton and Jonathan Stewart in the running game, by threatening over-the-top routes throughout the contest. The Panthers defense will look to regain their form after struggling in 3 of the final 5 games when they allowed 30+ points to the Saints and Giants, and couldn’t stop Atlanta on third down in their only loss of the season. Carolina takes advantage of their home-field advantage and stifles Russell Wilson and the Seahawks offense with a 24-14 win.

Pittsburgh at Denver – Who will start for the Broncos? Brock Osweiler or Peyton Manning? I still think Osweiler gives the Broncos a better chance to win, but it’ll be the defense that’ll win this game for the Broncos. Denver is too solid for Pittsburgh who may be without Antonio Brown and are already out with DeAngelo Williams. Big Ben has a sprained AC Joint, which will likely effect his passes downfield. If he’s unable to go, it’s all over for the Steelers before the game even starts. While I do think the Steelers won’t go down without a fight, I think Denver crushes their spirits early in this contest. The Broncos will move on to next week with a convincing 34-18 victory.

That’s all for this week’s edition. If you like what you see, be sure to follow me on Twitter. Have a great week everyone and enjoy the football action this weekend.

It’s an exciting and sad time of year for Water Cooler Talk as the NFL playoffs are set to begin this week as well as the National Championship in college football, but that means football season is drawing to a close. Let’s take a look at the Wild Card games on Saturday and Sunday, as well as the title game between Clemson and Alabama on Monday. Black Monday didn’t have as many surprises as expected, but are there more coaches on the move? Water Cooler Talk talks about the Hall of Fame voting in MLB and some free agents who may be signed soon. Let’s get 2016 kicked off right! Hide the monitors from the boss (because let’s face it, you’re not ready to be back), kick back, and let Water Cooler Talk help you be this week’s sports guru of the office.


NFL-logoAre any of us surprised that Cleveland fired their head coach and GM? Probably not. Is anyone surprised on how the Browns will look to fill those positions? Probably not. Usually, you look for a GM first so they can bring in a head coach they can work with. The Browns however are going about the process backwards, they’re looking for a head coach who will then have input on who will be hired as the GM. Is it any wonder this team has been so bad for so long? This job is very undesirable, which leads me to believe they’ll have to reach to bring someone in.

Tom Coughlin stepped down as the New York Giants head coach after 12 seasons at the helm. Kudos to the ownership for not firing the future hall of fame coach, they instead let him walk away with dignity. The players didn’t find this to be a satisfying move, but 12 years is a long time with one franchise. I think Coughlin finds another job in a hurry, and I think the vacancy left for the Giants will be filled in with a very viable head coach.

The Miami Dolphins are interviewing anyone who has ever coached…that’s exaggerated but they are talking to a lot of former head coaches. They are obviously ready to put a record together that matches their on-field talent.

49ers owner Jed York admitted he made a mistake last offseason by hiring Jim Tomsula, and after a 5-11 2015 he’ll look to get the team back to the glory days of winning. This too would be a desirable destination, but GM Trent Baalke is staying put. If you remember, this is the guy who drove Jim Harbaugh away to Michigan, so a red flag still remains within the 49ers front office.

The Eagles are also looking to get back to their days of winning consistently, and I’m sure it begins with someone who’s the total opposite of Chip Kelly. This is also a desirable destination, and whoever fills the position should have success for numerous years to come.

Tennessee is another desirable destination seeing as they have an established QB for years to come, a solid defense, and the #1 overall pick for the 2016 NFL Draft.

After a disappointing 8-8 season, the Indianapolis Colts didn’t fire Chuck Pagano, they instead gave him a new contract. I don’t disagree with the move as Pagano is a good coach who just happened to fight injuries on his squad throughout the season. With this new contract, let’s see if he and GM Ryan Grigson can work out their differences and get the Colts back on top in the AFC South and eventually get to the Super Bowl.

Sean Payton is still employed as the New Orleans Saints head coach, but that could change in the weeks to come. Both parties seem ready to part ways after 10 years, but the Saints won’t let Payton go so easily. Word has it that the Saints want a 2nd-round draft choice for Payton’s services. Plenty of teams will inquire about Payton, and I think the 49ers are the team to get him.

Four games are on tap for this weekend with the AFC Wild Card games on Saturday and the NFC games on Sunday. Let’s predict who will win this weekend:

Chiefs at Texans – Houston will look to embarrass Kansas City after the Chiefs put a whooping on the Texans in the season opener. The Chiefs are riding a 10-game winning streak while the Texans won 6 of their final 8 after their bye. The Texans suffered a big loss on Sunday when LT Duane Brown was lost for the season. KC continues their hot streak and gets by Houston with a score of 20-14.

Steelers at Bengals – The Steelers needed a lot of luck to get into the playoffs, but no one cares how you get in as long as you’re in. The Bengals have played surprisingly well with AJ McCarron as the QB and were close to having a first-round bye. If D-Will is out for the Steelers, this game will go to the Bengals. Should D-Will play with his ankle injury, I still think he’ll be ineffective enough that the Bengals strong secondary can contain Big Ben and Antonio Brown enough to move on to the next round. Cincinnati wins 23-15.

Seahawks at Vikings – The Vikings got embarrassed by the Seahawks just a few weeks ago, a game which was played in Minnesota. The Vikings want revenge, but I don’t know if they’re receiving corps can do enough. Sadly, I think Seattle will win 27-16.

Packers at Redskins – The Packers just can’t click offensively, the complete opposite can be said for the Redskins. With Green Bay struggling as bad as they are, I think Kirk Cousins leads the Redskins to a 30-24 victory. You like that!


635850317002095475-1004202147_yuhhhhhIt comes down to Clemson and Alabama for the national championship. These are the two teams that absolutely deserve to be in this position, as they’re the best teams in the nation, especially after convincing wins on New Year’s Eve. Offensively, Clemson has a significant advantage. Defensively, these two teams are evenly matched. Both front-sevens have superb talent while each team fields an above-average secondary. Clemson DE Shaq Lawson is expected to play, which helps the Tigers have hope. I’m a fan of the Crimson Tide, but I think Clemson gets their first title since 1980 with a 28-27 win.


2015-College-Basketball-National-Championship-Odds-and-Predictions-300x282If you missed last night’s Oklahoma-Kansas 3 OT thriller, then you missed what will most likely be the game of the year. #1 ranked Kansas and #2 Oklahoma showed us why they’re ranked where they are and should continue to do so throughout the remainder of the season. There’s plenty of buzz in Lawrence, KS and Norman, OK, as both teams have squads to potentially get to the Final Four. While Kansas is more balanced, Oklahoma has POTY candidate Buddy Hield, Ryan Spangler and Jordan Woodard. The next time these two will meet is on February 13th.

Let’s not forget about Michigan State. They were #1 until last week when they lost to Iowa, and that was without their best player on the floor, Denzel Valentine. The Spartans will soon have their POTY candidate back and are heavily favored to make a push to a Big Ten title and a Final Four appearance.


1280px-Major_League_Baseball.svgThe Los Angeles Dodgers made a couple of moves last week to bolster their starting rotation. The first signing included LHP Scott Kazmir who got a 3-year deal with an opt-out option after 2016. The Dodgers then signed Kenta Maeda to an 8-year deal. Maeda hails from Japan and has a variety of pitches to include a four-seam fastball, two-seam fastball, slider and changeup. This past season he won Japan’s equivalent of the Cy Young Award and has a lifetime 97-67 record with a 2.39 ERA. LA now has six arms to work with in the rotation, with five lefties and Maeda who is the lone right-hander for now.

Yoenis Cespedes is still the one name we’re all waiting for to sign. It sounds as if the Baltimore Orioles are the front-runners to sign the superstar outfielder, which indicates they’re moving on from Chris Davis. The remaining chips should fall in place shortly after he signs, names like Justin Upton, Howie Kendrick, Denard Span, Dexter Fowler, and Ian Desmond will find landing spots.

The voting results will be in tomorrow on who will be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame this July. Ken Griffey Jr. is definitely in, and the consensus is he’ll be the first player to ever be unanimously voted in. Other names who should make the list this year are Mike Piazza and Tim Raines. Names who should be in but will probably have to wait another year are Curt Schilling and Mike Mussina.

Alan Trammell, who played for the Detroit Tigers from 1977-1996, will also most likely not get voted in which means he’ll move off the ballot starting next year. Known more for his defense than offense, the second baseman hit a career .285 with over 2,300 hits and 1,000 RBIs. If Trammell hopes to make it in,he’ll need the Veterans Committee to make that vote, but no one from the Golden Era has been voted in by this committee.

Then there’s Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa. Not going to happen…ever.

That’s it for this week’s edition, the first of 2016 Water Cooler Talk. I hope to have helped make you become the sports guru of the office this week, and if I have hit me up on Twitter and tell me about your conquest. Have a great week everyone!