After a week hiatus, Water Cooler Talk is refreshed and ready to tackle the final two weeks of the NFL’s regular season. Before we move on to Week 16 however, there will be some talk about what transpired during Sunday’s game between the Panthers and Giants. Should some of the best college basketball teams start to worry? Water Cooler Talk breaks down the intriguing bowl games in college football this week and what games you should watch (sarcasm). Sit back, relax, hide the monitors from the boss, and let Water Cooler Talk help you to be the Christmas sports guru in the office and around the relatives for the holiday.
We can’t move on to this week’s action without first discussing the game which has been dubbed, ‘NFL Game of the Year.’ We’ll first start with the gameplay itself. Cam Newton and the Panthers offense are legit, and any doubt of their prowess before Week 15 should go out the window. Cam himself threw for 340 yards and ran for 100 yards. Ted Ginn still drops passes, but seems to immediately make up for those mistakes with big-time catches as he hauled in two more TDs. Greg Olsen continues to be the safety-net for Cam, and he has proven to be the second-best Tight End in the league after surpassing the 1,000 yard mark. Devin Funchess and Philly Brown step up when needed, two young receivers that have a pretty high ceiling, each had a TD reception. The defense speaks for itself, though they’ve had two rough outings in the last three weeks. The last 20 minutes on Sunday are not what that defense stand for. Give credit to Eli Manning and the Giants, they scared another undefeated team which seems to be there calling card in recent years. Had it not been for bad losses in which they’ve blown 4th quarter leads, we’d be discussing the G-Men on a regular basis. If they can shore up the defense over the offseason and add some offensive line help, this team could be dangerous next year.
On the season, Cam has 3,402 yards passing with 33 TDs and just 10 INTs, his passer rating is 98.9, and had it not been for a few drops he’d be right around 100. Let’s also not forget about the rushing yards, where he has 580 with another 7 TDs. All of this work has come without the top receiver for Carolina, Kelvin Benjamin. With these numbers, and a 14-0 record, Cam is the MVP…he’s the CAMVP.
Now, let’s get to the sideshow. Odell Beckham Jr. versus Josh Norman, this was hyped for seven days. In the technological and social media world that we live in, everyone heard about this unless living under a rock. Two rising stars at their respective positions should’ve been a treat for all fans, instead it turned into Dana White’s wet dream.
I won’t go into all of the specifics and breakdown every instance because the action is being looped on every sports channel, talk show, blog, podcast…whatever is out there is showing and talking about it. Also, because I could write a short-novel.
It’s no secret that I’m a Carolina Panthers fan, but unlike the rest of the die-hards out there, I find fault with both players, not just Odell. After Josh tried to get his head taken off by Beckham, I admittedly cheered for Josh when he went after Odell on the next play, but I realize that was wrong on my part. Speaking of that head shot by Beckham, that should’ve gotten him an ejection from the game. Would the outcome have been different if that happened? We’ll never know. That’s not the point.
OBJ has been suspended by the league and an appeal has been made. The outcome of that decision should be known either tomorrow or Thursday, which puts the Giants in a tough spot as they prepare to game plan for their Sunday Night Football matchup with the Vikings. The league made the right call, as they have told the fans that head-hunting is unacceptable, no matter who you are.
Let’s move on and discuss briefly the other ‘Game of the Year’ candidate, the Broncos and the Steelers. Pittsburgh kept their playoff hopes alive by scoring 24-unanswered points in the second half to win 34-27. The days of the Steel Curtain may be over for now, but it doesn’t matter with the combination of Big Ben and Antonio Brown. The Steelers have two cupcakes to finish the season with Baltimore and Cleveland, though both are on the road. 31st ranked pass defense or not, this team has potential to upset the top seeds in the AFC if they make the playoffs.
Looking forward to Week 16 now, there are intriguing games because of the playoff implications. Let’s take a look:
Redskins at Eagles – It’s simple for the Redskins, win and you’re in as the 4-seed and NFC East champs. The Eagles need to win out and have help to capture the division.
Colts at Dolphins – The Colts sit one-game back of the Texans for the AFC South lead. Indy needs to win-out or hope for a Texans loss either this week or next to have any chance of reclaiming the top spot in the division.
Browns at Chiefs – Kansas City has quietly gone on an eight-game winning streak. At 9-5 and holding onto the 5-seed in the AFC, KC all but needs to win their last ten to secure a playoff spot with Pittsburgh and the Jets holding 9-5 records as well. Believe it or not, they could still win the AFC West.
Steelers at Ravens – Pittsburgh currently holds the 6-seed in the AFC and cannot afford a collapse to end the regular season. The Ravens won’t have a chance to pull off an upset.
Panthers at Falcons – The Falcons are still alive in the playoff hunt but need to win their remaining two games and have help to have a chance. For the Panthers, a win means the undefeated record is still intact and home-field advantage will be clinched.
Patriots at Jets – The Patriots have secured a first-round bye and hope to get healthy heading into the playoffs. The Jets look to keep their momentum going and absolutely need to win to stay alive in the playoff hunt. With the Jets on the outside looking in, they cannot afford a loss.
Texans at Titans – It seems for now that the Texans will be on their fourth starting QB for this game, seems amazing they’re in the position they’re in. The defense will need to step up, which seems reasonable as Marcus Mariota will be out for the Titans. It’s easy for Houston…win.
Packers at Cardinals – The Cardinals suffered a huge loss on Sunday night with Tyrann Mathieu going down with a torn ACL, but they’re loaded so that should soften the blow. The Packers need to click on offense to have a chance. Despite clinching a playoff berth, Green Bay needs at least one playoff home game to make a run, which means they win the division.
Giants at Vikings – The Giants season will either be over or barely hanging on depending on the Saturday game between the Redskins and Eagles. The Vikings are still fighting for the NFC North and/or a 5 or 6 seed. Without OBJ, the Vikings chances seem very good. Minnesota needs to win for a showdown with the Packers Week 17, a potential division winning game.
Bengals at Broncos – Both look to clinch the division this week, but both are riding second-string QBs. The Bengals will look to ground the passing attack with their extraordinary secondary, while the Broncos look to recapture their defensive dominance from the first 10 weeks of the season. Denver is in danger of possibly losing the division and missing out on the playoffs.
Michigan State holds onto the #1 ranking with a 12-0 record, but will be without Denzel Valentine for the next 2-3 weeks. Despite this, the schedule favors the Spartans to remain undefeated during this time.
Duke suffered a bad loss on Saturday to Utah in overtime. The team will have to find a way to win without Amile Jefferson, who suffered a foot fracture in practice on December 12 and will miss about a month. But it’s Duke we’re talking about, and Coach K will have his boys rebound.
UNC is also without a starter for a couple of weeks as Kennedy Meeks will miss probably another two weeks of action due to a bone bruise in his knee. The Tar Heels won easily on Saturday over UCLA and cruised past App State last night.
Despite these injuries, all teams shall have no trouble on their way to March, when the games really matter.
40 games is just too many. As big of a college football fan as I am, I just don’t care to watch teams who barely went .500 or didn’t even win half of their games playing for a bowl. Next week we’ll talk college football as the better games begin after the holiday weekend leading to New Year’s.
We’re still waiting for a majority of position players to find a new home for the 2016 season. Jason Hayward signed last week with the Cubs, which should heat up the conversations between club and players. Chris ‘Crush’ Davis, Yoenis Cespedes, Alex Gordon, Justin Upton, Ian Desmond, Daniel Murphy and Dexter Fowler are all still available. The only remaining intriguing SP is Mike Leake, who should get a fairly nice contract. Once January hits, the competitive juices within all 30 front offices will heat up, meaning free agents will come off the board and trades will spark the baseball world once again.
Have a good week everyone and a Merry Christmas. Be sure to follow me on Twitter to share your thoughts on this week’s edition of Water Cooler Talk.