2017-NFL-SUPER BOWL LI-Showtime-Game preview

HOUSTON — Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots are at home in Houston, where they won Super Bowl XXXVIII, and accustomed to the NFL’s biggest stage. The Atlanta Falcons are in their second Super Bowl and strive to secure the Lombardi Trophy for the first time in franchise history on Sunday in Super Bowl LI. “It is a great privilege to be here and represent the AFC in this game,” Belichick said of preparing for his 10th Super Bowl, including three as an assistant coach. “It is where you want to be at the end of the year. We are here this year. We are proud to be here.” The Falcons, in head coach Dan Quinn’s second year, rode the NFL’s highest-scoring offense (33.8 points per game) to the top of the NFC. The trophy on the line Sunday is the hardware that matters, but Atlanta’s achievements already include Read More

2017-NFL-Sunday night- PRO BOWL- Showtime scheduled

The NFL Pro Bowl takes place on Sunday Jan. 29 at 8:00 p.m. ET in a nationally televised battle on ESPN.The league moved the Pro Bowl from Hawaii to Orlando this season and it also changed up the format, going back to an original AFC vs. NFC matchup after three years of non-conference games chosen by former players.The NFC is listed as a short four-point favorite over the AFC while the total is hovering between 80 ½ and 82 ½ points and a variety of betting shops.Listed below are the expected rosters for both the NFC and AFC, plus recent history in the exhibition matchup. NFC RosterOffenseQuarterback: Dak Prescott*, Cowboys; Drew Brees, Saints; Kirk Cousins, RedskinsRunning back: Ezekiel Elliott*, Cowboys; Jordan Howard, Bears; Devonta Freeman, FalconsWide receiver: Odell Beckham*, Giants; Mike Evans, Buccaneers; Larry Fitzgerald, Cardinals; Dez Bryant, CowboysTight end: Greg Olsen*, Panthers; Jimmy Graham, SeahawksTackle: Tyron Smith*, Cowboys; Trent Williams*, Redskins; David Bakhtiari, PackersGuard: Zack Martin*, Cowboys; Trai Read More

2017-NFL-AFC Conference Championship Finals-Steelers at Patriots game preview

Ben Roethlisberger waited 12 years for a playoff rematch with Tom Brady. It comes Sunday in the AFC Championship Game. Roethlisberger, playing in the AFC Championship for the fifth time (3-1) in 13 years with the Pittsburgh Steelers, is back in the conference title game for the first time since 2010. He missed the regular-season game in October with a knee injury. “You’ve got one game to get to the Super Bowl. You’re going to the dragon’s lair,” Roethlisberger said, “and we’re trying to slay the dragon.” Brady has blazed the Steelers for most of his career, including the 2004 AFC title game in Pittsburgh. Brady is 9-2 all-time against the Steelers with 26 touchdowns and three interceptions. Roethlisberger is sixth all-time with 13 playoff wins. Brady’s next Super Bowl ring would make five; Roethlisberger has two. Only Green Bay Packers quarterback Bart Starr has five league championships, all before Read More

2017-NFL-NFC Conference Championship Finals-Packers at Falcons game preview

Defense wins championships. That’s the old adage. And it’s about to be turned on its head by either the Green Bay Packers or Atlanta Falcons. The Packers finished 21st in points allowed. The Falcons finished 27th. And yet, one of them will win the NFC Championship Game on Sunday in Atlanta. The victor will be playing in Super Bowl LI, and it figures to be a battle of brilliant quarterbacks — Atlanta’s Matt Ryan and Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers — who decide this one. Behind Ryan, the Falcons scored 71 more points than any other team in the NFL. Ryan’s 117.1 passer rating not only led the NFL, but was the fifth-best in NFL history. He threw for 4,944 yards with 38 touchdowns and seven interceptions. He topped 100 in passer rating in 12 of 16 regular-season games, then did it again against Seattle in the divisional round. The Falcons Read More

2017-NFL-Play Offs-Packers at Cowboys game preview

Aaron Rodgers is the lava-hot quarterback who throws Hail Mary touchdown passes as easily as slant patterns and already owns a Super Bowl ring. Dak Prescott is the ultra-cool customer, who seemingly isn’t bothered by any of the pressure that comes with being an NFL quarterback. Prescott looks to guide Dallas to its first Super Bowl appearance in 21 years and that task begins Sunday when the Cowboys host Rodgers’ Green Bay Packers in an NFC divisional-round contest (4:40 p.m. ET, FOX). Prescott was the steal of the NFL draft as a fourth-round selection and he quickly turned then-injured Tony Romo into an afterthought. Dallas went 13-3 and earned the NFC’s No. 1 seed behind Prescott and fellow rookie Ezekiel Elliott, who led the NFL with 1,631 rushing yards during the regular season. “To me, it’s all about being prepared,” Prescott said. “In a way, you get nerves; nerves hit Read More

2017-NFL-Play Offs- Steelers at Chiefs game preview

The old saying goes that revenge is a dish best served cold. Last Sunday, in the wild-card round of the AFC playoffs, the Pittsburgh Steelers avenged a regular-season loss to the Miami Dolphins, and did it in quite frigid temperatures at Heinz Field, winning by 18 points. This Sunday (8:20 p.m. ET, NBC), the revenge table is turned on the Steelers, as they travel to Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City to play the Chiefs in an AFC divisional round game. The start of the game was pushed back more than seven hours due to a ice storm expected to move through the area on Saturday night and Sunday morning. Oddsmakers have listed the home team as a one-point favorite. In the first days of October, the Chiefs traveled to Pittsburgh and got hammered by the Steelers, losing 43-14 in a Sunday night game. The 29-point deficit was one of the Read More

2017-NFL-Play Offs-Seahawks at Falcons game preview

In the only previous playoff meeting between Atlanta and Seattle, Matt Ryan threw one more touchdown pass than Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson and the Falcons overcame squandering a big lead to win on a late field goal by Matt Bryant. That divisional playoff game at the Georgia Dome during the 2012 season, though, probably has little meaning for Saturday’s follow-up in Atlanta. That playoff game is the only victory in five tries for Ryan. Wilson, who was a rookie the first time, has an 8-3 postseason mark and a Super Bowl ring to his credit. What could be of significance is the Seahawks’ controversial 28-26 victory at home in mid-October when cornerback Richard Sherman wasn’t whistled for a late pass interference call on Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones. “We felt like we had a chance to win that game. Calls didn’t go our way,” said Falcons second-year outside linebacker Vic Read More

2017-NFL-Play Offs-Giants at Packers game preview

In 2011, the Giants lost at home to the Packers in the regular season, then won at Lambeau for another NFC Championship. It will be a similar story line entering Sunday’s NFC Wild Card game. The Giants lost to the Packers in the regular season — 23-16 at Lambeau in Week 5 — and will try to turn the tables in Green Bay in a playoff rematch on Sunday. “It’s all different teams, different players, different coaches,” said Giants quarterback Eli Manning, who led the team to an 11-5 record and its first playoff berth since 2011. “It’s just a matter of studying their defense, have a great game plan, have a great week of preparation and go out there and just play each play.” Manning has as many playoff wins at Lambeau Field as his counterpart, Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers. Manning is 2-0 while Rodgers is 2-2. “We’re playing Read More

2017-NFL-Play Offs-Dolphins at Steelers game preview

The rematch in Sunday’s AFC wild-card game will likely be decided by quarterback play. Perhaps it will be the play of an experienced veteran, or maybe by a journeyman making his first career postseason start. While the third-seeded Steelers are solid with sturdy veteran Ben Roethlisberger behind center, Miami ruled out regular starter Ryan Tannehill on Thursday and it will be Matt Moore behind center when the sixth-seeded Dolphins visit Pittsburgh on Sunday (1:05 p.m. ET, CBS). Tannehill sprained his left knee in a game against the Arizona Cardinals on Dec. 11 and is healing faster than forecasted. Coach Adam Gase didn’t rule out Tannehill early in the week in case of a drastic improvement but he and the staff didn’t see enough progress so Moore was officially named the starter. “He’s our starter,” offensive coordinator Clyde Christensen said of Moore. “The other deal is on the side. It would Read More

2017-NFL-Play Offs-Lions at Seahawks game preview

While a rocky December did not leave the Seattle Seahawks and Detroit Lions appearing to be playoff-ready, history provides an indication as to how their Saturday night NFC wild-card game might go at CenturyLink Field. The Seahawks have never lost a playoff game there, the Lions have never won any game there, and Detroit has not won a playoff game anywhere in its past eight tries. “Obviously, there’s a great opportunity in front of us being in the playoffs, one of 12 teams getting that opportunity this year, and (we’ve) got to take advantage of it,” Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford said in a conference call this week. Whether or not the Lions can debunk recent trends and come away with the upset might come down to how good Stafford can throw the ball. A legitimate MVP candidate for much of the season, Stafford has been hampered by an injured finger Read More