NFL Conference Finals

falcons_vs_packers

patriots-vs-steelers

The race to the Super Bowl is tightening and although in the Divisional Series we had two run-away victories and a rather tough, fought and not that interesting game (Steelers@Chiefs), what happened in Dallas was an instant classic and worth all playoff games. What a great game with a breathtaking finish! It reminds us all why we love football.

The Patriots disappointed a little but as everybody expected, as soon as they woke up, they didn’t have much trouble. Falcons offense dominated the Earl Thomas-less Seahawks defense and Andy Reid’s team again failed in the playoffs (and before anyone asks: it was heartbreaking, but the referee was right. It was a holding).

Anyway, let’s try predicting the Conference Finals.

NFC

Atlanta Falcons vs. Green Bay Packers: As I said in the divisional round post, Matt Ryan is a serious contender for MVP. He has great receivers and running backs and the Falcons defense showed last Saturday that it’s improving. There’s only one problem though: they are going against Aaron Rodgers. It doesn’t matter that the Packers have a lot of injuries. The same thing I said about the game against Dallas remains true now: I can’t see any team stopping him. He is doing magic and the O-line is protecting him greatly. The last performances are putting him in discussions about being the best EVER. Honestly, I don’t know about that, we’ll have to wait when he retires and we can assess his whole career, but right now, no one can beat him. I’m expecting a shootout. Packers 42-38.

AFC

New England Patriots vs. Pittsburgh Steelers:  I just wrote that the Pats disappointed a little, unnecessarily struggling against a team they were clearly light years better. It was clear to me that they took the field thinking the game would be easy and then had to refocus during the football game. If they take the field against the Steelers like that, they can get in trouble (although I refuse to believe that a Bill Belichick coached team will commit this same mistake) due to the way Pittsburgh defense and the killer B’s (augmented by Chris Boswell now, he scored all their points against the Chiefs) are playing. However, New England’s defense is spectacular this year and when it’s all said and done the Steelers are facing Tom Brady and Bill Belichick in Boston in a postseason game. I don’t think they can handle it. Patriots 30-22.

Had the time finally come for us to witness maybe the greatest quarterback battle in the history of the Super Bowl, Brady vs. Rodgers? Let’s turn on our TVs this Sunday a find out. Good games to you all!

Current playlist:

Listening:

Starship – Greatest Hits (Ten years And Change 1979-1991)

John Mayall Bluesbreakers – Bluesbreakers with Eric Clapton

The Cult – Electric

Watching:

The Warriors – The Director’s cut DVD

 

Be sure to check out my book “Straight and Lethal”

You can contact me at: carloantico666@gmail.com

Add me on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/#!/carlo.antico

Follow me on twittter: @CarloAntico

 

 

 

 

NFL Divisonal Playoffs

nfl-divisional

Yes, ladies and Gentlemen the greatest weekend of the year for football fans is upon us and of course I couldn’t help but make my predictions. I couldn’t do it for the Wild Card weekend because I was as usual spending my New Year’s holidays in my beloved New Orleans, but I’m not letting the Divisional Series slip away.

Therefore, let’s get down to the brass tacks.

NFC

Atlanta Falcons vs. Seattle Seahawks:  As a Saints fan, I obviously don’t have a lot of sympathy for the Falcons, but I do agree that Matt Ryan is being underrated when we talk about MVP candidates. He had a terrific season and has a brilliant receiver in Julio Jones. Seattle is probably the most driven team in the league and they are in high spirits after beating Detroit with relative ease. The defense still makes the offenses scared, although Earl Thomas is a huge miss. The Seahawks are tough and determined but let’s not forget that if not for a huge zebra mistake, the Falcons would have beaten them at Century Link in the regular season. It will probably be a great game and I will root for Seattle, but my guess is that the Falcons will win. Falcons 32 -28.

Dallas Cowboys vs. Green Bay Packers: Not only this is a classic going back more than fifty years, this one specific has all the ingredients to be the greatest game of the Divisional Playoffs, if not the entire postseason. I mean, Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott against Aaron Rogers and… well any receiver you can think of because this guy is on a roll and he’s hitting them with Hail Marys as if it were 5 yards passes. Yes, that will be the challenge for the Cowboys defense. How can you stop the – in my humble opinion, anyway – league MVP? Of course, in the regular season Dallas smashed Green Bay at Lambeau, but that was a different Packers team, it was before they ran the table. Green Bay had a lot of difficult in the first half against the Giants but was benefited by a harmless Giants offense. Dallas offense is much better than New York’s and if the Packers are slow again to get in the game they might get in trouble. However, I don’t see how any team can stop Aaron Rodgers right now. Packers 35-32.

AFC

New England Patriots vs. Houston Texans: This one will probably be the most boring game in the history of playoffs. I don’t even have much to say. The Texans had trouble to win the Wild Card at home against a Raiders team playing with their THIRD quarterback. Can you imagine what will happen against the Patriots in Foxboro? Against Tom Brady and Bill Belichick? If the Texans win, I will never write a word about football again. Patriots 45-3.

Kansas City Chiefs vs. Pittsburgh Steelers:  Now we’re talking about a real playoff game. Again in my humble opinion, Travis Kelce was the best Tight End of the season and he’s been catching all kinds of passes. Justin Houston is having limited participation in practices and if he comes back that would be huge asset for the Chiefs. I still don’t think Alex Smith is that reliable and there is the question of Andy Reid results in the playoffs (ask any Eagles fan). On the other side, Mike Tomlin has a good retrospect in the playoffs, Big Ben is a clutch player and a fierce competitor, Le’Veon Bell is serious running back and Antonio Brown had to be in the conversation for one of the best wide receivers in the league. This is probably the most leveled of all games and being in Kansas City makes it hard to choose the Steelers without blinking. But I’ll trust BBB and go for it. Steelers 25-22.

What matters most is: a full weekend of great football. Have fun! I know I’ll certainly will.

Current playlist:

Reading:

Song of Susannah: The Dark Tower VI – Stephen King

Prince Lestat and the Realms of Atlantis – Anne Rice

Best Little Stories from the Civil War – C.Brian Kelly and Ingrid Smyer

Listening:

Blackberry Smoke – Like an Arrow

The Rides – Can’t Get Enough

Watching

The Beatles: Eight Days a Week – The Touring Years – Double Disc Blu-Ray

Heart: Live At The Royal Albert Hall with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra – DVD

Be sure to check out my book “Straight and Lethal”

You can contact me at: carloantico666@gmail.com

Add me on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/#!/carlo.antico

Follow me on twittter: @CarloAntico

 

 

NFL Conference Finals

NFL Conference Finals

One was expected, one was unbelievable, one had a late but not enough come back and one a fatal fumble. That’s how I would sum up the Divisional Playoffs last weekend.

The Patriots had a little trouble when they relaxed in the end of the game, but nothing to worry about. The Packers-Cardinals game was one more for the list of unbelievable games this year. I mean, again, the game was over. And Aaron Rodgers gets a Hail Mary to work out, AGAIN? And the coin doesn’t flip in the overtime toss? Afterwards the Packers defense made an unforgivable mistake letting Larry Fitzgerald run like that on overtime.

In my humble opinion, the Seahawks seemed a little startled with the Panthers intensity in the beginning of the game. Add to that a touchdown on the first drive and it proved to be fatal. When they noticed what was happening the game was gone. Not to take anything out of the Panthers, especially Newton and Kuechly who are playing wonderfully, but if the Seahawks had awakened earlier, they might have had a shot. Broncos-Steelers was an even game. Unfortunately for the rookie Fitzgerald Toussaint his fumble was decisive. Kudos to the Broncos defense that was great on that last drive and let’s hear it for the Steelers and Mike Tomiln who played great with an injured quarterback, rookies for running backs and without their main wide receiver.

All in all, I’m 7-1 in the playoffs – and much because I really wanted the Seahawks to beat the Panthers, but that’s no excuse. Let’s see how my record in gonna get with the Conference Finals.

AFC

Denver Broncos vs. New England Patriots: Yet again another chapter in the Manning-Brady rivalry. Two of the all-time very best and we must relish the opportunity to watch then every time they take on the field. Unlike other decisive duels between them, this one will be on Manning’s home field. That can be a factor. However, I’m not sure Payton is 100% healthy. On the other side of the ball I’m positive Brady is 100% and Gronk, Amendola and Edelman are assets that cannot be overestimate as the game against the Chiefs showed. Of course, the Broncos defense can show up like they did on that Steelers last drive yesterday throughout the whole game and that would make things rather complicated for the Pats, but I’m seeing New England heading back to the Super Bowl for the second year in a row. Patriots 32-24.

NFC

Carolina Panthers vs. Arizona Cardinals: This one is much, much, tougher to predict. As I said above, Cam Newton is playing at MVP level and Kuechly is powerhouse on defense, but the way they suffer when Seattle started playing well in the end made me scratch my head. And the boost of morale that Arizona got after finishing the game against the Packers the way they did, cannot be underestimated. However, if Eddie Lacy, as almost the only running threat the Packers had, ran through Arizona defense the way he did, what can we expect from Cam Newton and Jonathan Stewart? And if they allowed a Hail Mary with zero seconds on the clock what can Greg Olsen and Ted Ginn do? But, if the Cardinals start the game matching Carolina intensity (something Seattle didn’t do), who knows what may happen? This one is really tough but okay, I’ll leave my Saints fan bias at bay and say that we’ll have a rematch of Super Bowl XXXVII. Panthers 36-24

The hardest thing will be waiting until Sunday.

Current playlist:

Watching:

The Beatles – 1+ (double Blu-Ray)

Reading:

Eight Man Out: The Black Sox and the 1919 World Series – Eliot Asinof

Be sure to check out my book “Straight and Lethal”

You can contact me at: carloantico666@gmail.com

Add me on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/#!/carlo.antico

Follow me on twittter: @CarloAntico   

NFL Divisional Series

NFL-Divisional-Playoffs

What a way to begin the postseason! I don’t wanna blow my own horn here, but I manage to get all 4 winners right in the Wild Card games. Okay, victories from Pittsburgh and Seattle came bizarrely, but they did pass through.

By the way, what happened in Seattle was unbelievable, but nothing comes close to what happened in Cincinnati. That was Twilight Zone Stuff. I mean, the game was over. I watched in disbelief as the Bengals imploded.

Anyway, emotions will be running high next week and I wanna talk about those games.

AFC

New England Patriots vs. Kansas City Chiefs: This game is better approached with caution. I mean, New England is great but you cannot overlook Kansas City winning streak and the fact that Tom Brady might not be 100% healthy. However, Sebastian Vollmer and Julian Edelman coming back are huge assets and the Chiefs will suffer without Jeremy Maclin. My opinion is that it will be a great game to watch and the Patriots will have to play well to succeed, but they will prevail in the end. Patriots 30-22.

Denver Broncos vs. Pittsburgh Steelers: This one I labeled the “IF” game. If Big Ben recovers from his arm injury. IF Antonio Brown us clear from his concussion. IF Peyton Manning is 100%. However, we probably won’t know the answers to these questions until at least Thursday. Assuming that Big Ben will play but a little banged up, Antonio Brown will be 100% cleared and Peyton Manning is not 100% for sometime now (according to his own father), we will probably have a defense battle at Mile High. Pittsburgh’s defense was instrumental in their unreal victory against the Bengals and Broncos defense is great. However, there’s only so much you can do against even an injured Manning. Broncos 17-13.

NFC

Carolina Panthers vs. Seattle Seahawks: I’ll just be very honest a say right at the bat that as a Saints fan I don’t have any sympathy for the Carolina Panthers. But denying that Cam Newton, Jonathan Stewart, Greg Olsen, Ted Ginn, Jerricho Cotchery and Luke Kuechly played wonderful football would be ridiculous. In the regular season game in Seattle, Carolina played great and won in the final seconds. Now, they face a Seahawks in high spirits due to their last second victory against the Vikings, but probably with a much less than 100% Marshawn Lynch (if he plays at all). Pete Carroll is a great coach and will be attentive to all Carolina weapons. This one is tough. The fact that I really don’t want Carolina to win is clouding my judgment but let’s trust Russell Wilson. Seahawks 24-23.

Arizona Cardinals vs. Green Bay Packers: That’s the game I’m looking forward the most. That’s the toughest to point a winner and the most balanced battle. Two weeks ago I’d have no doubt in saying that Arizona would trump Green Bay with certain ease, just like in regular season. However after the vintage Aaron Rodgers performance against the Redskins, I think things won’t be that simple. Granted, Rodgers performance was against a terrible Washington defense (as I have warned in my prediction for the game) but he played as the Hall of Fame level quarterback that he is and that’s relevant. The absence of Tyrann Mathieu can be a factor in the Arizona defense, but they still got Dwight Freeney playing like he was 10 years younger and Patrick Peterson in the secondary. In the offense, Larry Fitzgerald is always a threat and he has the company of Michael Floyd and tight end Troy Niklas. The running game has Andre Ellington and Stepfan Taylor. I hate betting against this Packers team, but I feel that overall the Cardinals are a better team. It should be fun and an offensive explosion. Cardinals 42-39.

Let’s see what happens and next Tuesday I’ll be here to try and predict the Conference Finals. This is the best weekend of the year!

Current playlist:

Listening:

Def Leppard – Def Leppard

Queensryche – Condition Human

Watching:

The Walking Dead – Season 3

Rush – R40 Live

Reading:

Blackwood Farm – Anne Rice

Best Little Stories from World War II – C. Brain Kelly w/ Ingrid Smyer

Be sure to check out my book “Straight and Lethal”

You can contact me at: carloantico666@gmail.com

Add me on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/#!/carlo.antico

Follow me on twittter: @CarloAntico

NFL WILD CARD

NFLWildCard

Yes I know it is Friday and according to my blog schedule I was supposed to write a Rock Chain post today. However, I just returned home from New Orleans (more about that later in the month) yesterday and I promised a look ahead to the NFL Wild Card games this weekend. And as this is MY blog and I can change my schedule whatever the hell I want. LOL!

So, let’s try to predict what may happen in this first weekend of four decisive NFL games. Oh, and one more thing: this year I’ll try to guess the scores as well.

AFC

Houston Texans vs. Kansas City Chiefs: Okay I get it. The Texans are playing at home, they have J.J. Watt on their defense, Brian Hoyer is playing ok and DeAndre Hopkins had a good regular season. However, let’s not forget that the AFC South was pitiful this year (Colts, Jaguars and the horrible Titans) and Kansas City has an amazing winning streak. Alex Smith can release the ball quickly to avoid JJ getting to him and can also scramble. Besides he has a good target in Jeremy Maclin and is a better passer than Hoyer. Even so, I imagine this one will be close. Kansas City 23-20.

Cincinnati Bengals vs. Pittsburgh Steelers: I’m so sorry for all Bengals fans, but I don’t think they’ll have that elusive first playoff victory in God knows how many years this time, even playing at home. A.J. McCarron might have a future in the league but he won’t be able to handle the pressure of a playoff game. Not yet. Besides, Pittsburgh is an experienced team, with an experienced and tough quarterback and an experienced coach. Even if DeAngelo Williams can’t play, they still have Le’ Veon Bell to run and two outstanding receivers in Antonio Brown and Heath Miller. Pittsburgh 35-17

NFC

Minnesota Vikings vs. Seattle Seahawks: In my humble opinion this is the most interesting of all Wild Card games. Before the season, everybody would say it would be a Seahawks rout, but now I think it will be a tough game. First, playing at 1ºF will be a factor. I mean, Seattle is not Miami, but it’s not that cold either. However, Marshall Lynch will be back and he’s probably ready to get into “Beast Mode” after missing so many games. And they are more experienced and seemed to have found their mojo again. The Vikings are good and if Adrian Peterson is in a good day, he might cause trouble for Seattle defense. Bridgewater is playing fine as is Diggs and they are excited about their NFC North title. But I think Seattle is better and at this moment they are reminding me of their teams from the last two years. It should be interesting and rather close. Seattle 22-19.

Washington Redskins vs. Green Bay Packers: Much like the Texans in the AFC, the Redskins were fortunate to play in a pitiful NFC East this year. Yes, Kirk Cousins is playing well, Jordan Reed is playing outstanding, Alfred Morris is a great running back and they have home field advantage. But would that be enough to beat Aaron Rodgers and the Packers? I know, Green Bay had the most unstable season possible, but they are still a good team and the Redskins defense is something you can’t rely on. When the push comes to shove I think Aaron Rodgers is totally dependable and I have very hard time betting against a team with him, Eddie Lacy, James Jones and Randall Cobb, especially a team that didn’t totally convince playing against rivals outside their division. Green Bay 35-10

That’s it for now. Next Tuesday I’ll be back trying to predict the Conference Semifinals.

Be sure to check out my book “Straight and Lethal”

You can contact me at: carloantico666@gmail.com

Add me on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/#!/carlo.antico

Follow me on twittter: @CarloAntico

NFL Conference Finals

NFL-Conference-Championship

First of all, hello everybody! The blog is back from its holidays break and obviously eager to talk about the exciting next weekend in the NFL world.

However, I wanna start saluting Ohio State Buckeyes for the first National Championship title disputed in a playoff form in College Football. Kudos to coach Urban Meyer who managed to make total underdogs (they were ranked fourth among four participants) National champs. And the playoffs were a huge success, if you ask me, and I had the possibility to witness the atmosphere first hand while in New Orleans (more about that next week).

Anyway, after the introduction, let’s get down to business.

Last week was rather exciting: three wonderful games that were fought till last minute and a victory that only turned out to be easy in the third quarter. Of course, the latter was the Seahawks against the Panthers which was expected. And although the Colts also didn’t have that much trouble against the Broncos, they managed to pull off an upset against Payton Manning as visitors, so it was a big deal. The other two games were wrapped up in the controversy of Bill Belichick’s eligible receiver trick (which is legal by the rulebook, by the way) and of course, Dez Bryant’s catch. My guess is that not even the NFL knows exactly how to rule that. It is open to various interpretations but what caused all controversy was that the referees reversed the call on the field about something you can’t quite conclude no matter how you look at it. It would be open to criticisms either way. I personally think it was an incomplete pass. But the Packers deserved their victory. Dallas mismanaged the clock and couldn’t take advantage of a crippled Aaron Rodgers.

AFC final: Indianapolis Colts vs. New England Patriots

Everybody was thinking we would watch another Manning vs. Brady battle, but the Colts played a rather correct game in Denver and had Andrew Luck playing like the Hall Of Fame level player we all thought he will become. New England managed to overcome two 14 point disadvantages in the same game against a great Ravens defense. Tom Brady played like arguably best quarterback ever he might become and having Gronk healthy made all the difference. For Sunday game, even though the Colts will be in high-spirits due to their win, I don’t think they can handle the Patriots in Foxboro. Pats to the Super Bowl.

NFC final: Green Bay Packers vs. Seattle Seahawks

This one is much, much more tricky. I must confess that the Seahawks is my favorite team to watch (despite the fact they always beat my beloved Saints). I love Russell Wilson’s scrambles, their ruthless defense with Richard Sherman as safety and of course Marshall Lynch runs in Beast Mode. However, they are playing a very experienced team with players like Clay Matthews, Sam Shields and Julius Peppers on defense and Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb and Eddie Lacy on offense. And of course it all comes down to how healthy Aaron Rodgers (recently named MVP) will be. As it is not a simple injury (it seems that he tore his calf), I don’t know how better than in the Cowboys game he can be. Even with that I’m predicting an instant classic on this one and a very tight game. But playing a playoff game at home, I’m picking the Seahawks.

Current playlist:

Listening:

AC/DC – Rock or Bust

Phillip H. Anselmo and The Illegals – Walk Though Exits Only

Wilko Johnson and Roger Daltrey – Coming Back Home

Watching:

Rush – R40 Bonus (Blu-Ray)

Lucy

Be sure to check out my book “Straight And Lethal” winner of the NABE Pinnacle Awards 2014 Fall edition.

NewPinnacleAward3D2 (1)

You can contact me at: carloantico666@gmail.com

Add me on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/#!/carlo.antico

Follow me on twittter: @CarloAntico