Thursday, January 11, 2018

2018 NFL Divisional Round

After going .500 last weekend my playoff record stands at 16-10. Hopefully I’ll improve as we move into the divisional round. Last week gave us some very close and (with one exception) very entertaining games. This weekend should give us two good games and two which I am not too sure about. All four games feature road teams traveling north, although the Pittsburgh game is the only one where weather might be an issue (unless the Minnesota opens the windows on their dome).

Atlanta at Philadelphia
Saturday 4:35 pm on NBC

My heart is all in behind the Eagles. My head is not quite as confident. Losing Carson Wentz during the season has left Eagles’ fans wondering if we are looking at one and done. To be honest the Falcons are one of the teams I worried about facing even before the Eagles lost their starting QB. That being said I think the Eagles can and will win on Saturday. Having the bye should help the Eagles’ d-line which will be key as it was all season. The Falcons are a good team but they seem to have played below expectations most of the season. Last week the Rams got in their own way, helping the Falcons to the win. Which Falcons team is the real 2017-18 team? We know a backup quarterback is often a step down from the starter but how good are the rest of the Eagles? I think this comes down to the Eagles’ defense making a stop when needed as they have a few times this season.
Eagles 21 Falcons 17

Tennessee at New England
Saturday 8:15 pm on CBS

The Titans feature one of the young potentially great quarterbacks in the league. Last week Mariota proved he can overcome a slow start and do some amazing things with the football, even throw touchdowns to himself. Of course the veteran quarterback on the other sideline is no slouch and is able to control a game, making opponents look like they should have stayed home. But these two will not be the only ones on the field. I think overall the Titans bring the better defense. On offense these teams are equal except for Gronkowski. Normally defense wins playoff games but in this case I think the Patriots’ passing game (including Cooks) will be too much for the Titans to overcome.
Patriots 45 Titans 28

Jacksonville at Pittsburgh
Sunday 1:05 pm on CBS

Last week the Jaguars played two different quarterbacks: bad Bortles in the first half and good Bortles in the second. Good Bortles did more with his legs than with his arm, leading to the only touchdown in the game. The defense won the game against the Bills, holding them to a field goal and keeping the Jaguars in the game while the offense struggled in the first half. That defense should play well again this weekend but they will not hold the Steelers to a field goal. The Jaguars will need offense and I do not see them generating much more than they did last week. This time around their offensive struggles will hang their defense out to dry. Watch for the Steelers to wear down the defense, scoring points in the second half for the win.
Steelers 35 Jaguars 10

New Orleans at Minnesota
Sunday 4:40 pm on Fox

It’s tough to score on the Viking defense which only allowed an average of 15 points per game, holding the Saints to 19 points back in week one. But when I look at their week to week performances and which teams were able to score against the Vikings, I suspect the Saints will put up points this week. Both of these teams are very different than they were back in week one, with the Saints bringing a complete team up north to Minnesota. This has the makings of a playoff classic but in the end I think the Saints’ balanced attack will win out over the Vikings’ stingy defense.
Saints 27 Vikings 24

I am looking forward to another great weekend of football which should leave us with a couple of exciting matchups for the conference championships. What are your thoughts?

Monday, January 8, 2018

Book Review: The Wisdom of Your Heart

Are you ready to confront your anger? Marc Alan Shelske thinks you should. In fact he thinks we need to examine all of our feelings, assessing our own emotional health. As we do so Pastor Shelske suggests that our feelings are not the slippery slope often portrayed in church. Instead our emotions tell us something about ourselves and our environment, that is if we are willing to learn how to listen.

Part personal reflection, part Bible study "The Wisdom of Your Heart" is aimed at Christians, challenging commonly held beliefs about emotions. Pastor Shelske asks us to re-examine what the Bible tells us about emotions and the believer's relationship with our feelings. While doing so Shelske shares how his own emotional growth freed him from the bondage of past experience. By sharing his journey Shelske encourages his readers to actively seek emotional growth, offering thought provoking questions to guide us along our way.

On the surface this might appear to be just another self help book but it is not. This is Shelske's personal testimony through which he offers a glimpse of something different. While followers of Christ will likely get the most out of this book, anyone who is open to personal examination and growth will find Shelske's writing thought provoking and different. Men will likely find this a challenge to how they were taught, especially if they were brought up in the church. Because of its value as a tool for personal growth I recommend "The Wisdom of Your Heart": A quick read with a powerful message.

Friday, January 5, 2018

2018 NFL Wildcard Weekend

It’s time for the NFL playoffs and after a two year break I am bringing back my playoff game picks. After the 2015 Super Bowl I had a record of 14-8 in picking playoff games. This year I hope to improve that record although this might be the most challenging year for picking the games. The NFC east looks wide open as just about any team could make a run. I think the AFC comes down to two teams, although there is a third which could surprise people. So let’s look at this weekend’s games and make sure to let me know if you agree or disagree with my picks.

Tennessee at Kansas City
Saturday 4:35pm on ESPN

This should be a fun, high scoring game as both offenses will move the ball. I think the Chiefs’ running game might be the difference. They come in averaging 118 rushing yards per game. On the other side the Titans’ defense allows an average that is below 90 yards per game. Will Kareem Hunt be able to get going against the Titans? I think he will and this will open things up for the Chiefs’ passing game.
Chiefs 35 Titans 31

Atlanta at Los Angeles Rams
Saturday 8:15pm on NBC

In the Saturday nightcap we get to see Jared Goff and Todd Gurley make their first playoff appearances. How will they handle the spotlight, especially against an experienced Falcons team? This should be another fun game, coming down to the final drive. Watch for the Rams to control the ball late in the game helping set up either a game winning drive or leaving the Falcons racing the clock to keep their playoff run alive. With home the home field advantage I see the Rams coming out on top.
Rams 31 Falcons 28

Buffalo at Jacksonville
Sunday 1:05pm on CBS

I really think the Jaguars may surprise people in this playoff run, depending on how Blake Bortles handles the spotlight. At times Bortles is very good. But in the past there have also been those “What was he thinking?” moments. If Bortles plays well and if the Jaguars’ defense plays up to their potential, Jacksonville will put a scare into the two top teams in the AFC. But first they have to get past the Bills. With LaSean McCoy questionable for the game, I think the odds favor Jacksonville. If he is healthy the Bills have a chance. Without McCoy there will be too much resting on Tyrod Taylor.
Jaguars 24 Bills 14

Carolina at New Orleans
Sunday 4:40pm on Fox

On paper these teams seem to be evenly match. Digging deeper we find that the Panthers’ leading rusher is their quarterback. With Cam Newton under center I guess I should not be surprised. While this might work in the regular season I suspect it will become a liability in the playoffs. With the Saints bringing a much better balance on offense a lot will rest on the Panthers’ defense. I think they will play well enough to keep this one close. In the end I think Drew Brees will find a way to get all of his weapons working, leading to a Saints win.
Saints 20 Panthers 14

Enjoy the start of the playoffs this weekend. I think the NFL has served up what should be a very entertaining round of playoffs.