NFL Week 17- Playoff Picture, Scenarios, and Predictions

The NFL postseason looms near, but there’s still one more week in the regular season we must get through before all is decided. There’s still a lot that’s yet to be resolved. The 6 teams that will be representing the AFC in the playoffs have already been determined, however there’s still battles happening for seeding and a 1st round bye. In the NFC, just  4 teams have clinched a spot in the postseason and there’s five teams still contesting for 2 spots. Perhaps most important, however, is that despite trailing 39 points in the championship game, my fantasy team (Don’t Get Chad Mad) won’t go down without a fight and plan on giving it all they’ve got.

In this piece, I will examine each team yet to be eliminated from playoff contention. I’ll recap their season, give you their playoff scenario and give you my prediction.

All stats found on NFL.com

Cincinnati Bengals: The Bengals will be finishing with the 2nd Wild Card spot in the playoffs, however who they play has yet to be determined. Coming off their surprising postseason appearance in the 2011-2012 season, the Bengals finished their first four games of the season pretty strong, going 3-1. They looked poised for another decent year. However, in their next four games, the Bengals didn’t look as strong, losing all 4 (including losses to Miami and Cleveland), they were then sitting with a 3-5 record going into week 10. Be that as it may, the Bengals were able to pull their socks up and win 6 of their next 7 games (which included wins against the Giants and Steelers). My prediction for the Bengals is obviously the 6th seed in the AFC, because that’s already been determined. Watch out for the Bengals in the postseason though, I think they have the ability to beat a team like the Ravens or the Texans under the right circumstances.

Indianapolis Colts: The Colts will be finishing with the 5 seed in the AFC, but like the Bengals, who they play has still has yet to be determined. After posting the worst record in the NFL last season, expectations were extremely low for this Colts team, they’ve more than exceeded them to this point, posting 5 times as many wins through their first 15 games this season as they had all of last year. Now, I’m going to go on a mini tirade here about the Colts, because I believe they, along with Luck, may be getting just a little bit too much credit for the team’s success this year. Now don’t get me wrong, I believe Luck and the Colts have a very bright future, that being said, neither of them deserve the praise or results they’ve been getting for this season. Starting with Luck, his completion percentage of just over 54% ranks him 33rd among 34 eligible QB’s, and he’s tied with Brees for most interceptions in the league (18). People could argue that he’s 7th in the league in passing yards (4,183), but that’s only because he’s thrown the ball 599 times. If you look in depth, he’s only averaging 7.0 yards per attempt which ranks him just 17th in the league, his touchdown numbers aren’t incredible either, look for a rookie QB he’s had a good season, however, he’s been discussed in MVP talks, which is ridiculous, he shouldn’t even be rookie of the year (I’d rank RG3 and Wilson ahead of him). The biggest argument in favor of Luck is that he took a 2-14 team to a 10-5 team, first of all, team achievements should be in a completely different category than individual awards. Secondly, the team is extremely lucky to be at this record based on the closeness in the score of most of their games. Lastly, in my opinion the team has not improved this much because Luck has been so good, but because Curtis Painter was so bad, his stats were atrocious, he had twice as many turnovers as he had touchdowns, and when Orlovsky took over, the team wasn’t half bad, I along with most would probably still consider Orvlosky a below average QB, but he won 2 games in just 5 starts with the club. Now to speak about the team, the Colts are extremely lucky to be where they are, maybe it’s because of inspiration they’ve received from Chuck Pagano or whatever else, their talent and even their play on the field does not match their record this season. The Colts have -46 Net points (points for minus points against), of all the other teams who have already clinched a playoff spot in the NFL, the lowest Net Points is +60, you can’t tell me there wasn’t a little luck involved in their record. They have twice as many wins as losses, yet they are being outscored by 46 points. Another problem I have with this Colts team is that they haven’t beaten an AFC team .500 or better all year, now they’ve only played 2 games against AFC teams that were .500 or better. However, this shows us their ease of schedule, as they’ve already played 9 games against teams under .500, and still weren’t able to post a positive Net Points. The Colts will finish with the 5th seed, but will be blown out in the first round of the playoffs.

Baltimore Ravens: Even when the Ravens were a 9-2 team, I didn’t believe they were that strong, they proved me right by losing their next three games, they just aren’t complete enough, they have huge injuries on defense, Flacco can’t throw the ball on the road, and they refuse to give the ball to Ray Rice. Best thing that could happen to them is to play the Colts in the Wild Card Round, play the Texans in the Divisional round and hope the have an off night, and then hope that either the Broncos or Patriots miss their flight. They will have the 4th seed in the AFC unless they beat the Bengals, and the Dolphins defeat the Patriots, even though the Pats will probably win, they should throw the game to the Bengals just to make sure they get that Colts matchup in the 1st round. My prediction is they will finish with the 4th seed but won’t go far in the playoffs.

New England Patriots: In my opinion, the Patriots are the best team in the NFL, they have 4 losses, however they were all by really small margins. The offense is absolutely unstoppable, and the defense is much improved from last year, a big reason for their lead leaguing 190 Net Points. They should have Gronk back for the playoffs, I’m really hoping for a Patriots-Broncos AFC championship, it would just be terrific football. The Patriots still have a chance at a bye, they would need a win and a loss from either the Broncos or Texans, and a loss from both would get them the 1st seed. I don’t see the Broncos or Texans losing, so the Pats will probably have the 3rd seed and play the Bengals in the first round.

Denver Broncos: The Broncos may be the second best team in the NFL, I’d only put the Patriots ahead of them because of the schedules, the Broncos are in the worst division in the NFL and have posted just a 2-3 record against teams above .500, compared to the Pats 4-2 record in those games. The Broncos look extremely strong and are absolutely wiping the floor with their competition at this point, the defense is unstoppable, their passing game’s unstoppable and, and even without McGahee, their running game has been unstoppable. This is mostly due to the Broncos underachieving former first round draft pick, Knowshon Moreno. The only AFC team that I think can beat them is the Patriots, and they should have no troubles beating the Chiefs this week and will probably finish with the 2nd seed and a bye.

Houston Texans: The Texans are an enigma of a team. They can come out and destroy any team on any given day and on other occasions they look like a practice squad. Such as when they were destroyed by the Packers, Patriots and Vikings, and almost defeated by teams like the Jaguars and Lions. The Texans are definitely going to forget to show up to a game in the playoffs, and their whole season will come crashing down. They could finish with either the first, second or third seed. A win gets them the first seed, a loss and a Broncos or Patriots win gets them the second seed, and a loss accompanied with both a Patriots win and a Broncos win drops them to the third seed. They should beat the Colts and secure that first seed, but who knows, maybe it will be “one of those games”.

New York Giants: Boy, did the Giants ever blow this one. After sitting at 6-2 after week 8, and having a stranglehold on the entire division, the Giants have found a way to go just 2-5 since, and virtually eliminate themselves from the playoffs. The Giants always either get really hot or really cold at the end of the season. When they get really hot, they can win the Super Bowl, as they’ve already done on two occasions since 2006, however when they get cold, they can mess up their entire season. It’s sad to think that the G-men have done this to themselves considering that they’d have a much better chance to win the Super Bowl than at least 2 of the teams that are going to make it. Don’t worry Giants fans, this isn’t the end of an era, you’ll just go silent for a few years then come out of nowhere to win the Super Bowl again in 2015, it’s a fact. Now, I’ve been talking as if the Giants have  already been eliminated from playoff contention, they haven’t technically but it’s going to be pretty hard for them to sneak in. They need to beat the Eagles, they will also need the Redskins to beat the Cowboys, the Packers to beat the Vikings, and the Lions to beat the Bears, maybe 3 of these 4 results could happen but I can’t see the Giants getting that lucky. Nevertheless, I would like to say that the Giants have had one of the hardest schedules in the NFL to this point, but a great team should have been able to overcome that and make the playoffs. I think the Giants will finish 7th in the NFC.

Dallas Cowboys: These guys have somewhat secretly stuck around in the NFC East all year, and will be playing for the division championship this Sunday. Romo has been playing terrifically as of late and will surely be a big factor in this matchup, along with Dez Bryant, who I tried to acquire in my fantasy league in week 10, I decided not to give what was being asked of me, boy do I regret it, as since then, Bryant has been one of the best receivers in the NFL. The scenario’s easy for the Cowboys, win and you’re in, lose and go home. I have not been a big believer in the Cowboys all year, especially after almost losing to the Browns (who are a better team than their record indicates, but still a team the Cowboys should handle easily). However, the Cowboys surprised me with wins against the Steelers and Bengals, this proved to me one of two things, either the Cowboys are better than I thought, or the AFC is even worse than I thought. They were unable to beat the Saints, but they didn’t get humiliated against them either. I feel as if the Cowboys may be able to win this game, however there are two factors that stop me from picking them, the first is based on a prediction I made a while back that I will explain in the Redskins section, the second is the fact that they are the Cowboys and they will find a way to lose. Due to this, I’m predicting a Cowboys loss, and a a 9th place finish in the NFC.

Chicago Bears: After a terrific 7-1 start to the season, the Bears have fallen to the point where they no longer control their own destiny. They’d lost 5 of 6 before their win last week, and Bears fans are looking for someone to blame, as a result, Lovie Smith’s name’s been thrown around as a coach who could potentially be fired. I don’t think that’s deserved, however, I can’t quite figure out what the problem with this team is. It’s certainly not the defense, and despite the struggles, if you told me I could have Cutler, Forte, and Marshall on my team, I’d take it. Maybe it has to do with the O-Line, which for the 4th season in a row, has given up more sacks than at least 27 other NFL teams. For the Bears to make the postseason, they’ll need a win against the Lions along with a Packers win against the Vikings, meaning the Bears will have to cheer for the Packers this week, the humor in that is unbelievable. I do believe the Bears will be able to hold on for a win, and watch their arch nemesis Packers win to give the Bears the 6th seed in the playoffs.

Minnesota Vikings: The Vikings have put together a pretty nice season for their fans behind an unbelievable Adrian Peterson and their stellar defense. AP of course just 207 yards back of the single season rushing records, but the Vikings can’t be thinking about that this weekend against the Packers, if the situation calls for them to force feed the ball to Peterson (which I really hope it does, my fantasy team needs it), then do it. However, if it doesn’t call for that, then throw the ball, they need to believe in Ponder, who’s quietly put together a decent season. To make the postseason the Vikings need to win, they could still make it if they don’t win, but it’s unlikely, they would need the Redskins to beat the Cowboys, the Lions to beat the Bears, and the Giants to beat the Eagles. If the Packers weren’t playing for anything, I think the Vikings may have been able to pull off this W, but with the Packers playing for a bye, I just can’t see it happening. I predict the Vikings to finish 8th in the NFC.

Seattle Seahawks: There was a lot of excitement surrounding the Seahawks start the season after a terrific preseason by one 5’11″ 3rd round rookie QB. Throughout the year, Wilson hadn’t done anything incredible but he continually playing decent football. With the combination of Lynch and that great defense, the Seahawks were able to keep themselves in it. Over the last 3 weeks, we have begun to see that great QB that we saw in the preseason, who can not only beat you with his legs, but with his arm as well. Adding to that, the incredible play of Lynch and the defense, have made the Seahawks absolutely unstoppable, outscoring their opponents 150-30, and really cementing themselves as a contender in the NFC. This is a young team who’s going to be really good for years, but I can’t see them coming up with big road wins that they would need in the playoffs this year. The Seahawks could still win the division and even get a bye. To win the division they will need a W against the Rams, along with a 49ers loss by the hands of the Arizona Cardinals. To get a bye, they will need both of those things to happen along with a Vikings win over the Packers, this would be huge for the Seahawks because the higher seed you have, the longer you get to play at home, where the Seahawks are a perfect 7-0, compared to a 3-5 record on the road. I predict they will win in week 17, however so will the 49ers and the Packers, so they will finish with the 5th seed in the NFC.

Washington Redskins: I don’t like to brag or anything (yes I do), but when the Redskins were 4-6, I told my fellow CTFC writer, Simple Jack, that the Skins would run the table and win the division, he laughed in my face, as he claimed that “the Redskins could never pass the Giants”, I also told him RG3 would win the MVP, but let’s not mention that, even though I believe he’s definitely been a top 5 QB this season.  After starting the season 3-6, there was some controversy at the head coach position, Mike Shanahan may or may not have implied that the team had given up on the year, maybe the team wanted to prove something to him, as they haven’t lost since that incident, winning 6 in a row to move to 9-6. The Redskins are playing for the division title this weekend against Dallas, but they can still win a wild card spot if they lose, though they would need some help, they would need the Packers to beat the Vikings, and the Lions to beat the Bears, but the better option would be to just beat the Cowboys on Sunday night. I do predict the Redskins to beat the Cowboys, mostly because of the prediction I made 5 weeks ago, however, I doubt they will go very far in the postseason if they make it.

San Francisco 49ers: When the 9ers are playing their best football, they’re the best team in the NFL, the problem is they let their weaknesses show way too often, like last week against the Seahawks, or in the second half a couple weeks ago against the Patriots. They obviously have a terrific defense, and an awesome run game. The inconsistency comes from the quarterback position, as despite pretty good play from Kaepernick (who started for my Madden 13 Connected Careers team for 4 years before he even took over in San Fran) and even Smith when he was playing, they seem to just go really cold from time to time, and it lets the opposition possess the ball a lot, and score points in bunches. The 49ers, just like the Seahawks can finish with either the 2nd, 3rd or 5th seed in the NFC, with a win against Arizona they would win the division, with a loss to the Cards accompanied with a Seattle win, they will have the 5th seed, and with a win along with a Packers loss, they will have the 2nd seed and a first round bye. I predict a win for the 49ers and a 3rd seed in the playoffs.

Green Bay Packers: The Packers have very quietly put up a very respectable 11-4 record this year and they currently hold the 2nd spot in the NFC standings. The Packers’ season looked to be in trouble after the notorious missed call against Seattle, and the blown halftime lead against the Indianapolis Colts. After that 2-3 start, the Packers have won 9 of their last 10, and put themselves in a position to earn a first round bye behind another very strong season by Aaron Rodgers and a surprisingly decent defensive core Their defense has been good against both the run and the pass. If they win their game against the Vikings the Packers will secure that second seed and a first round bye, however, if they are defeated, and either the 49ers or Seahawks win, the Packers will be left with the 3rd seed. I predict a Packers win in week 17 in Minnesota giving them the bye. Their passing game is just too strong for the Vikings defense. You heard it from me, watch out for the Packers this postseason, they could put together something special.

Atlanta Falcons: Oh, the Atlanta Falcons, the Falcons have the best record in the NFL and are still not considered a top 5 team by many around the league. I was part of “the doubters” for most of the year, until i saw that blowout they pulled off against New York Giants. The Giants are not an easy opponent, especially not when their fighting for their lives, and the Falcons shut them down; handling them as if they were the Chiefs. Their defense is great, their passing game is great, and between Turner, Jacquizz, and Snelling their running game’s been up there among the top in league as well. One of the arguments constantly made against the Falcons is that yes, they have been one of the best home teams in the league for years, but they need to prove they can win on the road. My response is that 6-2 on the road isn’t bad, and also, because they secured home field, they wil be playing at home every game they play in the postseason until the Super Bowl. Maybe the biggest argument against the Falcons, however, is that they haven’t proved they can win in the playoff. I cannot fully argue against this, however they’ve only played 3 postseason games in the Matt Ryan era, and all 3 of the teams they’ve played against went on to play in the Super Bowl. It may have just be a case of “wrong place, wrong time”. Whether the Falcons win or lose in week 17 is irrelevant as they’ll probably rest many of their players. The Falcons will finish with the 1st seed in the postseason, and I’m telling you, don’t take them too lightly.

-Vernon Smells (Kalib Tilley)

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32 Teams in 32 Days – New York Jets

Football season is just around the corner, which means we will be commencing our 32 Teams in 32 Days special, where we examine every team in the NFL in just 32 days. we will be starting with the AFC East, specifically the New York Jets. Every year the New York Jets faithful get hyped up for a chance at the Super Bowl and every year their dreams get crushed, especially last season when they failed to even reach the postseason, luckily their head coach, Rex Ryan knows a lot about FOOTball.

2011 Record: 8-8
Result:
Did Not Qualify for Postseason
QB:
Mark Sanchez, 308/543 (56.7%), 3,474 Yds, 26 TD, 18 Int, 78.2 Rating
Best Offensive Target:
Shonn Greene, 1,054 Yds/253 Att (4.2 Yds/Att), 6 TD  
Best Defensive Player:
Darrelle Revis, 52 Tackles, 21 Pass Deflections, 4 Int, 1 TD
Important Offseason Acquisitions:
Tim Tebow QB, Chaz Schilens WR,
Laron Landry S, Quinton Coples DE, Jeff Otah T, Yeremiah Bell S, Hayden Smith TE
Important Offseason Losses:
Ladanian Tomlinson RB, Plaxico Burress WR,
Derrick Mason WR, Jim Leonhard S, Donald Strickland CB, Brodney Pool S,
Jamaal Westerman DE
Head Coach: Rex Ryan

After 3 tough losses, to the Eagles, Giants and Dolphins to end the season, the New York Jets finished with a record of 8-8 and failed to qualify for the postseason for the first time since 2008. They were led by Mexican-American quarterback, Mark Sanchez. Sanchez had a decent year, but struggled at times, especially when it mattered most.

They had a very busy offseason, mostly because of the media attention surrounding Tim Tebow more than any of their other moves they made in the off-season. But before we get to that lets talk about some of their other acquisitions. They added safety Laron Landry who should be able to give the Jets everything Jim Leonhard gave them, without the injury trouble. They were also able to trade for T Jeff Otah, who should be able to help their O-line, which allowed Mark Sanchez to be sacked 39 times last season. One of the more interesting move the Jets made was to sign Hayden Smith who has never played a snap of American Football in his life, however the Aussie Rules Football star could give the Jets the blocking TE they so desperately need, and if not, they can always ship him back to Australia. They also added S Yeremiah Bell, WR Chaz Schilens and drafted DE Quinton Coples in the first round of the draft. And of course, they added Tim Tebow, the “savior” of the Jets. Realistically, he’ll play on the Punt Blocking team, and get put in for a few snaps under center in running situations. After all the only reason they picked him up is because Rex Ryan likes QB’s who are good with their feet. However, imagine how insane things would become if Sanchez gets hurt or struggles badly, Tebow takes over and takes them deep into the playoffs.

They also lost some pretty good talent in the offseason as well, including Ladanian Tomlinson, a top 10 back of all-time, retired in the offseason, he wasn’t a huge factor for the Jets last year, but he certainly helped. They lost WR Plaxico Burress who get arrested after he stabbed himself in the arm, no wait… apparently he’s a free agent, my apologies. They lost Jim Leonhard who played pretty well, but had trouble staying healthy. They were also unable to bring back minor, but important factors for the team: WR Derrick Mason, CB Donald Strickland, S Rodney Pool and DE Jamaal Westerman.

In the coaching front, Rex Ryan will enter his 4th season as Head Coach for the New York Jets, The defensive guru who loves to play mind games has brought his team to 2 AFC Championship games in his first 3 years with the team. The biggest new face in the coaching staff will be Tony Sparano, who spent almost 4 years as head coach of the Miami Dolphins, he will take over as Offensive Coordinator for the Jets. They’re also brining in new Offensive Line and Defensive Line coaches, as well as 2 new Assistant Strength and Conditioning coaches.

I predict a decent year for the Jets, I think they will just miss out on a playoff spot (maybe by a tiebreaker). Assuming the New York Jets fans don’t get too restless for Tebow, I predict about the same production we saw from Sanchez last year, maybe a bit better. I predict Shonn Greene will have almost identical stats to what he had last year, but with a few more touches. I also believe with the loss of Plaxico Burress, Santonio Holmes could go back to the Santonio Holmes of Pittsburgh and have a great season, but this will cause Dustin Keller’s stats to drop off. It doesn’t appear Revis will holdout, for now anyway, he will be thrown at even less, and his stats will reflect that.

2012 Prediction: 9-7
Result: Will Not Qualify for Postseason
QB: Mark Sanchez, 292/503 (58.0%), 3,598 Yds, 25 TD, 15 Int, 84.4 Rating
Best Offensive Target: Santonio Holmes, 1,094 Yds/78 Rec (14.0 Yds/Rec), 7 TD
Best Defensive Player: Darrelle Revis, 43 Tackles, 18 Pass Deflections, 2 INT, 0 TD
-Vernon Smells

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30 Teams in 30 Days – Pittsburgh Pirates

The Pirates have been one of the worst sports organizations of the last 20 years. Not only have they not made the postseason since 1992, that year also marks the last time they had a winning season (above .500). Not to mention the fact that they haven’t won a World Series in over 30 years. Let’s see how they did in 2011.
Pittsburgh Pirates
Record: 72-90
Finish: 4th in NL Central
Playoffs: N/A
Top Pitcher: Jeff Karstens 9-9, 3.38 ERA, 96 SO                                                             Top Hitter: Andrew McCutchen .259 AVG, 23 HR, 89 RBI                                 Manager: Clint Hurdle                                                                                           Important Off-season Acquisitions: Rod Barajas, Clint Barmes, Jake Fox, Nick Evans, Jose Morales, Erik Bedard, Nate McLouth, Casey McGehee, Jo-Jo Reyes, Doug Staten, Brian Tallet, Juan Cruz, A.J Burnett                                            Important Off-season Losses: Ryan Doumit MIN, Chris Snyder HOU, Ronny Cedeno NYM, Paul Maholm CHC, Derrek Lee FA, Ryan Ludwick CIN, Xavier Paul WAS, Pedro Ciriaco BOS, Jason Jaramillo CHC, Ross Ohlendorf BOS, 

On July 19th, 2011, the Pirates were leading the NL Central with a record of 51-44, which made me (along with most of the MLB community) become a temporary Pirates fan. Unfortunately, the Pirates went on a 10-game skid from Jul 29-Aug 7, causing them to fall to 54-59, and put them 10 games back of the Brewers for the division, causing their temporarily large fan base to plummet. Neither their Offense nor their pitching was very good last year. They finished in the bottom 10 in the league in R, AVG, HR, Opponents Average and WHIP, along with a 17th place finish in ERA. Despite posting 72 Wins, these stats will come as no surprise if you watched them play last year, as during their hottest period (Jun 3-Jul 25), 17 of their 26 wins were by 2 runs or less (65.3%), meanwhile, during their coldest period (Jul 28-Sep 21), 24 of their 39 losses were by 3 runs or more (61.5%), meaning they were losing by a lot, and winning by a little. The team was expected to struggle, but hitting .244 as a team, along with having a team ERA of over 4.00 is completely unacceptable. The thing that bothers me the most is when people say it’s okay because the Pirates are young, their really not that young of a team, yes they have McCutchen, Walker and McDonald, but their the seventh oldest team in the Majors with an average age of 28.2 years old.

This season for the Pirates is unpredictable, and by that, I mean they’re either going to be a terrible team or just a really bad team. They made some interesting moves in the Offseason, ultimately, I think their Pitching will improve a bit and their hitting will get even worse. One of the moves I really enjoyed was the signing of Canadian pitcher, Erik Bedard, this guys always flown under the radar due to the fact that he played for small market teams (Baltimore, Seattle), not including the 8 games he played in Boston last year, Bedard hasn’t had an ERA over 4.00 for an entire season since his rookie year in 2004. When I first heard that the Pirates traded for Burnett, I thought it was a terrible move, but when I found out the Yankees were practically paying them for a pitcher who put up some decent numbers in the past, I changed my mind. However, when he bunted that ball into his face at Training Camp, sidelining him for 2-3 months, my mind was instantly changed back. The reason I think their pitching should be improved, is because I think Bedard is an improvement on Maholm (whom they released), I see great potential in young pitcher James McDonald and I think he’s going to have a terrific year, and their bullpen has been improved. The reason I believe their Offense will be worse, is despite additions like Barmes, Mcgehee, McLouth and Barajas, I believe the losses of Doumit, Snyder, Lee, Cedeno, Ludwick and Paul, outweigh them. I believe Mcgehee will have a good year, but I don’t think Barmes, McLouth or Barajas will please the Pirate faithful. I predict that this year will mark the 20th straight season that the Pirates will have gone without a winning season. Hopefully the next 20 years will be better for them.

Prediction
Record: 65- 97
Finish: 5th in NL Central
Playoffs: N/A
Top Pitcher: James McDonald 12-10, 3.81 ERA, 158 SO
Top Hitter: Andrew McCutchen .269 AVG, 27 HR, 96 RBI
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-Vernon Smells (Kalib Tilley)