Wild card weekend predictions


Wild card weekend predictions

Cincinnati Bengals (9-7) at Houston Texans (10-6), Saturday, 1:30 pm PT, NBC

This is when the duct tape comes off for the Texans who put on a game effort all year long after losing not only their first- and second-string quarterbacks in Matt Schaub and Matt Leinart, but also defensive end Mario Williams and rode a not-completely heathy Arian Foster to the division title. The Bengals' rookie combination of QB Andy Dalton and WR A.J. Green will prove just enough to end the Texans' first-ever playoff experience.
Prediction: Bengals 20, Texans 16

Detroit Lions (10-6) at New Orleans Saints (13-3), Saturday, 5 p.m. PT, NBC

Five weeks ago, the Lions had the Saints right where they wanted them, and couldn't get out of their own way with so much undisciplined play. The Lions had 11 penalties for 107 yards in that 31-17 loss in New Orleans, which diminished the fact they actually out-gained the Saints that night, 466 yards to 438. But Drew Brees is on such an historical run it's hard to see the Lions being disciplined enough on defense to slow him.
Prediction: Saints 38, Lions 27Atlanta Falcons (10-6) New York Giants (9-7), Sunday, 10 a.m. PT, Fox

With a white-hot QB in Matt Ryan, who threw 15 TDs compared to just two INTs the last seven games, and a punishing rusher in Michael Turner, and rolling into the playoffs having won three of four, the Falcons have the look of last year's champion Green Bay Packers. The key this weekend, then, is to give Ryan time to pick apart the Giants' shockingly sometime suspect defense. While limiting receiver Victor Cruz's salsa steps.
Prediction: Falcons 17, Giants 13Pittsburgh Steelers (12-4) at Denver Broncos (8-8), Sunday, 1:30 p.m. PT, CBS

The game all Raiders fans will watch, with their nose plugged. Tim Tebow has not won a game since being skewered on Saturday Night Live and that streak doesn't figure to be broken here. Not with such a punishing defense opposing him. Not even with the Steelers' offense hamstrung with Ben Roethlisberger's ankle still gimpy and Rashard Mendenhall lost for the year. Yes, pray for Tebow if James Harrison gets a beat on him.
Prediction: Steelers 24, Broncos 6

Donald Penn yet to report as Raiders return home


Donald Penn yet to report as Raiders return home

ALAMEDA – Raiders left tackle Donald Penn missed training camp holding out for a new, more lucrative contract. He missed Tuesday’s practice, the first back at the team’s training facility.

His protest began 26 days ago. The regular season is 19 days away.

Penn has worked out with top trainers and private offensive line coaches while away from the team, but still needs time to get back in the flow.

The San Francisco Chronicle reported Monday that Penn is expected back this week. He wasn’t there for the first of three sessions when the Raiders will focus on the third preseason game at Dallas. It’s the last meaningful exhibition, with players down on the depth chart expected to populate the preseason finale versus Seattle.

Penn doesn’t necessarily need to play in a preseason game to prep for the Sept. 10 regular-season opener at Tennessee, but it could help.

Head coach Jack Del Rio wouldn’t address Penn’s status, or whether there’s a deadline for him to report and be ready for the regular season.

The Raiders have managed with Marshall Newhouse on the left and Vadal Alexander on the right. The pair has fared well, though the line will be significantly stronger with Penn back and a Newhouse/Alexander competition on the right.

Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie made it clear weeks ago that the Raiders wouldn’t talk contract until a player reports. Penn preferred a contract get done before showing up. Weeks were lost to that impasse.

Quarterback Derek Carr hopes it will end soon, and that Penn will come back to the team.

“It would obviously mean a lot, if that’s what he chooses to do,” Carr said. “He’s our teammate. We want all our teammates here. We want to work hard together. We want to be together and joke together. It’s more than just football. We want to be there in his life, with him.

"It would mean a lot. Obviously, I would love it.”

If McGregor beats Mayweather, Raiders may move to Dublin


If McGregor beats Mayweather, Raiders may move to Dublin

So Las Vegas’ army of legal books are in a moderate panic because they are so overexposed with Conor McGregor bets. Apparently, other than the Maloof brothers, they can’t scare up any Mayweather money at all.

Maybe this is the secret reason Mark Davis has declared publicly that the Raiders intend to colonize Los Angeles.

The latest evidence of the books’ distress is this Big Lead headline, which subtly hints, “Vegas Sportsbooks Are Exposed Like Never Before, Will Be Decimated if Conor McGregor Beats Floyd Mayweather.”

Well, if McGregor wins (and you’ll have to tell me about it because I’d rather watch feet sweat in the noonday sun than this), gambling in Vegas apparently will not exist any longer because the sporting apocalypse will finally be upon us. And if there is no gambling in Vegas, there is no Vegas, and all of a sudden the Raiders are moving to a town whose mayor is an iguana and whose chamber of commerce is tumbleweeds.

Hence, Davis’ answer to a question from Los Angeles Daily News writer Vincent Bonsignore about how L.A. has always been a Raiders’ town and that the team will get lots of its fans from the basin – fans who apparently cannot stomach either the Rams or the Chargers.

Ignoring Davis’ folly of answering that question that way at this time, when the NFL itself is wondering if, for its financial purposes, the mayor of L.A. is an iguana and the chamber of commerce is tumbleweeds, this news reminds us that the league has managed in less than two years to ruin the second-largest market in the United States by dithering, by backroom deals, by aversion of money spent by “the wrong kind of people” (see “brown”). That level of chaos is to be appreciated and enjoyed for what it is – nature’s way of telling rich people who’s boss.

Now, if nature doubles down and figures a way to make McGregor win and break Vegas, maybe the entire down isn’t destroyed but instead becomes a colony of Ireland, where the prime minister is not an iguana but a human, and the closest thing to tumbleweeds is a Guinness brewery.

Maybe if that happens, the Raiders end up playing in Dublin instead (a delightful little asterisk since there was a perfectly good Dublin not far from Oakland to begin with) – and they spend their entire time complaining that they have to share Croke Park and that there are too many markings on the field from all those damned hurling matches.

Of course this isn’t likely to happen, and Vegas keeps taking all the McGregor money you can throw at it. But one of these times, and sooner than we think, the apocalypse is not going to take no for an answer, and you will see Mark Davis with a pipe stuck bowl downward in his mouth standing next to a pot of gold.

Which of course will belong to the Bank Of America, because there are some things even the apocalypse can’t beat.