Posts Tagged ‘nfl’

Quarterback

Derek Carr

Carr’s career looks the most optimistic of the rookie QB’s from the ‘14 class. Johnny Manziel has yet to do anything spectacular. Teddy Bridgewater, Blake Bortles, and Zach Mettenberger all struggled with traditional rookie roadblocks. Their future’s not decided yet, but they’ve all been outplayed by the Fresno State standout. Carr’s led his team in wins over Kansas City and San Francisco, two above average defenses. A top three overall pick and in 2015 and some young developing players on the offensive line should help guide Carr towards a better season in 2015.

Running backs

Jeremy Hill

Hill has been a revelation for Cincinnati this season. Giovani Bernard who had an impressive rookie season in 2013 is almost an afterthought with the brutal running style that Hill brings to the Bengals offense. No rookie runner has so consistently punished defenses like Hill. Hill brings a punishing running attack to Cincinnati not seen since Corey Dillon wore orange and black. Hill should have a LeVeon Bell-like coming out party in 2015 if the offense can block for him.

Tre Mason

Tre Mason didn’t take off right away for St. Louis but since he’s been starting he’s secured the lead back role in St. Louis. Mason’s biggest game came against Oakland with 17 touches resulting in 160 yards from scrimmage and three trips to the endzone. The Auburn product has a ways to go to be mentioned among the NFL’s top backs, but has started by building one of the better rookie seasons for a running back in recent memory. Mason has struggled against the league’s better run defenses, like Arizona or Washington.

Wide Receivers

Mike Evans

Evans leads all rookie wideouts with touchdown catches with 11 and 948 receiving yards. Evans has the size and speed to be a mismatch but also has the hands and football IQ to consistently get open and make plays. Experience and developing trust with his QB should only add to the playmaker’s effectiveness in shredding defenses.

Odell Beckham

Odell Beckham is already one of the most exciting players to watch in the NFL. He lacks the size of Kelvin Benjamin or Mike Evans but Beckham has crazy speed and great hands as displayed in the past few weeks with his highlight reel of catches. Beckham is the best wide receiver in New York and will be a franchise star for the next decade barring significant injury.

Tight End

Jace Amaro

The tight ends of 2014 haven’t made the aggressive showing that wide receivers have. Amaro has been the most utilized of the rookie tight ends as a pass-catcher. Down the road, Eric Ebron, Austin Seferian-Jenkins or Richard Rodgers may surface as the most successful tight end out of the 2014 class. But right now Amaro leads rookie tight ends in receiving yardage with 311 yards on 35 catches out of 47 targets and two touchdowns. Amaro is actually the number two target in the meadowlands for receptions (35) and receiving touchdowns (2) behind Eric Decker. Amaro’s a reliable target who’s best football’s ahead of him.

Offensive Linemen

Guards

Zack Martin

Martin is a very important cog in the well-oiled machine that is the Dallas Cowboys offensive line. The Cowboys rank #1 in run blocking efficiency according to footballoutsiders.com. A large part of DeMarco Murray’s legendary season has to do with Martin’s ability to create holes for Murray to run through. Martin’s got a bright future on a studly Cowboys offensive line.

Joel Bitonio

Bitonio has started every game since being drafted in the second round out of Nevada. Bitonio’s high level of play has elevated Cleveland’s offensive line to fifth in the league in pass protection metrics, up from 17th overall from the 2013 season. Bitonio looks to solidify the Browns left side for years to come with his consistent pass-blocking.

Center

Corey Linsley

A handful of rookies are starting at Center for NFL teams. Marcus Martin for San Francisco, James Stone for Atlanta. Luke BoWanko for Jacksonville. Green Bay’s Corey Linsley has been the most stable of the bunch. Time will tell if Bodine in Cincinnati or Bryan Stork in New England will develop into a top-caliber players. But Linsley’s stable play on a consistent basis earns him the top spot here.

Tackles

Seantrel Henderson

Henderson was drafted in the seventh round, and hasn’t been an elite tackle this season. But Henderson’s body of work has been more reliable and evidential of consistent OT play more so than Jake Matthews, Greg Robinson and a slew of other high pick offensive linemen from this year’s draft.

Ja’Wuan James

Miami’s offensive line may have been the worst unit of 2013. Ranking 28 out of 32 in run blocking and 30 out of 32 in pass blocking. Their current ranking of 9th and 18th and James’ arrival on the offensive cannot be a coincidence. The Dolphins offensive line is not a top five group, but a much improved showing over last year. Lamar Miller, the Dolphins lead back is on a pace for 947 yards rushing, a career high. Miller has James’ solid play on the Dolphins line to thank.

(All stats courtesy of footballoutsiders.com and nfl.com)

The NFL media has already begun forecasting doom and gloom on Foxboro’s team after New England visited Arrowhead stadium and got flattened 41-14. Brady looked like a senile old man at times in Kansas City throwing a late pass to Edelman when he could have dived for the first down. But that’s splitting hairs in a horrific loss for New England created by their inability to stop Jamaal Charles and their inability to protect their passer. Belichick’s Belichickian insistence on not overpaying for aging talent (and trading 6-time pro-bowler Logan Mankins) seems to have come at the worst time possible as the Patriots offensive line is struggling severely. For all we know, Mankins would have gotten injured just the same or his level of play would be just as poor as the rest of the line’s and New England would be sitting in a similar spot. But the world will never know. The world only knows that New England’s offensive line is definitely struggling without him.

The lack of pass protection only highlights the Patriots’ lack of receiving weapons. Gone are the days when the Patriots had Rob Gronkowski, Aaron Hernandez and a spritely Wes Welker to dissect opposing secondaries. In 2014, their top receiving threat is a tie between ever-injured Rob Gronkowski and underwhelming Julian Edelman. Losing to the Chiefs (a strong AFC playoff team) on their turf shouldn’t be too shocking. Chiefs’ head coach Andy Reid and QB Alex Smith have decades of big game experience between them.

Negativity aside, the Patriots weren’t exactly towering football behemoths at the start of 2014. Sure, the signing of Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner look great on paper. But these guys can’t play on the line, and they don’t catch any passes. The Patriots two greatest areas of needs. The Patriots are certainly a capable team, but they can’t force their will on opponents like they used to. They need to play to their strengths. And no one can do that better than salty captain of the ship Bill Belichick.

New England hosts undefeated Cincinnati next Sunday night at home. A win in Foxborough would re-energize the embattled Patriots team, but first they’ll have to earn it.

NFL players want two things by the time they retire. They want to “get paid” (receive $10+ million/year) and they want to win a championship. Some players (mainly quarterbacks) are more highly thought of if they win multiple championships. Demonstrating the ability to play clutch in the fourth quarter or the playoffs is an immensely important quality to have for any player. But there are some players who haven’t captured the elusive championship ring (and probably never will) who are still among the top players at their position.

Wide Receivers – Larry Fitzgerald, Andre Johnson, Dwayne Bowe, Brian Hartline, Eric Decker (His career may as well be over as he just became a New York Jet), DeSean Jackson

Larry Fitzgerald’s been stellar his entire career and has one Super Bowl trip to show for it. A tight NFC West will make it difficult for Fitzgerald to get that close again. Andre Johnson’s career’s similar to Fitzgerald. He’s a huge, world-beating talent who’s rarely had a good QB to throw to him and almost no team success in the playoffs. Bowe’s slowed down in his old age in a rough AFC West and Brian Hartline’s stuck on a permanent 8-win Miami team. DeSean Jackson is a star talent but joins a poorly run Redskins franchise incapable of sustained success in the playoffs.

Tight Ends – Antonio Gates, Jason Witten, Chris Cooley

Gates in his prime might be the best tight end to play in the NFL. At 34 Gates has slowed down and may retire before his Chargers team can become truly relevant like they were circa 2005.

Jason Witten is Mr. Reliable but he’s also a Cowboy. Jerry Jones hasn’t put a good team on the field two years in a row since the ’90s.

Chris Cooley was a great athlete for several years but lost his starting job to younger talent.

Running Backs – Adrian Peterson, Fred Jackson, Maurice Jones-Drew, Darren Sproles

By the time Teddy Bridgewater becomes a talented starter, Adrian Peterson’s wheels will have fallen off. Peterson might a top five running back of all time, but he’s trapped on a struggling Minnesota roster with no QB for much of his career. Jackson is still a terrific runner but can never stay healthy. Jones-Drew gave his best years to a bad Jacksonville franchise and Sproles has maybe a year or two left to contribute as a back.

Quarterback – Tony Romo (I believe Philip Rivers and the Bolts can make a strong push for a dark horse championship run in the next three seasons)

Defensive Linemen – Most of the Bills defensive line (Kyle Williams, Marcell Dareus, Mario Williams), Cameron Wake, Jurrell Casey. (Julius Peppers and Jared Allen each play for the two franchises that have that rank first and second respectively in championships in NFL history. Meaning, they have a good shot at winning a championship any given year.)

Linebackers – John Abraham (No one talks about this guy but he’s incredible. Abraham’s the NFL’s leading active sack-collector with 133.5. He’ll probably get passed up by Jared Allen in the next year or so but Abraham’s been an absolute rock his whole career, and he’s never gotten close to a championship), Brian Orakpo, Sean Lee, Chad Greenway

Defensive Backs – Joe Haden, Brandon Carr, Dashon Goldson

Joe Haden and the rest of Cleveland will have to wait for receiving talent in order for any QB to have success on that offense. Carr and Goldson are stuck on bad teams for their career.

The Cleveland Browns have been a franchise in turmoil for the past several years. In 2013, they fired their head coach after another embarrassing 4-12 season. But the front office showed some promise. They sent young power running back Trent Richardson to Indianapolis for a first round pick. Hindsight has shown that Cleveland came out of that transaction as the clear victor. They start the 2014 season with former Bills defensive coordinator Mike Pettine running the show as head coach and two first round picks, one in the top five. In a shaky AFC North, Cleveland will become one of the AFC’s heavyweights and enter the playoffs taking the NFL by surprise with a veteran defense and balanced offense.

Pillars on defense:

Joe Haden, CB

Haden’s established himself as one of the league’s top corners. He doesn’t get the attention that Richard Sherman or Aqib Talib get because his team never ends up in the playoffs, nor does he run his mouth after a big win.

Donte Whitner, SS

Whitner replaces departed defensive back T.J. Ward. Whitner is a tough defender who will bring a high level of physicality to the defense.

Karlos Dansby, ILB

Dansby’s a seasoned veteran who brings leadership to replace the departed D’Qwell Jackson. Dansby’s shown he can be effective rushing the passer, in coverage, and against the run. He was a defensive powerhouse last season in Arizona and will make an enormous difference in Cleveland in 2014.

Pillars on offense:

Joe Thomas and Alex Mack, OL

Thomas is the most consistent left tackle in football. He hasn’t missed a start in seven seasons for Cleveland and always performs at a high level. Mack is one of the league’s top centers and unless he finds his way out of Cleveland he will be the leader of the offensive in line in 2014.

Josh Gordon, WR

Gordon took the league by storm last season by leading the league in receiving yards, even missing two games during the season, and having questionable at best quarterbacks throwing him the ball. If Cleveland can find a stable and competent QB situation, Gordon can blossom even further.

Jordan Cameron, TE

Cameron broke out this past season catching eighty passes for over 900 yards. Cameron’s presence on the team will make him a “safety valve” for a rookie or journeyman Quarterback in 2014.

Ben Tate, RB

Tate’s been a caged tiger his first five seasons in the NFL. Houston drafted him to be the starting running back, but suffered from an embarrassment of riches at the position as Arian Foster stepped up and outplayed even Tate at the position. Tate is only 25 years old and doesn’t have the wear and tear that other starting backs have at that age.

The Draft:

Sources trusted by NFL.com say Cleveland plans to spend their first pick in the draft on a non-passer (Clowney, Sammy Watkins, Khalil Mack, Jake Matthews, etc) and a later pick on a passer. If Clowney is not available, Cleveland may look to take Khalil Mack out of Buffalo. Mike Pettine made his name by rushing the passer at Buffalo so it makes sense for him to take well-crafted QB hunter like Mack or Clowney. Whether they select Clowney or Mack, they get out of the top ten with one of the draft’s elite pass-rushers.

If QB Derek Carr gets drafted by Oakland, Cleveland will have to settle for a passer like Zach Mettenberger, A.J. McCarron, or Jimmy Garoppolo. Mettenberger has ideal size for the position and a good combination of big-game experience and admirable passing statistics.

Other major needs Cleveland will likely address in the draft include right guard and wide receiver.

Cleveland can elect to use their late first round pick on a top-tier receiver like Brandin Cooks, Kelvin Benjamin, or Marqise Lee. Doing so would fill a major need for Cleveland and give their QB a variety of deep threats to choose from.

Cleveland should be able to select a guard later on in the draft in the caliber of Cyril Richardson from Baylor or Dakota Dozier from Furman to start right away at right guard.

The final product:

At the start of the regular season, the Browns’ starting lineup could look something like this:

QB: Zach Mettenberger
RB: Ben Tate
FB: Chris Ogbonnaya
LT: Joe Thomas
LG: John Greco
Center: Alex Mack
RG: Cyril Richardson
RT: Mitchell Schwartz
WR1: Josh Gordon
WR2: Marqise Lee
TE: Jordan Cameron

A receiving trio of Gordon, Lee AND Cameron, coupled with Ben Tate at running back makes Cleveland’s offense the most complete in the AFC North (considering Baltimore’s offensive collapse in 2013 and their total lack of receiving options).

Looking at Cleveland’s defense:

DE: Ahtyba Rubin
NT: Phil Taylor
DE: John Hughes
OLB: Khalil Mack
ILB: Karlos Dansby
ILB: Craig Robertson
OLB: Jabaal Sheard (Barkevious Mingo could step up and take this role if Coach Pettine feels he’s ready)
CB1: Joe Haden
CB2: Buster Skrine
SS: Donte Whitner
FS: Tashaun Gipson

Outside of an almost unknown defensive line, Cleveland can field a strong defense in 2014.

  • Tashaun Gipson nabbed five interceptions last season and will be part of a very talented secondary.

  • DT Phil Taylor, a product of the Julio Jones trade Atlanta made to move up in the draft back in 2011 has been a rock in the middle of the defensive line ever since.

  • CB Buster Skrine, not well known outside of Cleveland, has made enormous strides at the CB position since his first two seasons. Skrine may not ever end up in the highlight reel for sportscenter, but he’s provided consistent and reliable corner play in 2013.

With players like Barkevious Mingo, Khalil Mack, and Karlos Dansby, Mike Pettine can orchestrate his patented blitzing patterns and unlock Cleveland’s potential.

A balanced offense paired with a defense spearheaded by Joe Haden, Khalil Mack, and Donte Whitner will put Cleveland in the spotlight next season. This team will be in the playoffs.

I’m still high as a kite from my N.O. Xplode rush from my gym session this evening. So I’m going to write.

The New England Patriots let go of run-stopper Brandon Spikes and premium corner Aqib Talib in free agency. Starting DT Vince Wilfork has requested to be released from the team, suggesting he will, in fact, not be a Patriot for 2014.

New England went to the AFC championship game without Wilfork thanks to some quality depth at the position (Chris Jones and Sealver Siliga) and saw backup Jamie Collins play admirably in the absence of pro bowl linebacker Jerod Mayo.

New England stayed toe-to-toe with Denver in the AFC title game until CB Aqib Talib got injured. Talib’s injury signified the breaking of the dam holding back Denver’s passing attack. Denver went on to win the AFC title game as Demaryius Thomas ran unchallenged with his superior size and speed (6’3” and 229 lbs, and a 4.38 40 time). In the past 72 hours, New England signed Darrelle Revis after being cut by Tampa Bay, and 6’4” pro bowl corner Brandon Browner after being released by Seattle. New England’s depth at cornerback was solid prior to this offseason without injury looking to Alfonzo Dennard, Kyle Arrington, and rookie Logan Ryan who’ve produced solid play at the position in previous seasons.

If Danny Cardboard Amendola and Rob Brokekowski can keep themselves healthy New England looks primed to return to the AFC championship game already, this time with a secondary that can match up with any receiving corps the AFC has to offer.

There’s still the majority of the offseason to go, including a number of valuable free agents and the draft to determine which teams start who in 2014. New England’s handled the free agent market like true professionals, and look like early favorites to challenge for the AFC throne again in 2014.

In June of 2013, I predicted six players would breakout this season. Two QBs, two rookies, and two pass catchers. I will now proceed to grade my own predictions with the benefit of hindsight of the 2013 season.

1. Kansas City Chiefs Tight End, Tony Moeaki

Moeaki was “considered one of the top tight end prospects for the 2010 NFL Draft” coming out of Iowa. His play in Kansas was continually cut short due to injury. This August he got injured yet again. In October, Moeaki became a free agent and joined the Bills. He played in two games in Buffalo and registered no catches or carries on the season.

Moeaki certainly does have potential. But he’ll never live up to it if he keeps getting injured. If the Bills decide to part ways with Scott Chandler (another former Hawkeye) they could promote Moeaki to the starting position and give him a chance to develop a rapport with E.J. Manuel. Ultimately, Moeaki was either injured or irrelevant for the 2013 season.

Final Grade: F

2. Pittsburgh Steelers Wide Receiver, Emmanuel Sanders

I was correct in identifying that the departure of former receiver Mike Wallace would allow a new Pittsburgh receiver to step in and become the new number one target for Roethlisberger. Many NFL analysts correctly predicted that Antonio Brown would be that player. Brown finished the season second overall in receiving yards besting even the dominant Calvin Johnson and A.J. Green for total receiving yards (to be fair Johnson missed two games due to injury). This was a swing and a miss for me as Brown’s season exploded whereas Sanders’ season was indeed a career best, but by no means a breakout campaign.

Sanders played in all sixteen games this season catching sixty-seven passes for 740 yards and six scores. He played the best season of his career but watched as teammate Antonio Brown became the breakout receiving star in Pittsburgh.

Final Grade: C

3. Miami Dolphins QB, Ryan Tannehill

Tannehill had a slew of new receiving options for the 2013 season. Dolphins ownership brought in Dustin Keller (immediately lost to injury), WR Brandon Gibson, and former Steeler Mike Wallace to allow Tannehill plenty of talent in the receiving corps to make the passing offense a more viable option for Miami. Tannehill finished the season with twenty five total scores and seventeen interceptions. Acceptable improvement on a fairly rocky rookie campaign where he turned the ball over (17) more than he scored (14).

Tannehill has definitely stepped up his game from the 2012 season, but will need to continue to improve in order to have a true “breakout” season.

Final Grade: C+/B-

4. San Diego Chargers QB, Philip Rivers

Many NFL pundits predicted Mike McCoy would “fix” Philip Rivers of the turnover problems that plagued his game for the past three seasons, and he seems to have done just that. Part of the problem of Rivers’ turnovers could be blamed on TE Antonio Gates’ frequent injuries. Gates had his first sixteen game season since 2009. Part could be blamed on the loss of number one wideout Vincent Jackson to Tampa Bay after 2011. It could be the lack of stability in the run game transitioning from one of the NFL’s greatest running backs in LaDainian Tomlinson to the occasionally underwhelming Ryan Mathews. Regardless, all has been forgiven as Rivers finished in the top three QB in total QBR and kept turnovers relatively low with eleven interceptions to thirty-two touchdowns. Rivers has returned to pre-2011 form and stands as one of the league’s top Passers.

Final Grade: A

5. San Francisco 49ers FS, Eric Reid

San Francisco moved up in the first round to grab Reid in order to recuperate from the loss of pro bowler Dashon Goldson to Tampa Bay. Reid started all sixteen games for San Francisco and was actually San Francisco’s only representative in the Pro Bowl this season. Reid finished the season with 77 total tackles and 4 interceptions. Considering how quickly Reid earned a starting spot, his opportunistic play, and his entry into the Pro Bowl, Reid’s quickly become one of the league’s top safeties.

Final Grade: A

6. Houston Texans WR, DeAndre Hopkins

Houston management drafted DeAndre Hopkins to give Andre Johnson the opportunity to play without being double-covered every game. Hopkins’ rookie season suffered because of Houston’s catastrophically poor Quarterback play. Matt Schaub seemingly fell apart at the seams with pick-six after pick-six and returned to the bench as Case Keenum started in his absence without much more success. Hopkins finished second among rookie in receiving yards with 802 yards and averaged an impressive 15.4 yards per reception. While not as impressive a campaign as San Diego’s Keenan Allen, Hopkins still put up a strong showing considering Houston’s plummet down the power charts and their dire QB situation.

Final Grade: B

Miscellaneous:

– Christmas morning of the NFL season arrives in 3 1/2 months. The combine is less than a month away.

– Team Rice overcame Team Sanders 22-21 in a hard fought Pro Bowl match on a Mike Tolbert two point conversion play. The “unconferencing” of the Pro Bowl seems to have salvaged the game for future seasons as it was a competitive defensive contest this season.

– The Michael Crabtree/Richard Sherman fiasco is overblown media hype of back and forth between wide receiver and defensive back that happens in every NFL game. Sherman’s unhinging on Erin Andrews has brought the event to the forefront of the Pro Football media world. Richard Sherman is not a thug. He’s a pro football player who lost his temper on national television. Though he should not have behaved like that in front of Ms. Andrews. Although Sherman seemingly meant to be a good sport about the whole thing, on Mike and Mike in the morning Pittsburgh Safety Ryan Clark correctly pointed out that Sherman’s post-game congratulation to Crabtree could be seen as condescending or insulting because of how the game ended, thus resulting in Crabtree grabbing Sherman’s helmet and likely saying something out of anger. That doesn’t justify what Crabtree does, but it does contextualize it a little better. Crabtree’s a good receiver, but Sherman is an elite corner.

– The Super Bowl looms six days away and I can’t remember being less excited for the outcome. I picture it like Hitler and Stalin in the boxing ring. I’m delighted to see one lose, but not so the other wins. Manning’s worked hard enough and humbly enough that a second championship doesn’t seem unearned. Seattle’s been a dominant team all season and could get away with the trophy if the weather’s too cold/unfriendly for the passing game to play a role. Enjoy the game and may the best team win.

Underrated players and miscellaneous

Posted: November 22, 2013 in Uncategorized
Tags:

Topics: Underrated NFL Players, the state of the Eagles and Cardinals, the Jets D, and a brief look at some of next Sundays’ games.

I think these NFL players are underrated

Alfred Morris – Morris no longer has the luxury of a highly effective QB (Robert Griffin has under-performed this season compared to last), and is still a top five running back in only his second year. Morris ranks third overall in rushing yards. The press can’t stop talking about Adrian Peterson and Eddie Lacy while Morris continues to burn run defenses week in and week out.

Reggie Bush – Totaled over 1,000 yards of offense in under 200 touches. The once deemed first round bust turned over a new leaf in Miami and is now on pace to finish the season with over 1,500 yards from scrimmage (and that’s with missing a game). Twenty-eight years young, Bush finally seems to be hitting his stride as an NFL running back.

Philip Rivers – Quietly reestablished his dominance in the passing game without a strong receiving corps like Denver or New Orleans. Looks like QB guru Mike McCoy’s magic worked in helping Rivers return to pre-2010 form.

Nick Foles – In five starts, Foles has produced eighteen touchdowns with only one turnover (a fumble). Philadelphia hasn’t had the same quarterback produce consistently quality offensive production since Donovan McNabb. Foles looked adequate in limited action last season, but has begun to shine in Kelly’s offense in 2013.

Josh Gordon – leads the league in yards per reception among receivers with 40 catches or more. Also catching passes from the three headed monster of Brandon Weeden, Brian Hoyer and Jason Campbell, easily the worst trio of QB’s in the NFL (Matt Cassel went to a pro bowl) and has no viable running attack to help Cleveland open up the passing game.

Kiko Alonso – Bills linebacker has quickly adapted to the pro game and ranks in the top five in tackles and INTs. And he has two sacks. And four passes defended. And a forced fumble.

Apparently Alonso got arrested while playing at Oregon for a DUI and breaking and entering, and then passing out drunkenly in the domicile he entered. Fortunately for him and the Oregon Ducks, he was able to turn his act around and become a solid contributor on a solid Oregon team.

Jurrell Casey – The third round pick out of USC has collected seven sacks in ten games. As a defensive tackle. Sacks come at a snails’ pace for interior linemen. The fact Casey leads the Titans’ D in sacks as a defensive tackle suggests Casey has many years to contribute as a future Warren Sapp lookalike. I should also mention the season isn’t over, meaning Casey has six more game to hunt quarterbacks down and to brutalize interior offensive linemen.

Miscellaneous:

Sitting at 6-5 atop the NFC East, the Eagles have a reasonable chance of actually making the playoffs. The burgeoning of Nick Foles’ quarterback play gives Philadelphia a chance of topping the Lions, Bears, and division rival Cowboys to close out the season.

The Arizona Cardinals for the first time in several years resemble a professional football club. Bruce Arians has translated his coaching magic from his 9-3 time in Indianapolis to the turning around of a perennially poor into a competitive football club. If Arizona can pull three wins out of their next six games, they will have a winning record for the first time since the 2009 season.

Rex Ryan can thank the Jets front seven for keeping his job another season. Maybe the media forgot about Ryan’s defensive genius because of the teams’ sub-par performance since the 2010 season. Young talents like Muhammad Wilkerson and Sheldon Richardson have played a major role in New York’s’ ability to stay relevant in the AFC.

This coming Sunday’s match up of Green Bay and Minnesota may be the most painful to watch of the season. Scott Tolzien is the worst starting quarterback in the NFL as of 12:47 am 11/22/2013 Eastern time. He’s contributed one touchdown and five interceptions this season as a Packer. Green Bay’s offense has fallen toothless without Rodgers at the helm. The Vikings aren’t exactly a shining star either. The Vikings defense actually ranks dead last in points allowed with 32 per game. This should provide an interesting match up, the worst quarterback versus the worst defense.

Some games worth paying attention this weekend include:

  • San Diego at Kansas City (Can Kansas City continue to prove they are an okay team?)
  • Indianapolis at Arizona (Bruce Arians plays his former team)
  • Denver at New England (Manning vs. Brady part 817)

Thank you for reading this far. Have a beautiful day.

(I switched over from caffeine-free NO-Xplode to regular, caffeinated NO-Xplode this evening. I had a terrific workout. I also have no desire to sleep.)

Jacksonville goes to Seattle next week. Seattle scored more points in week one than Jacksonville has scored so far this season. Seattle just dismantled what was arguably thought to be the number one team in football 29 – 3 at home. And now they face the Jacksonville Jaguars being led by Chad Henne. Henne, bless his heart, has never had a season where he threw more touchdowns than interceptions. This match-up is like a grizzly bear hunting a squirrel. A squirrel with no legs. Or brain. If any team could improve their quarterback situation by enlisting the services of Timothy Richard Tebow, Shahid Kahn’s Jaguars could. At least Tebow could put points on the board and butts in the seats.

Patriots and Jets

New England defeated the New York Jets 13-10 at Gillette Stadium. This was the most painful close game to watch within recent memory. Future hall of famer Tom Brady completed 19/39 passes for 185 yards and one touchdown with zero interceptions. The Patriots totalled 54 whole yards of rushing on the day. Clearly Rex Ryan’s crew still knows how to play defense as the Patriots struggled to move the ball in the forward direction all evening. Inclement weather and inexperienced receivers were likely two significant factors in the equation that was the Patriots offense last Thursday evening.

In news that shocked no one, Danny Amendola received a notable injury and will be out for at least a few months. Former Kent State quarterback Julian Edelman has emerged as the Patriots leading receiver with the loss of Danny Amendola and the apparent shortage of Dobson and Thompkins in the offense so far. Edelman looks to be Brady’s top target for the foreseeable future until man-child superstar Rob Gronkowski returns from injury and Amendola waits to recover as well.

Trent Richardson, Indianapolis, and San Francisco

We’ll get to see Trent Richardson in a Colts uniform line up against the San Francisco 49ers defense after the 49ers suffered an embarrassing loss to division rivals Seattle Seahawks. Fans and pundits alike continue to heap praise on Indianapolis for making the trade happen. Richardson was a 1st round pick out an enormously talented Alabama team. Regardless, Richardson has a career average 3.5 yards per carry for Cleveland. This is an offensive line that starts Joe Thomas, one of the league’s most well respected left tackles. Rotoworlds’ Evan Silva ranks Cleveland’s O-line as sixth best in the league, pretty good considering how poor the talent around the line seems to operate. Footballoutsiders.com ranks Cleveland’s run blocking 10th overall in the league, suggesting Richardsons’ inability to break four yards per carry has more to do with his inexperience or inability to execute at a competitive level more so than his offensive line play. Indy’s pass-heavy offense could very well bring the best out in Richardson with the loosening up of defenses hesitant to give Luck to much room to work with, but the numbers suggest Irsay and the Colts likely gave up too much for the (arguably) overrated talent.

Getting back to San Francisco, the 49ers defense looks vulnerable with a new starting nose tackle after losing Ian Williams to injury in a controversial low cut made during the loss to Seattle last week. This coupled with a rash of injuries to starting rookie safety Eric Reid, starting DTs Justin Smith and Ray McDonald, the 49er’s mettle will be tested against a Colts offense that features one of the games’ young talents at quarterback and one of the league’s sturdiest power backs with Richardson weighing in at 5’9” and 227 lbs. That’s more weight per square inch than the immovable Maurice Jones Drew. Oh, and star outside linebacker Aldon Smith just got arrested for a DUI, though early reports state Smith is still expected to start this week for the 49ers’ game against the Colts. The matchup should be an intriguing one.

San Diego and Tennessee

You football geeks might want to pay attention to the not bad San Diego Chargers playing the not bad Tennessee Titans in Nashville. Tennessee has played above average defense with less than impressive offense. While San Diego is averaging exactly 30.5 points a game, on offense and allowed on defense. The ‘new’ Philip Rivers and the underrated Titans D ought to provide a compelling match up in week three.

Dave’s Upset prediction

Oakland over Denver. I realize my last prediction didn’t go as planned, and this one may not look too probable either, but let’s break down some details.

NFL powerhouses have a way of under-preparing in anticipation of facing scrappy, tired-of-losing teams who are likely ‘over-preparing.’ The unstoppable 2011 Green Bay Packers at 13-0 went to Arrowhead stadium against a struggling 5-8 Chiefs team that collected most of their wins in close games from other poor teams and lost in what became the biggest upset of the season. The 2011 Houston Texans, posting their first double-digit win season ever (10-6), still failed to defeat 1-13 Indianapolis at Lucas Oil Stadium, good enough for dead last (Houston’s record remains 0-11 at Lucas Oil Field to this day). I could bore you to death with more examples but I won’t.

Nfl.com’s produced a statistic claiming that Oakland is 1-8 on Monday Night Football since 2003. Not a particularly promising number for Oakland at first glance. However, when taking into account Oakland’s all time record against Denver is actually 60-45-2, this suggests Oakland is due for a win. Historically speaking, Oakland ‘usually’ beats Denver. And Oakland’s all time NFL record of 431-364-11 (according to pro-football-reference.com) suggests they are well overdue for a win if they’ve matched eight losses with only one win on Monday night football.

Let’s put away the numbers and look at the players. Oakland’s defense has actually performed admirably so far this season, allowing an average of fifteen points per game. Denver’s sky-high offense lost arguably their second most important offensive player in LT Ryan Clady to injury. Whether penciled in back up Chris Clark or recent signing Winston Justice steps in for Clady as Manning’s bodyguard, Oakland will have plenty of opportunity to take advantage of Clady’s absence having posted a (prior to Kansas City’s Thursday night abusing of Michael Vick) league-leading nine sacks in two games. Oakland’s dominance in running the ball between Terrelle Pryor and Darren McFadden could well provide them ample opportunity to work the clock and keep Manning and Co. off the field.

Denver hasn’t had to aggressively defend the run this season because, well, they’ve put up 90 points in two games, New York and Baltimore were throwing for their lives. If Oakland’s pass rush can disrupt the Broncos offense, the offense could take plenty of time to score and turn the tide at Sports Authority Field this Sunday.

Denver is heavily favored. They have the best offense in the league. They have home field advantage. What they don’t have is anything to prove to anyone. Surprise starting QB Terrelle Pryor, HC Dennis Allen, and that practically unknown defense do. For this reason I feel Oakland has as good a chance as anybody to put a check in the ‘W’ column after this Sunday is over.

In closing

This will be an exciting Sunday. Tom Brady faces off against Darrelle Revis again. Cleveland went from bad to worse by trading away Trent Richardson and will try to move the sticks with 31-year old Willis McGahee (that’s about 90 in regular human years) and will struggle to compete against a competent Minnesota team. The Arizona experiment continues with Carson Palmer, Larry Fitzgerald, and head coach Bruce Arians against the New Orleans Saints. Pittsburgh will struggle to prove they are still relevant against a sturdy Chicago defense. Football is exciting.

“There’s so much non pro football on Saturday. How will I fill the time?”

Go outside. Play with someone’s dog. Impersonate a Wal Mart employee until you are asked to “please leave.” Throw a dance party. In your car. At red lights. Put things in other people’s grocery carts at the grocery store. Take your parents through the drive-thru (My parents are hilarious at the drive-thru).

I am now going to lie down and pretend to sleep until I am asleep. Enjoy your weekend.

 

Preseason thoughts

Posted: August 26, 2013 in Uncategorized
Tags: ,

 

Seattle might have the greatest amount of collective talent at the running back position with Marshawn Lynch, former Utah State standout Robert Turbin and rookie Christine Michael who pounded out 97 yards and one touchdown on only 11 carries in his preseason outing against Green Bay.

At some point I am obligated to mention UFA wide receiver Kenbrell Thompkins’ 118 yard night against Detroit amidst a New England offense disguised as the keystone cops. All those free agent signings and the drafting of Aaron Dobson may not be as significant as the signing of rookie free agent Thompkins come November.  

In Jake Locker’s 13 attempts this week against Atlanta, he looked like an actual, starting NFL quarterback. Unlike the past two seasons.

For reasons unknown, Peyton Manning threw the football 34 times in his preseason outing against St. Louis. Peyton Manning. The man made out of cardboard was kept on the field for 34 passes in a preseason game. Maybe Denver should have tried harder to keep Mike McCoy in Denver if this represents the type of decision making the current coaching staff is making. This team isn’t going to intimidate with Brock Osweiler playing QB after Manning is lost because of an injury sustained in preseason.

If you can play quarterback, you might want to contact the Oakland Raiders, as their previously decided quarterback decision just became undecided as Matt Flynn completed 3 of 6 passes and threw two interceptions. Terrelle Pryor scored twice in his playing time. Terrelle Pryor, who left Ohio State early due to allegations of receiving improper benefits, completed less than half of his passes last year in his time at Oakland.

Green Bay’s running back situation became murkier in their contest against Seattle. Although Seattle’s run defense is considered elite, the two stud backs Green Bay took in the draft, Eddie Lacy and Jonathan Franklin, (Lacy thought to be the favorite to win the starting job) combined for 12 carries and -4 yards. You read that right. Negative 4 yards. The Packer’s leading rusher was backup quarterback Vince Young, with 39 yards on 3 attempts.

Two preseason games went into overtime this week. Former Jets quarterback and current drunk hooligan Joe Namath proclaimed that preseason games should end as ties instead of going into overtime. I for one agree with him. With the preponderance of injuries this season, players should not be asked to put their career on the line going into overtime for a game that has no meaning. Dustin Keller and Dennis Pitta, two prominent tight ends for their teams, are already out for the year. Risking unnecessary injury to settle a meaningless contest serves no one.

 

Buffalo Bills

2012 record: 6-10, 3rd place AFC East (tied with NY Jets)

Notable offseason losses: QB Ryan Fitzpatrick, WR Donald Jones, LB Nick Barnett, SS George Wilson, QB Tarvaris Jackson

Notable offseason acquisitions: HC Doug Marrone, QB Kevin Kolb, WR Da’Rick Rogers

Notable draft picks: QB E.J. Manuel, WR Robert Woods, LB Kiko Alonso

Dave’s 2013 record prediction: 9-7

The winds of change blow in Buffalo. New head coach Doug Marrone brings experience as a former offensive coordinator for the New Orleans Saints and head coach of the Syracuse Orange. Buffalo selected the first QB in the draft with E.J. Manuel who should challenge Kevin Kolb for the starting job as the weeks progress in Buffalo. Kolb has shown he can perform as a competent backup in tight spots (see Philadelphia), but has struggled in the past as a starting quarterback (see Arizona). Kolb should perform the buffer role to help Manuel ease into the pro game.

Buffalo clearly drafted for need as former USC standout Robert Woods comes into challenge David Nelson for a starting spot left by departed Donald Jones at wide receiver. Additionally, former Oregon Duck Kiko Alonso looks to be the natural replacement for former starting linebacker Nick Barnett. Former Tennessee Tech wide receiver Da’Rick Rogers failed to get drafted, but Buffalo signed the controversial talent this offseason with hopes that he’ll bring a spark to the offense.

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Buffalo Bills rookie wideout Robert woods

On defense, Buffalo has a surprisingly talented defensive line. Established star Mario Williams accrued a healthy 10.5 sacks last season while defensive tackles Kyle Williams and Marcell Dareus collected 5 and 5.5 respectively. That’s a lot of pressure coming only from the defensive line. While Buffalo did not statistically speaking have a great defense last season, and gave up oodles of yards on the ground, they performed respectably against the pass. Safety Jairus Byrd intercepted five passes, defended six more, and forced four fumbles. Second round pick Kiko Alonso should help turn things around on a defense that ranked second to last in rushing last season.

Miami gets all the attention for bringing in plenty of free agent talent, but Buffalo may challenge New England for the AFC East crown this season. If Marrone (an offensive mind) and Manuel can get the ball rolling on offense, all the tools are there for Buffalo to assemble a very balanced attack. Running back Fred Jackson is one of the very top running backs in the league when healthy. C.J. Spiller has proven his worth as a very talented runner averaging six yards per carry to break 1,200 yards this past season. Wide receiver Stevie Johnson broke out two seasons ago and tight end Scott Chandler has a nose for the endzone. If Manuel can live up to first round pick expectations, Buffalo may catch many teams sleeping in the coming season.

Miami Dolphins

2012 record: 7-9, 2nd place AFC East

Notable offseason losses: RB Reggie Bush, OT Jake Long, DB Sean Smith

Notable offseason acquisitions: WR Mike Wallace, TE Dustin Keller, WR Brandon Gibson

Notable draft picks: LB Dion Jordan, CB Jamar Taylor

Dave’s 2013 record prediction: 8-8

Miami is undergoing the Oregon Ducks treatment this offseason with brand new uniforms hoping to inspire change in the team atmosphere. That and the drafting of former Oregon Duck Dion Jordan should help. Expectations are high in Miami with budding second year QB Ryan Tannehill and a host of receiving options including: Mike Wallace, Dustin Keller, Brandon Gibson, and hometown hero Brian Hartline. NFL.com pundits suggest that second year running back Lamar Miller will have a breakout year in the absence of Reggie Bush. While Miller has done little to hint of any breakout NFL performance, the talent is there for Miami’s offense to break out if Tannehill can take the next step.

Miami RB Lamar Miller

Miami RB Lamar Miller

Miami ranked seventh in scoring defense last season, with an average of 19.8 points per game allowed. Their most glaring weakness appeared in their inability to stop the pass ranking 27th out of 32 in passing yards allowed per game. The addition of first and second round picks OLB Dion Jordan and CB Jamar Taylor should bolster Miami’s pass defense.

Miami may be looking to eventually replace the departed left tackle Jake Long with the drafting of OT Dallas Thomas. Long left some big shoes to fill in Miami, widely regarded as one of the, if not the best left tackle in the game.

By and large, Miami’s season rests on Tannehill’s shoulders. The load a starting quarterback carries can be daunting, especially in a system built around the pass, which, looking at the team’s recent free agent acquisitions, appears to be the direction Philbin and his team are moving in. Watch for the new-look Dolphins to make a run for a wild card spot in the AFC this coming season.

New England Patriots

2012 record: 12-4, 1st place AFC East

Notable offseason losses: WR Wes Welker, TE Aaron Hernandez, WR Brandon Lloyd

Notable offseason acquisitions: WR Danny Amendola, WR Donald Jones, RB LeGarrette Blount

Notable draft picks: WR Aaron Dobson, OLB Jamie Collins

Dave’s 2013 record prediction: 11-5

New England may have the least familiar offense in the AFC east this coming season with the way their offseason has developed. Wide receiver Wes Welker defected in free agency to the Peyton Manning-led Denver Broncos. Former receivers Deion Branch, Brandon Lloyd, and Donte Stallworth were not asked to return to the team. Former running back Danny Woodhead left for San Diego. Star tight end Aaron Hernandez has been arrested for murder and was cut by the team. Other star tight end Rob Gronkowski has had medical issues since week eleven of the 2012 season, but is expected to return by the start of the NFL season.

Brady, Belichick & Co. have led an offense into the playoffs with lesser known players before. Before Wes Welker was a star in New England, he was a walk-on at Texas Tech, undrafted in the NFL, and waived by San Diego. Part of Welker’s former responsibilities included returning kicks and making kicks. Welker is now a highly-respected star receiver on a high-powered Denver offense after his tenure in New England.

In his prime, Deion Branch won a Super Bowl MVP award in 2004 as a New England Patriot and netted New England a first round pick for 2007 in a trade with Seattle. Branch never fulfilled his potential outside of New England, and actually got traded back to New England from Seattle for a fourth round pick. The Patriots offense should rank in the top seven in scoring regardless of who is catching the ball this season.

New England’s defense got involved in many a shootout this past season, ranking 29th in passing yards allowed with 271.4 per game. New England drafted two pass rushers and two defensive backs in the draft, likely hoping to address defensive needs well enough to propel them further into the playoffs.

New England will likely face stiffer competition in the division this season as Buffalo and Miami have undergone significant change on offense, though the Belichick-Brady formula has not changed, suggesting the Patriots will again take the division crown.

New York Jets

2012 record: 6-10, 3rd place AFC East

Notable offseason losses: CB Darrelle Revis, RB Shonn Greene, TE Dustin Keller, S LaRon Landry

Notable offseason acquisitions: RB Chris Ivory, TE Kellen Winslow

Notable draft picks: CB Dee Milliner, DL Sheldon Richardson, QB Geno Smith

Dave’s 2013 record prediction: 5-11

The Jets stumbled this past season with a struggling offense and an aging defense. The Jets pass defense stood strong ranking 2nd overall in fewest passing yards allowed per game, but were gashed by the run and allowed 23.4 points per game. Since their dominant 2010 season, the Jets offense has failed to put up quite as many points, but more importantly, the notoriously stingy Jets defense has been much more beatable in the past two seasons. The loss of star corner Darrelle Revis should only exacerbate this issue. Instead of relying on former first round picks Antonio Cromartie and Kyle Wilson to fill the role, the team drafted first round pick Dee Milliner out of Alabama early to shore up the secondary in a division with Mike Wallace, Stevie Johnson, and whoever Tom Brady feels like throwing to this season.

The Jets offense looked, at times, like the keystone cops. The forcing of Tim Tebow into roles he was clearly never meant for and the infamous Mark Sanchez butt-fumble underscore some of the issues the Jets faced on offense. The drafting of Geno Smith should push Sanchez to raise his competitiveness throughout camp, and the season. Smith, widely considered as the number one quarterback prospect in the NFL draft, may be the future of the offense in New York if Sanchez doesn’t put together an uncharacteristically impressive season in 2013.

With the departure of Shonn Greene, Jets running back Chris Ivory will likely assume the starting role. Ivory rushed for 700+ yards and five touchdowns over twelve games in his rookie season in New Orleans in 2010.

Ivory, while no doubt reliable, is not thought of as one of the NFL’s dominant running backs. Dustin Keller, former Jets tight end and arguably their most effective receiving option, left for division rival Miami. Former Tampa Bay Buccaneer Kellen Winslow was brought in and is expected to claim the starting tight end spot in camp. The Jets face an uphill battle in an improving AFC East. Miami and Buffalo are priming to climb into the 8-9 win column this season, and Rex Ryan has more questions than answers on offense this season.