Tag Archive | "NFL predictions"

2014-15 NFL Breakdown: AFC West

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Another year, another AFC West title for the Denver Broncos.  But, anything short of a Super Bowl Championship will note please the fans in Denver.

 

Denver Broncos (11-5)

 

The Broncos will look to spit the bitter taste of last year’s shellacking at the hands of the Seahawks in the Super Bowl.  Not much needs to be said of Peyton Manning at this stage in his career.  Manning is so in control of the game he is basically calling out the plays for the defense on the other team as if he is their Defensive Coordinator.  Manning’s prowess will hide the suspension for the first four games of Wes Welker, because Manning will find and make better any receiver in the slot.  Emmanuel Sanders is more of a game breaker than Eric Decker was and will be an added weapon at receiver for Manning.  Knowshon Moreno’s loss at running back could hurt this team if Monte Ball can’t carry the load as a full-time starter.  On defense, Denver should be sound.  Aqib Talib is a top-five corner in this league and when used in the Patriots system even covered tight ends.  T.J. Ward is a nice pick up at safety.  While DeMarcus Ware never got a big sack for the Cowboys since ending the Saints’ perfect season with one in 2009, he can have a quality season if used in pass rush situations opposite Von Miller.  Who knows how many years Manning has left; therefore, a deep playoff run that doesn’t end in a Super Bowl Championship will be nothing but a disappointment for this team.

 

San Diego Chargers (10-6)*

 

San Diego had a very nice season last year that went fairly unnoticed.  Phillip Rivers has always been a very good quarterback in this league who is tough as a two dollar steak as well.  While Rivers has never won a Super Bowl, he has won multiple playoff games in seasons, won road playoff games, and been a leader on a team that has played exceptionally in December on more than one occasion.  Mike McCoy, in his first season last year, led this team to the playoffs and gave the Broncos a run for their money in the playoff game they ultimately lost.  Ryan Matthews had a very nice season at running back and with his size (6’0”, 220lbs.) and more maturity at 26 years old appears ready to be very good for the next several years to come.  Along with Danny Woodhead, who at only 5’8” fills the void Darren Sproles did for many years as a rusher and receiver, along with Malcolm Floyd (6’5”, 225) and Keenan Allen coming off a very good rookie season (and let’s not forget old reliable Antonio Gates) Rivers has plenty of weapons.  Nick Hardwick at center is an anchor for the line and can finish Phillip Rivers’ sentences they are so in tune.  The secondary is the strength of this defense especially with Brandon Flowers being signed after being released from division rival Kansas City in the off-season, and safety Eric Weddle could be the best safety in the league outside Seattle.  San Diego could be a dark horse Super Bowl contender as one of those Wild Card teams that gets on a streak late in the year and makes a run through the playoffs.

 

Kansas City Chiefs (7-9)

 

Kansas City should take a step back this year.  I believe they surprised a lot of teams last year and as things got rolling for them, it became a magical season.  I have always though Alex Smith is a good player and once he finally got a fair shake in San Francisco he showed what he could do.  Jamaal Charles is not only a quality rusher and probably the fastest running back in the league (though Chris Johnson might have something to say about that), but can also do damage as a receiver.  Donny Avery is a solid receiver but isn’t a number one (which he is on this team), and they need last year’s top overall pick Eric Fisher to be more consistent at left tackle and be an anchor for this line.  The defense should still be good with this linebacker unit.  Derrick Johnson is a “do everything” middle linebacker, and Justin Houston and Tamba Hali are good pass rushers in the 3-4 scheme as outside linebackers.  The secondary will take a hit, however, now that Brandon Flowers was released (not sure why they did that either).  Everyone knows how exceptional a coach Andy Reid is and he will always have a very good game plan.  I just don’t see everything breaking for the Chiefs this year the way it did last year.

 

Oakland Raiders (5-11)

 

Looks like another year of disappointment in Oakland this year.  The bright side is that the Oakland Athletics will keep things entertaining in Oak Town for at least some of the fall here in 2014.  Rookie Derrick Carr gets the nod as starting quarterback, and hopefully he is not overwhelmed and can be adequate this year and not get discouraged.  Maurice Jones-Drew is a good professional player, and he will bring some discipline to this team that has had their problems in that department.  James Jones will look to add professionalism as well as a guy who has won a Super Bowl and should be a calming effect for the rookie.  This offensive line is shaky, and it can be dangerous putting a rookie behind a sloppy line.  Defensively, Oakland has also added professional players and winners like Justin Tuck, Carlos Rogers, and Tarell Brown.  Give this team credit for attempting to change the culture and bring in winning players.  Oakland has to be competitive and competent and show they are moving in the right direction to make this year a success.  Just don’t look for many wins.

 

* Denotes Playoff Team

2014-15 NFL Breakdown: NFC West

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Even with some degree of letdown, the Seattle Seahawks should repeat as NFC West Champs.  Returning to and winning the Super Bowl, however, is another matter.

 

Seattle Seahawks (10-6)

 

The Seahawks embark on a title defense for the first time in franchise history.  Though already a Super Bowl Champion, Russell Wilson only enters his third season which means he still hasn’t reached his full potential.  Regardless of Wilson’s size (5’11”), he is able to make all the throws and works well outside the pocket where he has clear lines of vision.  Wilson is also confident and commands respect in the huddle which any leader needs to do.  Marshawn Lynch is only 28 and is still a workhorse back, and there is no reason to expect that Lynch will not have a big year (that is, of course, if he doesn’t get hurt – always a possibility with his bruising style).  The loss of Golden Tate will hurt their receiving core, and there is no reason to believe Percy Harvin will stay healthy because he always has injury issues.  Doug Baldwin will have to play well.  Even with the questions at receiver, the offense should figure it out.  Defensively, this team is solid.  All the hype goes to Richard Sherman (and rightfully so), and he is the frontrunner to be Defensive Player of the Year, but they have playmakers all over.  Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor patrol the middle of the field at safety.  Cliff Avril, Michael Bennett, and Bruce Irwin are ferocious pass rushers.  Seattle plays in what is likely the best division in football and regardless of what they say, complacency will set in on some level.  These factors will make it hard for them to get home field advantage in the playoffs which will make it difficult for them to repeat.

 

San Francisco 49ers (9-7)*

 

San Francisco is a good team, and I anticipate them getting a Wild Card berth.  However, because of off- field issues and the fact that San Francisco has been at the top of the league for the past three seasons, I wouldn’t be surprised if San Francisco has a year that gets away from them (like last season’s Atlanta Falcons).  Colin Kaepernick is a playmaker with his legs and feet.  And with Michael Crabtree back for the full season, that is an effective pass tandem (and that doesn’t even mention Vernon Davis).  Frank Gore has been a good pro his entire career, but at 31 with the workload he has had in his career, the potential for breakdown is there.  It’s hard to think of a better offensive line in football, but with guard Mike Iupati coming back from an injury in last year’s NFC Championship game, there are questions there.  Defensively, this team will lean heavily on Patrick Willis with his counterpart Navarro Bowman missing the first six games of the season following his horrific injury (also in last year’s title game).  Aldon Smith has his personal issues and will miss nine games this season, and Ray McDonald has recently been arrested for domestic violence and now the penalty for that transgression is six games.  Eric Reid will need to step his game up with Donte Whittner gone, and the cornerbacks are nothing impressive.  San Francisco has done everything but win a championship since Jim Harbaugh took over.  This season may be now or never for this group.

 

Arizona Cardinals (9-7)

 

Arizona comes into this season after a quiet 10-6 record last season.  That season went under the radar because they missed the playoffs despite their impressive record.  Bruce Arians has always been a quality coach from his days as Pittsburgh’s offensive coordinator to filling in as an interim head coach during Chuck Pagano’s battle withcancer to his current head coaching responsibilities with Arizona.  Carson Palmer has always had the physical abilities and, regardless of what happened in Cincinnati and then his brief tenure with the dysfunction in Oakland, he seems to have found his home.  Larry Fitzgerald didn’t put up his normal numbers last season but the fact that Michael Floyd had better numbers at receiver shows it was because defenses were locked on Fitzgerald.  Andre Ellington averaged five and a half yards per carry last year, and he should get the nod over Rashard Mendenhall.  Tommy Kelly is 33 and only played five games last year, but if healthy, he will go along nicely with Darnell Docket at defensive tackle.  In the secondary, Patrick Peterson is right there with Richard Sherman as the best corner in the league.  Peterson has the size (6’1”) and the speed of a return man (which he also does) to close down on receivers.  With the underrated, speedy Antonio Cromartie, who at 6’2” is the ideal size, and Tyron Mathieu at nickel their secondary is very solid.  Arizona will be in contention for a playoff spot and, if San Francisco slips, they will make it.

 

St. Louis Rams (7-9)

 

St. Louis is better than a last place team, but the division they play in makes it difficult for them to get out of the basement.  Jeff Fisher is a very good coach and maximizes the talent on his team.  Sam Bradford is hurt and out for the season with a torn ACL, and career backup Shaun Hill gets the nod.  Jake Long is a good left tackle and Rodger Saffold at guard will keep Hill reasonably well protected this season.  Tavon Austin is an elusive playmaker at receiver and with Chris Givens and Kenny Britt on the receiving core as well, they have places for Hill to go with the ball.  The running game is suspect with a lot of average guys but no stars.  Defensively their line is very good with Chris Long and Alex Carrington.  In the secondary, Janoris Jenkins is a quality cornerback and Trumaine Johnson has good size (6’2”, 208 lbs.) to cover bigger receivers in the league.  And, Jeff Fisher is very good at coaching defensive backs.  St. Louis could surprise people and make a run at the division title.  Playing in this tough division along with a quality AFC West on their schedule, it is tough to see this team being north of the .500 mark this year.

 

* Denotes Playoff Team

2014-15 NFL Breakdown: AFC South

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Without much competition, the 2014-15 AFC South should belong to the Indianapolis Colts.

 

Indianapolis Colts (11-5)

 

With the Colts being a quality team and the other teams in the division being weaker, the AFC South is the Colts division to lose this season.  Andrew Luck looks to continue his rise since being the top overall pick in 2012.  The combination of bringing in his offensive coordinator from Stanford, Pep Hamilton, and Luck’s impressive skills have him on the brink of being an elite quarterback in this league.  Running back Donald Brown has averaged 4.3 yards per carry in his career, and his loss will hurt this offense.  Since Indianapolis traded a first round pick for Trent Richardson, they will need him to fill that void in the running game.  T.Y. Hilton has been very good since he came into the league with Luck; however, Indianapolis is missing a quality number two receiver.  D’Qwell Jackson is a very nice addition at middle linebacker from Cleveland.  Jackson is a smaller sized linebacker at six feet tall so he will need the defensive line to eat up blockers in Indianapolis’ 3-4 defense.  Vontae Davis was a steal in a trade from Miami, and he is their best defensive back.  Coming into the season, the Colts are a team to watch out for.  If Luck and the rest of this team are ready to take the next step, a title just might be in the cards for them.

 

Houston Texans (7-9)

 

The Texans had a season that got away from them last year, nothing more.  This team still has talent and should get back on track.  Ryan Fitzpatrick takes over at quarterback for Matt Schaub and, in my opinion, that is a downgrade.  Many people overreacted to Schaub last year.   As just stated, the team had a bad year that got away from them and the same applies to Schaub.  Why they went to Ryan Fitzpatrick is beyond me?  Arian Foster will look to have a bounce back season this year as he returns from injury and, at his size (6’1”, 227 lbs.), he will return to being a workhorse back if healthy.  Andre Johnson has always been a solid receiver and, even at his age (33), the only question with him should be if Fitzpatrick plays well.  Defensively, this team should be very good.  Top pick Jadeveon Clowney should be spectacular this year, and a healthy Brian Cushing should make their pass rush devastating.  J.J. Watt and Jared Crick will hold down the defensive line and allow for Clowney and Cushing to reign terror off the edges.  Jonathan Joseph is an above average cornerback and with Kareem Jackson on the other side, this defense is solid at all three levels.  If Ryan Fitzpatrick is the starting quarterback, I would expect this team to be back in playoff contention.  They will be better and right around the .500 mark but not enough for the postseason this year.

 

 

Tennessee Titans (6-10)

 

I am not too sure where this team is heading.  Jake Locker has struggled to stay on the field, and I wouldn’t be surprised if rookie Zach Mettenberger takes the job from Locker at some point this season.  Shonn Greene is a solid running back, and Dexter McCluster is good at receiving out of the backfield.  But, Chris Johnson will be missed.  Justin Hunter needs to become the playmaker at receiver that his size would dictate (6’4”).  Michael Oher is going to help the offensive line a lot.  Bernard Pollard and Michael Griffin are quality safeties and the highlight of this team’s defense.  But, the loss of Alterraun Verner will hurt this secondary.  Jurrell Casey was an All Pro last season at nose tackle, but the Titans need pass rushing off the edge from guys like Derrick Morgan and Karl Krug.  There is little to see with this roster that would indicate they will make a run at the playoffs.

 

Jacksonville Jaguars (4-12)

 

The Jaguars seem like they will be in dysfunction as long as they are in the football Siberia of Jacksonville.  Chad Henne is expected to be the starter at the beginning of the season, but Blake Bortles has impressed throughout training camp and, if this team is as bad as it appears, he should take over as starting QB sooner than later.  I have doubts that Justin Blackmon is ever going to get his act together and be the receiver he should be.  The loss of Maurice Jones-Drew is really going to hamper this running game that doesn’t have much if anything at that position.  Ziggy Hood is a guy who has played for a winning culture in Pittsburgh, and he should instantly be a leader of the defense at the defensive end position.  Geno Hayes and Paul Posluszny are good linebackers who could start for better teams in the league, and they are going to need to be at their best for this defense to compete.  The secondary is weak on this team.  Their best corner is Alan Ball who has been a career journeyman since being picked in the seventh round by the Cowboys in 2007.  The best the Jaguars can hope for this season is that they have laid the groundwork for a solid future and can use this season to gain experience, because they won’t be gaining much else.

2014-15 NFL Breakdown: NFC South

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A tough division and difficult schedules for the entire division spells trouble for all the teams in the NFC South.  Don’t expect any of these teams to go deep into the playoffs.

 

New Orleans Saints (10-6)

 

The Saints once again should be in the playoffs and in contention for a Super Bowl berth.  Drew Brees runs Sean Payton’s offense to a T, and Payton is always willing to push the envelope and take gambles that usually pay off.  Jimmy Graham is a matchup nightmare whether at tight end or split out wide.  Speed merchant Brandin Cooks (4.33 second 40 yard dash) is a new toy for Brees to an already loaded receiving core with big physical receivers Robert Meachem (6’2”, 215 lbs.) and Marques Colston (6’4” 225) along with second-year game-breaker Kenny Stills.  Mark Ingram needs to be healthy and consistent, especially now that Darren Sproles is in Philadelphia.  Jahri Evans is still an elite guard in the league and is the anchor for the offensive line.  The defense is nothing spectacular but does what it has to, since the offense can pick up the slack for the defense.  In today’s pass happy league, the Saints strength is their secondary and that should suit them well this season.  Keenan Lewis (6’1” 208) has the size needed to be the number one cornerback he is, and look for new addition Champ Bailey to move to safety to cover up for his diminished athleticism at his age (36).  Jairus Byrd is a nice addition at safety as well, and second year man Kenny Vaccaro is a big hitter at safety.  The Saints play the North divisions of both the NFC and AFC, both pretty deep divisions, along with the 49ers this season.  This schedule should prevent New Orleans from stacking up enough wins to get home field advantage deep in the playoffs, which will make the road to a title difficult for this team outside of their comfort zone at the Superdome.

 

Atlanta Falcons (8-8)

 

Expect a bounce bag season from Atlanta this year.  Sometimes, a season can get away from any team, and that is what happened last year.  Mike Smith is a quality coach who doesn’t tolerate mistakes of any kind.  Matt Ryan has been a solid quarterback his entire career and, with Julio Jones and Roddy White, they will have a quality air attack this season.  Jacquizz Rodgers is a small guy (5’6”) at running back who, like a Darren Sproles, can be difficult for defenses to find and get hits on.  Steven Jackson at 31 leaves more questions than answers.  First-round draft choice Jake Matthews and veteran Sam Baker have to be solid at tackles for this offensive line to succeed.  Last season’s top pick, Desmond Trufant, had a solid rookie season and needs to make the usual progress corners make in their second season.  Sean Weatherspoon gets the job done at linebacker, and Tyson Jackson coming over from Kansas City should provide quality play to the defensive line unit.  All NFC South teams face a tough schedule this year so it will be difficult for this team to make the playoffs.  But, expect this team to be back on track for contention this season.

 

Carolina Panthers (8-8)

 

The Panthers should come back down to earth this season.  The retirement of Jordan Gross at left tackle has been much publicized and has caused some movement to different positions for the remaining lineman.  Byron Bell will move from right tackle to left tackle, and Nate Chandler will now fill the void at right tackle.  Anytime there are questions with a quarterback’s blind side, it could be a problem.  But, if the tackles can get it together with Ryan Kahil at center, the line shouldn’t be as much a problem as others would have you believe.  Cam Newton has all the abilities to be great, but when the team is not winning, he has shown a tendency to be disengaged.  This team likely will not be winning games like they did last year, so that will need to be evaluated throughout the year.  First round pick Kelvin Benjamin is a big (6’5” 240 lbs.) and will look to fill the void from the departures of both Steve Smith and Brandon LaFell.  DeAngelo Williams is 31, so look for the younger Jonathan Stewart to get the bulk of the carries at the running back position (Newton will get yards rushing as well).  Defensively, Carolina is strong on all three levels.  Greg Hardy and Charles Johnson are double-digit sack guys at defensive end, and Star Lotulelei draws blockers from the two ends at tackle spot.  Luke Kuechly and Thomas Davis are quality linebackers as well.  Roman Harper and Thomas DeCoud are not only nice additions at safety, but both come from NFC South rivals (Saints/Falcons respectively).  Carolina plays a tough schedule like everyone else in this division, but also plays first place teams Seattle and Philadelphia that no one else in the division plays.  The schedule and the losses on offense means no playoffs for Carolina this year.

 

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (6-10)

 

Even with Greg Schiano no longer coaching this team, don’t expect much improvement this year.  If you remember a few seasons ago, a bad season was blamed on then coach Raheem Morris and letting him go didn’t solve the problem.  That being said, Lovie Smith is a fine coach and should eliminate whatever problems there have been with coaches this team has had of late.  Career backup Josh McCown gets his shot as a full time starter.  If he is indeed worthy of being a starter in the NFL, he has no excuses with weapons like running back Doug Martin and receivers Vincent Jackson and rookie Mike Evans (out of Texas A&M).  Newly acquired Logan Mankins will shore up the offensive line.  Alterraun Verner is a nice addition at cornerback and along with rising star Mark Barron at safety, this secondary is the strength of the defense.  Tough schedule and playing in a reasonably tough division will make it highly unlikely Tampa Bay makes any noise this season.  With Lovie Smith at head coach, at least the team will be professional and competitive.

 

2014-15 NFL Breakdown: AFC North

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Will this be the Bengals year to go deep into the playoffs?  Will the Ravens rebound after a down season following their victory in  Super Bowl XLVII?  Will Johnny Manziel resurrect the Browns?  Stay tuned for 2014-15 excitement in the AFC North!

 

Cincinnati Bengals (10-6)

 

The Bengals postseason struggles are well documented, but their regular season capabilities are not in question.  Andy Dalton is now paid like a big money quarterback and should continue his improvement in the league.  Despite the wealth of quality wide receivers in the league, A.J. Green is without a doubt the second best behind Calvin Johnson (and may take that throne from him at some point).  Giovani Bernard will have to build on his respectable rookie season at running back, and Andrew Whitworth and Andre Smith make the offensive line formidable.  The defense on this team is very solid.  The defensive line at both the end positions (Carlos Dunlap/Wallace Gilberry) and tackle (Geno Atkins/Domata Peko) make this unit arguably the best in football.  Rey Maualuga is solid at middle linebacker, and the secondary is deep and talented.  Leon Hall is a shutdown corner, and Dre Kirkpatrick is tall (6’2”) with long arms that make him the ideal size for a corner in the league.  First round pick Darqueze Dennard adds to this unit’s depth, and while at this stage of his career he is more of a ball hawk, Terrance Newman can play pick six a lot in nickel situations.  Reggie Nelson and Taylor Mays are big hitters at safety as well.  Playoff performance remains to be seen with this team, the regular season should not be a problem

 

Baltimore Ravens (9-7)*

 

The Ravens will look to bounce back following a disappointing title defense last season.  The offense begins and ends with Joe Flacco and Ray Rice.  Torrey Smith is a quality receiver but doesn’t put the fear of God into defenses.  Steve Smith, Sr. enters after his long tenure in Carolina and is a fierce competitor.  His age (35), however, brings question marks.  Ray Rice will have to put his offseason domestic issues behind him and has to be consistent all season.  Good drafting and defense has been the hallmark of this team for many years and that continues into this season.  C.J. Mosley out of Alabama will bring some needed youth to this defense.  Haloti Ngata is premiere at the nose tackle position.  Jimmy Smith continues to improve at cornerback and has premiere size (6’2” 210) to match up with the likes of an A.J. Green.  Baltimore is well coached, has enough talent and experience, and seems to always find ways to win games.  Expect a bounce back season from the Ravens this year.

 

Pittsburgh Steelers (8-8)

 

It’s hard to think of a better run organization than the Steelers.  The quality of this organization has disguised the fact that Pittsburgh has been in a rebuilding phase for the past two seasons.  Ben Roethlisberger is still an upper-tier quarterback who is tough as nails and can make plays out of nothing.  LeGarrette Blount is a nice pick up at running back and along with Le’Veon Bell gives the Steelers a stable of physical running backs on offense.  Pittsburgh has some age on defense especially in their secondary.  Ike Taylor (34) is a big corner who can match up with other big receivers in the league (and the likes of A.J. Green in the division).  Troy Polamalu (33) has been injury prone of late and his best years are likely behind him.  Along with fellow safety Will Allen (32), the secondary has question marks.  Pittsburgh is well coached with Mike Tomlin and Defensive Coordinator Dick LeBeau.

 

Cleveland Browns (5-11)

 

With all the hype surrounding top draft choice Johnny Manziel, the problems with this team have been overlooked.  Manziel will not even start over Brian Hoyer (who is by no means a world beater), and last season’s breakout star receiver Josh Gordon is facing a season-long suspension that is still in appeal.  Miles Austin has not demonstrated the ability to stay on the field during his past couple of seasons in Dallas.  Joe Thomas is a top five left tackle and may be the best in the league.  Defensively the secondary should be strong this season.  Joe Haden is an elite player, and first round pick at cornerback Justin Gilbert along with the addition of Donte Whitner at safety will shore up the back end of this defense.  Despite having two of the best at their positions on both sides of the ball (Thomas/Haden), Cleveland has given no indication the last few seasons that they are prepared to start moving into contention.  The more Cleveland struggles the more the calls for Manziel will come which can cause dissention within team ranks.

 

 

*Denotes Wild Card Team. 

2014-15 NFL Breakdown: NFC North

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Another season is about to commence in the NFL, and to no one’s surprise, the Packers should win the NFC North.

 

Green Bay Packers (12-4)

 

I’m expecting big things from the Packers this season.  Aaron Rodgers is a game-changing playmaker who will have this team in serious contention.  Eddie Lacy will look to improve off his outstanding rookie season that saw him garner Offensive Rookie of the Year honors along with being named to the All-Pro Second Team.  Lacy is physical, has good size and speed, and was a steal in the second round of last year’s draft.  Jordy Nelson has become Rodgers go-to guy at receiver, and Randall Cobb has game-breaking potential every time he touches the ball.  Bryan Bulaga returns from an ACL injury that cost him all of last season, but that injury was suffered early in training camp so it will have been 13 months since the injury by the time the season starts.  So, that means he should be as close to full strength as you can be following that injury.  The defense has some questions marks now that B.J. Raji will reportedly be out for the full season.  Clay Matthews can be spectacular but appears to rely on his talent a bit too much at times and does not seem to pay full attention to the details of the game.  Ha Ha Clinton-Dix should be a very nice piece for them at safety.  Clinton-Dix has good size and was well coached under Nick Saban at Alabama.  You can’t be sure what you’ll get from Julius Peppers at the age of 34, but Peppers has been a spectacular pro for his entire career, and in situational pass rushing situations, should be very good for the Packers.  I believe this team will be in serious title contention and that will help with Matthews focus.  This team should be hungry since it is now going on four years since their last Super Bowl Championship.  Enough of the key players from that team are still here for this team to have everyone playing at a championship level.

 

Chicago Bears (10-6)*

 

It has become a make or break season for the Chicago Bears.  The only question I have with Jay Cutler is whether or not he can stay healthy.  Yes, he does have his moments when he turns the ball over and makes bad decisions.  But, you simply can’t teach that cannon for an arm he has, and Cutler makes plays.  Brandon Marshall, Alshon Jeffery, and Josh Morgan are all big and physical receivers who will be a tough cover for most defenses in this league.  Santonio Holmes is an experienced player who can fit a niche as a slot receiver for this team as well, and Matt Forte makes a ton of plays both in the receiving and running game.  The offensive line needs to come together and keep Jay Cutler upright.  Last season’s first round pick Kyle Long has to become an anchor for this unit that has not afforded Jay Cutler the protection he needs.  The defense does have some question marks and that is because of the age of their prime players.  Charles Tillman (33), Tim Jennings (30), and new addition Jared Allen (32) are proven professionals who are likely to have a solid season, but at that age, there are no guarantees.  First round pick Kyle Fuller alongside Charles Tillman make a good cornerback duo for this team.  Chicago has not lived up to their talent since acquiring Jay Cutler and Brandon Marshall.  Now is the time.

 

Detroit Lions (7-9)

 

The Lions have potential to be a very good team if they can ever get their act together.  Training camp has given indication that they are not on that track just yet.  Jim Caldwell should get this offense to be efficient and bring out the full potential of Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson.  A case could be made that Calvin Johnson is the best player in the league because of how dominant he is.  Reggie Bush still has life left in his legs and while he has not been as spectacular as expected out of USC, he has carved out a nice career and makes plays in the running and receiving game.  The defense, on the other hand, has its question marks.  Ndamukong Suh is outstanding but outside of him there just isn’t much that takes your breath away with this team.  Nick Fairly has been demoted to practice squad for showing up out of shape to camp (showing that the goof factor is still prevalent with this team), and Rasheen Mathis has been a solid professional but is up there in age.  If the Lions get their act together, they can turn heads this season.  Just don’t expect it.

 

Minnesota Vikings (5-11)

 

The Vikings begin and end with Adrian Peterson.  While Peterson is certainly a guy to hitch a wagon to, every other team in the league knows it.  The Vikings will have a choice at quarterback between Matt Cassel and Teddy Bridgewater.  I don’t think Cassel has gotten a fair shake since leaving New England, but all accounts are Bridgewater is competent and, if a rookie quarterback is not overwhelmed, there is no reason not to start him on a team that isn’t going anywhere.  Kyle Rudolph is an above average tight end, Cordarrelle Patterson has to play better than he did in his rookie season, and Greg Jennings numbers were respectable for his contract.  Yet, their collective efforts were not good enough at the receiver positions.  Sharrif Floyd did not have a solid rookie year at defensive tackle and has to improve in his second season.  First round pick Anthony Barr at outside linebacker is highly regarded and should be in the running for Defensive Rookie of the Year.  Xavier Rhodes at cornerback was another first round pick from last season who did not live up to the promise; however, Rhodes has the size needed for a corner in today’s NFL (6’1”, 210 lbs.) and corners tend to struggle in their first seasons.  This year is make or break for him.  Adrian Peterson could have another MVP season and help this team surprise everyone like in 2012.  But, the odds against that happening are long.  The Vikings should be bottom dwellers in the NFC North this year.

 

*Denotes Wild Card Team

2014-15 NFL Breakdown: AFC East

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With just a week to go until the beginning of another season in the National Football League, here’s how the AFC East shapes up.

 

New England Patriots (11-5)

 

Should be the same old song and dance with the Patriots this season.  Tom Brady is still the Quarterback and with him under center, it’s hard to envision this team not winning 10 games by accident.  Even if Brady goes down, New England has Ryan Mallet chomping at the bit to play with second-round draftee Jimmy Garoppolo waiting in the wings.  This offensive line has never gotten the publicity it deserves for routinely keeping a clean pocket, permitting Brady to pick apart defenses year after year.  Danny Amendola should improve in his second year in this offense, and Brandon LaFell, while nothing spectacular, would be a number two wide receiver on almost every team in this league.  And, Brady makes any receiver better.  There should be little question that Darrell Revis returns to form as a lock down corner.  Despite the loss of Aqib Talib (who played very well last season), Revis at his best is an upgrade.  Vince Wilfork is getting up in age and has past injury issues that will make him a question mark.  But, even at 80 percent, Wilfork gets the job done at nose tackle.  The linebackers are solid with Jerod Mayo leading the group, and expect a breakout season from Dante Hightower.  New England doesn’t have a particularly difficult schedule, and no other team in this division is ready to challenge this season.  So, the Pats run will likely continue.

 

New York Jets (9-7)

 

The Jets can put themselves in playoff contention if the offense can elevate itself to respectability this year.  To do that, they will need their offseason additions to step up and Geno Smith simply to play at the level of a professional quarterback.  At the time he was released from the Titans, I had written an article explaining why the Jets should sign Chris Johnson.  Now that they have, the move should pay dividends.  Johnson will be just 28 when the season starts.  And, with Chris Ivory to get the hard yards, Johnson should be freed to use his speed and make big plays.  Offensive Coordinator Marty Mornhinweg is one of the best screen callers in the league and can use Johnson to get  Geno Smith some easy completions and yardage.  Eric Decker, who played with Peyton Manning last season, is considered more of a possession receiver and not a game breaker who will stretch the defense.  As Geno Smith continues to develop, the addition of a possession receiver like Decker should prove advantageous for the the young QB.  While many people believe that Michael Vick should get the nod at quarterback, I would hold Vick back and bring him in only if Smith struggles.  The Jets can’t give up on Geno yet, and they know they have a capable backup if Geno can’t get it rolling.  The Jets defense should be very good this year.  Muhammad Wilkerson, Sheldon Richardson, Quinton Couples, David Harris, and the addition of Jason Babin make the front seven one of, if not the best in football.  Antonio Cromartie doesn’t get the credit he deserves as one of the best cornerbacks in the league, and his loss means second year man Dee Milliner must step his game up.  Nonetheless, the secondary should be alright.  If everything goes right, the Jets will be on the postseason ‘bubble’ come year’s end.

 

Miami Dolphins (8-8)

 

The Dolphins will look to put the disaster of last year and the Richie Incognito/Jonathan Martin situation behind them in 2014.  Miami used a first round pick on Ja’Wuan James to shore up the holes that those two mistakes left on the offensive line.  Ryan Tannehill has made progress in his first two seasons, and the progress he makes this year will determine how far the Dolphins can go.  Mike Wallace and Brian Hartline are good wide receivers.  And, with the addition of Knowshon Moreno complementing second-year running back Mike Gillislee, Miami’s offense should be sound (assuming the line can hold up).  The Dolphin’s defense, however, is nothing to write home about.  Cameron Wake is really their only playmaker and, although he hasn’t played that many years in the league, he is 32 and his best years are likely behind him.  Cortland Finnegan is a tough cornerback who can lock guys down at times.  To compete, they will need him at his best all season.  The Dolphins need the rest of their defense, filled with players unknown to most of us, to do enough to support their offense if they have playoff plans this season.

 

Buffalo Bills (6-10)

 

New year, same result for the Bills this millennium, adding another year to their playoff drought since their last appearance in 1999.  Leaving aside concerns about new ownership and a potential team relocation, Buffalo should have an exciting offense this year.  E.J. Manuel enters his second season and, if he remains healthy, should show marked improvement from his rookie campaign.  While Jadeveon Clowney was without question the best talent in the draft, I consider Sammy Watkins a close second.  With an innate knack for game-breaking plays, Watkins is going to make plays all over the field, both on offense and in the return game.  C.J. Spiller has been very good and explosive when he is on the field.  He needs, however, to stay healthy on a consistent basis for this team.  The defensive could be one of the better units in the league this year.  Keith Rivers and Brandon Spikes have always been solid professional players and are nice additions to this defense at linebacker.  For the defensive line to excel, Buffalo will need Marcell Dareus, former third overall pick in the draft, to start playing like a game changer, Jerry Hughes (fresh off a quiet 10 sack season last year) to become the next Dwight Freeney, and Mario Williams to live up to his enormous contract.  Stephon Gilmore is an average corner from whom the Bills will ask a lot this season.  Buffalo’s early schedule, while by no means easy, is far from daunting.  If the Bills can win some of their early games and get rolling, something special could happen this year.  But, if they get off to a slow or average start, it will almost certainly be another long, cold winter for the good people of Buffalo.

 

2014-15 NFL Breakdown: NFC East

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The 2014-15 NFL season is almost upon us.  Below are my thoughts and predictions on how the NFC East will shake out.

 

Philadelphia Eagles (10-6)

 

The Eagles are the team with the fewest question marks coming into this season.  This team should only improve in the second season under Head Coach Chip Kelly and his ‘fast break’ offense.  The addition of Darren Sproles will fit this offense to a T.  Though 31 years old and only 5’6” tall, Sproles has avoided big hits in his career because of his speed and his small size making it difficult to get direct hits on him.  There is nothing special about the Eagles’ defense, but Malcolm Jenkins at safety is a nice addition and will help.  Though the fast-paced offense will have this defense on the field a lot, they are capable of making enough plays for the Eagles to win the division, even with the tough schedule as each team in the division squares off against opponents in the formidable NFC West.

 

Washington Redskins (8-8)

 

All the talk about the Redskins this offseason has dealt with the team name controversy.  That is a topic for another day.  Jay Gruden will take his shot at head coaching, and over the last few years as Bengals Offensive Coordinator, he has brought quarterback Andy Dalton along and will look to do so with Robert Griffin III.  RG3 should be healthier with his knee this year and, in the new offense, shouldn’t take the hits to which the Shannahan’s exposed him.  Jason Hatcher is a nice pick up from the Cowboys.  Hatcher is a big time player at Defensive Tackle both stopping the run and rushing the passer and should be a borderline All-Pro this year.  Brian Orakpo and Ryan Kerrigan are both back and will cause problems for any offense they play, rushing off the edge.  DeAngelo Hall still gets the job done at corner.  This team will be much better than last season.  The more Washington wins, the less an issue the team name will play this year.  But, as stated earlier, playing the loaded NFC West, there just aren’t enough wins for this team to reach the playoffs.

 

New York Giants (6-10)

 

Prior to the preseason, I thought the Giants were going to have a bounce-back season and possibly make a Super Bowl run.  However, as the preseason has unfolded, it has become apparent to me that that won’t be the case.  New Offensive Coordinator Ben McAdoo has been brought in to turn this offense into a West Coast Offense as a means of helping Eli Manning cut down on his turnovers.  During the preseason, Manning has not looked good in this new offense.  With running back David Wilson lost to retirement and a shaky offensive line, Eli will need to be at his best all year.  Rashad Jennings and rookie Andre Williams should somewhat offset the loss of Wilson a bit in the running game, but he will be missed.  Dominic Rodgers-Cromartie and Robert Ayers are nice additions on the defensive end, and this defense should be fine all year.  If Eli can get it going throughout the year and this team can hang in there for the first 12 games, I wouldn’t count them out from making a title run.  Eli Manning has a history as a clutch performer and history has demonstrated that you can never count out the Giants.  But, based on the preseason, I just don’t see this team making the playoffs this season.

 

Dallas Cowboys (4-12)

 

There will be some good news for the Cowboys this season.  They won’t finish 8-8 for a fourth straight year, Jason Garrett likely will not finish the season as Head Coach, and they should get a good draft choice.  Despite the injuries, I think the defense will improve (it can’t get much worse than last season).  But, I believe that they will still get torched routinely.  The offensive line has the potential to be the best in football, but their playmakers will likely continue to make the usual mistakes.  If The Cowboys were going to correct the disastrous mistakes they always make, they would have done so three years ago, and they can’t do it.  Tony Romo and Dez Bryant will put up big numbers, but still make critical mistakes at the most inopportune moments.  The NFC West will feast on the hapless Cowboys, and while there are winnable games when they play the AFC South, the Cowboys will lose their share of those winnable games as has become their habit.  In the two scheduled games that differ from those of their NFC East rivals, Dallas plays the Saints whose offense will destroy them like last season and the Bears who they can’t beat.  The Cowboys have a tough early schedule, and their season could get away from them fast – making it very ugly in Dallas.  If they get off to a bad start, Garrett will likely get the same treatment as Wade Phillips who got the ax after a 1-7 start in 2010.  Cowboy’s fans need to hope this season is rock bottom, and they can reorganize for the future after this year.

 

The Year 2012: When What is Concealed will be Revealed!

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As the year 2011 comes to a close, the world teeters on the precipice of major changes.  2011 witnessed the virtual collapse of the European Union and its currency, the Arab Spring, America’s debt crisis and ongoing economic woes, and a host of meteorological, climatic, and geological calamities – even in areas of the world not prone to such events.


As 2012 beckons, many perceive that the planet and mankind are faced with an imminent transformational moment – signaling either the end of this world, creation of a new plane of existence, or both.  Whether one chooses to reference the Holy Bible, the Mayan calendar, or any of a host of other ancient or modern traditions and writings, 2012 has the potential to provide us with the answers to mysteries, including:


Will Jesus return soon?


Are we alone in the universe?


Will solar activity devastate our technological infrastructure for years to come?


Is time travel possible?


Who will be the 45th President of the United States?


Will the Phillies win another World Series?


Is Certs a candy mint or a breath mint?


So, hold onto your hats and prepare for some turbulence as I attempt to predict some of the secrets that will be revealed during 2012.


Politics


Following a surprisingly strong finish in the Iowa Caucuses and a blowout victory in the New Hampshire Primary, Mitt Romney establishes himself as the presumptive nominee en route to capturing the Republican nomination for President of the United States.  At his party’s convention in Tampa, Florida, Romney tabs New Jersey Governor Chris Christie as his running mate, and they go on to defeat the Barack Obama – Hillary Clinton ticket in a close General Election.


Finance


European austerity measures fail to bolster the plummeting euro leading to deep divisions and ultimate dissolution of the European Union.  Ripple effect of European crisis, combined with lower U.S. company earnings reports and Middle Eastern crude oil supply disruptions, causes steep declines in American stocks with the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA) falling below 7,500 in the late spring.  The U.S. double-dips into recession and unemployment again climbs over 9%.


International Affairs


The election of Vladimir Putin to again serve as Russian President is marred by claims of vote fraud and the cause of significant civil unrest; causing the newly-elected President to deploy the army to quell public demonstrations and riots.  In the Middle East, Iran continues to flex its muscles, threatening the use of nuclear weapons against Israel and seizure of control over shipping lanes for exportation of crude oil.  In Egypt, Islamic fundamentalists gain control, impose Sharia Law, and repudiate agreements with Israel and the United States.  The Arab Spring continues as the Syrian regime is toppled in late summer.


Entertainment


DreamWorks Pictures’ War Horse wins Best Picture honors at the 84th Academy Awards, along with an Oscar for Director Steven Spielberg.  The ridiculous trend toward “reality television” continues as cable networks scour the country  for oddballs, unemployed celebrities, and people who have made and leaked sex tapes on the Internet to star.  In related news, following a whirlwind courtship, Kim Kardashian marries former Major League Baseball star and admitted steroid user Jose Canseco, earning twice the $17 million she raked in for marrying Kris Humphries.  Admitting that the Ashton Kutcher experiment failed miserably, CBS cancels Two and a Half Men following dramatic ratings declines.  Charlie Sheen continues “winning.”


Sports


In a Super Bowl XLVI shootout, the New England Patriots best the Green Bay Packers 36-31.  March Madness finds Jim Boeheim again a winner.  Capping a season of turmoil at the Syracuse University campus, the Orange defeat the Missouri Tigers 72-61 to win the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament.  In the NBA, the strike-shortened season may have been the charm as the Miami Heat sweep the defending-champion Dallas Mavericks in the NBA Finals.  In the NHL, Beantown celebrates as the Boston Bruins take home the Stanley Cup by winning the deciding seventh game in their series with the Detroit Redwings.  And in Major League Baseball, the Philadelphia Phillies top the Anaheim Angels to win the 2012 World Series in six games.


Millennial and Otherworldly Events


Jesus returns on Pentecost Sunday, May 27, to commence his millennial reign.  On December 21, visitors from the planet Nibiru return to commemorate the calendar they taught to the Mayans.


Those are my predictions, and, I might add, not one of them is the least bit farfetched (except perhaps for the Kardashian-Canseco nuptials).  In fact, I think it’s highly likely that they’ll all occur exactly as outlined.  Think not!  Then, let me know.  At year’s end, if I’m still around, we’ll score the results.  Happy New Year, or not.


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