Tuesday, May 27, 2014

NFL Preseason Outlook


With the 2014 NFL Draft over, most teams are pretty much set heading into the fall. That
means it is time to realistically make predictions as far as divisional winners and fantasy
football standouts in the NFL. The Seattle Seahawks return plenty of talent from their
Super Bowl winning team, but no team has repeated since 2005. Here’s a short preview
of each division.

AFC East

New England has dominated this division for the last few years, and nothing should
change in 2014. The other teams have some young talent, but they aren’t ready to truly
compete just yet. Tom Brady struggled in fantasy football a year ago, but a better running
game and defense should make up for any holes in his play.

AFC North

The Cincinnati Bengals might disappoint once they get to the playoffs, but at least
they get there. Andy Dalton is probably going to get one last shot to be a franchise
quarterback, but they could make a change if they can’t win a playoff game. Watch for
Pittsburgh to possibly steal this division or at least get a wild card spot.

AFC South

Indianapolis ran away with this division in 2013, and they should once again cruise to
the title. Houston is going to be a lot better now that they are healthy, but they still do not
have a quarterback like Andrew Luck to build around. Jacksonville and Tennessee are
still at least a year away.

AFC West

Can anyone challenge the Denver Broncos? Kansas City sort of did in 2013, but they
are due for a slight regression. San Diego is actually the team most likely to pull off a
shocker, but a healthy Peyton Manning makes this division a no-contest.

NFC East

The most talked about division in football has no dominant team, so the race is wide
open. Most are picking Philadelphia to win the division again, but Dallas did enough in
the offseason to address their offensive line and defense issues at least a bit. Tony Romo
will take care of the offense with his new contract ironed out.

NFC North

Green Bay looks dominant on paper, and a healthy Aaron Rodgers-Eddie Lacy
combination on paper sounds deadly. Detroit and Chicago will challenge, but the Packers
have their eyes set on a title.

NFC South

Carolina’s lack of receivers could cost them this division. New Orleans went out and
added more weapons for Drew Brees, and their defense is underrated. Take the dynamic
bunch to prevail thanks to an efficient offense.

NFC West

The Super Bowl hangover can be tough, but Seattle seems hungry for more. San
Francisco will make the playoffs regardless, but they will settle for the wild card spot.
The Seahawks won’t slip into mediocrity like the Baltimore Ravens a year ago.

credit: Sam Larson

Sunday, February 2, 2014

The Broncos Lose to the Seahawks

After pegging the best season in terms of offense, in NFL history, the Denver Broncos choke in a historic rout. Although Vegas gurus were obviously predicting a very close game, which can be determined from the spread of just 2.5, the Seattle Seahawks nearly covered the 2.5 point spread in the first series of the game, when an errant snap gave Seattle an easy safety and the ball back for the next possession.


After a series of Denver gaffes, the Seahawks front four were able to create an enormous amount of pressure on Peyton Manning, rushing all of his throws. As a result, Peyton's throws were picked off multiple times, resulting in a pick six and many stifled drives. The Broncos were held completely scoreless in the first half. During a few Denver drives, the Broncos had a chance to put points up on the board via field goals, but given the huge disparity in score, Denver chose to go for the touchdowns. This was a mistake because on both drives Peyton wasn't able to convert on short field touchdown opportunities. One of these resulted in an interception return for a touchdown, and the other resulted in a traditional Seattle interception.


Russell Wilson was nearly impossible to contain for the Denver defense. He broke contain on numerous occasions to keep drives alive. He found sideline receivers like Baldwin, Percy Harvin, and Golden Tate outside of the pocket numerous times. When Russell Wilson wasn't carving up the Broncos Defense, "Beast Mode" Marshawn Lynch was terrorizing the Denver defensive line. The victory was so lopsided that by the 4th quarter Seattle decided to rest Lynch, and even Wilson. Former Minnesota Vikings quarterback Tarvaris Jackson finished the game to allow the standouts to rest.

By the end of the game, Cornerback Richard Sherman, was on crutches. Kam Chancellor was also injured. Therefore this was far from a "clean" win for Seattle. Yet, this is an incredibly important victory for the city of Seattle. There has been no major sports victory for the city since the 1979-1980 season when the now defunct Seattle Supersonics last won a championship. You can rest assured. The people of seattle are going to be celebrating this Super Bowl win for a long long time to come. I, for one, can only congratulate the young team for knocking off the best offense historically in the history of the game!


Monday, June 24, 2013

Top Three Super Bowl Contenders In Each Conference


Now that most of the personnel changes have been made prior to the start of the 2013 season, it is safe to start making some predictions. Once again, the NFL looks as though it will have plenty of balance in both the NFC and AFC. Here are the top 3 teams in each conference heading into the season.


NFC


San Francisco 49ers


The 49ers came so close to winning the Super Bowl last year, but the Ravens prevailed in the end. As bad as that loss was, the good news is San Francisco would be even better this season. With Colin Kaepernick blasting on to the daily fantasy sports scene last season and now settled into the quarterback role and the defense even better, this is perhaps the most dangerous team in the NFL.


Atlanta Falcons


It is true that the Falcons have had very little playoff success in the past, but they are once again set up for a possible run. Their offensive firepower, led by Matt Ryan, could be good enough to get them all the way to the Super Bowl.


Green Bay Packers


Whenever a team has Aaron Rodgers calling the shots, they have a chance to have success. They have made some improvements to their defense, but it still needs to get more consistent if they want to add another Super Bowl.


AFC


Denver Broncos


Last season, the Denver Broncos looked like they could go all the way and win the Super Bowl. Peyton Manning and company came up a bit short, but instead of staying the course, they went out and picked up better players to fill the holes on the roster. As long as the aging Manning stays healthy, they are currently the Super Bowl favorites out of the AFC.


New England Patriots


There are a ton of distractions for the New England Patriots right now, but once the season rolls around, things should be back to normal. Even if they are unable to have the services of Aaron Hernandez due to off the field legal matters, New England should run away with their division and make noise in the playoffs.


Cincinnati Bengals


With all due respect to the Baltimore Ravens, their division rivals in Cincinnati just seem to be slightly better heading into the season. They had a great draft and most of the younger players will be a year older and wiser at the NFL level.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

San Francisco Bolster's Up Their Secondary

With the draft just mere weeks away San Francisco 49'ers coach, Jim Harbaugh can still taste the bitterness of defeat. After losing decisively to the Baltimore Ravens, Harbaugh and San Francisco management upgraded their entire team...and it was already elite.
Nnamdi in San Francisco

To accompany Carlos Rodgers in the backfield, the 49'ers pursued star cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha. After a lackluster season with the Philadelphia Eagles, he was not revered as such a great pickup. However, the Oakland Raiders faithful know full well what he is capable of when utilized in the correct defensive schemes. Now loaded in the secondary, the 49'ers become an even more dominant team on paper. However, general manager Trent Baalke did not stop there. He pursued a new target for quarterbacks Alex Smith and Colin Kaepernick: All-Pro Wide Receiver (fresh off of a super bowl victory) Anquan Boldin.


Boldin adds a great deep target, and can double as a possession receiver making him formidable for opponents to cover. Combined with the incredible hands of Michael Crabtree, the long reach of Randy Moss, and the flashiness of Mario Manningham, Boldin completes a wide receiver corps that other quarterbacks only dream of having.

Given the emergence of a former Oregon standout LeMichael James at running back to spell an aging Frank Gore, the 49'ers give every indication of being completely poised for success. Each position has exceptionally talented newcomers (Kaepernick, Crabtree, James, and more), along with veteran counterparts for mentorship (Patrick Willis, Smith, Moss, and Gore). Look to these relationships to pay huge dividends. One thing is certain: San Francisco fans aren't expecting anything less than the hardware this year.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

The Brothers Bowl Breakdown...

As impossible predictions came true we're facing one of the most improbable Super Bowl matchups in recent history. The 49'ers outlook was bleak near the end of the first half of the NFC Championship game when they gave up an astonishing 17-0 lead. The high flying Falcons looked poised to end their streak of bad luck, but fate had a different plan. After riding the hot hand of quarterback, Colin Kaepernick, San Francisco finds themselves in the driver's seat with a great chance of actually winning the Lombardi trophy. Luck is on their side, as they have performed well when they reached the big game.

However, victory will not come easy for either team. Though the 49'ers they have a deep receiving core in Randy Moss, Michael Crabtree, A.J. Jenkins, Vernon Davis, expect DB's Bernard Pollard, and Corey Graham to cover routes over the middle, and to the sidelines rather well. The Raven's secondary is unheralded but they stymied New England's strong receiving corps.

The same can be said about San Francisco, however. Last week, they made second half adjustments to shut down arguably the best receiving tandem in football: Roddy White and Julio Jones. Meanwhile they had to contend with legendary tight end, Tony Gonzalez. So, things will not be easy for Anquan Bolden, Tory Smith, or Dennis Pitta.

Both teams are equipped with stout run defenses. Key matchups to look for. Frank Gore against Haloti Ngata. Both players share multiple Pro Bowls. This will be a great battle that may contribute more than people give it credit for. If Gore is held in check and receivers are well-covered, a linebacker spy could make Kaepernick think twice about running.

Another matchup to watch is the formidable pass-rushers of the 49'ers. The Ravens offensive line is not the strongest and they have been moved around plenty. Flacco may not get the luxury of holding the ball waiting for the deep routes to develop, if Navarro Bowman and Patrick Willis put pressure on the offensive line.

In the end, will the Ravens rally around a grizzled veteran to give him on last shot at glory to send him out in style? Or will the 49'ers strike it rich and evoke the glory days once again? We will know soon enough...

Monday, January 14, 2013

Don't Crown a Super Bowl Champion Just Yet

We are down to an improbable four. However, far too many so-called gurus are ready to proclaim the New England Patriots, champions once again. Not so fast. First and foremost, the exciting divisional playoff weekend was stuffed with spectacular games. More importantly these games were phenomenal in terms of tension and upsets. Two games that very few people really saw coming were the Baltimore Ravens vs. Denver Broncos, and the San Francisco 49'ers vs. the Green Bay Packers.

Ray Lewis Ravens Divisional Playoffs 2013If the Ravens, who were nearly 10 point underdogs, were able to pull off one of the most stunning road upsets in the history of the playoffs who is to say they can't repeat next week in Foxboro? There is a lot of animosity between New England and Baltimore going back to last year's heartbreaking AFC championship loss. There are 101 reasons why the Ravens have the right combination of talent and mojo to pull off the upset. Also, few people talk about the fact that New England has been playoff losers their last 4 postseason appearances. Of course this doesn't mean they are a bad team whatsoever. But it does make you wonder...


Not many suspected that the mighty, Aaron Rodgers would be bested twice by the same team. We were all wary of a suspect pass offense, and another read-option quarterback in Colin Kaepernick. However, how wrong us doubters were. He put up a searing 180 yards rushing, an all-time record for any quarterback in any game. Also, he routinely spread the ball to receivers and tight end Randy Moss, Michael Crabtree, and Vernon Davis. All of this confusion made the Packers appear to be a second class team. If the Patriots advance and the 49'ers advance, look for a strong run contingency from Kaepernick and the 49'ers. If executed properly, it could result in the 5th straight playoff loss for New England's beloved Pats...

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

And Then There Were 8.....

Is it always good for a team to be on the bye week? Not necessarily. In the past three playoff seasons, teams who didn't have a bye week had more wins and more momentum going into the final games of the season. Yes, it helps the team recover from injuries, but it seems as though the risks far outweigh the benefits. As coaches, and team management begin to understand this, look for teams to aim for a valuable #3 seed. This will never be something that no team/coach will ever admit, but it will be done.

Case in point: Many people didn't feel like Green Bay played their hardest football in the final quarter of the final game of the season, vs. the Minnesota Viking. They were playing for a bye, but came up short. The Packers appeared nonchalant and unmotivated to win. Were they strategically aiming for the #3 sport, or were they outplayed? Now that the league knows more about the practice, look for sanctions to be put into play.....


















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