Friday, January 23, 2015

Deflategate is a Non-Issue

As a New England Patriots fan my initial reaction to the controversy being dubbed "Deflategate" was one of disappointment (directed towards the team). However, I've come to realize the overabundance of news coverage surrounding the allegations made against the Patriots for using under-inflated footballs during the AFC Championship game -- in which they thrashed an inferior Indianapolis Colts team -- is laughable. As Patriots' Head Coach Bill Belichick explained during his press conference yesterday, if their footballs are inflated to the minimum amount required by the league, then any deflation sustained is going to cause the ball to become under-inflated. That's common sense at it's finest. But because of Belichick's history of bending/breaking rules (Spygate), this non-story has become a story. Both Belichick and quarterback Tom Brady publicly stated that not only are they not responsible for the under-inflated footballs, but also that they weren't aware of it. Whether that's true or not, we may never know. But we're hearing more and more about quarterbacks having preferences when it comes to the conditions of the balls; they need to have the right feel. According to Pro Football Talk, former NFL quarterback Brad Johnson paid to have 37 footballs he was going to use in Super Bowl XXXVII altered to provide a better grip.

The fact of the matter is that the state of the footballs used in last week's AFC Championship game had zero impact on its outcome. Numerous reports were released earlier this week claiming the league stated that the Patriots' footballs were checked and re-inflated at halftime and were checked again after the game. If that's true, then in the second half -- when the Patriots outscored the Colts 28-0 -- was evidence that the Patriots were going to win that game regardless of the balls being used. The opinions of former players such as Shannon Sharpe and Troy Aikman, saying that the league should hand down punishments to the Patriots similar of those given to the Saints after the Bountygate scandal, are simply idiotic. Intent to injure opposing players is far worse than playing with a deflated football, the two aren't even comparable. In my opinion the league should fine the team, but there should be no suspensions nor loss of draft picks. The truth is that the Spygate scandal in 2007, along with the success sustained by this team over the past 14 years, is the reason that the reactions to these allegations have been so overblown. You can guarantee Bill Belichick will use this as a source of motivation for his players leading up to Super Bowl XLIX, though -- that's what great coaches do, and Belichick may be the greatest.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Top Four Offseason Needs for All 32 Teams

After publishing my Top 5 Draft Prospects at each position, I feel now is a good time to list each NFL team's biggest needs to address -- Coaches and General Manager's excluded -- during the upcoming offseason. My list is based on what I've seen on the field over the course of the season, as well as team depth charts (per Ourlads) and impending free agents (per Spotrac).

ARI: CB, OLB, RB, NT
ATL: DE, RB, TE, LB
BAL: CB, WR, S, DE
BUF: QB, G, TE, DE
CAR: OT, WR, CB, RB
CHI: OLB, S, CB, QB
CIN: DT, OLB, WR, K
CLE: WR, DL, QB, K
DAL: DL, S, CB, LB
DEN: C/G, ILB, TE, DT
DET: DT, CB, OT, K
GB: ILB, NT, OT, CB
HOU: CB, WR, QB, TE
IND: C/G, WR, S, RB
JAC: DE, OT, CB, RB
KC: WR, ILB, S, G
MIA: RB, G/C, DT, WR
MIN: OT, WR, DE, RB
NE: DL, RB, G, WR
NO: OLB, WR, K, C
NYG: DE, LB, OT, S
NYJ: QB, OT, CB, OLB
OAK: WR, DL, CB, RB
PHI: CB, G, S, ILB
PIT: CB, OLB, S, NT
SD: OL, WR, RB, CB
SF: WR, CB, DL, G
SEA: WR, G, DT, TE
STL: QB, LB, G, WR
TB: QB, DE, CB, ILB
TEN: OLB, QB, WR, RB
WAS: S, OLB, OT, CB

Monday, December 15, 2014

Top Five 2015 Draft Prospects at Each Position: Defense

On the defensive side of the ball, there's some depth at pass-rush positions in the 2015 class. Here's my Top 5 Prospects at each defensive position; I chose not to distinguish the different safety and defensive tackle positions, and inside linebacker is for both 4-3 and 3-4 base defensive fronts.

Defensive Tackle:
1. Leonard Williams
2. Danny Shelton
3. Eddie Goldman
4. Michael Bennett
5. Malcolm Brown
Defensive End (3-4)
1. Shawn Oakman
2. Arik Armstead
3. Mario Edwards
4. DeForest Buckner
5. Carl Davis
Defensive End (4-3)
1. Randy Gregory
2. Dante Fowler Jr.
3. Nate Orchard
4. Markus Golden
5. Alvin Dupree
Outside Linebacker (3-4)
1. Shane Ray
2. Vic Beasley
3. Lorenzo Mauldin
4. Hau'Oli Kikaha
T-5. Shilique Calhoun
T-5. Eli Harold
Outside Linebacker (4-3)
1. Shaq Thompson
2. Eric Striker
3. Paul Dawson
4. Jordan Jenkins
5. Tony Washington
Inside Linebacker
1. Eric Kendricks
2. Denzel Perryman
3. Benardrick McKinney
4. Jake Ryan
5. Ramik Wilson
Cornerback:
1. Marcus Peters
T-2. Trae Waynes
T-2. Ifo Ekpre-Olomu
3. Quinten Rollins
4. P.J. Williams
5. Senquez Golson
Safety:
1. Landon Collins
2. Cody Prewitt
3. Kurtis Drummond
4. Gerod Holliman
T-5. Anthony Harris
T-5. Derron Smith
Punter:
1. Kyle Christy
2. Spencer Roth
3. Mike Sadler
4. Hunter Mullins
5. Will Baumann
 
 

Top Five 2015 Draft Prospects at Each Position: Offense

The 2015 NFL Draft class doesn't compare to last year's crop, but it's got the best group of running backs I've seen in a very long time. Check out my Top 5 at each offensive position.

Quarterback:
1. Marcus Mariota
2. Jameis Winston
3. Brett Hundley
4. Bryce Petty
5. Shane Carden
Running back:
1. Todd Gurley
2. Melvin Gordon
3. Tevin Coleman
4. Ameer Abdullah
T-5. Duke Johnson
T-5. T.J. Yeldon
Fullback:
1. Jalston Fowler
2. Connor Neighbors
3. Zach Zwinak
4. Hunter Joyer
5. Mark Weisman
Wide Receiver:
1. Amari Cooper
2. DeVante Parker
3. Jaelen Strong
4. Kevin White
5. Dorial Green-Beckham
Tight End:
1. Devin Funchess
2. Nick O'Leary
3. Tyler Kroft
4. Clive Walford
5. Jeff Heuerman
Offensive Center:
1. Cameron Irving
2. Hroniss Grasu
3. Reese Dismukes
4. B.J. Finney
5. Andy Gallik
Offensive Guard: 
1. Arie Kouandjio
2. A.J. Cann
3. Josue Matias
4. Tre Jackson
5. Laken Tomlinson
Offensive Tackle:
1. Brandon Scherff
2. Andrus Peat
3. Ronnie Stanley
4. Cedric Ogbuehi
T-5. La'el Collins
T-5. T.J. Clemmings
Kicker:
1. Robert Aguayo
2. Jared Roberts
3. Jeremiah Detmer
4. Kyle Brindza
5. Ty Long

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Week 9 Takeaways

The ninth week of NFL action wasn't short on entertainment. By the way, did anyone else know the Cleveland Browns are 5-3? Anyway, here are some takeaways from Week 9 of the NFL season.

The Patriots sit atop the AFC... for now: The New England Patriots dismantled the Denver Broncos in what could end up being the difference in who gets home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. Whoa, whoa, there's still seven weeks left in the regular season and the Patriots -- who are now on their bye week -- have a tough seven remaining games on their schedule (at IND, DET, at GB, at SD, MIA, at NYJ, BUF). Meanwhile, Denver's remaining schedule looks like this (at OAK, at STL, MIA, at KC, BUF, at SD, at CIN, OAK). Now, who do you think has the better chance of winning more games from this point on? If these two teams meet in the playoffs, which looks destined to happen, it could very well come down to who's the host and who's the visitor. The Patriots are the best in the AFC, but it may not be that way for very long.

Ben Roethlisberger: When I look at Big Ben's performances in each of the past two games all I can say is wow. Against the Colts in Week 8 his stat line was: 40-49, 82 percent completions, 522 yards, 6 TDs. Last night against the Ravens: 25-37, 68 percent completions, 340 yards, 6 TDs. Most importantly, they came in winning efforts. It's not a coincidence that rookie wide receiver Martavis Bryant has emerged over the past two games, as he's played a large role in his quarterback's gaudy numbers. Still, Roethlisberger, in his 11th season, isn't mentioned by the media or sportscasters when they discuss the elite quarterbacks, but he certainly belongs in the conversation.

The AFC North: If someone had told me, prior to the season, that after the first nine games of the season the that all four teams in the AFC North  would be over .500 I would have scoffed at such a prediction. Yet, that's where the division stands. The Bengals, Browns, Ravens and Steelers all sport winning records -- no other division can say that. Of course, the Browns are the big surprise, as many (including myself) didn't expect very much from them this season. Cleveland will receive a huge boost come Week 12 when star receiver Josh Gordon returns from his suspension.

Injuries: The Eagles placed two starters, linebacker DeMeco Ryans and guard Todd Herremans, on season-ending injured reserve, while starting quarterback Nick Foles is expected to miss 4-8 weeks after suffering a broken collarbone against the Texans. Other notable names who left Sunday's action due to injury: Arian Foster (HOU), Troy Polamalu (PIT), Rolando McClain (DAL), Andre Smith (CIN), Lamar Miller (MIA), Nate Irving (DEN), Kareem Jackson (HOU), and Tyrone Crawford (DAL).

*Team schedules and standings courtesy of CBS Sports 
**Player statistics courtesy of Pro Football Reference
***Injury news courtesy of Rotoworld

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Dallas is For Real

   I can't believe how well the Dallas Cowboys are playing this season. The organization once dubbed, "America's Team," sits at 5-1 after going into a hostile environment in Seattle and defeating last year's Super Bowl champion Seahawks. I more or less mocked the Cowboys in the offseason, not expecting them to contend for their division, let alone the NFC. Well, they've proven me and many other sports analysts and talking heads dead wrong, sending a clear message to the other 31 teams: Their for real.

   The defense, considered to be the team's Achilles heel entering the season, has found new life under new defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli. A unit that lost the likes of DeMarcus Ware and Jason Hatcher to free agency and the cap casualty, and star linebacker Sean Lee's season was lost before it even began. But there has been consistency from the defense and players are stepping up their game to fill the voids of those lost. Players like Rolando McClain, labeled a bust and retiring at the age of 23, he was a mere afterthought before joining the Cowboys this offseason and his career has been revitalized.

   Let's not forget, of course, the success of fourth-year running back DeMarco Murray. The former 2011 third-round draft pick is running like a man possessed. According to Pro-football-reference, Murray leads the league in carries (159), rushing yards (785) and rushing touchdowns (6). With Murray's injury history -- he's never played a full 16 game regular season -- one can't help but wonder if the 25-year old will be able to hold up at this rate. Tony Romo is playing well, although he still seems slowed at time by his back, the same back he had surgery on this past offseason. The offensive line has played well, particularly in the running game, but the trench warriors will be a man down after Jerry Jones announced right tackle Doug Free is expected to miss 3-4 weeks with a foot injury. The team must be feeling pretty damn good with where they stand and it's not farfetched to think they could be 9-1 heading into their Week 11 Bye. Their next four games go like this: home games against the Giants, Washington, and Cardinals and then they go on the road to face the lowly Jacksonville Jaguars. The toughest game is obviously their match up against a very good Arizona Cardinals team but after the Cowboys went on the road and beat Seattle, they should be able to beat any team in the league. I'm not crowning them Super Bowl Champions or anything, although it's not beyond the realm of possibility. All I'm saying is look out everybody, the 'Boys are back in town and they're a force to be reckoned with.

Injury Roundup: Week 6

Sorry for my absence for the past few weeks, my attention has been heavily focused on school and I haven't had as much time as I'd like to focus my attention on my blog. But, what an exciting and interesting season! Last week a number of teams lost significant players to injuries. Here's a list of some of the names we saw go down in Week 6:

Jerod Mayo- The New England Patriots saw several key players leave the game on Sunday, one of them was starting linebacker Jerod Mayo. The signal caller on defense and a team leader, Mayo's season is over after suffering a knee injury against Buffalo. The Pats have lacked depth at linebacker since the offseason and now they'll pay the price. Dont'a Hightower and Jamie Collins are going to have to step up big time.

Victor Cruz- Adding insult to injury, the Giants were shut out by their division rival Philadelphia, and lost their best offensive player in the process. Cruz suffered a torn patellar tendon and had to be carted off the field, he was visibly distraught. This is a huge loss for the Giants, and rookie Odell Beckham Jr. will see a lot more targets and a lot more pressure coming his way as the season goes on.

Alex Mack- The Cleveland Browns' offensive line has been the key to offense's success and against Pittsburgh the unit lost one of it's best players, center Alex Mack. The six-year veteran, who signed a five-year, $42 million contract this past offseason, suffered a broken leg and is expected undergo surgery and miss the rest of the season. Due to the talent on Cleveland's offense line, I don't expect them to fall apart.

Stevan Ridley- Another Patriot whose season is over. Ridley tore his ACL and MCL against Buffalo and the Patriots lose a key part of their offense. The remaining running backs are Shane Vereen, Brandon Bolden, and James White. Vereen is a shifty, change of pace back with a great hands. James White is similar to Vereen, but hasn't seen any meaningful playing time this season. Bolden is the closest thing the team has to Ridley, but he lacks the ability to give consistent production. Ridley is in the last year of his contract and I think he's played his last snap in New England.

Darren Sproles- According to reports, Philadelphia could be without running back Darren Sproles -- who suffered a knee injury against the Giants -- for several weeks. The Eagles currently have no healthy backs behind starter LeSean McCoy, so expect the team to activate Matthew Tucker from the practice squad or sign a free agent.

Other injuries- Patrick Willis (SF), Dee Milliner and Brian Winters (NYJ), Knowshon Moreno (MIA), Doug Free (DAL), Byron Maxwell (SEA), Tramon Williams and Sam Shields (GB), and Armonty Bryant (CLE).