Thursday, September 25, 2014

Injury Roundup: Week 3

We saw some teams lose some key players last week, here's the latest:

Injured Reserve:

Stephen Tulloch- The Detroit Lions lost their starting middle linebacker and defensive leader to a torn ACL, an injury he suffered in celebration of a sack. His reliability and veteran presence on the field will be hard to replace, but I predict that Tahir Whitehead (Tulloch's replacement) will have success, and ultimately keep the job from here on out.

Danny Woodhead- One week after starting running back Ryan Mathews suffered a knee injury that would sideline him for at least the next 4-5 weeks, the Chargers lost another running back. The versatile and reliable Danny Woodhead suffered a season-ending ankle injury against Buffalo last week. The Chargers' backfield is in disarray, with Donald Brown now thrust into the starting spot. Fortunately for the Chargers, they're going up against the Jaguars this week.

Dennis Pitta- Pitta's season is over after he dislocated a hip in the Ravens' Week 3 victory over the Browns. From the outside, this looks like a crucial blow to the Ravens' offense. But, really, it's not that significant. Two veterans signed this offseason, Owen Daniels and Steve Smith, have proven to be reliable targets for Joe Flacco and their presence will cushion the loss of the team's starting tight end.

Tyvon Branch- For the second consecutive season, Tyvon Branch's season ends prematurely. Last year, the Oakland Raider's safety was placed on IR two weeks into the season, this year it's three. Branch is a good player, and has been with Oakland since the team drafted him in 2008. Veteran journeyman Usama Young will take over the starting safety spot next to Charles Woodson.

Matt Cassel, Brandon Fusco- The Vikings lost two starters for the rest of the season, placing quarterback Matt Cassel and starting right guard Brandon Fusco on injured reserve. The real damage is done by the loss of Fusco -- who had just signed a 5-year $25 million contract extension with the team -- his value will be evident once fans see the play of his replacement, Vladimir Ducasse. As for Cassel, well let's just say his time as the starting quarterback in Minnesota is up, and the Teddy Bridgewater Era has begun.

*Injury and contract news courtesy of NFL.com  

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Week 2 Recap

1. The Seahawks are mere mortals on the road. Much has been made of the Seattle Seahawks and how talented they are, and rightfully so; they're arguably the best team in the league. With that being said, they're noticeably less intimidating and impressive when they don't have their home fans to crank up the noise. The Chargers beat the Seahawks 30-21, with veteran tight end Antonio Gates (whom I wrongly accused of being on the back end of his career and ready to pass the torch to his backup) lighting up the Seahawks' defense for 96 yards and three touchdowns. If Seattle doesn't clinch home field advantage throughout the playoffs, they're chances at a Super Bowl take a dramatic hit.
2. Injury roundup: Another week, another handful of players succumb to injury. The Bears have lost starting cornerback Charles Tillman for the rest of the season, the veteran suffered an injury to his right triceps, while the Giants also lost a cornerback, Walter Thurmond, for the season with a pectoral injury. Other notable players who left the field in Week 2 -- who will miss some time -- due to injury: Jamaal Charles (KC), Mark Ingram (NO), Ryan Mathews (SD), Robert Griffin III (WAS), A.J. Green (CIN), Rod Streater (OAK), Jon Beason (NYG), Arthur Jones (IND), and Knowshon Moreno (MIA).
3. The Giants suck. The G-Men lost at home to an Arizona Cardinals team that started backup quarterback Drew Stanton. Keep in mind this was Stanton's first regular season start since 2010! They've won the Super Bowl after starting 0-2, but it just isn't a possibility this season. Eli Manning, and the Giants' offense as a whole, looks atrocious. The defense and special teams units are playing like crap. But hey, at least they'll get a high draft pick next year. As Bleacher Report's Matt Miller tweeted, "Giants fans are going to LOVE Leonard Williams next season. #Top5Pick." 
4. Two talented Patriots need to step up. Wide receiver's Danny Amendola and Brandon LaFell were highly touted free agent acquisitions and both players are vastly underachieving. Amendola is earning $6.8 million this season and LaFell $3 million. The Pats overpaid for Amendola to begin with, but the fact remains that his performance has been underwhelming and considering this is his second year in the offense, he should be making far more of an impact. LaFell is probably still trying to learn the ins and outs of the offense and working on his chemistry with Tom Brady; hopefully that happens soon.
5. The Vikings' brass fails to make a statement. The Vikings deactivated All-Pro running back Adrian Peterson from Sunday's game against the New England Patriots in the wake of his indictment on a charge of reckless or negligent injury to a child. Peterson hit his son with a switch as a form of discipline, leaving marks on the 4-year-old. The Vikings' front office could have made a statement that these types of abusive behaviors will not be tolerated by deactivating Peterson until a verdict was reached -- his day in court will take place October 8th, according to NFL.com Wire Reports. But, yet again, we see that the NFL is no different than any other successful business in that money trumps all else, and decisions aren't made based on what's morally right. UPDATE: The Vikings have placed Peterson the Exempt List/Commissioner's Permission List, meaning he must remain away for all team activities until his current legal situation comes to a close. This means nothing. The team's decision makers made this choice due to the backlash from the public when news broke that Peterson was going to be allowed to play in Week 3. The Vikings organization, and the Nation Football League as a whole, have lost any and all credibility.

*Injury news courtesy of  NFL.com

Sunday, September 14, 2014

What to Watch For: Week 2

Week 2 began on Thursday night, as the Baltimore Ravens annihilated a division foe, the Pittsburgh Steelers, 26-6. There's still fifteen games on the slate, fourteen today and one tomorrow night. There's bound to be an upset or two, and you know some very good, very impactful players are going to suffer an injury; it's inevitable. I don't want to be a Negative Nancy, so here's what to watch for in Week 2!

1. Who will be 2-0, Miami or Buffalo? One week after upsetting better competition, the Miami Dolphins and Buffalo Bills square off, fighting for the best record in the division. These two teams surprised people with their performances in Week 1, and this should be a hard-fought, exciting game. Who would have thought?
2. The Minnesota Vikings offense sans Adrian Peterson. The Vikings host the New England Patriots today and will be without their best player-- running back Adrian Peterson. According to Gregg Rosenthal of NFL.com, Peterson has been deactivated from this week's contest after he was arrested and indicted on charges of child endangerment on Thursday. On a pure-football note, the Vikings' offense is in trouble.
3. The Atlanta Falcons' receivers versus the Cincinnati Bengals' cornerbacks. Matt Ryan was on fire against New Orleans last week, torching the Saints' defense for 448 yards and three touchdowns. This week, the Bengals will provide a more formidable opponent. I'm looking to see how the Falcons' wide receivers -- Julio Jones, Roddy White, Harry Douglas, and Devin Hester -- fare against the Bengals' cornerbacks -- Terence Newman, Leon Hall, Adam Jones, Dre Kirkpatrick, and Darqueze Dennard.
4. Aaron Rodgers's rebound. After opening the season against last year's Super Bowl Champion Seattle Seahawks and failing to bring their A-game, or even their B-game for that matter, the Green Bay Packers, and particularly quarterback Aaron Rodgers, are going to come out firing against the New York Jets today. They were embarrassed by the Seahawks and are looking to get that bad taste out of their mouths. Rex Ryan's defense may be in for a long afternoon.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Week 1 Recap

The first week of the 2014 regular season is officially behind us, and the action didn't disappoint -- unless your team lost. I'm going to recap some of the things from the opening week that stood out to me the most.

1) Remember: We're only one week into the season, and it's a long season. So, don't overreact -- although that part is pretty much inevitable -- to what transpired in Week 1. There's still a lot of games left to play.
2) The Patriots' offensive line is a glaring weakness. What I saw in the New England's Week 1 loss against the Dolphins was an offensive line that was abused by Miami's front four. Led by Cameron Wake and Olivier Vernon, the Dolphins' defensive line applied constant pressure on Tom Brady and the Patriots' offensive line looked like worse than it's looked it years. As the season continues, I expect this unit to begin to mesh and improve. Because if they don't, it hurts the Pats' chances of making a deep playoff run.
3) J.J. Watt is worth every penny. The Houston Texans signed defensive end J.J. Watt to a 6-year contract extension worth $100 million, the largest contract ever signed by a defensive player. And, like he's done since he entered the league in 2011, he showed the world why he deserves to be the highest paid defender in the game. He was active throughout the game versus Washington, recording one sack, one pass defended and also recovered a fumble. He is a once in a generation kind of player.
4) Injuries abound. Just one week in and already several key players have been lost for the season. Some of the players include: Derrick Johnson and Mike DeVito (KC), Robert Mathis and Cam Johnson (IND), Zach Brown (TEN), Danell Ellerbe (MIA), Nick Hardwick (SD), Evan Mathis and Allen Barbre (PHI), and Mike Jenkins (TB).
5) Josh McCown is a journeyman. Josh McCown did a great job with the Chicago Bears last season when he was called upon after Jay Cutler got hurt. He played exceptionally well and looked like a starting caliber quarterback. But, it was a fluke. In my opinion the 35-year-old is a backup quarterback. The talent and weapons on this Buccaneers' offense are just as legitimate as the ones he played with in Chicago last season. Am I judging him too quickly, considering it's just one game into the season? Perhaps. Only time will tell.
6) The Jaguars have a bright future. An up and coming team with good mix young talent and veteran leadership, led by a General Manager and Head Coach who are moving them in the right direction. And in last Sunday's game against the Philadelphia Eagles, it showed. The up-tempo Eagles' offense was stifled by the Jaguars' defense for a while, but Philly came back to win by a two touchdown margin. Jacksonville's performance showed reason for their fans to be excited, though.

*Stats courtesy of Pro Football Reference
*Injury news courtesy of CBS Sports

Sunday, September 7, 2014

What to Watch For: Week 1

It's Week 1 of the 2014 regular season! And it's about damn time! Here's What to Watch For:

1. Can San Francisco shake off their preseason offensive woes? This would be the most opportune of times, as they head to Dallas to face a porous Cowboys defense.

2. The Atlanta Falcons were atrocious last year, but they open this season at home against a division rival: the New Orleans Saints. They can make a big statement with a win today.

3. Rookie Derek Carr was named the starting quarterback for the Oakland Raiders. He'll be tested against Rex Ryan's defense, if he plays well, Matt Schaub may never regain the starting job.

4. AFC North matchups: Baltimore vs. Cincinnati and Cleveland vs. Pittsburgh. The Browns are the only team that I figure to be out of playoff contention come late in the season, which makes these division games very important for the other three teams.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Jim Irsay gets off easy

Just as Commissioner Roger Goodell botched the punishment -- or lack thereof -- of Baltimore Ravens' running back Ray Rice, he's done the same with the discipline handed down to Indianapolis Colts' owner Jim Irsay. Irsay -- owner of the team since he took over for his father in '97 -- was arrested  . Jeff Gray of SB Nation, had more on the details of the night Irsay was arrested:
 
"The 55-year-old Irsay was arrested in the late hours of March 16 in Carmel, Ind. and initially charged with operating a vehicle while intoxicated and four counts of possession of a controlled substance. Blood tests revealed 'oxycodone and/or hydrocodone' in his system after police pulled him over for traveling 10 mph in a 35 mph zone. In addition to bottles of prescription drugs, police found nearly $30,000 in cash in Irsay's car, $12,000 of which was bundled into a laundry bag. When questioned about the cash by Bob Kravitz of the Indianapolis Star, Irsay brushed it aside with a vague reference to his being 'extremely generous.'"
 
Goodell's punishment for Irsay may sound fair --a six game suspension, banishment from league and team facilities, a $500,000 fine, and loss of social media privileges -- but when taken into context, it's hardly severe enough. According to Amy Haneline of Indianapolis Star, the impact that the $500,000 fine has on Jim Irsay -- whose net worth is $1.7 billion -- is like taking $14.23 from the average Indiana resident. And then there's the six game suspension and banishment from team facilities and social media, which means he'll be forced to watch the game from the comfort of his luxurious estate or any other location that doesn't involve the NFL.
 
Will Smith, the Baltimore Ravens' safety formerly a member of the New York Giants, is serving a six game suspension, just like Jim Irsay. The most significant difference is that Smith won't be paid for those six games and Irsay will. That's not right. Commissioner Goodell needs to hold team owners to an equal, if not higher, standard as the players.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Super Bowl XLIX Prediction

There's no repeats here. I don't envision either Denver or Seattle to reach the Super Bowl this season, despite the talent and depth of both teams. Rather, I believe it will the New England Patriots squaring off against the Green Bay Packers -- a match up we will see in Week 13 of the regular season.

New England reached the AFC Championship game in 2013 despite injuries to several key players (Rob Gronkowski, Jerod Mayo, and Vince Wilfork to name a few) and less talent and depth than this year's roster. It's true the AFC's other top team, the Denver Broncos, have also improved. I still give the edge to the Patriots because they boast the better defense and when the lights shine bright Tom Brady thrives, while Peyton Manning shrinks. Darrelle Revis will make every other player on the Pats' defense better, while the offense has more weapons and last year's rookie receivers are now comfortable in the offense. And Bill Belichick and Tom Brady might have something to do with it, too. I think the Patriots will have the best record in the league this season, meaning they'll be playing at home throughout the playoffs. The Pats beat the Broncos in the AFC Championship game.

Green Bay was not a very healthy team last season, either. Aaron Rodgers missed the last seven games of the regular season. Clay Matthews and Nick Perry were slowed by injuries throughout the season, while Bryan Bulaga, Randall Cobb, Casey Hayward, DuJuan Harris and Jermichael Finley all ended up on injured reserve. This season, the Green Bay Packers are a much improved football team. I am particularly impressed by their linebacking corps. Clay Matthews and Julius Peppers on the outside, with A.J. Hawk and Brad Jones inside. The versatile Mike Neal and 2012 first-round pick Nick Perry serve as next two in line at outside linebacker, with Andy Mulumba and rookies Carl Bradford and Jay Elliott providing exceptional depth. Jamari Lattimore and Sam Barrington are the backup inside linebackers. I expect Defensive Coordinator Dom Capers to have a lot of creative blitzes that utilize his allotment of talented pass-rushers. I think Green Bay will earn home-field advantage and play host to the Seattle Seahawks in the NFC Championship game, ultimately beating them to advance to the Super Bowl.

Super Bowl XLIX: New England Patriots 34 Green Bay Packers 24