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

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Officials Steal the Show in Week 1 of Preseason

During the offseason the league informed all 32 teams that there would be stricter enforcement of certain penalties in 2014. For example, illegal contact beyond five yards of the line of scrimmage. The result? Yellow flags galore. I went to cbssports and viewed the statistics for every Week 1 preseason game and added up the total number of penalties called and yardage, and the numbers were staggering. Between the sixteen games that took place, there were 273 penalties called for 2,320 yards. The average number of penalties called per game was 17 for 145 yards. Unfortunately I wasn't able to find out the specifics, like how many of the penalties called were the result of illegal contact by a defensive player, but the league's modus operandi is blatantly obvious.

It's just like what happened a decade ago. In 2004 the NFL decided to more strictly enforce the rule prohibiting defensive backs from making contact with receivers more than five-yards past the line of scrimmage. What caused the change was the pure dominance of the New England Patriots' defense, particularly their secondary.

Fast forward a ten years, after the league's highest-scoring offense gets shut down by the league's best defense in the Super Bowl, and it seems that history is repeating itself.

It's important to understand that the NFL is a business, and that the most important thing to Roger Goodell and the team owners is money. And what draws in viewers? High scoring games. Hard core football fans, such as myself, appreciate good defense. But the more points that are scored, the more people tune in to the games. This is yet another example of Commissioner Roger Goodell's lack of integrity.

At this rate, the saying "defense wins championships" will no longer be reign true.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Projected 53-Man Roster: Detroit Lions

Detroit Lions
LAST UPDATED: 6:58 PM August 30, 2014

Quarterback (3)- Matthew Stafford, Dan Orlovsky, Kellen Moore
Running Back (3)- Reggie Bush, Joique Bell, Theo Riddick
Fullback (2)- Jed Collins, Montell Owens
Wide Receiver (6)- Calvin Johnson, Golden Tate, Ryan Broyles, Kevin Ogletree, Jeremy Ross, Corey Fuller
Tight End (3)- Brandon Pettigrew, Eric Ebron, Joseph Fauria
Offensive Center/Guard (4)- Dominic Raiola, Rob Sims, Larry Warford, Travis Swanson
Offensive Tackle (4)- Reilly Reiff, LaAdrian Waddle, Corey Hilliard, Cornelius Lucas
Defensive Tackle (4)- Ndamukong Suh, Nick Fairley, C.J. Mosley, Caraun Reid
Defensive End (5)- Ziggy Ansah, Jason Jones, Devin Taylor, George Johnson, Larry Webster
Linebacker (6)- Stephen Tulloch, DeAndre Levy, Kyle Van Noy, Tahir Whitehead, Ashlee Palmer, Travis Lewis
Defensive Back (10)- Glover Quin, James Ihedigbo, Darius Slay, Rashean Mathis, Bill Bentley, Cassius Vaughn, Nevin Lawson, Don Carey, Isa Abdul-Quddus, Jerome Couplin
Kicker (1)- Nate Freese
Punter (1)- Sam Martin
Long Snapper (1)- Don Muhlbach

Physically Unable to Perform- T.J. Jones

*Depth chart courtesy of Ourlads

Under the Radar Breakout Candidates

A few months ago I published a list containing second-year players who I believe will have breakout performances in 2014. Just the other day it hit me- why am I not talking about the other guys who are going to burst onto the scene this season? This is long over due, but here are some of the more seasoned players -- who are flying under the radar -- who I expect to have breakout performances in 2014.

Toby Gerhart- After spending the first four years of his pro career in the shadow of the league's most dominant running back, Gerhart is no longer stuck behind Adrian Peterson. Entering his fifth season in the league, Gerhart is "the guy" in Jacksonville. With little wear and tear -- he's only accumulated 276 carries in his career -- there's plenty of reasons to believe he will be the bruising runner he showed glimpses of in Minnesota. I fully expect him to be a bell-cow for the Jaguars' offense and be very productive.

Willie Young- Drafted by the Lions in the seventh round of the 2010 NFL Draft, Willie Young will be playing his former team at least two times this season after signing a three-year deal with the Chicago Bears. Young won't be a starter, but with veteran Jared Allen's play counts numbered, Young is going to see plenty of time on the field. And in an impressive defensive line rotation, I expect him to compile at least six sacks this season and wreak havoc on opposing quarterbacks.

Nick Foles- One could argue that 2013 was Foles' breakout year, throwing 27 touchdown passes to just two interceptions. However, I would disagree with that assessment. Why? Because this season he is the incumbent starter and will build off of his impressive 2013 campaign. I expect big production from Foles in 2014. He'll certainly throw more interceptions, but he'll also throw more touchdowns.

Ladarius Green- Philip Rivers' safety blanket for the past decade, tight end Antonio Gates, is 34-years old. While his production (872 yards in 2013) may not show his declination, Gates' athleticism does, and his playmaking ability has taken a hit as a result. Enter third-year tight end Ladarius Green. It's taken time for him to develop his game, but last season we saw glimpses of the kind of player Green is capable of being. He's big (6'6", 240lbs.) and fast (4.45 40-yard dash), and should see an increased role in the offense this season.

Andrew Hawkins- While wide receiver Andrew Hawkins may not look like much -- he stands 5-feet 7-inches and weighs 175-pounds -- he's proven to be an effective player in the slot. After spending his first three seasons in Cincinnati, the 27-year old will be playing for a division foe, the Cleveland Browns. And if star wide receiver Josh Gordon is suspended, Hawkins is going to see a lot more passes thrown his way this year.

*Stats courtesy of Pro-Football-Reference
*Contract details courtesy of Spotrac

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Commissioner Goodell sending a bad message to the players and public

"Breaking news: Baltimore Ravens' running back Ray Rice has been suspended for the first two games of the regular season," is what I read along the ticker at the bottom of the television screen on the NFL Network. Really, that's it? Just two games? NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell's views on discipline are greatly distorted, in my opinion.

The message that the Commissioner is sending to the players, and to the public, is that smoking marijuana is a more serious crime than domestic violence. That's certainly the message I'm receiving, considering that Cleveland Browns' wide receiver Josh Gordon is facing a potential one-year suspension for using marijuana while Ray Rice, who was caught on camera physically assaulting his wife, has been suspended a mere two games.

In no way am I justifying Gordon's usage of marijuana, the fact remains that it's illegal and he knew that he would be punished by the league if caught using it, and he should be disciplined. But, how can marijuana usage call for severer consequences than domestic violence? Please, someone enlighten me as to where exactly the logic lies in Commissioner Goodell's reasoning, because I sure as hell can't see it.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Projected 53-Man Roster: Baltimore Ravens

Baltimore Ravens
LAST UPDATED: 7:02 PM August 30, 2014 

Quarterback (2)- Joe Flacco, Tyrod Taylor
Running Back (3)- Bernard Pierce, Justin Forsett, Lorenzo Taliaferro
Fullback (1)- Kyle Juszczyk
Wide Receiver (7)- Torrey Smith, Steve Smith, Jacoby Jones, Marlon Brown, Deonte Thompson, Kamar Aiken, Michael Campanaro
Tight End (3)- Dennis Pitta, Owen Daniels, Crockett Gilmore
Offensive Center/Guard (5)- Jeremy Zuttah, Marshal Yanda, Kelechi Osmele, Gino Gradkowski, John Urschel
Offensive Tackle (4)- Eugene Monroe, Ricky Wagner, Jah Reid, James Hurst
Nose Tackle (2)- Haloti Ngata, Brandon Williams
Defensive End (3)- Chris Canty, Timmy Jernigan, DeAngelo Tyson
Linebacker (10)- Daryl Smith, C.J. Mosley, Terrell Suggs, Elvis Dumervil, Courtney Upshaw, Pernell McPhee, Arthur Brown, Josh Bynes, Albert McClellan, Zachary Orr
Defensive Back (10)- Matt Elam, Terrence Brooks, Lardarius Webb, Jimmy Smith, Darian Stewart, Chykie Brown, Asa Jackson, Anthony Levine, Jeromy Miles, Brynden Trawick
Kicker (1)- Justin Tucker
Punter (1)- Sam Koch
Long Snapper (1)- Morgan Cox

Suspended- Ray Rice (first two games of reg. season), Will Hill (first six games of reg. season)
Physically Unable to Perform- Terrence Cody
Injured Reserve- Aaron Ross, Brent Urban, Kapron Lewis-Moore

*Depth chart courtesy of Ourlads

Projected 53-Man Roster: Washington

LAST UPDATED: 5:32 PM August 31, 2014

Quarterback (3)- Robert Griffin III, Kirk Cousins, Colt McCoy
Running Back (43- Alfred Morris, Roy Helu, Silas Redd
Fullback (1)- Darrel Young
Wide Receiver (6)- Pierre Garcon, DeSean Jackson, Andre Roberts, Santana Moss, Aldrick Robinson, Ryan Grant
Tight End (3)- Jordan Reed, Logan Paulsen, Niles Paul
Offensive Center/Guard (5)- Kory Lichtensteiger, Shawn Lauvo, Chris Chester, Spencer Long, Shaun LeRibeus
Offensive Tackle (4)- Trent Williams, Tyler Polumbus, Morgan Moses, Tom Compton
Nose Tackle (2)- Barry Cofield, Chris Baker
Defensive End (5)- Jason Hatcher, Jarvis Jenkins, Kedric Golston, Clifton Geathers, Frank Kearse
Linebacker (9)- Perry Riley, Keenan Robinson, Ryan Kerrigan, Brian Orakpo, Akeem Jordan, Trent Murphy, Adam Hayward, Will Compton, Gabe Miller
Defensive Back (9)- Ryan Clark, Bacarri Rambo, DeAngelo Hall, David Amerson, Duke Ihenacho, Tracy Porter, E.J. Biggers, Bashaud Breeland, Trenton Robinson
Kicker (1)- Kai Forbath
Punter (1)- Tress Way
Long Snapper (1)- Nick Sundberg

Suspended- Brandon Meriweather (first two games of reg. season), Tanard Jackson (indefinitely)
Physically Unable to Perform- Stephen Bowen, Leonard Hankerson

*Depth chart courtesy of Ourlads