To sit or to start? The conundrum surrounding rookie quarterbacks.

Hello world,

Coming off the back of Deshaun Watson’s first three starts for the Texans. A win versus the Bengals, a strong performance against the Patriots and a huge win against the Titans. This question has been kept low but I am still wondering, how did Bill O’Brien decide that Tom Savage should have been the starting quarterback ahead of Watson? With hindsight looks like a bad decision as the Texans were obliterated in their opening game 29-7. In O’Brian’s defence, this is a debate that if you were to interchange the names has been plaguing head coaches for years. I am going to examine a few examples that have been successful for the players, coaches and organisations involved, as well more often than not in these situations the examples that didn’t go well.

Sometimes, it doesn’t take till halftime of the opening game to change your quarterback like O’Brien did. In 1970, Steelers head coach Chuck Noll, a future Hall of Famer, played number one pick and rookie Terry Bradshaw for 8 games. Those other 6 games were played by, yes you guessed correctly. Terry Hanratty… This was a decision that caused opinions to swirl about the reliability of Noll as a coach. In his first game of his career, Bradshaw threw an interception and conceded a safety as they lost 19-7. Bradshaw was so embarrassed to be the starting quarterback when he lost. As told in one of my favourite books,

“Noll yanked him, and backup Hanratty finished up. After the game Bradshaw sat in his truck in the players’ parking lot, weeping.” – The Last Headbangers by Kevin Cook.

The amazing description of the situation by Cook, whose book beautifully analyses the NFL between 1972 and 1982, shows just how much Bradshaw wanted to succeed not only for himself but also Noll and the team. This is something rarely seen in young quarterbacks today, an example of this being Johnny Manziel who sat out the last game of the 2015 season due to a concussion, however, a video was found of him partying in Las Vegas seemingly fit and well. This lack of commitment, amongst other things is why Manziel is out of the NFL and why Bradshaw is in the Hall of Fame.

Despite what it looked like after that opening game and that 1970 season, Terry Bradshaw’s stats read as follows: 38% completion, 1410 yards, 6 touchdowns and 24 interceptions. Reading those stats is harder than watching a Jeff Fisher press conference. But with hindsight, Noll made the right decision, because the Steelers improved from being the worst team in the league with a 1-13 record the year before to a 5-9 record in 1970. Only 4 years later, the Steelers won their first of 4 Super Bowl titles in the 1970s. These four championships made the pair the most successful coach and quarterback duo till last season when Brady and Belichick won their fifth title. So, in this case, it helped the coach when deciding who to play to already have Hanratty there as the starter. It provided competition for Bradshaw to improve and a player to compare Bradshaw against for Noll.

However, this isn’t the case for every coach and rookie quarterback. Instead of having a veteran already there some quarterbacks can be thrown into the fire from the start. Now their failure can, I believe, be attributed to many things such as a lack of coaching, contract holdouts, lack of surrounding talent and lack of effort. The primary instance of a team starting a rookie quarterback and it going all down in flames is with #1 all-time draft bust: Ryan Leaf pictured here being drafted in 1998.

In 1998, he was selected number two overall by the Los Angeles Chargers formerly of San Diego. He was the epitome of a disgrace, he constantly didn’t study film, workout or practice with teammates. Reports suggest that he flew to Las Vegas the night he was drafted, partied all night and yawned all through the introductory press conference the next day. Leaf signed the largest rookie contract ever at the time. A 4 year $31.25 million with a guaranteed $11.25 million signing bonus. His stats for his rookie season were: 10 games played, 1,289 yards, 45.3% completion passes, 2 touchdowns, a staggering 15 interceptions and an anaemic QBR of 39. His go-to move was to blame his teammates for his poor play. As you can guess this did not endear him very well to his teammates or fans. This lack of friendship and vulgarity wasn’t new to Leaf; in an interview he did with the San Diego Tribune he said “There was a joke going around campus when I was at Washington State.

It went,”What’s the difference between God and Ryan Leaf?” The punchline was, “God doesn’t think he’s Ryan Leaf.”

Add this to his incomprehensible amount of arrogance, a lack of commitment, a litany of injuries, fickle temper and overall dismal play. All of this has made him the poster child of NFL bust and in my eyes the owner of the worst rookie season by a quarterback ever.

Having watched Watson for his last two games, he has made incredible strides as a quarterback. A normal rookie would be hidden behind a running game, using play-action passes to find open receivers to get him settled in the game. But Watson has been able to find and sense pressure in the pocket, he’s moving defences with his eyes and is making great intermediate throws. Not to make a direct comparison, but both Watson and O’Brien can take advice from Hall of Famer and twice Super Bowl champion John Elway who said about his rookie season “I needed that year it made me a better player rather than sitting it out”. Watson has a strong defence and cast of offensive weapons surrounding him to make his transition into an NFL starter an easier one than most. His swift rise as a quarterback makes this conundrum much easier for O’Brien to stomach especially as he realised his mistake only 30 minutes into the season. As long as Watson plays well, then all of the noise surrounding O’Brien and his decision to start Savage will disappear into the ether. If the Texans fall away then expect it to all explode again but don’t expect this to happen anytime soon. I think Watson is here to stay.

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My award predictions for the 2017 NFL season

Hello world,

The NFL season kicks off today and I’m more excited than a Browns fan seeing their team win a game. It means that normal, real and important football is within our grasp. We don’t have to wade through any more of these weak, trivial and frankly boring preseason games, but are instead let back sweetly into the world of excitement that is regular season football. So here are my predictions for NFL awards; now last season I got 1 out of 7 correct, let’s hope this year goes a bit better.

MVP – Aaron Rodgers

Last season, Aaron Rodgers had a slower start than a snail trying to ride a bike. It was a poor start that left the Packers at 4-6 which held Rodgers back from the MVP award. His last 6 games of the regular season were incredible, with 16 touchdowns and 0 interceptions. The hardest defence he will face this season is Seattle’s; last year against them he had 246 yards and 3 touchdowns, so expect them and every other defence he faces to fall by the wayside on his way to MVP. This will happen because Aaron Rodgers is the best quarterback in the NFL. Period. As well as that, the cast of players surrounding Rodgers has improved since last season, with Martellus Bennett being the main addition at tight end as well as Ty Montgomery in the backfield because you know what? The NFL needs more stars from position changes. It adds to the “Joie de vive” of the league.  I mean it’s done absolute wonders for Tyrelle Pryor, why not the same for Montgomery? Rodgers will throw over 5,000 yards and for 45 touchdowns cementing his status as one of the best ever when he collects his third MVP trophy next February.

Offensive Player of the Year – David Johnson

David Johnson last season had one of the best seasons ever by a running back till he got injured. He had 1,249 rushing yards and 879 receiving yards, a 15 game span of at least 100 yards from scrimmage which matched Hall of Famer Barry Sanders’ record from 1997. I believe that Johnson will continue this scintillating form into this season, as he looks to only get better and better on an improving Arizona team. On Arizona’s schedule, only the Giants and Texans have any form of a top 10 defence, so expect him to tear up everyone else this season. Johnson this season will push himself into the upper tier of NFL talent, becoming a household name although the Cardinals won’t make the playoffs. He will become the first back with at least 1,000 rushing yards and receiving yards in one season since Marshall Faulk in 1999 (guess what? he’s in the Hall of Fame as well). By doing this he will be propelled to the offensive player of the year this season.

Defensive Player of the Year – J.J Watt

J.J Watt is now injury free, having only played 3 games last season after having had back surgery. I see no reason why this award should be going in any other direction than back to the three-time winner. He is the best defensive player in the NFL till proven otherwise. The Texans have one of the best defensive lines in football, especially with the progression Jadeveon Clowney made without Watt last year. By combining both of them, it will result in Watt showboating through offensive lines for 18 sacks and defensive player of the year. No other player in the NFL causes offensive coordinators as many problems as Watt does. It’s not just his power, technique, speed, size but his versatility and ability to line up anywhere along the defensive line that causes them problems. He is the most destructive defensive player in the league.

Offensive Rookie of the Year – Dalvin Cook

Dalvin Cook will thrive this year, as he becomes the centre piece to a Vikings offence afraid to concede turnovers. He will set a new NFL record for the number of carries for a rookie in a season; such is the paranoia surrounding Sam Bradford with his almost innate ability to throw interceptions. He makes it look easier than tying a shoelace. Cook will show us his talent by managing to win this award despite Minnesota’s leaky offensive line. He will shine with his combination of speed and power, making it easy for Vikings fans to accept the decision to let Adrian Peterson head down to the New Orleans Saints this offseason. Cook will lead all rookie running backs in both yards and touchdowns with 1350 yards and 8 touchdowns. He will just pip Christian McCaffrey to the award, expect big things from this FSU star this season.

Defensive Rookie of the Year – Solomon Thomas

The 6ft 3in, 273lbs defensive end has performed well through training camp and into the preseason. Thomas can show off the skills he showcased during his time at Stanford on a defence that will be making a few heads turn this season. Expect Thomas to cause havoc alongside fellow rookie Reuben Foster. The defensive coordinator for the 49ers, Robert Salah has talked about his defence being “fast, physical [and] everything being about the ball.” For Thomas these are his main skills; it’s his speed and aggression that causes the most problems, the opposition simply doesn’t think a man of his stature can be so dynamic. If you need proof, I insist you go and watch the game between UNC and Stanford last season, Solomon Thomas was the best player on the field by far. Thomas will use this speed to cause mayhem at defensive end, he will land over 13 sacks and garner the defensive rookie of the year. If he wins the award, Thomas will be the first 49ers player to win the award since Patrick Willis did in 2007.

Comeback Player of the Year – Tyrain Mathieu

Now I should be placing JJ Watt here, considering he will win defensive player of the year and is coming back from surgery. But at the NFL awards, they like to spread the love with the winners so I’m predicting that Cardinals safety Tyran Mathieu will win this award. Last season he only played 10 games after sustaining a shoulder injury against the Panthers. With the Cardinals developing and drafting new players, Mathieu will go back to safety. From his preseason play, he is back to 100%, making him one of the top defensive players in the NFL, desperately giving the Cardinals defence some power and aggression. He will have 6 interceptions and 110 tackles to take the award.

Coach of the year – Bill Belichick

This is easy, he is the best coach in the league. So why not have this be the season where the voters remove their cataracts and give him the award. I will predict for him to win this award every year till he retires from coaching.

 

 

 

Rookies to watch

Hello world long time no see,

It’s been a long time since I last posted due to being in my final year of school and having exams. But mercifully just like Jeff Fisher’s tenure as Head Coach of the Rams they are over which means I can hopefully make these more regular.

Gloriously, the NFL season waits tantalisingly like a star atop a Christmas Tree less than 9 weeks away. The Free Agency period as always provides us with some surprises; whether it’s players moving teams, retiring or even returning! But teams mainly look to the NFL Draft as the best way to improve. I believe that these rookies will be the most exciting to watch in 2017. For depth, I will choose 2 rookies from each of the first 3 rounds on the draft. I hope you enjoy! 

Corey Davis WR – Tennessee Titans


One reason why Corey Davis will be an exciting player this season is because of the quality of the roster he has entered. Davis is the prime candidate to become the Titans WR1. He will be catching passes alongside Eric Decker, Rishard Matthews from Marcus Mariota, as well as blocking for Derrick Henry and DeMarco Murray. The quality of these players will only help Davis as they will allow him to settle into the offence and not be forced to carry it like Atlas and the world. 

He was taken 5th overall from Western Michigan. The 6ft 3, 209lbs wide receiver during his time as a Bronco, became the all time leader in NCAA career receiving yards. This is no mean feat; he averaged 16 yards a catch and scored 52 TDs in 4 seasons. His aggressive style but soft hands will translate well into Offensive Co-Ordinator’s Jeff Robiskie’s offence, giving Mariota the number 1 receiver he needs for the Titans to become contenders. 

Christian McCaffery RB – Carolina Panthers


Christian McCaffery was taken 8th overall by the Panthers due to his astonishing ability as a runner as well as his versitlilty across the field.  He is as versatile a player as Daniel Day Lewis is to acting. This is a player that was 2nd in the Heisman voting in 2015 and holds the NCAA record for all purpose yards with 3,864. He will be exciting as a runner because of his combination of  patience and agility; he will be difficult to stop for opposing defensive co-ordinators. McCafferry’s ability to catch passes out of the backfield, as well as return kicks and punts means that luckily for us we will be seeing this talent a lot more than usual this season.

Teez Tabor CB – Detroit Lions


I thought it was criminal for Tabor to fall to the 2nd round. This is a man with 1st round talent written all over him. The University of Florida Cornerback fell to the 53rd pick for the Detroit Lions. He will be an exciting player this season because he is an aggressive cover corner who walks a thin line between penalties and interceptions. He is a strong open field tackler; at Florida he was twice All-SEC first team. He will bring class to a Detroit secondary that apart from Darius Slay is severely lacking it, making him an exciting player to watch.

Dalvin Cook RB – Minnesota Vikings


Cook was an amazing talent at Florida State; he became their all-time leading rusher and a force to be reckoned with throughout college football. This was shown by his ranking as the best college running back in the draft by both Pro Football Focus and Sports Illustrated. However, off the field issues such as being charged for battery saw him fall into the second round. Now, don’t kid yourself Latavius Murray fans (if you exist?) but Dalvin Cook WILL be the starting running back for the Vikings. With this comes huge expectations as former MVP and Vikings legend Adrian Peterson was their last RB. But he left to join the New Orleans Saints in the offseason, so he has some big shoes to fill. But Cook has already said when talking to CBS Sports “So the only thing you can do is come in and be yourself.” With this humble attitude as well as astonishing talent, Cook will be very exciting to watch. 

Chris Wormley DE – Baltimore Ravens


Wormley was a standout Defensive End at the University of Michigan. He played 4 years, having torn his ACL as a freshman and in 2016 was named First team all-big 10 and Second Team All-American. As he had 39 tackles (9 for loss) and 6 sacks. His character and leadership were surely recognised as he was made a team captain by his fellow players. Despite being a 3rd round pick, going to Baltimore will be good for both Wormley and ourselves. As their combination of a lack of defensive talent but good coaches means we will see him a lot this season, showing us and the Ravens why he was such a star at Michigan.  

Tarrell Bashem OLB – Indianapolis Colts


Bashem was an good talent at Ohio, playing 4 years and racking up a school record 29.5 sacks. He played OLB for Ohio having been taken by the Colts. He will most likely move from a 4-3 defensive end where he played in college to a 3-4 outside linebacker. This transition will be difficult to make especially for a rookie but having veterans such as Akeem Ayers and Barkivious Minho to learn under will help him grow through the season. We will see the 2016 MAC defensive player of the year on the field this season, so expect some big things, perhaps not as many sacks but a strong defensive impact the Colts have been missing for a number of years. 

Hope you have enjoyed! Much love 💚

2016 NFL Awards Predictions

Hello World,

It has been a while but with the start  of the regular season only hours away. Here are my predictions for who will end the season as the individual award winners.

Most Valuable Player

Aaron Rodgers – QB Green Bay Packers

I believe that Rodgers will be back to his electric 2014-MVP-caliber form this season, due to the return of his favorite receiver, Jordy Nelson from an ACL injury that kept him out for all of the last season. Nelson will be back to form in that offence so they can move a healthy Randall Cobb back to the second spot, all whilst having a slimmer, faster and more productive Eddie Lacy in the backfield to keep defences guessing by putting another man in the box. Also, in an under-the-radar free agency move the Packer acquired Jarod Cook from the Rams; he may have been a bit inconsistent in St Loius but then he didn’t have Rodgers throwing him the ball so expect a lot of red zone targets for him.

 

Offensive Player of the Year

Antonio Brown – WR Pittsburgh Steelers

Last season Brown had 1,834 yards, 136 receptions, and 10 touchdowns. That is one of the best seasons in recent memory, so now consider that he did that with Landry Jones and Michael Vick starting 5 games. We know that he is good enough to escape the double teams that he will now face because Martavious Bryant is suspended for the season, it’s just if Ben Roethlisberger can stay healthy for their entire season then his numbers will explode and he might break the 2000 yard mark and 15 TDs, making him a shoe-in for this award.

Defensive Player of the Year

Kahlil Mack – DE Oakland Raiders

Mack had an unbelievable season last year, racking up +15 sacks and becoming the first player to be named All-Pro at 2 positions (DE & OLB). This season, because JJ Watt is having to have back surgery which will keep him out for a while, Mack will take home the sacks title ahead of the likes of Von Miller and Justin Houston. Mack’s younger age and his cleaner injury history make him a more consistent threat every week for at least 2 sacks. If you need any proof of Mack’s talent and threat to take home this award for many years to come, take a look at his highlights from Oakland’s week 14 matchup against the Denver Broncos where he had an astonishing 5 sacks.

Offensive Rookie of the Year

Ezekiel Elliot – RB Dallas Cowboys

With the recent injury to Tony Romo keeping him out for the season, Dallas has placed rookie Dak Prescott as their starter for the season. Now, because he is a rookie and Dallas has one of the league’s best offensive lines at its disposal, they will be running the ball in order to keep Prescott from making as few mistakes as possible. With this increased workload and the pedigree of the talent around him, I believe that Elliot will reach 1200 yards as the shining light of Dallas’s offence.

Defensive Rookie of the Year

Vernon Hargreaves – CB Tampa Bay Buccaneers

With both Eli Apple and Jalen Ramsey being selected ahead of him,  I feel that Hargreaves is in the best system to succeed this season. With Mike Mayock saying when he was drafted “Hargreaves has the best corner feet in the draft I’ve seen in the past 2 or 3 years”. On Tampa’s depth chart he is sharing his cornerback spot with Alteraaun Verner and they will be opposite Brent Grimes, meaning that he will be targeted a lot but Hargreaves, as he has already shown in the preseason, has the ability to have multiple interception games. I think that he will not reach the heights of Marcus Peters last season but 5 Interceptions and 20 passes defended will take it home for this University of Florida product.

Coach of the Year

Bill Belicheck – New England Patriots

He could win this award practically any year but when the Patriots go 2-2 without Tom Brady to start the season and then go 11-3 to finish, taking them back into the playoffs for the 14th time in 16 years, it will be virtually impossible to ignore Belicheck for this award because he seems to do something unprecedented every year whether it’s wins, records or playoff appearances and this season would be no different.

Comeback Player of the Year

Jamaal Charles – RB Kansas City Chiefs

He only played 5 games last season till he tore his ACL  putting him on Injured Reserve for the rest of the season. Charles has come back from ACL injuries before when he then proceeded to rush for over 1500 yards in 2012.  Now I’m not saying he will hit 1500 yards again because he is older and the history of running backs coming off ACL injuries is slightly hot and cold,  but he will top 1200 yards on his way to winning Comeback Player of the Year and getting the Chiefs back into the playoffs.

Breakout Rookie Sensations

 

Hello World,

With the combine and draft over and now the free agency period just simmering away, I will be looking at the most promising rookies for the 2016 season. These are the players I feel will be instant contributors to their team and might be reaching the Pro Bowl. Recent examples of this would be Zac Martin for the Cowboys, Tyler Lockett for the Seahawks and Marcus Peters for the Chiefs. This isn’t a ranking for each of these players, just a list.

My first player is Ezekiel Elliott who went 4th overall to the Cowboys from Ohio State. He is in line for a promising rookie season mainly due to the supporting cast around him in Dallas. There has been a long string of failed running backs drafted in the first round recently eg Trent Richardson, David Wilson and Jahvid Best, to name a few, but this to me doesn’t seem like a gamble by Jerry Jones because, during his time at Ohio State, Elliot had total 4410 yards and 44 touchdowns, and was labeled as the best,most complete back to enter the draft since Adrian Peterson. So drafting him with a supporting cast ofTony Romo, Dez Bryant, Jason Witten and the best offensive line in the NFL I believe can only lead to success for Elliot, who can show people that he can break the recent curse of 1st round running backs.

Another player with a promising rookie season ahead of him is Offensive Tackle Laremy Tunsil from Ole Miss, who went 13th overall to the Miami Dolphins. Before the draft and the trades, Tunsil was the best player on many people’s boards. So after the Rams and the Eagles moved up, many people assumed he would go 3rd overall as he was the best player in the draft. But literally minutes before the Draft, a video on Twitter was posted of him smoking marijuana through a gas mask. It went viral, causing his draft stock to crash going from a top 5 pick down to 13.  I feel this will give Tunsil much-needed motivation this season to prove those 12 other teams that they were missing out on a star when they didn’t pick him. He will be working on a line with such notable names as Branden Albert, Jermon Bushrod, and Mike Pouncey, who between them have 7 Pro Bowl appearances, so he will be in good hands to show us all his potential this season.

A defensive rookie I believe will have a breakout season is Defensive Tackle Robert Nkemdiche from Ole Miss. He, like former teammate Tunsil, slid down draft boards, but this was due to an incident where in December 2015, Nkemdiche fell from a 4th-floor window, walked 15 feet and climbed over a wall then fell 15 feet. He was conscious and in a stable condition but the police found marijuana in his room and charged him with drug possession. It was this horror show that caused teams to flee from the 6’3, 296lbs defensive tackle until the Cardinals selected him with the 29th overall pick. He will have a breakout season due to his incredible speed and strength combo with Head Coach Bruce Arians saying “ He was killing people in the walkthrough and I had to slow him down,” “It’s walkthrough and he’s bench-pressing linemen already.” With that in mind, look out for him and Chandler Jones to be causing havoc down in Arizona.

And finally, in order to balance it out, another defensive player to have a breakout rookie season will be Vernon Hargreaves Cornerback who was taken 11th overall by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers from the university of Florida. During his time in Florida, Hargreaves had 10 interceptions, 121 tackles and 17 passes defended. He was named 2x All-American and 3x All-SEC as a Gator, so coming onto a team with only Brent Grimes seen as a starter, Hargreaves will be getting plenty of snaps and seeing a lot of the ball with Grimes on the opposite side. Due to his excellent reading of the game and NFL Draft Analyst Mike Mayock saying “ He’s got the best feet of any cornerback coming out if the draft in the past 2 or 3 years”.  Look out for him to be making plays this season in Tampa.

Cleveland’s Quarterback Conundrum

A lot of things have changed since 1999 and the Cleveland Browns Quarterback situation is one of them.  They have had an astonishing 24 starting quarterbacks, with some playing 16 games  a season such as Tim Couch in 2001 and others literally starting one game for this franchise such as Spergon Wynn, Charlie Frye, Bruce Gradkowski, Thad Lewis and Connor Shaw. To put this into perspective, much more successful teams like the Green Bay Packers have started 5 different Quarterbacks and the New England Patriots have started 3 different Quarterbacks. Here is my view on the mediocre madness that is Cleveland’s laughable Quarterback situation.

On Thursday, the news broke that Robert Griffin III is expected to sign with the Browns, making him the 25th starting quarterback for the Browns in 17 years. Griffin finished his time in Washington marred with injuries, lacking in confidence and a diminishing connection with Jay Gruden. So it remains to be seen whether or not he is able to lead this franchise to loftier heights than the other 24 previous quarterbacks have tried to. It seems to me that becoming Browns Quarterback brings an added weight. Not a lot, but enough to instill a slight modicum of self-doubt into your brain, because you know you’re trying to lead what seems like an eternally cursed franchise out of NFL purgatory and into something above mediocrity. To be able to go through 24 Quarterbacks in 17 years is a very difficult thing to do, but of course the Browns have managed it, in the most Browns way possible. Kelly Holcomb was the last Browns QB to put them in the playoffs, where in typical Cleveland fashion they lost 36-33 to Pittsburgh who scored with only 54 seconds left. Since then they’ve only had one more winning season finishing 10-6 in 2007.

I believe that this slow,painful and cold demise for the Browns can be attributed to many different reasons. Firstly the owners’ disgustingly poor ability to choose personal staff with any positive knowledge of scouting or free agency. It seems to me that to build a successful franchise you need solid, positive building blocks and the Browns haven’t had these; they have had rich, hot headed, inept men trying to run a franchise. This leads them to hire poorly e.g scouts so in turn they draft poorly e.g 4 QBs in the first round since 1999. From those helpless drafts, Cleveland has searched far and wide for an upgrade in Free Agency, with players that are way past their prime and in some cases built like glass to lead the team, the city and the fans to a Lombardi trophy, but of course each one has failed, with such players as Ty Detmer, Doug Pederson,Kelly Holcomb, Trent Dilfer, Derek Anderson, Jake Delhomme and Seneca Wallace all fitting that mold.

It’s names like these, along with suffering untimely injuries that have lead the Browns to be sucked into the black hole of archaic, gauche and over priced Quarterbacks. Now once you are taken into a black hole it’s impossible to get out. So the Browns despite their unflinching failure in Free Agency, have gone back into it for RGIII. I believe that as per usual this will not work out either due to RGIII getting injured again, not fitting into the system, not being given enough time or the Browns not drafting pieces around him to work well with or as I fear along with many other fans, another horrible concoction of all of these factors. This will inevitably lead to Cleveland continuing with this endless, godforsaken cycle, while us, the fans, and media all run endlessly in our hamster wheels of hope for each new Cleveland Browns Quarterback.

Super Bowl 50 Preview

Hello World,

We have had a wonderful season. It has been mesmerizing, turbulent and gripping to say the least. We have had teams fall from grace and other rise up from the ashes to give their loyal fans some hope for years to come. But two teams have made it this far. The Denver Broncos and the Carolina Panthers.

Carolina Panthers

Wow! This has been a crazy season for the Panthers who have risen from above average with several issues, to being in the Super Bowl. Personally I didn’t have them very high in my Pre-Season predictions, only at 17th  This was mainly down to the fact that they had let their all-time rushing yards leader DeAngelo Williams leave in the off-season.  I didn’t attribute their position much to that because by then. Williams was fading away in the backfield and on the depth chart to Jonathan Stewart. But more to the point, their star rookie Wide Receiver Kelvin Benjamin suffered a torn ACL before the season and was lost for the year. This, in my eyes, gave the Panthers no actual, solid attacking prowess for the season. But I have been proven wrong, just as many other people have been, by Carolina’s offence emergence this season. They led the league in touchdowns and scoring! All of this with such players as Ted Ginn Jr, Devin Funchess and Jerricho Cotchery. These players contributed to one of the worst-ranked pre-season receiving cores in the league! But they, and especially Tight End Greg Olsen, have stepped up magnificently this season to put their names out to the rest of the league.

Cam Newton has been on fire this season. His 35 passing touchdowns and 10 rushing touchdowns have been the most celebrated points in the league, with Cam giving away every single football he’s scored with this season. I’d like to think it’s keeping the feel-good, laid-back aura around the team. But maybe Tom Brady should have done the same last season to keep the footballs from the officials… I agreed with many others that Cam Newton should be the league MVP, because he single-handedly led this offence all season, coming up with top notch performances and clutch throws whenever Carolina has needed them. He’s quite a polarizing player among the league and the fans mainly due to his extravagant celebrating ( dabbing has gone viral with even Hilary Clinton of all people learning how to dab ), his fickle nature with officials and media. But this season he has risen above all of that to put his name into the “elite” category of quarterbacks. His play has been wonderful along with his charisma. Both have been key to the Panthers getting to the Super Bowl because of course he has played well, but it’s his laid-back nature and ability to not let any errors from either himself or any of his teammates to stick in his mind that makes the difference. He just shakes it off and gets on with the next play; this allows his teammates to play happy and carefree, not having to worry about a mistake and in 17 out of 18 cases this season they have won so it’s obviously having a good effect.

Their defense this season has been the other element to propel them to the Super Bowl. This has been down to the combined brilliance of Star Linebacker Luke Kuechly, Defensive Tackles Kaawan Short and Star Lotulelei along with Cornerback Josh Norman, which has  brought this defense from 10th in total yards up to 6th in the league and from 13th in sacks to 6th. Having a defense this belligerent is a huge plus because in six of the past 13 Super Bowls, the winning team has been ranked between 15th and 19th offensively (2000 & 2012 Ravens, 2001 & 2003 Patriots, 2005 Steelers and 2007 Giants), and on three occasions over the same period, a #1 offense has lost to offensive units ranked 19th (2001 Patriots over Rams), 24th(2002 Buccaneers over Raiders) and 16th (2007 Giants over Patriots).

Denver Broncos 

This has been a very intriguing season for Denver who kept up with the Panthers till week 7 and then  lost surprisingly in Indianapolis to the Colts who ended up finishing 8-8. But it was versus the Vikings when Manning started a 6 game streak of finishing every game with more interceptions than touchdowns, that to the surprise of nearly any millennials, Peyton Manning, the supposed “best quarterback of his generation” in their eyes was dropped and surprisingly Osweiler came in to lead the Broncos to 6 wins and a playoff birth.  Manning came back in from a “Plantar Fasciitis” treatment which seemed to me to be quite a shifty move and a sly way to pull the wool over our eyes about his abject performance. To my astonishment, Manning, who had been so pitiful, came back in to start and has played well, not throwing an interception since his return in week 17. So their offence has relied on the run mostly from CJ Anderson with hints of Ronnie Hillman. This season they have played well enough to ease some of the pressure from either quarterback, so  versus Carolina they will have to play very well and give Manning a wider field to find his favorite targets.

To say that Denver’s defense has been suffocating would be an understatement. They are No. 1 in total defense (283.1 yards), No. 1 in pass defense (199.6), No. 1 in sacks (52), No. 3 against the run (83.6), No. 4 in scoring (18.5) and No. 3 in defensive touchdowns (5). Their defense is extremely similar to Carolina in the fact that in some positions, they have the best in the league such as Von Miller, DeMarcus Ware, Aquib Talib, Chris Harris and TJ Ward, who all apart from Ward were voted to the Pro Bowl which is incredible and Miller was voted All Pro. Watching them play the Patriots in the AFC Conference game, it was astonishing how quickly the D-Line (and it wasn’t just one or two but all of them) got off the line and instantly had pressure on Tom Brady. This might have been the poor quality of New England’s Line, but either way this is a frightening sight for Carolina and will have to rely I think on Cam Newton’s rushing ability to escape the seemingly eternal pressure from Ware and Miller.

Verdict

So in the end, I think that Denver’s defense will cement their legacy by managing a last- minute stand against Cam Newton, and give Denver their 3rd Super Bowl Victory and the ultimate send-off for Peyton and Ware. Age seems to be catching up with them so this might be their last chance to win a Super Bowl. But it will be a good game and Carolina will provide a solid performance but their quest for a super bowl will keep going on. I will be watching it all so I hope all of you enjoy it as much as I will!

Predicted score: Carolina 24 Denver 30

NFL Playoffs: Conference Championship Preview

Hello World,

Last weekend we had the Divisional round, and it certainly didn’t disappoint, with some cracking and unforgettable games. Arizona dispatched Green Bay 26-20 in OT, with Larry Fitzgerald having a game that will long be remembered – 8 catches for 176 yards – sending his Cardinals to the NFC Championship game. Here they will play Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers, who defeated the Seahawks 31-24 in a game of two halves, as the Panthers raced out to a 31 zip lead at halftime, with Seattle nearly doing the impossible in scoring 24 unanswered points. But it wasn’t enough, and Carolina advances to their first NFC Championship since 2005.  In the AFC, the Patriots calmly dispatched the Chiefs 27-20,with the game never looking like slipping out of New England’s fingers. In Denver, the Broncos’ defense came up big, forcing a fumble from Steelers’ back up running back Fitzgerald Toussaint with only 5 minutes left, to seal the game, beating the Steelers 23-1. Moving onto the AFC Championship game, they will now play the Patriots in Denver.

Sunday 

AFC Championship Game : Denver Broncos vs New England Patriots 

This might be the longest game, grinding and tumultuous for both Brady and Manning, but somehow we have arrived at the same conclusion – the AFC Championship – with both playing for what seems like ” their last opportunity ” at a Lombardi trophy. This is the 17th meeting between the two future Hall of Fame quarterbacks and mostly likely the last one as Manning is 39 years old and his play has rapidly declined this season.

Both teams this season have had their problems, but we will start with New England, who have been – at about every  point of the season, since week 4 –  decimated by injuries,  with key players seeming to go down like flies in Foxborough. This ultimately hasn’t stopped Tom Brady from leading his team to a 12-4 record and a deep playoff run. This season, he has worked wonders with the players that were left on the roster, such as James White and KeShawn Martin, and deserves the majority of the credit if the Patriots are  to reach the Super Bowl.

The Denver Broncos this season have been led by their dominant defense which ranks as the first in the league in total yards, yards per game and top three in points allowed per game. So it was to many people’s surprise that Peyton Manning started off this season so poorly and was benched (with 9 TDs  and 17 INTs) in week 12, in favour for Brock Osweiler. The Broncos defeated the Patriots in week 12, this season 30-24, with their running game clinching the win with over 160 yards. Peyton has recently entered the fray again, after recovering from his injury, to guide his team to the title game and perhaps ultimately the denouement of his esteemed career.

As everyone knows the quarterback position is the most important in the game. So the Patriots should be encouraged by the fact that Brady has played every game this season and is in such good form, just as they get their star players back. In contrast, Peyton has had his worst statistical season since he entered the league and doesn’t look like being back to his superlative best. Brady will win this game for the Patriots, beating Peyton for the 12th time and in turn reaching his 7th Super Bowl.

NFC Championship Game : Arizona Cardinals vs Carolina Panthers 

These are the two teams that have been the the best all season, which is why it’s a shame this game isn’t happening as the Super Bowl. With the Cardinals having won 13 games and the Panthers 15 games, their seasons have been eventful to say the least. They have a combined 17 Pro Bowl players and I think, if it weren’t for the look of bias and other players going  in on reputation, then there should have been more in the Pro Bowl.

The Panthers have been the number one team this season , going 15-1 in the regular season, with Cam Newton “Dabbing” his way to an MVP trophy after his amazing 45 combined ( 35 throwing and 10 rushing ) touchdowns this season, making this the most touchdowns in  a season since 2013. The Cardinals are going to have a tough time stopping this man who’s in the form of his life. The Panthers defense this season, has turned up to play ranked as the  6th best overall and they lead the league in interceptions with 24. They have a strong spine on defense with 4 Pro Bowlers  ( Josh Norman, Thomas Davis, Kawaan Short and Luke Kuechly )  and Cam Newton, who some are putting as the ultimate dual threat quarterback: this should be a tough game for Arizona.

The Cardinals, this season, have been immense on both sides of the ball as their offence, led by Carson Palmer, was ranked 1st in total yards, average yards per game and 2nd in points per game only behind to Carolina. Arizona I believe has the most complete roster in the NFL, with star players at every level on each side of the ball: on offence they have game changers in Larry Fitzgerald, Michael Floyd and John Brown, not to mention their quarterback Carson Palmer who finished the season 4th in yards and 2nd in touchdowns. But what might put them ahead is the fiery, competitive and daring nature of their coach Bruce Arians. He has managed to put this Arizona team into another gear this season, especially with the ” Next Man Up” mantra. Rookie David Johnson has replaced Chris Johnson amazingly well and more with over 1000 all purpose yards this season, after CJ2K fractured his tibia in week 12, but has said that if they reach the Super Bowl he will be “ready to go”.

In conclusion, I believe the Cardinals will win a tight game in Carolina, because they have a healthier squad at the moment: Carolina’s star running back Johnathan Stewart has been limited in practice this week. I think he will play because you only get so many opportunities to get to the NFC Championship game. But not being 100% will hinder this run-focused Panthers offence, leaving their defense out on the field for longer, making them more tired and vulnerable to big plays and a lot of points. Also, let’s just see what Josh Norman is made of in this match-up with Larry Fitzgerald. Having been playing out of his mind this season, we will see if Norman can cope with a fired-up Fitzgerald, who’s desperate to make it to his second Super Bowl.

 

NFL Playoffs : WildCard Preview

Hello World,

We reached a climactic ending to the regular season last weekend with a lot of surprising results such as Miami beating New England, The Jets falling to the Bills, The Vikings finally winning in Lambeau against the Packers and just the severity of Seattle’s win over Arizona. These results cemented the playoff teams and their seedings in both the AFC and the NFC. Wildcard weekend will take place this weekend on the 9th and 10th of January. It should throw up some interesting games and duels between great players, especially seeing as we have historic rivals playing one another and rematches of classic games.

Saturday 

Kansas City versus Houston Texans.

I believe that Kansas City will win this game.  For a start, they are the hottest team,  having ridden a 10 game winning streak to an 11-5 record, becoming the only the second team since 1970 to do so, whereas the Texans won the worst division in the NFL with a 9-7 record, playing with 4 different quarterbacks all season.

The Texans’ strength is in their defense which finished the regular season ranked 3rd overall. This is because they have the greatest defensive player of his generation in JJ Watt who has 74.5 sacks in only 5 seasons, and along with him Whitney Mercilus, who has had a career year with 12 sacks.

Kansas City, overall have the 6th best rushing attack in the league, spearheaded by a 2 headed rushing monster, with Charcandrick West and Spencer Ware combining for 10 TDs and 1036 yards.  For the Chiefs to win, they have to keep running the ball at Houston and keep the ball out of Alex Smith’s hands so he can’t hand it over to the much improved Houston secondary.

Pittsburgh Steelers vs Cincinnati Bengals

The Bengals have the worst situation possible. Just a few weeks ago, they were in prime position for the 1 seed in the AFC,  but Andy Dalton got injured, and they lost 2 of their last 4 games, falling to the 3 seed. With Andy Dalton not being ready for this game, they have to face Pittsburgh with AJ McCarron under center. Trying to keep pace with their offense is going to be a tough task for this 2nd year QB.

At the start of the season the Steelers lost Le’Veon Bell for the season with an ACL tear, so have had DeAngelo Williams step in who has produced 907 yards and 11 TDs. But last Sunday he left the game with an ankle injury so they won’t have him for this game, leaving the Bengals to sit back and let Big Ben throw at them all day, because they know that Pittsburgh don’t possess a legitimate running game.

I’m predicting a Steelers win because the most important position is the quarterback and Pittsburgh have the vastly superior player in Big Ben versus McCarron. Also the Bengals have lost in the 1st round of the playoffs every year between 2011-2014 so I’m expecting them to continue their unfortunate streak.

Sunday

Seattle Seahawks vs Minnesota Vikings 

If Kansas City are the hottest team in the NFL, then Seattle are a close second. They have won their last 7 games in a row, with Russell Wilson establishing stronger connections with Tyler Lockett and Cooper Helfet in those games. But it’s having Marshawn Lynch back from an abdominal injury which will encourage all Seattle fans this weekend.

Minnesota have Adrian Peterson who last weekend sealed his 3rd rushing title, so for the Vikings to stand a chance they need to keep Wilson and Co off the ball and ride Peterson for 20 carries or more to see how much he can do, then Bridgewater can try to take advantage downfield with play action passes.

I believe that overall both of these teams are quite equal especially as the Vikings will be getting back their defensive players such as Anthony Barr and Harrison Smith. However, due to Minnesota’s lack of a passing game I can’t see them posing much of a threat to the Legion of Boom who will stack the box against Adrian Peterson and ultimately win.

Green Bay Packers vs Washington Redskins

The Packers have struggled their way into the playoffs this season. It looked like at the start everything would be historic with Green Bay starting 6-0 but then went 4-6 in the last 10 games with Aaron Rodgers spending more time under pressure or being sacked than throwing touchdowns, but that doesn’t stop Green Bay being a sneaky Super Bowl contender.

For Washington, Kirk Cousins has been a revelation this season throwing for 4,166 yards, 29 TDs and only 11 INTs.  Jordan Reed and Pierre Garcon have been playing absolutely out of their minds in the last weeks, proving that Washington does have the weapons to put away this average Green Bay secondary, especially at home in Washington.

I believe that Washington will win this game because Green Bay have too many flaws for even Aaron Rodgers to overcome,especially in their offensive line. The Redskins with home field advantage, a quarterback on red hot form and a defense that was stout throughout the season, will win this game quite close in Overtime.

 

 

 

 

My Main Takeaways from Jaguars vs Bills. International Series Game 13

Hello World!

It was a great game between the Bills and Jags at Wembley, with a splendid atmosphere reverberating around the stadium as fans of both teams and NFL in general rallied around an exciting ending. So here are my takeaways from the game.

  1. EJ Manuel isn’t an NFL player at all….

How does this guy have a job in the NFL? It’s insane. He could barely hit his receivers all game and hardly put five passes together for a drive. He had a thread of calamitous plays which started with his drive with a 9 yard pass too low for Robert Woods to make any yards after the catch on 2nd & 18; then on the next play, he failed to see the blitz,  got hit and fumbled, and it was taken back for a touchdown by Chris Clemens.  It was kicked off to the Bills who knelt the ball down. Then, on the first play of the drive from their own 20, Manuel throws a horrible pick 6 where he stares down his receiver and Telvin Smith sits in his zone watching Manuel’s eyes, then takes it to the house for a 21-3 lead. It was just an awful, awful read by Manuel. To put it into perspective, Manuel conceded 2 touchdowns in only 7 seconds of play, but to make matters even worse he then throws another interception only 2 minutes later to Paul Posluszny on 3rd & 16. He did rally them back well for 298 yards and 2 touchdowns and a comeback but ultimately performed very poorly in place of Tyrod Taylor.

2. TJ Yeldon was a star!

He injected some wonderful pace and decisiveness into the Jags’ offence. While Bortles only completed 13 passes for 182 yards on 29 attempts, it was Yeldon’s running that moved Jacksonville down the field with 115 yards on 20 carries and a touchdown giving him 5.8 yard per carry. His longest run of the day was a beautiful 28 yard run for a touchdown where he patiently waited for a gap, broke a tackle in the backfield and then took it to the house. I haven’t a clue what was going on when Greg Olson decided to put in Toby Gerhart to try and get him a touchdown inside the 1 yard line. Yeldon had been playing so well for the whole game and would have found the endzone to seal the win. So expect more from Yeldon throughout the season as he impressed here.

3. Flags…..

Throughout the game both teams were very guilty of committing penalties, with the Bills committing 10 for 87 yards and the Jags also committing 10 for 66 yards. The majority of these were very petty, either delay of game, holding or offside. But I believe the refs got the momentum-changing decision wrong with a very questionable pass interference call on Bradley Roby. With 3:15 to play on 3rd & 15, Brian Walters for the Jags ran an out-route with Roby on his coat tails all the way towards the side line, Bortles threw the pass just ahead of both of them out of bounds. The refs felt though that as Walters leapt towards the ball Roby pushed him, so called pass interference on him. It looked very questionable on the replay that Roby even touched Walters at all! So the Bills can feel aggrieved about that decision as it gave the Jags a lifeline to win the game especially as throughout the whole game they didn’t look like converting a 3rd & 15 at all!

4. Standings!

As the Jags won, it now puts them at 2-5 on the season, tied 2nd in the AFC SOUTH and surprisingly only a game back from the Colts, their next match being against the Jets. So I’m predicting that even with this victory and some momentum, they won’t have enough offensive fire power to get past the top defense in the NFL especially in New York. Now the Bills fall to 3-4 and last in the AFC EAST. Luckily for the Bills they now have their bye week giving their star players time to rest and recover especially Tyrod Taylor who they desperately need. After that they have Miami at home which is a must win for both teams so that will be an exciting matchup!

I was thrilled to be at my 3rd International Series game which was unexpectedly exciting! Can’t wait for next time….

Happy Halloween everyone!