Super Bowl LI Preview

Hello World,

It’s Super Bowl week, Atlanta vs New England, Falcons vs Patriots, Quinn vs Belichick and Ryan vs Brady. This is the 7th Super Bowl since 2000 for Belichick and Brady, whereas it is Atlanta’s second ever with their first coming in 1998 where they were dismantled by John Elway and the Broncos. Super Bowl 50 averaged 111.9 million viewers so even more this year, even if Lady Gaga is performing at halftime. Here is my preview for THE game of the year.

The Atlanta Falcons have been an offensive superpower this season. It has been incredible to watch, they have put up over 40 points in 6 different games this season, scoring a mesmeric 540 points tied for the 2000 Rams lead by now Hall of Famer Kurt Warner. Their quarterback, Matt Ryan was 1st team All-Pro and both Offensive Player of the year as well as league MVP. He has been the best quarterback to play every game this season. He has the number one quarterback rating in the league with 83.3, he has the second most touchdowns with 38 and passing yards with 4,944 and the third highest completion percentage with 69.9%. You feel like this type of season has been a long time coming for Ryan who came into the league in 2008 taken with the 3rd overall pick from Boston College. In his first season he lead the Falcons to an 11-5 record winning offensive rookie of the year then in 2012 they got all the way to the NFC Championship game but choked away a 17 point lead against the 49ers, so see him now reach the Super Bowl is reward for not only Atlanta fans but for the neutrals as well.

Ryan has powered the most explosive offensive this season due to the shrewd free agency work of Thomas Dimitroff and Scott Pioli such as Alex Mack at centre (second team All-Pro), Mohammed Sanu and Taylor Gabriel both with 6 touchdowns each this year. As well as the explosion of both Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman the best running back duo in the league with a combined 2,482 yards from scrimmage (rushing and receiving) this year the best in the league. Now by having all of these players it has given Ryan more time and more option to spread the ball around and take the pressure off Julio Jones one of the best wide receivers in the league. He has been incredible this year with another Pro Bowl and first-team All-Pro selection, 1,452 yards and 6 touchdowns. He added another record to his collection with 300 yards receiving in ONE game. That is one game that shows everyone what an extraordinary talent he is.

Atlanta has also benefited hugely from a very successful couple of drafts with rookie players this year such as Deion Jones, Keanu Neil, Austin Hooper and DeVondre Campbell all making significant impacts on both sides of the ball. Linebacker Deion Jones was nominated for Defensive Rookie of the Year with 108 tackles and safety Keanu Neil with 106 tackles as well. Vic Beasley jr seemed like a shadow of his college self in hiss rookie campaign with only 4 sacks but into his second year he has exploded to 15.5 sacks to win the Deacon Jones award and he reached his first All-Pro and Pro Bowl selection. With Ryan’s astounding offensive season it has given Atlanta very fast and big leads in games which have forced the opposing team to completely scrap their running game and be forced to throw on the Falcons. This has allowed them to play much more deep zone coverage as they don’t have to stack the box to stop the run. This has allowed the defence to get to the ball and force turnovers, something they will need in order to beat the Patriots.

The New England Patriots started this season without their starting quarterback Tom Brady and went 3-1 with a shutout of the Texans put in there for good measure. Since Brady returned from his suspension of the first four games of the season for his part in Deflategate. Brady returned in week 5 and the Patriots have only lost one game since this is down to Brady throwing 28 touchdowns to only 2 interceptions for 3,554 yards and owning an 112.2 passer rating. He has been incredible this season especially with the injury to Tight End Rob Gronkowski in the middle of the season eliminating Brady’s only All-Pro receiver. Brady has been unstoppable this year aged 39, he has much better pocket awareness than he did about 4 years ago and his arm doesn’t seem to be wilting like Peyton Manning’s did last season. Like Manning did last year, Brady is hoping to win the Super Bowl and if he does it will put him in my eyes as the greatest quarterback of all time because he will have 5 super bowl rings compared to Montana and Bradshaw’s 4 rings. We know that this is familiar territory for Brady as this is his 7th Super Bowl so you can expect a calm man stepping out onto that field looking for his chance to become immortal in Super Bowl history.

As I mentioned earlier the Falcons have also built their success around their joy in free agency and trades, so have the Patriots with such players as Chris Hogan, Martellus Bennett and Chris Long all becoming major factors for this New England team. The Patriots have statistically the number one ranked defence in the entire league. With such players as Dont’a Hightower, Malcolm Butler and Devin McCourtey providing Belichick with the backbone of a team, with a difficult task in the Super Bowl to stop the plethora of offensive weapons that Atlanta possesses. Now they did this very well against the Steelers in the AFC Championship game, where they double teamed Antonio Brown for large proportions of the game and forced Ben Roethlisberger to let his other receivers like Eli Rogers and Cobi Hamilton try to make a play, which they couldn’t. Now obviously the Patriots were helped out by a Le’Veon Bell injury in the game which limited him to 54 yards rushing. I feel like this Falcons team has too many weapons to enforce the same strategy again so it will be interesting to see how Belichick and defensive coordinator Matt Patrica try to slow down this offensive powerhouse.

In conclusion, I believe that this will be a high-scoring affair in Hoston with each team going over 30 points. But the experience and the combination of Brady and Belichick will find a way to get a win for their 5th super bowl as a duo. Also, bear in mind, the last player to win league MVP and the Super Bowl was Kurt Warner in 1999! As well as that with the Falcons owning the number one scoring offence and the Patriots the number one scoring defence. This has happened 6 times in Super Bowl history and the top-ranked scoring defence has a 5-1 record.

Final Score: Atlanta Falcons 31 – 38 New England Patriots

 

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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.