Posts by Bowser

2014 NFL season preview: AFC South

9-2a

What a downgrade from most of the divisions in the NFL. Other divisions look forward to facing these four teams but can they manage to do better this season? This division revolves around the Colts, and more specifically, Andew Luck, who matters more to the Indy’s success than any other QB. Can the Colts once again win the division virtually by default? Jacksonville has always been sort of a laughing stock due to their lack of success as of late but have they acquired the tools to turn things around? Tennessee is the biggest mystery in the division but flying low on everyone’s radar could be the best scenario for them. Then we have the Houston Texans, who after their worst season in the NFL last year, are shelling out a nice tandem in their pass rush.

Indianapolis Colts: This team might as well named the Indianapolis Lucks. Lucky to be in this division and lucky to have Andrew Luck behind center. Indy did a nice job of getting some new weapons for their young quarterback but it’s going to take some time for them to completely gel into their offensive system. But the “gelling” of their offense won’t get going unless they can keep the pressure off Luck, something that the Colts’ offensive line hasn’t been able to do since #12 started playing there. Let’s also throw in that several arrests, including their owner, have occurred in the offseason and could prove to be more critical than normal. Despite their problems, the Colts are still the best team in a bad division. No reason to think they won’t repeat as AFC South champions.

Houston Texans: But if a team could take the throne from the Colts, it has to be the Texans. All signs point to a complete turnaround this season for Houston: no more Matt Schaub; the addition for Jadaveon Clowney; new head coach looking to shake things up and finally, quite possibly the easiest schedule of all time. What else am I missing here? Did I mention that Schaub won’t be around the break his “pick-6” record anymore? Oh yeah, a healthy Andre Johnson who just might stay healthy for once in his life. But this team still has burdens. Mostly Arian Foster and whatever he has left in the tank partnered with the insecurity of what QB Ryan Fitzpatrick can do in his first year there. They can give the Colts some pressure but I still expect them to finish right around a .500 record.

Tennessee Titans: As I stated above, the Titans are a mystery because their offense is a mystery. Their quarterback can’t stay healthy and who knows what will happen with their running game. If Jake Locker wants to prove that he can play QB in the NFL, this needs to be the season. Tennessee has not picked up his option for 2015 so as of right now, Locker is playing for a job. Now that they’re without Chris Johnson, will another running back pick up the slack? They have several options but we have yet to see which RB will show that he deserves the most touches. The improvements in coaching should be evident right away but I can’t expect them to do well unless some unexpected talent produces a breakout performance. Until I see a healthy Locker, they linger around .500 once again.

Jacksonville Jaguars: Aside from the Browns and Raiders, this is everyone’s favorite team to pick on. For all of you who have only been watching the NFL for a few years, the Jaguars used to finish above .500 and used to make the playoffs. But that hasn’t happened in what feels like forever when it reality it’s been since ’07 since they participated in the postseason. They just never have an identity anymore. Their defense has been decent, during this stretch that they’re in, but the offense has been mediocre, at best, for a long time now. Can Blake Bortles change that? They have done a nice job of building through the draft but it’s time for those pieces to come together and produce some victories. The Jags will be improved from last season but will continue to hold the “one year away” tag once again this season.

View All Photos ›

2014 NFL season preview: NFC South

9-2

One of the more interesting divisions in the NFL. Last season, the Panthers were impossible to predict but rode their defense and improved coaching to an impressive record (12-4) along with their first division title in five years. But this is a new year and things might not be so fortunate for Carolina. We’ll get to them specifically in the next paragraph but compared to the standings from last season, the NFC South could very well look like a much different division. The Falcons (NFC title game just two seasons ago) are coming off a terrible season but with a healthy roster, they’re definitely a team that others won’t be able to just roll over. And what about Tampa Bay? Offseason moves are showing all the signs that point to a big improvement from last season.

Carolina Panthers: Much the like the Chiefs, the entire sports world is predicting that this team will regress. Their offense, questionable last season, will be even worse this season. The Panthers weren’t able to replace Steve Smith with another #1 option and the rest of the receiving core has not shown that they can pick up the slack. Not only is the offensive line in bad shape, but Cam Newton has suffered a rib injury that probably won’t be fully healed with all the pressure that will land on him throughout the season. But can their defense and improved coaching prevent things from getting so off-track? Ron Rivera will continue his improved ways from last season but don’t expect the defense to be as stout. Tough prediction but, I expect the Panthers to be under .500 this season.

New Orleans Saints: This team will score plenty of points this season. With Drew Brees and Sean Payton leading the way, there isn’t a doubt that New Orleans will be one of the best teams in the conference. Jimmy Graham, with his shiny new contract, will be the go-to receiver on offense as they try to take advantage of their robust home field advantage. Despite their obvious advantages inside of their dome, their road woes will continue to be a question. Their 3-5 on the road last season is something that must improve. Can the defense also continue to improve and ease some of the load from the offense? Brees is one of the elite quarterbacks in the league but even he can’t continue to shell out massive games for 17 straight weeks. Saints will top the division and compete for the best record in the NFC.

Atlanta Falcons: This one of the hardest teams to predict not only in this division, but the entire league. Plagued by injuries last season, the Falcons quickly fell into a disappointing spiral and finished tied for last place in the NFC South just one season after playing in the conference title game. So what’s changed this season? Well, for one, they’re fully healthy and it will help their offense immensely. Look for a nice bounce-back year from Matt Ryan with lots of weapons around him. Despite their improvements on offense, the question will continue to be on the defensive side. The complete lack of pass rush from their front line results in plenty of time for opposing quarterbacks to take their sweet time in making decisions. Atlanta won’t fight for the division but they could get a wild card berth.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: The Tampa Bay defensive line is pretty much the exact opposite of the Falcons and there isn’t a doubt that the Bucs WILL get pressure on other team’s quarterbacks. That will be the team’s strength and what people will know about them throughout the season. New head coach Lovie Smith makes this team better almost immediately and with their new look on offense, things could in a positive direction very quickly. It will take some time for the points to mount but I could very well see the Bucs giving any other team in the NFC a fight. Remember, this team was very close to beating the Seahawks in Seattle last season. Expect more of that team, rather than the one that finished 4-12 last season. I expect around .500 but they could very well surprise everyone and do much better.

View All Photos ›

2014 NFL season preview: NFC East

8-29

In the Super Bowl era, the NFC East is the most successful division, accumulating 12 titles in the past 43 years. But in the past decade it’s only been the Giants who have tasted glory, winning two Super Bowls since 2007 with the Eagles also tasting a bit of success in the postseason. Other than that, this division has been very underwhelming. Right now the debate is whether or not this is the worst division in the league. The defenses are among the worst in the league but can more than team overcome their shortcomings and advance into the playoffs?

Philadelphia Eagles: Teams don’t repeat as champions in this division. Although, the last team to do so was Philadelphia but that was a decade ago. Does this team have a good shot to hold the division crown? Well they are a good team but it’s also because the division is so terrible that the consensus is that, yes, the Eagles will repeat. I’m in the same camp. Defense was their biggest issue last season but with a new coordinator and some nice acquisitions, we could see a vast improvement in their defensive numbers. Of course, this team revolves around the offense that Chip Kelly designs and there’s no doubt that Nick Foles and LeSean McCoy have potential to be the biggest QB-RB combo in the league. McCoy could repeat as the rushing title champion. Schedule is a bit tough but this team has all the tools to win the division once again.

Washington Redskins: Headlines over the name of their franchise have been swirling around them for pretty much the entire offseason. If changes aren’t made quickly, the attention will only continue to increase as the season progresses. Whatever one’s stance is on the issue, it’s evident that changes should be made if only to avoid the negative press. Anyways, this team’s season will rely heavily, more than most teams, on the health of their quarterback. Will we see 2012 RG3 once again? Adding DeSean Jackson as a big-play receiver should help but more will hinge on Griffin’s decisions when it comes to his body. And unless their secondary improves in a big way, Washington will have to score plenty of points in order to win games. This team has below-.500 written all over them.

Dallas Cowboys: As much as I have tried since first posting on this website, it’s nearly impossible for me to be completely objective about this team. The Cowboys took me on an emotional roller coaster last season and I have a feeling it’s going to be more of the same this season. Jerry Jones is still the owner and Jason Garrett is still the head coach. I like the bolstering off the offensive line, especially with Romo’s back issues, but I would’ve been more satisfied is they addressed the terrible defense a bit better. The Cowboys did excellent against the division last season (5-1) but this time things won’t be as fortunate. The schedule is a toss up with the NFC West opponents being somewhat balanced out with the AFC opponents. Serious chance of Dallas finishing 8-8 for the fourth straight season.

New York Giants: Can anyone predict what’s going to happen with the Giants this season? After Eli Manning’s abysmal season in 2013 (27 INTs) and their issues all over field, the Giants are looking to bounce back in a big way. They certainly made the moves during the offseason to address their issues but it’s going to take time for that many players to adjust to a new team and system. The offensive line was among the worst last season to go along with their less-than-stellar running game. Can Manning carry the offense despite losing some of his weapons? If the defense wants to make an impact, it’s going to have to do it with their improved secondary because their defensive front doesn’t look like it’s going to make much damage. Much like the rest of the division, most likely a mediocre season.

View All Photos ›

2014 NFL season preview: AFC West

8-28

One of the most interesting divisions in the NFL. The AFC West has always been intriguing because of whatever the Raiders and Chargers are doing, but with the addition of Peyton Manning and a Chiefs resurgence, this is a division that will not lack headlines. Obviously, things revolve around the Broncos and their quest to return to the Super Bowl. But what about the Chiefs? They’ve been getting LOTS of attention for a specific reason but we’ll get to them eventually. The Chargers always being the dark horse and whatever nonsense the Raiders are up to.

Denver Broncos: After their blowout loss in the Super Bowl, how does Denver respond this season. People are penciling them in for at least 11 or 12 wins but is it going to be that easy? Other teams will be trying to emulate the Seahawks’ game plan from the Super Bowl when they’re up against the Broncos this season. Peyton Manning is a year older and as we know with pro athletes that are in an advanced age, when it’s starts to go, it goes very fast. But Denver did well in their offseason on defense, signing Demarcus Ware, Aqib Talib and TJ Ward. All players should help them immensely, especially with Manning losing Eric Decker and transitioning to Emmanuel Sanders in that same role. The offense won’t break records this season but they’ll do damage. Denver regresses, just a bit, but still wins the division.

Kansas City Chiefs: This is, without a doubt, one of the most talked about teams prior to the start of the season. Why? They have the word “regression” written all over them. Pick your topic: over achievers last season, a really tough schedule, key losses on defense and no additions on offense. Let’s just add the fact that they suffered a really bad playoff defeat to the Colts last season. Also, no one respects Alex Smith as he can’t shed the label of “game manager” unless he has some sort of other-worldly season. Are people doubting this team a little too much? One of my good friends is a Chiefs fan and he said “The Chiefs won’t do as well as last season but they won’t be as bad as everyone thinks they’ll be.” I just look at their schedule and wonder how they’re going to be more than 7 or 8 wins this season.

San Diego Chargers: Could this finally be the Chargers year? They made the playoffs last season by finishing their season on a winning streak and with the help of some other teams losing. But can the momentum continue? Their potent offense carried the way but can Phillip Rivers and his weapons be as effective? Some point to their lack of weapons. I’m in the camp that doesn’t think they’ll need to score that many points to win games this season. They addressed their defensive woes in the offseason through the draft and free agency signings. Their schedule starts off and finishes pretty tough, but it they can take care of business against the easier teams, I can see San Diego doing well and challenging not only for a spot in the playoffs, but also challenging Denver for the division title.

Oakland Raiders: What is this team doing? They’ve added some nice young players to build for the future but with head coach Dennis Allen still there, I can’t see the team doing anything but staying in the same spot. Does Matt Schaub have anything left after leaving Houston in the worst possible way? Will he break his own “pick-6” record with a Raiders helmet on? Can Darren McFadden stay healthy after signing another contract with Oakland? The Raiders acquired Maurice Jones-Drew to help with the ball carries but who knows how much he has left in the tank. Both the head coach and GM seem to be “hot seat” candidates and all signs point to them not being with the franchise next season. At best, I can see this as a .500 team but nowhere near contention for division or the playoffs.

View All Photos ›

2014 NFL season preview: NFC West

8-26

No reason to believe otherwise: this is the NFL’s best division. But just because it’s the best division in football, doesn’t mean that it’s going to be the toughest to figure out. As a whole, it’s led to believe that this will be a down year for the division. The Seahawks are still the favorite but are dealing with minor issues to coincide with the Super Bowl hangover. The rest of the division is simply dealing with lots of injuries and we could see less of a dominance with their out-of-division games. How will things shake out for each individual team?

Seattle Seahawks: I’m sure that I don’t need to stress how difficult it is to repeat as Super Bowl champions. If Seattle were to accomplish the feat, it will have been the first time we’ve seen a team do that since the Patriots of the early 2000s. Despite the obstacles, this Seahawks team is the first team with a real chance to repeat in a long time. There’s a real chance that we’ll see them regress from last season but that doesn’t mean that they aren’t the favorites to win the division, and the conference, once again. Questions linger on the offense: how will Marshawn Lynch do and who is Russell Wilson going to to throw the ball to? Combine that with a few key departures on defense, mostly in the backfield, and we have a less potent team. Seahawks still win the West, but it’s not as impressive.

San Francisco 49ers: My argument still stands: the 49ers were the best team in the NFL the past two seasons. Unfortunately they had to deal with playing in the best division in football and suffered losses that felt more unfortunate than telling. Did San Francisco’s window close a bit after last season? Now that Colin Kaepernick got his big “but team friendly” contract, how does the pressure affect him? A healthy Michael Crabtree plus Steve Smith will certainly help things but the offense will need to be much more effective, seeing as their defense is dealing with some injuries and off-the-field issues that will result in suspensions. Can this team rely more on their offense? Some say that if they don’t compete once again for a title, this might be Jim Harbaugh’s last season. There’s potential for regression, but I think the Niners are, at worst, the second wild card.

Arizona Cardinals: By default, the Cardinals are the dark horse of the division. Especially with the Rams’ chances going down the drain. Arizona has been a playoff-caliber team for the past two seasons but are unfortunately in tough spot to actually make the postseason. Can they finally overcome their obstacles? Carson Palmer must, MUST, cut down on the turnovers. Their defense was solid last season but a couple of key players will be missing, so much like the 49ers, the Cardinals need to rely more on their offense. I like a big year from RB Andre Ellington and more focus on WR Michael Floyd. It’ll also be interesting to how well their secondary does with the return of Tyrann Mathieu. I like the Cardinals more than most people but maybe, just maybe if they were in another division, they could see success.

St. Louis Rams: This Rams team was showing signs of a breakout season, the only thing holding them back was a decent and healthy season from Sam Bradford to get things going in the right direction. But this is the NFL and sometimes, the worst of your team’s injuries occur before the season has even begun. Bradford tears his ACL during preseason and just like that, St. Louis’ season is pretty much lost. Their defense, particularly their front line, will be great but it won’t be enough. Bradford isn’t en elite quarterback by any stretch but he’s better than every single back up in the league. Now the topic turns from  “Can the Rams be a playoff team?” to “Do the Rams part ways with Bradford?” because of one play in a meaningless game. With their starting QB gone, the Rams are looking at a long season.

View All Photos ›

2014 NFL season preview: AFC East

8-25

We’re ten days, that’s right TEN, away from the NFL regular season getting underway. The preseason has teased us a bit but now that the more important of the four games have been played, the roster cuts begin and teams will look officially ready for the season. I waited as long as I could to preview each division mostly because of injuries. Just look at what’s happened to Sam Bradford (torn ACL), Cam Newton (fractured rib), Wes Welker (concussion) and many other players around the league. And the NFL hasn’t even played a game yet! The show must go on and so will we. I’ll be doing a division each day, switching from conference to conference, while leaving the toughest divisions to decide for the last few days.

New England Patriots: As it has been for the past decade-plus, the division starts and ends with the Patriots. As long as Bill Belichick and Tom Brady are there then it’s just assumed that they will win over 10 games and take the division title. The Jets challenged them for a few years (sometimes successfully) but this isn’t one of the years. The Patriots are healthy, getting back Rob Gronkowski and key players on their defense. The acquisition of Darrell Revis vastly improves what was an abysmal secondary last season. So what’s going to determine their season? Well, Brady’s weapons and their health. Last year Gronkowski went down early and the offense was so different. That and how effective they will be at running. Despite what problems may occur, I don’t seem them giving up the division.

Miami Dolphins: If the Patriots were to concede the division to another team, which team steps up to take it from them? I have a feeling that it’s going to be the Dolphins. All the signs are there. Miami did a nice job signing players in the offseason that fit their needs. Better players on both sides of the line and more weapons at play-making positions. But it’s all going to come down to Ryan Tannehill. The young QB, with the hottest wife in the league, has been getting plenty of buzz as one of biggest breakout stars of the season. I’m a bit hesitant to agree because he’s never been able to stay upright and his deep passes aren’t too crisp. Fixing the o-line and improving the receiving core will help both of those things immediately. Miami will be better this season but challenging New England for the division is a bit of a stretch.

New York Jets: The Jets. Even when they’re not good, they’re still getting plenty of attention because of their bizarre way of doing, well, everything. The circus doesn’t stop this season with the signing of Michael Vick and Chris Johnson. Those two names immediately create discussion but what about the rest of the Jets team? Geno Smith is named the starter for week 1 but how will the rest of the offense step it up? I mean, it’s not like offense can be worse than last season, right? Eric Decker should be a nice go-to target but i’m worried about their secondary and their inability to create turnovers. Coaching is always a question with Rex Ryan around. All signs point to a mediocre/.500 team and I think that’s exactly when they’re headed. Maybe even a bit worse.

Buffalo Bills: Of all the teams with playoff-less droughts, the Bills might be the most disappointing of them all. They’re one of about three teams that are predicted to “make the leap” year after year, but they always come up short on their goals. Last year was the first year of the EJ Manuel era and while he showed a bit of promise to start the season, the injury bug didn’t want to let him do. The Bills are gambling by selecting WR Sammy Watkins so high in the draft (ie. ATL with Julio Jones) so we’ll have to see how that plays out. Yes, the pieces are there as they are most years but how will everything pan out? The potential of the entire franchise being sold will loom over everything and it won’t have a positive result. Potential not fulfilled turns into disappointment. Bills bring up the rear of the division.

View All Photos ›

Giants rally past Bills to win Hall of Fame preseason game

8-4a

Just writing down the name of two NFL teams feels good. Since I was so invested in the World Cup this summer, the NFL preseason completely caught me off guard last night. I was aware that it was starting soon but because I had taken a bit of a break from writing, I had to look twice when my TV guide said that the Giants were going up against the Bills. Then I remembered “Oh yeah, the HoF game!” and continued my excitement. It’s preseason so I kept my cool but it was just nice to hear the football intro music (video below) and the player’s names from voices like Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth. We only saw a few snaps from the first team players but it was still enough to get a bit of a feel as to what these two teams are going to do this season. The Giants are coming off a disappointing season in which Eli Manning seemed to be throwing an interception every single quarter. This time around, Manning decided that a fumble was his preferred method of turning the ball over. And the Bills, coming off a last place finish in their division, are looking to build on EJ Manuel’s second season, hoping that the sophomore quarterback matures. I’m still a bit confused as to what these two teams will look like this season. The Giants are always a mystery and can go from painfully mediocre to winning the NFC East and going on a Super Bowl run in a two year span. The Bills are the Bills but I like their defense and watching their home games makes me believe that certain NFL crowds still have that old-school feel and support. Still, this is the most relaxed of the preseason games that we’re going to see. Not much to discuss as it’s mostly borderline players trying to make a name for themselves and secure a roster spot.

So let’s talk about some of the news that’s going on around the rest of the league. There will be multiple preseason games starting on a Thursday and they will continue on the weekends for the rest of the month, so i’ll go over the action when the time comes. But because we only got one game last night, let’s just hit some other topics. Controversial news coming from Cincinnati today as the Bengals reportedly reached a 6-year deal with Andy Dalton that it worth up to $115 million. He’s a starting QB for a solid NFL team, so, why the controversy? Well, #14 on the Bengals has yet to win a playoff game. Three straight years of a wild-card playoff spot and three straight losses. I’m just going to say this: let’s just wait and see what he does in the playoffs before we criticize the decision. Other news around the league includes Johnny Manziel’s reps with the first team. No surprise that Manziel started off a bit sloppy but has shown plenty of signs that he can play with the big boys. Richard Sherman, continues to talk about other players and apparently is cool with Patrick Peterson now. Maybe Sherman is a bit jealous because he knows that Peterson is a better CB than him? That’s just my opinion. Also, Brett Favre will have his number retired by the Packers next season. Most of the these “headlines” are pretty irrelevant but i’m just glad that we’re starting to get into the thick of things with the NFL. Football is back and all is right in the US sports world.

 

 

View All Photos ›

2014 FIFA World Cup: Germany wins their 4th title

GTY 452111562 S FOI WCS BRA

Today’s World Cup final between Germany and Argentina was not for the faint of heart. There was only one goal during the length of the match but it was still an exciting one, filled with plenty of chances for both teams. There were also some controversial calls, hard fouls, great fan reactions and one incredible late goal. Mario Götze, at only 22 years of age, becomes a national hero for Germany after he scores on a brilliant volley in extra time to win Germany’s 4th World Cup title. Götze was initially a starter for the German squad but had been benched after a somewhat unimpressive campaign. No more. Götze will be forever remembered by German football fans around the world as “super-sub Mario” after the young man came off the bench in the 88th minute, and scored with only 7 minutes left in extra time. The addition of Götze seemed to energize the German offense, taking advantage of a well-rested squad and they looked like the team with more legs as the game went into added extra time. Germany wasn’t as impressive today as most thought they would be but they did enough when it counted most. They controlled the pace of the game and despite a couple of key mistakes, they never allowed Argentina to take control of the game for more than a few stretches throughout the game. Argentina had the clearest chances but aside from a few nice break away plays, they never really got into rhythm.

This was supposed to be the game where Lionel Messi ascended into greatness and could very well ended the debate of who the greatest football player of all time. It didn’t quite occur that way. Sure, when given a bit space or a nice through ball, Messi looked poised to make a great play but overall #10 for Argentina was largely absent. Argentina’s attack was mostly limited to the outside wingers as they tried to control the ball in order to force Germany into some mistakes. They happened but the “albiceleste” team didn’t take advantage and they’re left with a handful of what ifs. I thought that if Messi had a bit more help, the offense could’ve been more fluid but with Angel Di Maria out and only one half of Sergio Aguero, there wasn’t enough firepower up front. Striker Gonzalo Higuain failed to capitalize on a huge German mistake in the first half and had an unimpressive game overall. I gotta give it up for the Argentine fans. They were among the best of the tournament and their presence was felt throughout a game that featured a nice flow from end of end. No one really thought that Argentina would make it to a World Cup final that is being held in Brazil but they did it and while their night might end with tears and disappointment, they have nothing to be ashamed about. But what else are we going to take away from this World Cup?

I can’t imagine it being a better World Cup when we head to Russia four years from now and if FIFA does go through with Qatar in 2022, that might end up being the worst of all time. But we’ll get to those tournaments when they’re closer to us. Let’s praise Brazil for a moment. After months of scrutiny for a number of reasons, Brazil was able to overcome, hosting a brilliant tournament that accounted for some of the best world football that we have ever seen and i’m pretty we’ll look back at this World Cup as one of the best ever. Did the “right” team win it all? I think so. Germany was the most impressive team of the tournament from start to finish and they held the concept of team more than any other nation. Were there other team that were worthy of winning the title? Yes, and no. Netherlands certainly had their stretches, as did teams like Brazil, Colombia and France. But they all had one or two glaring issues that were certain to doom them. Germany only held minor issues and seemed to be the best, most complete tournament. Also, I may or may not have wagered on Germany before the tournament and may, or may not, have collected some sort of prize today. Ich danke Ihnen sehr Deutschland.

Thank you Brazil. Thank you to all the players, all of the coaching staffs, the wonderful fans (especially the pretty ladies) in the stands and for a great month of high-level world football. See you in four years.

View All Photos ›