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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.

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49ers get big win over Falcons; putting the Romo injury in prespective.

12-24

For a second there, it really looked like the Falcons were going to be a big spoiler to the 49ers’ party last night. The party had a slow start and really didn’t favor the home supporters until the 3rd quarter got rolling. Atlanta used a nice balance of attack to control most of the first half, taking a lead into the locker room as both team made adjustments. San Francisco came out much better in the second half, controlling the football and going for three straight scores that included to two touchdowns formulated by Colin Kaepernick. Atlanta responded with a big TD pass by Matt Ryan and the 49ers had a nice drive to respond, led by Frank Gore’s running. That’s when things got interesting. Atlanta got another score with a vintage Tony Gonzalez catch, followed by a pretty good onside kick conversion. Right there, the game looked like it would at least go into overtime but then came a really nice play by Tramaine Brock and NaVorro Bowman. Brock broke up the pass and Bowman took advantage of the play, returning the interception (pictured above) to the opposite side of the field, sealing the win. It was a crazy couple of minutes of football. The victory over the Falcons secured the 49ers of a spot in the playoffs, with an outside shot at the division title and the top overall seed in the conference. Chances are that the Niners won’t get the top seed (need both the Panthers and Seahawks to lose) but all of a sudden San Francisco has won five straight, becoming the hottest team in the league with only one week left in the regular season. I would not want to face the 49ers right now. For Atlanta things are very much on the other side of the spectrum, a season of disappointment continues to plague this team. Sure, this means that they get a better draft pick come June but after what they did last season, this will always be a regrettable season for the Falcons.

The news about Tony Romo’s season-ending back injury came about an hour after I finished making my post here. At first I thought it was a couple reporters jumping the gun but rumors continued to swirl around the social that it was true: Romo had suffered a back injury that would end his season for the Cowboys. In all honesty, I didn’t know how to feel immediately. I’ve always been a Romo supporter, quick to point out that for all the scrutiny he receives, #9 of the Dallas Cowboys does just as much good, if not more, for the Cowboys. But even the biggest Romo haters on the planet will agree that the Cowboys aren’t a better team without him. His injury in the 2010 season proves just that. Just as things were starting to go well for Dallas this season, the injury to their franchise QB pretty much eliminates any hopes of a postseason berth for the Cowboys. Chances are that because of their terrible defense Dallas wasn’t going to win either way but at least there was a legitimate shot. Romo hasn’t been ruled by Jason Garrett, doing his robot thing at yesterday’s press conference, but there have been reports of a herniated disk among other medical diagnostics and treatment. It’s just a shame that the Cowboys won’t at least get real shot for the division title. How does NBC feel right now? Quickly flexing this game to prime time, now knowing that it might just feature Kyle Orton as one of the starters. Who knows, maybe Romo will play and this entire fiasco has all been smoke and mirrors. Cowboys fans around the country like myself won’t know until there’s an official statement released but for now, it’s a bleak outlook to what has a been a roller coaster of a season.

Merry Christmas everyone. Or whatever holiday you celebrate or don’t celebrate, I hope it’s an enjoyable next couple of a days for you and your loved ones.

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Bears overpower the Cowboys; figuring out the race for the #1 pick

12-10

Like most people, I was surprised that Mike Ditka’s number was being retired during halftime of last night’s game between the Cowboys and Bears. Not being Ditka doesn’t deserve it. I was just surprised that it had taken this long for the Bears to do so. Just a great night for Bears fans because not only did they honor one of their most important figures but their team also dominated an overwhelmed Cowboys team. Chicago’s offense was completely dominant from start to finish, as the Cowboys had no answer to any part of their attack. The first half was fairly even, both teams trading blows up until halfway through the second quarter. That was when the Bears made some big plays and things started to go downhill for Dallas. John McCown’s pass to Alshon Jefferey to end the half was very indicative of how bad the Cowboys defense has been throughout the season, particularly the secondary. Anytime the Cowboys were able to get Chicago in a 3rd & long, there was Brandon Marshall to combo with Jefferey and get the first down. Did I forget to mention that the Bears running game did it’s job? Chicago also held the ball for what seemed like the entire 3rd quarter where they took a lead that was too much for the Cowboys to come back from. It’s just another game that proves that the Cowboys always zig when everyone expects them to zag. Last night’s cold temperatures clearly favored the Bears, overwhelming the Cowboys in every facet of the game. What’s next for the Bears? Well they’re tied with Lions atop their division but because of losses to Detroit this season, they’re going to need the Lions to slip. The Cowboys essentially lose all possibilities of a wild card berth so it’s time for Dallas to hope for an Eagles loss to back the division lead.

Last night’s teams are fighting for a spot in the postseason but there is also a battle between some of the worst teams in the league. Normally i’m not that into the draft, mostly because the Cowboys always have a middle of the road pic that they manage to screw up. Enough about my sorrows because there are teams racing for a franchise guy this season. Right now the Texans, at 2-11, are in the driver’s seat to land the first pick in the draft and acquire a big player in what looks to be a loaded draft. But will they finish in last place? All signs point to yes. This weekend they’re Indy, playing against a Colts team that’s out to prove that they’re worthy of being in the playoffs. This it’s Denver, where Manning and friends could be trying to clinch home field throughout the playoffs. Second worst team in the league right now are the Redskins, who are a franchise in shambles. The only problem is that they don’t get their pick this season because of the trade they made with the Rams for RG3. Their opponent this weekend? The Falcons, who, for whatever reason, are still trying to compete in games. Despite the fact that they’re in prime position to land the second pick of the draft. Hey Atlanta, after being so bad for your fans all season long, try doing something for them this weekend just take the loss. The Jaguars are next up but all of a sudden, they’re winning 3 of 4 with a real shot to finish the season with 6 wins. Who could have predicted that? By the end of the season I expect the Raiders and Vikings to be rounding out the bottom 5.

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Leftovers from Thanksgiving Day’s slate of NFL games

Oakland Raiders v Dallas Cowboys

It’s always a good day when we can enjoy lots of Thanksgiving food (whatever time every person does it) while having football on the TV for the entire time. I don’t know if we hit the 12 hour mark last night but football fans were pretty close to have 12 straight hours of football. Minus the hour or so of pre-game and halftime shows. The day started off with the Lions and Packers, an NFC North rivalry that goes back a long time but just doesn’t have the same impact without Aaron Rodgers. Back up Matt Flynn was over matched the entire game, sacked 7 times while only throwing 139 yards, no touchdowns and an interception. Credit to the Lions defense as well because they had as big of an impact on this game as some of the best defenses in the league. On offense everything was clicking with Detroit, from top to bottom. Matt Stafford had a couple of turnovers to begin the game (one going back for a score) but towards the end of the second quarter, everything was smooth sailing for the Lions. Megatron was Megatron and their combo running game of Reggie Bush and Joique Bell really brought the offense to another level, much more balanced. Not that anyone felt different but every week confirms that Aaron Rodgers means more to the Packers success than probably any other team in the league. Right now it’s uncertain if he’ll return next week. Now the Lions are back in the driver’s seat for the division as they await this Sunday’s results.

Our second helping of the day featured an odd game between the Cowboys and Raiders. It’s odd because on the very first play of the game the Raiders caused a fumble that was returned for a touchdown. So we’re 12 seconds into the game and the Raiders are up by a touchdown. Things continued to favor the Raiders for rest of the half, doing all the right things on offense. Sure, the Cowboys defense is among the worst of the league but it’s not like the Raiders offense had been lighting it up. At halftime the teams completely switched and the Cowboys nearly dominated the second half from start to finish. The Raiders made things interesting late in the game by getting within one score but without any of their timeouts, it was difficult for Oakland to get the plays they needed. DeMarco Murray led the way in terms of stats (3 rush TDs) but it was a combination of different players on the Cowboys offense that engineered their drives. The Raiders on the other hand didn’t do well against the Cowboys halftime adjustments, showing little signs of what they had done in the first half. Another bad season for the Raiders as they look at making changes and the coming draft. The Cowboys, like the Lions, take hold of the division lead as they await results. Quick shout out to Selena Gomez for looking good during the halftime show.

Things wrapped up in Baltimore with the heated rival Pittsburgh Steelers in town. Normally this is a must watch for any football fan but this season the teams aren’t doing as well as we’re used to. Did they still provide from of the same hard-hitting entertainment? There were some big hits to go with a few scuffles but there were also a lot of odd occurrences. The game came down to an unsuccessful two-point conversion but from the botched field goal to Mike Tomlin’s on the field interference, it was a weird game. But a win is a win and for Baltimore, it keeps them alive in the heated race for the second wild card spot in the conference. All the white keeping the pressure on the Bengals, who are in San Diego this weekend, for the division lead. It was maddening to watch how long it took Pittsburgh to get some offense going, not being able to find the scoreboard until halfway through the 3rd quarter. An offense that looked so good the past couple of weeks sputtered out of the gate and played catch up the entire game. It’s not the type of game that the Steelers want to play when they’re fighting to stay alive for a spot in the postseason. On a side note, the league is looking into Tomlin’s interference on that kick return.

Anyone else riding the Buccaneers (-8) in Carolina this weekend? The Panthers are on a big streak right now but it’s not a streak where they blow teams out as of late. This is a completely different Bucs team from the one the Panthers beat handily about a month ago. The Bucs are playing solid football and I see them keeping it close in Carolina on Sunday.

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The overreaction to Dez Bryant; Stock up and stock down for Week 8

10-28

Despite being absent six teams because of their bye week, yesterday’s games were entertaining and provided a lot to talk about. Sure there are off the field issues to talk about. A lot of attention yesterday went to discussing Dez Bryant’s rant on the sidelines as the Cowboys suffered another heartbreaking loss. As a Cowboys fan, it annoys me to see Dez getting the negative attention. The scrutiny should be directed towards a defense that allowed the team’s most obvious weapon to look like the greatest wide receiver of all time. Calvin Johnson’s 329 yards and a TD is the clear performance of the week. 329! That’s more yards than entire teams managed to get yesterday. Or how about the terrible play calling late in the game for the Cowboys, only needing a first down to basically ice the game. No, Dallas settled for a field goal and gave the Lions plenty of time to pull off a great comeback. Props to Matt Stafford for this awkward but brilliant touchdown score. It makes you wonder why more QBs don’t do this in similar situations. In typical Cowboys fashion, the defense didn’t know what hit them until the referees had confirmed that it was a touchdown in the replay booth. So all these crazy things happen between the Cowboys and Lions but no, let’s focus on Dez Bryant’s yelling along the Cowboys’ sideline. He’s not the first player to do and he certainly won’t be the last so let’s just focus on what actually happens on the field for once. Because aside from Sean Lee, Bryant was the most productive Cowboys player on the field yesterday.

Stock UP: Any and all things have to do with Megatron further proving he’s by far the best at his position; Andy Dalton and the Bengals offense (Marvin Jones!) in general; Tom Brady’s ability to lead a comeback Patriots victory with an unusually swollen hand; the 49ers and Packers continuing to be the two hottest teams in the NFC; the Saints’ chances to run the table in the conference; Josh Brown using his foot to lead a team to victory; the Chiefs’ way of staying undefeated while messing with everyone that bets on their line; the Cardinals’ defense racking up INTs;  record-breaking runs by Terrell Pryor.

Stock DOWN: The Giants-Eagles game in general but specifically Chip Kelly and the Eagles’ offense; any sort of consistency by the J-E-T-S this season from week to week; the Dolphins being able to hold a lead for more than one half; the Jaguars once again proving they’re at the bottom of the barrell; all play calls by Jason Garrett when the Cowboys game is on the line; the Steelers’ big men and their injury woes; the Redskins’ and their attempt to shock the football world in Denver; anyone who had Matt Ryan as their fantasy QB; Vikings’ players not named Adrian Peterson or Jared Allen.

I’m watching tonight’s Seahawks-Rams game because I enjoy watching NFL games but I don’t see the Rams surprising anyone by keeping this game close. Plus, aren’t all the people in St. Louis going to be watching the World Series? Seattle dominates.

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Most surprising moments and best performances in 3rd Sunday of the NFL season

9-23

Did everyone underestimate the AFC almost completely? Or are the NFC teams just not that good? I’ll be the first to admit that I thought the AFC would be a cakewalk for the Broncos, their only real competition being the Texans and maybe the Patriots depending on their health. As of yesterday, you can include the Colts and Bengals as contenders, with the Dolphins looming and somehow still being a dark horse candidate. For myself, the best performance award doesn’t go to a specific player, it clearly goes to the entire Indianapolis Colts team. Andrew Luck led the way on offense but it was the all around team performance that made their win in San Francisco so impressive. Before the game began I was wondering if Andrew Luck was going to be able to deal with the pressure (mental and physical) but it turns out the tables were turned. Kaepernick and the 49ers offense were the ones struggling to get things going on offense, sputtering along for most the game. While Miami’s win over the Falcons wasn’t as impressive overall (home game) as the Colts, it was still a statement win. Who would’ve thought that heading into week 4 the Dolphins and Saints would both be undefeated? So where does that leave the Falcons and the Niners among the rest of the NFC? Remember, these were the final teams standing last season and were supposed to be favorites to get back there this year. Right now it’s the Saints and Bears as the teams that will seriously battle Seattle for the shot at the big game. And dare I say my Dallas Cowboys? Too early for that but they did look very impressive against the Rams, who on the other hand were abysmal for most of the game.

Speaking of abysmal performances, how about those New York Giants? Before the game began I thought Panthers’ coach Ron Rivera was the clear favorite to be the first coach fired this season but as the afternoon went on, the Panthers just kept scoring and scoring and scoring. The Giants couldn’t stop Cam Newton (4 TDs) and their offense could not get anything going, only managing 150 yards of total offense. So aside from the Colts win, the Giants not even managing to score 1 point really surprised me the most. Did I like it? Yes, anytime all the other NFC East team lose and the Cowboys win is a good football weekend for me. Another impressive win was the Bengals over the Packers, in a wild and crazy game with many ups and down. Packers fans were disappointed and Bengals fans were proud but I think neutral fans around the league enjoyed every minute of that game. It was probably the most exciting game to watch all season. Not so exciting games to watch? The Seahawks freebie at home against the Jaguars, the Patriots victory over the disappearing Bucs and the Saints dismantling of the Cardinals. Wait, how did I forget Cleveland’s crazy win over the Vikings in Minnesota? That certainly came out of nowhere. Too early to say that Brandon Hoyer might actually be decent? Browns fans take a step back for a second, the Bengals are in town next Sunday. Overall a great weekend of football. Probably not as exciting as the first two weeks but it looks like the rust has been shaken off entirely and we’re going to see some quality football as the weather turns cooler. The fall NFL season is upon us.

Tonight it’s the Raiders in Denver to take on Manning and co. The Broncos look like the favorite in the AFC and the Raiders look mediocre at best so I don’t expect any surprises tonight. Broncos roll over Raiders.

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Cowboys race past Dolphins in Hall of Fame game

8-5

Even though it was only a pre-season game, the least important one at that, it still feels good to say: ladies and gentlemen, FOOTBALL IS BACK! It really does feel good to type that. Mostly because with the NFL getting it’s pre-season going, that means the slow sports days of summer are coming to an end. We can look forward to the NFL season, baseball playoffs and the start of the NBA season in the longer run. But for now let’s just focus on the NFL as the Cowboys and Dolphins got things going last night, playing in the NFL’s yearly Hall of Fame game. The Cowboys used a strong first half (highlighted by a big interception returned for TD) to race out to a 17-0 lead and never let it go. Bot teams were missing some key players on offense and defense, not wanting to risk injury, so this wasn’t a true indication of what is going to happen this season. Despite that, the defense for Dallas looked solid and was able to fluster the Miami offense and cause mistakes by the Dolphins. Projected Dolphins starting QB Ryan Tannehill played minimal snaps and back up Matt Moore played a somewhat decent game but it’s clear that Miami still has some things to figure out on offense before the regular season begins. The Cowboys on the other hand will involve their offensive stars more as the pre-season goes on (Romo plans to start on Friday) so Dallas fans will get a better feel for the offense.

Many headlines around the NFL this week as there are plenty of games this weekend, starting Thursday night highlighted by the Bengals in Atlanta to take on the Falcons on ESPN. That will be the most watched game but I think the most interesting game that night will be between the Broncos and the 49ers. Two teams that are trying to once again be among the teams that are contending for a title this coming season. The 49ers are dealing with injuries on offense while the Broncos are figuring out how their new additions will adjust and perform. Friday night also features a full slate games, starting at 7:30 ET and the final game between the Cowboys and Raiders starting at 10pm ET. So there are plenty of chances to ignore your wives/girlfriends this weekend and get them used to football season early this year. The Patriots and Eagles game Friday night will be interesting simply because these are two teams that have been making headlines off the field more than on the field this season. How does that translate to their team success on the field? Saturday night has the Giants in Pittsburgh and things wrap up on Sunday with the Bills at the Colts. Remember now, these teams are very raw from training camp so don’t take anything this first week too seriously. The main goal for teams this weekend is to stay injury-free.

Congratulations to all those in the NFL’s Hall of Fame class of 2013. Well deserved.

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LeBron in the NFL? Dez Bryant thinks he’d be a “beast” in the league.

8-2

It’s always been a popular topic. Not just for LeBron James but any other “freak athletes” in any sport. LeBron is usually the athlete discussed but i’ve been a fan of this proposition for a while now. You hear tales of Allen Iverson’s football abilities, Randy Moss with basketball, A-Rod with football and the list goes on and on. So why bring this topic up again? Well, for one it’s a good topic but also because Cowboys’ wide receiver Dez Bryant discussed it a bit at training camp yesterday. Bryant was quoted as saying “I’ve seen a little bit of his highlights from high school. He’s got the hands, he can run the routes, he’s fast enough. He could play in this league if he put it all together.” among other things in praising the NBA’s reigning king. So how accurate is Bryant’s analysis of LeBron? I mean, can he really be Bo Jackson or Deion Sanders and actually succeed in another professional league? It’s hard to imagine him having THAT kind of success. Jackson was an all-star in both of the leagues he played in and Sanders played in both a Super Bowl and a World Series. Still, it’s fun to think about how exciting it would be to see LeBron at tight end, running a corner route in the red zone and making the leap for a touchdown pass. Remember that LeBron was an all-state wide receiver back in his high school days. And who could forget the flag football game he had against Kevin Durant?

While this is all a pipe dream, I think LeBron would be good in the NFL as a TE. Other star tight ends in the NFL like Jimmy Graham and Antonio Gates have heavy basketball backgrounds which is one of the reasons they can excel so much in the red zone. LeBron’s pure athletic ability wouldn’t guarantee him that kind of success but it can’t be denied that with the right work, he’d at the very least be an interesting tryout for a team. Maybe my Dallas Cowboys? Just imagine the whirlwind of media attention that would happen if the NBA’s biggest star signs for the most popular NFL team in the country. To be quite honest, if that were to happen, i’d buy season tickets right away. But as I said previously, it’s not something that’s going to happen. LeBron would be absolutely insane if he were to walk away from the NBA at his absolute prime and just having won multiple championships. Wait, isn’t that what Michael Jordan did? And isn’t LeBron trying to be great enough to be compared to Jordan? Just a thought. Man am I ready for football season to star. Only a month away!

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