Tag Archives: national football league

Lions and Cardinals victorious in Monday Night Football's opening night

New York Giants v Detroit Lions

For those who didn’t get enough football on Sunday, last night provided a big helping of dessert with two games on ESPN for their first edition of Monday Night Football. I’ve always enjoyed having a second game on the opening night, even if it is a pretty late start for the second game. Not just because it’s more NFL but also because the second game always seems to be worth (remember this game?) staying up for. Last night was no different as the game, after a very slow start, came down to the final quarter. But first, we have to take care of discussion the lopsided game between the Lions and Giants.

For a second there, I thought that Calvin Johnson (164 yds, 2 TDs) would end up with something like 400 yards and 5 touchdowns after what we saw in the first quarter last night. The Lions struck early against the Giants who, for whatever reason, decided to leave Johnson open for two scores. Megatron is actually the last receiver on the planet that one would want to give space to. That’s just the way the night went for the Giants. Because they fell into an early deficit, the Giants were trying to fix their mistakes and at the same time, make some sort of comeback. The Giants managed to hang around after a good 2nd quarter but after the third quarter was dominated by the Lions, the game was out of reach. My favorite play of the night goes to Matt Stafford and his 5-yard run for the score in the 3rd quarter. The play essentially put the game out of reach and Detroit was on their way to getting their first victory of the season. New York has plenty to work on after yesterday’s game. Eli Manning couldn’t avoid getting another multi-interception game, and now the questions about his status as a Giant begin early. On thing is for sure after this weekend: the NFC East can officially be named as the worst division in the league. Detroit, on the other hand, finds itself in tied for first place along with the Vikings in the North. Crazy!

Another Monday night game and another 4th quarter meltdown by the Chargers. Maybe San Diego should just say “no” to all games that feature them in front of a national audience. But in all honesty, the Chargers were a bit fortunate to be ahead in this game when the 4th quarter rolled around. They had some nice plays here and there, but when one looks back at the game a little bit, one can clearly see that “fortunate bounces” went their way. Every team has those nights and the luck stopped in the 4th quarter. The Chargers were mounting a nice drive, with at least a field goal in their pocket (to put them up by 8) but a botched snapped forced them to punt. Arizona gets the ball back, mounts an impressive drive from their own 9-yard line, and eventually scores with only a few minutes left. San Diego was charging to try and win the game but fell short on a 4th down attempt. Props to the Cardinals defense. They weren’t great by any means last night but made some nice plays when they needed it. It was a sloppy, but entertaining game. The early win for Arizona is key if they want to compete with the rest of the NFC West. And meanwhile, San Diego stumbles in their opening game before they get the Seahawks at home next week.

NFL's first Sunday filled with surprises and drama

NFL: Buffalo Bills at Chicago Bears

The ritual on Sunday morning was different yesterday. Whether you were trying to get rid of your hangover or trying to get rid of those pesky weeds in the backyard, NFL fans finished their chores post-haste. Because they, like myself, knew that the rest of the day would be dedicated to watching football. But what kind of day would the league produce? The NFL season is a roller coaster, a very long one, filled with plenty of turns, twists and loops. Depending on which team one is supporting will determine what kind of ride is expected. The highs will be high, and the lows will be low. Despite those risks, fans of the NFL know what they’re getting themselves into and Sunday morning was filled with aspirations and anxiousness. So, what went down yesterday in the National Football League?

Since CBS decided to dedicate part of their afternoon to the US Open, the early slate of NFL games was pretty massive. Ten games going on and there was plenty of drama early. Some of the games turned into lopsided affairs (Vikings-Rams, Eagles-Jaguars, Dolphins-Patriots) but some nice finishes kept the watchers on the edge of their seats. Which team was most impressive yesterday? I’m torn between a few teams. Initially I thought to go with the Vikings, who were on the road in St. Louis and completely destroyed a stout Rams’ defense. With respect to anyone else who made some magic happen yesterday, Cordarrelle Patterson had my favorite play of day with his 67-yard run. Then I remembered the Rams offense will be mediocre at best this season. What about the Dolphins? At home, going up against the untouchable Tom Brady is no easy task for any team. Miami dominated the second half with their running game, using a nice combination of Lamar Miller and Knowshon Moreno to control the pace of the game. But as I’ve said in the past, weird stuff happens when the Patriots are in Miami every season. So that leaves me with the Bills (pictured above) in Chicago, impressing the hell out of everyone and beating the Bears in overtime. I think the line for that game was Bears by 8 or something close to it. So it’s safe to say that nobody had Buffalo winning that game and because of what they showed me, they were the most impressive team yesterday.

Unfortunately for fans of other teams (myself included) it can’t all be rainbows and sunshine. Half of the teams participating in yesterday’s games saw their game finish in a loss. Fans of those on the losing side will overreact today, pointing fingers and looking for someone to blame for their misery. Fair enough, but for anyone who has been following this league knows that the first game of the season won’t determine that team’s fate. Or does it? The stats can prove part of the argument but after watching a losing side, which are the teams that are in real trouble? There are three obvious candidates. We can go ahead and start things off with my Dallas Cowboys, who were on the wrong end of a spanking at home against the 49ers. The Cowboys went away from what was working and that result in three picks from Tony Romo. Let’s also add that the Niners offense did what they wanted with their passing game. But we knew the Cowboys and their defense would be bad. What about their division rival Washington? The Redskins were victims of one JJ Watt, who lived up to his massive contract and hounded RG3 and his offensive line. But we knew that Watt is a beast and we knew that the Redskins questions on offense. Now we have the Chiefs, with the biggest opportunity to silence there doubters, they fell flat in Tennessee. The Chiefs are in for a really, really long season and their season debut might have indicated exactly how their season will go.

What’s better than football on Monday night? Even more football on Monday night. That’s right, we’re getting two games tonight ladies and gentlemen. The Giants are in Detroit (7:10 ET) and then we have the late night game that will feature the Chargers in Arizona (10:20 ET) to finish things off. Plan on staying up nice and late!

Seahawks take care of Packers in NFL's opening night


It feels good to write the sentence “opening night” and have it be about the NFL. It means that we have twenty-two (22!) Sundays that will feature at least one professional football game on our television. As much I want to discuss Sunday’s massive 1pm (ET) slate, let’s have some manners and leave the main course until after the appetizer. And by appetizer, i’m clearly referring to last night’s opening game that squared off with the Packers in Seattle. One thing is for sure: the Seahawks are still in their championship form. After a fairly balanced first half, the Seahawks dominated the Packers in the 3rd quarter, putting the game out of reach and taking home the first win of the NFL season. Quick shout out to Ariana Grande, who looked pretty cute and did a nice job singing the national anthem before the game. But we’re here to talk about football and we got some solid football last night. At least, if you’re talking to Seattle fans, who probably were anxious to see their team’s championship banner go up before starting their back-to-back campaign. Remember when “experts” like myself were picking the Packers as a possible contender for the best team in the NFC? Well, the Seahawks quickly reminded everyone why they’re the big boys on the block. Seattle played big boy football, smashing the ball through the tackles with an impressive game by Marshawn Lynch (110 yds, 2 TDs) from start to finish. Let’s also remember that Percy Harvin, the x-factor of all x-factors, combined for 100 yards in a barrage of impressive running and passing plays. It’s just a shame that we’re all thinking the same thing about Harvin when we’re watching him play and hoping that this is the year he stays healthy.

With all of the praise for the offense, let’s not forget that Seattle prides itself with their defense and as the game went on, the better the defense looked. I thought that once the Seahawks forced a Packers safety, the game was over and it was only a matter of time before the game was out of reach. Even with Rodgers making some nice plays and putting together a couple of nice drives, the Packers’ offense never looked comfortable. Green Bay put themselves in too many 3rd and long situations that are nearly impossible to complete when you’re playing in Seattle. So what’s the Packers gameplan heading forward into the season? Well, for one they must improve their defense overall. The Seahawks were able to execute their plays with almost no resistance at all. There’s also wondering how serious Eddy Lacy’s exit in the 3rd quarter (concussion) will affect him and the Packers running game heading forward. And the Seahawks, well, just more of the same in all honesty. A couple of pretty big games coming up as they head into San Diego in week 2 and then get Denver at home the following week.

Alright, now let’s get ready for main course. For those who are wondering, yes, get the NFL’s Red Zone channel and just leave it on there for your entire Sunday afternoon. Unless you want to focus on your team’s game specifically. Luckily for me, the Cowboys aren’t going to disappoint me until later on in the day, so i’m just focused on the red zone action for the ten (10!) game slate in the 1 pm (ET) slot. Plenty of good games too. The Saints in Atlanta should feature plenty of points and big plays. The Bengals in Baltimore is a nice divisional rivalry that could help decide a tie-breaker at the end of the season. The Redskins in Houston is exciting to think about solely just to see RG3 against the Texans’ pass rush. The Patriots in Miami always seems to have some of weird play or breakout performance. Because for whatever silly reason, CBS is choosing to show the US Open instead of football. Their loss. We’ll be enjoying the 49ers in Dallas, a game that could go in a hundred different directions and the Panthers in Tampa Bay, a game that is impossible to predict. Things wrap up with the Colts in Denver, for what could be a super-early playoff match preview. Can Peyton Manning duplicate last season’s historic-level season? Can Andrew Luck out-Andrew Luck himself? Grab a seat, grab a cold drink and ignore your responsibilities for a little white. The NFL is back and the first Sunday is always the sweetest. Good luck to everyone’s team this season but as always, go Cowboys!

2014 NFL season preview: NFC North


Along with the NFC West, I think this will be the best division in football this year. Just having a healthy Aaron Rodgers on the Packers boosts the stock of any team and the games that they’re participating in. Lots of history with these teams and the rivalries seem to brood more hate than most around the league. But despite this being one of the better divisions in the league, there are still plenty of questions lingering for each of the teams. Can the Packers offense have more balance to offset their questionable defense? The Bears have lived off defense in years past but now with two big weapons on the outside, can the Bears make a return to the playoffs? Can the Lions, with a new head coach, turn their fortunes around and actually close out games when they need it most? I’m a bit hesitant to agree but I can certainly see why many think that the Vikings are a threat to challenge for the division title.

Green Bay Packers: This season is going to depend on the team’s health and more specifically, the health of all-pro quarterback Aaron Rodgers. Because Rodgers missed so much of last season due to a broken collarbone, I think people have forgotten how good #12 on the Packers really is. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to draft him for any of my fantasy teams this season but I was able to get Eddy Lacy, who will look to continue to carry Green Bay’s running game. With Rodgers and Lacy leading the way, the offense looks set to do very well and potentially be the best in the league. So that leaves the big question marks on the defense. Julius Peppers should help the defense but it’s still going to take the effort (and health) of the entire defensive unit. If the defense can hold it’s own, the Packers will win the division and possibly compete for NFC’s best record.

Chicago Bears: Much like the Packers, a lot of the success they’re hoping to see this season will depend on whether or not their quarterback can stay healthy to coincide with better production on defense. Seems pretty simple, no? Can Jay Cutler, with two big weapons to throw to and a great running back behind him, be the type of QB that Chicago hopes for? The offense will put up big numbers but i’m waiting to see how much the defense will improve. Chicago recognized their problems on that side of the ball and went out during the offseason to aggressively fix things. I’m still worried about what is going on with their defensive backs and how they’re going to be able to stop the big-time receivers that they’re going to face in their divisional games. I can see them being very good but several reasons keep from picking anything but slightly over a .500 record.

Minnesota Vikings: The Vikings have been getting some attention in the weeks prior to the start of the season as candidates to potentially crash the division’s party. I see it, and I don’t. Minnesota has some big weapons to try and compliment as much as possible. Of course, we’re talking about Adrian Peterson, who is still the best running back (slightly over McCoy) in the NFL. But do people realize how good Cordarrelle Patterson can be? I’m all-in with him with my fantasy teams. Anyways, these are the biggest questions for the Vikings this season: 1. Can their secondary continue to improve? Yes, they were bad last season but were even worse the season before that! Baby steps everyone. 2. When will we see Teddy Bridgewater? I loved him coming out of college and I love him to come in during the season and make an impact. In the end, Not enough complementary pieces for success this season.

Detroit Lions: I left the Lions last for a reason. They’re such a mystery to me. Possibly the hardest to figure out of any of the NFL teams. Let’s not forget that this team had the NFC North in complete control last season before having a meltdown of massive proportions, losing six of their last seven games. Most of those games were close and the losses came because of some bonehead errors. How will new coach Jim Caldwell fix their discipline issues and make the team better in crunch time? Can Matthew Stafford bounce back from a disappointing season? He only has Megatron, the league’s best receiver, to throw to. Their defensive front will always pose a threat to other team’s quarterbacks but again, it comes to down the “intangibles” or whatever one would like to call them. Biggest potential, but a bigger mystery. Slightly above .500 until proven otherwise.

2014 NFL season preview: AFC North


A division, once dominated by the clashes between the Steelers and Ravens, now belongs to the Bengals and their one-and-done status in the playoffs. Can Cincinnati finally get over that bump they have faced for three straight seasons? The Ravens are the most recent of the teams to see success but multiple on (and off) the field issues have plagued them since their Super Bowl run just two seasons ago. Pittsburgh is usually the model franchise around the league but health and questions about whether or not their defense needs to revamp will determine a lot for them. What about the Browns? Cleveland will always be the butt of jokes when it comes to the AFC North but with some new changes and a fresh head coach, can the Browns make big improvements? Interesting division to try and figure out.

Cincinnati Bengals: Another year for the Bengals and another year where the franchise will be solely judged on how well they do once they reach the playoffs. Barring a drastic injury to one of the big players, Cincinnati will once again end up around 10 or 11 wins and reach the postseason. The only difference this season is that the pressure has mounted in a big way now that quarterback Andy Dalton got his big extension. But can the young QB step his game up? Dalton has a big weapon (AJ Green) and a rising RB (Giovanni Bernard) to help continue his solid performance, but nothing will matter unless he improves his play when it matters most. That’s really what it’s going to come down to for the Bengals this season. Get through the regular season in the similar fashion of years past. I expect them to win the division but it will forgotten if they don’t win at least one playoff game.

Pittsburgh Steelers: The Steelers’ season will hinge on a few big factors. First of all, how will the defense adapt to the changes that have been made both this season and last season? Troy Polamalu can’t continue to be the deciding factor this far into his career. The next two factors go hand-in-hand but are separate. How well will the offensive line protect Ben Roethlisberger? Injuries always occur but more specifically, the offensive line of the Steelers seems to lose a man every single weekend. The next factor is who, aside from Antonio Brown and Big Ben, will step up on offense. The running backs (Bell and Blount) dealt with off the field issues not too long ago but seem to have moved past it. Here’s a nice tip for the Steelers: don’t start the season 0-4 if you plan on making the playoffs this season. Adapting to changes will determine how well above .500 this team finishes.

Baltimore Ravens: The term “Super Bowl hangover” was said over and over last season with the Ravens. But how accurate of a description was it for Baltimore? Well, the way they start this season is going to give everyone a look at what this team is about. The Ravens revolve around their big-money elite quarterback Joe Flacco, who has been wildly disappointing since signing his big contract. I really like the signing of Steve Smith and their “all in” approach with various other acquisitions. If the passing game can carry the offense under their new coordinator, then the stink coming off their running game won’t be as much of an issue. Once Ray Rice gets back from his suspension (an absurd length) then they continue to figure out what’s going on with the run game. Cautiously optimistic about this Ravens team and I feel that they can compete for the division title.

Cleveland Browns: The Browns are the Browns. Every season they seem to catch news for the wrong reasons and this year is no different. Their star receiver Josh Gordon is appealing his season-long suspension and that will hang over the team for pretty much the entire season. Another big moment came when Brian Hoyer was named the starting quarterback with none other Johnny “money dance” Manziel holding the clipboard right behind him. This isn’t the boldest of predictions but don’t worry, Johnny Football will play this season and will eventually be the starter before week 17 rolls around. Just wait until the Browns’ underrated defense isn’t able to bail them out of a below-.500 record and the fans start chanting Manziel’s name over and over. Growing pains for this team but, despite their record, Cleveland will be a solid team this season.

2014 NFL season preview: AFC South


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.

2014 NFL season preview: NFC South


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.

2014 NFL season preview: NFC East


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.

2014 NFL season preview: AFC West


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.

2014 NFL season preview: NFC West


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.

2014 NFL season preview: AFC East


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.

In defense of Johnny Manziel


Every once in a while, the NFL gets a player entering the draft who causes more discussion than is necessary. This year there’s no doubt that Johnny Manziel “aka Johnny Football” from Texas a&m is that man this year. First of all, having the name of the sport in your nickname is absurd in itself. It adds even more unwarranted pressure to an already full slate like the one Manziel is facing. But it’s pressure that “Mr Football” has put upon himself with a side of pressure that has been completely manufactured by the media. Johnny Manziel was a football star, playing for a school in the most football-heavy state in the country while playing in the most important conference in college football. Let’s add to the fact that he’s the first ever freshman to win the Heisman trophy, the most prestigious award a player can receive in NCAA football. Add all that up and mix it with a personality like the one Manziel carries around with himself. What did the rest of the sports world expect to happen? Just imagine if every mistake one made at 19 and 20 years old (on and off the field) was magnified and your entire persona was based on those two years. That’s what Johnny Manziel is looking at right now. Like most scrutinized athletes in the past, doubters are just waiting to pounce on Manziel’s next mistake and in contrast, “super fans” are waiting for moments of brilliance so that they can say to “I told you so!” to those same doubters. It’s the tug-of-war that we’ve seen for decades now.

Right now it’s the “super fans” who have the upper hand after Manziel had an impressive NFL pro day yesterday. His workout style was a bit unorthodox, running his drills with full pads and a helmet on, but still effective. That’s something most players don’t usually do but then again, when has Johnny Football followed in other player’s footsteps in those kinds of things. I know EPSN’s comment section isn’t the mecca of sports knowledge and analysis, but check out the flurry of comments at the bottom of this article yesterday. Nothing controversial was written in the article but the reading the comments, one would assume that the writer was either calling Manziel the biggest bust of all time or the greatest quarterback to ever walk the field. And because ESPN can’t avoid being themselves, they threw in two comments about Manziel on Twitter by LeBron James and Michael Vick, two of the most talked about athletes from the past decade or so. What’s my sports opinion on Johnny Football’s pro day? He was impressive in just about everything that he did. He had to be because he had a large crowd watching him, a crowd that included a former president (H.W. Bush) to go along with various officials and at least 30 team representatives. With all this pressure and attention on one player, the biggest question is, of course, will Johnny Manziel live up to the hype when it comes to the next level?

Ultimately it’s impossible to say. Remember how impressive Jamarcus Russell was in his pro day? Or how unimpressive Tom Brady was before the draft? I admit, those are two of the biggest extremes that we’ve seen in the history of the league but either one is quite possible for Manziel. The general consensus is that “Mr Football” isn’t the best quarterback in the draft (I like Bridgewater personally) but despite being either being the 3rd or 4th best QB, he could very well be taken with the 1st overall pick in the NFL draft next month. It’s silly for a team not to take Jadaveon Clowney first overall but imagine if it’s Manziel to the Texans, a local hero that can completely change the fortunes of a franchise. But then Manziel does nothing and he eventually turns into this generation’s Ryan Leaf. Now imagine if he drops (also very likely) in the draft board. People start doubting whether he’ll be taken and then ends up falling to a team like the Cardinals. Or even the Browns, who have had the absolute worst luck when it comes to QBs. Imagine him changing THAT team’s fortunes. It’s a lot of speculation that seems irrelevant to talk about at this point. Here’s one thing that I know: wherever Johnny Manziel goes and whatever he does, at the very least, he’s going to be entertaining and will continue to be must-watch TV for all sports fans. So let’s calm down with all the accusations and opinions on him. All you can ask at this point is for Manziel to put in the work and (appear) to stay focused in the months before the draft happens. And right now, that’s what he seems to be doing so. I’m rooting for you Johnny Football.

1 2 3 4 11