Halfway There NFL Rankings

Now that every team has played at least eight games we only have one team that has a secure spot and it is the Jacksonville Jaguars at the bottom of the league.  Perhaps they’re taking a page from the anonymous NBA GM who recently said it may not be such a bad idea to tank the season in order to ensure a high draft pick.  There is a plethora of NFL-ready talents at the quarterback position.  They would be stupid to take Jadaveon Clowney with the first pick, no matter how dominant he turns out to be on Sundays.  But without any further ado.

1. Kansas City Chiefs: If the road to the Superbowl in the AFC goes through Arrowhead Stadium the rest of the conference may be in trouble.  With possibly the strongest defense in the league and a highly efficient offense this team is hard to get ahead on.

2. Indianapolis Colts: The loss of Reggie Wayne has opened the door for T.Y. Hilton to shine.  The only team to beat both the Broncos and the Seahawks this season should challenge for the top seed in the AFC.

3. Seattle Seahawks: Aside from the aberration this past week this team has played phenomenal at home this season and not much worse away.  Great teams find ways to come back from deficits like they experienced against Tampa Bay this week.

4. Denver Broncos: Peyton Manning is playing better than ever and he has the pieces around him to break every major season passing record.  The defense has given up a lot of points, but to this point have come up strong in big moments.  I would not be surprised to see this team win the Superbowl.

5. Cincinnati Bengals: A lot of AFC at the top this season.  A young high-powered offense will lead this team to the AFC North title this season.

6. New Orleans Saints: Good luck beating this team at home.  With a fast offense and a much improved defense this team is light years ahead of last year’s disappointment.

7. New England Patriots: Had it not been for some bad play by a defensive back in the waning seconds of the game against the Saints this team would have only a one game lead in the division.  Look for the offense to get stronger with a full complement of running backs at their disposal.

8. San Francisco 49er’s: As bad as they have played at times this team deserves the sixth spot in these rankings.  They have a consistent run game with some real playmakers in the passing game.  Their defense took a step down from last year’s powerhouse but they are still one of the strongest in the league.

9. Detroit Lions: Any team that contains Calvin Johnson is at a gross advantage on offense.  Having a quarterback who can consistently get the ball to him and a diversified running back corps is really icing on the touchdown cake.  The defensive line makes up for the lack of talent in the backfield, but a good offensive line can fix that problem.

10. Chicago Bears: Their defense looked inspired against Green Bay in the league’s last edition of Monday Night Football, which has been their greatest weakness up to this point.  Their offense hasn’t lost a beat with Josh McCown at quarterback, let’s hope they can learn how to tackle big/powerful running backs.

11. Dallas Cowboys: Had it not been for a last second touchdown given up to the Detroit Lions this team would be dangerously close to locking up the NFC East division title.  As long as Tony Romo can play up to his capability this team will be in the playoffs.

12. New York Jets: Their run game is coming on strong, almost as strong as their defense is playing.  Geno Smith is learning on the go and this team looks as if they may challenge the Patriots for the AFC East title.

13. Green Bay Packers: This team would be higher if Aaron Rodgers were not out an indefinite period of time due to a fracture collarbone.  Eddie Lacy is leading a rushing attack that has become one of the strongest in the league after spending years being anemic.

14. Carolina Panthers: Having Jonathon Stewart back adds to a rushing attack that has been the main factor in this team blowing teams out all season.  A solid defense led by Luke Kuechly will have trouble in New Orleans, so do not expect this team to surpass the Saints.

15. San Diego Chargers: The Chargers have a lot of talent in every phase of the game that seldom is pieced together at the right time.  Will be hard for them to make the postseason in what has become the strongest division in football only a couple years after being the worst.

16. Cleveland Browns: The team that looked to have thrown in the towel on the season by trading Trent Richardson has become the second best team in what is perennially a strong AFC North.  Credit this to the play of their defense led by unsung cornerback Joe Haden.

17. Philadelphia Eagles: Nick Foles has finally taken the starting job by the reins and this could be the end of Michael Vick in the NFL.  If their defense can perform up to the level the offense has recently this team has a decent shot to make the playoffs via the NFC East division title.

18. Tennessee Titans: Was this last week the rebirth of Chris Johnson?  Doubtful, this team needs help on offense, defense and in the front office.  Good luck dealing with the Colts for the next ten years.

19. Miami Dolphins: Ryan Tannehill looks to be the quarterback of the future for this young team and as long as their defense can continue to be strong this team could be really good, just not this year.

20. St. Louis Rams: With Sam Bradford under center this team may be ranked higher, but not even the recent coming-out of Zac Stacy can make this team better than a .500 ball club.  A solid defense should help this team win half of their games this season.

21. Arizona Cardinals: I feel strange putting this team around the middle of these rankings but there are so many bad teams in the league they have earned this spot.  Carson Palmer will not lead this team to any Superbowls, or even division titles, but he is a good place-filler for a team waiting for catastrophic injuries to Russell Wilson and Colin Kaepernick.

22. Buffalo Bills: The Bills defense is now playing extremely well and if the return of C.J. Spiller to full health means the offense will have the ball longer this team could creep above 8 wins by the end of the season.

23. Washington Redskins: A porous defense and a run game that has a hard time getting moving will keep this team from the playoffs this season.

24. Houston Texans: The offense is struggling and the loss of Arian Foster for the time being is a serious setback, but this defense is as strong as any in the league.  Case Keenum looks like he may be the quarterback of the future for the Texans, hopefully he has more than one good NFL game in him.

25. Oakland Raiders: Terrelle Pryor is fun to watch for now, but if this team is serious about contending in the AFC West this team needs a lot of new faces, including at starting quarterback.

26. Pittsburgh Steelers: The third best rookie running back in the league (behind Eddie Lacy and Jonathan Franklin) has given this offense a shot of life.  They are a far cry from the playoffs this season, but it is good to see some young talents on offense and defense making things happen.

27. Baltimore Ravens: Ever heard the saying “oh how the mighty have fallen?”  If it was not already a thing this team would be the face of the phrase.  Superbowl champions to a probable sub .500 finish.

28. Atlanta Falcons: Hard to put this team above or below the next two teams but I gave them the advantage based off the quarterback.  Steven Jackson has proven that even when healthy he is not the same running back he was when at his best in St. Louis and the loss of Julio Jones has been apparent.

29. New York Giants: They look like they are starting to turn things around, only problem is it is far too late and they are out of contention for anything other than a mid-round draft pick.

30. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Mike Glennon is playing extremely well in the wake of all the drama during the first half of the season.  If Doug Martin can come back strong this team could pull off some upsets and affect playoff positioning.

31. Minnesota Vikings: Only thing keeping them out of the bottom spot is Jacksonville.

32. Jacksonville Jaguars: Marcus Mariota FTW?

 

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First Quarter Rankings

The first four weeks of the NFL season are in the books and most teams have played a fourth of their schedule.  By now we have seen a few pretenders and some surprise contenders.  Below you can read if you wish some blurbs about each team and where I feel they stand at this point in time.

 

1. Denver – Peyton Manning is set to have the best season any quarterback has ever had and the defense is performing well enough to make sure the games aren’t close.   Don’t be shocked to see this team win every regular season game.

2. Seattle – With quite possibly the best home-field advantage in all of sports this team is all but a lock for the playoffs.  If they can play well enough away from home they will make the road to the Superbowl much easier for themselves.

3. New England – Plug and play is the Belichick way.  Any team that has Tom Brady at quarterback is going to produce on offense, if their defense can keep up how they’ve been playing they will challenge the Denver Manning’s in the playoffs.

4. New Orleans – Sean Payton is back and so is the Saints’ mojo.  Can they go into Seattle and steal one?  My guess is we will have a chance to see in January.

5. Kansas City – The most surprising team in the league rounds out the top five of these rankings.  There may not be a more motivated coach and quarterback combination in the league this season than Andy Reid and Alex Smith.  If they can both keep their intensity up they will be the first wildcard in the AFC.

6. Indianapolis – A new favorite in the AFC South has emerged, the exact same team that two seasons ago people were wondering at this time if they would win even two games.  Andrew Luck has this team rolling and they don’t look like they’re going to be slowed down any time soon.

7. Chicago – The defense is clearly not what it once was but the Bears earn this spot due to the much improved offensive line play.  They replaced four of last year’s starters and the difference is night and day.  Their lone loss has come on the road to one of the leagues most balanced offenses, this rankings next team.

8. Detroit – The acquisition of Reggie Bush may be the league’s second best pickup behind only Alex Smith by the Chiefs.  Finally this team has a consistent run threat to take some of the pressure off of the pass game.

9. Miami – Ryan Tannehill looks as if he learned a thing or two in the offseason and this defense looks fierce.  It will be hard to overtake the Patriots but I wouldn’t be surprised to see this team gain a wildcard spot.

10. San Francisco – One of the league’s most disappointing teams has had trouble getting their offense on track since week one against a sorry Packers defense.  Distractions on the defensive side of the ball shouldn’t derail this team, but we shall see over the next few weeks.

11. Green Bay – Normally you wouldn’t see a team with a .333 win percentage this high, but they have lost to two solid teams on the road.  Expect them to get back on track following their bye with a home game against a team coming off a big win.

12. Dallas – It looks as if Tony Romo and Dez Bryant are finally consistently on the same page.  Demarco Murray has stayed healthy and is making a difference on the ground and this team is primed to win the NFC East.

13. Cincinnati – This teams only losses coming to two teams with something to prove (Bears with a new coach and new offensive line first week of the season, Browns with a new quarterback and after trade of Trent Richardson).  The good news for the Bengals is that their division looks to be incredibly weak.

14. Atlanta – If Steven Jackson can come back healthy and as productive as he has been in recent years this team will start to perform much better.  Their defense has some issues in coverage but they are a great home team and will challenge the New Orleans Saints for the division crown.

15. Houston – What looked to be one of the strongest teams heading into the season is struggling to close out games.  If they can figure out how to play solid football the entire four quarters they will be near the top of the league.

16. Tennessee – I bumped them down beneath Houston due to the recent injury to Jake Locker.  Chris Johnson isn’t finding the holes he is sometimes accustomed to but as of he yet he hasn’t needed to for this team to win.

17. Buffalo – E.J. Manuel looks to be proving some doubters wrong and this defense is finally playing as well as advertised.  Too bad for them their division is on the rise.

18. Cleveland – Brian Hoyer (the first of Tom Brady’s understudies to take over for their new team) has been playing exceptional in the wake of Brandon Weeden’s injury.  The addition of Josh Gordon to this offense has opened some room for Jordan Cameron to make some noise.  It will be interesting to see if they can continue to play above their potential and capture the AFC North divisional crown.

19. Minnesota – I know they have only won one game yet this season, but their point differential is only -8.  If this defense can perform consistently and Matt Cassel remains the starting quarterback this team will turn their fortunes around.

20. San Diego – Philip Rivers is playing far better than I have seen him in recent years and the run game has been performing to par.  They are a long shot for the playoffs being that Denver and Kansas City are in their division.

21. Baltimore – Last year’s Superbowl champions have completely lost their mojo.  Memo to John Harbaugh: give the ball to Ray Rice.

22. Philadelphia – A team that looks poor on offense and dysfunctional on defense will have a rough time getting to .500 this season.

23. Washington – Robert Griffin III is having a tough time adjusting to a new style of play that is less reckless.  He also has trouble trusting his knee when planting to throw.  These losses are not all on him though, this defense has looked atrocious.

24. New York Jets – Hopefully for Jets fans it will not be long before Rex Ryan is given the boot and this team can start to rebuild.  Their run game is inconsistent at best and Geno Smith is having troubles when facing competent defenses.  As good as their defense is playing it is not enough to overcome the offense.

25. Arizona – Carson Palmer keeps showing that he is washed up and their defense is not nearly as powerful as they have been in recent years.  This team will not be within shouting distance of the division at season’s end.

26. Carolina – The offense looked great, against a terrible New York Giants team.

27. St. Louis – Sure are missing Steven Jackson now.  This team may surprise and win a few games, but do not have what it takes to challenge Seattle.

28. Pittsburgh – They have played somewhat competitive at times but have had too many lapses.  This really is not their year.

29. Oakland – Bottom of their division for the foreseeable future.

30. New York Giants – Normally this is an area reserved for the Jets, but with the pieces missing from this offensive line this team is lucky they are not at the bottom of these rankings.

31. Tampa Bay – Turmoil doesn’t begin to describe what is going on with this team.  With any luck Mike Glennon will do something Josh Freeman has had trouble doing recently, win.

32. Jacksonville – May be the first team since the Detroit Lions of a few seasons ago to go winless.  Every week the safest bet to pick against.

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NFL Preseason Rankings

I took a look at all of the teams after the draft and most of free agency has taken place but before any preseason games have been played.  Below are the results of my analysis.  I’m sure many will disagree, please tell me why.  Cannot wait for the season to start.

1. Seattle Seahawks: One of the league’s top defensive units in 2012 became stronger virtue of a tremendous offseason.  They signed sure-tackling hard-hitting cornerback Antoine Winfield and added Cliff Avril to a front seven that performed above expectations last season.  Having their defensive backfield’s minds off the distractions that plagued the end of their season should prove beneficial for a team that was close to going to last year’s NFC Championship game.  They added strong depth through the draft and have enough playmakers up front on defense to possibly move some of their defensive ends to linebacker.  Oh yeah, and they traded for Percy Harvin.  If all goes as expected Russell Wilson will have an amazing season and the Seahawks should be in the Superbowl.

2. Denver Broncos: What does the best slot receiver for the past few years do when his current team does not want to pay him what he feels he is worth?  Go play with Peyton Manning of course.  The Denver Broncos now have an embarrassment of riches on the offensive side of the ball, to include the all-time rushing touchdown, career touchdown and single-season touchdown NCAA record holder Montee Ball out of Wisconsin.  They bolstered a problematic defensive unit by signing Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Shaun Phillips.  This team should make the Superbowl as long as their defense can play close to the level of their offense.

3. San Francisco 49ers: The Niners scored big in the draft with Marcus Lattimore.  The 4th round is a great place to take a chance on a player with the level of talent displayed by Lattimore before his injury.  The addition of Anquan Boldin to an already talented receiving corps gives them the large possession type player they have needed on the outside.  Last year’s Superbowl losers look the best they have in a few years and young gun Colin Kaepernick has some valuable playoff experience.  The main issue for this team is that some of the other strong teams have also become stronger.

4. Atlanta Falcons: This team looks as close as any to a Superbowl champion year after year but just cannot make it to the big game.  They lost two big names in their secondary but drafted cornerbacks with their first two picks to try to fill these holes.  Osi Umenyiora was signed to aid a defense that was lacking a consistent pass rush but will not have much help around him.  The biggest move they made was the signing of Steven Jackson.  His superior talent has been wasted on a poor team; he will more than make up for the loss of Michael Turner.  Their division keeps getting better but they should still make the playoffs.

5. Houston Texans: The biggest moves this team made this offseason have been questionable.  With their first round selection they took DeAndre Hopkins out of Clemson who had been accused of spreading feces throughout his hotel room during the combine.  They signed one of the best safeties in recent history in Ed Reed, but he is in the twilight of his career.  The same team that has been dominating the AFC South should continue, partially due to their stellar offensive and defensive line play as well as the play of Andre Johnson and Arian Foster, but mostly due to the lack of competition in their division.  The only team that is close to challenging is Indianapolis.  Expect this team to compete for a Superbowl berth.

6. Green Bay Packers: The top team in the NFC North did not do much to bring in help before the draft, but they rarely do.  They can afford to do this because Ted Thompson is one of the best managers in the draft on a yearly basis.  They locked in their most talented defender for the rest of his better years by signing Clay Matthews to a 5-year contract extension.  A team that sorely needs a consistent run game used two of their first four picks on the running back position.  Eddie Lacy out of Alabama is considered by some to be a hit or miss while Johnathan Franklin out of UCLA looks to be a safe bet to make solid contributions from the start.  Datone Jones is a big body that will keep blockers tied up which is something they’ve been looking for since the departure of Cullen Jenkins.

7. Baltimore Ravens: The defending Superbowl champions lost many locker room leaders mainly on the defense but also on offense.  The departures of Ray Lewis, Ed Reed, Matt Birk, Anquan Boldin and Bernard Pollard will be too much for this team to overcome when it comes to repeating as Lombardi trophy winners.  They signed troubled Rolando McClain, who could not even hold onto his job in Oakland, and drafted a couple of defensive playmakers with their top two picks.  Overall they had a good draft, but will not re-create the magic they made last year.

8. New England Patriots: It is hard to decide where to start with this team, How about the impending murder charges on former star tight end Aaron Hernandez?  This team lost two of their leading playmakers from the previous season in he and wide receiver Wes Welker (Welker went to the Denver Broncos via free agency).  The defense is still young and hungry, and should only be improved with the addition of the veteran leadership of long time Arizona Cardinal Adrian Wilson.  If the presence of Tim Tebow does not cause too much trouble the offense should perform as always under Tom Brady and this team should make the playoffs yet again.

9. Cincinnati Bengals: In recent years I have been waiting for this team to break out and control the AFC North and year after year they flirt with it but fail to come out on top.  This young team is on the verge of a breakout and this should be the season they take over.  Their main focus early in the draft was to diversify their offense, they picked another pass-receiving tight end (Tyler Eifert, Notre Dame) to complement the skills of Jermaine Gresham and a running back (Giovanni Bernard, North Carolina) to spell veteran BenJarvus Green-Ellis.  With probably the most talented young defensive line in the league this team has the potential to destroy opponents.

10. Washington Redskins: Whether they have RGIII or Kirk Cousins calling the signals once the season starts they should be a force in the NFC East.  Mike Shanahan has made a star out of yet another late-round pick running back in Alfred Morris and the defense is young and plays with a fierce intensity.  Add to that the return of some key parts along the front seven and this defense should experience a big boost.  The uncertainty at quarterback may prove to be a distraction for this team at first but they are primed for a NFC East title repeat.

11. Chicago Bears: Well now you have it, Jay, go ahead and show us what you can do.  For a few years now Jay Cutler has been whining about the lack of protection he receives and the poor quality of people catching the balls when he has time.  Phil Emery selected Kyle Long out of Oregon with the Bears first round pick and later in the draft took Jordan Mills from Louisiana Tech.  He also signed Jermon Bushrod and Matt Slauson to add some veteran experience and the unit should have a whole new look this next season.  As long as the new look defense can hold down their end the onus will be on the offensive line once again to push the Bears in to the post season.

12. Minnesota Vikings: The best move the Vikings made this offseason was to sign an aging receiver in Greg Jennings.  They countered this great move by first trading Percy Harvin.  They think they have their replacement in the slot in 1st rounder Cordarrelle Patterson but many would disagree.  Their best draft pick was Xavier Rhodes, cornerback out of Florida State who should immediately start across from Chris Cook.  Until the Vikings bring in a consistently competent quarterback Adrian Peterson will not get the ring he deserves.

13. Indianapolis Colts: Last year the Colts were the team everyone liked to see win.  Their quarterback, Andrew Luck, is one of the best to hit the game in recent memory and he is a poster boy for humility, hard work and good behavior.  Their coach spent most of the season fighting cancer and returned towards the end of the campaign.  This year they will not have the emotional motivation, what they will have is more experience for Luck and other young players such as Vick Ballard, T.Y. Hilton, Coby Fleener and Dwayne Allen.  The Colts made some moves to bulk up their front line on the defensive side, which was needed but doubtful to help them turn the tide over on the Texans.

14. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Probably the biggest question on this team is the play of Josh Freeman.  Is he going to have a great year and limit mistakes or will he look like the inexperienced mediocre player he frequently has?  Doug Martin has shown he is more than capable to take on a large offensive load.  This should help relieve some of the stress off Freeman in the red zone.  The addition of Darrelle Revis via trade was probably their greatest acquisition and he should completely change the face of the defense.  He along with Johnathan Banks out of Mississippi State will anchor the defensive backfield.  The Buccaneers should push for a playoff spot this season and could pull off an upset if in.

15. St. Louis Rams: The hole left by Danny Amendola’s move to the New England Patriots was quickly filled in the first round of the draft with the selection of Tavon Austin.  Signing TE Jared Cook in the prime of his career was a wise move and should help the continual development of Sam Bradford.  The selection of some versatile defenders early in the draft should pay dividends even early on this upcoming season.  St. Louis is crippled by the strength of their division but should be improved from their couple previous campaigns.  This may be the year the Rams finally decide whether Bradford is their franchise quarterback.

16. New Orleans Saints: If there is anything good to say about this team I cannot think of it at this time.  Record setting defense in the worst way possible, entire organization reeling from the “bounty scandal” and the offensive was anything but consistent.  Three of their five draft picks were used on defense and their first selection Kenny Vaccaro is expected to start right away.  The rest of their division is only improving and this team should not sniff the playoffs.

17. Detroit Lions: Probably the most disappointing team of the 2012 season returned to the cellar of the NFC North.  Despite the most dynamic pass-catch combination in the NFL their offense failed to find a rhythm all season.  They signed Reggie Bush, most recently of the Miami Dolphins, in order to hopefully deploy a well-balanced attack.  The defensive line lost their starting defensive ends but are trying to fill the holes with Ezekiel Ansah out of Brigham Young and Devin Taylor from South Carolina.  Ansah has the talent to become an amazing pass rusher but lacks experience.  Their defensive backs are weak at best and they also addressed this in the draft.  The Lions may roar into the postseason this year but I would not put any money on it.

18. Philadelphia Eagles: Nick Foles or Michael Vick?  Either way there is no way the Eagles win the NFC East.  This squad needs help along the offensive line and in the line-backing corps.  Lane Johnson should make an impact immediately and Zach Ertz may need some time to adjust to the speed and size of his opponents.  They also traded up for Matt Barkley, if he does not contribute shortly this could be a bad move.  Look for Philadelphia to finish around the middle of the league this season.

19. New York Giants: This is a team that is constantly loaded with talent yet fails to play consistently.  They probably reached for Justin Pugh, tackle out of Syracuse, but they desperately need youth on their offensive line.  They neglected to fill some holes on defense, particularly at linebacker and cornerback, and will be counting again on their fierce front four to generate a pass rush.  If Eli Manning can play consistently and Victor Cruz plays for his pay this team is in the NFC East running, if both of those things do not happen they will probably miss the playoffs.

20. Dallas Cowboys: The consistently underperforming Dallas squad did not make much of a splash in free agency and probably reached with Center Travis Frederick out of Wisconsin, but all in all had a good offseason.  They did not have any glaring holes to fill and added key depth at wide receiver and in the defensive backfield.  I would like to rank them higher, but it is impossible to tell exactly which Tony Romo or Dez Bryant will show up on any given Sunday.

21. San Diego Chargers: The best team to not win the AFC West in the 2013 season should at least be interesting to watch this season.  They have a strong defense and second round pick Manti Te’o should only strengthen it.  If this is the season Ryan Mathews can stay healthy they should have one of the strongest running games in the league.  Throwing Danny Woodhead into the mix adds a great change of pace scat-back who has a proven history of game-changing ability.  The Chargers do not have the firepower to take over the Denver Broncos, but they may fight for a wildcard spot.

22. Carolina Panthers: The most recently self-dubbed “Superman” took a bit of a tumble in his second season as the starting quarterback of this young franchise.  He was accused of moping and part of his problems probably came from within; although his supporting cast are not all Pro Bowlers.  They were limited with only five picks and spent three of them, including the top two, on their front seven.  Star Lotulelei out of Utah has the potential to be a top ten defensive tackle in his rookie season and if he can this team may sniff the NFC South division title.  Well, that along with put the ball in the hands of the running backs more often.

23. Pittsburgh Steelers: The team that lost to the Green Bay Packers in Superbowl XLV has been in a downward spiral and did not do much to reverse that trend.  Their top two picks, Jarvis Jones and Le’Veon Bell should start from Week 1 and the rest of their draft class has a good chance at making the team 53-man roster but should mostly contribute on special teams.  The free agency losses of Mike Wallace and James Harrison will hurt this team severely.

24. Kansas City Chiefs: The biggest issue this team had was their quarterback and offensive line play the best move this team made this offseason was to bring in a quarterback (Alex Smith) who has shown that they can capably play the position.  They used the first pick in the draft on OT Eric Fisher and he should be the anchor of this line at least through his rookie contract.  They have had some talented skill players in place for a few years and the presence of a competent quarterback should push this team from the bottom of the league.

25. Arizona Cardinals: The Cardinals lost the face of their franchise when they released Adrian Wilson.  This is a team that was already struggling at finding an offensive identity and now is in shambles.  They did bring in a competent quarterback in Carson Palmer but he is old and his best days are clearly behind him.  I would not be surprised if there is not a controversy at the position with Ryan Lindley and Drew Stanton right behind him.  Rashard Mendenhall had trouble staying on the field in Pittsburgh and I would expect nothing less here, perhaps the stable of running backs supplemented by Stepfan Taylor out of Stanford through the draft this season will be able to hold down the position during the inevitable injuries to Mendenhall.  If Tyrann Mathieu can keep his head on straight he and Patrick Peterson should be able to do some damage on defense, but that is a large task to fill.

26. Miami Dolphins: Ryan Tannehill is on a solid path to becoming a great quarterback in this league and the front office tried to help him out by signing middle-of-the-road Dustin Keller and Brandon Gibson while drafting only one offensive lineman, Dallas Thomas, in the entire draft.  The team’s strength for the past few years has been the defense, so why not focus more on this during the draft?  The best shot the Dolphins have at making the playoffs this season is the fact that the New England Patriots are in turmoil.

27. Cleveland Browns: The Cleveland Browns are the team that everyone knows is bad, but every few games they will surprise and put up a fight and sometimes even win.  Jim Brown still owes Trent Richardson a thousand apologies for calling him “ordinary.”  Richardson may not be the best running back to ever play the game, but he definitely deserves a starting spot in this league.  Their offense, which had bright moments last season, still needs some help at pass-catcher.  All of their four draft picks were spent on defense but even so they failed to address needs at linebacker other than Barkevious Mingo from Louisiana State University.   It is hard to see this team going .500, let alone making the playoffs.

28. Tennessee Titans: At the end of the season this team had many questions that I feel they did not do much to answer.  Shonn Greene was added to help spell Chris Johnson, Chance Warmack was drafted in the first round to help protect Jake Locker and Ryan Fitzpatrick was acquired in order to light a fire under Locker.  Not only does their offense have issues but if it had not been for the Saints this would have been the worst defense of last season.  This team should be right ahead of Jacksonville this season, the worst team in the AFC South.

29. Buffalo Bills: It remains to be seen whether the Bills have fixed one of their biggest issues in recent history, quarterback play.  They made a lot of changes, including parting ways with every quarterback on their roster last season.  Whether E.J. Manuel out of Florida State or veteran Kevin Kolb can fit the bill we will soon know, but not many people are buying it.  They are set at running back and have plenty of playmakers on defense but there is no way they win the AFC East this season and therefore will probably not make the playoffs.

30. Oakland Raiders: Matt Flynn finally gets his chance to take over a team, unless Tyler Wilson somehow outperforms him in the preseason and he is relegated to the backup position for the second year in a row.  The one constant on this team has been Darren McFadden (when healthy.)  The defense has a lot of new faces this season as well as high-profile returning face Charles Woodson.  He brings some leadership and experience back to a defense that has been lacking it for a great while.  Oakland is a ways off from contending in this league and should be near the bottom of the AFC this season.

31. Jacksonville Jaguars: The Jaguars are a team looking for an identity.  They have a strong defense, most games.  They have a horrible offense, most games.  They need some players with some stability that they can count on to perform exceptionally in most games.  They did not make any monumental moves in free agency but did draft a few players that could make a large difference in the course of the future path this team takes.  Luke Joeckel and Johnathan Cyprien should perform well out of the gate while Denard Robinson is one of the draft’s wild cards.  If Robinson can learn to play either running back or wide receiver in this league he could be a difference maker for the Jaguars.

32. New York Jets: Dropping Tim Tebow was a great move for this team, but they are still fostering quarterback controversy by drafting Geno Smith in the second round.  Pile that onto the presence of Greg McElroy and there is anything but certainty.  The only real thing this team has going for them is that it seems the circus has followed Tim Tebow out of New York and to Foxborough.  Well that and they picked up Dee Milliner in the draft to replace Darrelle Revis, who did not want to play for the Jets anyway.  With only a few ups and a lot of the same downs, they will have a hard time rebounding from last season but may have a better year.

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Pre-draft NFL rankings

There have been some movements by teams prior to the draft, mostly free agent signings but some trades and retirements.  A friend of mine and I put together a ranking of where the teams are (were) before the draft starts (started).  We ranked each team from 1 to 32 and added the rankings together.  The teams that had the same resulting number we have ranked at the same level, for now.  This post will almost surely be updated or followed shortly.

1. Denver

1. Seattle

1. San Francisco

4. Houston

4. Atlanta

6. New England

7. Green Bay

8. Baltimore

9. Bengals

10. Washington

11. Indianapolis

12. New Orleans

13. Tampa Bay

13. New York Giants

15. Chicago

16. Minnesota

17. Detroit

18. St. Louis

19. Dallas

20. Miami

21. Philadelphia

22. Carolina

23. Kansas City

24. Pittsburgh

25. Arizona

26. Buffalo

27. San Diego

28.  Cleveland

29. Tennessee

30. Oakland

31. Jacksonville

32. New York Jets

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Super Bowl XLVII Preview

Much is being made of the fact that two men who occupied the same womb at different times are competing against in each other in the grand finale of the National Football League season.  This has never happened before and will only serve to increase the ratings on the already highest rated television event annually.  Also helping to increase the rating will be a highly entertaining and hard fought contest.  Let’s take a brief look at how each team got to the championship contest and what may happen on Sunday February 3rd.

San Francisco 49ers 1st NFC West (11-4-1) #2 Seed

The 49ers played very well throughout the season and were competitive in all but one of the games they lost.  The team went through a major facelift after Alex Smith suffered a concussion during the tie with St. Louis in Week 10.  Colin Kaepernick got a shot at quarterback and torched the vaunted Chicago Bears defense which earned him the starting role for the rest of the season.  He has done more than enough to lead his team to the final game and has made coach Jim Harbaugh look a genius.  Their defense took a big hit when Justin Smith was sideline with a partially torn triceps, but he will play against the Ravens.  Even at less than 100% his experience and level of play will help the entire defense.

Baltimore Ravens 1st AFC North (10-6-0) #4 Seed

The Ravens made it through some ugly games this season on the right side of the score and because of this earned 1st place in their division and one of the playoff spots in the American Football Conference.  These games were almost always ugly due to their offensive play.  Joe Flacco is wildly inconsistent and former offensive coordinator Cam Cameron was not utilizing Ray Rice and Bernard Pierce as frequently as he maybe should have.  After Cameron’s firing before week fifteen former Indianapolis Colts head coach Jim Caldwell was handed the offensive coordinator position which included play-calling duties.  The offense has been much more run-heavy since and the offense has been running much more smoothly.

Super Bowl 47 is going to be a game that people remember for a long time.  Two of the top five defenses in the league are competing against each other and both sides offenses have been performing at an extremely high level recently.  I think we will see a lot of both running backs and some huge plays in the pass game, both offensively and defensively.  I would also be surprised if Kaepernick does not run for at least 50 yards.  I think despite the fact both teams have crushing defenses this will be a high scoring affair and predict a 37-33 finish.

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Zero Dark Thirty

The build-up for this particular movie was intense.  The theatrical version of the epic saga that ultimately ended in the assassination of public enemy number one is a screenplay any patriotic American should see.  I do not want to reveal any secrets of the film, give any spoilers away per se.  What I will say is that the acting was incredible, even Pete from “The League” performed greatly (although it was extremely hard to take him seriously).  If action is what you are looking for you may be disappointed but if you can “settle” for a historically accurate account of the most widely publicized manhunt in the history of the United States of America.

This is not a typical action film, not an action film at all really, but it is a fascinating account.  I would recommend this film to any person who is old enough to understand the story.

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NFL Conference Championship Round

San Francisco 49ers @ Atlanta Falcons

Colin Kaepernick is playing just as well as some expected but above the expectations of most.  Maybe the people who doubted him should just talk to the Vikings, who he showed flashes of brilliance against in the preseason and Minnesota was fortunate enough to not have to play during the regular season.  The Niners defense has been playing at their utmost potential and they are primed to go where they would have gone last year had it not been for some inopportune Kyle Williams fumbles.

Matt Ryan finally has the playoff monkey off his back, and this is where it stops.  Michael Turner is churning like he has yet to this season and Ryan showed the side that gave him his nickname “Matty Ice” by driving them down the field in the waning seconds of the game in order to set up a Matt Bryant field goal attempt that went through the uprights propelling them into this week’s Conference Championship match-up.  To be honest I think the Seahawks would have given the 49ers a better game.  Final score prediction: 33-23 49ers over Falcons.

Baltimore Ravens @ New England Patriots

As the whole NFL-world knows Ray Lewis has claimed he is retiring at the end of this season.  Cue stories such as this billboard.  Apparently not only are Patriots fans extremely confident, they are malicious.  Baltimore has had their ups and downs, some really low downs.  Ray Rice is one of the most dependable running backs playing today and Joe Flacco has been improving his accuracy on his down-field tosses to his top three receivers Anquan Boldin, Torrey Smith and Jacoby Jones.    The defense has been playing just well enough to take them this far.

Tom Brady is in familiar territory, the AFC Championship game.  Tom Brady is technically 5-1 in AFC Championship games, although Drew Bledsoe did take over for him and ensure Brady a chance at his first Superbowl victory.  Nonetheless Tom has a great record in AFC Championship games, and also fares pretty well against Baltimore.  He is 4-1 and his only loss has come during the playoffs.  That is not exactly a ringing endorsement for New England, but even with the loss of Rob Gronkowski (again) they simply have too many weapons for Baltimore to stop.  They have a stable of running backs that any team should be jealous of.  I predict a close victory for the Pats, 24-20.

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