Your #NFL Weekend Update + #Superbowl50 Forecast

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Daniels helps Denver punch ticket to Super Bowl 50

In the 17th and quite possibly the final edition of “Manning versus Brady,” it was Peyton Manning and the Broncos emerging victorious over Tom Brady and the Patriots in the AFC Championship Game. Manning completed 17 passes for 176 yards and threw two touchdowns, both to tight end Owen Daniels. Daniels caught a 21-yard touchdown pass in the first quarter and a 12-yard TD pass in the second quarter, and those were his only two receptions of the game. Daniels tied the NFL postseason record for receptions in a game, all of which went for scores, last done by the Colts’ LaVon Brazill, also against the Patriots, in the 2013 playoffs.

Daniels is the fourth player to catch two touchdown passes from Peyton Manning in a playoff game. The previous three did so for the Colts against the Broncos: Marvin Harrison and Brandon Stokley in the 2003 playoffs and Reggie Wayne a year later.

Rare struggles for Patriots’ offense

Though a late touchdown pass from Tom Brady to Rob Gronkowski made the final score close, it was a day-long struggle for the Patriots on offense. Brady completed 27 of 56 passes, marking the first time in his professional career that he completed fewer than half of his passes in a postseason game. The 29 incomplete passes on Sunday were also a career-high for Brady in a postseason game.

The Patriots as a team converted two of 15 third-down attempts, good for just 13.3 percent. That’s New England’s lowest third-down percentage in a postseason game under Bill Belichick. The last time the Patriots converted a lower percentage of third downs in a postseason game was Super Bowl XX – New England lost to the Bears, 46-10, and were 1-for-10 (10%) on third downs.

Panthers pound Cardinals in NFC Championship

The Panthers are headed to Super Bowl 50 after overwhelming the Cardinals, 49-15, in the NFC Championship Game. The 49 points by Carolina are the second-most scored by a team that clinched a berth in the Super Bowl – the Bills scored 51 points in the AFC Championship Game in January 1991 against the Raiders. The Panthers, who forced seven turnovers in their blowout victory, are the second team in the last 20 postseasons to score at least 49 points and record seven or more takeaways in a postseason game. The other team to accomplish that feat in that span is the Jaguars, who racked up 62 points and forced seven turnovers in their divisional round victory over the Dolphins in January 2000.

nullSuperman Cam is clutch for Carolina

Cam Newton put up an MVP-like performance in the Panthers’ victory, throwing for 335 yards and two touchdowns while also running for a pair of scores. Newton is the fourth quarterback to total multiple touchdown passes and touchdown rushes in a single postseason game. Otto Graham had two such games for the Browns in back-to-back NFL Championships (1954 and 1955). The other two players to do so prior to Newton were Jay Cutler (Jan. 2011 against the Seahawks) and Colin Kaepernick (Jan. 2013 versus the Packers).

nullPalmer ties ignominious record in loss

Carson Palmer struggled against the mighty Panthers defense, throwing four interceptions and losing a pair of fumbles. Palmer’s six turnovers are tied for the most turnovers by a player in a postseason game. The last player to turn the ball over six times in a postseason game also did so in a Panthers-Cardinals matchup – Jake Delhomme had five interceptions and lost a fumble for Carolina in January 2009 against Arizona.

A first look at Super Bowl 50: Denver Broncos vs. Carolina Panthers

LAS VEGAS – The Carolina Panthers will go to San Francisco favored by more than a field goal to win the Super Bowl for the first time in franchise history.

Oddsmakers didn’t even wait until the Panthers finished off the Arizona Cardinals to install them as favorites for the game against the Denver Broncos on Feb. 7. At most books, the Panthers were a 4-point pick, though the early line varied, with the over/under settling in at 45.

Five Quick Hits

* I wish there had been more time in between games on Sunday. The nail-biter in Denver ended minutes before kickoff in Carolina, and if the game had gone into overtime, that creates a conflict for viewers.

* Even if you DVR the NFC Championship Game while you watch the end of the AFC Championship Game, good luck avoiding the scroll at your bottom of your screen, telling you that it’s 17-0 Carolina before you’ve even switched over. There should be a hour, minimum, between the conference championship games. Probably one and a half. I’d rather watch a pre-game show for 15 minutes than miss the first drive of the NFC Championship Game.

* Anyone else catch Rob Gronkowski complaining to the back judge near the end of the early game? He mimed that the Broncos had basically attempted to murder him, on a play that rightfully drew no penalties. Hey Gronk, there’s another sport where crying and faking does draw penalties. It’s called soccer. Either sign with the New England Revolution, or grow up.

* Cam Newton is an all-pro QB and league MVP, and he played great on Sunday. But I’ve never seen a quarterback so willing to throw a 4-yard pass on 3rd-and-10.

* Congratulations to this year’s finalists for the Walter Payton Man of the Year Award: Anquan Boldin, Eli Manning, and Ben Watson. Boldin is the favorite. This is the second year in a row he’s been a finalist. Thomas Davis, who won last season, had also been a finalist for the second year in a row.

* Get an early look at the 2016 Super Bowl commercials.

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The Ghost of Christmas Future

Super Bowl 50: Carolina Panthers vs. Denver Broncos
Santa Clara, California
February 7, 2015

For the third year in a row, the top seeds from both conferences will meet in the Super Bowl. But this result wasn’t as likely as that stat would imply. The hottest teams coming into the playoffs were the Chiefs (on a 10-game win streak), the Cardinals (who lost a 9-game streak with a half-hearted Week 17), and the Seahawks (whose last four wins came by a combined 139-32). The Panthers had a tough road to the big game, and the Broncos just didn’t look particularly intimidating at the end of the regular season.

This is the first Super Bowl for both head coaches, though both have been to Super Bowls in other capacities. The Broncos’ Gary Kubiak becomes the seventh head coach to make a Super Bowl in his first year with the team, joining Don McCafferty, Red Miller, George Seifert, Bill Callahan, Jon Gruden, and Jim Caldwell. Additionally, Peyton Manning will become the oldest QB to start a Super Bowl, breaking the record held by his employer, John Elway.

CAROLINA ON OFFENSE

Denver has a great defense, but this is a bad matchup. The Broncos thrive on pressure, but Cam Newton’s running ability means he can evade pass rushers, and he’ll run through openings if you leave them. The Broncos will get some sacks, but their pressure won’t have the same effect it did against the Patriots. Denver’s pass defense is better than its rush defense, and Carolina is one of the most balanced offenses in the league, with a good ground game. New England prefers to throw, which played to Denver’s strength, but if Mike Shula is smart, I’d expect the Panthers to run about 50% of the time, more if they get a big lead. I’d also look for some sort of trick play to break things open.

The Broncos need to contain the rush, while preventing big plays downfield: make Newton throw short and intermediate passes, string together long drives. He’s capable of that, but the Broncos can’t get run over on the ground, or killed on sudden, momentum-generating big-play strikes. The Broncos have won with their defense all year, and they’ll need a low-scoring game if they’re going to win, so giving up a 50-yard TD would be devastating. Force the Panthers to work the ball down the field, preferably through the air, and hope you can force a couple of turnovers.

DENVER ON OFFENSE

This still seems weird to say about a Peyton Manning offense, but the Broncos are best when their offense is smart and conservative, with an emphasis on ball control. You expect to see what the team has shown its last few games. They’ll stick with the run, mostly grinding out short gains to keep the defense honest, and probably break a long one at some point. Manning has to take a few shots downfield, but his role is more to find the right plays and pick up first downs on 3rd-and-6. The priority is avoiding turnovers. The Broncos aren’t going to win a shootout, and they’re not expecting to win with explosive offense; they want big plays from their defense.

Carolina’s priority is probably to prevent Denver from establishing its run game and getting into a rhythm. Don’t make mistakes, and force Manning to win with his arm. The Panthers are effective ballhawks, as we saw in the NFC Championship Game, but they probably don’t need to force turnovers as long as they’re solid throughout the game. They need to be creative enough that Manning doesn’t pick them apart with his calls at the line, but they don’t need to be aggressive, exactly. Luke Kuechly and Josh Norman are terrific players, but Carolina’s most important defender in this game might be Kawann Short. Manning can’t overcome a good interior pass rush.

SPECIAL TEAMS

This might be a small advantage for Denver, which has a slightly better kicker, slightly better punter, and a more consistent return game. For the Broncos to win, they’ll probably need an edge from special teams: a big return or a blocked kick or something.

THE FORECAST

The three best teams in the NFL this year were all in the NFC: the Panthers, Cardinals, and Seahawks. The Panthers have already beaten the other two, pretty handily, and they’re 4-point favorites to win Super Bowl 50. Denver has a great defense, though, and you should never underestimate great defensive teams in a championship. The Broncos were in the Super Bowl two years ago, so they have Super Bowl experience, which the Panthers do not – not that it matters a damn. And it’s widely assumed that this will be Manning’s last game. I hate to imply that players don’t always perform at their peak, especially in a game of this magnitude, but sometimes you see a little more when emotions are running high. Who’s to say the Broncos don’t find something extra to help the Sheriff ride off into the sunset?

All the intangibles point in Denver’s direction. But the Panthers are a better team. They have a good defense, too, as their seven takeaways against Arizona would attest, and they have an offense that scores more points. Their ground game plays away from Denver’s strengths, and interior defensive pressure could radically disrupt Manning’s gameplan.

Source: Sports Central NFL – Super Bowl 50 Preview

9 Things To Know – #NFL Weekend Update

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1. Calvin and the Lions

Detroit survived a pair of missed extra points in an 18-16 victory at Green Bay, and a huge mistake from Calvin Johnson. The Lions’ streak of 20 consecutive regular-season losses at Lambeau Field, which began 20 years and one month earlier, was the longest in NFL history by any team at any stadium.

Of course, Green Bay’s dominance at home had extended well beyond its games against Detroit, particularly with Aaron Rodgers at quarterback against struggling teams. Rodgers had won 21 consecutive home games against opponents with a losing record at the time of kickoff, dating back to 2009.

Ironically, Matt Prater, who missed two extra-point conversions for the Lions on Sunday, finished the day as something of a hero, having kicked field goals of 49 and 51 yards in Detroit’s two-point victory. Prater was the first player in NFL history to miss two extra points but kick two field goals of 40 yards or longer in the same game. Only one other player kicked two FGs of 49 yards or longer in the same game at Lambeau Field: longtime Lions kicker Jason Hanson in 2010.

2. What’s Wrong With Aaron?

The Packers have lost three in a row. The good news is that the team built up some margin for error with a 6-0 start. But, that is mostly eroded now, and they need to start playing better immediately for this season to be a meaningful one. Though Green Bay had a chance to steal Sunday’s game against Detroit, a win may have masked some structural deficiencies. Right now, this is an average football team, or worse. Here’s hoping that the team is more aware that major adjustments are necessary than they are letting on publicly……(continue reading)

3. Sunday Was a Bad Day To Be a QB

The NFL’s Week 10 schedule featured some quarterback performances we’d all like to forget about.

Some of the worst showings from the league’s leading men were put forth by the usual suspects, while others were definite surprises.

This upcoming list would be even longer if not for some outstanding late-game efforts by a couple of superstars who pulled themselves and their teams up by the bootstraps after sub-par outings, saving the best for last.

The following quarterbacks would love to have a do-over after poor showings in Week 10……(continue reading)

4. OBJ and the Giants Can’t Close Out The Champs

You can debate all you want whether Odell Beckham Jr. technically “caught” a potential game-winning touchdown Sunday, but he knows there should never have even been any doubt.

The New York Giants wide receiver came close to snagging a go-ahead score with 2:02 remaining and the Giants trailing the New England Patriots 24-23. The superstar wideout had the ball in his grasp and came down in the endzone before Patriots cornerback Malcolm Butler knocked the ball loose. The play was reviewed and it was ruled Beckham didn’t complete the catch……(continue reading)

5. All-Day and the Best of Sunday

Week 10 of the NFL season saw Peyton Manning break another passing record, the New England Patriots and Carolina Panthers improve to 9-0 and the Detroit Lions win a game in the state of Wisconsin for the first time in almost a quarter century.

Sunday also saw Manning benched during the worst game of his career, the Lions nearly choke away said win and a couple of disastrous defensive performances.

Here is the rest of the best and worst from the NFL’s tenth week……(continue reading)

6. Edelman Broken Foot

Tom Brady looked a little downtrodden when he took the podium after the New England Patriots’ dramatic last-second win over the New York Giants on Sunday.

It seemed a little peculiar to see Brady at anything less than elated given the nature of the incredible comeback victory. But there was good reason for Brady’s lack of exuberance. One, of course, was just straight fatigue, both physical and emotional.

The other reason was Julian Edelman.

The Patriots lost Edelman in the first half……(continue reading)

7. It’s Never Been This Good For The Cardinals

During the “Sunday Night Football” broadcast of the Arizona Cardinals’ wild, breakthrough 39-32 road win over the Seattle Seahawks, television analyst Cris Collinsworth paused for a moment to reflect on what he was seeing. “When you’ve thought about the Arizona Cardinals over the years, you can describe it in one word: Futility.”

You’re telling me, pal.

In my 30-or-so years of being a fan of the Arizona Cardinals, there have been three periods of success. I don’t mean periods of sustained success; there has been no sustained success. I mean one-or-two-year stretches where it has been not been actively……(continue reading)

GettyImages-4972971228. Worst Penalty Ever

The 2015 Baltimore Ravens have shown an incredible knack for losing close games. To be sure, all nine of their games have been decided by one score, yet the team is now essentially finished with a 2-7 record.

How does this happen? The end of Baltimore’s 22-20 loss to the Jaguars Sunday is a good example. Baltimore had the game won when Jags quarterback Blake Bortles was sacked on the Jacksonville half of the field when time expired. The only problem: Ravens linebacker Elvis Dumervil was flagged for a facemask penalty to extend the game by one untimed down……(continue reading)

9. The Rest Of It All

+ Six Super Bowl-winning QBs go down, an NFL firstnull

For the first time in NFL history, six quarterbacks who had previously started and won a Super Bowl lost on the same day: Drew Brees, Joe Flacco, Eli Manning,Peyton Manning, Aaron Rodgers, and Russell Wilson. The previous high on one day was four.

The most shocking performance among those six losing QBs was by Peyton Manning, who completed only five of 20 passes and was intercepted four times in the Broncos’ loss to the Chiefs. Manning was the first player in 29 years to throw as many as four interceptions and complete five or fewer passes in the same game. The last quarterback to do so was Warren Moon with the Houston Oilers in 1986 (5-for-23 with 4 INTs against the Browns).

+ Hurns extends his scoring streaknull

Allen Hurns opened the scoring with a 5-yard touchdown reception in the Jaguars’ 22-20 victory at Baltimore. Hurns has now caught a TD pass in each of his last seven games. It is not certain that Jacksonville (3-6) will finish the season with a losing record. But it’s worth noting that only four players in NFL history caught TD passes in seven straight games for a team that finished the season with more losses than wins: Buddy Dial for the 1960 Steelers (an 8-game streak), Carl Pickens for the 1995 Bengals (7), Santana Moss for the 2003 Jets (7), and T.J. Houshmandzadeh for the 2007 Bengals (8).

+ Cutler and Langford star in Bears’ big winnull

Jeremy Langford scored two touchdowns, including one on an 83-yard screen pass, in the Bears’ 37-13 win at St. Louis. It was the longest TD reception by a Bears rookie since 1991, when Anthony Morgan scored on an 84-yard pass from Jim Harbaugh.

Of course, we may have buried the lead, since Langford’s TD reception wasn’t evenJay Cutler’s longest touchdown pass in the game. Cutler threw a short pass thatZach Miller turned into an 87-yard score. In 89 previous games with the Bears, Cutler had thrown only one TD pass of 70 yards or longer (89 yards to Matt Forte in 2010).

Thursday Training

Arizona Cardinals:

2014 DVOA rank: 22nd

Key additions: Mike Iupati (OL), DJ Humphries (OL)

Key subtractions: Antonio Cromartie (CB), Darnell Dockett (DT)

One thing to know: While they had a great record last year, the advanced stats said the Cardinals weren’t as good as 11-5 indicates.  Will they hit the ground running? Coach Bruce Arians likes to attack through the air, but the Cards — NFC’s worst running team in 2014 — need better balance. Bolstered O-line, healthy Andre Ellington and rookie David Johnson offer hope.

Atlanta Falcons:

2014 DVOA rank: 20th

Key additions: Adrian Clayborn (DE), O’Brien Schofield (LB), Vic Beasley (rookie, LB)

Key subtractions: Osi Umenyiora (DE)

One thing to know: They had the worst defensive DVOA in the league last year. Any improvement could make them interesting.  Will Matt Ryan get any help? He and WR Julio Jones weren’t responsible for last year’s struggles. But if the Falcons don’t run the ball better and begin stopping anyone defensively, another ugly autumn awaits.

Buffalo Bills:

2014 DVOA rank: 9th

Key additions: LeSean McCoy (RB), Matt Cassel (QB)

Key subtractions: Kiko Alonso (LB), CJ Spiller (OL)

One thing to know: If the Bills are going to be the sleeper that a lot of people think they’ll be, either Cassel or E.J. Manuel is going to have to really improve from how they played last year.  Who emerges from the three-way quarterback battle? If Matt Cassel, EJ Manuel or Tyrod Taylor proves an effective game manager, Rex Ryan has the defense plus run game formula that equaled two AFC title game trips with the Jets.

Carolina Panthers:

2014 DVOA rank: 25th

Key additions: Shaq Thompson (rookie, LB)

Key subtractions: Greg Hardy (DE)

One thing to know: With continuing cap issues, they weren’t able to improve their dismal offensive line (and for some reason they didn’t do so in the draft either).  Will they get enough blocking? They look OK inside, where star C Ryan Kalil is the anchor. But will now-healed and now-paid Cam Newton get capable protection off the edges, and will RB Jonathan Stewart find room outside?

Cincinnati Bengals:

2014 DVOA rank: 13th

Key additions: Michael Johnson (DE), Cedric Ogbuehi (rookie, OL)

Key subtractions: Jermaine Gresham (TE)

One thing to know: Without many impact additions, it’s going to be on Andy Dalton to improve to the point where this is a team that can win a game in the playoffs.  Do they have the talent (and has it progressed enough) to be more than a one-and-done playoff team? They did little in free agency, and the draft might not offer immediate help. Hard to envision a quantum leap under the circumstances.

Cleveland Browns:

2014 DVOA rank: 23rd

Key additions: Dwayne Bowe (WR), Randy Starks (DT), Tramon Williams (CB) Danny Shelton (rookie, DT)

Key subtractions: Jordan Cameron (TE), Brian Hoyer (QB)

One thing to know: They still don’t have a quarterback, which is all that matters.  Any reason to believe they’ve closed the gap on the AFC North? Mike Pettine’s a heckuva coach, and his defense should be better in Year 2. But the offensive skill players don’t remotely compare to their counterparts elsewhere in the division.

Dallas Cowboys:

2014 DVOA rank: 6th

Key additions: Greg Hardy (DE), Byron Jones (rookie, CB)

Key subtractions: DeMarco Murray (RB), Anthony Spencer (DE)

One thing to know: Avoiding a Dez Bryant disaster was their biggest move of the offseason.  Can they overcome the loss of DeMarco Murray? RBs Darren McFadden and Joseph Randle can likely provide a decent run game behind the sterling O-line. The challenge is moving the chains to shield a defense that allowed 5.8 yards per play in 2014.

Denver Broncos:

2014 DVOA rank: 2nd

Key additions: Shane Ray (rookie, DE), James Casey (TE)

Key subtractions: Julius Thomas (TE), Orlando Franklin (G), Terrance Knighton (DT), Manny Ramirez (C), Rahim Moore (S)

One thing to know: It was a rough off-season in Denver. The Broncos went all-in in 2014 and had to make some financial sacrifices as a result.  Is this Peyton Manning’s final rodeo and, if so, do the Broncos have enough horsepower to get him a second ring? That question might boil down to patchwork O-line and how quickly players synthesize Gary Kubiak’s playbook.

Green Bay Packers:

2014 DVOA rank: 3rd

Key additions: Damarious Randall (rookie, DB)

Key subtractions: Tramon Williams (CB), AJ Hawk (LB)

One thing to know: Don’t read too much into their lack of key additions. The Packers never sign free agents, and it has been a wildly effective strategy.  Are they over their NFC Championship Game meltdown in Seattle? New team, new season, yada, yada. But if the Pack want to vie for a Super Bowl 50 berth from the safety of Lambeau Field, they can’t afford an early season hangover.

Houston Texans:

2014 DVOA rank: 19th

Key additions: Brian Hoyer (QB), Rahim Moore (DB), Vince Wilfork (DT), Kevin Johnson (rookie, DB)

Key subtractions: Andre Johnson (WR)

One thing to know: They had one of the worst QB situations in the league in 2014. They’re hoping Hoyer will give them some resemblance of stablity.  Brian Hoyer or Ryan Mallett? Experience and unproven potential, a microcosm of the Houston roster in many ways. But make no mistake — this team can make some noise if someone quiets the QB conundrum.

Indianapolis Colts:

2014 DVOA rank: 12th

Key additions: Andre Johnson (WR), Frank Gore (RB), Todd Herremans (OL), Trent Cole (DE), Phillip Dorsett (WR)

Key subtractions: Cory Redding (DE), Reggie Wayne (WR)

One thing to know: The Colts went all-in with the Gore/Johnson signings. Will they have enough defense to compete?  Can they beat the Patriots? Andrew Luck and Co. must overcome the same bugaboo Peyton Manning’s Colts had to surmount nearly a decade ago. Otherwise, Indy certainly has the potential to be Super.

Jacksonville Jaguars:

2014 DVOA rank: 32nd

Key additions: Dante Fowler Jr. (rookie, DE), Julius Thomas (TE), Dan Skuta (LB), Jermey Parnell (OL)

Key subtractions: Cecil Shorts (WR)

One thing to know: Their bad luck continued when Fowler had a season-ending injury in OTAs. They’re still one of the two worst teams in the league.  How deep is owner Shad Khan’s patience? The Jags are 7-25 under GM Dave Caldwell and coach Gus Bradley, though the duo has laid a promising foundation. But three or four wins may not mean a stay of execution in 2015.

Kansas City Chiefs:

2014 DVOA rank: 10th

Key additions: Jeremy Maclin (WR), Ben Grubbs (OL), Marcus Peters (DB)

Key subtractions: Dwayne Bowe (WR)

One thing to know: Their passing game was anemic in 2014. They didn’t get a single touchdown catch out of a wide receiver.  Who will ease RB Jamaal Charles’ burden? Solid defense led by $100 million man Justin Houston can be counted on do its share. But QB Alex Smith, LT Eric Fisher, WR Jeremy Maclin and TE Travis Kelce must step up on offense.

Minnesota Vikings:

2014 DVOA rank: 24th

Key additions: Mike Wallace (WR), Terence Newman (CB), Trae Waynes (rookie, DB)

Key subtractions: Greg Jennings (WR)

One thing to know: They might be the trendiest sleeper pick in the NFL, which makes them not much of a sleeper at all.  Will Adrian Peterson break from the gate quickly? Past history suggests certainly yes. But he has basically missed a full year and must find rhythm with coordinator Norv Turner and QB Teddy Bridgewater.

New England Patriots:

2014 DVOA rank: 4th

Key additions: Brandon Gibson (WR), Malcom Brown (rookie, DT)

Key subtractions: Darrelle Revis (CB), Vince Wilfork (DT), Shane Vereen (RB), Kyle Arrington (CB), Tom Brady for four games? (QB)

One thing to know: Bill Belichick’s off-seasons always look like head-scratchers and end up turning out fine, but this one might be different with Tom Brady’s status. But aside from that, who’s going to stop the pass? The Pats parted with their four top corners and seem in danger of reverting to the defense that ranked 25th or worse from 2010-13.

New Orleans Saints:2014 DVOA rank: 17th

Key additions: Dannell Ellerbe (LB), Max Unger (OL), CJ Spiller (RB)

Key subtractions: Jimmy Graham (TE), Kenny Stills (WR), Ben Grubbs (G),Curtis Lofton (LB)

One thing to know: During an off-season when many thought they’d try to start the rebuilding process, they loaded up again to make one last run with Drew Brees.  Can they cut the load on Drew Brees’ arm? Defense was atrocious in 2014, and the Saints have had only one top-10 run game once since 2009 Super Bowl season. But they’ve taken steps to address both areas amid life after Jimmy Graham

New York Giants:

2014 DVOA rank: 21st

Key additions: Shane Vereen (RB), Ereck Flowers (rookie, OL)

Key subtractions: Antrel Rolle (DB)

One thing to know: With little cap flexibility to make moves, this team will be roughly the same as it was last year.  Are they OK in the trenches? The NFC’s worst defense against the run last year doesn’t look markedly improved, and DE Jason Pierre-Paul is now something of an unknown. The bigger concern is how an overhauled O-line will hold up.

Oakland Raiders:

2014 DVOA rank: 29th

Key additions: Amari Cooper (rookie, WR), Nate Allen (DB), Curtis Lofton (LB), Dan Williams (DT)

Key subtractions: Denarius Moore (WR)

One thing to know: Oakland was one of the biggest-spending teams in free agency, but it’ll be the development of Derek Carr at QB in his second year that dictates how much better they get.  Is RB Latavius Murray the real deal? A 6-3, 230-pound freight train who showed ability to break off 90-yard TD runs could also be flash in the pan. The answer might determine whether Oakland leaves the AFC West basement.

Philadelphia Eagles:

2014 DVOA rank: 7th

Key additions: Sam Bradford (QB), DeMarco Murray (RB), Kiko Alonso (LB), Byron Maxwell (CB)

Key subtractions: Nick Foles (QB), Lesean McCoy (RB), Jeremy Maclin (WR)

One thing to know: The Eagles might be the league’s biggest wild card. No one would be surprised if they won anywhere from six to 12 games.  Can Sam Bradford stay healthy? He’s nearly two years removed from his last regular-season snap and now joins an offense that exposes QBs to many occupational hazards. But if Bradford stays upright, look out.

Pittsburgh Steelers:

2014 DVOA rank: 8th

Key additions: DeAngelo Williams (RB), Bud Dupree (rookie, LB)

Key subtractions: Jason Worilds (LB), Troy Polamalu (CB), Brett Keisel (DE)

One thing to know: The Steelers defense from the late 2000s has been completely turned over. This is now an offense-first team.  The offense is Super Bowl-caliber, but is it good enough to carry a defense in transition? New coordinator Keith Butler brings his own style, but he can only hope he has adequate pass rush and coverage from inexperienced group.

St. Louis Rams:

2014 DVOA rank: 18th

Key additions: Nick Foles (QB), Nick Fairley (DT), Todd Gurley (rookie, RB)

Key subtractions: Sam Bradford (QB), Zac Stacy (RB)

One thing to know: The defense is so good that even a league-average performance out of Foles would put them in line for a playoff spot.  What will they get from new QB Nick Foles? It’s not fair to expect the guy who posted a surreal 119.2 passer rating two years ago. But Foles must capably diversify an offense that has been too one-dimensional of late.

San Francisco 49ers:

2014 DVOA rank: 11th

Key additions: Darnell Dockett (DT), Torrey Smith (WR), Reggie Bush (RB)

Key subtractions: Jim Harbaugh (coach), Justin Smith (DL), Chris Culliver (CB), Frank Gore (RB), Michael Crabtree (WR), Mike Iupati (OL), Perrish Cox (CB), Patrick Willis (LB), Chris Borland (LB)

One thing to know: Nobody had a worse off-season than San Francisco. They’re now in full rebuilding mode.  Who’s the boss? Jim Harbaugh, Frank Gore, Patrick Willis, Justin Smith — all strong leaders, all gone. If this team suffers an identity crisis under rookie coach Jim Tomsula, a depleted roster could be of secondary concern.

Seattle Seahawks:

2014 DVOA rank: 1st

Key additions: Jimmy Graham (TE), Cary Williams (CB)

Key subtractions: Byron Maxwell (CB), James Carpenter (OL), O’Brien Schofield (LB), Max Unger (C)

One thing to know: The Seahawks addressed their biggest weakness in the Jimmy Graham trade, but they had to sacrifice depth to do so.  Can they continue managing distractions? The track record shows they know how to cope with significant drama. This year, it starts with contract issues for mainstays Russell Wilson, Bobby Wagner and Michael Bennett.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers:2014 DVOA rank: 30th

Key additions: Jameis Winston (rookie, QB), Henry Melton (DT)

Key subtractions: Adrian Clayborn (DE), Josh McCown (QB), Michael Johnson (DE), Dashon Goldson (DB)

One thing to know: The Bucs defensive unit was quietly not terrible last year. If Winston can turn them into a merely bad offensive team rather than the worst offensive team in the league, things could be looking up.  How will rookie Jameis Winston handle the spotlight? Given his troubling off-field detours at Florida State, it may be a more relevant concern than his ability to run the Bucs offense, a huge challenge by itself.

Tennessee Titans:

2014 DVOA rank: 31st

Key additions: Marcus Mariota (rookie, QB), Brian Orakpo (DE), Hakeem Nicks (WR), Perrish Cox (DB)

Key subtractions: Jake Locker (QB), Kamerion Wimbley (LB)

One thing to know: Marcus Mariota was the last 2015 draftee to sign his rookie deal, but he’ll be there for training camp.  Is Marcus Mariota up to the NFL challenge? He’ll surely get more than a 16-game audition, but the Titans know they bypassed some intriguing opportunities to replenish the franchise had they dealt the right to draft Mariota.

Washington Redskins:

2014 DVOA rank: 28th

Key additions: Chris Culliver (CB), Terrance Knighton (DT)

Key subtractions: Brian Orakpo (LB), Ryan Clark (DB)

One thing to know: The reports on Robert Griffin III don’t sound great!  Is Robert Griffin III the guy? No way the fourth-year passer collects $16 million in 2016 if he’s subpar in 2015. With Kirk Cousins and Colt McCoy in walk years, team could be back at square one under center in six months.

NFC Training Camp News

Training Camps are about to start and here are some news/notes/rumors from last week for each NFC team that I could find.

NFC EAST

NEW YORK GIANTS

QB: Eli Manning is playing much faster in his second season under offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo’s system. He has also drastically cut back on interceptions – in practice.

RB: Shane Vereen is expected to be a major factor in the Giants’ offense this season.

WR: Odell Beckham Jr. is once again dealing with hamstring issues this offseason. However, Victor Cruz is on track to be ready for Week 1.

TE: Larry Donnell has spent his offseason working on his blocking and ball security, perhaps his two largest flaws.

DALLAS COWBOYS

QB: Tony Romo has yet to miss a single practice after rarely participating the past few seasons due to back injuries.

RB: Joseph Randle has emerged as the heavy favorite to lead the Cowboys’ backfield in touches.

WR: Dez Bryant is extremely disgruntled about his contract situation and claims he’s willing to sit out multiple regular season games if he does not get a long-term deal done.

TE: Gavin Escobar is expected to see an increased role this season.

PHILADELPHIA EAGLES

QB: Sam Bradford is still hobbled from ACL surgery, however, he expects to be ready for training camp.

RB: The Eagles would like to get Darren Sproles more involved this season and are finding new creative ways to do so.

WR: Miles Austin has been very impressive this offseason while Josh Huff has struggled with consistency.

TE: Zach Ertz worked on his game with Tony Gonzalez this offseason. Many believe he is ready to take a huge leap forward this season.

WASHINGTON

QB: Robert Griffin III is the undisputed starter in Washington and is having a much less tumultuous offseason than he had in 2014. Colt McCoy and Kirk Cousins are still battling for the backup job.

RB: Rookie Matt Jones is expected to push Alfred Morris for touches this season, although Morris is still the clear-cut RB1.

WR: The team is making it a point to get Pierre Garcon more involved this season.

TE: Jordan Reed has already undergone a procedure on his knee this offseason and is currently sidelined. His backup Niles Paul has bulked up and looks much stronger in practice.

NFC NORTH

GREEN BAY PACKERS

QB: Scott Tolzien will be the Packers No. 2 quarterback this season.

RB: Eddie Lacy is expected to see his touches limited this season in order to keep him fresh.

WR: Jordy Nelson is on track with his recovery from an apparent hip surgery. Devante Adams has starred in his absence.

TE: Aaron Rodgers singled out Andrew Quarless as a player that has really shined this offseason.

DETROIT LIONS

QB: Matthew Stafford is expected to be unleashed in his second season in Joe Lombardi’s offense. He’s expected to air it out more and take more chances.

RB: Ameer Abdullah has been the RB1 this offseason while Joique Bell continues to rehab knee and Achilles’ surgeries.

WR: Calvin Johnson is feeling very healthy and believes he’s still a top wideout.

TE: Eric Ebron has continued to struggle this offseason, despite being expected to see a much larger role in the offense.

MINNESOTA VIKINGS

QB: Teddy Bridgewater is attempting to add muscle this season to improve his deep ball and durability.

RB: Adrian Peterson is back with the team after an offseason filled with nonsense. Physically he’s shown no signs of rust – meaning another ACL tear is due.

WR: The team is optimistic that Cordarrelle Patterson will be able to turn things around this season and be a productive wideout. He still has a shot to win a starting job – a long one.

TE: Rookie MyCole Pruitt has become the TE2 in Minnesota. He will be the primary backup for the oft injured Kyle Rudolph.

CHICAGO BEARS

QB: New offensive coordinator Adam Gase has said that Jimmy Clausen is “perfect fit” for his offense.

RB: Matt Forte reported to voluntary workouts despite rumors of a potential lengthy holdout.

WR: Jay Cutler sees no reason Alshon Jeffery can’t be a legitimate WR1 with Brandon Marshall now with the Jets.

TE: Martellus Bennett recently ended his holdout. He is still not happy about his contract but was not willing to pay the price for missing mandatory camp.

NFC SOUTH

CAROLINA PANTHERS

QB: Cam Newton has signed a five-year $103.8 million contract. Despite the pricey investment, the team will not discourage Newton from running the ball.

RB: Jonathan Stewart’s carries will be directly correlated to his production. The team believes rookie Cameron Artis-Payne can handle the full workload should Stewart get injured – which he will.

WR: Kelvin Benjamin has struggled with hamstring injuries this offseason and came into camp a bit overweight. Both Devin Funchess and Stephen Hill have performed well in his absence.

TE: The Panthers have signed Ed Dickson to backup Greg Olsen.

ATLANTA FALCONS

QB: Matt Ryan is expected to throw the ball less this season.

RB: Devonta Freeman is clearly ahead in the battle for the starting running back job. He will also be the team’s top pass-catching back.

WR: Julio Jones will not holdout despite clearly deserving more money. He believes it would be selfish.

TE: Jacob Tamme has pulled away as the team’s top receiving tight end.

TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS

QB: Jameis Winston has been hard at work in camp and has already begun to take on a leadership role.

RB: It is not likely Doug Martin will be back in 2016. However, he has been getting the first-team reps and dropped 15lbs.

WR: Mike Evans has lined up exclusively as the WR1 in camp, while Vincent Jackson has been moved around in different formations.

TE: The Bucs have brought back Tim Wright after claiming him off waivers from the Patriots.

NEW ORLEANS SAINTS

QB: Drew Brees is expected to run a slower-paced, more run-based offense this season.

RB: The team would like to make it a point to get C.J. Spiller the ball in space this season.

WR: Brandin Cooks is expected to emerge as the team’s most highly-targeted wideout.

TE: Josh Hill is expected to fill the bulk of the void left by the absence of Jimmy Graham. Ben Watson will also be in the mix, particularly in the red zone.

NFC WEST

SEATTLE SEAHAWKS

QB: It does not appear Russell Wilson is going to get his contract extension. He plans to play on an insurance policy just in case he suffers a career ending injury.

RB: Robert Turbin is sidelined after hip surgery and Marshawn Lynch isn’t so big on practice or preseason. So, Christine Michael will get his chance to either shine or fall on his face as the RB1.

WR: Rookie Tyler Lockett has been by far the best of the Seahawks rookies this offseason.

TE: Since the Seahawks traded for Jimmy Graham, he has been working hard on improving his blocking.

ST LOUIS RAMS

QB: The Rams and Nick Foles are in discussions for a long-term deal.

RB: Todd Gurley is a candidate to start the season on the PUP list. However, his head coach Jeff Fisher hints that he may be healthier than people think.

WR: Brian Quick has a “realistic” shot to play Week 1. He is still recovering from shoulder surgery.

TE: Lance Kendricks took less money this offseason to stay in St. Louis.

ARIZONA CARDINALS

QB: Carson Palmer has been medically cleared to participate in 11-on-11 drills after ACL surgery.

RB: Rookie David Johnson has looked great as a pass-catcher. Nonetheless, Andre Ellington remains the top back in Arizona.

WR: John Brown is expected to have a breakout season.

TE: Troy Niklas injured his ankle and required surgery at minicamp. With John Carlson unexpectedly retiring, that leaves the Cardinals extremely weak at TE.

SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS

QB: Colin Kaepernick has altered his delivery this offseason in order to help improve his shaky accuracy.

RB: Reggie Bush received the first-team reps in camp. However, that was partially because Carlos Hyde had just returned from a leg injury.

WR: Quinton Patton will get the opportunity to be a real contributor this season.

TE: Vernon Davis looks fast this off season and blames last season’s struggles on poor game planning.

DiRTy Work

Strike 1

watch the classic here

 

Like a Bugs Bunny cartoon the Yankees had an intra-squad game yesterday with a pitching machine named “iron mike“.  So who would you rather be – the Phillies who lost to a Div.II college team or the Yankees, with the bulk of your payroll going 0-10 against a pitching machine.  For A-Rod it looks like another obstacle for him to show he deserves a roster spot, but it wasn’t just him; Mark Texeira, Didi Gregorius, Brian McCann, Jacoby Ellsbury, Stephen Drew and Garrett Jones – all them hit-less – against a pitching machine.  I get it.  Hitting is timing and pitching’s job is to disrupt it, and a machine fails to properly give you the arm motion for essential timing – but 0’fer?  One time rookie of the year Chris Young was actually struck out by “iron mike“!  Pitiful is the state of the modern-hitter nowadays – a complete lack of fundamental discipline against a straight-pitching machine – from a professional?  I demand an investigation!

It tells us we can stop making Terminator movies because it appears Skynet has already won.

SkyNet becomes self-aware on August 29th

***as a side note, besides posting daily NBA dirty plays – we are working to solve the enigma that is the march tournament bracket – so considerable time may be spent and may further appear that we are just drinking beer down in the bunker; but we are actually conducting tournament research for you – so send a letter to our significant others who call it something else…***

maninironmask

March 3rd 2015 – posted

 

 

‘The Man in the Iron Mask’ – the ‘Must-Haves‘, the ‘Sleepers‘ and those that might find themselves on the trainers table for your FanDuel NBA-delights each night.  We will post these DiRTy plays, everyday by 1p MST – so check back in the afternoon.  ‘Click’ the picture for the days’ DiRTy plays.

 


 

Strike 2

click to watch

 

The Texas Longhorns basketball team kept their bubbly-hopes alive by beating #14 Baylor in overtime.  However, the true storyline is the 7 ejections.  Texas’ Isaiah Taylor and Baylor’s Royce O’neale both go for a loose ball with 1:57 left in OT with Texas nursing a 3pt lead, when O’neale elbowed Taylor.  Benches clear and after the Texas victory both teams glared at each other before leaving the court.  No suspensions are being handed out to the ejected, so that’s Texas justice in full effect and hopefully our bloodlust will be satiated if they meet again in the conference tournament.

Foul ball

In related news…two professional basketball players got a little chesty last night, after Hassan Whiteside dunked on Alex Len.  Neither enjoying how the other felt about it and instead of cooler-heads, we were treated to an upcoming match on WWE Raw instead – both were ejected.

click to watch


 

Foul Tip

Word has come down that Andre Johnson is done in Houston.  You might remember him from 7 pro bowls, over 13k yards and 64 TD’s.   He also appeared in a few instructional quarterback videos the past few years, having fill-in grocery clerks throw him the ball.  Andre is 34 and has been in the league for 12 seasons, so his value is dropping and the tank is getting dry.  However the Texans showed their hand by saying they will cut him if they can not trade him – so there went their leverage.  This moves DeAndre Hopkins into the #1 WR on the team and look for ‘Dre to resurge for next year with the right team.  Top candidates for ‘Dre’s services could be Oakland, KC, or Carolina.


 

Strike 3

Steve Spurrier Finally Joins Twitter, Messes Up On First Tweet

@SC_HBC

 

The Ol’Head Ball Coach –The HBC – the man with such spoken-word-hits as…

  1. On the Vols missing out on the Sugar Bowl during his Florida years: “You can’t spell Citrus without U-T.”
  2. On Peyton Manning: “I know why Peyton came back for his senior year. He wanted to be a three-time star of the Citrus Bowl.”
  3. On playing the Dawgs early: “I don’t know. I sort of always liked playing them that second game because you could always count on them having two or three key players suspended.”
  4. On Georgia recruiting: “Why is it that during recruiting season they sign all the great players, but when it comes time to play the game, we have all the great players? I don’t understand that. What happens to them?”
  5. On scandal in Tallahassee: “You know what FSU stands for, don’t you? Free Shoes University.”
  6. On a fire at the football dorm that destroyed 20 books: “But the real tragedy was that 15 hadn’t been colored yet.”
  7. On the Gamecocks’ matchup at Tennessee“Will be the 14th time I’ve coached in Neyland Stadium. … I’ve coached there more than some of their head coaches.”
  8. On his age: “The Pope is 77 years old and he’s in charge of a billion people. All I have to do is put 11 on the field.”
  9. On the state of the South Carolina program(widely attributed, but probably not an original): “We aren’t LSU and we aren’t Alabama. But we sure ain’t Clemson.”

Has finally joined Twitter – I wonder how did training go, showing him how many characters to use and what a hashtag meant – considering his first tweet did not go as well…

spur

See South Carolina’s official handle is @UofSC, not the profilactic program near palm springs – so he deleted it and retweeted his first tweet again with the correction – now we just wait for the perverbial visor throw.


 

March 3rd, 1875

This day in history:

In Montreal Quebec after weeks of training, the public debut of indoor ice hockey was on display, on March 3rd 1875.  Prior to the move indoors, ice hockey was a casual outdoor game, with no set dimensions for the ice and no rules regarding the number of players per side.  However, Montreal resident, James Creighton limited the numbers to 9 each side because of the snugness of the Victoria skating rink.