What You Need To Know For #TNF & 4 More Things

name of site - hunter thompson style

1.

By the Time I Get To Arizona…

 

The Vikes are missing 4 guys on D.  Anyone else think this could get ugly in a hurry in the desert?  If it was in the cold blanket of the outdoors of Minnesota, maybe…Sure A.P. is whining that he’s not getting the ball enough and the last time he did that he went off – this is the matchup tonight – Adrian Peterson, child-abuser versus the front 7 of Arizona.  For me, the issue is not so much that matchup, it’s can the Vikes score enough points regardless what A.P. does.

When Carson Palmer starts, the Cardinals as home favorites are 9-3-1 against-the-spread, but All-time, touchdown or greater underdogs against the Cardinals are 20-10-1 against-the-spread – so something has to give.  DC*3PO says the Cards win by only 4 so to take the Vikes – make mine the Cards, as they are the better team and Minnesota struggles against good teams – in fact John Beckwith made a bet that Minnesota would not beat another team whose record is above .500 – so far they have not.

Guys to watch on #DraftKings for Tonight’s game, according to DC*3PO

  • Carson Palmer $6,500 – 19.8 – 66.6%
  • Adrian Peterson $6,900 – 15.4 – 40.9%
  • Larry Fitzgerald $7,400 – 15.3 – 57.7%
  • Teddy Bridgewater $5,100 – 13.5 – 45.4%
  • John Brown $4,500 – 13 – 51.1%

Russell Wilson of the Seattle Seahawks, during a game against the Minnesota Vikings on Dec. 6.

2.

Can The Seahawks Get Back To The Super Bowl?

The Seattle Seahawks came into 2015 as championship favorites, having put up one of the best two-year runs in NFL history, with a bid for back-to-back titles undone by one of the most shocking twist endings in Super Bowl history. But things went downhill in a hurry. Seattle lost four of its first six games; then won two in a row, against the foundering 49ers and Cowboys; and in Week 10 dropped a crucial home game against the Cardinals that effectively killed any chance of a third consecutive NFC West crown. It was mid-November and the Seahawks were unlikely to make the playoffs, let alone win the Super Bowl.

Source: Can The Seahawks Get Back To The Super Bowl?


 

3.

Last One Out of the Circus…

San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich fired another shot from long range Wednesday night as he continued to voice his displeasure over 3-point shots.

“I still hate it,” Popovich told reporters before the Spurs’ 97-94 loss to theToronto Raptors. “I’ll never embrace it. I don’t think it’s basketball. I think it’s kind of like a circus sort of thing. Why don’t we have a 5-point shot? A 7-point shot? You know, where does it stop, that sort of thing.

“But that’s just me, that’s just old-school. To a certain degree, you better embrace it or you’re going to lose. And every time we’ve won a championship, the 3-point shot was a big part of it. Because……(continue reading)

Source: San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich says 3-pointer is ‘like a circus sort of thing’


4.

Day 3 and Counting…

The great thing about the Winter Meetings is that every club is involved. No matter who you root for, there is going to be a rumor or two tied to your team every day of the proceedings. With that in mind, here’s a look at the most intriguing rumors attached to each club, as of Wednesday night.

Source: Winter Meetings rumors roundup of all 30 teams | MLB.com


5.

Now We Are Just Finding Reasons?

As a player with the San Diego Chargers and New England Patriots, Rodney Harrison thrived off every slight, real or simply perceived.

It seems Harrision may have a kindred spirit in Carolina Panthers’ cornerback Josh Norman.

On Sunday night, Harrison, now an NBC commentator, said on “Football Night in America” that the 7-5 Seahawks are more dangerous than the undefeated Panthers. On Wednesday, appearing on “ProFootballTalk,” Harrison gave the edge to Falcons’ receiver Julio Jones in his matchup with Norman this Sunday.

A Carolina fan tweeted that first Harrison “said the Seahawks are better than the Panthers, now he’s calling out” Norman, and wondered what’s wrong with Harrison while giving the link to Harrison’s ProFootballTalk appearance.……(continue reading)

Source: Panthers’ Josh Norman says NBC’s Rodney Harrison ‘horrible at his job’

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.

Training Camp Counselor

It’s the dog-days of summer and football training camp is a few days away – NFL Films’ Greg Cosell will be doing a series of posts for Shutdown Corner taking a deeper look into the finer points of football, explaining how fans can look for the subtle nuances that make the game so interesting beneath the surface. – so in the meantime – ENJOY!

Green Bay Packers v Minnesota Vikings
By Greg Cosell – July 5, 2015 12:30 PM – Shutdown Corner MINNEAPOLIS, MN – DECEMBER 30: Aaron Rodgers #12 of the Green Bay Packers calls a play at the line of scrimmage during the third quarter of the game against the Minnesota Vikings on December 30, 2012 at Mall of America Field at the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The Vikings defeated the Packers 37-34. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)

On Sundays, I usually watch games without taking notes or looking at schemes or searching for details about why plays did or didn’t work. I just watch casually. And I know most people watch games that way, and that’s great.

But I also love when I come to the NFL Films offices on Monday and start to look at the coaches’ film to unlock why certain plays worked or didn’t, and what makes players successful or not. Those nuances, to me, are what football is all about.

Since NFL.com introduced the all-22 film (that’s the term for the high-angle coaches film you’ll see on my posts at Shutdown Corner) on Game Rewind, many serious fans have taken advantage of it. But I’ve told people, breaking down NFL film isn’t something you can do after dinner in 20 minutes. It took a lot of time before I knew what to watch for. Thankfully there are people who taught me various aspects of the game, like former Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Ron Jaworski teaching me how to watch from a quarterback’s viewpoint, or former New England Patriots coach and longtime NFL defensive coordinator Rod Rust explaining defensive concepts. There have been many others I’ve learned from, and I’m always learning new things.

What I’d like to do in a series of posts here this summer is pass along some of the things I’ve learned to look for when watching a game. Some things can be picked up by watching the television broadcast — though it can be a challenge because of the tight shots of game play — at the stadium or watching film afterward. My hope is that some of these things help your appreciation of your favorite team, or football in general. I love the intellectual side of the NFL. To me, that’s what makes the game great.

Here’s an obvious starting point for this post: There are things you can note before the snap on each play. I’ve watched film for so long, checking for these keys before the ball is snapped has become second nature.

Let’s use two plays from the Green Bay Packers‘ win against the Minnesota Vikings in Week 5 last season as examples. This was a second-and-7 at Green Bay’s 34, in the first quarter. Here’s the first picture of the play I see:

(NFL.com screen shot)

(NFL.com screen shot)

This looks like a typical football formation, but there’s so much we can learn just from this one frame.

On offense, the first thing I look at is personnel. There was a player in the fullback position, and I can see right away that’s not their normal fullback, John Kuhn (it’s tight end Andrew Quarless). Then my eye goes to the fact that they have two split receivers. The Packers often run play-action from this look, though I know that from years of studying coach Mike McCarthy’s offense. Then I noticed that the ball is on the right hash and the receiver at the right of the formation, Jordy Nelson, had tighter splits (meaning he was a little closer to the formation) than usual. I’m thinking, if this is a pass, Nelson will run some route that is taking him across the field. He has to get across the field, so he’ll take a tighter split. It will take too long to get across the field if he’s lined up wider. There was a reason Nelson is there. These are things you pick up the longer you study film.

After I’ve seen the offensive personnel and formation, I move to the defense. I’ve worked with Jaworski for years at the NFL Films offices, and he says about his pre-snap process watching film as a former quarterback: “I usually go from safeties to cornerbacks to the linebackers to the line.”

I start with the safeties too. New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton told me years ago, if you reduce it to simple terms you’re trying to see if it’s a two-deep safety shell or a single-high safety, and then you look for blitz indicators. The Vikings safeties on this play showed a two-deep shell, which indicated a zone coverage. They could be disguising the coverage because neither safety is that deep. One could drop down right before the snap, in theory. Anything can happen with those safeties, but it was a two-deep shell zone look.

Then look at the corners, especially the corner on the bottom of the screen. They were lined up slightly to the outside of the receivers, which indicated they are anticipating inside help from the safeties. That means it’s a zone coverage. Also, at the snap, if cornerbacks turn and face the sideline to push the receiver outside it tells you there’s man coverage, and if the cornerbacks turn to face the field it’s usually zone. And you can look at the linebackers’ first steps; if their first steps are backward it’s a zone coverage.

There was no blitz indicator from the Vikings on this play. If corners are playing tight man coverage, that could be a blitz indicator, but they weren’t here. The linebackers were stacked behind the line, and that was an indication they would not blitz. It would be different if a linebacker was up on the line of scrimmage or creeping up to it. The safeties showed two-deep shell, and that’s not a blitz indicator. Anything can change at the snap because teams will try to confuse the offense, but the Vikings’ alignment indicated this was a zone coverage with no blitz. It’s hard to blitz out of a two-deep shell, because you have two safeties deep and if you take another defender out of the front seven to blitz there are a lot of voids in the defense.

Keep in mind that Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers saw all of this and processed the information in about a second or so. And as we’ll see, what he noticed mattered. As it turned out the Packers had a play called to beat the exact defense Rodgers saw.

The Packers went hard run-action to the left, the defense reacted (it was playing quarters zone coverage, with each defensive back being responsible for a deep fourth of the field). The safety to the run side was an “alley” defender, because he had run responsibility and he would run in the alley in run support if it’s a handoff. Rodgers faked it, and rolled to the right. Nelson released inside and he ran straight at the safety. The other safety stepped up in run support because of the fake, and also the receiver on the left side ran a route to occupy that safety. Nelson was screaming at safety Harrison Smith, who is a very good player, but couldn’t cover Nelson in that situation. Nelson caught a 66-yard touchdown.

(NFL.com screen shot)

(NFL.com screen shot)

(NFL.com screen shot)

(NFL.com screen shot)

That play was designed to beat a zone defense, to get Nelson running at the safety. That’s why the first look at the Vikings’ alignment, with all the clues of what defense they were running, mattered. There was a play earlier in the first quarter, and Rodgers called an audible to a run to beat a much different defensive look.

(NFL.com screen shot)

(NFL.com screen shot)

That was a lot different alignment by the defense. This appeared to be man-to-man coverage with a free safety, called “man free.” You know it’s man because the three cornerbacks were pressed up on the three receivers. Strong safety Smith was up on the line to the right side of the Packers’ formation. The two inside linebackers were lined up hard inside, slightly inside of the guards. It looked like a blitz mostly because of Smith. The way the Vikings aligned should send alerts to your brain: man coverage and potential blitz.

I don’t know if the Packers had a run or a pass called — the same touchdown to Nelson we described above probably wouldn’t have worked against this man defense, by the way — but Rodgers called an outside zone run to the left. Why? Because the linebackers were hard inside, they couldn’t stop Eddie Lacy outside. And it was to the left because Smith was lined up to the Packers’ right side. Randall Cobb, from the slot, ran like he might catch a bubble screen and that took the slot cornerback out of run support. The extra defender was the free safety, lined up about 15 yards deep. The Vikings were in trouble before the ball was snapped. Lacy gained 29 yards.

(NFL.com screen shot)

(NFL.com screen shot)

(NFL.com screen shot)

(NFL.com screen shot)

(NFL.com screen shot)

(NFL.com screen shot)

That type of play is why coaches like Arizona’s Bruce Arians say they don’t want quarterbacks who didn’t do anything at the line of scrimmage in college. Rodgers made this run by what he did at the line. If you just casually watched the game you might have thought it was a great play by Lacy, but in reality Rodgers deserved most of the credit for this. Rodgers was able to set up the run by diagnosing the Vikings’ defense from the snapshot he got before the snap.

And now you can look for some of the same things before the ball is snapped.

– – – – – – –

NFL analyst and NFL Films senior producer Greg Cosell watches as much NFL game film as anyone. Throughout the season, Cosell will join Shutdown Corner to share his observations on the teams, schemes and personnel from around the league.

*Your Team* is DiRTy

I’ve just been handed an urgent news story – great Odin’s Raven – every team cheats?  I know, I know – it puts you in a glass case of emotion with nothing to drink but milk on a hot day – poor choice.  So, your team has shown, that it’s plan, 60% of the time to win a Superbowl, works everytime – as long as it cheats.  Says so right here on the label and thanks to YourTeamCheats.com we have all the gate-y-ness exposed – it’s science.

Here is a sampling of the ongoing league-wide issues:

Tamper-gate (ongoing) flags

TEAM: All 32 NFL Teams

SEVERITY:scale

SUMMARY: Tampering with free agents is rampant, it’s laughable and it is against the rules (PDF). It’s so bad across every team in the league that the NFL had to create a three-day legal tampering period. However, tampering still regularly occurs long before that annual three-day window opens. On March 9, 2015 the league once again felt compelled to warn all 32 teams about not tampering.

Why is tampering considered a problem? Because tampering with players still under contract makes it difficult for clubs to re-sign their own talent. It also puts those few teams that actually follow NFL guidelines at a distinct disadvantage. In many cases, contract agreements are in place days before any negotiations are allowed to begin.

This isn’t fair, it isn’t legal, and it is blatant cheating by the teams who engage in the practice.

VICTIM: The entire league

PUNISHED? No but…

PUNISHMENT: NFL commissioner and former Jets public relations intern Roger Goodell is doing all he can to curtail and punish the “commonplace” practice, although it admits that there is so much tampering that it is hard to police it all.

The CheatPoints earned for this leaguewide cheat is for all of this team’s tampering incidents that have gone undiscovered or unproven. If specific instances are discovered, they are punished on top of this leaguewide penalty.

AWARDS EARNED:Everyone Was Doing It!

CHEATPOINTS EARNED:+ 4.0

Headset-gate (ongoing) flags

TEAM: All 32 NFL Teams

SEVERITY:scale

SUMMARY: it’s a common complaint around the NFL. In late, close games, the helmet communicators of visiting teams suddenly “malfunction” and stop working. It has been accepted as standard practice in the league. Are you on the road and the game is close? Then you are going to have problems with your headset.

In recent years, the Patriots have accused the Colts of doing it and the Jaguars have made the same charge of the Patriots. The Redskins accused the Buccaneers of disabling their headsets, and Tampa Bay accused Dallas. The Giants openly bragged about doing it way back in 1956. The charges go on and on and on.

VICTIM: The entire league

PUNISHED? No

CHEATPOINTS EARNED:+ 4.0

Spy-gate (until 2006) flags

TEAM: All 32 NFL Teams

SEVERITY:scale

SUMMARY: Stealing your opponent’s signals has always been common and never been illegal.

Said former Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Bill Cowher, “We had people that always tried to steal signals. Stealing someone’s signals was a part of the game, and everyone attempted to do that.” Admitted former Dallas Cowboys head coach Jimmy Johnson: “When I came into the NFL, back in 1989, I talked to a Kansas City scout and he said, ‘Here’s what we do, we videotape the opposing team’s signals and then we sync it up with the game film.’ So I did it.” Bragged, former Denver Broncos head coach Mike Shanahan: “Our guy keeps a pair of binoculars on their signal-callers every game, with any luck, we have their defensive signals figured out by halftime. Sometimes, by the end of the first quarter.”

NFL commissioner and former Jets public relations intern Rodger Goodell confirmed this himself in 2008, saying that the issue was not stealing signals, that is allowed “and it is done quite widely.” The issue is where and how you record them. If you chose to videotape them, then (after 2006) you have to do that from a league approved location. If you hire lip readers, they can do it from your coaches lap, if you want.

After 2006, examples of allowed videotaping locations are: the luxury boxes, media booths and other enclosed spaces. Expressly prohibited locations are the sidelines, the field, locker rooms, the coaches booth or any other place accessible to team coaches and staff. The point of the rule is to not allow the footage to be useful in the current game.

Prior to the September 6, 2006 memo and, 2007 follow up, from NFL head of football operations Ray Anderson, there was no league restriction on filming location, which is the reason the memo was sent.

Many NFL head coaches have downplayed the significance of the practice, saying that attempting to decipher opponent’s signals was a long standing practice andentirely common throughout the league.

VICTIM: The entire league

PUNISHED? No

PUNISHMENT: NFL commissioner and former Jets public relations intern Rodger Goodell suggested that the responsibility was on teams to conceal their messages, not on the ones trying to steal them. During his news conference before the 2007 Super Bowl he said that any coach who did not expect signals to be stolen was “stupid.”

Prior to 2006, every NFL team is assumed to have done it, but none of them broke a rule. You can’t punish something that is not prohibited. Filming from the sidelines was not prohibited until 2006 and filming your opponent’s signals from approved locations has never been prohibited, even today.

AWARDS EARNED:Everyone Was Doing It!

CHEATPOINTS EARNED:+ 0.0

Scraps-gate (ongoing) flags

TEAM: All 32 NFL Teams

SEVERITY:scale

SUMMARY: Sign an opponent’s recently-cut player to your practice squad to get intel on their plays, signals and tactics. This is not illegal and is a leaguewide practice.

Said one player, who chose to remain anonymous as he was still in the league as of 2015, “If teams have an opening at a certain position, they might not be looking for perhaps the best player to fill it on their practice squad. Instead, they might go for someone who has access to the opposing team’s playbook.”

“Let’s say we’re playing the Jaguars in seven days and you want to know more about their playbook. From time to time teams will sign people off of practice squads. You don’t have to put them on active roster so if there’s a need for more depth at linebacker and you’re playing Jacksonville, there would be more of a chance to sign a linebacker off the team you’re about to play’s practice squad and hoping that the person you’re about to sign will divulge information about the playbook.”

VICTIM: The entire league

PUNISHED? No

PUNISHMENT: Not illegal.

AWARDS EARNED:Everyone Was Doing It!

CHEATPOINTS EARNED:+ 0.0


So what have we learned, well we have learned a lot, (Cheaters win, and three of the biggest cheats are in the AFC – with the Broncos being the worst of them all) and if you want to see for yourself – click on your teams’ icon and go directly to YourTeamCheats.com to find out all the little dirty secrets in your teams closet.  Then write your congressman and tell him/her that the media needs to slander every team, not just the Patriots.

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CHEATSCORES
NFC EAST NFC NORTH NFC SOUTH NFC WEST AFC EAST AFC NORTH AFC SOUTH AFC WEST
DAL – 20 CHI – 20 ATL – 28 ARI – 13 BUF – 16 BAL – 35 HOU – 16 DEN – 49
NYG – 35 DET – 28 CAR – 20 SEA – 25 MIA – 22 CIN – 16 IND – 37 KC – 16
PHI – 28 GB – 27 NO – 23 SF – 31 NE – 25 CLE – 13 JAX – 12 OAK – 27
WAS –37 MIN – 23 STL – 14 TB – 25 NYJ – 40 PIT – 46 TEN – 20 SD – 19