Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Courtside View: Previewing the 2013-14 Season

  Courtside View: Previewing the 2013-14 Season

The 2013-14 season is just hours away and the reigning champs are looking to start the season. off with a victory against a newly equipped rivalry, in the Chicago Bulls. Following that game on TNT, the Los Angeles Clippers and the Los Angeles Lakers are showcased. I will tell you who is the most dominant team between these two. In the past, I've always said the western conference is the better conference, but with teams like the Indiana PacersBrooklyn Nets, Chicago Bulls and the New York Knicks, all upgrading their odds to win a championship to overthrow the defending champs. The west still have dominant teams, but not like the East. This is probably one of the biggest seasons I've been most excited about in awhile. I'll also tell you why the bottom-feeder teams are going to be looking to make their ways up to the top.

Former number one overall pick, Greg Oden, either has ended up broke, or just couldn't walk away from the game without proving himself. One of the biggest busts in NBA history, Oden has returned to the NBA, ready to make an impact with the Miami Heat. The problem with Oden is that he couldn't never stay healthy. He was always hurt. In fact he signed his big contract with the Portland Trailblazers and then said he was hurt. I can just imagine his thoughts..."I can't play now, but I definitely can cash the checks." As if the Heat needed Help, the core of the team is still in tact. With LeBron James, Dwayne Wade, and Chris Bosh. The Heat will be there at the end, when it is all said and done. If Wade can stay healthy, this team will be more than a handful. Add Ray Allen to the pot and you now have a complete full course dish. However, the Bulls are looking to throw leftovers in that pot. You can't forget about the Bulls...The same team that derailed the Heats 27 game winning streak, and they did it without their prized possession Derrick Rose. Add him to the mix now and this team has a roster, who can outplay anyone in the league. Did I mention they went 8-0 in the pre-season. I know it doesn't count, but it is worth noting.

The Lakers and Clippers play in the same arena. The Staples center has always been home to the five time NBA champ...Kobe Bryant. Things maybe starting to change in favor or the Clippers. This is a team I'm looking forward to seeing. The Clippers are deep and now have a coach who is defensive minded in Doc Rivers. Chris Paul is a great point guard in this league, but Rivers has called out Paul. Letting him know he hasn't done anything in this league. That's one way to push a player to play harder. I can tell you, Rivers has already won that locker room over. If he gets Blake Griffin to commit to playing better defense, no opposing team will be able to score in the low-post. DeAndre Jordan has defense, he just doesn't have offense. He makes nasty looking dunks, he just can't make free throws. Rivers will have to change that, hire a guru or something, but Jordan and Griffin have to be able to make free throws. Who is playing opening night for the Lakers, Steve Nash and Pau Gasol, are the only big names. Kobe Bryant, may be in the building, but he won't be on the court. The 15x all-star is sidelined due to an torn Achilles tendon late last season. It is not known, when he will return. The scale is starting to tilt towards the Clippers side. The team is younger and more talented, while the Lakers are playing, hoping, not to establish injuries along the way.

The eastern conference has gotten better as a whole. The Indiana Pacers are going to welcome their star before their star back in...Danny Granger. Granger missed the majority of the 2012-13 season, due to an patellar injury. Limited to five games last season, Granger is going to miss the first three weeks of this season, due to a calf injury. While he was out, it gave rising star, Paul George, the keys to the team. George is an all-around outstanding player. The former Fresno State product, became an all-star, became the most improved player, and was on the second all-defensive team, thanks to Granger being side-lined. This team isn't worried about missing him. With Roy Hibbert, George Hill, David West and Paul George healthy, this team will be balling-out. They replace Tyler Hannsbrough, with Luis Scola. A more well-rounded player. Scola can score and rebound. That is a great replacement. Other teams such as the Brooklyn Nets and the New York Knicks, have been talking trash all off-season, about being the better team. Who is exactly is better? The Nets acquired aging stars Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce. With a team who already had Deron William, Joe Johnson and Brook Lopez. This team already had offensive, but now jus became defensive. If Healthy this team can go a long way. The Knicks added Andrea Bargnani, Metta World Peace, and re-signed J.R. Smith. They drafted Tim Hardaway Jr., to a team who already had Carmelo Anthony, Tyson Chandler, and Iman Shumphert. No one is expecting much from this team, but I beg to differ. They broke the record for most three pointers made last season and I expect that to continue this year. That's what happens when you double team Carmelo Anthony.

Bottom-feeder teams, such as the Toronto Raptors, Milwaukee Bucks, Cleveland Cavaliers, and the Milwaukee Bucks, are making the league more interesting. The Raptors, Cavaliers and Bucks have some big name people. I've seen them in the pre-season and teams won't be able to beat them, just by showing up. These teams are going to be tough to beat. They are more hungrier, than established teams, because they have more to prove. If they can hang with the tough teams in the regular season, they can make a playoff leap. The Raptors in the playoffs, yes. Same can be said about the others. You think the Washing ton Wizards are going to be easy, with John Wall, Bradley Beal, Trevor Ariza, Nene, Marcin Gortat. That is a good team. Notice most of these teams are from the eastern conference, the better conference. The western conference are good, but not great. The Oklahoma Thunder, San Antonio Spurs and the Houston Rockets will be in the playoffs, but with injuries, aging and first year acquisitions, I'm not sure how far these teams will go. With the Clippers they are established, throw in a coach, who can make the right moves and you now have a contender. Who will throw the Heat off ?. The eastern conference is up for grabs. Everybody got better, but the Heat really didn't. The Bulls, Pacers, Nets, and Knicks all will be throwing blows at them. The question is, will anyone of them be haymakers! This season is going to be exciting!

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Fourth & Forever: Previewing the Packers and Vikings game

  Fourth & Forever: Previewing the Packers and Vikings game

The Green Bay Packers and the Minnesota Vikings are headed in two different directions. The Packers are on a three game winning streak, and sit atop of the NFC North, with a record of 4-2. The Vikings are at the bottom of the division, and look to dig themselves out of a three game hole against the division rival. This Sunday night will be the first of two games between these two teams. The division is still up for grabs, while the Chicago Bears and the Detroit Lions, still try and find their grooves. The Bears and Packers are dealing with some key injuries, and the Lions are looking to get a grip on their defense. The division is still winnable for the men in purple, therefore the Vikings have to dust off their two last embarrassing losses and move on. The Packers are looking to get another win in the division, before their Monday night game in two weeks against the Bears.

The Vikings are in total disarray. The quarterback, the coach, and the consistent losing, I don't know where to start! Last year this team finished 10-6 and made the playoffs, this year the Vikings have started the season 1-5. Through six games, they are one lost away from matching their total number of losses last season. Starting quarterback Christian Ponder lost his title after three games. His backup Matt Cassel, lost his, after two games. The Vikings sign throw away Josh Freeman, who was released two weeks ago by the Tampa Bay BuccaneersThe result, Freeman threw 53 times, while all-pro running back Adrian Peterson, only carried the ball 13 times. He had only been with the team for 12 days before he made the start. I'll give him the benefit of the doubt and say he wasn't ready, than say he is a very bad quarterback. The lost to the New York Giants was the second straight ugly game produced by the Vikings. The week before, the Carolina Panthers blew out the Vikings 35-10. No ball movement, no moving the chains, and the defense gives up more points than a pinball machine. At this point, coach Leslie Frazier is looking like he doesn't know what to do. Maybe that's why he has used three quarterbacks in six games. Its the quarterback, its the defense, its the coach, its the whoooole team! Read coaches in the hot seat!

The Viking and Packers are always going to be linked to each other, just because the Packers like to throw away people, while the Vikings like to take them in and give them a home and feed them. Players in the past such as Darren Sharper, Ryan Longwell, and Brett Favre. This year it has been players such as linebacker Desmond Bishop and receiver Greg Jennings. "Silly Vikings, tricks are for kids." Obviously Green Bay knows what their doing. Bishop was signed and then made two starts...eventually tearing his ACL. Now he is on injury reserve, for the second year in a row. Then there is Greg Jennings crybaby self. "Oh oh  Aaron Rodgers was never a leader, oh."  It sounds like Jennings is missing that good ol Wisconsin home cooking. Not only is Jennings having a bad year, but his team is terrible. He doesn't look like a number one receiver at all. Through five games, he has 20 catches, for two hundred and eighty six yards...with a pair of touchdowns. That doesn't sign like a number one receiver, who just signed a five-year $47.5 million contract in the off-season. The money was going to be nice, but it wasn't going to be the same quarterback or coaches, helping him return to his pro-bowl years. I hope the money was worth it!

The short-handed Packers, are running out of playmakers. The Packers are going to be down two starting receivers, and their big physical tight-end, Jermichael Finley. Both Randall Cobb and James Jones, will be side-lined for Sunday nights game, due to injuries. Cobb was placed on Injury Reserve-designated to return a week ago, due to him breaking his fibula two weeks ago at Baltimore. He is out at least 6-8 weeks. Jones was also hurt in Baltimore, with a sprained PCL. He is out two to four weeks. Finely got hurt in Sundays win against the Cleveland Browns, win a contusion to his spinal cord. It has not been determined if Finely will continue his career, with such a scary injury. Nevertheless, the games have got to be played and Rodgers is soon going to be throwing it to himself.  But with the emergence of rookie running back Eddie Lacy, the Packers finally have a two dimensional game. Lacy leads the league in rushing yards over the past three weeks, with 301 and Kansas City Chiefs running backs Jamal Charles is second with 272. That's right, he has more yards than Charles. Now that is impressive for a rookie. With receiver Jordy Nelson demanding attention, defenses can no longer play two deep safeties every time, because the Pack now have an top tier power running back. I maybe getting ahead of myself, but the future looks bright for Lacy.

Regardless of the injuries racking up, the Packers are still going to be dangerous. Lacy takes pressure off of A Rod, as well as the back-ups catching the ball at the end of Rodgers passes. Back-up tight end Andrew Quarless and back-up receiver Jarrett Boykin's will have to step up to replace these playmakers. Boykin's a 6 ft. 2 undrafted second year receiver proved last week he is up for the task, catching eight passes for 103 yards, and a touchdown last week. Packers are now in first place, and will not be looking back. The Vikings are starting starter Christian Ponder against the Packers. Apparently Josh Freeman has an concussion and won't play. Sounds like the Vikings are not looking to be embarrassed again in a primetime game. Ponder gives the Vikings a better chance to win games, as long as Adrian Peterson stays healthy, this team can win. Ponder torched the Packers last year in the regular season match-up, throwing three touchdowns. That win sealed a Vikings playoff berth. They played the Packers the following week in the first round and lost that game 24-10. Ponder didn't play in that game due to an injury. I have the Packers winning this game, but not by much. Ponder has something to prove, as well as Greg Jennings. The Packers defense is banged up, so I expect AP to rebound from last weeks blunder. In the end its to much Rodgers and Lacy overpowering the Vikings.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Fourth & Forever: Coaches on the Hot Seat

        Fourth & Forever: Coaches on the Hot Seat!

The season has been unkind to a few teams. Whether it be due to injuries, lack of talent, or suspensions; the first person to lose their job are coaches. That's how it is in every sport, the team is bad, the coach is the first person to go. We will be looking at some of the coaches, who I believe will be looking for another job soon. Greg Schiano, coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, could be headed for an early exit. Schiano, was the wrong guy for this team. Same with Minnesota Vikings head coach Leslie Frazier. Frazier had always been rumored to get the boot, but after helping the Viking make the playoffs last year for the first time since 2009, the Vikings picked up his option for 2014. The Vikings maybe thinking that was a big mistake. Tom Coughlin, could be another head coach, who leaves the facility unexpectedly. The New York Giants do have two super bowl rings in five years under Coughlin, however in his ninth season as head coach, this season has been a total disaster. Like they say in show business..." The show must go on."

  After signing a five-year contract with the team last season, Schiano a former Rutgers coach, hasn't gotten a hand in the big leagues yet. With a head coaching record of 7-14, the Bucs have found themselves at the bottom of the NFC South for the second year in a row. Starting the season 0-5, the Buccaneers have no chance of making the playoffs. Teams usually run as the quarterback runs, but in this case it looks like Schiano has been doing the running. The team is in total chaos. An MRSA disease has hit the team.The team had released former starting quarterback Josh Freeman, and starting running back Doug Martin is no where to be found. MRSA is a contagious Staph infection disease, that can be resistant to some antibiotics. This is a big distraction to the team. Players and coaches now have to worry about this outbreak at the facility, as well as the games. The team released Freeman because of his lackluster performances. In three games this season, he has completed only 45 percent of his passes and only three touchdowns. It doesn't help the coach is under fire for a suspected in-house leak. To get the heat off himself; Schiano has been accused of leaking personal information about Freeman. Freeman takes prescriptions to treat ADHD (Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder), but took the wrong drug, which triggered a positive drug test. As a result he voluntarily joined the drug program and takes frequent drug test. Now after running for over 1400 yards in his first year, running back Doug Martin is in a sophomore slump. He has ran for a little over 400 yards in five games and has one touchdown and two fumbles. Schiano is getting no offense from his team. A winless record has led to him being in the hot seat.

Viking head coach Leslie Frazier, is in the same burning boat. His team has no offense at all, outside of Adrian Peterson. Even with the addition of a top wide receiver in Greg Jennings, the Vikings are one of the worst offensive teams in the league. The team has benched starter Christian Ponder, they're benching back-up Matt Cassel and they've signed former Buccaneers quarterback Josh Freeman. The same Josh Freeman, who has thrown only two touchdowns in three games. You move one quarterback around in Alex Smith, he succeeds and now people believe Freeman can do the same-thing. This last resort will sink, as well as Frazier. Freeman had the talent in Tampa. He had running back Doug Martin and wide receivers Vincent Jackson and Mike Williams. This tells me, its the quarterback and not the lack of talent. Frazier is losing ground in the NFC North and in the playoff race. The team is currently 1-4 and is losing confidence by the minute. After an ugly home loss to the Carolina Panthers, the Vikings look like they have nothing left to give. Greg Jennings keeps bad mouthing his old team. Who knows the state of Adrian Peterson, with his son dying at the hands of an assault. The defense gives up 31.6 points per game. I don't see this team turning things around, especially with Freeman as the quarterback. Frazier maybe gone after next season, after is contract is over.

Giants head coach, Tom Coughlin is looking at an 0-6 record. With that said, I'm sure the New York media is all over him. This team was suppose to compete for the NFC EAST, but instead are competing not to be laughing stock of the league. I mean even the Raiders have won at least one game. The offense has some big names, but they don't perform. I never really liked Eli Manning, but somehow an angel helped him win two super bowls. Can you say, "Angels on the Turf." This has to be one of his worst seasons. Throwing 15 interceptions and being sacked 16 times, in six games. With receivers such as Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks, the Giants should be a top offensive team. With a emerging running game in Brandon Jacobs, the Giants could get back in the NFC EAST, I mean the division leader is 3-3. However I think they have dug themselves to deep in a hole to recover. Manning is losing confidence, the defense looks lost and the pass rush, couldn't move a kindergartener. I think Coughlin has lost control of his team. I think he has lost the locker room and the state of New York will let him know. Thanks for the championships, but what have you done for me lately!

If Schiano isn't gone in the upcoming weeks, I believe he will be gone by the end of the season. I just think the Bucs just need to start over. Give third round pick Mike Glennon a full training camp with the first team. He needs time to develop and prove himself before he is swept under the rug. The team invested a lot of money in the defense, with Darrelle Revis and Dashon Goldson. They're a solid group, but I just think they need a new leader on the sideline, someone who doesn't point fingers at other people. The Vikings needs a quarterback with talent. AP is wasting his talent with a team that is going no where. The team has a descent receiving core in Greg Jennings, Jerome Simpson, Corradelle Paterson, and tight end Kyle Rudolph. They just need to be coached up, help them develop and use their talent. The coaches are not doing a good job at this, which refers to Leslie Frazier and Inc. The Vikings just need better coaches. Tom Coughlin has one year left on his contract, but I don't see him coaching the Giants next season. The team doesn't play hard for him, which will result in a change. I feel like he lost the locker room. A Giants defense shouldn't be ranked last in the league, sacrificing 34.8 points a game. The defense is the biggest problem with this team. Maybe a different voice can upstart them. Right now, Coughlin is feeling the pressure from the media, that will be looking to remove him his from his job.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Fourth & Forever: Bear Hugs vs. Giant Smiles

Fourth & Forever: Bear Hugs vs. Giant Smiles

The New York Giants are winless after five weeks and are hoping to get back on track tonight with a win at the Chicago Bears. As crazy as it sounds, the Giants could still make the playoffs, as the NFC East is once again...terrible. As of right now, the Philadelphia Eagles and the Dallas Cowboys are tied for first, with a record of 2-3. At 0-5 the Giants are only two games out of first, and could win the division. They would have to win the division to make the playoffs. At five losses in five weeks, it would be a longshot for the Giants to make the playoffs. Teams like the Atlanta Falcons, New Orleans Saints, Detroit Lions, Green Bay Packers, and the Chicago Bears, all are looking to be playoff bound. The Chicago Bears are looking to get back into the playoffs after missing it the last two seasons. After starting out 3-0, duhhh Bears, have dropped their last two. The Giants and Bears  need a win to put an end to their early season skids.


The New York Giants need to restore order as being schoolyard bullies. They need to find a mental and physical balance on the field. When I look at the Giants, I think about that fierce pass rush with players such as defensive ends Justin Tuck and Jason Pierre Paul. Between both of them, they have a total of 1.5 sacks in five games. That is unheard of between these two quarterback hunters. They were known as really getting after the quarterback in past years; but now they look like they couldn't get to the Kool-Aid pitcher, if he was standing in the pocket. Ooohh Yeeaahh! This defense is a joke. They give up 36.4 ppg. The Giants defense, really! The Bears defense on the other hand, first started the season like last year...pigskin hungry. Committing turnovers and scoring touchdowns. They must've ate before playing in the last two games; giving up 60 points and only having two sacks. Hey, has anyone seen defensive end Julius Peppers?  Through five games, he has one sack and five tackles. Sounds like a 101 roster cut could be happening at the end of this season, especially since he is due around $38 million in the last two years of his contract. Cornerback Charles Tillman is falling apart with injuries and with age. He can't run with the best of them at age 32, sooner or later he's got to switch to the safety position. Ask Charles Woodson! Whoever comes out with the defensive stops and the turnover battles, wins this game. It doesn't matter who is running the offense.


The Giants offense averages two touchdowns a game. For a super bowl winning quarterback like Eli Manning, moving the ball down the field should be cool breeze, He's got caliber receivers in Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks on the other end of his completions. So what's the problem? The problem is the Giants do not have a running game. When running back Andre Brown went down early with a broken leg, David Wilson took over and ran into quicksand. Wilson has rushed 44 times for a grand total of 146 yards, with two catches for eight yards. So with no running game, Manning is forced to throw and when defenses know that, they tend to read the play and intercept the ball. They read Manning so much they picked him off 12 times. He should be a professor on how to throw interceptions at Manning University. I even heard Houston Texans quarterback Matt Schaub was enrolled. A lot of defenders call Manning their favorite author. The Bears offense has been much improved under new head coach Marc Trestman. Having a balanced offense and adding weapons around quarterback Jay Cutler. In the beginning it was all about throwing to Brandon Marshall. It didn't matter if he was surrounded by a force field, Cutler still threw it. Now he spreads the ball to second year, second round draft pick Alshon Jeffrey and free agent addition Martellus Bennett. They have five touchdowns between each other. Marshall has three. Running back Matt Forte has been finding running lanes in Tresman's offense, averaging almost five yards a carry. The problem is when the Bears get behind, the running game gets lost and Cutler forces things. Throwing interceptions or fumbling the ball from sacks. The tempo has to be set early for both teams in tonight's matchup..


Players look at playing football as a passion, more than just a job. When that passion goes out the door, it becomes just a means to buying nice things. Hey that rhymes! You can tell as a fan, if players are playing to be paid or playing to have fun. Will the real Jadeveon Clowney please stand up! The Giants have been playing just to be playing.  There's no love for the game at all! Sometimes I think the Giants are full of excuses. Whether its injuries, contracts disputes, or lack of leadership. This team needs a voice in the locker room to pull the team together. I can't think of one person on the team, that could unite the locker room. The Bears have a few people, including linebacker Lance Briggs, Brandon Marshall and Julius Peppers. They talk, people listen. The Bears are playing with passion, but they just can't beat top teams. They don't have enough talent to go to a super bowl, but its not all about talent. Its about heart, its about the fight. The Bears look and play together as a team. They play with heart. Remember that hit, Cutler put a hit on Steelers defensive back Robert Golden...that's passion, that's heart. For a team who has dug themselves in a hole, which players are going to take it upon themselves to get them out? Which players are going to put the game and team on their back?

The Bears are favored to win by eight. Looking at how both of these two teams have reached tonight's matchup. The Bears winning by eight sounds right, however the Giants need to win badly. I wouldn't be surprised if the Bears let the Giants hang around and then eventually lose the game to them. At this point, the Giants have nothing else to lose besides pride. Even though their record is bad, they still do have a good quarterback and receivers connection. With no running game, it will be hard to keep defensive backs off of the receivers. Therefore I believe the Giants defensive line comes alive tonight and rattles Cutler until he commits turnovers, which will give the Giants good field position. The Bears pass rush is in a coma. If they give Eli time in the pocket to get passes downfield, his receivers will get separation and he will have a big night. The Bears need to make sure that Giant pass rush will stay quiet. Run the ball and let Forte keep the defense honest. Bear hugs vs. Giant smiles. Bears are looking to give hugs at the end, while the Giants are looking to walk away with a smile.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Fourth & Forever: My 4-0 Fantasy Football Team

 Fourth & Forever: My 4-0 Fantasy Team

Toilet Bowl Trophy
Picture courtesy of WCFFL
For the 2013 NFL season, I have two fantasy teams. But today, I'm only going to talk about one. My Yahoo Wrecking Crew Fantasy Football league. The other one is hosted by ESPN, and it is a waste of time. Its free and not as competitive as my Yahoo league. Therefore I won't discuss it. The Wrecking Crew league is so amazing; not only is it competitive, but it is amongst friends. It does involve playing for money, however the most exciting thing for me are the trophies. There are three divisions with four teams each and each division winner receives a small, almost Heisman like stance trophy with their team name and division name. There is also a loser trophy, awarded to the team with the worst record. Their prize...a toilet bowl seat with wise cracks written on it from other teams. Who says grown man can't have fun? Then theirs, "Alyssa," the name of the big trophy. A football shaped, silver color trophy, attached to a wooden base, with the current champions name on the name plate. We chose, "Alyssa," in regards to Alyssa Milano. She's hot and her name fits well with the trophy. "Alyssa," is coming home with me this year.

My 2012 division trophy
picture courtesy of Johnny J.

My teams name is called," Black Sunday." No specific meaning behind the name, it just sounds intimidating. After four weeks, I am proud to say that I am in first place in the whole league and I'm undefeated. I'm not going to talk about the draft much, because its not current, but I will say I followed most general managers tactics. I drafted what was given to me. I didn't overthink it, I didn't panic, but I would say I came out with one of the deepest teams in the league. MOVING ON... I came to the draft with intentions on making picks people didn't see coming. I'm A Packers fan, and I drafted a Chicago Bears player in the second round! That player is running back Matt Forte, who is has not disappointed thus far. He has rewarded me with three touchdowns in four games. I root for him in hopes of the Bears losing. Yea a Packers fan rooting for my second round pick. I came to the draft thinking...I was going to draft with my mind and not my heart. As much as I wanted to draft Aaron Rodgers or Jordy Nelson, I knew the quarterback and receiver position was too deep to draft them early. I actually had a chance to pick A Rod, with the 10th pick, but chose LeSean McCoy instead. Four weeks later, he is leading the league in rushing yards.

After I went 3-0. I wanted to do a New York Yankee trade, and so I did. Before I discuss who I traded for and what I gave up for them, I contemplated if I wanted to go through with it. I hadn't lost a game, I had just blown somebody out by 60 points. I didn't need to make a trade, but like every GM brainstorming in the front office, I wanted to create a team that is guaranteed to go far. So I wanted to get a great player, who was struggling, in hopes that they will return to a top tier producer. That way it wouldn't cost me a lot in return. I' m not talking about quarterback Philip Rivers, but running back C.J. Spiller. He was picked in the first round, but hadn't been performing like a GM expects from a first rounder. The person who had him was 1-2 and I know they were looking for a big trade. And so I gave them one. I traded the Seattle defense and running back Le'Veon Bell, in return for C.J. Spiller. Yea I know Seattle has the best defense in the league, and I know Bell just scored two touchdowns, but I'm looking at the bigger picture...the playoff run. Defenses are expendable, because any defense can get you descent points weekly depending on match-ups. I picked up the Tennessee Titans defense, who had five sacks, five tackles for a loss, two picks, two fumble recoveries and a touchdown against the New York Jets. They got me more points then the Seahawks would have last week. Bell is coming off a serious injury, I'm not sure if he will be the answer for the 0-4 Pittsburgh Steelers. It's a gamble I hope will pay off.

I've also been doing my homework on the waiver wire. Picking up no name players who I think might make an impact in certain games. I look at their opponents weekly and I survey players; deciding on I believe fits in the lineup for the upcoming game or games. I picked up wide receiver Kenbrell Thompkins, before the season started. He has been in and out of my lineups, although I had him in my lineup last week, when he blew up for 127 receiving yards and a touchdown, against the Atlanta Flacons. I figured with receiver Danny Amendola and tight end Ron Grownkowski out, he was going to have a big game in a primetime match-up. I seen him in a pre-season game and he just stood out. I knew he was someone I should grab. I also had pick up Le'Veon Bell, after someone dropped him. He was supposed to be out like six weeks with an injury, but came back sooner. Instead of giving him a chance I used him in the Spiller trade.  Since I traded away the Seattle defense, and then dropped the Titans defense, I needed to pick up a sleeper defense for this week. So I picked up the Cleveland Browns defense. They play the Buffalo Bills tonight, and I'm hoping they can duplicate the stellar defense they showed last week against the Cincinnati Bengals. Surrendering only six points at the, "Dawg Pound." The Browns defense is descent and ferocious. In four games they have 14 sacks, 19 tackles for a loss and have only given up 70 points. The Bills have a banged up backfield, so I'm betting on a good day at the pound. 
picture courtesy of the current champion and
co-founder of Pathologicalhate.clogspot.com
Felipe Melecio
These are the main reasons why I'm undefeated in the Wrecking Crew Fantasy Football League. It comes down to good drafting, and taking what the draft was giving me. Thinking with my mind and not my heart. Believing the person I drafted, was going to have a good year. Regardless if I liked the team or not; I'm too busy thinking about making my pockets fatter; and of course...Alyssa. Even though its too early to say if my trade was a success or not, but I felt like I could get rid of the Seahawks defense and get the same points from sleepers on the wire. By adding C.J. Spiller, I now have a four-headed running attack. LeSean McCoy, Matt Forte, DeMarco Murray. With two running back slots and two flex slots, say hello to my four-headed horseman. The waiver wire is my friend in need. I look at throwaways and sleepers and invite them for workouts. If everything checks out ok, the contract is signed and a number is given. Welcome to the future of WCFFL...Black Sunday.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Are the 49ers Super Bowl Contenders?

  Are the 49ers Super Bowl Contenders?

Good news! The 49ers beat the St. Louis Rams yesterday 35-11. The bad news is the 49ers looked great against a weak team, but can't produce the same outcome against playoff teams. In a weak primetime game aired on the NFL Network, the 49ers dominated the line of scrimmage. Making life miserable for Rams quarterback Sam Bradford and running back Daryl Richardson. Bradford threw 41 times and only connected on 19 of them. He was sacked five times and just seamed uncomfortable in the pocket. Richardson rushed 12 times and only racked up 16 yards. This is the 49ers defense that we all seam to recognize. To bad it came against one of the most disappointing teams in the league. Seriously its the Jacksonville Jaguars and then its the Rams. After the 49ers didn't score a single point in the first quarter, they quickly found their toughness in the way they're accustomed to. Shoving the ball down the opponents throat, with Greg Romans pistol power running calls. The only problem is the 49ers could find themselves 1-3 after four games. Losing to the Seattle Seahawks and Indianapolis Colts, the 49ers were 50 yards away from losing a shootout game in week one against the Green Bay Packers. Yeah, a shootout! That's not the 49ers way of winning games, its through tough defense and power running. At least it use to be.

The 49ers are a running team. If that quickly changes to a passing team, the game could be headed for a rough outcome. The 49ers ran the ball 42 times and threw only 23 times against the Rams. That's because they won the line of scrimmage battle. They looked good against the Rams, but then again the Rams defense are giving up 30.2 points in four games, which is ranked 28th in the league. The defense is horrible, giving up 175 yards to DeMarco Murray, the week before. I wasn't mad because Murray is on my fantasy team, but Murray ran for a lot of yards against them the year before. My point is the Rams defense sucks! A week later, Frank Gore ran for 153 yards on 20 carries. That's a whopping 7.7 yards a carry. That is dominating the line of scrimmage, followed up with play-action. In the two losses, the 49ers were dominated. They only ran the ball 23 times against the Colts and 20 times against the Seahawks. 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick is a mobile quarterback, who has the ability to throw the ball in the pocket, but he is more effective when he is on the move. When defenses shutdown the run, his best ability is taken away from him and he is now one-dimensional. The 49ers have to be successful running the ball for him to be his best.

Secondly, the 49ers need to be able to bring their high-powered defense every game. Against the Rams they shutdown everything the offense was bringing. They took out the run game and then took out Bradford's favorite targets on the field. Throwing for only 202 yards on 41 attempts. In the lost against the Colts, the 49ers gave up 184 yard on the ground. That was unheard of at Candlestick Park. With the Colts winning the yards being produced on the ground. The 49ers are throwing more than running, which is not found in their game plans. Kaepernick isn't Joe Montana or Steve Young. So winning with his arm isn't going to always work. He is a quarterback who has the frame of a receiver and the legs of a kick returner. The read-option and pistol formation are used to complement his qualities. To keep defenses guessing is what he does best. That's what separated him from former 49er quarterback Alex Smith. Smith is one-dimensional; a passer who looks to throw 10 yards in play-action and was very successful in taking care of the ball, simply because he never threw down-field. Kaepernick has the ability to do that, but he should be looking to run first.

The reason we haven't seen Kaepernick at his best is because of the play-calling. I rarely seen the read-option being used in the 49ers games this year. Coach Jim Harbaugh is concerned of getting his quarterback hurt. He should be, especially after Packers Clay Matthews tried to take his head off out of bounce in the first week. Playing Kaepernick as a pocket quarterback is hurting the team. Taking away a mans best asset leaves him with nothing. I say, let him play his style that we are used to seeing. Having defenses look confused and lost. Teach the quarterback to get down and slide if in trouble. Not to take hits like RG3, and not to throw hits like Jay Cutler. Its a long season and most teams go as the quarterback goes...unless you're the Minnesota Vikings. If the 49ers are not going to use him for what he can do, then what's the point of having him on the team. They might as well have kept Alex Smith, if they're scared of using a mobile quarterbacks skills. The 49ers do have injuries on the offensive side, but the injuries are in the passing game. Its irrelevant to what the team needs to do. Meaning Michael Crabtree and Mario Manningham are expendable. They have a veteran receiver in Anquan Boldin and a talented tight-end in Vernon Davis. They can coach-up others to catch the ball and to run routes. Big names are overrated. But they are a team who runs the ball, they don't need their best receivers to be affective. Like Sandra Bullock said in the movie The Blind Side, "Run the damn ball."

When they look bad against playoff teams, the Super Bowl looks further away in the distance. The 49ers need to change that. They need to run the ball to be effective and they need to bring that tough defense every game and they have to do it against good teams. They will have plenty of chances to redeem themselves. With matchups against the Houston Texans, Atlanta Falcons and the New Orleans Saints. They have to establish the line of scrimmage early, because once they fall behind, they seem to get out of that running funk. Once that happen, its a whole different game plan, because the opposing team has them in unfamiliar territory. I don't see the 49ers making a repeat trip to the Super Bowl, I 'm not even sure they will make the playoffs, but I do know if they don't get back to their X and O's, its going to be a long season. Running the ball, while serving up the read-option and playing hard nose defense is 49ers football 101.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Fourth & Forever: 81-64-63

     Fourth & Forever: 81-64-63

 In week one against the Washington Redskins, the Philadelphia Eagles ran 81 plays. They were up 33-14 heading into the fourth quarter. If it wasn't for their defense giving up 13 points in the fourth quarter, they would have won by more than six points. In week two, the Eagles lost 33-30. Yes the defense was bad, but I'm looking at the bigger picture. The 10 X 10 frame of not controlling the tempo. They only ran 64 plays in week two against the San Diego Chargers. 19 plays fewer than the first game against the Redskins. In Thursdays game against the Kansas City Chiefs, the Eagles only ran 63 plays. Still 16 plays fewer than the first game. The result, Eagles lost 26-16. The home lost results in seven straight loses, dating back to last season. A trend that is starting to look a little to familiar to Eagle fans, who watched their team go 4-12 last season. This time, former Eagles head coach Andy Reid was on the opposing side and new Eagles head coach Chip Kelly is picking up where the team finished last year.

At the University of Oregon, the Ducks ranked second in the nation last season under Chip Kelly. Going 12-1 and scoring 49.6 points per game. Kelly's Ducks averaged 78 plays last season. The Oregon defense gave up 21.6 ppg. Controlling the game in an up-tempo offense. Running as many plays as possible, trying to wear down the defense. Now if a team plays at an up-tempo pace, the opposing team, will have shots to score. Its only logical that the opposing team will have the ball for a long period of time. Playing at a fast pace will help opponents put points on the board. The offense at Oregon was so good, that regardless if the opponent was scoring, the Duck offense won in blow-outs. Teams couldn't slow them down. With this being Kelly's first year as the Eagles coach. It may take a while for the team to learn and develop his style of play, offensively and defensively. The NFL is a grown mans game. Its very rare to see a team give up 50 points and its even rarer for a team to average 50 ppg.

The Eagles are averaging 2.3 giveaways a game. Whether its fumbles or interceptions, the offense is not going to control the tempo of the game, by giving the ball away. It gives the opposing team momentum and it eats up the clock. If the Eagles are driving down field and have had the ball for six minutes, then fumbles inside the opponent 10 yard line. That's a waste of a possession. The opponent then drives the ball right back down field and score, now the Eagles are behind and time has been taken off the clock. In the Eagles two loses, the Eagles have been playing catch-up. The Eagles offense have been their own nightmare. Turning over the pig skin and playing from behind slows down the offense, simply because you're playing catch-up now.  The game-plan had to change in the last two games, which is why the Eagles had a big drop off in offensive plays being ran. In order for Chip Kelly's schemes to work, the Eagles can't fall too far behind. Also the Eagles defense looks terrible, they look like they can't stop anything. This tells me, the offense might be in shootouts in every game.

After three games, the Eagles are ranked 30th in the NFL. Two away from being ranked last. Far from Chip Kelly's Oregon days. Right now the Eagles average 26. 3 ppg. A top ten offense, which is great, but the Eagles also give up 28.7 ppg, which is ranked 28th in the league. The defense is the reason why the Eagles will continue to lose games, unless the defense is resolved. The Eagles turned the ball over five times in Thursdays game. Nobody is going to win, coughing the ball up that many times in one game. The reason why the Eagles won their first game is because the Redskins defense is terrible, giving up 35.5 ppg. Against a good defense, like the Chiefs, they will have a hard time controlling the tempo. I see why former quarterback Donovan McNabb, doesn't think this type of offense will last. " To me, It's just a fad. I don't know if any offensive player would want to run 90 plays in a game. If you're running 90 plays in a game, that means your defense is pretty awful and you're running entirely too many play," said McNabb. Quote taken from, http://sports.yahoo.com/blogs/nfl-shutdown-corner/donovan-mcnabb-not-impressed-chip-kelly-offense-calls-191810915--nfl.html;_ylt=A2KJ3CXzojxSzyUAmpDQtDMD.

McNabb hit it right on the button. Defensive coordinators are going to be prepared for the fast-paced offense. Defenses in the NFL are not going to roll over and let people run right by them. The Eagles could be 0-3. They ran 81 plays in the Redskins game, in which they led the whole way. The Redskins defense is currently ranked 31st in the league, by the way. The Eagles only won by six. They run fast plays to outscore opponents, but the Redskins were one touchdown away from winning the game. So what happened? If the offense doesn't score, they give the ball back to the opponent, using very little time. Then the defense has to do their part, however if the defense stinks, such as the Eagles, than the opponent has time to get back into the game or control it themselves. The Eagles defense will hurt the attitude of being the field runners. The Eagles won't score every time, but the opponent most likely will. The fast-paced offense is amazing to watch, but has repercussions...especially if that same team has a bad defense.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Fourth & Forever: The Patriots are in Big Trouble

     Fourth & Forever: The patriots are in Big Trouble

The Patriots have started the 2013 season going 2-0. It sounds like a usual Patriots team. Always having one of the best records in the NFL, earning a bye week in the playoffs. I'll tell you why this won't happen this year. We all know what quarterback Tom Brady and head coach Bill Belichick can do. Brady is one of the best quarterbacks in the game. A great pocket-passer, who has great range and accuracy on his passes. Belichick is considered one of the best coaches in history. He is all business on and off the field. Always trying to find ways to make the team better, even if that means bringing out the camera and filming other teams practices. Together Brady and Belichick are a winning offensive duo. This season is starting out good, but in the end it will be a tough pill to swallow. After watching the first two games, I see that the Patriots are not the Super Bowl contenders they always seemed to be.

In the first two games, Brady has threw the ball 91 times and has only connected on 48 passes. That's 52 percent, which sounds like the low tier quarterbacks range . Brady is never found in that tier. At this rate Brady is going to be on pace to break Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford's record of last years 727 passing attempts. By the way the Lions finished 4-12 last season. Brady is 36 years old. He is going to need to save his arm for the prolonged season, in hopes of going to the playoffs and making a long run. Brady is missing all of his weapons from last season. Former receiver Wes Welker, decided to leave the Patriots in the off-season to join the high-flying Broncos team. Ron Gronkowsi had surgery on his fore-arm four times, less than a year. He then had back surgery in the off-season, although signs point to him coming back as early as week three. The other tight-end Aaron Hernandez is in jail, facing murder chargers. So right now, Brady has a hand full of low cards to play.

The injury bug has also bitten the Patriots early on. Talented back-up running back Shane Vereen broke his wrist in the season opener against the Buffalo Bills. He was placed on IR with designation to return. He won't be eligible to return until after the Patriots 10th week-bye. The Pats maybe upset, but I'm pissed off, since I had him on my fantasy team. A waste of a draft pick! Receiver Danny Amendola, was brought in to replace Wes Welker. He is not a good replacement because he is always hurt. In the pre-season he injured his groin and he re-aggravated it in the first game against the Bills. He is now out two to six weeks. So now the Patriots are forced to rely on rookies to pick up the scoring slack. Its not as easy as it sounds, as some of the rookies are raw. Talented, but needs time to develop. Players such as Kenbrell Thompkins and Aaron Dobson. Although Dobson caught a 39 yard touchdown pass from Brady on Thursday, I wouldn't put him in my starting lineup in my fantasy league, because he wouldn't be consistent. Fifth- year receiver Julian Edelman had a descent game against the Jets, catching 13 passes for 78 yards, but then he lost a fumble. I can just imagine Brady pulling his own hair out.

The Patriots are in un-familiarized territory. The Patriots are use to blowing teams out, instead of squeaking by them. The Pats beat the Bills in week one 23-21, after trailing heading into the fourth quarter. Starting week two off, the Pats beat the Jets 13-10 on Thursday. Brady threw for only 185 yards and one touchdown. I know it was raining, but still its the Jets at home in a primetime game. The great news is the Pats are 2-0. The bad news is the Pats are 2-0 against rookie quarterbacks. This puts a lot of pressure on the defense, especially if the offense isn't going to be taking a few steps back. When the Pats get into the meat of their schedule, throwing for 185 yards is not going to cut it. In week three, the Pats play the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Atlanta Falcons in week four. The Bucs have a good defense and the Falcons have a great offense. I can't imagine seeing Brady winning in a shootout against the Falcons, especially with the pieces he has around him.  This is going to be a long year for the Patriots and at this point, I can see every game coming down to the wire. I don't see any blow-outs in the Pats future this season.

I believe the Buffalo Bills have a chance to win the AFC East. I don't want to bet against Brady, but looking at there schedule against the Falcons, Bengals, Texans and Saints. Its going to be tough. The Bills play some of the same teams, but I think their more well rounded. I like they're  a running team with C.J. Spiller leading the pack, plus they actually have a good quarterback in E.J. Manuel. A rookie quarterback who takes care of the ball. I do believe Belichick will find a way to make the playoffs, but I not so sure on winning the division. However, I can see the Patriots trading a draft pick away to bring talent in. Brady doesn't have years to throw away. They are a team who needs to win now. They need to be a more balanced team. Throwing the ball 91 times in two games, isn't the sign of a balanced team. Its a sign of a team, who needs help moving the ball. The once Super-Bowl winning team, now finds themselves struggling to put points up on the board.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Fourth & Forever: Faking Injuries to Slow Down Offenses

 Fourth & Forever: Faking Injuries to Slow Down Offenses

Earlier this week, former Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher admitted, the Bears faked injuries to slow down offenses. Its not hard to see that some players do take dives to stop the clock, or to help their team catch a breather. This happens all the time and no one who isn't attending to the injured player really doesn't know if the player is actually hurt. Urlacher, who is now an analyst for Fox Sports 1 brought up the topic this week and had no problem throwing his former team under the bus. For someone to break silence and trash solidarity with the team they formerly played for is unheard of. It may seem like the eight time pro-bowler is still a little bitter at his former ball club, who have moved on without the inside linebacker. The Bears offered Urlacher a $2 million salary this past offseason. Urlacher took it as a slap in the face. Telling Urlacher to, "take this offer or leave it." So Urlacher left it and both sides ultimately went their separate ways. When a player is drafted and plays their whole career for one team and in the end, feels like the team didn't appreciate them, is when negative emotions come out. We've seen this all offseason with former Packers receiver Greg Jennings talking bad about his former club, but nothing about breaking a code of silence.

I remember when the New York Giants beat the St. Louis Rams two years ago 28-16, that was televised on ESPN. Yeah it made my stomach hurt to watch the Rams play, but what made me feel sick to my stomach, was how the Giants beat the Rams. The Rams were driving down the field on the Giants defense and was inside the 10. The Rams were in a no-huddle offense and were getting ready to hike the ball, when the Giants weren't sure what they wanted to do. They wanted to put in their-goal line defense and had two players fall down to the ground to slow down the offense. They received a free time-out by having two people fake an injury. Literally, both defensive back Deon Grant and linebacker Jacquian Williams fell to the ground at the same time. Check it out in this YouTube link http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cV3K_ML2UsI. In the end the Rams settled for a field-goal, after the faking of the injuries allowed the Giants to use a free timeout to get certain people in the game. The Giants weren't fooling anyone, because the commentators kept showing the replay over and over. If you watched that game, you can see Rams quarterback Sam Bradford display his frustration in what was going on. I mean everyone knew.

That was the first time, I've actually seen something like that. I'm sure it happens a lot, but the Giants were one of the few teams to get caught. If a team runs a, "No huddle offense" or a, "Hurry-up," offense," that takes advantages of defenses who are winded, or for defensive coordinators who need to get the right personnel on the field. Its the reason why its starting to become popular in the NFL. Its all about exploiting the defense to score easier points. It reminds me of my last blog, when I discussed Philadelphia Eagles  head coach Chip Kelly's offense, in how they ran over 80 plays and lost the time of possession to the New England Patriots in the first preseason game. This is a developing trend in the NFL. When the Rams run the "Hurry-up," and  it are successful in going the length of the field, then you know its a new day and age. If you look at the San Francisco 49ers defense. They barely switch people in and out of the lineup. There personnel is an every-down team. The same linemen and the same linebackers, play every down. Not to many teams can do that, so faking injuries is a way to get the right people in as well as fresh legs, without having to use a timeout.

This is ruining the league. I rank this just as bad as the replacement referees. Its messing up the game. When the recent Hall of Fame inductee and ESPN commentator Chris Carter was raving about the replacement refs and how the NFL wants to protect their shield. He should add this to the list about protecting the shield. The NFL has sent out memos to teams about faking injuries, which include penalties and more severe penalties for players after the game. For me, that's not good enough. Teams and players who are caught faking injuries should know what their punishment is going to be, going into the game. Not just a warning or threat. When people flopped in the NBA, the league fined them and told them they would be fined more if they did it again. The NFL needs to set the bar higher.  The NFL needs to come out and say what would happen and not something they come up with the night before. If its an important game, someone might fake an injury, lets say in a playoff game and the team goes all the way because of it. You're telling me other teammates won't help pay the fine? There Super Bowl champs, people would help pay for it. People paid for George Zimmerman's attorneys, fans will pay for league fines. They need to discipline cheaters with yearly suspensions. HGH to the fourth power. Suspend them for a year and than see how quickly they wish to hold their ankle and then come back in two plays later. SET THE BAR! Four game suspensions for abusing the substance abuse policy is nothing. It should be eight. MLB is 50 games for a first time abuser. SET THE BAR! What's a fine these days? People lineup to pay for it.

I respect Brian Urlacher for coming out and breaking a teams code, especially if it has something to do with cheating. If a coach has signals that they give to players to cheat, I put them in the same category as former Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams. That's how I see a coach who dignifies cheating, regarding how big or small it is. A sin is a sin, regardless of how big or small. They should be suspended for a year, than a petty slap on the hand fine. They're cheaters who are interfering with the outcome of the game. Until the league actually sets the bar, someone is going to test that rule. Whether the refs catch it or the league, the bar needs to be set. Urlacher probably didn't agree with what was going on around him, but if you play for that team, you can't say anything. What goes on in the locker room, stays in the locker room. That's why its called a code of silence. That's why the whole Saints defense didn't get suspended because they all didn't want to participate in bounty hunts. Same with faking injuries. I'm glad to see someone finally came out and admit that they were apart of it. Memo to the NFL...SET THE BAR!

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Fourth & Forever: Best Read-Option Teams

Fourth & Forever: Best Read-Option Teams

The read-option is the new wildcat and the newly found play-action remix. Times have changed in the NFL. Pocket quarterbacks are too one-dimensional. Teams are looking for mobile quarterbacks, who can be a good pocket quarterback and a good running quarterback. Plug that into the offensive schemes and the defenses have to prepare for both situations. Add in a good running back and this team has just become more dynamic. To run the read-option to perfection, you need a good duo; running back and quarterback. To keep defenses unbalanced, the read-option shouldn't be used excessively, but moderately. Plus no one wants to have their quarterback repeatedly in harms way. I'm going to be taking a look at the top read-option teams based on what they will do this season.

Chip N Dales Rescue Rangers have landed in the city of "Brotherly Love". Last season, the Eagles didn't get any love. The offensive line was terrible, giving up an average of seven sacks a game. Starting quarterback Michael Vick missed six games because of injury. Starting running back LeSean McCoy missed four games because of a concussion. The line couldn't stop a bowl of cereal from hitting the ground. I explained it to the Pillsbury Doughboy and he couldn't stop laughing.  Vick kept getting pressured out the pocket. Andy Reid had fans standing outside the Eagles facility protesting his release, and eventually it happened after a 4-12 season. But with former Oregon coach Chip Kelly uptempo offense, this team is going to be explosive, coming in at number three. The offensive line is better, they drafted offensive tackle Lane Johnson with the fourth pick in this Aprils draft The 6 ft 7  tackle  will definitely help. I was reading an article on Bleacher Report about Kelly's Eagles. They ran 86 plays in their first pre-season game against the New England Patriots, while not winning the time of possession advantage. 86 plays in under 29 minutes compared to the Patriots who ran a total of 72 plays. With Kelly its all about running as many plays as possible and scoring in bunches. Wearing down defenses and making them pay for it. He uses a different type of read-option that can limit the quarterback from running down-field. Don't be surprised to see receivers in the back-field, this is a running team. He uses mis-directions with the running back and different formations with the offensive line to keep the defense guessing. Pulling line-men around to double team defensive line-men and getting to the second level at linebackers. With McCoy and Vick being able to run and make cuts in fashion, this could be the best rushing team in the league. Kelly's inside and outside zone read-option scheme is going to help them win, especially when the defense can't figure out if its a running or passing play.

The Seattle Seahawks come in at number two. This team runs the read-option like its no ones business. They are a running team with work-horse Marshawn Lynch leading the pack. The former Golden Bear has been on a tare with quarterback Russell Wilson running the team. Lynch ran for over 1700 yards last season, averaging 5.0 yards per carry and totaling 14 touchdowns. 13 on the ground and one from the air. The Seahawks are a running team. Last year they ran the ball 54 percent of the time. Wilson, who was a rookie last season ran for five touchdowns and threw for 29. Having a quarterback rating of 100.3 in his first year makes him a big time threat moving forward. The more he develops, the better his team will become better. This Batman and Robin duo run Emerald city. Either one of them can be Batman, therefore teams just cant focus on one. Trying to plug the running lanes, leaves man to man coverage down-field. Faking the hand off to Lynch gets the defense leaning toward one side and Wilson lets it fly to receivers Sidney Rice or Golden Tate on the other side. Option two is Wilson him keeping the ball, going one way while Lynch has the defense chasing him. This team is unpredictable when it comes to scoring points. They averaged 25.8 ppg and 360.1 ypg. Feed the beast indeed!

Staying in the NFC West, the San Francisco 49ers come in at number one. The combination of quarterback Colin Kaepernick, running back Frank Gore and that pistol formation offense are lethal. The Packers are still trying to figure out who had the ball, from that 45-31 NFC Divisional game. The reason why they run this offense to perfection is because of the playmakers on the team. A good quarterback, to go along with a good running back, with the addition of two full-backs or tight-end in the backfield in unheard of. When the play starts, one full-back block the defensive end, while the guard will pull leading the way, followed by the other full-back and Gore. In order to get to the running back, the defender has to get through the guard and full-back. Then Gore is not an easy target, he is big back, who can break tackles. If Kaepernick keeps the ball, he wants to get to the outside running lanes. For this to work the outside defender isn't blocked, in hopes of the defender biting the fake hand-off to Gore. The person who was suppose to block the end defender is blocking up-field. The defensive end or linebacker comes in and Kaepernick keeps it and has a ton of running room because the other defenders are drawn down-field to the decoy receivers. The formation gets defenders to check for the run and when they realize its a pass their man is open down-field. For instance tight-end Vernon Davis is a mismatch. His man doesn't commit to him and he's left open. Plus he ran a 4.3 at the Combine. He can run right past most linebackers. There is a ton of things that can be done to produce yards out of that formation. Kaepernick averaged 7.7 yards a carry and Gore averaged 4.8. Combined they ran for 20 touchdowns. Just imagine if Kaepernick played the whole season. If I was coach Jim Harbaugh I personally would have bought former quarterback Alex Smith a Christmas gift for getting hurt, but I guess giving him the boot works as well.

The reason why I didn't pick the Redskins in because I think Robert Griffin lll, is going to be used a different way this season. Coming off a ligaments injury, the Redskins are not going to let him loose. He might now run with the ball for awhile. Of course it will intimidate defenses, although I still see the Redskins easing him in slowly. This offense is good, but won't be as explosive. The teams I discussed earlier are going to be the most effective running the read-option. The Eagles are the firecracker team to keep an eye on in the NFC EAST. Kelly is going to have defenses sucking air in, trying to catch their breath. Michael Vick is going to reinvent himself in this offense. McCoy, who I picked in my fantasy league 10th overall is going to get me a ton of points. The more plays that are ran, increases my point value. "Rescue Rangers!" Russell Wilson has another year of training camp under his belt. He reads the defense well, scrambling moving the chains. Marshawn Lynch, will do what he does and that is moving the pile and eating Skittles on the sideline. This offensive is going to be that much better, when receiver Percy Harvin comes back from injury. The 49ers are the team to beat. Kaepernick had a full training camp with the number one offense and Vernon Davis is going to be used more, due to injuries to the receivers. That pistol just became modified. There ranked number one on power rankings for a reason, its not just because of the defense, although it helps.


Sunday, August 25, 2013

Fourth & Forever: Cutting Ties

Fourth & Forever: Cutting Ties

With the 2013 NFL season just 11 days away, teams are focusing on making the best possible decisions on creating a deep competitive team. The once 90- man roster, will be cut down to 75 players on Tuesday August 27th. Days following, that number will shrink to 53 by August 31st. Teams should already have a since, on who is going to make the first cut. The hard part is figuring out who is going to make the final cut. Everyone plays their final preseason game on Thursday August 29th, just two days after the first cut and two before the final cut. Usually the final preseason game is dedicated to rookies and undrafted free agents. This gives coaches time to looker closer at specific players. Maybe a rookie has missed a few weeks of training camp due to injuries and this is their last stand on making the team. Some of the main things that coaches look for in making their last decisions will be discussed.

One of the things GMs, coaches and personnel will be looking for is talent. If someone goes down, can this person come in and replace the injured? Will this person be consistent about it? Do we have to worry about this person being injury prone?  Another thing  that they look at that is probably the most important is, does this person have character issues?  Teams are looking to win, but they're also looking to see if this person will respect the name, respect the brand of this team. Former Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez had all the talent in the world, but had some character issues coming out of college. He slipped down to the fourth round and was finally drafted by the Patriots. He was rewarded with a five-year $37.5 contract extension last year. Now released, Hernandez faces murder charges. On top of that, they now have linked him to other murder charges back in 2012. Teams try to scout players from a winning stand point as well as a great citizen stand point. There is going to be talent out there after final cuts.

After final cuts, nearly almost 1200 players will be cut and they will be available to other teams. At this point teams are scrambling to see if there is someone on the market that they can use. There is talent out there, but can they be fit into a maximum 53-man roster. They have to figure out if this player can work with the types of schemes that the team runs. You can't bring in a 3-4 outside linebacker and in hopes of playing in a 4-3 defense. All pictures have got to be looked at. Players need at least an off-season to learn how to play a new position. For instance DeMarcus Ware is learning to be a defensive end, after playing outside linebacker is whole career in Dallas. Its not a smooth transition from standing up, to now being in a down stance.  Once a team decides f they can use them,  the player has to come in and pass a physical as well as sleep with the playbook. If the person is on the field on opening day, that person may look lost because they haven't had the time to learn everything. This hurts the team as well.

A good tough decision that has to be could me made is, if a team has a lot of depth at certain positions, do you trade them or release them? If a team is stacked at a couple of positions and light on others, does a GM make the decision on trading away depth to try and fill the holes. A team can't have seven cornerbacks. So why not make trades to get good talent back in return. Teams may need cornerbacks and if their stacked at defensive line-men, you're swapping talent for talent, because you won't be able to sign everyone to the practice squad if they even make it that far. (I'll explain the Scout team later) They may get swooped up by another team. Although sometimes teams are hit with the injury bug and the depth comes in handy. I mean look at Green Bay when they won the Super Bowl in 2010. They placed 15 people on injury reserve that year and had people to come in and feel that role without missing a beat. Depth is good, but being thinner somewhere else is worse. So I say trade the over-stacked depth at one positioned and up-grade the depth at another position. The practice-squad or scout team is another option, if available. Teams can have a maximum of eight players on the practice-squad, varied from different position. Usually rookies or un-drafted free agents are eligible and they can't be on the practice squad longer than three years. They can be brought up to the current roster and they can also negotiate with other teams while on the practice squad and be moved to their active 53-man roster.

So with positions needing to be filled with depth, GMs and coaches are searching for the best people out there to man their roster. Whether it be players on their team or players on the open-market from cuts. If players are drafted high and hasn't performed well in camp or in the pre-season games, they usually make the team. Regardless if they can't help the team this season. No one wants to give up on a high draft pick early in their career. Players who are usually cut are undrafted free agents and veterans; washed up or making to much money, they can find themselves on the outside looking in. This is the hardest job of the GM. Looking to see if their draft picks are panning out and who else can come in and make the team better. Deep teams are the ones who usually go far, but its usually at more than one position. The thing is figuring out how many players is a team going to keep at a certain position.  Maybe eight line-men or six receivers that have to add up to 53. Decisions, decisions, decisions.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Fourth & Forever: Previewing the AFC West

   Fourth & Forever: Previewing the AFC West

The AFC West is a unbalanced division. As it stands right now, the power rankings isn't kind to this division, as only one team eclipses the top five. That team is the power-house Denver Broncos. With a early-second round lost to the Super Bowl Champs Baltimore Ravens, the Broncos have added more weapons to their arsenal. The Broncos are sitting number two in the power rankings and with the New England Patriots and Ravens trying to fill holes with a variety of unproven players, this maybe the year of the Broncos. The other three teams in this division are fighting not to be last. The Oakland Raiders, Kansas City Chiefs, and the San Diego Chargers. All three are ranked near the bottom of the league. The Chargers are ranked 21st, followed by the Chiefs at 26th and the Raiders at 31st. All have up-graded and has the potential to move out of the bottom half of the rankings. This by far is the weakest division in the AFC, although with this being a sport with injuries popping up every day... one injury can make an under-the-radar team a playoff team.

The Denver Broncos, were embarrassed by the Seattle Seahawks on Saturday losing 40-10. For a team like the Broncos, who are considered a top tier team, offensively and defensively the team didn't show up. I know this is the pre-season, but a blow-out like that shouldn't happen.  We all-know what Peyton Manning can do and with him being in his second season with Denver, he will be more familiarized with the team and play-book. With the addition of Wes Welker, the Broncos have one of the best receiving cores in the league. With Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker on the outside, the holes should open up for the running back. Question is, who is going to lead the Broncos back-field? Willis McGahee is gone and Knowshon Moreno is inconsistent. So this makes  a crowded back-field with Ronnie Hillman and second round pick Montee Ball in the mix to start. They both had descent yardage on the carries they received on Saturday, but both showed why the door is wide open. Hillman had 34 yards on 13 carries, but lost a fumble. Ball had 28 yards on six carries, but he was over-powered on a blitz and caused Manning to get hit hard. Both have the ability to run, but are still raw when it comes to security. In the end Ball wins the job. He is a work-horse putting up all kinds of big numbers in Badger country. He has major upside and is a tough target to bring down. On defense the Broncos are considered one of the best. The aging Champ Bailey may have lost a step, but he still is a ball-hawk. They have a great defensive line, even after losing Elvis Dumervil to free-agency. They drafter defensive tackle Sylvester Williams, an athletic 320 pounder who can make tackles behind the line of scrimmage, having 13.5 tackles for a loss his last year at North Carolina. They also have defensive end Quanerus Smith a fifth rounder who had 12.5 sacks in his senior year at Western Kentucky. Derek Wolfe maybe out for awhile after a spine injury, but the Broncos have depth. They also added outside linebacker Shaun Phillips, who had 9.5 sacks last season with the Chargers. Plus linebacker Von Miller on the other side makes this a stingy defense. He just needs to be on the field and not on the sideline suspended.

The Oakland Raiders are the laughing stock of the NFL. Usually any team who has the Raiders on their schedule, should check it as a win. They are ranked 31st for a reason. Last year they had a quarterback who didn't care. A running back who runs nowhere and receivers who turns around and see the ball in intercepted. With little expectations coming in this season, the Raiders would be happy to finish at .500. With the addition of quarterback Matt Flynn, holes may open up for, " I carry the ball 30 times for 60 yards," Darren McFadden. Flynn brings athleticism to the pocket, accurate throws and has a big arm. This was a good trade for the Raiders, because Flynn learned from the best quarterback in the game. He was underneath Aaron Rodgers for four years before signing with the Seahawks in 2012. He then was traded to the Raiders, where he is finally expected to be the starting quarterback. This help McFadden find holes in between tackles. In the past quarterback Carson Palmer, wasn't a threat. He has skills, but is known for over-throwing his receivers or throwing to the opposing team. Matt Flynn changes that. Expect McFadden to average more than three yards a carry and a production of more than three total touchdowns. Only thing is he has never played a full season, because of injuries. That needs to change for this team to compete. Flynn has receivers Denarius Moore and Jacoby Ford. Not much to brag about, but Moore is the number one option. Having 600 yards receiving on 41 reception and five touchdown. Ford is not a reliable number two option. In three years he has three touchdowns. Mostly used as a kick returner, Ford will have to fill the shoes of departed Darrius Heyward-Bey, another disappointment. Expect a shaky passing attack. On defense the Raiders drafted cornerback D.J. Hayden, the 12th pick out of Houston is a ball-hawk. Having 127 tackles in two years is just the beginning. He suffered a gruesome life-threating injury in practice in 2012, which limited his season. If he comes back as the same player, he will help a torched secondary, which gave up 235 passing yards. Add him with two more ball-hawks, Charles Woodson and Tyvon Branch. Woodson can be used all over the field. I even seen him play linebacker in Green Bay once. This guy has great defensive skills winning the defensive player of the year in 2009. Branch is the same, a hard-hitting safety with a sense for where the football is thrown. Posting 200 tackles the last two seasons. I like this secondary, but the offense is just going to hurt them.

The Chiefs are breathing a little easier now that running back Jamaal Charles is back at practice after hurting his foot in practice earlier in the week. The Chiefs know, they go as far as Charles will carry them. He averages 5.8 yards per carry. The most for a running back with a minimum of 500 carries in history. Last year the Chiefs relied more on passing the ball than running the ball. At nearly 51 percent passing the Chiefs finished 2-14. Averaging under 14 points per game. With a back like Charles, the Chiefs should rely heavily on the run, which will open up the field for passing lanes. This starts with the quarterback. Last year Matt Cassel was calling the shots and he was really bad at it. Playing in only nine games last season. He had a quarterback rating of 66.7. Averaging 6.5 yards a pass and fumbling the ball nine times. That guy was terrible, so everybody and the coach was in the box stopping the run, because the quarterback couldn't do anything. This year the Chiefs brought in former Eagles coach Andy Reid and former 49ers quarterback Alex Smith. Reid is a hall of fame coach, who will bring his pass-happy offense to the team. This will create holes for Charles and it will make Charles be utilized in the passing game. With a quarterback like Smith, turnovers should be kept at bay. He is a good passer, but not a deep passer. He throws short to mid-range passes and he did it completing 70 percent of his passes. Charles and Smith will benefit from each other and they will benefit from second pick overall  all-American right tackle Eric Fisher. He will help in the run game and pass-protection. Receivers Dwayne Bowe, Jon Baldwin, and Donnie Avery will see a lot of action, as well as tight-end Anthony Fasano. The Chiefs added new defensive Coordinator Bob Sutton and he is keeping the 3-4 defensive scheme. His schemes bring a lot of pressure to the opposing quarterback. Its a lot movement up front a lot of shifting and the best perk about it is not everyone is going to be rushing the quarterback. Some rush and the others drop back, so it should keep everyone on their toes. Everything sounds good on paper, but it will take a year or two for players to get comfortable the schemes. I do expect the 26.6 opposing points to go down. Especially with veteran Derrick Johnson and Tamba Hali. Between both of them they had 176 tackles and nine sacks. But their secondary has got to create more turnovers. Between safety Kendrick Lewis, safety Eric Berry, cornerback Brandon Flowers and cornerback Sean Smith, they had a total of six picks. Not good, but I expect better with the pressure upfront.

The Chargers are a throw your hands up team in this division. You never know what you're going to get with them. They go as quarterback Phillip Rivers goes. Now entering his 10th season. Rivers has established himself as a quarterback who is inconsistent. The four time pro-bowler has thrown 53 touchdowns and 35 interceptions in the past two seasons. Mediocre numbers, but not the numbers the Chargers hoped for when they invested in Rivers with the fourth overall pick. Compared to former Charger quarterback Ryan Leaf numbers,( 14 touchdowns and 36 interceptions for career) Rivers was a blessing, but now at 31 he needs to lead his team to the Super Bowl. The cast around him are respecatable. Running back Ryan Matthews can be a solid back, but he is always hurt. Since he came into the league in 2010 he has never played a full season. What makes it worse is that he only had one touchdown as the starting running back last season. He needs to help Rivers with the ground game and touchdown production. Rivers and Matthews are the reason former GM A.J. Smith, and former coach Norv Turner were fired. Going in a new direction with new GM Tom Telesco and coach Mike McCoy; If Rivers and Matthews don't perform well. They should invest in a new duo and just start over. Rivers had a good receiver in Vincent Jackson and now a veteran who is just coming around in his eight season Malcolm Floyd (Bad Coaching). He has a aging tight end in Antonio Gates, who is getting less productive each year. The ship is sinking for this offense. I say rebuild the offense. On defense they drafted inside linebacker Manti Te'o, a solid pick-up, a good run stuffer and work ethics minus the hoax. They also picked up former defensive end Dwight Freeney and I don't know why. He has played 4-3 his whole career and now he is learning to play linebacker at the end of his career. That's not a good fit for the team. The best player on the defense is safety Eric WeddleLast season he had 97 tackles four tackles for loss, one sack, two force fumbles and three picks and one returned 52 yards for a touchdown. He is a beast in this secondary. A ball-hawk who does a little of everything. It also looks good that he has played every game for the past three seasons. The defense is solid, they only gave up 21.9 points a game and was fifth against the run, although the offense is still going to sink this team.

The Broncos should win this division. They have too much talent on offense and once they figure out who is going to be the featured back, this team will be scoring from every position. My concerns are with the defense. They looked extremely bad on Saturday against the Seahawks. Giving up 33 points by half-time. The defense is going to need to step us to be a contender, or Manning is going to be in shootouts. The defense should also prepare not to see Von Miller for at least four weeks due to substance abuse. The Raiders are just looking to rebound from a 4-12 record. The quarterback is different, the defense has added new pieces. I'm excited about this team, but I know it is a rebuilding process. I'm just looking to see if the presence of quarterback Matt Flynn is going to open up running lanes for Darren McFadden. I say 8-8. The Chiefs are another team who is going to open up eyes. Reliable quarterback Alex Smith, with new defensive schemes and a future hall of fame coach. This team will make big steps, but not leaps. The Chargers need to run the ball to open passing lanes for Phillip Rivers. They ran the ball 41 percent of the time and it should be equaled out. It doesn't help that the feature back is always hurt. I'm still scratching my head at the signing of Dwight Freeney, I'm not sure at 33 he has a lot left in the tank.  I won't be surprise if this team came in last place in this division.