September 5, 2013
Football is in the air. With the 2013 NFL season just days away, every NFL fanbase has their collective fingers crossed for certain things to happen this season. While reality doesn’t forecast a Super Bowl victory for all 32 teams, improvements/expectations/excitement surrounds the league. With that being said, here is one thing every AFC fan wants to see from their favorite team in 2013.
Speaking of Super Bowl, the defending champion Baltimore Ravens will defend what is rightfully there’s this season. What fans are wondering most is how the team will do in the post-Ray Lewis/Ed Reed Era? Quarterback Joe Flacco proved to be elite, but can he rally the troops and return to the playoffs in 2013?
One thing is on the mind of every Buffalo Bills fan right now; who exactly will the quarterback be in 2013? Is rookie E.J. Manuel the main man? Will he be healthy by Week 1? The Bills are exciting on paper with the likes of C.J. Spiller but have to put positive results in the box score.
Is quarterback Andy Dalton ready to take the next step? Certainly back-to-back playoff appearances would indicate yes, but Dalton has looked premeditated at times. The Bengals are a scary team when Dalton is on and this is the best roster the franchise has ever assembled. That being said, without confidence from Dalton, they will be dust.
Just how good can the offense be? The defense is stout, but the offense has to have fans on the edge of their seats and losing sleep at the same time. Quarterback Brandon Weeden looks improved from his rookie campaign and they have a chance to surprise. A balanced attack on offense and the Browns will be the most underestimated team in the NFL.
Will missing Von Miller for the first six games put a detour in the Broncos plans? Adding Wes Welker in the offseason pretty much made them a preseason Super Bowl team, but losing Miller, one of the best linebackers in the league has to hurt. Are they strong enough to overcome? One thing is for sure, he’ll return with a viable vigor.
Is this the year? Can the Houston Texans reach the Super Bowl? Can quarterback Matt Schaub get over the hump? The team has provided with an arsenal to choose from. Now is the time to shine. Good things to come from deep in the heart of Texas.
Can the Indianapolis Colts return to the playoffs? Most say “no”, but let’s not underestimate the greatness of quarterback Andrew Luck. Of course, the games have to be played, but look for better defense to help the offense.
Can quarterback Blaine Gabbert play like he belongs? If not, the Jacksonville Jaguars will look not so great once again. This is Gabbert’s last audition as a starting quarterback in the NFL. If he succeeds, the Jags could win just enough games to spoil other teams’ seasons.
Kansas City Chiefs:
Just how good can quarterback Alex Smith make the Kansas City Chiefs? The franchise has a fresh breath thanks to new head coach Andy Reid. The team could really surprise. Regardless, anything will be better than last.
Is running back Lamar Miller the truth? Miami Dolphins fans will soon find out. If Miller can provide stability is the play-calling, the Dolphins will contend for the AFC East. If not, there’s always next year.
New England Patriots:
Who will step up on offense? The New England Patriots have a completely new look this season, but that doesn’t mean that they will miss a beat. Quarterback Tom Brady demands greatness and he’ll get it. One guy to watch out for is wide receiver Kenbrell Thompkins—he’ll be Brady’s go-to-guy by Week 3.
New York Jets:
Is the nightmare over? Will New York Jets head coach Rex Ryan be fired? Something has to give in this situation and it’s apparent nothing will be fixed until it does.
Can the Raiders win five games? That’s one better than last. The Oakland Raiders may seem like they’re in a black hole, but there may be light at the end of the tunnel. The team can only get better. Speaking of better, the NFL is always better with a contending Raiders team.
The franchise isn’t to be left for dead, though. They have the grit to win, but can their offense stay on the field to give the defense adequate rest? The Steelers are one of the most interesting teams headed into the season, whatever the outcome may be.
San Diego Chargers:
Can quarterback Philip Rivers resurrect his career? He can be so good, but he’s rather inconsistent. Hopefully, for the sake of Chargers fans, he plays up to his pedigree this season. When he wants to be, he is great. Can he make his teammates better?
Is Jake Locker their quarterback of the future? This will be interesting to watch all season, if Locker makes it that long. Franchises hate giving up on a guy, but if he makes it evident that he can’t get the job done the Titans may have to. Locker won’t go down without a fight, but he doesn’t have much time.
August 14, 2013
Last year I nailed five of the six playoff teams in the AFC and went 4-4 on division winners with New England, Baltimore, Houston and Denver. So if you need to know what’s going down in the AFC in 2013, look no further and keep reading. Of course if you are more concerned with what will happen in the playoffs……it’s probably a safe bet to go with the opposite of my picks.
It is the same old story here. There is New England and there is a team that made a bunch of moves in the offseason and has certainly improved, but will it be enough to take down Brady and Belichek? Two years ago the team was the Jets. Last year it was the Bills. This year it is the Dolphins. But the answer remains the same. New England will continue its dominance of the division despite all the off the field issues that have happened with Tom Brady’s targets.
Division winner: New England
This may be the most interesting division race in the AFC. The Ravens come in as the defending Super Bowl champs but have lost enough key players that they could miss the playoffs altogether. Cincinnati is a young up-and-coming team that reached the playoffs last year and will be looking to take the next step. Cleveland should be better that last year’s 5-11 record and of course the Steelers never seem to miss the playoffs two years in a row. Until now. Baltimore is Joe Flacco’s team now and will get a chance to defend it’s title once we get to January, but the Bengals will be better after the playoff experience in 2011 and 2012 and do more than just tie for the best record in the division.
Division winner: Cincinnati
Peyton Manning owned this division until he left. It’s belonged to Houston ever since. Now the Colts are trying to take it back. But unfortunately, they should take a step back from their over-achieving 2012 season. The South is Houston’s to lose and that isn’t going to happen (barring some devastating injuries). Tennessee and Jacksonville still have a long way to go to get in the mix for a division title.
Division winner: Houston
Last season the Broncos won 13 games while the Raiders, Chargers and Chiefs combined for 13 wins. Peyton Manning looks like he’s fully healthy and the Broncos face the easiest schedule in the NFL (statistically speaking). Kansas City may have the best chance to steal the division from Denver after bringing in Andy Reid and Alex Smith at head coach and quarterback to compliment a roster that already has several great players but somehow finished 2-14. In Oakland and San Diego the talk has been more about possibly moving to Los Angeles and less about winning championships. That’s a bad sign.
Division winner: Denver
Wild Card winners: Baltimore, Miami
AFC champion: Denver
July 11, 2013
Football fever is in full force and now is the time to scout for your 2013 NFL fantasy team. Looking forward to having bragging rights around the office? Everyone knows that the Tom Bradys and Peyton Mannings of the fantasy world will put up gaudy numbers, but it’s the sleepers that will make you a champion.
The new NFL season brings excitement for all 32 NFL teams as they descend on their quest for greatness. Regardless of where a given team actually stands amongst the NFL power rankings, diehard fans believe this is the year for NFL superiority.
For that reason alone, here’s one sleeper from each AFC team that could turn the team’s fortunes forever.
Buffalo Bills: It’s hard not to make rookie quarterback E.J. Manuel this pick, but he won’t start Week 1 and may not start at all in 2013.
The Bills stocked up on wide receivers in the latest draft and rookie Robert Woods is their best fantasy sleeper this season. His steady hands will have him start the season as the No. 2 receiver behind Stevie Johnson. Woods is NFL-ready right now and the Bills will depend on him this season.
Miami Dolphins: Things are suddenly looking up in Miami. They have a ton of positive momentum heading into 2013 and rookie tight end Dion Sims will shine this season.
The Dolphins have an upstart offense led by quarterback Ryan Tannehill, a star receiver in Mike Wallace, and a possession receiver in Brian Hartline. Sims is said to be a block-first, catch-second type of tight end, but don’t be fooled by this analysis. Thanks to his massive size, Sims should see plenty of snaps in the red zone, which means he’ll be targeted in the play-action game.
New England Patriots: There’s an obvious choice for the New England Patriots this year—Shane Vereen is the key to the Pats offensive success this season.
He’s going to get the ball out of a variety of formations. As of now, fantasy fans may be skeptical about Vereen’s role, but by the time Week 1 kicks off, he’ll be all the fantasy rage.
The best part about Vereen; he may get RB/WR status, making him that much more valuable in the fantasy realm.
New York Jets: Want to be daring? Take quarterback Geno Smith with one of your last picks of your fantasy draft.
While quarterback Mark Sanchez will start Week 1 for the Jets, he may have the shortest leash of any NFL player this season. Smith will see playing time in 2013, just how much is to-be-determined. It may take some time for Smith to adjust to the NFL game, but anything is possible with the ball in his hands.
Baltimore Ravens: The defending Super Bowl Champions want to repeat and tight end Ed Dickson will become a utilized asset this season. His teammate, Dennis Pitta is highly touted right now due to his exceptional athleticism, but don’t forget about Dickson. The Ravens will often be targeting both tight ends this season and Dickson will be a nice addition to your squad.
Cincinnati Bengals: This one is easy–Mohamed Sanu is a no-brainer when it comes to the Cincinnati Bengals. Sanu took off in the middle of the 2012 season before a broken foot sidelined him for the rest of the season.
Given his health, Sanu is a ball magnet that will benefit from receiver A.J. Green stretching the field and slot-man Andrew Hawkins’ speed underneath. Sanu will be the team’s possession receiver in 2013.
Cleveland Browns: Davone Bess is a newcomer to the Cleveland Browns, but he’ll quickly become a fan favorite for his new team. The former Miami Dolphin is great at keeping a drive alive. His 130 catches on third down since 2008 is second behind Roddy White’s 146.
The Browns need Bess and was a great pickup in the offseason. He’ll quickly be the difference maker in Cleveland.
The Steelers are known for their smash-mouthed style of pigskin and Bell fits the bill, but due to his rookie status, some may steer clear of him.
Don’t be afraid, Bell will carry the ball with regularity. Some Steelers fans may worry that the team is in a transitional period, but Bell will undoubtedly restore the faith.
The rookie receiver from Clemson has extra-large hands and is ahead of his peers when it comes to route running. It shouldn’t take long for Hopkins to make his presence known.
Indianapolis Colts: Remember Darrius Heyward-Bey, the former No. 7 overall pick by the Oakland Raiders in 2009? He’s now a member of the Indianapolis Colts. This is a win-win situation for both player and franchise. The Colts got him for a mere $3 million and Heyward-Bey no longer as much pressure on him.
At this time it’s as if he has been forgotten about, but don’t make that mistake. Heyward-Bey’s blazing speed will be put to use by quarterback Andrew Luck.
Jacksonville Jaguars: It’s not normal that a No. 1 receiver on a team’s depth chart is a fantasy sleeper, but it’s true in this case.
Cecil Shorts of the Jacksonville Jaguars is that man. Shorts nearly eclipsed 1,000 receiving yards in 2012 should topple that number this season. Although undersized, he’s vastly underrated at his position. There may be questions surrounding the Jaguars passing game, but don’t pass on Shorts.
Sure, starting Greene may only pay off if and when he reach pay dirt, but with risk comes reward. He should be around in the last couple of rounds. Don’t be afraid to roll the dice. Greene scoring double-digit touchdowns in 2013 is not far-fetched.
Denver Broncos: With all the attention going to the passing game in Denver, running back Ronnie Hillman is an interesting sleeper this season. Right now, rookie Montee Ball is slated to be the go-to-guy, but Hillman isn’t a bad selection.
The Broncos have always depended on multiple backs and Ball is good, but he’s a rookie that saw a plethora of carries in his time at the University of Wisconsin. The Broncos aren’t worried about Ball’s past workload, but the NFL packs a punch.
Hillman has put on muscle in the offseason and will make the most of his touches.
Kansas City Chiefs: The Kansas City Chiefs have new life after a disastrous 2012 campaign. Rookie tight end Travis Kelce will be a big part of the turn-around for the franchise this season.
Kelce has tremendous athletic ability, but has to put the work in to succeed in the NFL. He may not be a star from Week 1, but give him some time and he’ll pay dividends.
Oakland Raiders: Wide receiver Rod Streater will soon be the man in Oakland. The second-year receiver will be the No. 2 receiver and tasted success in his rookie season.
He had 39 receptions for 584 yards in 2012 and those numbers will rise this season. As the season nears pay attention to the relationship with between Streater and new Raiders quarterback Matt Flynn. Streater is a guy fans love to root for—he’ll show everyone why this season.
San Diego Chargers: His name is Vincent Brown—don’t forget it. Brown was set to break out last season before a broken ankle in the preseason derailed his season.
When he’s around in the later rounds, don’t think twice.
December 5, 2012
With less than a handful of weeks left in the 2012 NFL season, the playoff picture begins to become clear and individual records start to become threatened. This season is no different as fans everywhere will be glued to their televisions until the waning seconds of the season as history will be made.
The current climate in the playoff picture is far from clear, meaning that every snap counts, ensuring fans excitement until zeros read across the clock in the final game of Week 17. Right now, there are 22 teams still in contention for the playoffs and even the teams who are out of the picture thrive on playing the spoiler for the fortunate ones.
The AFC has more separation than the NFC in terms of sure bets for playoff locks, but anything goes with only four games remaining for most teams. The teams that execute well, avoid mistakes and strike it lucky by winning the war of attrition will be rewarded. Right now the Cincinnati Bengals are 7-5 and have the best shot of getting invited to the party, but the Miami Dolphins, Buffalo Bills and the New York Jets still have a shot at 5-7. Things may not be too bright for those teams, but crazier things have happened.
The NFC is where things are the most interesting. 12 teams still have hopes of making the playoffs and right now only one team, the Atlanta Falcons, are a sure bet. Three teams that are also in at the moment, the Green Bay Packers, New York Giants and Chicago Bears all have four losses. The Seattle Seahawks are currently the caboose at 7-5 while the Dallas Cowboys, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Washington Redskins and Minnesota Vikings are nipping at their heels at 6-6. The St. Louis Rams and New Orleans Saints still cling to the dream with five wins a piece. The battle in the NFC will go down to the wire and be a delight for all football fans.
On an individual level, there are a few guys that are must-see TV the rest of the way.
First of all, watch rookie quarterbacks Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III whenever you can, it’s simply a must. Luck is going to break the rookie record for passing yards and already has five comeback wins while RG3 is as efficient as they come. Both kids are phenoms—Luck is more of a gunslinger at the moment and RG3 just doesn’t make many mistakes. Right now the Redskins rookie has a quarterback rating of 104.6, which ties him with the Denver Broncos‘ Peyton Manning and is only .4 away from the league leader, Aaron Rodgers. A rookie has never earned the highest rating and that is something a rookie may never do again. The maturity of both RG3 and Luck is something this league has never seen.
Can you believe that Vikings running back Adrian Peterson leads the league in rushing with only four weeks remaining?
Me neither, but Peterson’s 1,446 yards thus far are 308 more than Marshawn Lynch, who is currently second in the NFL. Face it, Peterson won’t be caught and believe it or not, he’s going to flirt with 2,000 yards. Right now he’s on pace for 1,928 rushing yards, but he’s had six, yes six straight games with 100-plus yards. He may not surpass Eric Dickerson’s all-time record of 2,105 yards in 1984, but the 2,000-yard plateau has only been eclipsed six times in history. Considering Peterson had major knee surgery in January, one can’t help but root for him. He has to average 138.5 in the final four games but considering that he’s averaged 157 yards/game over his last six, the landmark isn’t out of reach yet.
There’s a pair of teammates in Detroit that may both make history by season’s end. While the Lions season has been a disappointment, quarterback Matthew Stafford and wide receiver Calvin Johnson are something special. Stafford’s 3,742 passing yards currently lead the league and he’s on pace for 4,989. That’s dangerously close to 5,000 yards, which he accomplished last season. Stafford is one of only four quarterbacks to ever reach that number and if he has a second-straight season reaching that golden mark, he would become the first quarterback ever to do it in back-to-back season.
Stafford’s teammate and go-to-guy, Johnson is on track to break some ridiculous records. Currently he’s had five consecutive games with at least 125 receiving yards. A sixth-straight game would put him in a class all by himself. Something else that could set Megatron apart from the field is the fact that he’s on track to have the most single-season receiving yards in NFL history. He currently has 1,428 yards and is on pace for 1,904, which would put him past NFL legend Jerry Rice, who set the record in 1995 with 1,848. Once a record thought never to be broken, Johnson is ready to smash it. This is something that can’t be ignored. Although the Lions may not be in the hunt, Johnson sure is.
October 31, 2012
We are midway through the NFL season and closing in on the trade deadline. A few teams look Super Bowl worthy, while others are looking towards 2013 already. Where does your team stand?
2 Houston Texans (6-1) – The Texans look like the best team in the AFC. Their powerful running game will make them tough to stop come playoff time.
6 New England Patriots (5-3) – The Patriots enjoyed themselves in London. Their three losses are by a combined four points.
7 New York Giants (6-2) – It’s amazing the difference a couple fingernails can make. The Giants could have been in an NFC East dogfight but now they are firmly in the driver’s seat.
9 Green Bay Packers (5-3) – They are starting to look like the Packers team we expected to see. With reeling Arizona up next, they should head into their bye on a roll.
11 Dallas Cowboys (3-4) – Their season will be on the line in the next two weeks with road games coming against Atlanta and Philly. They must win at least one of those two.
12 Arizona Cardinals (4-4) – The won four straight and have now lost four straight. It could become six with the Packers and Falcons up next.
13 Pittsburgh Steelers (4-3) – Pittsburgh shut down RGIII and got back on the right side of .500. It will be tough to stay there with a trip to the Giants this week.
15 Seattle Seahawks (4-4) – The controversial win over Green Bay continues to loom large in the NFC playoff picture. They have got to improve their 1-4 road record.
16 San Diego Chargers (3-4) – Six points in the last six quarters. Big changes ahead in San Diego if they don’t get this turned around.
17 Tampa Bay Buccaneers (3-4) – Doug Martin had a break-out game and the Bucs are back in the race. Next three are very winnable.
20 New Orleans Saints (2-5) – The Saints will need to go 7-2 at worst to reach the playoffs. Highly unlikely with the Eagles, Falcons (twice), 49ers and Giants still to play.
22 Cincinnati Bengals (3-4) – The Bengals could fall out of the playoff picture if they lose to the red-hot Broncos and Giants in the next two weeks.
23 Washington Redskins (3-5) – The Redskins need to beat Carolina and use the bye to get ready for three straight NFC East games.
24 Oakland Raiders (3-4) – Two straight wins for the silver and black. If they make it three against Tampa Bay they will have a shot in the AFC West.
25 Miami Dolphins (4-3) – Don’t look now but if the playoffs started today, Miami would be in. Schedule isn’t that tough the rest of the way.
26 Tennessee Titans (3-5) – Overtime loss to Indy really hurts. Especially with a trip to Chicago coming up.
27 Jacksonville Jaguars (1-6) – Jags gave Green Bay all they wanted but at 1-6, that isn’t much consolation.
28 St. Louis Rams (3-5) – A 45-7 loss leaves a bad taste in their mouth and and extra week to think about it.
29 Buffalo Bills (3-4) – Road trips to Houston and New England coming up have the Bills on the brink.
30 Cleveland Browns (2-6) – Browns playing great defense and have won two of three. Reality check coming against Baltimore?
31 Carolina Panthers (1-6) – Cam Newton and company controlled the game against Chicago but couldn’t finish it off.
32 Kansas City Chiefs (1-6) – This is not how the Chiefs wanted to head into two straight prime-time games.