September 11, 2012

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2012 NFL season in preview (Part 2)

By: Joe Williams

Welcome back to the NFL season in preview. If you missed the first half last week you can check it out here before you read part 2.

Could the 2012 season end with Andre Johnson and the Houston Texans as Super Bowl champions?

Nov. 2

Terrell Owens announces on Twitter that he will rejoin the Allen Wranglers of the Indoor Football League for the 2013 season.

Nov. 7

The NFL announces that an agreement has been reached with the officials. The replacement referees will work one more week before NFL officials return to the field.

Nov. 11

4:05 p.m.: After getting an extra week of preparation during the bye, Tim Tebow makes his first start for the New York Jets but gets fined for violating the NFL uniform policy when he takes the field shirtless.

Nov. 12

Ben Rothlisberger tells reporters that he “probably has a concussion or something” but it won’t keep him from playing against the Kansas City Chiefs on Monday Night Football.

Nov. 14

Jennifer Lopez (part owner of the Miami Dolphins) announces that she hasn’t been able to stop judging people since leaving American Idol and is going to begin attending the Dolphins practices so she can critique “everything and everyone.”

Nov. 18

Ben Rothlisberger tells reporters that “surgery is for wimps” and he will go against his doctor’s advice and play against the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday Night Football.

Nov. 22

The New York Jets drop their third straight game, this time to the rival New England Patriots. The offense has 11 turnovers in the last three weeks.

Nov. 26

My fantasy team clinches a playoff spot. Yours has been eliminated from playoff contention. Better luck next season.

Nov. 29

At halftime of the New Orleans Saints and Atlanta Falcons game, news breaks that an unidentified NFL player is now dating a Kardashian.

Dec. 1

The San Diego Chargers enter December at 8-3.

Dec. 2

One of the top quarterbacks in the NFL goes down with a season-ending injury. There could not be worse news for my fantasy team.
A man files a lawsuit against the New York Jets, claiming the team cost him a “large sum of money” when they removed him from the stadium for selling apple and lime flavored pastries called “Timovers.”

Dec. 3

Brett Farve holds a press conference to announce he has “five or six” wins left in him for any teams who need to replace their starting quarterback heading into the playoffs. He also lets it slip that he, Roger Clemens and Allen Iverson have a bet to see who can get on the field and stay in the headlines the longest after their skills have eroded.

Dec. 10

The Houston Texans knock off the undefeated New England Patriots. Every team now has at least one loss.

Dec. 15

The NFL announces that their contract with league statisticians has run out and an agreement cannot be reached…therefore the statisticians have been locked out. The games will go out without any stats being recorded. This ruins championship week in all fantasy leagues.

Dec. 23

RGIII breaks Cam Newton’s rookie passing yardage record.

Dec. 30

After a terrible December stretch, the San Diego Chargers finish the season at 8-8 and miss out on the playoffs.
The New Orleans Saints clinch a playoff spot. During their post-game celebration, Saints players credit the success to the team camaraderie that was developed when they all got “Roger sucks” tattoos during the bye week.
Randy Moss makes it through an entire season without becoming a disruption in the 49ers’ locker room.

Jan. 20

The Houston Texans complete the sweep and beat New England for the second time, this time for a trip to the Super Bowl.
The Green Bay Packers get revenge for the season-opening loss and knock off the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC Championship Game.

Feb. 3

The Houston Texans win the first Super Bowl in franchise history.

September 5, 2012

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2012 NFL Season Preview (Part 1)

By: Joe Williams

The New York Giants begin their title defense tonight when they kickoff the 2012 NFL season against the Dallas Cowboys. That means its time look in my crystal ball and see what the future holds.

Sept. 5

1 p.m.: The New York Jets win the toss and choose to kickoff to the Buffalo Bills.

1:07 p.m.: Mark Sanchez attempts first pass of the season and throws an incompletion.

1:08 p.m.: Jets fans begin chanting for Tim Tebow to replace Mark Sanchez.

There will be plenty of focus on Mark Sanchez and the New York Jets this season.

Sept. 9

Ben Roethlisberger tells reporters that he is “pretty banged up” but going to tough it out against the Denver Broncos on Sunday Night Football.

The Jacksonville Jaguars and Minnesota Vikings game is delayed for 30 minutes while replacement officials double-check the rule for opening kickoffs.

Cam Newton leads the Carolina Panthers to a controversial last-second win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers after the officials advise the Panthers to go for the three-point conversion and the win instead of trying for two and overtime. After the game it is discovered that the replacement officials have been studying rulebooks from Vince McMahon’s XFL instead of the NFL. Roger Goodell vows to suspend whoever is behind the mix-up.

Sept. 10

As usual, the San Diego Chargers forget that games count in the regular season and don’t come ready to play in Oakland and lose 32-10 on Monday Night Football.

Sept. 11

San Diego coach Norv Turner, tired of watching his team play terrible in September and great in December, switches the two months on all the team calendars in their facilities.

Sept. 26

A story comes out citing “sources close to Brett Farve” saying the quarterback would consider playing if the right team called.

Sept. 28

A “source close to Brett Farve” is quoted in a report saying that the quarterback “doesn’t think anyone will call but is sitting at home with voodoo dolls of all 32 starting quarterbacks in the NFL,” and he “thinks the Cowboys and Texans are on the top of the pile.”

Oct. 3

New Oakland head coach Dennis Allen vows that his team will stop leading the NFL in penalties.

Oct. 4

Roger Goodell calls Dennis Allen to remind him that he is the coach of the Oakland Raiders and “that’s not going to happen.”

Oct. 7

The San Diego Chargers win at New Orleans to improve to 4-1.

Oct. 11

Ben Roethlisberger tells reporters that he is “in pain” but will play through it against the Tennessee Titans on Thursday night football on the NFL Network.

Oct. 15

Peyton Manning throws his 13th touchdown pass of the season for the Broncos surpassing the 12 that Tim Tebow threw in 2011.

Oct. 21

The New York Jets fall to 2-5 after getting thrashed 42-10 in New England and Jets owner Woody Johnson says Tebow time is coming soon.

The Cleveland Browns defeat Andrew Luck and the Indianapolis Colts, becoming the last team in the league to secure a win.

Ben Roethlisberger tells reporters that he “has multiple injuries” but will suit up against the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday Night Football.

Oct. 28

The Carolina Panthers trade DeAngelo Williams to the Detroit Lions for a 2013 draft pick.

February 6, 2012

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2011: The Year of the Quarterback

By: Anson Whaley

With the 2011 NFL season officially over, it’s time to wallow in our misery take a look back at the year. When you think of the top stories from this season, it’s easy to see that this was the year of the quarterback. Comparing players over eras is always a losing battle, but this season proved one thing – this is the most talent-rich time for quarterbacks in the league since the late 1980s when some guys named Joe Montana, Dan Marino, and John Elway were in their prime.

We may even look back someday and, gasp, think this crop was even better. Right now, the NFL has a slew of elite quarterbacks such as Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Aaron Rodgers, and Peyton Manning (if he’s able to come back, that is). Then there are guys like Ben Roethlisberger, Eli Manning, Matt Ryan, Joe Flacco, Michael Vick, Tony Romo, and Philip Rivers, who I’d slot below them. And there are also young guns that look like the next generation: Matthew Stafford, Cam Newton, Sam Bradford, Andy Dalton, and even Tim Tebow, to name a few. The bottom line is that this is one of the best eras in the history of the game for passers.

Matthew Stafford could find himself rising up the quarterback rankings as quickly as he has the Lions improving.

Here are some of the key things I’ll remember from this season about the quarterbacks.

Tebow Time – If there’s one thing I’ll remember from this football season in general, it’s probably the way Tim Tebow was a lightning rod for both praise and criticism. I’m hard pressed to remember a football player that was as young as Tebow that was so polarizing. There are better quarterbacks to be sure, but the turnaround experienced by the Broncos was impossible to ignore. And the fact that he was able to not only get Denver to the playoffs, but help them win a game once they got there will only grow the legend. His success this season should buy him at least a little leeway next year if he starts slowly.

The Year of the Pass – So let me get this straight. Dan Marino’s record of 5,084 passing yards stood for nearly 30 years, but in 2012 it was broken by Drew Brees? And Tom Brady? And almost Matthew Stafford and Eli Manning? The fact that a record that lasted this long was broken by two players and approached by two others should tell you everything you need to know about the NFL these days – it’s a passing league … maybe more than it’s ever been.

Peyton’s Injury – It can be difficult to gauge just how valuable a player is until an injury, but we got a glimpse of that this year. How important is Manning to the Colts? The NFL’s new magazine, aptly named NFL Magazine, went as far as declaring him their 2011 Most Valuable Player … despite the fact that he didn’t take a snap all season. Personally, I think that’s going a bit far since by doing that, the magazine snubbed a lot of deserving players. But point taken.

Alex Smith Takes StridesSmith, like Tebow, isn’t an elite quarterback. But after struggling mightily since he was drafted in 2005, he had a career year and was a few special teams gaffes from playing in the Super Bowl. It wasn’t the 3,000+ yards or the 60% completion rate that was all that impressive since he’s approached those numbers before. The reason Smith turned into a serviceable quarterback this year was because he limited his mistakes, throwing only five interceptions all season. Smith may never reach elite status, but if he’s able to continue playing at this same pace, the 49ers should be competitive for several years to come.

These Guys Can Play – It’s often said that it takes a while for rookie quarterbacks to find their footing. While that’s true most of the time, we saw a few first-year players look like seasoned veterans in 2011. Cam Newton had arguably the best rookie year ever for a quarterback, setting records for passing yards and total touchdowns. Meanwhile, Andy Dalton’s 20 touchdown passes were only one fewer than Newton’s and he also led the Bengals to the playoffs. Need an idea of how special the seasons were for both players? It was the first time in NFL history that two rookie quarterbacks were named to the Pro Bowl.

Eli Casts Off Peyton’s Shadow – Eli Manning had already won a Super Bowl, but most still considered him a lesser quarterback behind his brother, Peyton. That will still hold true in the eyes of many, but by winning a second championship, he’s no longer simply known as ‘Peyton’s little brother.’ Eli not only has two titles but is young enough that another one isn’t out of the question.

December 14, 2011

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NFL Playoff Projections

By: Joe Williams

With three weeks left in the season there are still 21 teams in NFL playoff contention. Who’s going to make it and who will be left at home wondering why they didn’t get the breaks to fall their way? After looking at the remaining schedules, here is what I project the NFL playoff seeds to look like.

AFC

No. 1    Baltimore Ravens – (13-3)

Key game: Week 17 at Cincinnati

Whoever ends up as the top seed will have to win their last three games. If the Ravens win the first two, a trip to Cincinnati will be a challenge with the Bengals likely playing for a wild card spot.

No. 2    New England Patriots – (13-3)

Key game: Week 15 at Denver

The Patriots need to win out to secure a first-round bye. Tom Brady and company haven’t had a lot of success in Denver but don’t expect them to lie down in the final minutes against Tebow like the Bears just did.

No. 3    Houston Texans – (13-3)

Key game: Week 17 vs. Tennessee

This game should mean a lot to both teams who play tough defense and like to run the ball. I like the home team in that type of game.

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Andre Johnson and the Texans look to be heading to the NFL PLayoffs for the first time in franchise history.

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No. 4    Oakland Raiders – (10-6)

Key game: Week 15 vs. Detroit

Let’s hope the NFL sends its best conditioned officiating crew to Oakland on Sunday. With the way these teams can draw the flags and turn the ball over, this has the makings of a wild affair.

No. 5    Pittsburgh Steelers – (13-3)

Key game: Week 15 at San Francisco

The Steelers could steal the division title if the Ravens slip up. If not, they will be on the road in the first round against the winner of the AFC West.

No. 6    New York Jets – (11-5)

Key game: Week 16 vs. New York Giants

The battle for bragging rights in New York will impact multiple teams in both conferences. A win for the Jets will come close to locking down the final NFL playoff spot.

Outside looking in:

Cincinnati Bengals – (9-7)

Key game: Week 17 vs. Baltimore

If the Bengals can pull one out against Baltimore, they could sneak into the playoffs if the Jets lose a game.

Denver Broncos – (9-7)

Key game: Week 16 at Buffalo

They can still win the West if they lose against the Patriots. But if they lose at Buffalo they are in trouble. The streak of miracle finishes can’t last forever and I think their playoff hopes are dashed by the Bills.

Tennessee Titans – (9-7)

Key game: Week 17 at Houston

If the Titans can pull one out against the Texans, they could sneak into the playoffs if the Jets lose a game.

San Diego Chargers – (6-10)

Key game: Week 15 vs. Baltimore

The Chargers are still alive but must win out and get a ton of help.

NFC

No. 1    Green Bay Packers – (16-0)

Key game: Week 16 vs. Chicago

Green Bay should have the top seed locked up so this game will really only matter to them if they want to finish a perfect season. Unless they decide they would like to put the final nail in the Bears coffin.

No. 2    San Francisco 49ers – (12-4)

Key game: Week 15 vs. Pittsburgh

A win over the Steelers on Monday Night Football would silence a lot of doubters and put them in great shape to earn a first-round bye.

No. 3    New Orleans Saints – (12-4)

Key game: Week 16 vs. Atlanta

If the Saints can run the table they could end up with a first-round bye. If not, they will be the third seed.

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The Saints are trying to make another magical run to the Super Bowl, but will need help to get a first-round bye.

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No. 4    Dallas Cowboys – (9-7)

Key game: Week 17 at New York Giants

All signs point to this game being winner-take-all in the NFC East.

No. 5    Atlanta Falcons – (11-5)

Key game: Week 16 at New Orleans

The Falcons are just about locked into the fifth seed. But a win in New Orleans and another Saints loss could give the NFC South to Atlanta.

No. 6    Detroit Lions – (9-7)

Key game: Week 16 vs. San Diego

With road games at Oakland and Green Bay, the Lions must win this game at home. One more win could be all it takes to get the final wild card spot.

Outside looking in:

Chicago Bears (9-7)

Key game: Week 16 at Green Bay

The Bears have a chance to end the Packers perfect season and salvage theirs with a win on the road.

New York Giants (8-8)

Key Game: Week 17 vs. Dallas

With a win the Giants should be NFC East champs. A loss and they will be watching the playoffs on TV.

Arizona Cardinals (8-8)

Key game: Week 16 at Cincinnati

Don’t look now but the Cardinals are making a run. Three wins, including a tough game on the road in Cincinnati and Arizona could come out of nowhere to make the playoffs if they get a little help.

Philadelphia Eagles (7-9)

Key game: Week 15 vs. New York Jets

They were pronounced dead weeks ago but three wins and a lot of help would make the Eagles NFC East champions.

Seattle Seahawks (6-10)

Key game: Week 15 at Chicago

Wins over the Bears, 49ers and Cardinals give them a chance to sneak in.

September 14, 2011

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NFL Comeback Performances Expected in Week 2

By: Rick Jarrell

The long awaited first week of NFL football met expectations, as usual. The lockout appears to have hit defenses and special teams hard, allowing for high scoring performances and thrilling kickoff returns. As always, a few surprise performances were recorded. It’s great for fans all around – it adds extra excitement to the game and entices us to think maybe this is the year. But in the coming weeks, most teams will be brought back to Earth (or rise back above it). The following NFL Week 1 performances were, in my mind, likely flukes.

Baltimore Ravens Thrashing of the Pittsburgh Steelers

This was the most surprising result of the weekend. Although the Steelers were not favored by much, the large majority of analysts were picking the Steelers to dominate the division. They didn’t miss a step last year despite star quarterback Ben Roethlisberger being suspended the first six games, and are returning the majority of the team – why wouldn’t they?

Despite the thrashing, and believe me, I enjoyed it, don’t expect the Steelers to struggle the whole year. Throughout the last 10 years, even with internal and external forces seemingly working against them, Pitt has not let it slow them down. Remember that last Super Bowl run? Before they railed out 6 wins in a row to finish the regular season, odds were strongly against them. Don’t count them out now…

Washington Redskins Hold On vs. the New York Giants

We’ve seen this one before, both from Rex Grossman and in Washington, DC. Grossman will have great games like this – he did it a bunch in Chicago and helped lead the Bears to the Super Bowl. But in between these 300 yard, 2 TD games comes 250 yard, 1 TD, and 3 INT games.

He’s inflating the expectations of Skins fans across Redskin nation. As a DC native, I’ve seen this many times. Somehow, despite low expectations coming into the season, the Skins will jump to a 2-0 or 3-1 start and raise the hopes of fans. But eventually, the performance bubble pops and they end up missing the playoffs. Mike Shanahan has the team on the right track, but with the Philadelphia Eagles heavy Super Bowl favorites and the Dallas Cowboys, despite Monday’s game, poised for a comeback season, I don’t see this being the year.

Cincinnati Bengals Comeback Win vs. the Cleveland Browns

Wow, what a game. And I don’t mean that in a good way, not in any direction. I convinced myself, a Browns fan, that the stars may be aligning for a surprise playoff run this year. An easy schedule, progress from last year, and trust in Mike Holmgren seems like a dynamic trio. But Sunday was ugly. Eleven penalties, seven in the first six minutes, dropped passes, and the icing on the cake: a botched defensive play – where the defense did not even get set – that allowed the Bengals to score what would be the winning touchdown. Still can’t believe it.

But now that I’ve recovered, I realize this performance was likely (i.e. hopefully) a fluke. A first year coach and a young team was likely (i.e. hopefully) giving into first game jitters. While I do think the Bengals have a good young team with Andy Dalton, who played surprisingly well for a rookie QB before he left with an injury, and A.J. Green, they’re clearly in a rebuilding phase. The Browns basically gave them this game. So my playoff hopes are still in tact – Cleveland doesn’t play a sure-fire great team until Week 13. Here comes an 10-1 start!