July 3, 2013

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5 NFL Teams That Will Surprise in 2013

By: Matt Bowen

With both the NBA and NHL crowning their champion in the recent weeks, sports fans are in dire straits. Correct, MLB is entering the meat and cheese portion of its season, but it’s not enough. Simply put, we need more. When it comes to sports we can never get enough.

Besides beloved baseball, what are we left with?

In comes creeping the oh-so-infectious NFL. It’s been months since the last NFL action. Honestly, if there were 52 Sundays in an NFL season, that still wouldn’t be enough. Admit it, you’re excited for football—you’re ready for it to invade your life once again.

Will the Detroit Lions return to the playoffs in 2013?

With that being said, let’s forecast who the top five surprise teams will be in 2013.

Kansas City Chiefs

Wow—2012 was a year to forget for the Kansas City Chiefs organization. It was a season brought them the overall No. 1 pick.

While it’s always nice to have top choice, it usually means that team owned the worst record in the entire league. This was true for the Chiefs as they only managed two victories. This year promises to be better for the Chiefs.

New to town are both head coach Andy Reid and quarterback Alex Smith. This is enough to give the Chiefs faithful hope. It’s safe to say that the franchise is starting with a clean slate. Look for running back Jamaal Charles and wide receiver Dwayne Bowe to torment the opposition this season—both men welcome the team’s changes with open arms.

Things are beginning to look up in Kansas City.

Miami Dolphins

Young quarterback—check.

Positive free agent noise—check.

Round 1 draft splash—check.

New logo—Yup.

Right now, it seems as if the Miami Dolphins can do no wrong. Let’s not forget they toyed with the playoffs last year too. They won seven games when they were written off in the preseason. One may be asking, “How are they considered a surprise this year if they were last?”

It’s because the Dolphins still aren’t taken seriously. Well, the time for that poor notion of thought to subside is now.

Quarterback Ryan Tannehill now has a viable receiving threat in free agent acquisition Mike Wallace. The team also rolled the dice and traded up to take defensive end Dion Jordan at No. 3 in the first round of the NFL draft. Look for him to cause havoc in the near future.

The Dolphins X-factor resides in their running game. Young backs Lamar Miller and rookie Mike Gillislee will be uber-flashy out of the backfield this season. Both are sleepers in fantasy mode, but neither should be forgotten about.

Great things are on the horizon in Miami.

Cleveland Browns

Really? The Cleveland Browns?

You’re eyes are not playing tricks on you—the Browns are a serious threat to all who cross their path this season.

The team did a magnificent job recruiting talented coaches in the offseason. New head coach Rob Chudzinski and offensive coordinator Norv Turner will do nothing but good for the young Browns offense.

Quarterback Brandon Weeden will benefit most from the experienced coach staff. Running back Trent Richardson will reap the benefits of a bolstered passing game. The team plays in the ultra-competitive AFC North, but will be a real spoiler this season.

A new day is upon us in Cleveland.

Detroit Lions

The Detroit Lions make the list simply because they could surprise either way. The sad part about that last comment—lifelong Lions fans are accustomed to losing.

Truly, this is a make-or-break season for the front office along with head coach Jim Schwartz. A single playoff appearance in 2011 just won’t cut it. After a decade of torture due under ex-GM Matt Millen’s grand scheme, the fans need a winner.

The team is obviously loaded with talent, but must execute smart football for a complete 60 minutes 16 times this season.

Quarterback Matthew Stafford can always lean on wide receiver Calvin Johnson, but not as much as he has in the past. Stafford throws the ball too much and the unbalanced offense is known to all. The offseason addition of running back Reggie Bush could be the perfect fit, but only time will tell.

If the defense shows up when it counts and can hold a lead the Lions will win double-digit games. If not, the outcome will be all too familiar.

Nonetheless, there’s plenty of reason to believe in Detroit.

St. Louis Rams

Hey, the St. Louis Rams have a great head coach in Jeff Fisher, so wining shouldn’t come as a surprise. Fisher and fans expect to win, but that doesn’t mean outsiders see them as predators.

The Rams surprise this year because quarterback Sam Bradford proves that he’s a franchise quarterback. The 25-year-old shot caller will have a definitely good season this year. Since Fisher has come to town the team has acquired a ridiculous amount of speed in the receiving corps. Also, the addition of monster tight end in Jared Cook this offseason will help Bradford in the red zone.

The running game could be a sore spot in the offensive attack. For this, expect offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer to stuff the game plan with multiple packages that keep opposing defenses off balance.

Just like the Cleveland Browns in the AFC North, the Rams will throw a real wrench into the plans of the favored NFC West teams this year.

May 1, 2013

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2010 NFL Draft Winners

By: Joe Williams

It’s been nearly a week since Mr. Irrelevant was selected in the NFL Draft. That’s plenty of time to figure out which teams improved and which ones blew it. But that seems like a lot of work and judging by last week’s mock draft, I could be wrong about these picks. I’ll take the easy road again this year and see who the winners were in the 2010 NFL Draft.

Eric Berry lead a great Draft class for the Chiefs in 2010.

Seattle Seahawks

Seattle hit five of its first six picks and all five of those players are now starters on one of the best and youngest teams in the league. The Seahawks added Russell Okung at left tackle, Earl Thomas at free safety, Golden Tate at wide receiver, Walter Thurmond at cornerback and Kam Chancellor at strong safety. They also picked up Anthony McCoy who is still on the roster as a backup tight end.

San Francisco 49ers

It should be no surprise that one of last year’s Super Bowl participants makes this list. In the 2010 draft the 49ers picked up Anthony Davis and Mike Iupati who are starters on the offensive line. Navorro Bowman starts at linebacker on one of the best D’s in the league and Anthony Dixon is still on the team playing fullback.

New England Patriots

In this draft the Patriots picked up six players currently on the roster and transformed Tom Brady’s offense from very good to very scary with the addition of two pass catching tight ends in Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez. Punter Zoltan Mesko and defenders Devin McCourty, Brandon Spikes and Brandon Deaderick were also part of this draft.

Kansas City Chiefs

The 2-14 Chiefs are on this list too? Yep. Eric Berry (strong safety), Dexter McCluster (receiver), Javier Arenas (cornerback), Jon Asamoah (guard) and Tony Moeaki (tight end) is a pretty strong draft class. The Chiefs have talent, but have been plagued with injuries and poor quarterback play.

Pittsburgh Steelers

The Steelers are consistently one of the best drafting teams in the league and 2010 was no exception.

Maurkice Pouncey, Emmanuel Sanders, Jonathan Dwyer and Antonio Brown are all contributors on offense and Jason Worilds and Stevenson Sylvester provide depth on defense.

Denver Broncos

This draft marked the beginning and the end in Denver. It was the beginning of putting together one of the best teams in the league today, but it also was one of the biggest nails in the coaching coffin of Josh McDaniels. He drafted Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker who are now part of the best receiving trio (with Wes Welker) in the league. Zane Beadles, J.D. Walton and Eric Olsen have all contributed on the offensive line. But of course the story of this draft is the trade up to pick Tim Tebow. It was a controversial pick and ultimately was a big part of McDaniels getting fired. Once McDaniels was gone, the Broncos had one magical season with Tebow before dumping him on the Jets and signing Peyton Manning.

St Louis Rams

The jury is still out on this one. They took Sam Bradford with the first pick in the draft and he has been a decent NFL quarterback. But it has been a couple years now and we will see if Bradford can take the next step and solidify himself as the Rams starter for the next 10 years of if the Rams start looking for the next guy to take his spot.

November 28, 2012

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NFL Power Rankings

By: Joe Williams

Most NFL division races are all but over but the wild card spots are a different story. By my count, there are 11 teams still fighting for those four spots. But what they all really care about is where they fall in my power rankings.

1 Houston Texans (10-1)Houston has won five straight for the second time this season. If they can make it six, they could lock up the AFC South title.

2 Atlanta Falcons (10-1) Atlanta dealt a huge blow to the playoff hopes of a division rival by beating the Bucs. They can do it again this week by beating the Saints.

3 San Francisco 49ers (8-2-1) — So far so good for Kaepernick. Of course, it helps when your defense puts up as many points as you do.

Even without Alex Smith at QB, the 49ers are still ranked high in the Power Rankings.

4 Baltimore Ravens (9-2) — Arch-rival Pittsburgh comes to town Sunday. Baltimore can knock the Steelers down for the count in the AFC North with a victory.

5 New England Patriots (8-3) – They have scored 190 points in the last four games. Can the Patriots offense be stopped?

6 Denver Broncos (8-3) – The Broncos weren’t their best in Kansas City but still won their sixth in a row. They have been outscored in the 4th quarter in just one game all season.

7 Chicago Bears (8-3) — The Bears made Jay Cutler look like an MVP when they played without him in San Fransisco. After losing six starters to injury against the Vikings, he might have to be the MVP for the Bears to win the NFC North.

8 New York Giants (7-4) – Looks like the bye gave the Giants a much needed rest. A win over the Redskins on Monday night would come close to locking up the NFC East.

9 Green Bay Packers (7-4) – That was an ugly performance against the Giants. The Packers still control their fate in the NFC North with four divisional games still to play.

10 Seattle Seahawks (6-5) – Losing both starting cornerbacks to a four-game suspension would be a serious blow to a team that is tied for the second wild card spot.

11 Pittsburgh Steelers (6-5) – Another loss to the Ravens would put the Steelers’ playoff hopes in serious jeopardy. Will Roethlisberger be able to play?

12 Cincinnati Bengals (6-5) – Three straight wins have Cincinnati back in the playoff hunt. They’ll need to make it four straight this week with some tough teams to close the season.

13 New Orleans Saints (5-6) – They may have to win out to earn a wild card spot. That will be tough with road games at the Falcons, Giants, and Cowboys ahead.

14 Dallas Cowboys (5-6) – The Cowboys already beat Philly. They better do it again or they can kiss the postseason goodbye.

15 Indianapolis Colts (7-4)Luck and company have won five of six and are in great shape to earn a wild card spot.

16 Tampa Bay Buccaneers (6-5) – Heading into a meeting with Peyton Manning isn’t the best time to have a cornerback suspended. It could prove costly on Sunday.

17 Minnesota Vikings (6-5) – As if losing three of four isn’t bad enough, the Vikings have the Packers and Bears in the next two weeks.

18 Washington Redskins (5-6) – You think people in Washington are thankful for RGIII? They will be if he gets them back in the NFC East race with a win over the Giants on Monday.

19 Detroit Lions (4-7) – After three losses in a row, the Lions are probably out of it. They have too much talent to be 4-7.

20 Arizona Cardinals (4-7) – Could they go from 4-0 to 4-12. It’s starting to look like it.

21 New York Jets (4-7) – The Jets were outscored 21-0 in less than a minute against New England. That was the worst 52 seconds I can remember. Maybe ever.

22 St. Louis Rams (4-6-1) – They played the Niners to a draw in San Fransisco. Can the Rams do better this week at home?

23 Tennessee Titans (4-7) – Offensive coordinator Chris Palmer’s firing could be a sign of more to come for the disappointing Titans.

24 Miami Dolphins (5-6)Miami stayed in the wild card discussion by beating Seattle. They won’t stay there with the Patriots and 49ers up next.

25 Carolina Panthers (3-8) – Nice Monday Night Football debut for Cam Newton. The Panthers could have a nice finish with three weak AFC West teams left to play.

26 San Diego Chargers (4-7) – Goodbye Norv Turner. Goodbye playoff hopes. Antonio Gates looks old.

27 Buffalo Bills (4-7) – The Bills aren’t getting much return on all the money the spent in the off-season.

28 Philadelphia Eagles (3-8) – The Eagles are the most disappointing team in the NFL.

29 Cleveland Browns (3-8) – They forced eight turnovers against the Steelers. The Browns are making progress.

30 Jacksonville Jaguars (2-9) – Could Chad Henne take the job from Blaine Gabbert for good?

31 Oakland Raiders (3-8) – The losses are piling up quickly in Oakland. They aren’t even competitive right now.

32 Kansas City Chiefs (1-10) – The Chiefs have a pretty good defense. All they need now is an offense.

November 13, 2012

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NFL Power Rankings

By: Joe Williams

A couple NFL teams are close to clinching a playoff spot. A couple are close to locking up a top five pick in the draft. A lot are somewhere in the middle. Where does your team stand?

Two upcoming games between the Steelers and Ravens could determine the AFC North.

1 Houston Texans (8-1) — One more win may be enough to get the Texans into the playoffs. They have the inside track to the AFC’s top seed.

2 Atlanta Falcons (8-1) — The last unbeaten has fallen. Atlanta is still on top in the NFC race for home-field advantage in the playoffs.

Baltimore Ravens (7-2) — Two games against arch-rival Pittsburgh in the next three weeks could make or break the AFC North race.

4 San Francisco 49ers (6-2-1) — With games against Chicago and New Orleans coming up the Niners could go a whole month without a win.

5 Chicago Bears (7-2) — With the Packers and Vikings breathing down their neck, the Bears can’t afford to be without Cutler for long.

6 New England Patriots (6-3) – The Pats survived a scare against Buffalo Sunday and have opened up a two-game lead in the AFC East. They have scored a league-high 299 points.

7 Denver Broncos (6-3) – Manning has this team back in the Super Bowl hunt. A win on Sunday virtually locks up the AFC West crown for the Broncos.

8 Green Bay Packers (6-3) – The Packers had a week off to get healthy and pulled within a game of Chicago. They can deliver a knock-out blow to the Lions in Detroit Sunday.

9 Pittsburgh Steelers (5-3) – Roethlisberger’s injury could cost the Steelers the division title with two games against the Ravens in the next three weeks.

10 New York Giants (6-4) – Two straight losses is not the way you want to head into the bye. Especially with a brutal schedule to finish the season.

11 Seattle Seahawks (6-4) – Great win over the Jets but the Seahawks are going to have to find a way to win a couple road games if they want to make the playoffs.

12 Dallas Cowboys (4-5) – Dallas kept its hopes alive with a win in Philly. With three straight winnable games at home coming up, can they climb back into the race?

13 New Orleans Saints (4-5) – Despite a historically bad defense, the Saints are marching back into the wild card race. They must win in Oakland Sunday because the 49ers, Falcons and Giants follow.

14 Minnesota Vikings (6-4) – It will take at least nine wins for a wild card spot. With Bears, Packers, Bears, Rams, Texans and Packers left its not likely.

15 Detroit Lions (4-5) – Is the Madden curse to blame for the Lions’ disappointing season? Playing the Packers and Texans in the next two weeks could make it worse.

16 Tampa Bay Buccaneers (5-4) – Josh Freeman and Doug Martin have the Bucs on a three-game winning streak and they’ve scored at least 28 points in the last five games. They are in the hunt.

17 Arizona Cardinals (4-5) – With a trip to Atlanta coming this week, the Cards are looking at going a full two months without a win after starting 4-0.

18 Indianapolis Colts (6-3) – Seems like they should be higher in my rankings. Another win next week and they will be.

19 Cincinnati Bengals (4-5) – Beating the champs was a great way to end their losing streak. With the three struggling AFC West teams coming up, maybe the Bengals can make a run.

20 San Diego Chargers (4-4) – It has been two months since the Chargers beat anybody besides the Chiefs. Jobs are on the line when they play the Broncos on Sunday.

21 Tennessee Titans (4-6) – They’ve got momentum heading into a bye week and a pretty nice schedule to finish the season. Don’t count Tennessee out yet.

22 New York Jets (3-6) – A very good team has become a bad team in a hurry. It’s going to be a long winter in New York.

23 Washington Redskins (3-6) – A 6-1 finish is what it will take to get a wild card spot. It’s unlikely, but the Skins will cause trouble in the NFC East next year.

24 Philadelphia Eagles (3-6) – Goodbye playoffs. Goodbye Andy Reid. Goodbye Michael Vick.

25 St. Louis Rams (3-5-1) – A tie instead of a win was a huge blow to the Rams wild card hopes. The finishing schedule isn’t tough though.

26 Miami Dolphins (4-5) – That performance against the Titans was not something a playoff team would do. Still a long way to go for the Dolphins.

27 Oakland Raiders (3-6) – They have allowed 42 points to the Bucs and 55 to the Ravens. How many will Brees and the Saints get?

28 Buffalo Bills (3-6) – This popular preseason sleeper pick has been asleep for most of the season. They have a pretty easy schedule coming up but it’s too late.

29 Carolina Panthers (2-7) – The Panthers are getting beat in all areas right not. Special teams coach Brian Murphy paid the price after the loss to Denver. Who’s next?

30 Jacksonville Jaguars (1-8) – The Jags have been outscored by 119 so far, the worst in the NFL. On the bright side, they have a shot at the first pick in the draft.

31 Cleveland Browns (2-7) – The Browns haven’t been winning, but at least they have been competitive. There is hope.

32 Kansas City Chiefs (1-8) – Speaking of hope…the Chiefs took the lead for the first time all season in Pittsburgh.

October 17, 2012

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NFL Power Rankings

By: Joe Williams

The NFL season is really beginning to take shape now and parity is running rampant. Everyone has at least one win. Only Atlanta has yet to suffer defeat. Half the teams are at or within one game of .500. Here’s how I have them stacked up:

1 Atlanta Falcons (6-0) — Matty Ice does it again. Ryan led the Falcons on another game-winning drive to remain perfect. Nobody else in the NFC has more than 4 wins.

2 Baltimore Ravens (5-1) — The Ravens survived a late surge from the Cowboys but could be in trouble after injuries to Ray Lewis and Lardarius Webb.

The Kansas City Chiefs haven't started the season the way their fans had hoped.

3 Houston Texans (5-1) — It was the wrong time to face an angry team from Green Bay but next week may be the best time to take the Ravens.

4 New York Giants (4-2) – The Giants showed why they are the reigning NFC champs in San Francisco. They can create some separation in the NFC East with wins over Washington and Dallas in the next two weeks.

5 San Francisco 49ers (4-2) – The NFC West won’t be as easy as we thought. Next three games all within the division.

6 Chicago Bears (4-1) – Nobody talks about this team but with the Lions, Panthers and Titans coming up, the Bears could easily get to 7-1.

7 New England Patriots (3-3) – Brady has got to be fuming after the Pats blew a 13-point fourth quarter lead in Seattle.

8 Denver Broncos (3-3) – The miracle in San Diego could propel this team to division champs come December. Nice way for Denver to enter the bye.

9 Seattle Seahawks (4-2) – One of the biggest surprises so far this year. Big test next week in S.F. with division lead on the line.

10 Green Bay Packers (3-3) – That was the Green Bay team we expected to see all season Sunday in Houston. Have they righted the ship?

11 Arizona Cardinals (4-2) – Interesting matchup of surprise teams coming up with the Cardinals visiting Minnesota.

12 New York Jets (3-3) – The Jets are this years Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde team. Which one shows to to face the Patriots?

13 Dallas Cowboys (2-3) – Cowboys should be desperate for a win against Carolina with Giants, Falcons and Eagles coming up next.

14 Minnesota Vikings (4-2) – Huge game for the Vikings this week. They need to get their wins now with four games against Bears and Packers to come.

15 Washington Redskins (3-3) – The Redskins should be pleased if they can get to 4-4 with trips to the Giants and Steelers up next.

16 Detroit Lions (2-3) – The offense showed up just in the nick of time. Dropping to 1-4 would have severely hampered any remaining playoff hopes.

17 Philadelphia Eagles (3-3) – Changing defensive coordinators may help but it won’t matter if Michael Vick keeps giving the ball away.

18 San Diego Chargers (3-3) – That second half meltdown against the Broncos could be the difference in the AFC West at the end of the season.

19 Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-3) – A 38-10 win is a nice way to come off your bye week. Let’s see how Tampa Bay does against an opponent coming off its bye this week.

20 Pittsburgh Steelers (2-3) – The Steelers have a few extra days of rest heading into a big divisional game in Cincinnati. A loss puts Pittsburgh in a big hole.

21 New Orleans Saints (1-4) – The upcoming trip to Tampa is a must win for Brees and company with Broncos, Eagles and Falcons after that.

22 St. Louis Rams (3-3) – St. Louis will have a hard time getting out of the NFC West cellar. Packers, Patriots and 49ers are the next three. Can you say 3-6?

23 Cincinnati Bengals (3-3) – Blowing that fourth quarter lead against Cleveland could be very costly for the young Bengals.

24 Buffalo Bills (3-3) – The Bills need a win against Tennessee with road games in Houston and New England coming after the bye.

25 Miami Dolphins (3-3) – The Dolphins play very tough on defense. That will keep the rookie quarterback in a lot of games.

26 Oakland Raiders (1-4) – The Raiders looked pretty good but couldn’t close the deal in Atlanta. Schedule gets easier now.

27 Tennessee Titans (2-4) – Nobody gave them a shot to beat Pittsburgh. A loss in Buffalo on Sunday will make the playoffs a longshot.

28 Indianapolis Colts (2-3) – Terrible showing against the Jets. Luckily, Browns are up next.

29 Cleveland Browns (1-5) – Played the Ravens and Giants tough and then beat the Bengals. Browns making progress.

30 Jacksonville Jaguars (1-4) – The Jags have had a long time to dwell on the beat down from Chicago. How will they respond coming out of the bye?

31 Carolina Panthers (1-4) – The Panthers haven’t won in a month. That’s an eternity in NFL time.

32 Kansas City Chiefs (1-5) – The Chiefs have to be the most disappointing team of the season. The schedule doesn’t get any easier either. Long season ahead.