October 4, 2012

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Top 3 NFL Surprises Through the Quarter Mark of the Season

By: Matt Bowen

Each NFL season is full of surprises, never disappointing fans hungry for action. Never a dull moment, the 2012 season is no different as teams and individual players’ true identities have now begun to show.

IS RG3 the biggest surprise of 2012 so far?

Albeit only four games in, that means there are only 12 left. The parity in the league is what fans should love best, as the cliché “any given Sunday” is 100 percent true.  Through four weeks of play, 10 teams have a 2-2 record and only three remain undefeated. This promises fans a tight race to the finish as this year’s competition will hold surprises until the waning moments of Week 17.

That being said, let’s check out the NFL top three surprises through the quarter mark of the season.

RG3 is the Truth

OK—so this may not be a surprise, but Robert Griffin III has looked like he’s in contention for NFL MVP this season. He’s already totaled eight touchdowns and has only thrown one interception. This tells one that he is wise beyond his years when it comes to handling pressure in the pocket.

He’s thrown for 300-plus yards twice and most importantly the Washington Redskins are 2-2. What speaks volumes in regards to RG3’s remarkable blend of skills and smarts is his completion percentage, which sits at 69.4. This kid simply can’t play enough as fans would be willing to pay to see him play seven days a week.

The Minnesota Vikings are Looking Good

Who would have bet that the Vikings would be on top of the NFC North after four weeks of the season? What’s even more surprising is that the Vikings are in it for the long haul. Led by Jared Allen, their defense is as good as any in the NFL. They’ll keep the Vikes in every game this season.

Thanks to the somewhat miraculous rehabilitation of running back Adrian Peterson after knee surgery, one of the game’s best is still looking like… well, the best. He may only have one 100-yard game so far, but the way he’s bouncing in and out of holes means nothing but trouble for opposing defenses the rest of the season. He’s truly electric.

The biggest surprise for the team is that second-year quarterback Christian Ponder is making the organization look smart to draft him 12th overall in the 2011 draft. He has thrown four touchdowns and zero interceptions to this point. His completion percentage of 68.3 is a great improvement over his 54.3 percent last season, telling us that he is really learning the offense and is becoming comfortable as a starting NFL quarterback.

Don’t be shocked when the Vikings make the playoffs this year. After all, let’s not forget about Percy Harvin, who has proven to be more than just a flash in the pan and has solidified himself a legitimate threat to find the end zone every time he touches the ball. Wow!

The Arizona Cardinals are 4-0

Before the season started, there was much talk about the Arizona Cardinals being the worst team in the NFL. Role reversal, after four games, they are the best.

Quarterback Kevin Kolb has downright gotten the job done, wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald is as good as ever and their defense has only allowed 61 points, which is tops in the NFC right now.

So, will the Cardinals suddenly plummet? Don’t plan on it. This team now believes in itself and won’t take no for an answer. Week 5 against the St. Louis Rams will be Thursday Night Football. A win then will give the team a 5-0 record with 10 days to rest and improve.

Momentum is a hard thing to halt in the NFL. The Cardinals are for real.

November 4, 2011

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NFL Predictions: Week 9 Fantasy Picks

By: Rick Jarrell

Was Drew Brees on the football field Sunday? Didn’t feel like it. Honestly, I’m not that surprised the Rams beat the Saints. There are no actual facts to back up this theory, but sometimes teams that blow up offensively one week don’t perform the next game. It happens in football, basketball, and baseball. Whether the team grows overconfident in their abilities and slacks off, is tired from the week before, or something else, I don’t know. It just seems to happen more often than it should.

Brandon Pettigrew was a disappointment, too. I had high expectations for him last week, and the entire season, but he just hasn’t performed. If you can’t capitalize in that high powered offense when the opposing secondary is focusing on Calvin Johnson, you’re not worth a starting spot on a fantasy team.

Detroit’s defense had a good game, though, thanks to Tebow performing like many of us expected. He’s a good guy, and you want him to win based on personality alone, but I’m worried he’s not a pro caliber quarterback.

Adrian Peterson performed, well, too, as he always does. But he didn’t blow the roof off, like you’d expect. Part of the problem was the Vikings went down early to the Panthers and had to throw more than they’d like. Still, Christian Ponder used a lot of check-down passes to Peterson, recording a TD on that end, too.

Not a bad week overall… on to Week 9 picks.

Matt Forte

Forte has been tearing it up this year, and will certainly be paid in the offseason (unless the Bears slap the Franchise Tag on him). Sunday he faces the Philadelphia Eagles, who I see as playing strong the rest of the season after they had the bye to get situated.

The Eagles defense shut down Tony Romo and the Cowboys, but their offensive “forte” is the passing game, and with Nnamdi Asomugha, Asante Samuel, and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie patrolling the secondary off of a bye, it’s easy to see why the Cowboys offense stalled.

The Bears “forte,” though, is Forte. The Eagles’ frontline has not performed well this season. Look for the Bears to feed their workhorse back (and potentially Marion Barber if he plays) plenty.

There’s also a good chance Jay Cutler throws a few picks, but that’s always on the table.

Arian Foster / Ben Tate

I presume Foster will get the bulk of the carries now that he’s healthy, but you never know, so I include Tate here. The Browns have had a tough time stopping the run this year, as the secondary is responsible for keeping them in games. There’s a good chance both these guys score Sunday in Houston, and a decent chance the Texans eclipse 30 points.

Oakland Defense

I’m going to continue to pick on Tebow here, and say that Oakland will have a solid defensive game. Despite losing Asomugha in the offseason, the defense remains the strong suit of the team. Their defensive line is strong and will surely pressure Tebow like Detroit’s big line did last week.

Denver Defense

Staying in the same game, I’ll now pick on Carson Palmer. I’ll dismiss his three interception performance two weeks ago – he was only with the team for a few days, and had spent the entire season throwing to high school kids until he was traded from Cincinnati. But Palmer has not been the top tier quarterback he once was since he blew out his knee in the playoffs.

Last year he had a fairly solid fantasy season and qualified as a top ten quarterback. But I find it hard to believe, even with a bye week to catch up, that he’ll be able to hit the ground running for the Raiders. They’ll likely feed Darren McFadden and Michael Bush and limit Palmer’s impact. If Tebow manages to work some of his intangible magic and jump to a significant lead, and Palmer’s forced to perform, look for pick city.

May 3, 2011

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NFL Draft Winners and Losers

By: Joe Williams

The NFL Draft is now a couple days old. Now is as good a time as any to decide who did well and who didn’t. Teams have not been able to sign free agents because of the lockout so there is still opportunity for rosters to be upgraded, but nobody knows when that will happen. I’m sure the teams that didn’t fill needs in the draft have a free agency or trade plan set but my deadline won’t wait for the legal stuff to be sorted out.

WINNERS

Washington– Does anybody know who is going to play quarterback for the Redskins? They need a quarterback. They had the opportunity to get one and opted to trade down. Instead of making a panic move for a quarterback they didn’t want, Washington rebuilt its defensive line and added talented receiver.

Detroit – Adding Nick Fairley to Ndamukong Suhshould give the Lions one of the top defensive lines in the league. Wide receiver Titus Young and running back Mikel Leshoure will reinforce an offense already full of weapons.

Cincinnati – The Bengals have a mess on their hands with the Carson Palmer and Chad Ochocinco situations. Picking A.J. Green and Andy Dalton is a good sign for Bengal fans that Cincinnati is looking to the future. The offense has a lot of weapons for Dalton if he can earn the job.

ClevelandColt McCoy probably would have been thrilled to get Julio Jones with the sixth pick. The Browns did even better by trading the pick to Atlanta and getting five picks in return. They will have two picks in the first round next year and added a couple solid players to the defensive line.

Houston – The Texans can score. Now they may be able to stop the other team. Wade Phillips was hired to fix the defense and he just got 3-5 new starters.

Peyton Manning – I could say Indianapolis, but let’s face it – Manning is the Colts. Now he has an improved offensive line to protect him with Castonzo and Ijalana on board.

Denver– After the Josh McDaniels era, the bar was set pretty low for Elwayand company. They couldn’t trade Kyle Orton so they won’t be forced to play Tim Tebow and the draft was all about defense. Von Miller is as good as there is in this class and Moore and Franklin could be starters as well.

TIME WILL TELL

CarolinaCam Newton. The Panthers are in his hands now. If he is as great as he could be, Carolina is on the way back to respectability.

Atlanta – The Falcons pretty much gave up their whole draft for Julio Jones. If he becomes a big-time weapon for Matt Ryan, Atlanta will contend for a Super Bowl.

LOSERS

Chicago– The Bears agreed to a trade with Baltimore and somehow screwed it up. They still got the offensive lineman they needed to keep Cutler off the ground and kept the fourth round pick, but when everyone is ripping you for a trade debacle, you are not winning.

Minnesota – The Vikings shocked everyone by taking quarterback Christian Ponder with the 12th pick. Five years down the road, it may prove to be a great pick, but taking Ponder that high has people scratching their heads.

Oakland– The Raiders didn’t have a first round pick and used most of their picks on speedy players who probably were picked too early.

Roger Goodell – When you are the commissioner and you are booed by the fans, it is not a good sign. He wants the lockout to be resolved more than anybody.

Undrafted free agents – Normally teams would have signed a bunch of these players by now. They can’t even talk to them at this point.