December 19, 2013
With the playoffs three short weeks away let’s have some fun and predict the 2013 NFL award winners. While the season is still in the balance for plenty of teams, let’s be bold and take an educated guess. The final two weeks may sway some votes, but we have a good idea of how things will pan out. One thing is for certain, the NFL definitely didn’t disappoint this season—the final two weeks along with the playoffs will be as exciting as ever.
Keep these players in mind when the awards are doled out at the end of the season.
Coach of the Year
This is a tight race, but there’s clearly one winner.
There were eight head coaching changes heading into this season, and it can be easily argued that every new coach met or exceeded their expectations. Last year the following eight teams won a combined 41 games—headed into Week 16 this year these teams have a combined 56 wins.
Hats off to all the men in charge, but the award goes to Andy Reid in Kansas City. The Chiefs were a dark horse Super Bowl team in 2012 before the won only two games and earned the No. 1 pick in the draft. This year Reid has tapped into their talent and the Chiefs currently have 11 wins. They may not win their division but a playoff appearance in a given. The Chiefs are explosive and a blast to watch.
Defensive Player of the Year
Defensive studs are often put on the back burner because they don’t score touchdowns. Not here, the men in the trenches get the acknowledgement they deserve.
While it’s difficult to pinpoint who is precisely the best defensive player, it’s not hard to find an answer. Many men are worthy of the award, but the Indianapolis Colts defensive end Robert Mathis takes the prize. His 16.5 sacks currently lead the league, and the Colts are once again going to make the playoffs.
What’s most remarkable about Mathis is his age—at 32 Mathis is an “old man” amongst the league’s new hybrid athletes on the defensive side of the ball. Still, Mathis is the best at his craft and a great leader on a rather young Colts defense. Cheers to you, Mr. Mathis.
Breakout Player of the Year
This award goes to the guy who doesn’t have a chance at 2013 NFL MVP, but his breakout season may earn him the grand award in the near future.
The argument can be made for both of these players but in the end only one can win. Both of these guys are receivers who have made tremendous strides toward stardom this season. The deciding factor ultimately comes down to team wins.
Josh Gordon of the Cleveland Browns currently leads the league is receiving yards with 1,467 and also has nine touchdowns. He has quickly become one of the most dangerous men in the game. If the Browns ever find a quarterback and running game Gordon may make a run a 2,000 yards in a single season. Right now, his team only has four wins. He’s 22 years old and has all the talent in the world. He’s had a troubled past, but should he leave his problems behind him the sky is the limit.
In the end, the 2013 Breakout Player of the Year goes to Alshon Jeffery of the Chicago Bears. The Bears currently lead the NFC North and control their own fate in terms of a playoff berth.
Jeffery is currently seventh in the league in receiving yards with 1,265. He has seven touchdowns and 80 catches. He’s the perfect complement to teammate Brandon Marshall and has hands like magnets. Jeffery is only 23 years old and appears to be a Windy City staple for the next decade. Because of Jeffery the Bears are multi-dimensional and have a chance at a deep Super Bowl run. All he does is make highlight reels.
Rookie of the Year
Let’s be honest—today’s NFL is not made for rookies. There’s a steep learning curve that takes many highly touted prospects and puts them in their place—the bench. Last year may have been an exception due to the likes of Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III, and Russell Wilson but reality has struck once again in 2013.
To be a standout rookie in the NFL you have to be something special. Right now, only three guys come to mind the rookie debate pops up. Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Mike Glennon deserves mention—the Bucs were terrible before he earned the starting job. Being a rookie quarterback isn’t easy, especially when you don’t start the season as the No. 1. The Bucs started 0-8 but have since won 4-of-6. For that they have hope for the future. Give the NC State alum a full offseason as the main man, and positive results will come.
Zac Stacy of the St. Louis Rams has been a bright spot in an up-and-down season for the franchise. The team was searching for a running back to win the job for weeks and found one in Stacy. The rookie from Vanderbilt has 854 yards on 202 carries and six touchdowns. He’s a real bruiser and looks like he’s made a name for himself in the NFL. Considering he only had one carry before October, Stacy has been a welcomed surprise. Because of him, the Rams will be a sleeper in 2014. He’s a real workhorse.
Look no further than Eddie Lacy of the Green Bay Packers for NFL Rookie of the Year. The rookie out of Alabama looks like this generation’s Marshawn Lynch of the Seattle Seahawks. Lacy has 248 carries for 1,028 yards and eight touchdowns. Right now the Green Bay Packers control their own destiny and when quarterback Aaron Rodgers returns from injury they’ll become the most feared offense in the NFC. Lacy makes them dangerous, the kid is a juggernaut.
So, who’s the NFL’s most valuable player this season? Let’s keep this short and sweet for there will be much debate to come.
Nick Foles deserves a mention for his work turning around the once underachieving Philadelphia Eagles.
Tom Brady, Peyton Manning and Drew Brees are always in the conversation as they should be. Manning will end up breaking the all-time touchdown record in a season of 50 set by Mr. Brady, he currently has 47 but is he the hands down MVP? No.
Outside the quarterback position, New Orleans Saints tight end Jimmy Graham is the most dangerous player in the game. He’s can’t be guarded—his physical stature is not really fair to his opponents—but even he missed the top spot.
Heck, even Baltimore Ravens kicker Justin Tucker deserves a vote—all that guy does is split the uprights.
This year’s NFL MVP is Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson.
Correct, Wilson only has 3,077 passing yards, which ranks him No. 17 in the league. But it’s not his arm that is most valuable, it’s his mentality. He’s thrown 24 touchdowns, eight interceptions, completed 64.7 percent of his throws and has run for 508 yards on 89 rushes.
He doesn’t make many mistakes and only runs when it’s the right choice. His team is currently 12-2 and lethal at home. Right now the Seahawks seem a lock for the Super Bowl.
So special that the Texas Rangers drafted him in the recent Rule 5 MLB draft—he hasn’t played baseball in some time yet everybody wants a piece of Russell Wilson. He can seemingly do no wrong.
He’s got a million dollar smile and is priceless on the field. Wilson for MVP—no doubt.
November 27, 2013
The 2013 NFL season is nearing a close but there are plenty of questions yet to be answered. This year more than ever it seems that every game is a coin flip. Right now there are literally 26 teams still in playoff contention. This is great—every game from here on out will be a nail-biter. Here’s a list of the most crucial games during the final quarter of the season. Remember, each week will contain three categories; the heavyweight bout, the divisional battle and the hidden gem.
The Heavyweight Bout: New Orleans Saints vs. Seattle Seahawks
Games don’t get bigger than this one. A potential NFC Championship Game in the making, both teams have a statement to make. Nothing like ending a holiday weekend with a cherry on top, Monday Night Football is not to be missed—Drew Brees and Russell Wilson will have their teams primed for a battle. Find time for this one.
The Divisional Battle: Green Bay Packers vs. Detroit Lions
NFL fans can thank the Detroit Lions for this Thanksgiving tradition. The Lions provided football on Thursday before football was on Thursday. Hooray! Hey, there’s nothing like spending family time together watching the Lions and Green Bay Packers pummel one another. Here’s some added fuel to the fire—first place in the division is on the line. The Lions currently hold the top spot but the Packers want it badly. Another added bonus, we get to watch Calvin Johnson—who doesn’t like to watch greatness?
The Hidden Gem: Arizona Cardinals vs. Philadelphia Eagles
These teams are both surprises this year and playing their best ball of the season right now. Arizona Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer just may be the hottest in the league. He’s thrown for 733 yards, four touchdowns and zero interceptions the last two games. The Cardinals have also won four straight games.
The Philadelphia Eagles, led by the NFL’s leading rusher through Week 12 LeSean McCoy are also sizzling. Winners of three straight and coming off their bye week, there’s no time to lose momentum now.
Neither team will give an inch. Expect plenty of offense. Give this one a go.
The Heavyweight Bout: Seattle Seahawks vs. San Francisco 49ers
Few words need to describe this matchup between bitter divisional rivals. Remember when the Seattle Seahawks dismantled the San Francisco 49ers at home in Week 2, 29-3?
The Niners do too, expect them to exact revenge.
The Divisional Battle: Carolina Panthers vs. New Orleans Saints
Winners of seven straight, the Carolina Panthers are the hottest team in the league right now. The NFL is far from easy and the Panthers will travel to the Big Easy in Week 14. This is to prove that they’re the best team in their division.
The New Orleans Saints don’t plan on relinquishing their A1 status anytime soon.
Cam Newton is living up to the hype—his counterpart Drew Brees is the standard. Jaw-dropping action will occur.
The Hidden Gem: Indianapolis Colts vs. Cincinnati Bengals
One week they look like outright champs, the next it looks like they don’t belong.
Quarterbacks Andrew Luck and Andy Dalton have to find a way. The winner of this one will gain the confidence it takes to go all the way. They’ll also do some convincing.
This is a true make-or-break game for both sides.
The Heavyweight Bout: Green Bay Packers vs. Dallas Cowboys
Two iconic franchises, two franchise quarterbacks, playoffs lives on the line—this game has all the elements to be a classic.
Aaron Rodgers will have returned from injury and Tony Romo will be psyched to make a run for the coveted Lombardi trophy. These two guys may just combine for 800 passing yards.
Fun, fun, fun—please pay attention to this one.
The Divisional Battle: San Diego Chargers vs. Denver Broncos
Philip Rivers and Peyton Manning on Thursday Night Football is a great start to Week 15. The San Diego Chargers and Denver Broncos have something to fight for as the Chargers are only 5-6 heading into Thanksgiving, but have a real punchers chance. Rivers has never performed so well and the Chargers are electric on offense.
Manning and the Broncos need little introduction, they’re the real deal.
The Hidden Gem: New York Jets vs. Carolina Panthers
Believe it or not, the New York Jets are currently in the playoff hunt. Yes, even at 4-7 they have a shot. Rookie quarterback Geno Smith has had his ups and downs, but the future is promising for him and the Jets.
The weak spot the Jets have this season is playing on the road. If they’re to make the postseason, they’ll have to head into Carolina and win. The Panthers defense, led by Luke Kuechley is one of the best in the league; don’t think they’ll let a rookie show them up.
Considering what’s at stake, this will be a good one.
The Heavyweight Bout: Chicago Bears vs. Philadelphia Eagles
The Chicago Bears are currently in a dogfight for the NFC North with the Detroit Lions and Green Bay Packers. The Eagles are in the same situation in the NFC East with the Dallas Cowboys and New York Giants.
Both teams are currently 6-5 and not in the playoffs. Considering their divisions will be on the line, neither team can afford to lose. This game has smash-mouth football written all over it. Last team with the ball wins.
The Divisional Battle: New Orleans Saints vs. Carolina Panthers
See Week 14—the loser of that game will want redemption. The winner will want to claim NFC South supremacy.
Scary thing is they may meet again in the playoffs. Awesome.
The Hidden Gem: New England Patriots vs. Baltimore Ravens
Hey, the champs haven’t thrown in the towel quite yet. The Baltimore Ravens still have a pulse and are picking up steam down the stretch. Don’t cross-off Joe Flacco and Ray Rice because after all, they’re stars.
If they are to truly be playoff contenders, they’ll have to beat Tom Brady and the New England Patriots. For them, it’s business as usual. They have yet to be their best and are still 8-3. That fact is downright frightening.
The Ravens must let it be known that they will defend what is rightfully theirs. A win in Week 16 will do just that.
If you think Week 17 was forgotten, think again. Sit tight, for it’ll have its own article. 16 divisional games—Wow!
Then, we’ll talk about playoffs.
October 10, 2012
With the sixth week of the NFL season kicking off tomorrow, we take a look at the biggest games coming up on the schedule. Five weeks into the season, we are finally starting to understand which teams are making moves for the playoffs and which are already falling out of the hunt. These five match-ups in Week 6 should go a long way in helping us figure out which teams belong in each category.
Green Bay at Houston
After a 15-1 season last year, there are few records as shocking as Green Bay’s. At 2-3 on the season, they now head to 5-0 Houston to try and start making their way back to the top of the NFC North. If they can’t, a previously unthinkable 2-4 start would give Chicago and Minnesota a nice cushion atop the division.
NY Giants at San Francisco
A rematch of last season’s NFC Championship game will help us find out where the Giants rank this season. Currently tied for the NFC East lead with Philadelphia, the Giants need a big win to show they aren’t having a Super Bowl hangover this season. While San Francisco is 4-1 and looks to be on its way to the postseason again, they are tied with Arizona for the division lead and need to stick with the underdog Cardinals, who could get a win this week against the struggling Bills.
San Diego at Denver
The AFC West is up for grabs, but the Chargers have possession for the time being. This is a perfect opportunity for Peyton Manning and the Broncos to take possession and start to make their run for the division title. The Manning-era is off to a bumpy 2-3 start, but a win going into the bye week could be what Denver needs to get on track. If the Chargers win, they too would be going into a bye, but with a nice lead in the division.
Baltimore at Dallas
Baltimore has looked impressive so far this season and many people are predicting a deep run in the playoffs for the Ravens. Dallas has been inconsistent so far this season, and a win over the Ravens could be the statement they need to make a run coming out of their bye week. If Baltimore wins, they will be 5-1 heading into a HUGE game against the Texans. This game could be a turning point for both teams.
Detroit at Philadelphia
After making the playoffs last season, the Lions have started out 1-3. Coming off of a bye week, they face a Philadelphia team that is 3-2 despite having quite a problem with turnovers. If the Lions want to climb out of the NFC North basement, this game seems like a must-win. For the Eagles, a win keeps them atop the competitive NFC East heading into their bye week.
August 29, 2012
The NFC is the definition of parity. Since the 2001-2002 season, 13 teams have made an NFC Championship Game appearance. Eight teams have played in the last four. Only the Cowboys, Redskins and Lions haven’t been there in this century. Will an NFC team reach the game for the first time in this millennium this season? I said it would happen last season and the 49ers proved me right (even though that isn’t the team I had in mind.) It’s pretty much the only thing I had right about the NFC so I’m going to press my luck and say that it happens again this year.
Once again, the Washington Redskins win in the offseason. But this time it’s because they moved up in the draft and picked Robert Griffin III to build the franchise around instead of overpaying for big-name free agents. And once again, someone else will win the division. But it won’t be the defending Super Bowl champs in New York. I picked the Philadelphia Eagles last year and it took them 12 games to get their act together. Philadelphia won its last four games and I believe they keep the momentum going to a division title. The heat is on in Dallas as the playoff win drought continues. Tony Romo is going to need better protection and more weapons to stay healthy. I say the Cowboys and Giants will be in a battle for the final wild card spot that won’t be decided until week 17.
Division winner: Philadelphia
It’s going to be a long season for Viking fans. Barring quarterback injuries, Green Bay, Chicago and Detroit will all be in the playoff hunt. Meanwhile, Minnesota is rebuilding. Aaron Rodgers and the Packers are still the class of the North and will be looking for redemption from last year’s playoff loss to the Giants. Detroit gets better every year and could make a deep run if the defense gets better. The Bears will be much more dangerous after bringing in Jay Cutler’s favorite target from his days in Denver in Brandon Marshall and worked out a new deal for Matt Forte (if the offensive line can keep Cutler off his back). The Bears visit Detroit in week 17 and the winner will move on to the playoffs.
Division winner: Green Bay
The Saints were mere seconds away from hosting the NFC Championship Game last season. Letting the 49ers go 85 yards in less than two minutes was the beginning of the end for this team. From the Drew Brees contract mess to the Bountygate scandal, there couldn’t be much worse of an offseason. That’s too much to overcome in such a competitive NFC. This leaves the door open for Atlanta in the South. The Falcons have plenty of weapons. They just need to put it all together. In Carolina, the Panthers should continue to improve along with Cam Newton but they are at least a year away from contending. It’s anybody’s guess what we will see in Tampa Bay. The Bucs went from a 10-6 finish in 2010 to losing 10 straight and 4-12 in 2011.
Division winner: Atlanta
Thanks for nothing St. Louis. The Rams were by far my worst pick last season. I’m off the bandwagon but at least they know who the quarterback is going to be. Seattle just made a surprising announcement that rookie Russell Wilson will be the starter over their big-money free agent signing Matt Flynn. That could change with a rough start. In Arizona, the starter hasn’t even been named yet. Considering what they gave up to get him, Kevin Kolb needs to win the job. If he does, he will have a good defense to help him, but the Cardinals aren’t in the playoff class. San Francisco made a huge improvement last year and could be even better this year with the additions of Mario Manningham and Randy Moss at the receiver position.
Division winner: San Francisco
Wild Card winners: Dallas, Detroit
NFC champion: Green Bay
November 15, 2011
The path we are going down this NFL season became much clearer this week. Some teams showed they are pretenders, some lost key players to injury and others took a big step toward the playoffs. Here’s what I learned:
Giants vs. Cowboys
The NFC East is a two team race. The Giants hold a one game lead over the Cowboys but face a much tougher schedule the rest of the way. They meet twice in the last month of the season and those games should determine the division winner. The “Dream Team” in Philadelphia has a stranglehold on the most disappointing team in the NFL crown after losing at home to a two-win team playing with its backup quarterback.
Lions must beat Packers or Saints
After losing three of four, the Lions are in danger of blowing their 5-0 start. They are at 6-3 with two games coming up against Green Bay and one against New Orleans. If they lose those three games, they will likely be on the outside looking in at the playoffs because Chicago is also 6-3 and has a much easier schedule the rest of the way.
49ers headed for a bye
It’s no surprise the Packers are headed for a first round bye but who would have expected the 49ers to do the same? San Francisco is already 8-1 with five games left against the NFC West. They should finish with at least 12 wins and probably the No. 2 seed in the NFC.
Colts getting Lucky
After another loss drops the Colts to 0-10 and the Dolphins and Rams both pick up their second win, Indianapolis has a commanding lead in the Andrew Luck sweepstakes. Now the questions about what they will do are really going to start. Will Manning be back next year? Do they take Luck and let him sit behind Manning? Or could they trade Manning and really begin the rebuilding process?
Bills, Bengals on the brink
Buffalo and Cincinnati have been surprisingly good teams in the AFC. However, they could be coming back to earth. Cincinnati has three games left against Baltimore and Pittsburgh. They really need to win two of those games to stay in the AFC North race. Buffalo has lost four of six and cannot afford any more no shows like they had against Dallas.
AFC West truly pathetic
Get ready to see an 8-8 team hosting a first round playoff game. At least the NFC West has one team playing well. San Diego has lost four in a row. The Chiefs,who have lost two straight against two of the worst teams in the league, now get to face five straight teams with a winning record. The Broncos are scared to throw the ball and continue to let the fans run the show in Denver. And you never know which Raiders team is going to show up. They beat some good teams and then turn around and lose to some of the bottom feeders.