December 5, 2012

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Things to Watch Down the Stretch of the 2012 NFL Season

By: Matt Bowen

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.

Could RG3 become the first rookie to ever lead the league in quarterback rating?

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.

November 2, 2012

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5 Bold Predictions for the Second Half of the NFL Season

By: Matt Bowen

The second half of the 2012 NFL season is upon us and now is the time where the cream rises to the top. With its unpredictability on a weekly basis, the NFL is full of surprises. That’s why we love the game! Fathead is here to try to nail some bold predictions for the second half of the season.

Adrian Peterson and the Vikings have both been big surprises this NFL season.

No. 5: Aaron Rodgers Will Have a Repeat Performance of Week 6

What happened in Week 6? Aaron Rodgers threw six touchdowns, that’s what happened. The reigning NFL MVP may have gotten off to a slow start this season, but the Green Bay Packers are reverting to their 2011 form and are beginning to look dominant once again.

He’s simply one of the best quarterbacks to ever play the game. In his last five games alone, Rodgers has thrown 18 touchdowns to just two interceptions. In Week 11 against the Detroit Lions, Rodgers will reach the miraculous feat of throwing six touchdowns once again. The Packers come off their Week 10 bye and will be rested and ready to strike early and often.  Believe it.

No. 4: Peyton Manning Will Win the MVP Award

OK —Aaron Rodgers is the best in the game right now, but Peyton Manning is catching fire at the right time and looking like his old self. Given that he’s coming off severe neck surgery that cost him the 2011 season, Manning looks superb once again.

He currently has four consecutive games with 300-plus passing yards and at least three touchdown throws. One more and he’ll tie the NFL record with former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Steve Young.  The Denver Broncos are looking like they’ll walk away with the AFC West and be true playoff contenders all because of Manning.

Because of his comeback and dominance on the field, Manning will be crowned at season’s end.

MVP honors to come.

No. 3: Reggie Wayne Will Hold on and Remain the League’s Top Receiver

Who would have guessed that Reggie Wayne would be the NFL’s leading receiver after eight weeks this season?  To date, he has 757 receiving yards as things are really taking flight for the Indianapolis Colts in the Andrew Luck era.

Wayne deserves a ton of credit; this offseason he was a free agent and chose to stay in Indy and play for the only team he’s ever known. What a class act he is.

It’s hard to believe, but he does indeed lead the league right now and things will stay that way.  The Colts are currently 4-3 and who knows where they would be without Wayne right now. Looking at the schedule the rest of the way, the Colts play some bad defenses down the stretch. Don’t be surprised when Wayne finishes the season as the league’s best.

No. 2: Adrian Peterson Will Win Comeback Player of the Year

If Peyton Manning is to win MVP, then Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson deserves to win comeback player of the year.

The heralded running back has returned in full effect after having surgery to repair an injured knee in January and is leading the league in rushing right now with 775 rushing yards. Reaching 1,000 rushing yards at season’s end would have been a bold prediction in the preseason for Peterson. Now that seems like a done deal.

What he is doing is unheard of. More importantly, the Vikings are winning and their five wins may have already surpassed many expectations this season. What’s best is that Peterson looks like his dominant self again, which is nice to see for any lover of the NFL.

As the season goes on, keep your eye on Peterson —he’s too good to miss.

No. 1: The Miami Dolphins Will Make the Playoffs!

What?

That’s correct, your eyes aren’t failing you, the Miami Dolphins will make the playoffs.

Sure, they have injury concerns with rookie quarterback Ryan Tannehill, but he’ll be just fine.

Remember, the Dolphins found their sea legs in the last half of the 2011 season and this team is now getting used to new head coach Joe Philbin. To put it simply, they are starting to believe.

Running back Reggie Bush knows he has to shoulder the load and the defense is tougher than expected.

The Dolphins are currently 4-3 and are two overtime losses away from being 6-1.

Most importantly, the ‘Phins are having fun and carry momentum. Sometimes that’s just unstoppable.

Expect to see the Dolphins in the playoffs.

October 16, 2012

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Don’t Look Now but the Green Bay Packers Are For Real

By: Matt Bowen

The Green Bay Packers started the 2012 NFL season with unfinished business. After a 15-1 2011 regular season campaign the Packers fell short of the Super Bowl. Wanting to amend things in 2012, their season didn’t start off the way they had planned.

After a slow start, can Rodgers lead the Packers back to the Super Bowl this season?

The Packers looked sluggish; they looked out of sync and unseasoned. What exactly was different from a year ago?

Well, a few things for starters; gone was offensive mastermind Joe Philbin, who took the head coaching job with the Miami Dolphins in the off-season. In came Tom Clements, who was previously the quarterbacks coach in Green Bay for a number of years, but had only served as an offensive coordinator for a few years with the Buffalo Bills in the mid-2000s, which is hardly enough time to learn the ropes of calling the shots in the NFL.

Sure, it may be easy to say, “But Aaron Rodgers is your quarterback!” It still takes time to get your team in unison when making a change such as offensive coordinator.

Another change was that the Packers brought in veteran running back Cedric Benson to bolster their offense. Benson, who came to Green Bay after three-consecutive 1,000-plus yards on the ground, was said to be the difference maker this season for the Packers, who look to win their second Super Bowl in three years. After getting warmed up and providing some much added depth to the offense throughout the first five games this season, Benson fell to a foot injury that has him on the shelf until late in the season, if not the entire thing.

So, who do the Packers turn to now? The answer is simple—Rodgers.

After a plethora of injuries and being knocked down but not out, the Packers did the unthinkable in NFL Week 6, they took to the road and beat the previously undefeated Houston Texans by a score of 42-24.

What gave the Packers the jolt they’ve been looking for? I believe it was the offense in Rodgers’ hands. Knowing that the fate of the franchise rested on his shoulders, Rodgers turned up the intensity to MVP level. His 338 passing yards and six touchdowns, yes six, proves that the Pack are back. The fact that they embarrassed a highly touted Texans defense earns them even more props.

Sometimes elite athletes only respond when the pressure is solely on them. The Packers could have made many excuses as to why this year wasn’t their year, but Rodgers will have none of that. He showed us once again why he is the best quarterback in the NFL. Never mind his play between whistles, it’s his fearlessness and tenacity in the huddle that earns him respect.

Don’t look now but the Packers are 3-3, which is the same record when they went on to win the Super Bowl in 2010.

Green Bay is a special place in this world and its people and the Packers are the reason why. Rodgers embodies the mystical aura that makes that place extraordinary.

July 26, 2012

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Fantasy Football Rankings: QB

By: Junior

With NFL Fantasy Football drafts right around the corner, we will take a look at the top 5 players at each position. Depending on what type of league you are in, theses evaluations will vary, but the general ranking will be similar. Our first installment will focus on the quarterbacks. Having a Top 5 quarterback can take a lot of pressure off of other positions. Without one, you will need big contributions from multiple other players to stay alive.

Aaron Rodgers is this season's consensus #1 Fantasy Football QB.

1. Aaron Rodgers

I don’t think you will find a rankings list that doesn’t have the Green Bay QB at the top of it. Aaron Rodgers showed last season why he can single-handedly carry a fantasy team. Over 4,500 yards passing and 45 touchdowns through the air doesn’t leave much to complain about. However, the Packers will have a new offensive coordinator this season, so there will be a little change from last year. The Packers still don’t have much of a running game, though, which should give Rodgers plenty of attempts to air it out for points.

2. Tom Brady

Rob Gronkowski. Wes Welker. Aaron Hernandez. Deion Branch. With those weapons last year Tom Brady threw for over 5,000 yards and 39 touchdowns. Now the Patriots add Brandon Lloyd to the mix, giving Brady even more targets to work with. Just like Rodgers, the Patriots don’t have a true running game and let Brady use short throws to move the ball. Tom Brady has proven year in and year out to be a solid, reliable quarterback that will produce great fantasy numbers.

3. Drew Brees

A lot of people are dropping Brees in their rankings because of all of the trouble the New Orleans Saints have gone through this off-season. As the wise Will Ferrell once said “Good! More for me and you!”. Sure, the loss of Sean Payton is a blow to the team, but the offense is back almost fully intact and Brees can run this offense with or without Payton. I compare it to the season Peyton Manning had after Tony Dungy left the Colts. Sure, you would have preferred Dungy on the sideline, but you knew Manning was still going to score points. I feel the same way about Brees.

4. Matthew Stafford

Matthew Stafford exploded last season and was likely a steal for many fantasy owners due to his past injuries. That won’t be the case this season. Stafford will be almost as hot a commodity as his #1 target Calvin Johnson. I have Stafford 4th because while I expect another great season from him, it will be hard for him to have another 5,000 yard season. Add the fact that the Lions hope to have a better running game with the health of Mikel Leshoure and Stafford might not air it out quite as often as last season.

5. Cam Newton

If you would have told me last year that Cam Newton would have 4,000 yards passing I would have laughed. Hard. Cam proved a lot of doubters wrong and if he can repeat last season’s success he will be a great addition for a fantasy team. Anytime you have a true duel-threat quarterback in fantasy, the points can really add up. Include that rushing touchdowns in the red-zone are no longer just for the team’s running back, and you can pick up some serious points. You just have to be sure Cam will avoid the “sophomore slump”.

February 7, 2011

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Super Bowl Recap

By: Anson Whaley

Christina Aguilera may have gotten the night off to a rough start after botching some of the lyrics of the National Anthem, but after that it was smooth sailing.

Fans were treated to another competitive Super Bowl on Sunday, and for the third time in the past four seasons, the final score was within a touchdown. The Green Bay Packers defeated the Pittsburgh Steelers, 31-25, and this highly anticipated game definitely lived up to the hype.

The difference-maker was clearly the play of the two quarterbacks. The Packers’ Aaron Rodgers was crisp, and his passes were on the mark all game long. The final stats show that he completed 24 of 39 passes, but the quarterback suffered several drops by receivers, and in reality, his numbers should have been better. He also played much of the game without one of the team’s top receivers (Donald Driver, who left with an injury), and was constantly under pressure (a television stat shown during the fourth quarter indicated that Rodgers was hit a total of 16 times up to that point). His 304-yard, three-touchdown performance is even more impressive when you consider those factors.  Rodgers was the obvious choice for the game’s Most Valuable Player award.

Conversely, Ben Roethlisberger was sloppy and didn’t have his best game. While he made a few big scrambles and finished with a respectable 25-40 for 263 yards and two touchdowns, his two first half interceptions were a major reason the team had an 11-point halftime deficit. And with a chance to put together a potential game-winning drive as he had done two years ago in the Super Bowl against the Arizona Cardinals, he was unable to effectively move the ball down the field.

Heading into the game, it was expected that Green Bay would struggle to run the ball. The team has been without starting All-Pro back Ryan Grant most of the season, and the Packers’ rushing attack has been up and down ever since. But the Steelers didn’t have a sustained running attack, either, as Rashard Mendenhall, Issac Redman, and Mewelde Moore combined for only 19 rushes for a total of 95 yards. 5.0 yards per carry is above average, so Steelers’ coach Mike Tomlin may look back on this game and wish he had run the ball a bit more. Mendenhall, though, also made a key fourth-quarter fumble tat was recovered by Green Bay as the Steelers were driving and down by only four points. That killed Pittsburgh’s drive and may have been the key play in Sunday’s game.

Despite holding a fairly comfortable halftime lead, things started unraveling for the Packers early in the second half. The defense gave up a late touchdown in the second quarter, but perhaps more importantly, the Packers had just sustained the potentially devastating injuries to Driver, cornerbacks Charles Woodson and Sam Shields, and safety Nick Collins. The Steelers immediately took advantage, scoring an early touchdown in the third quarter to bring the game to within four. But after the Mendenhall fumble, the two teams traded touchdowns in the fourth quarter, and the Steelers couldn’t get anything else going.

When fans look back at this Super Bowl, however, Rodgers will be the guy everyone remembers. After a great regular season, he has clearly cemented his status as a bonafide star, leading his team to its fourth Super Bowl victory in the franchise’s storied history. He had an outstanding game, and as frustrated as the Steelers are about this game, there’s another team that should be equally disappointed – the San Francisco 49ers.

The Niners held the #1 pick in the 2005 NFL Draft and desperately needed a quarterback. Despite the fact that Rodgers held the franchise in high regard and had a successful college career, the team instead selected Alex Smith out of Utah. Granted, the 49ers weren’t the only team to pass on Rodgers, but they had the first chance to draft him. And we all know how the story goes from here – Smith has struggled in the pros, while Rodgers, at 27, is one of the league’s top quarterbacks and has an extremely bright future. In Rodgers, Grant, and wide receiver Greg Jennings, the Packers have a young nucleus on which to build and should be competitive for years to come.