February 20, 2014

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5 NFL Teams Who Need to Make a Splash in Round 1

By: Matt Bowen

With the 2014 NFL Combine happening February 22-25 in Indianapolis the NFL hits full throttle once again. The Combine signifies that the 2014 NFL Draft is right around the corner. This is the time that all 32 NFL GMs begin to sweat. Critical decisions are to be made.

While many may see the combine as players in shorts and t-shirts simply running around, it’s anything but. NFL dreams are on the line. GMs are watching. Make a lasting impact now and your name will be called in May.

To no one’s surprise the quarterback position will be under the microscope in Indy during the Combine. Teddy Bridgewater, Blake Bortles, Johnny Manziel and others will fill the board come draft day. Although there may not be an elite quarterback in this draft this year’s class is certainly better than 2011’s class. As far as elite goes, that remains to be seen as only time will tell.

Eric Fisher

The Chiefs made Eric Fisher the #1 pick in 2013. Who will go #1 in the 2014 NFL Draft?

Some teams will get the QB fever and reach for what they hope is a winner. Keep in mind that many teams are hungry for their franchise signal caller but quarterback is not the only position. Which team will be bold and pass on a quarterback for something else?

The following teams, whether searching for their quarterback of the foreseeable future or a  playmaker at another position have to make a splash in Round 1 of the 2014 NFL Draft. Making the wrong moves may forever doom their respective franchises.

No. 5: Houston Texans

This is a no brainer, but it must be mentioned. The No. 1 pick in the NFL draft comes with pressure. The Houston Texans could do one of three things—draft Jadeveon Clowney, draft the quarterback which they deem the best, or trade the pick.

Once Clowney dismantles the competition at the Combine and topples the likes of Twitter by the end of February 25 the pick will be an easy one. Everyone will be talking about this kid from South Carolina. His combination of size, speed and strength is something unfathomable. At 6’6”, 275 lbs. he says he’ll run a 4.4 40-yard-dash at the Combine. If he does that there will be talks of “best ever” even before he sports an NFL jersey.

By this time next week the Texans will have made up their mind.

No. 4: San Francisco 49ers

The San Francisco 49ers own the 30th selection in the first round but the heat is on. After all, the Niners have to contend with the Super Bowl Champion Seattle Seahawks in the NFC West.

The Seahawks appear to be going nowhere anytime soon and the 49ers have to keep up. It can be argued that these are the two most dangerous teams in the NFL but speculation and proof are two separate things.

The Niners are motivated to reach the summit—their Super Bowl window is now. Expect San Francisco to select a sturdy wide receiver in Round 1.

No. 3 Tennessee Titans

The Tennessee Titans sit in a curious position in Round 1 of the 2014 NFL draft. With pick No. 11 the team could go in any direction.

New head coach Ken Whisenhunt is a quarterback kinda guy and he’s going to give Jake Locker a chance. With that being said, it may be in their best interest to draft a quarterback with their first pick. Locker hasn’t proven himself yet and the Titans could catch an acute case of the QB fever.

A guy like Derek Carr of Fresno State or Zach Mettenberger from LSU may intrigue them just enough to pull the trigger. Even if Locker doesn’t convince the Titans brass he’s their number one his younger predecessor would have time to learn. On the other hand, the demand is high on these kids and they would be valuable trade bait should Locker pan out. This would bring interest from other teams around this time next season. A healthy quarterback with a year of NFL experience is a coveted commodity. It seems like a win-win for the Titans.

Pay attention to the Titans—their decision could shake up the rest of the draft.

No. 2: St. Louis Rams

Conveniently enough the St. Louis Rams have the No. 2 overall pick, but that’s not why this draft is so important for them. They also have the No. 13 pick in the first round.

Thanks to the trade with the Washington Redskins for Robert Griffin III in 2012, the Rams own the No. 2 pick. They will draft wide receiver Sammy Watkins out of Clemson and all will be right in the world. Combined with Tavon Austin the Rams will have two explosive receivers.

The team still believes in quarterback Sam Bradford and will spend their No. 13 pick on protecting him. Expect the Rams to select the best offensive lineman available and with possibly five quarterbacks being selected before that pick, the lineman pool should be rich.

The Rams are a team on the brink of greatness, but must protect Bradford. Let’s hope their No. 13 pick is a Week 1 starter.

No. 1: Cleveland Browns

The Cleveland Browns are currently upside down. The front office is in disarray but better days are ahead.

The 2014 NFL draft is where it all starts. With two picks, No. 4 and No. 26 in the first round the team has to knock it out of the park.

They can’t repeat what they did in 2012. That year they also had two picks in Round 1. They took running back Trent Richardson at No. 3 and quarterback Brandon Weeden at No. 22. They acquired the No. 22 pick by trading their 2011 No. 6 pick to the Atlanta Falcons for who turned out to be Julio Jones.

Fittingly enough their second pick this year will be at No. 26—they acquired that by trading Richardson to the Indianapolis Colts early in the 2013.

The Browns need a quarterback and everything points to them selling the farm for Manziel. If a team like the Jacksonville Jaguars, who have the No. 3 overall pick threaten to take Manziel the Browns may cough up the No. 26 pick. Manziel would light a fire in Cleveland the city hasn’t seen since some guy named LeBron roamed the court. He would sell tickets and more importantly reinstall the faith.

If Manziel doesn’t fall into Cleveland’s lap the Browns have to make hay with the best available. The future of the franchise is at stake. Regardless of what happens the Browns will be the most talked-about team in the league leading up to the draft.

March 27, 2013

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NFL Free Agency Winners

By: Joe Williams

There are just a couple weeks left until the NFL Draft so you know what that means…it’s time to judge who “won” and “lost” in free agency. And we’re going to do it only about nine months before we really know how good these teams are and what signings were actually good.

Tom Brady and the Patriots will be moving forward without Wes Welker in the 2013 season.

Tom Brady and the Patriots will be moving forward without Wes Welker in the 2013 season.

New England Patriots

Yeah they lost Wes Welker to Denver, but signing Danny Amendola is a nice replacement. But that’s not why the Patriots are on the list. It’s because Bernard (Patriot-killer) Pollard has joined the Tennessee Titans. You may remember that it was Pollard who sacked Tom Brady on the play where Brady tore his ACL in 2008. He was also involved in the play when Wes Welker got a torn ACL in 2009 and when Rob Gronkowski got hurt and missed the Super Bowl. And just a couple months ago it was a ferocious hit from Pollard that knocked Stevan Ridley out and forced a crucial fumble in the AFC Championship Game that Baltimore went on to win. But this year, the Patriots don’t have to worry about Pollard because they don’t play the Titans. (I reserve the right to change this opinion if the NFL schedules the Patriots and Titans to play in the preseason.)

Seattle Seahawks

Seattle started the offseason with a bang by trading for one of the most dangerous weapons in the league in Percy Harvin. Then they added Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett to an already stellar defense.

Kyle Arrington

The New England defensive back (and new father) just scored a year’s worth of diapers from new Patriot Adrian Wilson for giving up the number 24 jersey, allowing Wilson to keep his number from his days in Arizona.

Elvis Dumervil

In one of the strangest free agent developments I can remember, Dumervil was cut from Denver because his agent didn’t get a signed agreement faxed to the team seven minutes earlier. Instead, Elvis was cut by the Broncos even though he wanted to stay and they wanted to keep him. It was an embarrassing situation for everyone involved, but signing a 5-year, $35 million contract with the defending Super Bowl champs is a nice recovery for Dumervil.

Denver Broncos

If not for the previously mention Dumervil debacle, the Broncos would have an almost perfect off season so far. Adding Wes Welker, Louis Vasquez, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Terrance Knighton fills just about every hole on the roster. If they can bring in Dwight Freeney or John Abraham to replace Dumervil, they will be in great shape heading into the draft.

Tim Tebow

Even though he isn’t a free agent, Tebow makes the list because there is finally a team that has come forward and said they actually want him on the roster. Yeah it is the Orlando Predators and yeah it is the Arena Football League. But at least he’d get a shot to play quarterback.

Miami Dolphins

The Dolphins landed the biggest fish in free agency when they signed WR Mike Wallace. They have also made a splash by signing WR Brandon Gibson, TE Dustin Keller, and linebackers Philip Wheeler and Dannell Ellerbe. If all goes well, they could challenge the Patriots in the AFC East. If not, at least they have given their fans some hope and shown that they are going for it.

December 29, 2011

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The NFL Playoffs Remaining Spots

By: Junior

In the final week of the NFL season, there are still 3 playoff spots still unclaimed. The NFC East, AFC West and the final AFC Wild Card are up for grabs and will be decided this weekend. We take a look at which teams will earn, or back into, a berth in this year’s NFL playoffs.

NFC EAST Champion

The NFC East was given to the Philadelphia Eagles in the offseason after they went out and made some big free agent signings. Long considered one of the tougher conferences in the NFL, not many would be surprised if you told them the NFC East would come down to the final week before we had a winner. However, it would be surprising to hear the Eagles didn’t have a chance. The Dallas Cowboys will travel to New York to take on the Giants in what is essentially the NFC East Championship game.

The Cowboys have had multiple chances to put distance between themselves and the Giants, but failed to take advantage of the opportunities. Add to that the injured throwing hand of Tony Romo, and all of the momentum seems to lie with Eli Manning and the Giants. Look for the Giants to get after Romo and get out to an early lead to keep the home crowd in the game. I like the Giants to claim the NFC East championship this year.

The New York Giants will be after Tony Romo and his injured throwing hand as they look to claim the NFC East crown.

AFC WEST Champions

The AFC West seems to be the division nobody wants to win. The Oakland Raiders and Denver Broncos are both fighting to stay above .500 on the season and haven’t looked strong in the last couple weeks. Denver has dropped two in a row, while the Raiders have lost 3 of 4, needing OT to beat Kansas City last week.

Unlike the NFC East game, these two teams don’t get to play each other for the right to go to the playoffs. If both teams win this weekend Denver will win the AFC West and Oakland will have a chance to win the final remaining Wild Card spot, but we will get to that later. Denver has the better draw, having only need to beat the Chiefs while Oakland must beat San Diego. I like Tim Tebow to find a way to beat his predecessor Kyle Orton and return the Broncos back to the postseason.

AFC Wildcard (6th seed)

This is where it all gets interesting. Four teams can still claim this final AFC Wild Card spot: the Benals, Jets, Titans and Raiders. Try to stay with me here.  The Cincinnati Bengals have the easiest road to get to the playoffs: win and they are in.  They can also get in if the Jets and Raiders or Broncos lose.

If that doesn’t happen, the Raiders can get in if they win, the Bengals lose and either the Titans lose or the Jets win.

The Jets get in if they win and the Titans, Bengals, and either the Raiders or Broncos lose.

Finally, there is Tennessee. They need to win. They also need the Bengals to lose. Then, if the Jets win, they need the Raiders or Broncos to lose. If the Jets lose, they need both the Raiders AND the Broncos to win.

Head spinning yet? Mine too. After all of those scenarios, here is all you need to know. I think the New York Jets find a way to sneak in. If the Bengals can find a way to knock of a veteran Ravens team who doesn’t come out prepared to play, they could earn their spot. However, I just don’t think the Raiders, Titans, or Bengals will win this week, which makes me think even though the Jets have had a bad year, they just sneak into the playoffs.

But if the NFL has proven anything this season, it’s that no one has any idea.

October 27, 2011

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Division Races Heating Up

By: Joe Williams

It’s seven weeks into the NFL season, and the division races are starting to take shape. NFL teams like Buffalo and Detroit have thrown their hats in the ring, and others like St. Louis and Indianapolis have played their way out of it. Here’s where we stand:

AFC EAST

It was supposed to be a battle between the Jets and Patriots, but the Bills have made it a three team race. New England’s only loss came at the hands of the Bills and their New Year’s Day rematch ought to have playoff implications. Buffalo has a few games against NFL teams at the bottom of the standings and two meetings with the Jets, so the schedule sets up well for them to stay in the race. The next month will be critical for the Jets. They play the Bills twice and New England once. One of these teams is going to be watching at home in January.

AFC NORTH

Cleveland and Cincinnati are hanging around. This is the only division with no NFL teams below .500. Wins against New England and Baltimore in the next two weeks would put the Steelers in the driver’s seat in the AFC. Things are going to get much more difficult for the Bengals with two games left against both Pittsburgh and Baltimore. We’re about to find out what this team is made of. Nov. 6 at Pittsburgh is the game of the year for the Ravens. If they can beat the Steelers for a second time, the division should be in their controls. The Browns are in the conversation at 3-3 but they haven’t beaten anyone worth bragging about. Can they steal a couple against the big boys?

AFC SOUTH

All it took was one injury for the Colts to go from AFC South dominance to one of the worst teams in the league. Someone is going to take advantage and after Sunday’s beat down of the Titans, it looks like it will be Houston. The schedule sets up nicely for them with most of their tough games already behind them. If Tennessee can get back on track, the New Year’s Day rematch could be huge.

AFC WEST

As usual, the Chargers are the heavy favorite in the West. And as usual, they let the rest of the West hang around. They host the Chiefs on Halloween in a must-win for Kansas City. The Chiefs really have to win the next three to stay in the race because they have a brutal five-game-stretch coming up. If the Raiders can get their act together during the bye week and get Carson Palmer ready to go, the West title may be on the line when they meet in the last game of the season.

NFC EAST

There will be lots of entertaining games between now and week 17, but it almost seems like we can just skip ahead to the last day of the season when Dallas is at the Giants and Philadelphia hosts Washington. That’s when this division will be sorted out.

NFC NORTH

The Packers have already got people talking about a 16-0 regular season. It’s probably not going to happen, but as long as Rodgers is healthy, they should win the North division. Detroit still has two shots at the defending champs though so they could make things interesting. Chicago is too far back to catch Green Bay but the Bears will be in the thick of the wild card race.

NFC SOUTH

The Falcons, Saints, and Bucs won a total of 34 games last year. They are on a similar pace right now, and, just like last year, one of them is going to get left out of the playoff picture. New Orleans has a one game lead and the last two at home, so they should have an edge. It could come down to which team gets knocked off by Carolina in the last month of the season.

NFC WEST

San Francisco has five wins. The rest of the division has three. It is the 49ers‘ division to give away. And if they keep playing well with a soft schedule coming up, they could even earn an opening round bye.

October 6, 2011

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Fathead’s NFL Power Rankings

By: Joe Williams

NFL Rankings:  As we approach Week 5 of the NFL season, here is how each of the NFL teams stacks up.

1.Green Bay Packers (4-0) — As the “Nature Boy” Ric Flair would say, “To be the man, you’ve gotta beat the man.” Until someone beats the Pack, they will be at the top of the rankings.

2. Baltimore Ravens (3-1) — After opening the season by dominating the defending AFC champion Steelers and blowing out the AFC runner-up Jets on Sunday, the Ravens are the class of the AFC.

3. New Orleans Saints (3-1) — Drew Brees and company gave the Packers all they wanted and followed that with three solid wins.

4. Buffalo Bills (3-1) — After pulling off the shocker of the year and beating New England, the Bills get beat by the Bengals.

5. New England Patriots (3-1) — Tom Brady’s offense hasn’t been held under 30 points yet.

6. Detroit Lions (4-0) — They won’t be undefeated much longer if they keep falling behind by 20 points.

7. Houston Texans (3-1) — Wade Phillips has got the defense playing much better.

8. New York Jets (2-2) — A two game losing streak makes this trip to New England huge for the Jets.

9. Atlanta Falcons (2-2) — Important stretch coming up for the Falcons with Green Bay and Detroit coming up in the next couple weeks.

10. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (3-1) — The Bucs need a win at San Francisco to carry momentum into tough stretch with Saints, Bears, Saints, Texans and Packers coming up.

11. San Diego Chargers (3-1) — Chargers should get healthy with the Broncos on Sunday and their bye week.

12. New York Giants (3-1) — G-men getting it done despite injuries. They may have gotten a break with the controversial play against the Cardinals.

13. Tennessee Titans (3-1) – Huge test for surprising Titans this week at Pittsburgh.

14. Washington Redskins (3-1) – The defense is giving up an NFC best 15.8 points per game. They have two weeks to get ready for a divisional showdown with the Eagles.

15. Pittsburgh Steelers (2-2) – Are the defending AFC champs suffering from a post-Super Bowl loss hangover? Or is it just that they cannot protect the quarterback?

16. Dallas Cowboys (2-2) – No team is more entertaining than “America’s Team”. Do the Cowboys ever play a game decided by more than one score?

17. Chicago Bears (2-2) – The Bears have a good chance to build a lead Sunday in Detroit. The question is will they be able to hold it?

18. San Francisco 49ers (3-1) – Their three wins is one more than the rest of the NFC West combined. The division is theirs to lose.

19. Oakland Raiders (2-2) – It looks like the Raiders are the team that will push San Diego in the AFC West.

20. Philadelphia Eagles (1-3) – It’s been a nightmare start for the “Dream Team”. They are probably glad to be hitting the road after the last two performances at home.

21. Cincinnati Bengals (2-2) – Got a shot to be 4-2 at the bye with two winnable games coming up. Not bad for a team who’s quarterback retired rather than play for them.

22. Cleveland Browns (2-2) – They have an extra week to recover from getting pounded by the Titans.

23. Carolina Panthers (1-3) – The good news is Cam Newton looks like he is their quarterback of the future. The bad news is New Orleans, Atlanta and Washington coming up.

24. Arizona Cardinals (1-3) – They should have beaten the Giants on Sunday. They head to Minnesota to face an angry Vikings team.

25. Jacksonville Jaguars (1-3) – The offense is experiencing some major growing pains with rookie Blaine Gabbert now playing quarterback. They average less than 10 points per game.

26. Denver Broncos (1-3) – It’s not Kyle Orton’s fault the Packers put 49 points on the board Sunday. Try telling that to the fans in Denver though.

27. Indianapolis Colts (0-4) – It’s going to be a long season without Peyton Manning. This team won’t quit though.

28. St. Louis Rams (0-4) – Injuries and the schedule have made them look worse than they really are. Unfortunately, they have Green Bay, Dallas and New Orleans for their next three.

29. Seattle Seahawks (1-3) – Put up 21 points in the second half Sunday. Only score 37 in their other 3.5 games.

30. Kansas City Chiefs (1-3) – They have played much better in the last two weeks.

31. Minnesota Vikings (0-4) – They would be ranked much higher if the NFL cut games to 30 minutes.

32. Miami Dolphins (0-4) – With a bye and the Jets coming up they could be winless when the Broncos come to town.