An unhealthy Tyler Eifert could spell disaster for the Cincinnati Bengals:

Photo credit: Andrew Weber

Author: Jon Kuzma

The Cincinnati Bengals have an emerging star in Tight End Tyler Eifert and the team has to be concerned with his lingering ankle injury. After leaving the Pro Bowl in a walking boot Eifert has been having a hard time bouncing back and because of that Eifert has decided to undergo surgery. That could put Eifert out for the beginning of the season and if the ankle doesn’t heal properly it could eventually put his season in question. Now doctors are optimistic that the Bengals tight end will only be sidelined for three months, but you never can predict when Eifert will be ready to go. After Tyler Eifert heals he will then have to strengthen that ankle until it’s strong enough to make cuts and pivots in a game environment. Athletes typically build up that strength during OTA’s and the off-season program but with Eifert being hurt he will miss out on those repetitions. That could ultimately cut into his production for the 2016 season when he does return to the field. Now don’t get it confused, Eifert is an A list talent in the league right now. However the injury and those lack of reps in training camp could cause number 85 to have a down year. That ultimately would be a huge letdown for the Bengals because they count on Eifert to be a big part of their offense. The team will have to get the job done early on in the year expecting very little from Tyler Eifert. Then hopefully if everything goes according to plan he can return during the middle of the season  or the end of the season and give that much needed boost. If the Bengals can get back to the postseason that is when Eifert is the most valuable. If the Bengals want to win they need all their players on the field late in the year. Last year they lost Andy Dalton during the postseason and they will need both Dalton and Eifert on the field and playing at a high level to make a Super Bowl run. Marvin Lewis has to be frustrated with the news of losing Eifert but in the NFL you have to expect the worst and hope for the best. We will see how long Tyler Eifert is sidelined for and it will be a huge factor for the Bengals in 2016.

Charity of the day: Center for Constitutional Rights

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The Houston Texans are waiting around for Jadeveon Clowney:

Photo credit: Ronald C. Modra / Sports Imagery

Author: Jon Kuzma

The Houston Texans committed a lot to Jadeveon Clowney when they drafted him first overall in the 2014 Draft. Clowney was a premier pass rusher at South Carolina and the Texans hoped those skills would translate over to the professional level. That process hasn’t been as smooth as the Houston Texans would like and now after two seasons of NFL action Clowney has just 4.5 sacks to show for his efforts. Pairing Clowney up next to JJ Watt seemed like a promising move for the Texans in 2014, but you have to wonder if the team would go a different route if they were allowed to redraft the 2014 Draft? With Khalil Mack in that same draft class, it’s a no brainer now that he would have been a much better fit with Watt than Clowney would have. So that just goes to show how much Clowney’s stock has dropped two years after the Texans selected him number 1. Plenty of football insiders thought he was the best player on the board but then an injury and lack of production changed all that. While it might be too early to completely write Clowney off because he has plenty of football left in his career. It’s still not a good start to what was supposed to be an immediate impact career defensively for the Houston Texans. The Texans were sold that this was a 10 sacks a year kind of guy and now after two seasons he has less than half of that. The physical tools are clearly there for Clowney but now it’s about staying healthy and putting it altogether when he is on the field. That is something he has rarely done and you know the Texans front office is alarmed by the lack of production on Clowney’s behalf. It’s a make or break year for Jadeveon Clowney, or he might find himself on the roster hot seat when his contract ends in 2017.

Charity of the day: Center for Constitutional Rights

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Ryan Fitzpatrick reiterates that he is playing in 2016:

Photo credit: Brett Carlsen / Getty Images Sport

Author: Jon Kuzma

Ryan Fitzpatrick was on SiriusXM NFL Radio recently and made it clear that he does plan on playing football in 2016. There were some questions on whether or not Fitzpatrick would play after contract negotiations with the Jets and his agent stalled out. Fitzpatrick made it clear he will play somewhere in 2016 and hinted that it was about getting paid for the value he provides to the team. After throwing for 31 touchdowns in 2015 you’d expect Fitzpatrick to be paid on par with someone of similar production. To compare how well Fitz played last year, you have to look at the group of players who also threw for 31 touchdowns. Aaron Rodgers is the name that sticks out most and that just goes to show how good Ryan Fitzpatrick has gotten at the quarterback position. To be in the same class last season as Aaron Rodgers is good company. There are also a list of other quarterbacks in the league that produced significantly less than Fitzpatrick in 2015 who make much more money. Fitzpatrick outperformed Sam Bradford, and Jay Cutler last year and both players made over 3x what Fitzpatrick made in 2015. Now with the Jets offering Fitz $8 million a year, it’s still too low for Ryan Fitzpatrick to accept and you have to side with Fitzpatrick on this one. Aaron Rogders makes around $22 million a year and while you can’t quite pay Fitzpatrick that if you’re the Jets. He still should be north of the $14 million mark per year and whether you want to make that a long term deal or a short term deal is up to the team that signs him. With Fitzpatrick being a little bit older in age you probably would want to offer him a two year contract and reassess him after that duration.

Look this guy has earned his money and now it’s time for some team to pay him. Fitzpatrick might have benefited from having big time receivers in Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker but when push comes to shove the guy can flat out play. It’s now or never for the Jets when it comes to re-signing Fitzpatrick and we will see if the Jets make the right move and pay him.

Charity of the day: Doctors Without Borders USA

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How will the Patriots fare with Jimmy Garoppolo at the helm?

Photo credit: Thomas B Shea

Author: Jon Kuzma

The New England Patriots find themselves in unknown territory entering the 2016 season with Tom Brady being sidelined by suspension. In order to overcome that setback the team will have to get the most out of back up quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo who will serve as the team’s starter for the first four games. Garoppolo was one of the best quarterbacks in college football in 2013 even though he played at the Football Championship Subdivision level. Garoppolo who played at Eastern Illinois shattered all of Tony Romo’s records at the school and won the Walter Peyton Award in his final season, which is given to the best offensive player in the FCS. Now after sitting behind Brady for two season Garoppolo will look to guide the Patriots to the best start possible. The team will open the season in Arizona against the Cardinals which will be a very tough match up. The Cardinals pass rush has really taken the next step this off-season and that could give fits for Garoppolo if the Patriots aren’t careful. Truthfully the Cardinals made a lot of big time moves and it will be tough for the Patriots to beat them without Brady. In the second week of action the Patriots will face the Miami Dolphins who are led by new Head Coach Adam Gase. We aren’t sure how the new leadership will affect the Dolphins but New England should be able to pull this game out. The Patriots are the better football team and there is no reason Garoppolo shouldn’t be able to get the job done against Miami. In week 3 the Patriots will play the Houston Texans and this match up is tough to measure. The Texans have made some big time upgrades and it’s yet to be determined how much of an impact those moves will have. This game could go either way but expect the Patriots to win this one was well. Finally the Patriots will finish the Jimmy Garoppolo stint against the Buffalo Bills. Buffalo has improved greatly under Rex Ryan but it’s still a game the Pats can win. Don’t expect it to come easy though and if Buffalo does end up coming out on top, don’t be surprised. It will be tough for the Patriots to finish 3-1 with Garoppolo calling the shots but that is exactly what the team should aim for.

Charity of the day: Doctors Without Borders USA

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Osweiler and the Broncos are both downplaying their grudge but they’re not fooling anyone:

Photo credit: Joe Amon / Denver Post

Author: Jon Kuzma

The Denver Broncos and Brock Osweiler have some bad blood flowing and while both sides are downplaying the situation, they are both doing a horrible job of hiding their true feelings. If you’re not aware of the situation Brock Osweiler felt slighted by the Broncos when they benched him for Peyton Manning who had struggled much of last year during the regular season. That caused Osweiler to spurn the Broncos this past off-season and Osweiler instead signed with the Houston Texans. While that clearly left a bad taste in the Broncos mouth, it was Osweiler and John Elway’s relationship which really caused the rift between both sides. Osweiler was Elway’s son’s college roommate. That led Elway to believe the two had a special bond and when Osweiler rejected the Broncos offers things took a turn for the worse. Elway fired back by stating “we want players who want to be here.” That was clearly a shot at Brock Osweiler and now we will get to see that drama unfold week 7 of the 2016 season. A win in that match up would go a long way for Osweiler’s legacy but it won’t be easy with all the moves Elway has made. The Broncos were looking rough after Osweiler and Malik Jackson skipped town early on in the off-season. Elway patched those holes by landing Paxton Lynch in the draft, and retaining Von Miller, and both running backs (CJ Anderson, and Ronnie Hillman).That will give the Broncos an outstanding rookie quarterback with two good running backs to make life on Lynch easier. For the Texans they have DeAnthony Hopkins and newly drafted receivers in Will Fuller and Braxton Miller. Houston is hoping that will be enough to get pass Denver and we will really see in that game just how good Brock Osweiler is. Both sides will be dying to win this football game and it will provide football fans with some great story lines during the season. We will see who comes out on top?

Charity of the day: Student Conservation Association

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Did the Packers do enough to gain ground on the Vikings?

Photo credit: Patrick Smith / Getty Images Sport

Author: Jon Kuzma

The Green Bay Packers did enough to make the playoffs last season but at times they had problems protecting Aaron Rodgers in the passing game. In order to help those problems the team drafted Jason Spriggs in the 2nd round. Spriggs was a stand out offensive lineman at the University of Indiana and will certainly improve the Packers pass protection. The team also added Cory Tucker, Jeremy Vujnovich, and Matt Rotheram to address the problem but you have to wonder if those players have the capability to fulfill the team’s need. The Packers whole offense is based on allowing Aaron Rodgers tie to operate and the team was clearly having a problem last season with Green Bay giving up 47 sacks. When you have a problem that is that drastic it takes marquee players to address those shortcomings. Spriggs can be the guy but that is only one position on the offensive line. You’d really like to see the team go after a big time free agent to give Rodgers some help upfront but General Manager Ted Thompson is always reluctant to do so. While the Packers didn’t have a bad draft, that lack of action in free agency might be the reason they can’t catch up to the Vikings when it’s all said and done. Minnesota is trending upward right now and they are the best they’ve been in a long time. The Packers had to be aggressive to gain ground on them and we will see if the moves they made are enough to get them back on top of the NFC North. It seems like they needed to do a little more but you never know how good a team is going to be until they step on the field. If the Packers struggle in 2015 we will see if they shake things up with the front office next off-season.

Charity of the day: Student Conservation Association

Go donate! www.thesca.org

Antonio Brown and AJ Green still headline the AFC North as the most talented receivers:

Photo credit: Andy Lyons / Getty Images Sport

Author: Jon Kuzma

The AFC North is a division that is known for it’s fierce competition. You have the Steelers and Ravens rivalry and the new Steelers and Bengals rivalry. In order to compete in those contests each team has to put the most talented receivers they can on the field. For the Steelers that is easily Antonio Brown and for the Bengals that is clearly AJ Green. These are the top 2 receivers in the conference and both players have been playing at a high level for a very long time. With Antonio Brown you have a guy that has been a top 3 receiver in the league the last two season. Brown can beat you a number of different ways and when you pair him along with Ben Roethlisberger you begin to understand why his numbers have been so impressive. Antonio Brown has been so good that for the last 3 consecutive seasons he has went over the 1,000 yard receiving mark. That goes to show how dominant this guy has been on the football field and don’t expect anything less from him anytime soon. For the Bengals AJ Green has been equally as impressive. Green enters his 6th season never finishing under the 1,000 yard mark in his career. That has been 5 consecutive seasons of bringing in at least 1,000 yards receiving and when you have a player that dominant, it adds such a huge boost to your football team. Green has also contributed 45 touchdowns to the Bengals offense as well. So you can see how big of an impact this guy has had and it’s clear both of these players are the best wide receivers in the division. Look for both players to continue their dominance in 2016 and keep an eye on which player has a better season between the two. That will likely mean that player is the best receiver in the division.

Charity of the day: Mental Health America

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Football online: Adrian Peterson and Todd Gurley should be at the top of every fantasy football draft board

Photo credit: Kent Nishimura / Getty Images Sport

Author: Jon Kuzma

Most people who participate in fantasy football understand the importance of the running back position. In fact running backs are usually the first position drafted in fantasy drafts every year and that is because that position can net all kinds of points for fantasy owners. That is why it’s a no brainer that Adrian Peterson should be the number 1 player on everyone’s board. Peterson is year in and year out is the best running back in football. That is why Peterson is a 3 time NFL rushing champion and a 7 time Pro Bowler. A lot of people have been hyping up Ezekiel Elliott and his fantasy value. Stick to Adrian Peterson who will be your bread and butter all year long. The other guy who should be on your radar is Todd Gurley. Last year around this time all the discussion was who is going to be better Todd Gurley or Melvin Gordon. Gurley really came out and solidified himself as the better pro in 2015 and he should be high on every owner’s draft board. This is a guy who came out and rushed for 1,106 rushing yards as a rookie, not to mention 10 touchdowns. Now coming into his second season Gurley will be more confident and more aware of what it takes to succeed in this league. That means his numbers could be even better in 2016 and expect Jeff Fisher to trust Gurley’s legs often to make life easier on rookie quarterback Jared Goff. These are two of the league’s most marquee running backs, you have the crafty veteran in Adrian Peterson and the up and coming Todd Gurley. Either choice early on is about the best you can do as owner drafting. Remember talent trumps all when it comes to building a football teams. Drafting one of these players gets your team off to a good start.

Charity of the day: National 4-H Council

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With Manning gone how many more years does Brady have left?

Photo credit: Christian Petersen

Author: Jon Kuzma

Tom Brady has been a big time quarterback in the National Football League for a very long time. Ever since Brady replaced Drew Bledsoe in 2001, Brady has done nothing but overachieve in this league. 11 Pro Bowls and 4 Super Bowls later you have to wonder how much gas Brady has left in the tank? Now with Brady’s suspension of 4 games from the Defelategate fiasco, you have to wonder at what point will Brady decide to walk away from it all? It’s clear Brady has very left to prove at the professional ranks. This is a guy who will without a doubt be in the Pro Football Hall of Fame someday. He also helped transition modern day football into a passing league by throwing for 428 career touchdowns which includes 50 touchdown passes in 2007. When you have a player playing at that high of a level, he teaches the other players around him how to get it done because he gives you a template of how to achieve that success. Brady and Manning certainly pushed the envelope forward for the league and it’s hard to understand why commissioner Goodell would want to take down a guy who helped build the league into what we know and love today. That unfair work environment has to upset Brady and it really can go two ways. Brady will either elevate himself and continue to fight the uphill battle against the league and all the people who turned against him, which is very likely. Or maybe Tom Brady will be content with his accomplishments and walk away from the game at the end of the season. Brady has stated that he would like to play for several more years but the grind of showing up to every practice, and traveling to every game starts to weigh on you sooner or later. Not to mention if Brady left the game after this season he still would have his health intact, which seems to be a key priority for most players these days. Hopefully Brady will continue to play for a long time but don’t be surprised if he decides he has also had his “fill” of pro football. He has a family to look after now and at some point he is going to make his personal life the first option. It’s been a thrill to watch him play and football fans should be grateful they got to watch the best to ever do it.

Charity of the day: National 4-H Council

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Doug Baldwin is looking to follow up his stellar 2015 performance with more production:

Photo credit: Jamie Squire

Author: Jon Kuzma

Doug Baldwin finished in a 3 way tie for league leader in touchdown catches in 2015 with 14. That total was tied along with Allen Robinson and Brandon Marshall two other outstanding players. That goes to show the company Baldwin is associated with when it comes to catching the football and the future is bright for the Seahawks’ emerging star. Baldwin carved up opposing defensive backfields all year long and his talents were most notably on display against the Ravens and Steelers last year. Against both those teams Baldwin finished with 3 touchdown receptions and when you have a player putting up that much production by himself, good things usually happen for that players team. Those are big returns for Seattle considering that the team acquired Doug Baldwin by signing him as an undrafted free agent in 2011. Since then Baldwin has recorded 29 touchdown catches and 3,826 receiving yards. Pretty impressive stats when you consider that no team even wanted this guy in the 2011 Draft. Seattle has a history of taking players who were less valued and turning them into true contributors. It comes from their strong system and Pete Carroll’s ability to mold players into successful NFL players. Baldwin also benefited from establishing a chemistry with quarterback Russell Wilson. Wilson is pretty good at extending plays with his feet and establishing that rapport with Baldwin allowed the two to understand where the holes in the defense are going to be when Wilson does run. That has resulted in a spike in Doug Baldwin’s production and the pair could be even better in 2016. Baldwin also has done a great job improving his abilities when it comes to acrobatic catches. We’ve seen some pretty big time catches out of Baldwin whether he was making a 1 handed reception or elevating and high pointing the football by out jumping everyone. Those little techniques and intricacies of the wide receiver position come with experience and it’s clear Doug Baldwin is further along than anyone thought he would be. Landing this guy as a undrafted free agent is like finding a diamond in the rough, it doesn’t happen very often but every once in awhile a rare talent like Baldwin comes along. Seahawks fans have to be ecstatic about this guy’s play on the football field.

Charity of the day: Chesapeake Bay Foundation

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