How the Patriots Have Remained Atop of the League for so long: A Balance of Change and Stability


Photo credit: Keith Allison

Author: Joey Carr

You either love or hate the New England Patriots; there’s really no in between when talking about this sometimes controversial but always consistent NFL franchise. If you love them, you’re more than likely from New England or a surrounding area. If you hate them, you’re pretty much from anywhere else in the country. They’ve been given the nickname “The Evil Empire” by some of the haters, which was already given to the New York Yankees after their reign of tyranny over baseball. They’ve been accused of countless violations of the league’s rules, but have really only broken one, and are known as one of the most annoying teams in the league. However, if you take a look across all of professional sports since 2000, no other team other than the San Antonio Spurs have been nearly as consistent as the Pats. They’ve won 4 Super Bowls, had numerous Pro Bowlers and All-Pro’s, and so many Division Titles you can’t count them on your fingers. So the question I’m posing is how have the Patriots stayed so good for so long? The answer: an amazing balance between change and stability.

Stability and change aren’t usually paired in the same sentence unless you’re talking about an antonym for one of the words. However, like on many other occasions, head coach Bill Belichick has found out a way to balance out two things that shouldn’t go together. In regards to the “change” aspect, the phrase, “Next Man Up” defines the Patriots as a team better than any other phrase out there (with the exception of “Do Your Job”). For example: in week 19, the Patriots lost breakout running back Dion Lewis to a torn ACL in the second quarter. In the next quarter, backup running back Brandon Bolden comes in and catches a 20-yard touchdown pass, something that Lewis had grown accustomed to. Another example: the offensive line of New England is something that isn’t getting talked about too much but it was one of the more revolutionary things happening in football today. Instead of keeping a core group of offensive lineman out on of the field drive after drive, the Pats carry multiple extra linemen, and rotate them all game long. No other team in the NFL has been able to crack this or duplicate it, and it seems like such a simple idea. But the amount of work that has to be done to make this idea work is staggering; Tom Brady and the running backs have to develop a rapport with each linemen and linemen group so they can know what to expect when running a play. And while it’s had its kinks, Tom Brady hasn’t been sacked nearly as much as he was last year.

In regards to the stability aspect to the Patriots success, the only thing you need to look at is the head coach and quarterback. The one thing both of the positions have in common? They haven’t changed since 2001. Bill Belichick and Tom Brady will go down as the best head coach-quarterback duo in NFL history, and for good reason. They’ve been with each other for 15+ years and have yet to have a losing record together. That is truly spectacular. Every team in the NFL has had at

least one losing record since 2001, and every NFL team has had a different quarterback and head coach since the turn of the century, but not the Patriots. That amount of stability is something to marvel at. You see coaches and players bicker all the time (see Greg Hardy’s clipboard incident) and the fact that the Patriots haven’t had a noticeable locker room or sideline dispute all these years in just mind-boggling. The Patriot Way has been in effect ever since Belichick took over, and has stayed the persona of New England for the entirety of Belichick’s tenure, and that stability is one of the bigger reasons that New England has stayed so good for all this time.

There isn’t one NFL executive or coach out there that will tell you New England, while controversial, hasn’t been the best football team of this generation. “It’s almost unfair”, said Rex Ryan in one of his latest press conferences. Tom Brady isn’t getting worse with age, but better. Bill Belichick is only growing smarter and coming up with new ways to be stable by constantly changing his team. No one else in football does it better than New England, and if Tom Brady stays true to word that he wants to play another 10 years, the hatred for New England is definitely going to remain.

Charity of the day: World Vision

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Jacksonville outlasts the Titans win TNF match up 19-13:

Jaguars at Ravens 12/14/14

Photo credit: Keith Allison

Author: Jon Kuzma

The Jacksonville Jaguars were able to advance pass Marcus Mariota and the Tennessee Titans for a 19-13 victory yesterday in Thursday Night Football. While the game was a low scoring game that saw most of the action come from both team’s kickers. Give credit to Blake Bortles and Allen Robinson for doing what they’ve done all season long. Beat defenses through the air and looking good while doing so. Robinson finished the game with 5 receptions for 113 yards. The former Nittany Lion has been phenomenal all season long for the Jaguars bringing his receiving totals to 871 yards and 7 touchdowns on the year. Robinson has been a staple for the Jaguars offense and does a great job of making Bortles job much easier by giving him a 6 foot 3 209 pound receiver on the outside to throw to. It was clear because of players like Robinson, Bortles was able to outplay rookie sensation Marcus Mariota and that is a big part of why the Jags were able to walk away from this game as winners. When you compare the two young passers stats, Bortles finished with a 91.3 rating while Mariota finished with a 82.0 rating. That extra year of experience for Bortles clearly has made him the much more polished passer. Showing the Jaguars made a great move drafting him in the first round of the 2014 draft. While Mariota wasn’t as good as Bortles you can clearly tell there is potential there, The Jaguars have better players around Bortles which help him succeed. Outside of Delanie Walker Marcus Mariota doesn’t have that many reliable guys that help take the weight off his shoulders. If Dorial Green-Beckham can get it going that would be a huge uplift for this team. Still the Titans need to draft another edge player to help Mariota build this team into a future contender. Something the Jaguars have already done with Bortles.

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Something Special is Happening in Minnesota


Photo credit: Joe Bielawa

Author: Joey Carr

Prior to the season’s start, many people, including myself, predicted that the upstart Minnesota Vikings would be one of the surprise squads that would sneak their way into a playoff spot come January. They were getting Adrian Peterson back from a year long hiatus, sophomore quarterback Tedy Bridgewater looked ready to improve on his rookie season, and the defense had a young, stable foundation that was above average the year before. All of the pieces were present for this Vikings team to compete with the St. Louis Rams or an NFC South team for a wildcard spot. Well, 10 weeks in to the NFL season, the Vikings are 7-2, in first place, and are more than capable to capture their first NFC North Title since the Brett Favre days in 2009.

There was wide speculation and agreements that the return of Adrian Peterson would spark an otherwise dormant Vikings offense that had plenty of weapons, but needed another piece to bring it all together. Well, low and behold, AP was exactly what the doctor ordered for Minnesota. As soon as he stepped on the field for Minny’s first game, it was evident that Tedy Bridgewater and the rest of the offense were stagnant no longer. While it’s true they lost their first game to the abysmal San Francisco 49ers, everything since has been flowing nicely, as they’ve gone 6-1 since, and it’s mostly in part to the large role Peterson has played in the Vikes offense this year. He currently leads the league in rushing yards with 961, and is averaging over 100 yards per game, which has enabled Tedy Bridgewater to be a much more effective passer. He’s (Bridgewater) not making nearly as many mistakes as he did in his rookie campaign that saw him throw 12 interceptions in just 10 games. His rating is up, yards per game have increased, and he’s certainly giving his receivers better chances to haul in passes.

Speaking of receivers, possibly one of the more surprising factors to the Vikes 7-2 record has been first year wideout Stefon Diggs out of Maryland. Diggs was taken with the 146th pick in last year’s draft, and was expected to carve out a minimal role with Minnesota’s offense this year. However, so far, his production has been anything but minimal, as he has compiled over 500 yards receiving along with a pair of touchdowns thus far. He’s undoubtedly been one of the brighter spots of this Vikings team, and should remain to be a big producer for Tedy Bridgewater and the offense. To go along with Diggs, Mike Wallace has also shown that he’s back to being a worthy receiver in this league. After an unsuccessful stint with the Dolphins, Wallace was shipped up north to Minny for Greg Jennings, and so far he’s proved that the Vikings were the clear winners of that trade, even if the Dolphins were trying to get rid of Wallace’s monster salary. While he hasn’t quite produced like some thought he would, he’s been a serviceable receiver that accumulates at least 30 yards every time he’s out on the field. Third year man Cordarelle Patterson on the other hand has disappointed to say the least after a couple seasons that saw him explode for big play after big play. Due to his dismal production as a receiver, he’s

been downgraded to kickoff returner, but he’s still providing excitement for this Vikings team with one kickoff return for a touchdown this season. The rest of the receiving corps consists of Jarius Wright and Charles Johnson, who both have over 100 yards receiving on the season and remain viable options in the passing game. Overall, the Minnesota Vikings offense, with the exception of Adrian Peterson, is comprised of average players who seemingly come together every game to form a reliable and sustainable offense for head coach Mike Zimmer.

Maybe the number one reason the Vikings have succeeded this season has been the stellar play of their defense. Anthony Barr and Terrance Newman lead the D, and so far have been good enough to keep Minnesota in games and have forced a fair amount of turnovers. The strong point of this defense is the secondary, however, which boasts two solid cornerbacks in Xavier Rhodes and Terrance Newman. The secondary as a whole has only allowed 228 passing yards per game, which ranks in the top 10 in the league and is a vast improvement from last year. While they’ve only intercepted 6 passes, they’re still limiting the damage that the opposing quarterback can cause with steady coverage and well timed pass breakups. The run defense isn’t too shabby either, as the front seven and linebacker corps are only giving up 100 yards a game. As a whole, the Minnesota defense is only allowing roughly 330 yards per game, and if they can sustain that number, they should find themselves in good shape heading into the postseason.

All in all, this Vikings team has something special about it. They’re not the high powered offensive juggernaut like the Patriots and they don’t have a shutdown defense like Denver or Carolina, but they still find ways to win games. While it’s not always pretty, how they win doesn’t matter; the only thing that matters is the number of wins in the win column at the end of the season. If Adrian Peterson, Tedy Bridgewater, and Stefon Diggs can keep pacing the offense with 25 points per game, then the defense should be able to take care of the rest. However, they have yet to play their long time division rival Green Bay, and those two games should determine if the Vikings have what it takes to make a playoff run this year.

Charity of day: American Studies Center

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Bortles and Jags host Titans in Thursday Night Football Tonight

Jaguars at Ravens 12/14/14

Photo credit: Keith Allison

Author: Jon Kuzma

When the Jacksonville Jaguars take on the Tennessee Titans tonight it will be an AFC south showdown between the number 3 and 4 ranked teams in that division. With the Colts and Texans both tied at 4-5 on the year. It is still anyone’s division for the taking. The Jaguars are 3-6 and the Titans are 2-7 proving that a solid winning streak could put any team atop this division. That is why this game is so big for both of the teams heading into this match up. The winner inches closer towards clinching the division while the loser falls back into the abyss that is defeat (a dark unpleasant place). Believe or not the Jaguars enter this match up with a little momentum on their side. They were able to achieve a 22-20 win over the Ravens last week and are slowly improving with Bortles at the helm. Just a couple weeks before that they were able to knock off Rex Ryan and the Buffalo Bills, so clearly these Jaguars aren’t the same Jaguars of the last seven years or so. The team hasn’t been to the playoffs since 2007 and truthfully with the division being so wide open. This is their best chance at doing so. They’ve been beating the teams that they should beat which is a good sign for this young team. When they face the Titans tonight it’s another team that the Jaguars should beat. It will be up to Blake Bortles, Allen Hurns, Allen Robinson and the rest of the Jacksonville Jaguars to make that happen. Those three guys really make up the core group of this offensive attack. They will be going against a very sound Tennessee Titans defense who are ranked 5th in the league in yards surrendered. Will the potent Jaguars offense be enough to get by the outstanding Titans defense? Find out tonight on NFL Network.

Charity of day: American Studies Center

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The end is near for Peyton Manning


Photo credit: Jeffrey  Beall

Author: Joey Carr

We all knew this day would come; all good things must come to an end, and it looks as if the best Regular Season quarterback to ever play is finally near his end. For years, Peyton Manning has baffled us with his insane accuracy, ability to read defenses, and most of all the amount of records he’s shattered with ease. But now, the injuries are piling up, there is little to no zip on his passes, short and long, and a Hall of Fame career might be near the finish line.

Two years ago, none of us would have expected Peyton Manning to be leading the league in interceptions (17!!!). None of us would have expected his illustrious career to come to a breaking halt just two years after he had one of the best seasons by a quarterback in the history of the NFL. But that’s where we’re at, and we just have to deal with the fact that we probably won’t be seeing the Peyton Manning we’ve all come to respect anymore. Sure, he might come back once his torn plantar fasciitis heals up, but still, how effective could he be? If you’re a diehard football fan like myself, you probably either love Peyton Manning, or you hate him, but you know you respect him. It’s like if you’re a Red Sox fan and you’re watching Derek Jeter play; you hate the Captain with such a deep, burning passion because he’s so darn good but in the end, you absolutely need to respect what the man has done for the game of baseball, even if he did play for the Yankees. It’s the same situation with the Sheriff (unless you’re a Denver fan or a Colt fan that still roots for him). There’s no denying that he’s a first ballot Hall of Famer, just look at the records he holds: Most passing touchdowns, most passing yards, single season passing yards and touchdowns, and the list goes on. Yes, he has choked in the playoffs quite a bit (13 three and outs), but that’s not what most people will remember him for. He will be remembered as the guy who started the Chicken Parm jingle, the guy who made the word “Omaha” so famous, and the guy who dazzled the world with crazy game after crazy game.

Now, there is still an entire half season to go. Yes, Brock Osweiler is in at quarterback for the time being but Denver is 7-2 and still possesses a top tier defense that is capable of winning games by themselves so it is more than likely that we will see the Broncos in the playoffs. And if you don’t think John Elway will give Peyton Manning the chance to compete in perhaps his last playoff run, you’re out of your mind. Of course, this is all predicated upon whether or not Manning is healthy enough to give it a final go and if Brock Osweiler hasn’t pulled a 2013 Nick Foles and gone on a rampage through the final 7 games. But either way, let’s hope we haven’t seen the last of Peyton Manning because if we have, it’s a loss to the football and the football world.

Charity of the day: Defeat Diabetes Foundation

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Week 11 Power Rankings:

Eagles at Redskins 10/04/15

Photo credit: Keith Allison

Author: Joey Carr

Week 11 Power Rankings

1. New England Patriots

2. Carolina Panthers

3. Arizona Cardinals

4. Minnesota Vikings

5. Cincinnati Bengals

6. Atlanta Falcons

7. Pittsburgh Steelers

8. Denver Broncos

9. Green Bay Packers

10. New York Giants

11. Seattle Seahawks

12. Kansas City Chiefs

13. Buffalo Bills

14. Oakland Raiders

15. New York Jets

16. Indianapolis Colts

17. Washington Redskins

18. St. Louis Rams

19. Miami Dolphins

20. Philadelphia Eagles

21. Houston Texans

22. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

23. Chicago Bears

24. Dallas Cowboys

25. Cleveland Browns

26. San Francisco 49ers

27. Detroit Lions

28. New Orleans Saints

29. San Diego Chargers

30. Baltimore Ravens

31. Jacksonville Jaguars

32. Tennessee Titans

Charity of the day: Defeat Diabetes Foundation

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Whats happening around the league: Week 11


Photo credit: S.P Ablab

Author: Jon Kuzma

Rob Ryan gets the boot in New Orleans

Rob Ryan was fired today by the New Orleans Saints after surrendering 47 points to the Redskins. The firing was no surprise to Saints fans because Ryan and Saints head coach Sean Payton have got into several sideline arguments. Payton told the press he had concerns with Ryan’s complex playbook. Which often caused players confusion and allowed big plays due to misalignments. With the Saints sitting at 4-6 they decided a change would be the best decision for this team. While that may be the case their playoff hopes likely went out of the window with that loss to Washington. Unless they can win out for the rest of the season. Not likely.

Patriots injury woes continue:

First the New England Patriots lost starting offensive tackle Nate Solder to a right bicep tear which sidelined him for the season. Then the team had to watch Dion Lewis who was emerging into star tear his ACL. He is also done for the season. Now the Patriots will be without Julian Edelman one of their top wide receivers for the rest of the regular season. Edelman broke a bone in his left foot and the injury will require surgery. There is optimism around Patriots camp that Edelman will be able to return this year maybe in the playoffs. Still this is a major set back for this team.

Romo will return to the Dallas Cowboys Sunday:

Tony Romo will return to the Dallas Cowboys Sunday to face the Miami Dolphins after being sidelined by a broken collar bone for several games. The Cowboys are 2-7 on the year and in ruins after losing both Tony Romo and Dez Bryant to significant injuries. One has to wonder if Romo coming back so early is the right move for the team. The season is lost sitting five games behind .500. Why rush Romo back and risk getting him hurt again when there is no playoff hopes in sight? Regardless expect Tony Romo to be under center Sunday and that will certainly improve the Cowboys chances of winning that game.

Charity of the day: Help the Children

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Manning crowned all time passing champion and demoted all in the same night:


Photo credit: Jeffrey Beall

Author: Jon Kuzma

Peyton Manning had a rough outing last Sunday against the Kansas City Chiefs. The Broncos lost to the Chiefs 29-13 and Manning threw four interceptions and was benched for Brock Osweiler. This is clearly the end for one of the greatest quarterbacks the NFL has ever seen. Even if Manning had a great off-season in the weight room, at most he has one season beyond this year left. However at the level he is playing at right now it would be very unlikely that he does come back next year. Manning has already established himself as the single greatest passer ever in terms of passing yardage. He has nothing left to prove and with his body ailing it just feels like it’s time for Manning to shut it down. Osweiler has proved to be a competent replacement for Manning and at what point do the Broncos want to turn the page? Manning’s 9 touchdowns and 17 interceptions on the season aren’t going to win many games in Denver. While it is a very sad sight to see, don’t be too upset for Peyton. He still has a lot to hold his head high about. Never have we seen another quarterback do it with the command and style that Peyton did it with. In the generation before Peyton Manning it was all about Dan Marino. Peyton exceeded those expectations and propelled the NFL into a new direction of elite quarterbacks. The league benefited greatly from that move and games became more entertaining as QB’s such as Manning and Brady showcased their worth. Now with the end in sight don’t be surprised if Peyton gets into coaching. When he was suffering from the neck injury before he got to Denver. Old Miss offered him their head coaching gig. It will only be a matter of time before someone else does as well.


Charity of the day: Help the Children

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All reigns must come to an end: good riddance Seattle Seahawks

Seahawks at Redskins 10/6/14

Photo credit: Keith Allison

Author: Jon Kuzma

The Seattle Seahawks had another set back in NFL action when they lost to the Arizona Cardinals 39-32. After going to back to back Super Bowls and forming one of the greatest defenses the NFL has ever seen. It’s finally time to say good riddance to the Seattle Seahawks. It was awesome to be able to watch this team grow from that team that knocked off the New Orleans Saints in the 2011 playoffs. To a team we seen hoist the Lombardi trophy and look nearly untouchable on the football field. The team you are seeing now is a shell of that team however. Things started to take a bad turn for the Hawks when they tried to downsize Marshawn Lynch and sell the public Russell Wilson. It was Lynch’s hard nose approach that led Seattle on the terror that they were able to achieve. There were even rumors floating around the Seahawks camp that the team wanted Russell Wilson to be the star oppose to Lynch in Super Bowl 49. That is why the team chose to throw the ball on goal line instead of feeding beast mode. Apparently the Seahawks thought Marshawn Lynch’s rebellious attitude wasn’t a good fit for their future. The front office instead wanted to be led by Russell Wilsons’ All-American guy personality instead. This was evident when the Seahawks paid Wilson $87.6 million dollars oppose to Lynch’s $31 million. Yet Lynch has always been the heart and soul of this team while Wilson unjustly got the money and the spotlight. Even when the Seahawks were losing earlier this season did that stop Wilson from staying out of the public spotlight? Not at all, the quarterback was seen in number of tabloids out with his hi-profile girlfriend when he should of been staying off the grid and focusing on his game. The Seahawks gambled that the nice guy was the right guy for this team and they got burned. All while clearly further alienating beast mode from the situation. When it comes down to it the Seahawks should of known better than investing that much money into a quarterback who isn’t a traditional pocket passer. They also should of known the talent on their own roster better and promoted the people who deserved it. Now because of these costly decisions the Seahawks are fading back into NFL irrelevance.

Charity of the day: Proliteracy Worldwide

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Week 10 Picks


Week 10 Picks revised staff picks


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