Texans look like they are poised to take the AFC South:

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Photo credit: Scott Miller

Author: Jon Kuzma

With the Houston Texans and Indianapolis Colts both tied for the AFC South division lead. Their match up this weekend should be an interesting one. The stakes make the game a much more compelling one as the regressing Colts look to fend off the red hot Texans. Some how after losing Andrew Luck the Colts have managed to still stay atop the division. Matt Hasselbeck was able to insert himself into the starting line up and win a couple games for this team. The team is starting to slowly lose momentum though. They were rolled last week by the Jaguars 51-16 which is not a very good sign heading into this week. On the other hand the Texans have dropped two straight but have taken tremendous strides from 2014 to 2015. They were the number 1 pick in the 2014 draft because they had the worst record in the entire NFL. Now they are 6-7 and on the verge of winning the AFC south division and going to the playoffs. Much of that success is a result of players on this team maturing. One particular player who developed into a fine pro receiver is Deandre Hopkins. Hopkins who is in his 3rd season out of Clemson has amassed 18 touchdowns receptions during his career. Providing the Texans with a great fade receiver who does a great job of high pointing the football against defenders. Hopkins’ jumping ability has been a big reason the Texans have been able to put up points on the outside and truly add another dimension to this offense. The other main factor for this team of course has been JJ Watt and the Texans defense. Watt is putting together another historic season recording 13.5 sacks on the year. He is once again inspiring his teammates on defense and getting the whole team to play at a higher level. That has translated into the Texans defense being ranked 7th in the league in fewest yards surrendered. If the Jaguars were tied with the Colts and Texans you would most likely give them the nod to win this division. With them sitting a game back however it seems like that the best bet to win this division will be the Texans. They are a team that is on an upswing compared to the Colts downswing. So the trend just favors the Texans.

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Cousins leadership a large reason the Redskins are looking at a playoff spot:

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Photo credit: Keith Allison

Author: Jon Kuzma

It’s easy to get sick of a politician who constantly does good solely for their own self interest. Kirk Cousins compassionate approach however is truly genuine. The former Michigan State Spartan quarterback seems to care about the people around him and that form of leadership has translated to success for the Washington Redskins. Cousins approach is a complete 180 from the approach that Robert Griffin III had. Which was a more showboat all eyes on me mentality. While some players can back up that bravado the Redskins struggled with Griffin at the helm, only to be resurrected by Cousins. This year the Redskins have been a true contender which this team hasn’t been able to say in a very long time. A lot of credit deserves to be given to Jay Gruden for improving this team. The Redskins also caught a few lucky breaks along the way which included injuries early on to Tony Romo and Dez Bryant. Those injuries knocked the Cowboys out of contention early and left the three other NFC East teams to duke it out. Through all of the chaos Cousins emerged as a promising quarterback in the National Football League. Throwing for 18 touchdowns and only 11 interceptions on the year. He also was able to account for 3,306 yards through the air showing that he can make all the professional level throws. With the skill he has developed over his four year career, that ability to get others to buy into his leadership, and some lucky breaks along the way. Cousins has the D.C area loving pro football again. The team hasn’t had a winning season since 2012 and this year is great opportunity for this team to get north of that .500 win percentage. It will be up to Kirk Cousins to do what he has done all year. Rally his teammates and continue to lead by example.

*Note- Dedicated to my mother Tammy Kuzma for being the biggest Kirk Cousins fan.

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Jags are coming off impressive win but still remain a game out of the AFC South lead:

Jaguars at Ravens 12/14/14

Photo credit: Keith Allison

Author: Jon Kuzma

The Jacksonville Jaguars absolutely throttled the Indianapolis Colts last weekend 51-16. In that match up quarterback Blake Bortles was able to throw for 250 yards and 3 touchdowns on the day. Making it look easy and taking advantage of the Colts secondary time and time again. Believe it or not the Colts are the division leader tied along with the Houston Texans. So when you see the Jaguars hang 50 points on the Colts you think oh yea the Jaguars are going to catch the Colts and Texans pass them and win this division. That might not be the case though with the Colts and Texans playing each other this week. One of those teams is going to continue their one game advantage while the Jags will be taking on the Falcons. Not a very easy game especially since Atlanta has been frustrated with their struggles lately. They will be looking to take their anger out on the Jaguars who are a very winnable game for the Falcons. While the Jaguars have made tremendous strides this year. You really have to go back to their week 12 loss against the Chargers and their week 13 loss against the Titans. Both of those games were chances for the Jaguars to pull ahead in this division against evenly matched opponents talent wise. Instead the Jaguars stumbled and fell to the position they are in now. Bortles second year development has been impressive but you would really like to see the young quarterback win those games that the team should win. Don’t get me wrong Bortles is one of the games most promising young passers but losses also to the Buccaneers and Dolphins concern you about Bortles consistency winning wise. There will be a small chance with 3 weeks remaining that the Jags can win out and potentially make it to the post season. They will face the Falcons, Saints, and Texans. We will find out a lot about the Jaguars and Bortles ability to over come the odds during those three games. It’s officially sink or swim for the Jacksonville Jaguars.

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Eagles flying high after last Sundays win against the Bills:

Eagles at Redskins 10/04/15

Photo credit: Keith Allison

Author: Jon Kuzma

The Philadelphia Eagles are back on track after a big win last weekend against the Buffalo Bills. The win pushes Philly one step closer to the postseason and winning the NFC East division. The Eagles are currently in a three way tie for first place of that division along with the Giants and Redskins who are all sitting at 6-7 on the year. A loss Sunday would of been a big set back for Chip Kelly and company however the Eagles were able to edge out a close fourth quarter victory 23-20. Chip Kelly keeps the naysayers off his back for another week, who have been challenging the coaches tendencies lately. After making several bold offseason moves Kelly has seen his support wane in the Philadelphia area. There have even been talks of Kelly returning to the college level after the season finishes up. While Kelly has put those rumors to rest stating that he enjoys “the pro lifestyle” it’s still important to note that he must produce in order for his employers to feel the need to retain the coaches services. Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie has praised Kelly but that could all change if the Eagles fail to make the postseason. The NFL is a win now league and every head coach is on a very short leash. When it comes down to it though, Kelly knows how to coach the game of football. Whatever level he is coaching at is truthfully irrelevant. A great coach such as Kelly will adapt to his situation and reposition himself for success. He has done that by slowly building the team to match his vision. Nelson Agholor who was drafted during Kelly’s tenure scored his first touchdown Sunday and had his best day as a pro. The rookie out of USC is being depended on by the Eagles and they are hopeful he can be a big contributor heading into the future. Even Sam Bradford looked serviceable in the Bills match up. Bradford threw for 247 yards and 1 touchdown. Doing enough to bring home the win for the Eagles. It’s additions like this that might not provide huge returns right away but are providing enough return to keep the Eagles in the playoff picture. The jury is still out whether Kelly will be hailed or hated by Eagles fans. Yet every win brings him a step closer to success and the postseason.

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Eli shines as Giants knock off Dolphins 31-24 in MNF:

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Photo credit: Mike Morbeck

Author: Jon Kuzma

Eli Manning had a heck of an outing last night against the Miami Dolphins in Monday Night Football. Manning was able to throw for 4 touchdown and 337 yards to lead the Giants past the Dolphins. Manning’s poise and comfort level in the pocket were on display all night as he continuously picked apart the Dolphins defense. With a rating of 151.5 Manning played nearly a perfect game and didn’t turn the ball over one time on the evening. When you get that kind of production from a player and have no turnovers good things are going to happen. The other star on the night for the Giants was clearly Odell Beckham Jr. who was on the receiving end of most of Manning’s passes. Beckham finished the game 7 catches for 166 yards and 2 touchdowns on the evening. Showing that he is as advertised. Beckham truly is one of the most dynamic young receivers in the NFL right now and he has a number of ways that he can beat you. He had two big plays on post routes where he was able to evade the Miami defense and get behind the safeties. It’s plays like this that provide a spark for the Giants offense and that energy has a ripple effect throughout that team. For the Dolphins there were a few bright spots one in particular was Lamar Miller. Miller finished the night 89 rushing yards on 12 attempts. He also was able to contribute two touchdowns to this Miami offense. The way Miller is able to read defenses and make cuts based off those reads shows how skilled of a running back he truly is. Miami would be smart to give him more than 12 carries in each game for the remainder of the season. That seems like a much more sound game plan than putting it all Tannehill’s shoulders. Who is a good player but still needs a few more seasons of NFL polish. The Giants improve to 6-7  while the Dolphins fall to 5-8.

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Steelers top Bengals 33-20: Dalton injured with broken right thumb

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Photo credit: Steelcityhobbies

Author: Jon Kuzma

The Pittsburgh Steelers were all over the Cincinnati Bengals 33-20 Sunday in NFL action. The Steelers got a break when Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton went down with a right thumb injury. Making the match a much easier victory for the Steelers. There is an old saying in football “knock out the quarterback and win the game.” That is exactly what the Pittsburgh Steelers were able to accomplish. While I’m sure the Steelers didn’t want to see Dalton sidelined for the rest of the season which he very well might be. It still was a major factor in allowing the Steelers to win this AFC North match up and get one step closer to the postseason. The Bengals on the other hand look like they are in a world of trouble. After having a fantastic season and turning into one of the better teams in the whole league. The Bengals now find them selves searching for answers about how to overcome the problems at the quarterback position? AJ McCarron ended up finishing the game for the Bengals and will be tasked with filling the void throughout the rest of the year. The former University of Alabama quarterback is hoping to have a similar year to Tom Brady when he replaced injured quarterback Drew Bledsoe back in 2001 and went on to win the Super Bowl. Definitely a tough spot to be thrown into but McCarron did play in the tough SEC conference during his collegiate days. There were no easy games in that conference and while the pros is much tougher. Those development days at Bama might prove to be valuable for McCarron on Sundays. It will be interesting to see if McCarron can keep this team on track or not. The team is still extremely talented at a variety of different positions on the field However Andy Dalton has developed into a fine quarterback and it will be tough to match that production as the season continues on.

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Khalil Mack shows why he was the most raved about player in 2014 draft:

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Photo credit: Erik Drost

Author: Jon Kuzma

The Oakland Raiders and Denver Broncos met today in a week 14 match up in which Khalil Mack absolutely dominated. Mack contributed 5 sacks to the Oakland Raiders defense. Putting him in rare company with other big name pass rushers such as Howie Long and Vonnie Holliday who also had 5 sacks in a single game. Mack was overwhelming the Broncos offensive line from the get go. Beating them with bull rushes, rip moves, swim moves, and spin moves. Showing that Mack is versatile in his pass rushing efforts. The one thing that really impresses you when you plug in the tape on Mack is the fact that he can penetrate deep into the offensive backfield on nearly every snap. Causing panic and frustration for opposing offensive units, while at the same time uplifting the Raiders defense. The number 5 pick in the 2014 draft class was a steal for the Raiders and now they are reaping the benefits of that choice. Can you imagine this Raiders defense without Mack? There is now way the Raiders would of beat the Broncos with out Mack’s production on the field today. Besides having those five sacks he also recorded 7 total tackles and 5 tackles behind the line of scrimmage. Showing that he is a complete player against the run as well. On one particular play Mack bull rushed Broncos left tackle Ryan Harris and absolutely ate the guys lunch. Harris was thrown to the ground on his back before Mack finished the play by sacking Brock Osweiler for his fourth sack of the night. Just when you thought Khalil Mack had turned the lights out on Sports Authority field. Mack was able to get his fifth sack of the night using his speed off the left edge to blow past the right tackle and bring down a fleeing Osweiler. Truly one of the most dominant performances we’ve seen all season and there will be plenty more of that for the silver and black as the season continues on.

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How the Chargers can become relevant this off-season:

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Photo credit: Jeffrey Beall

Author: Jon Kuzma

The San Diego Chargers enter week 14 with a 3-9 record on the year and they look like a team that is desperate to get something going. While offensively the Chargers have been sound. Ranking in the top ten in both passing offense and total yards. The team has still struggled to find it’s running game. Melvin Gordon is the teams leading rusher 565 yards on the season, but he has yet to score a touchdown during his rookie campaign. Having less of an impact than the Chargers had hoped for when they drafted him 15th overall in the first round of the 2015 NFL draft. So while it’s not their first priority this off-season adding a lineman or two mid-draft or even a running back would be a smart choice for this football team. Defensively is where this team starts to show their problems. The Chargers are ranked 26th against the run and 21st against the pass. In total yards surrendered they are the 24th ranked team, showing that at the end of they day they are just giving up too many yards both on the ground and through the air. The first thing you can do to improve any defense, is improve the defensive line upfront. Especially when you are running a 3-4 defense where so much depends on the nose tackle position and having a player who can control both A-gaps. Remember when the Chargers had Jamal Williams? The former 3 time Pro Bowl nose tackle was a nightmare for opposing offensive lines. The Chargers need to take his mold which was 6’3 348 pounds and do their best to find a player in the draft that fits that same profile in terms of ferocity. Maybe that is a guy like Andrew Billings out of Baylor or Kenny Clark out of UCLA. It’s just imperative that the Chargers assess every players’ game tape at the nose tackle position and make an educated choice about who would fit their team the best. The Chargers also have a few other spots to fill on the defense to be relevant. So maybe trading down and tacking a nose tackle with a later pick and going a different position on defense first might be key. That way the team can acquire more picks via trade and ultimately fill more holes. At the end of the day though, those first picks still have to be on the defensive front somewhere. If you can win upfront everyone on the back end gets better.

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Buffalo Bills are better than the Philadelphia Eagles on paper:

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Photo credit: Erik Drost

Author: Jon Kuzma

When the Buffalo Bills and the Philadelphia Eagles meet on Sunday it will be a match up that showcases two teams fighting for a playoff spot. Both teams are on the bubble as far as the playoff picture goes, and a win or loss will go a big way in sealing either team’s fate down the stretch. If you’re in to projections and forecasting games, which we know a lot of you football fans are. You really have to look at the match ups across the board and determine who has the advantage. When you do a side by side comparison of both teams it becomes overwhelming clear that the Buffalo Bills have the advantage heading into this football game. Lets start at the quarterback position which is the most important position on the field. The Buffalo Bills have been riding high with Tyrod Taylor at the helm. Taylor has thrown for 17 touchdowns on the year compared to Sam Bradford’s 13 touchdowns. What is even more impressive is Taylor has done that with even less throw attempts than Bradford. Showing that Taylor not only throws more touchdowns but he is also more efficient as well. At the running back position you would think the Eagles have the clear advantage with their three running back backfield of Demarco Murray, Ryan Matthews, and Darren Sproles. Yet the running back who has run for the most yards on either team is Lesean McCoy who was shipped to the Bills by the Eagles this past offseason. McCoy has ran for 792 yards on the year compared to Murray’s 569 yards who leads the Eagles. When you factor in Bills back up running back Karlos Williams who also has contributed 5 touchdowns to this Bills offense. You have to give the advantage to the Bills at running back as well. When you go to the receiver position the Eagles finally take this one with Jordan Matthews who has 661 receiving yards on the year. Just barely edging out Sammy Watkins of the Bills with 635 yards. However it must be noted that Watkins has 6 touchdowns to Matthews 4, so while the Eagles win in reception yards the Bills win in touchdowns at the top receiver spot. Showing that collectively on offense the Bills should be the team that comes out and outperforms the Eagles come Sunday. As far as defense goes the Bills have surrendered fewer yards per game and are ranked better at 20th compared to the Eagles at 26. In the category of fewer points surrendered by a defense. The Bills also ranked better at 16th compared to the Eagles at 25th. So if you’re a betting man this weekend it would be wise to hop on the Rex Ryan bandwagon and lay your money on the Bills Mafia. They’ve been a more complete football team all year.

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Whats happening around the league: Week 14

Eagles at Redskins 10/04/15

Photo credit: Keith Allison

Author: Jon Kuzma

Chip Kelly says he handled trading Lesean McCoy the wrong way:

Chip Kelly admitted that he didn’t do a great job of handling the situation when he traded running back Lesean McCoy to the Buffalo Bills. Apparently Chip stated “the money was too high” when asked about McCoy and a big reason they traded him for Kiko Alonzo was it was a good move salary cap wise for the Eagles. Kelly went on to acknowledge that he never got the chance to speak to McCoy because the deal was processed by the league sooner than expected. So by the time Kelly heard about the transaction it was the same time McCoy was hearing about the deal. Looking at Kelly’s statements it almost feels like he didn’t have enough respect for McCoy to tell him they were even negotiating a deal that included him. However Kelly tried to save face by saying “I’d still shake his hand” and he “regretted the way he handled it.” It’s easier to look back now and say I should of did it this way or that. Kelly should of been a man and told McCoy straight up he was thinking about dealing him. As much as I’m a Chip Kelly fan football wise. He seems to have a constant pattern or irking his players with his methods. Not a recipe for success in the NFL.

Julian Edelman returns to practice for New England Patriots:

The New England Patriots star wide receiver Julian Edelman returned to practice after missing several weeks with a broken bone in his foot. Edelman was rumored to look out of game form however due to the injury. Many witnesses reported that the Patriots receiver was having trouble in and out of cuts. Showing that the foot isn’t necessarily a 100% yet and it still could be some time before he makes it back to the starting line up. Still the fact that Edelman showed up and participated in practice is a good sign for things to come.

Rumors leak out of Philadelphia about Demarco Murray being unhappy:

We first heard that Demarco Murray was trying to be cut by the Philadelphia Eagles so he could return back to the Dallas Cowboys and continue his career where it all started. Now we are being told that Eagles might be looking to potentially deal Murray in the offseason. With Murray, Matthews, and Sproles in the Philadelphia backfield the position is clearly overloaded. The team went heavy at the running back position and it seems to have caused some conflict chemistry wise. Murray is unhappy and seems to be a bad fit for that scheme. So what would be the point of the Eagles keeping him? Look for both parties to part ways in the future, that is unless they can resolve their issues.

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