Odell Beckham Jr: The level of the bar has been raised

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Photo credit: A.P photo

With all the off the field hype that is surrounding Odell Beckham Jr. right now, he has reached that level where he is almost adding pressure to himself on the field. This is where the true test of how great of a player Beckham truly is will happen. Many times pro athletes create a level of excitement in the media and news that they can’t keep up with in their professional line of work. It’s that defining moment where an athlete turns into a diamond or just another rock at the quarry. If they can handle all the pressure of being a star athlete and the whirlwind of distractions that come with the role. Then that athlete is truly deserving of that reputation they earned, and they live up to the expectations. This is where Odell Beckham finds himself. After contributing a 1,3000 yard receiving season and 12 touchdown receptions the second year New York Giants receiver should be aiming to smash last years production. However many times an athlete will actually regress after an up year because of the psychology of the athlete. When things are going well for an athlete they typically receive more praise and because of that they’re less determined when it comes to developing their craft. It’s the same reason why you see Super Bowl teams have that Super Bowl hangover and not even make the playoffs the following year. You get too caught up in the spoils of victory and sooner or later it becomes a weakness. The commercials, the endorsement deals, and all the web articles let you know Odell is everywhere you turn your head right now. He knows he is all over the media headlines and all over the cover stories going on outside of football. It’s up to Odell to prove that he can back up all that hype again, and prove all over again that is indeed a marquee player. Beckham was able to show he can do that in high school, college, and at the pro level. The question is can he do it consistently do it at the pro level. We’ll find out in the regular season.

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Brady starts off slow before bouncing back in Patriots 3rd preseason game:

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Photo credit: Keith Allison

Tom Brady started off slow in the preseason game the Patriots had last night against the Carolina Panthers. He had two interceptions in the first quarter of action and was looking shaky out of the gate. You have to wonder if all the off the field distractions from “deflategate” are starting to get to the future Hall of Fame quarterback. Randy Moss said it best when he said “Tom is human” just like everyone else. With the NFL forming a witch hunt and smear campaign against Brady anyone would be feeling the pressure a little bit. Yet Tom Brady was able to block out the two interceptions he had early and the distractions of Roger Goodell and the NFL. Finishing his limited action off with a touchdown pass to Scott Chandler. More importantly showing that he can still persevere through the adversity, just like he could in his younger years. Like many other aging quarterbacks in the league Brady must constantly go out and show he can still play at a high level. This is a league where you are only as good as the success you’ve had recently and while Garoppolo won’t take Brady’s spot. He still needs to maintain a high level of play not only for his personal legacy, but also for the Patriots future success. With his suspension looming over the team Brady will also have to stay sharp away from the team. While some players might regress missing action Brady likely will be on a mission to overcome this challenge. The guy has been a winner his whole life and is a world class competitor. After having his personal life sabotaged and picked apart by the media all off-season. Brady is going to do his best to get his revenge. The only downside is that revenge might night even be possible until week 5.

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Stafford looks like he’s in mid-season form:

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Photo credit: Mike Morbeck

Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford has looked phenomenal in preseason action this year never finishing a game under a 100 quarterback passer rating. The seventh year player out of the University of Georgia is looking like a polished veteran at this point of his career. His throws are impeccable and he has one of the strongest if not the strongest arm in the entire league. At this point of the preseason Stafford has completed 19 out of 25 passes for 3 touchdowns and zero interceptions. A pace that the Lions hope will transition over to the regular season. Which will likely happen for Stafford because at the end of the day he has put in the work. Stafford hasn’t had a year away from football since middle school school. When you think about all of the training camps he has went through from the younger levels to college, and finally too the pros. You begin to understand the amount of repetition and hard work number 9 has put into his craft. In the beginning of his career there were worries whether or not he was going to shape up into the player he is now. After facing a couple injuries early on in his career he has managed to overcome the label of a “glass football player”. Now Stafford is year in and year out one of the top passers in the league. He is also one of only a handful of players to ever throw for 5,000 yards in a season. Another impressive feat that puts in the ranks of good company (Brees,Marino, Brady, Manning). The Lions got the #1 overall pick right in the 2009 draft and now Stafford is holding up his end of the bargain and repaying the team. Look for this team to have another solid season,  and much of their success  will fall on whether or not Stafford can produce. If he plays well the team may be able to cover up the losses of Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairly. If not the Lions will take that dreaded step back to mediocrity.

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Is this Peyton Manning’s last go?

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Photo credit: Jeffrey Beall

Peyton Manning has been in the National Football League for 16 seasons. Now at 39 years old Manning is returning to the Broncos to not only participate in the game he loves most but also to chase another Super Bowl ring. He has faced a number of injuries during his career which includes a serious neck injury that was operated on three times, and more recently a torn quadricep. With the hits and injuries piling up Manning sooner or later is going to have to ask himself the health question. Is playing football worth his long time health? Manning has clearly already weighed the pro’s and con’s in his head and at the end of the day the love for the game has always willed him to keep competing. On the field Manning has been anything but unproductive. He has never once passed for under 25 touchdowns in a regular season. In his career he has a total of 530 passing touchdowns which is the most ever. Now entering his 17th season Manning is just shy of breaking Brett Favre’s all time passing yards record. The record would solidify Manning as arguably the best passer of all time. The longevity of Manning’s career and the effectiveness that he executed at put him at the top of the mountain. While we are now watching Manning operate in the twilight of his career. He has still managed to be efficient especially in the regular season. It’s later on towards the end of the year that you start to see him wear down and struggle. With last year looking like Manning’s greatest falter physically, anyone observing Manning had to ask “how long does he have?” It feels like Manning has two years top but this very well may be his last ride. Lets see how far he can take the Broncos.

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Julio Jones stats need to improve but he is worth the money:

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Photo credit:  Darrell Thomson

Julio Jones is good enough to be the cornerstone of a franchise flat out. While in four years of action he has managed to only go over a 1,000 yards receiving twice. One of those years he didn’t catch a 1,000 yards he was hurt, and the other time he was a rookie. The former University of Alabama player is a phenomenal asset for the Falcons and vital piece of Matt Ryan’s personal success. At 6’3 220 pounds Jones is the ideal size for an NFL wide receiver. He has the ability to go up above defenders and make a play on the ball. He also has the speed running a 4.39 40 yard dash to blow pass defenders and take the top off the defense. Julio is also a great yards after catch receiver similar to how Terrell Owens was. On several plays during the 2014 season Julio was able to break a tackle and take the ball for an additional gain for his team. Jones most impressive move on the field seems to be his back shoulder fade though. Him and Matt Ryan clearly have put in a significant amount of time on this particular throw. Now on Sundays they are using it to expose opposing defenses and look for that play to continue to have success in 2015. While Ryan and Jones are completing passes on the field, it is now up to Arthur Blank to open his check book and put together a contract that rewards Jones for his contributions. The two sides have both insisted that they are getting closer in negotiations. And a deal may be imminent before the regular season starts. Look for that deal to be in the 70 million ball park maybe just shy of 70. Dez Bryant received a 5 years 70 million dollar deal from the Cowboys and you would have to expect Julio’s contract would be just shy of that deal. Regardless Jones is worth the money.

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Andrew Luck will look to take the next step in 2015:

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Photo credit: Angie Six

The Indianapolis Colts had a long term plan when they decided to let Peyton Manning walk via free agency and decided to pick Andrew Luck number 1 overall in the 2012 draft. Their plan has seemed to pay off. While Manning was one of the top passers in the league, Luck showed promise that we haven’t seen in a quarterback prospect in years. The Colts recognized this fact and took the risky move of going with Luck over Manning, now four years into Luck’s career the Colts are back in Super Bowl contention year in and year out. Contention however is not good enough for Luck and his legacy. He is already recognized as one of best passers in the league but to truly elevate himself amongst the great quarterbacks in the league he must win more in the postseason. While last year Luck had one of his best years as a pro stats wise where he was able to pass for 40 passing touchdowns and 4,761 passing yards. He still came up short of making it to the Super Bowl with a prime opportunity to supplant the Patriots in the AFC division championship. In that game the Colts would flop suffering a devastating 45-7 loss and Luck himself would struggle completing only 12 of 33 passes and throwing for no touchdowns and two interceptions. In order to off set that underachievement the Colts decided to bring in Andre Johnson one of the leagues most prolific pass catchers. With another year under Luck’s belt and the addition of Andre Johnson that offense should be even more dynamic this time around. Especially since key players like T.Y Hilton will also have another year of NFL experience under their belt. Look for this team to take that next step in this next season of NFL action and it will all start with Andrew Luck. The same guy the Colts put all their faith in when they had to make one of the toughest decisions of their franchise.

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Forty Niners might be in better shape than expected:

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Photo credit: Mike Morebeck

This off-season has been rough for the San Francisco Forty Niners. They lost their head coach in Jim Harbaugh. A guy who had taken the team to the Super Bowl and put up a whole lot of wins for the Niners. They lost star players for a variety of different reasons from Patrick Willis, Justin Smith, and Chris Borland retiring to Aldon Smith being released for off the field issues. There just seemed like a lot of turmoil going on out in San Francisco football wise and on paper it seemed easy to write this team off. Well that might not be the best thing to do because the Niners didn’t look terrible in their preseason action so far. While they did go 1-1 in terms of wins and losses over the first two weeks of the preseason. They more importantly showed they are capable of being a functioning football team. The addition of Torrey Smith will definitely help Kaepernick in the passing game. Smith was very productive in Baltimore hauling in 30 touchdown passes and 3,591 receiving yards for the Ravens. While they did lose Mike Iupati upfront from the offensive line. It will give the team a chance to let new young faces step up and fill the void. Another notable addition for the Niners offensively is they signed Reggie Bush. Who last played for the Lions and had a few productive seasons up in Detroit. Still this team team is in the process of finding it’s identity and it seems like they will be a couple seasons away from being a true contender again. Yet with the additions of Bush, Dockett, and Smith the team is doing their best to put together a quality product on the field. New coach Tomsula will be in charge of leading this Niners team in a new direction and so far he seems to be doing an aright job. The true test for this team will be how they perform in the regular season but so far in the preseason there is a little bit more hope than there was expected for this team. Finally watch out for Jarryd Hayne over these next two preseason games and keep an eye on whether or not the former rugby star is able to make the roster. John Madden believes Hayne is good enough endorsing the player by stating “He has to make the team.” It seems like everyone is rooting for Hayne and it will be determined whether or not he makes the team by the end of the preseason.

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At 29 years old Marshawn Lynch is showing no signs of slowing down:

Seahawks at Redskins 10/6/14

Photo credit: Keith Allison

Nobody should of been more disappointed with the results of last years Super Bowl than Marshawn Lynch. After Lynch had just carried the Seahawks down to the Patriots two yard line after a successful run. The Seahawks then chose to do the unthinkable and pass the ball. That pass was intercepted by Malcom Butler the Patriots won the game and the rest is history. After when the press asked Lynch if he was shocked about the play call he stated “no, because football is a team game”. A testament that even though Lynch was upset he understood the call because at the end of the day football is a team sport. The obvious correct decision looking back on that play would be to give Lynch the ball again and go bring the Lombardi Trophy back to Seattle. Lynch had been not only outstanding that regular season but basically every season he has been in Seattle. Since the Seahawks acquired Lynch he has rushed for 1,000 yards every season and has rushed for over 10 touchdowns in every season. The only time he didn’t was in 2010 when he was traded to Seattle from Buffalo and that was only because he was playing a shortened season in Seattle. The stats don’t lie the Seahawks made a bad choice by going away from the guy who helped build their identity in the Super Bowl. Luckily for them though they managed to re-sign Lynch to a two year extension and at 29 years old Lynch shows no signs of slowing down. He could easily continue his production over the length of this contract and then that will likely be it for the all-pro running back. Lynch has stated in the past he has contemplated retirement. So while he shows no signs of slowing down, at most it will be two more years of beast mode and then he will ride off into the sunset. Lets see how far he can take the Seahawks before that time.

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J.J Watt is the best player on the planet right now:

 

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Photo credit: Scott Miller

J.J Watt will look to build on the success he has had in his past four seasons of NFL action. The Wisconsin native Watt has been outstanding particularly in rushing the quarterback where he was able to sack opposing quarterbacks 57 times during his career. Now entering his fifth season Watt has his focus on being the best defensive player ever. At this point of Reggie White’s career (the best pass rusher ever) he had 70 sacks, so Watt at four years into his career is trailing the gold standard of sack leaders in White. Yet Watt also makes an impact in different areas that White didn’t. For example Watt has the ability to not only bat a lot of balls down from his lengthy wing span. He also has the ability to judge the ball coming off the quarterbacks hands. Allowing him to get interceptions and even score touchdowns for the Texans as a defender. Traditionally interceptions are taken mainly by defensive backs and linebackers. Watt is revolutionizing the position of defensive end by intercepting passes, batting down passes, and scooping up fumbles left and right. If those contributions weren’t enough, last year Watt even lined up on offense as a tight end. Catching 3 touchdowns passes and displaying his ability to be a red zone threat for the Houston offense. There is ultimately nothing that J.J Watt can’t do on a football field and there is a reason his peers voted him the number 1 player in the league out of the top 100 players. Another impressive stat to mention about Watt is he put up 20 sacks in a season, twice. The numbers don’t lie and the credibility don’t lie the guy has been a once in a generation player. But it will take longevity and much production over time for him to go out and claim the title of best defender of all-time. If anyone can do it though it’s J.J Watt and that is why he is the best player on the planet right now hands down.

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Quarterback position. These are the best of the new school:

Jaguars at Ravens 12/14/14

Photo credit: Keith Allison

A new era of young and promising quarterbacks is among us. Derek Carr out in Oakland has made an impressive name for himself after successfully posting a rookie season that consisted of 21 touchdown passes. The second year player who was drafted out of Fresno State has shown he can handle being an NFL quarterback and has the Raiders franchise looking better than it has been in a long time. Jameis Winston down in Tampa Bay is reviving a Buccaneers franchise that last year was depleted of hope. The number 1 overall pick in the 2015 NFL draft was a college stand out at Florida State before the Bucs chose to take him with their first pick. You can tell from the buzz around Tampa Bay that fans are excited about football again. The team itself seems to have a new pulse and from word of mouth we know things are upbeat around the Buccaneers training camp. Much of that is due to Winston. Down in Jacksonville they have their best quarterback prospect since Mark Brunell was leading the Jags. Blake Bortles the former Central Florida stand out quarterback is trying to save a Jaguars franchise that has been lackluster of recent. The team hasn’t been to the playoffs since 2007 but now with Bortles you can tell the team is gaining a little momentum. By drafting Bortles the Jaguars have made their team a more attractive destination for free agents. Which led to the signing of Julius Thomas, a star tight end who used to play for the Denver Broncos. The signing would be less likely if Bortles wasn’t in the picture. Finally in Minnesota we have Teddy Bridgewater who has came into the Vikings organization and gave the team an identity again. Bridgewater was a stand out at Louisville before being drafted by Minnesota. He gives the Vikings a chance to succeed through the air because his passing skills are calculated. Bridgewater is a good decision maker with the football, and knows how to lead this team on the field. By cutting down on interceptions and having a running game to back him up. Bridgewater could put together a game plan that could have the Vikings back in the playoff picture. All of these players have given their organizations something they haven’t had in a long time, faith. The hope that one day their team will be able to be a winner again. They took the first step by obtaining these guys. The best new era quarterbacks in the game.

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