Week 1 assessment: Patriots will repeat as Super Bowl Champions

New England Patriots at Washington Redskins 08/28/09

Photo credit: Keith Allison

Author: Jon Kuzma

Now that week 1 action is complete we are now able to look back and reflect on all of the outcomes. While in the off-season you speculate who is going to have success and who won’t. Now we have tangible evidence of what some teams are going to do this upcoming year. Coach Mike Krzyzewski Duke’s basketball coach had a great quote that stuck with me one time “If a team can’t perform on a moments notice they probably won’t be worth much in the end.” If you take that quote and put it in context for the Patriots you would see the phrase matches up perfectly. The Patriots came into the opener and rolled the Steelers 28-21. While the score showed a closer game than there actually was. It was clear that New England has a better offensive system than the Steelers. Bill Belichick out coached Mike Tomlin for all four quarters of the game. Also collectively New England as a team is still the team to beat in the entire league. Brady with all of the off-season heat that he has been facing was magnificent for the Patriots offense throwing for 4 touchdowns and no interceptions. One thing opposing defenses must truly respect is the Patriots passing system. Josh McDaniels has done a terrific job of pushing the offensive play calling envelope with a much more conservative Belichick at the helm. Together McDaniels’ aggressiveness as play caller, and Belichick’s conservative and calming demeanor they create a great balance for the Patriots offensively. When you have a talented cast like the Patriots do coaching wise, Tom Brady gets to focus more on the field playing wise rather than what play call should be made next. The formula was a Super Bowl winning one last year, and it looks like the Patriots will repeat again. “Remember if a team can’t perform on a moments notice it won’t be worth much in the end”. Well the Patriots just handled business in their opener with the black cloud of spygate hanging over their organization. A sign for good things in the Patriots future.

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Man on fire: Rob Gronkowkski

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Photo credit: Angie Six

Author: Jon Kuzma

Fantasy football owners who drafted Rob Gronkowski got to pop champagne after Gronkowski dominated against the Steelers in the regular season opener. Gronkowski finished the game with 3 touchdowns and looked untouchable for opposing defenders. The first thing that stands out when watching Gronkowski on the field is the fact that his size overwhelms defenses. Standing 6 feet tall and 6 inches Gronkowksi or “Gronk” as those close to him call him, is nearly the largest player on the field. That frame he boast creates a match up problem for defensive backs and linebackers that try to match up with the sixth year tight end. Having the best quarterback ever passing him the ball also adds a lot to the mix. Brady was able to locate Gronkowski unguarded several times during the game by hurrying the snap before the Steelers could adjust. Nearly every time Gronkowski made the Steelers pay, whether it was a pass up the sideline or a post route down the middle of the field. The Patriots also showed an interesting new two tight end personnel combination by pairing Scott Chandler with Gronk. The two ran a pick route with Gronk clearing Chandlers defender allowing Chandler to catch a touchdown pass for the Patriots. The play showed how even Gronk’s influence on the field can shift a defense and open up opportunities for other players. The defense is always sliding and adjusting coverage to Rob Gronkowski and that causes them to overcompensate at times. The final part of Gronkowski’s game that should be noted is his ability to go up above defenders and make the catch. Tom Brady knows he has to lob his passes to Gronkowki and use elevation and touch to help his tight end make plays. Gronk clearly did all night and that is why he brought home three touchdown receptions. A sign of what is to come this season for the best tight end in football.

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What to expect from the Regular Season Opener

New England Patriots at Washington Redskins 08/28/09

Photo credit: Keith Allison

Author: Joey Carr

For nearly 6 months, the fans of the NFL have waited desperately for the talks of Deflategate and free agency to come to a halt. We’ve endured numerous preseason injuries, holdouts, and arrests and now all we’re looking for is some real, genuine, exhilarating football to be played. And now, at long last, that wait has come to an end. The Patriots play host to the Steelers tomorrow night on the biggest stage since the Super Bowl, and the energy is going to be like nothing we’ve seen before.

Tomorrow, in most people’s minds, is going to be more than a game. It’s going to be a celebration for Patriots Nation, who gets to see their team raise its 4th Super Bowl banner in 15 years. The New England faithful also get to see their quarterback, Tom Brady, play with more fire and anger than ever before. Fresh off a win in court against Roger Goodell and the NFL, expect to see an entirely different Tom Terrific. However, this game isn’t just about Brady. The Pittsburgh Steelers have been one of the more consistent teams in the league since the early 2000’s, and plan to keep that persona alive with a stacked offense led by Ben Roethlisberger, Antonio Brown, and Le’veon Bell. Bell is suspended for tomorrow’s game unfortunately for Pittsburgh, making newly acquired running back DeAngelo Williams the prime starter for the Steelers. The Terrible Towel’s also don’t have the services of their starting center, Maurkice Pouncey, which is a fairly significant loss up front since the last time the team lost him they went 8-8. Also, the Pittsburgh defense is something to keep a close eye on tomorrow night. Long-time defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau left for Tennessee, leaving the Steelers D with a big question mark on it. It’ll be interesting to see how Belichick and the Pats take advantage of the weaknesses of Pittsburgh’s defense and which part of it they will target the most. However, Steel City isn’t the only defense with questions surrounding it. New England lost some key members on defense this past offseason-Darrelle Revis, Vince Wilfork, and Brandon Browner- and even though people within the Patriots organization feel like they’ve gained enough pieces to help minimize those losses, it’ll be fascinating to see if New England did indeed get their defense to where it was last year. Malcolm Brown, drafted 32nd overall, will try to fill the enormous shoes of longtime Patriot Vince Wilfork, which won’t be an easy task by any means. Malcolm Butler and Tarell Brown will attempt to keep the Pats secondary a strong point, also not an easy task with Antonio Brown on the field. But an extremely strong linebacker corps could help overcome some of the defense’s weaknesses.

A key matchup that many people are going to be looking forward to watching is Antonio Brown vs. Super Bowl hero Malcolm Butler. Brown is debatably the best receiver in the NFL, boasting lightning quick speed and terrific hands. Butler is a somewhat proven player who is being thrust into the Patriots number one cornerback spot, previously filled by Darrelle Revis. Last year, Butler proved himself to be a reliable defensive back but can he be the player the Pats need him to be? Antonio Brown will determine that when they line up across from each other tomorrow at Gillette Stadium. Brown is definitely one of the hardest players in the

league to cover, and Butler’s skills will be pushed to the absolute max tomorrow night when he tries to defend him.

All in all, tomorrow could turn out to be one of the best games of the season. Two AFC powerhouses battling it out under the lights on Primetime television promise a hard fought and intense game. Big Ben and Antonio Brown are not an easy tandem to stop, but it seems like the Patriots D is up for the challenge. Tom Brady takes the field as the starter for New England for the 14th straight time and never has he had a bigger chip on his shoulder. With versatile weapons Julian Edelman, Rob Gronkowski, and a trio of pass-catching running backs, the Steelers D should expect to have their hands full. This game should go down to the wire with both teams matching up nicely, making for an epic and memorable season opener.

Prediction: New England 27 Pittsburgh 20

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Deflategate, For Now, Has Been Resolved

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Photo credit: Keith Allison

Author: Joey Carr

Deflategate. The mere utter mention of this phrase causes NFL fans to shudder and moan about this ludicrous case. It has caused the NFL offseason to be a hindrance instead of a free agent signing paradise. It caused numerous awkward press conferences and interviews. But most of all it caused one of the greatest quarterbacks to ever live to be questioned on his integrity. However, after 7 months, false reports, appeals, and hilarious courtroom sketches, Deflategate is finally over. Judge Richard Berman has ruled. Tom Brady has won. And the NFL and Roger Goodell have lost, again.

During the summer, it surely seemed like Tom Terrific was done for. It seemed like the NFL and Ted Wells had all the evidence they needed to put Number 12 in the Hall of Shame; then came the Wells Report. An outrageous 243-page document that seemed like it was saying the same thing over and over again. “More probable than not” Brady knew about the deflation of the footballs used in the AFC Championship game on January 18th is the most famous line from the report and for good reason. How does “general knowledge” with zero evidence get a player suspended for 4 games and get an organization fined 1 million dollars and lose them 2 draft picks? To be short, it shouldn’t do any of that. Judge Berman has sited that one of his major reasons for suspending Brady was that the league didn’t inform Brady that he could be suspended for equipment tampering and that applying the steroid policy to this case was in short not fair. It seemed like most of Berman’s reasoning for vacating the suspension was unfairness handed down by the league and the Commissioner, which is 100% valid. Throughout this whole process it seemed like Brady was being dealt an awful hand. With the investigation process, which he could have cooperated better in, the harsh suspension, Goodell picking himself to be the arbitrator in Brady’s first appeal, and finally the NFL not willing to budge on any settlement talks because they were too prideful to give an inch to the NFLPA were all examples of this unfairness. But now, the NFL has lost again. They will surely appeal Judge Berman’s decision but for now you can chalk this up to another failure in court for the league. Ray Rice, Adrian Peterson, Greg Hardy, and Bountygate are all examples of a court finding that the NFL was wrong. The biggest thing in this case however, is that the league handpicked the court that the appeal process would take place. And they were still defeated.

For now, TB12 will play week 1, a major win for the Patriots and Patriots Nation. “#FreeBrady, #ExonerateBrady, and #NoBradyNoBanner” can now be set to rest. And you can expect to definitely see a furious Tom Brady and Bill Belichick, who are already terrifying enough on the sidelines. Brady took on the league and won. His texts and emails were released. He was dragged through the mud. He felt like the league had it out for him and the organization. Get ready for a Brady like you’ve never seen before. However, the NFL and their fans now have a fresh start to the 2015 season. Of course the NFL will appeal but for now, justice has been served. And it has been served correctly. Happy 2015 Season Opener NFL fans, enjoy it.

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After an AFC East shake-up, how will the Defending Champs fare in 2015?

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Photo credit: Keith Allison

Author: Joey Carr

For pretty much every year since the turn of the century the AFC East has been dominated by one team: the New England Patriots. With the exception of a couple of fluke years in the early 2000’s and the 2008 season that saw Matt Cassel take the helm, the Patriots have controlled the AFC East. This is no doubt due to the dynamic duo that is Bill Belichick and Tom Brady. Possibly the greatest coach-quarterback combo the NFL has even seen, Belichick and Brady almost effortlessly have their way with their division year in and year out. However, with some significant departures in the offseason for New England and the Deflategate suspension looming, are the stars aligning for the rest of the AFC East? Some massive revamps and key additions have a lot of people thinking: yes.

For starters, each team signed or traded for players that are arguably the best at their respected position. The Buffalo Bills traded for Lesean McCoy, possibly the best running back in the league over the past three years. Last year, Shady was only second to Demarco Murray in touches with 312 carries and third in yards with 1,319. However, they gave up Kiko Alonso, by far their best linebacker and a leader on the Bills scary defense. They also gained a head coach that appears in headlines more than most celebrities, Rex Ryan. The former Jets coach promises to deliver an exciting and “Super Bowl bound” season for the Bills Mafia. The Miami Dolphins attracted Ndamukong Suh, a force to be reckoned with along the defensive front. Suh, one of the best interior defensive lineman and one of the dirtiest players in the league, figures to add to an already formidable front seven that boasts Cameron Wake on the outside. Although, a questionable secondary and linebacker corps could prove costly for the Fins when the season begins. While also signing quarterback Ryan Tannehill to a 4 year $96 million dollar contract extension, the Dolphins look to be a threat to the Patriots for years to come. However, another turnover at the wide receiver position that saw the departure of Charles Clay (replaced with Jordan Cameron), Mike Wallace (replaced with Kenny Stills), and Brian Hartline (replaced with Devante Parker) might be enough to see a slump from Tannehill at the start of the season that could jeopardize their chance at a playoff spot. The New York Jets saw an offseason that lost Rex Ryan but gained a defensive genius in Todd Bowles, the former Arizona defensive coordinator. They also landed a few toys for Bowles to play with in the secondary, namely Darrelle Revis, Antonio Cromartie, and Buster Skrine. Reuniting Cromartie and Revis is huge not only for the Jets, but the fans as well. The past couple of seasons have been tumultuous for the Jets faithful and a revamped secondary and intimidating front seven, even without Sheldon Richardson, promises an improved season. Of course, there are problems with the quarterbacks in the AFC East, specifically with the Bills, Jets, and surprisingly the Patriots. The Bills have named 5-year vet Tyrod Taylor their starter, but he has yet to prove himself as a solid player. The Jets seemingly always have a problem at quarterback and now with Geno Smith out for at least 6 weeks due to a fractured jaw courtesy of his own teammate, Ryan Fitzpatrick looks to lead the Jets but uncertainty surrounds him, along with the entire Jets offense. And now, the Patriots; Tom Brady will eventually lead the defending champs but time will tell

when he will. Until then, Jimmy Garropolo gets thrust into the spotlight. After a decent 2014 season where he showed glimpses of talent, Patriots personnel feel like he will be the guy to eventually replace Tom Terrific. He has shown promise throughout this preseason but has also shown weaknesses. Depending on the Deflategate decision, the Patriots could start the season with a question mark at the quarterback position for the first time since the Belichick era began.

Time seems to be the tell all with the Patriots and the AFC East. When will Brady start for the Pats? Will the acquisitions made be enough to impact the Pats run at another title? Is this the year another AFC East team knocks off the champs? Only time will tell and answer these questions. However, one thing is certain: Buffalo, Miami, and New York are all gaining ground in the hunt to take down the winners of Super Bowl 49.

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Football online: Enough with deflated footballs already

Photo credit: Billie Weiss / Getty Images Sport

Author: Jon Kuzma

With the Super Bowl a week and a half away you would think that the sports media world would be focused on the biggest spectacle in sports here in America (I’m told the world cup is slightly bigger world wide). That hasn’t been the case however with the dark cloud that has been recently looming over the National Football league, which was the alleged deflating of footballs by the New England Patriots. Many analyst and and people in the football community believe the Patriots should be punished for their actions. Yet when you stop to actually think about it, the game was completely out of reach. Now if the game had been twenty one to twenty and the Patriots slightly edged out the Colts then you might have a legitimate point. However the Patriots absolutely trounced the Colts last sunday in a 45-7 victory. Now I’m not saying the Patriots shouldn’t be punished. They’ve developed a track record of suspect behavior between this and the “spygate” scandal. So if they have to be docked a mid-round pick then go ahead and do so. Just don’t go disqualifying the Patriots from the Super Bowl or banning Belichick from the Super Bowl. The National Football League’s image has taken a serious hit this last season and doing something drastic would only damage that image worse. Personally if I was Mr. Gooddell I would have done my best to keep this whole thing under wraps. It will be interesting to see how everything plays out.

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