NFL schedule: Quick hits from a wild NFL Sunday

Photo Credit: Al Bello/Getty Images

Author: Joey Carr

Odell Beckham Jr. Suspended 1 game for his Actions

Probably the most entertaining thing that occurred on Sunday was the near all-out brawl between Giants offensive star Odell Beckham and Panthers stud cornerback Josh Norman. There was a ton of hype surrounding this particular matchup leading up to Sunday’s game between Carolina and New York. Norman had made the star receivers of the league (Dez Bryant, Julio Jones, Desean Jackson to name a few) irrelevant in his previous games, but Beckham is a different type of monster. This was no doubt going to be an engaging matchup, but what ensued was nothing less than disturbing. In the first half, Norman held Beckham to no catches, but that wasn’t the biggest story; the two young stars were going at each other’s throats all half long, pushing each other violently and knocking each other down on almost every play, and the second half was no better. Beckham began to gain some yards and get under Norman’s skin, but his mindset hadn’t changed; in the fourth quarter, on a running play, the former LSU standout charged at Norman, put his head down, and rammed into the cornerback’s head. He was not ejected, if you can believe that, but was suspended 1 game by the NFL today. He is expected to appeal, but I can’t see any way that he wins that appeal. The Giants have a huge game against the Vikings next week, and without Beckham, their chances of winning go down dramatically, which would effectively eliminate them from playoff contention.

Seattle, Chiefs, and Steelers all Stay Hot, Remain in Playoff Contention

If you can somehow believe this, the Kansas City Chiefs were once 1-6. The Seattle Seahawks were 2-4. The Pittsburgh Steelers were starting Michael Vick and Landry Jones at one point in the season without Le’Veon Bell in the backfield. However, here they are all, right in the thick of the playoff hunt. Seattle has already clinched a spot in the NFC bracket, but the Chiefs and Steelers both need to win out and get some help from their AFC foes in order for them both play January football. However, what they’ve all done is pretty amazing, and one thing’s for sure: no team wants to play Seattle, Pitt, or KC come playoff time.

Injuries Continue to Plague the League

Is it me, or does it seem like injuries have been more rampant than ever this year? Before the season even started, ACL injuries were making their way to nearly every training camp. Kevin White, Jordy Nelson, Kelvin Benjamin, Orlando Scandrick, and Ryan Clady are just a few names that haven’t played a down in 2015 due to ACL injuries, and there are plenty more where they came from. Quarterbacks have been missing games more than ever (Big Ben, Andy Dalton Peyton Manning), and some teams, like the Patriots, have been decimated by the injury bug. For example: New England promoted running back Joey Iosefa from the practice squad for yesterday’s game. Iosefa is an undrafted rookie out of Hawaii who was cut by Tampa Bay because they felt he wasn’t good enough; but now, he’s racking up 51 yards in week 15 for the defending champs. Injuries have been the name of the game this season, and if it doesn’t end soon, we might be seeing an AFC South vs. NFC East Super Bowl this year (maybe not that extreme but you get my point).

Cam Newton has all but Shored Up the MVP Award

If I’m being perfectly honest, I do not like Cam Newton. I think he is a showoff and too cocky for his own britches that has some inflated stats; however, he is the MVP this season, hands down. Schedule and inflated stats (most of his touchdown passes are from 3 yards out) aside, Newton has played very well this year; he’s led the Panthers to an undefeated record and his offense is the best in the NFL, scoring over 30 points almost every game this season. Yesterday, he directed a perfectly executed 2-minute drill to set up the game winning field goal against New York after squandering a 28 point lead in the second half. Of course, Carolina hasn’t played the best teams this year (they’ve played 1…. Yes 1 team with a record of over .500) but Cam has done a good job of winning the games he’s supposed to win. It’ll be interesting to see how the Panthers play when they play a good Seattle team or a tough Arizona squad in the playoffs, where Carolina is not the best team; I’ll have my popcorn ready when it happens though.

The AFC South and the NFC East are Still Bad

Get this: the 5-9 Jacksonville Jaguars are still alive in the race for the AFC South crown. The 4-10 Dallas Cowboys were JUST NOW eliminated from the NFC East Title. Historically, these are two of the worst divisions in NFL history; we could possibly see a three way 7-9 tie in the NFC East, and who knows who’s going to walk away with the AFC South. The Houston Texans are currently in the lead after defeating the Colts yesterday, but we would be naïve to think that they’re going to hold onto it. Meanwhile in the NFC East, the Eagles, yes the Eagles, are in the best position to win the division, but only because they own the tiebreaker. They play the Redskins in the final game of the season, which could ultimately decide the division.

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What the First Game of the Season told us

 

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Photo credit: Keith Allison

Author: Joey Carr

The Regular Season Opener between the Patriots and the Steelers was everything we expected it do be and more. Tom Brady came out more with more flare and vigor than most players do on Super Bowl Sunday. The fans, even in the torrential downpour of rain, shook Gillette Stadium with chants of “Brady, Brady, Brady” and “Where is Roger?” The Commissioner of course was not in attendance to see New England raise its 4th Super Bowl banner, thus signaling the end of last season and the start of a new one. And the New Year got off to a rip-roaring start.

Coming out of the gate, everyone expected to see two high power offenses battling it out, testing each other’s defenses; and that’s exactly what happened. Both Ben Roethlisberger and Tom Brady came out guns blazing, moving the ball downfield with ease until one mistake cost both of their first drives to end without any points. That can mainly be attributed to the Steelers newly acquired kicker, Josh Scobee. Scobee missed his first two kicks from 46 and 44 with no wind to speak of, which might’ve cost the Steelers the game. They had great momentum going until the missed kicks, with DeAngelo Williams running wild against the Patriots defense. Williams was never the feature back when he was in Carolina, but he sure looked like one last night, going for 127 yards on 21 carries. For some reason, the Patriots kept giving him the outside edge, which he took advantage of all night long. Big Ben also looked sharp through the first half, completing some dimes to Markus Wheaton and Antonio Brown. But the first 30 minutes and the game were dominated by Tom Brady and New England. Brady came out revved up, and it certainly showed. At one point, he completed 19 straight passes, 3 of them for touchdowns. His only miscue during the first half came on a sideline lob intended for Danny Amendola, but was overthrown by a hair and probably cost the Pats 6 points. However, Tom made up for it the next series, marching the offense downfield and eventually found an uncovered Rob Gronkowski for the 16-yard touchdown, the first of the NFL season. From then on out, it was Gronk’s world. The unstoppable tight end ran uncontrolled all over the field, amassing 94 yards and 3 TD’s on only 5 catches. Also, another one of Brady’s favorite targets had quite the night; Julian Edelman, a.k.a “Minitron”, almost effortlessly caught 11 passes for 97 yards, simply turning around and standing still to catch the pass. The biggest surprise of the night however was running back Dion Lewis looking like an established veteran, cutting back and breaking ankles all over the field. The former Colt and Brown accumulated 120 total yards from scrimmage, a stat the Pats have not seen consistently from a running back since the days of Danny Woodhead.

The defenses for both teams looked shaky at times, but the difference in the game was the Pats D bending, but not breaking. The Steelers got to the red zone several times but only managed one touchdown. Of course if they had Le’Veon Bell that stat might be a little different. Another example of bending not breaking was Malcolm Butler guarding Antonio Brown. Butler did all he could on a few plays but Brown still managed to somehow catch the ball, a feat we’re used to seeing. There were

times where the Super Bowl hero got flat out beat by Brown, but for the most part he defended him as well as he could’ve been expected to.

The first game of the season had all the qualities that make a great game: an amazing catch (Markus Wheaton’s toe tapper on the sideline), a close score, and offenses that were extremely fun to watch. Big Ben and Tom Terrific are two of the greatest quarterbacks of this generation, and they sure did prove it last night. And if this game was anything close to what we’ll see this year, we’re in for an outstanding season.

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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 players: Blount and Lynch offer similar running styles

Photo credit: Patrick Smith / Getty Images Sport

Author: Jon Kuzma

While watching Legarrette Blount run the ball two weeks ago against the Indianapolis Colts it was hard not to see the similarities in his and Marshawn Lynch’s running style. Both runners are primarily power runners who aren’t known for their break away speed but more so their bruiser style. Like Beast Mode the Patriots running back has the ability to go Blount mode, which he clearly went against the Colts scoring 4 touchdowns. While Brady can clearly get the job done through the air. Blount will be a good x-factor in the Super Bowl which Belichick will likely call on often. Don’t be surprised to seem him gash the unusually stout Seahawks defense for a touchdown or two.

On the opposite sideline you have arguably one of the best running backs in the league if not the best. Marshawn Lynch has consistently been the first option in the Seahawks offense and has been a big reason they’ve been contenders year in and year out. In particular this year Lynch had a career high in Rushing Touchdowns with 13. Always known for rumbling look for Beast Mode to excel on the big stage and have a big day for the Seahawks in the Super Bowl. Last week with the game on the line Pete Carroll went to Lynch often and he will likely do the same Sunday. Lynch should get at least two touchdowns.

Look for both of these players to have a big impact for their team. The player that does will likely give their team that extra boost. Despite everyone saying this is a “passing league” the fundamentals of football still are in establishing the run. The team that does so will have the advantage.

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