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Photo credit: Keith Allison
Author: Joey Carr
This should come as no surprise, but the NFL’s offseason punching bag is outshining the rest of the league. The moment Judge Richard Berman overturned the 4 game suspension handed down to Tom Brady, I think everyone knew what was on the horizon: A Revenge Tour. However, it’s safe to say no one expected this kind of offensive and defensive explosion from the New England Patriots. The start to the season is reminiscent of 2007, where New England crushed every team in their path until David Tyree made the catch that will live in infamy in the hearts of the Foxboro Faithful. So far in 2015, Bill Belichick and the Pats have manhandled two high caliber AFC teams in Pittsburgh and Buffalo, who both were considered some of the Patriots top competition for this year, and embarrassed Jacksonville by 34 points. The rest of the NFL, with the exception of maybe Green Bay, doesn’t compare to New England this year, and they should expect to keep on chasing the Pats all the way to Santa Clara, where they will try to make sure this Revenge Tour ends the right way, and 2007 doesn’t repeat itself.
Approaching the first game of the season, people didn’t know what exactly to expect from Tom Brady and the Patriots. They were facing a strong and dangerous opponent in the Pittsburgh Steelers and had just undergone one of the more mentally trying off-seasons in recent history. Sure, many thought Tom Terrific would come out more terrific than ever due to being vindicated from Goodell, but there was always the frantic worry that Deflategate would take it’s toll on the future Hall of Famer. However, in true Patriots fashion, any doubt they may have had was set to rest completely by the end of the first half. Brady came out with fire in his eyes and a chip on his shoulder and the rest of the team followed suit, as they overpowered Big Ben and the Steelers. The tone set that night is the tone the Pats have been humming to all season long, and there is no expectation that that humming will be stopping anytime soon. The defense has been wobbly at times, but they have remained consistent enough to allow the offense to demolish the opposing defense. The Bills had no answer for Gronk and Julian Edelman as they combined for 210 receiving yards and the Jaguars had no answer for the Patriots offense as a whole, as they scored on every possession with the exception of the kneel down at the end of the game. They’ve dropped consecutive 40-point games, one of them against supposedly the best defense in the league in the Bills. In fact, the only time they’ve really been in danger of losing was when Buffalo stormed back from 17 down and could’ve tied the game on the final drive if not for cornerback Logan Ryan picking off Tyrod Taylor. Not a whole lot of other teams in the league can say that.
The only other team that could be considered in this conversation would be the Green Bay Packers. Aaron Rodgers is kind of on his own Revenge Tour due to the devastating loss he and the Pack suffered in the NFC Championship game. With the exception of a close game in week 1 against Chicago, the Pack have been on a tear. Rodgers is having another MVP type season and the defense hasn’t looked as bad as they were projected to be. The only reason the Patriots have been more
impressive is because one, they’ve been better offensively and defensively as a whole, and two, have had more impressive victories. And, yes, one could say that Green Bay has played Seattle and Kansas City, but the Seahawks have looked awful to start the year and the Chiefs have one of the worst offenses in the league. Also, they were at Lambeau for both of those games. The Patriots played an explosive Steelers team, beat a Buffalo squad that would’ve given an arm and a leg to beat them, and scored on every offensive possession against the Jags. I’m not saying it’s a landslide in terms of which team has been superior between Green Bay and New England, but in the end, the Defending Champs are the most impressive team through the first 3 weeks of the season.
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Photo credit: Todd Jones
Author: Joey Carr
For the past few years, the NFC West has been one of the better divisions in all of football, sending a team to the Super Bowl the past three seasons. Since the early 2000’s with the “Greatest Show on Turf” St. Louis Rams, to the recent dominance of The Legion of Boom in Seattle, the NFC West has always been one of the more fun and competitive divisions to watch. However, the trend for the past decade in the NFC West has been a change in first place every few years, and with the Seahawks at 1-2 and the Cardinals at 3-0, Arizona has a prime opportunity to capture their first division title since 2009.
In the past, the Cardinals have been known as a “fluke” team, which is a team that has a respectable record but only because of luck and/or a favorable schedule. Last year was a great example of this: Arizona did do some damage against legitimate teams (Cowboys, Eagles, Chargers), but for the most part got pummeled by squads with some real talent. They put up a combined 9 points in two games against Seattle, and got shook up by Denver, allowing 41 points. They did manage to make it to the playoffs but only by a slim margin due to the fact that Carson Palmer was sidelined with an ACL injury. The 7-9 Panthers destroyed them in the first round, however, and that was the telltale sign indicating the Cardinals were nothing more than a fluke team. Sure, with Carson Palmer maybe they could’ve beat Cam Newton and Carolina and added to their win column in the regular season, but that question will always remain a distant thought in the minds of the Arizona faithful. This year, however, Arizona is the real deal. It might be hard to accurately judge them based on their schedule thus far (San Francisco, Chicago, and New Orleans), but they’ve shown on offense and defense that this year is their year to create some pandemonium in the NFL rankings . Since 2008, when they lost the Super Bowl to Santonio Holmes and the Steelers, they’ve managed to skate by because of a few talented players on both sides of the ball, but didn’t have much else to complement those playmakers. This year, they’ve got more weapons than they know what to do with. Let’s start with the leader and play-caller, Carson Palmer. Besides Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers, it’s hard to argue against the fact that this quarterback is the most valuable player to his team. Without him last year, they went 3-4 down the stretch, getting outscored 129-87 and eventually getting embarrassed in the first round of the playoffs. In 2015, they’re 3-0 and have scored 126 points in three
games, which is tied for the fourth most points in NFL history through three games. There’s no denying that Palmer is vitally important to the Cardinals, and with the talent he has surrounding him, you better believe the Cardinals are going to give Seattle a run for their money.
One of the main reasons Arizona has done so well to start the season is due to the amount of playmakers they have, both on offense and defense. Tyrann Mathieu and Patrick Peterson lead the defense while Palmer, Larry Fitzgerald, and now, surprisingly, Chris Johnson head the offense. It’s safe to say that no one thought CJ2k would have the kind of impact he’s having on this Arizona rushing attack after being released by the Jets last season. While Andre Ellington has been out with a leg injury, Johnson has proved he can still be the workhorse that he used to be in his hay day, tearing up the field with 182 yards rushing over two games, along with two touchdowns. With him running the ball so effectively and Palmer making crisp passes, there’s no telling what that offense can do. Adding to their high-powered offense is rookie running back David Johnson, who surprised everyone in week 1 after he sprinted for a 55-yard touchdown. He was a bit subpar in week 3, but in the first two weeks combined he accumulated three total touchdowns, including a 108-yard kickoff return. His speed is something to marvel at and if Arizona can use him correctly, they will have a deadly weapon at their disposal.
However, maybe the key reason for their success so far has been the reemergence of wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald, who is on pace for a monster season. After Kurt Warner retired in 2010, Fitzgerald didn’t have a quarterback that was able to get him the ball like he had become accustomed to with Warner, downgrading to his numbers to average at best. Fast-forward to today and it’s like those 5 years never happened. Number 11 for Arizona has 5 receiving touchdowns on the season (1st in the NFL) and 333 receiving yards (5th in the NFL), and he doesn’t seem to be pushing the brakes anytime in the near future. He’s running and catching like he did back in 2009 and his connection with Palmer is only getting stronger by the week, which should definitely frighten the rest of the NFL.
Every team knows, however, that to go along with a number one receiver, you need a couple of other pass catchers to make some plays when the main target is double teamed or jammed at the line of scrimmage. The Cardinals have three speedy, great handed receivers in John Brown, Michael Floyd, and Jaron Brown to complement
Fitzgerald. They haven’t made too much of an impact in the passing game yet, only combining for two touchdowns thus far, but they provide solid and reliable options when Palmer is scrambling of the pocket and looking for a receiver down field. Also, in addition to the depth at wide receiver, Arizona has equipped themselves with running backs that can catch the ball almost as well as they run the ball. For example, David Johnson caught a 55-yard touchdown in week 1, but it wasn’t a lengthy wheel route along the sideline or a blown coverage play; it was a pass that traveled maybe 5 yards before Johnson hauled it in and took off like a mongoose down the field, blowing by the secondary of New Orleans. In week 3, Chris Johnson caught a 40 yard pass that was almost a touchdown if not for a speedy cornerback. On that pass, Johnson was knocked down a couple times by defensive lineman before looking up to find the ball in the air half way to him after Palmer was chased out of the pocket. He sped down the sideline and made a classic old school Chris Johnson cutback move before being tackled near the goal line. To be able to have those kinds of weapons and that kind of depth on offense is a rare and valuable asset, and Arizona will continue to take advantage of those playmakers at the expense of the opposing defense all season long.
While the Seahawks are at 1-2, they look to be on the rise again, at least defensively. Kam Chancellor is back at strong safety after a two-week holdout, shoring up the defense for the time being. But Marshawn Lynch and Russell Wilson can’t seem to find a steady rhythm on offense, as they are ranked 18th in the league in total yards. Their offensive slump really showed last week, when they had a hard time getting capitalizing in the red zone efficiently, something like the Cardinals did with ease in week 2. Seattle needs to start gelling sooner rather than later or else the Arizona Cardinals will become the new NFC West champions, which won’t make the 12’s too happy. Arizona has the arsenal of talent to make a deep playoff run, especially with so few good teams in the NFC this year. The number one priority is health, shortly followed by the second priority of not taking their foot off the gas. Head Coach Bruce Arians has this team hungry and if they can manage to accomplish both of those things, the NFC Championship game is not off the table.
Charity of the day: Global Fund for Women
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Photo credit: Mike Morbeck
Author: Joey Carr
So far in the 2015 campaign, most of the quarterbacks in the league are doing more poorly than most predicted. Andrew Luck had the worse QB Rating in the league, Peyton Manning appears to be on the decline, and Russell Wilson can’t seem to get the ball to one of the biggest targets in the game in Jimmy Graham. Ben Roethlisberger and Carson Palmer have both looked good but have played some underwhelming teams. Big Ben beat up a banged up 49 defense in week 2, but struggled against New England in week 1. Palmer has played the Saints and Bears, who are both 0-2 and both have terrible defenses. The only 2 quarterbacks that have played above average teams and thrived? Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady. Rodgers did play Chicago in week 1, but picked apart the ferocious Legion of Boom last Sunday. Brady faced off against an uncertain Steelers defense, but was dead-on accurate the whole game, once going 19 passes without an incompletion. Last week, the Bills defense suffered the most passing yards in their history at the hands of Brady, who threw for 466 yards and dropped back 59 times. The similarity between these two quarterbacks? They don’t make mistakes. Neither one of them has an interception this year, which is extremely rare this year among quarterbacks as only 6 other signal callers in the entire NFL haven’t recorded a pick.
Brady and Rodgers seem to defy all odds every year, as they are easily the most consistent quarterbacks in the game today. All quarterbacks seem to have their down years, but with Brady and Rodgers, they just seem to get better as the years pass. Brady is making age sincerely look like just a number, as he is on track to have the best season he’s ever had at 38 years old. Rodgers is perhaps one of the greatest home-playing quarterbacks of all time, as he has a streak of 451 pass attempts without a pick at home; he last threw a pick at Lambeau in 2013, when the song “Somebody that I used to know” by Gotye was number one of the charts. That seems like light years ago. It’s one of the more amazing streaks for a quarterback to have in recent memory and the Discount Double Check Guy isn’t slowing up anytime soon.
These two Number 12’s are the best quarterbacks in the game right now. Period. Many had predictions of Andrew Luck or J.J. Watt winning the MVP this year but as of right now, the race isn’t even close. The Packers and Patriots are firmly atop the NFL rankings, and rightly so. The Patriots are on a mission to get to Santa Clara and have Roger Goodell hand them the Super Bowl Trophy, just one year removed from the Deflategate saga. Wouldn’t that be the picture of the he century? And Green Bay is on a revenge track to make up for Brandon Bostick’s fumbled catch in the NFC Championship game that would’ve sent them to the Super Bowl to face off against the Patriots. It’s consistently these two teams in the hunt for a ring and it will continue that way until one of them retires, and it seems unlikely that either one is planning on retiring anytime in the foreseeable future.
Charity of the day: Big Brothers Big Sisters of America
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Photo credit: Marianne O’Leary
Author: Jon Kuzma
If anyone told you the New York Jets would be 2-0 over the first two weeks of NFL regular season action you would of been a fool not to laugh in their face. The Jets were a dysfunctional team under Rex Ryan and looked like they were going to continue that dysfunction when Geno Smith got his jaw broke by teammate IK Enemkpali in the preseason. Well, all that lack of cohesion went out the window when the regular season rolled around. The Jets now find themselves 2-0 on the season and walking around with a sense of pride under new coach Todd Bowles. Much of the Jets improvements can be credited to their draft picks on the defensive line and the new attitude that Bowles brought to the team. One Jet went as far to say “We had to grow up under Bowles.” A statement that makes you feel like coach Bowles holds the team more accountable. While that is certainly true the team also is much more talented this time around. They brought in Brandon Marshall to pair along with Eric Decker at the wide receiver positions. Giving the team a true aerial attack that can complement the team’s running game. On the defensive side of the ball guys like Muhammad Wilkerson, and rookie first round draft pick Leonard Williams have caused havoc for opposing offensive lineman. By dominating upfront the Jets are allowing opposing quarterbacks very little time to get the ball out of their hands. These quicker decisions have led to quarterbacks causing ill advised plays, which has been the foundation of the Jets success this far. It also should be noted the Jets got better on the defensive edges returning Revis and Cromartie as well. Together with the blend of outstanding defensive and a revamped offense the Jets look like a brand new team. Good news for owner Woody Johnson and high praise for head coach Todd Bowles.
Author: Joey Carr
Through two weeks of play, fantasy football is in a tizzy. Star players aren’t performing nearly as well as they did last year and unknown rookies are racking up mass amounts of points. CJ Anderson, Marshawn Lynch, Andrew Luck, and Jimmy Graham are all examples of players that were probably taken within the first 6 rounds of most drafts and aren’t producing like they should be. However, it’s still early in the season, and fantasy owners still have time to assess their lineup and work out ways to win games. The way they’ll do this? With the waiver wire. The waiver wire consists of the players that aren’t owned in most leagues and could make or break your season. Take a look below at players who you should and shouldn’t pickup for this upcoming week.
Dion Lewis, RB New England Patriots
This former Cleveland running back never really got a shot before this year, but boy is he making the Patriots thankful they let him loose. On the year, he has 258 yards from scrimmage, which only trails Matt Forte, Antonio Brown, and Julio Jones. He was one of the backs that was called in to replace the departed Shane Vereen as a pass catching running back and he has shown that he is fully capable of doing so. In two weeks, he has accumulated 28 fantasy points, and his production doesn’t seem to be slowing down anytime soon, even with LeGarrette Blount back from suspension.
Advice: Pick him up if available
David Johnson, RB Arizona Cardinals
It’s safe to say no one saw this kid coming. The rookie from Northern Iowa has been sprinting all over the field in his first two games, racking up 27 fantasy points. With Andre Ellington out and Chris Johnson as the only other running back, look for David Johnson to add to his already impressive 3 touchdowns.
Advice: Pick him up if available
Mat Jones, RB Washington Redskins
After Week 1, most people didn’t know who this rookie was. He was a third round draft pick for the Skins and was supposed to be a backup to Alfred Morris, but Jones had other plans. He’s already at 151 yards on the season, mostly due to a 123-yard breakout performance in week 2 against the stout Rams defense. He also found the end zone one time, and looks to keep stealing snaps from Morris.
Advice: Pick him up if available
Travis Benjamin, WR Cleveland Browns
It’s hard to ignore the speedy Benjamin’s performance last Sunday against the Titans, where he caught two touchdowns and hauled in 115 receiving yards. He has garnered 43 fantasy points thus far, second in the league for wide receivers. However, he has only caught 6 passes
combined in his first two games and while they were for a good chunk of yards, it’s extremely hard to see him sustaining that kind of yardage with so few catches.
Advice: Don’t pick up yet unless in need of a Flex
Tyrod Taylor, QB Buffalo Bills
This should come as bit of surprise, but Tyrod Taylor is now a legitimate quarterback worth starting in most leagues. In his first two games as a starter, he has 5 total touchdowns and over 500 yards of total offense. His QB Rating of 103.9 ranks as one of the best in the league and with playmakers all around him, his production should remain steady so long as he doesn’t suffer a serious drop off in performance.
Advice: If in need of a quarterback, pick him up
Jordan Reed, TE Washington Redskins
DeSean Jackson is out with a hamstring injury for a couple weeks, and the targets for Reed will only increase during that time frame. He has picked up 20 fantasy points and is a solid option at tight end if you don’t have a reliable one already.
Advice: Pick him up if you don’t have a trustworthy tight end
Michael Crabtree, WR Oakland Raiders
After his turbulent time in San Fran, it was unclear whether this former stud of a wideout would find a permanent home again. Well, after a great training camp and productive first two games, it seems Michael Crabtree might still be a name to keep an eye on. He has accrued 20 fantasy points so far along with one touchdown, and is a solid add to have on your bench.
Advice: Pick him up if bench depth is needed
James Jones, WR Green Bay Packers
He’s back. James Jones was once one of Aaron Rodgers’ favorite targets and after stints with the Raiders and Giants, he’s back to catching touchdowns at Lambeau. He’s caught 3 TD’s so far but the majority of Rodgers’ targets will go to Randall Cobb and Davante Adams. However, he could be a valuable bench piece if one of your players goes down with an injury.
Advice: Pick him up for bench depth if available
Other notable waiver wire targets include: Johnny Manziel, Derek Carr, Eric Ebron, Heath Miller, Lorenzo Taliaferro, James Starks, Leonard Hankerson, Doug Baldwin, Donte Moncrief, Stevie Johnson, Markus Wheaton, Ronnie Hillman, Eddie Royal, Fred Jackson, Cole Beasley, Tavon Austin.
Photo credit: Steelcityhobbies
Author: Jon Kuzma
Even though the Steelers came up short against New England in their opener. Football analyst knew it was only a matter of time before the Steelers offense broke out and did great things. That finally happened in week 2 against the San Francisco 49ers. In the match up which took place at Heinz field, the Steelers were able to get out in front early striking quickly against the Niners. Ben Roethlisberger looked in charge and in control all night and the Steelers had a commanding 29-3 lead at halftime. Roethlisberger would contribute 3 touchdown passes and 369 passing yards. Completing 21 of 27 passes and compiling a 155.8 passer rating. It was evident that his deep ball is a weapon to be feared at this point for the Steelers. Roethlisberger was able to complete a number of bombs against the 49ers really showing off his deep pass accuracy. He took advantage of the Niners secondary time and time again. Whether it was connecting with Darrius Heward-Bey on a 35 yard touchdown pass. Or hitting Markus Wheaton on a 48 yard strike which had Niners defensive backs arguing their assignments with each other. If you’re a Ben Roethlisberger fantasy football owner you’re likely going to be enjoying a fine year of production from the former Miami of Ohio Quarterback. Other notable performers for this Steelers offense were DeAngelo Williams who has been on fire for the Steelers so far. He has rushed for 204 yards and 3 touchdowns over the first two games of the season. Showing that maybe the Steelers ground attack is a result of the whole unit being strong rather than just Le’Veon Bell being the star. The offensive line seems to open holes no matter who is in the backfield. However Williams has been phenomenal with ball in his hands and has made the most of his opportunities. Antonio Brown was also a force for the Steelers in that match recording 9 receptions for 195 yards. Brown is showing yet again why he is one of the best receivers in the National Football League after his dominant performance in 2014. This season over the course of two games he has been able to haul in 18 receptions for 328 yards and 3 touchdowns. Good enough to have him right back in the hunt for the #1 receiver spot in the league. Keep an eye on all of these playmaker and what they are able to do throughout the regular season. Because of them they were able to finish this game against the Niners with a 43-18 victory. Thus far it’s been a lot of fun to watch!
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