Football predictions for every week 1 game

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Photo credit: NFL News

Author: Joey Carr

The first Sunday with actual football since February 2nd, 2015 is finally upon us. A few marquee matchups and some exciting Primetime games, the 13 game slate tomorrow should let NFL fans everywhere rejoice. Many questions will be answered over the next two days, including whether or not Peyton Manning is finally on the decline and if the Seahawks D will feel the affects of a shaken up secondary. Let’s take a look at each Week 1 Game:

Colts vs. Bills

This will be our first look at Rex Ryan’s new-look Bills, and the fierce defense could prove to be trouble for Andrew Luck. With a shaky offensive line, Luck might be on the ground more than he’s accustomed to with Mario Williams and newly paid Marcell Dareus coming at him from all angles. But the story of the game will be which revamped offense can execute more, but both sides have some concerning question marks. The quarterback for Buffalo, Tyrod Taylor, is largely unproven but had a good preseason and paired with Lesean McCoy and Sammy Watkins, could turn in a decent game. On the Colts side, Andrew Luck will be Andrew Luck but with aging players Frank Gore and Andre Johnson, does he have enough weapons to overcome the stout Bills D?

Prediction: Colts 24 Bills 21

Panthers vs. Jaguars

In what figures to be one of the more underwhelming games of the day, there will still be some things to keep an eye on, including the quarterbacks: Blake Bortles and Cam Newton. Bortles was average in his first season with the Jags, throwing 11 touchdowns with 17 interceptions, but now has more experience and a sophomore slump doesn’t look to be in the cards with some new weapons on offense. The Panthers on the other hand don’t look to be in very good shape. The receiving corps is extremely depleted, forcing rookie Devin Funchess to be thrust into the number one spot. Cam Newton remains sharp as ever but with a lack of talent on offense and an average Carolina defense, the Panthers don’t look equipped to win this game.

Prediction: Jaguars 17 Panthers 13

Chiefs vs. Texans

Two potential playoff teams square off in Houston, and defense will be the name of this game. J.J. Watt, Jadeveon Clowney, Justin Houston, and cancer survivor Eric Berry all take the field in what should be a defensive battle to the end. Both teams have questions on offense, but the Texans have more of a concern as they named Brian Hoyer their starter, a quarterback who couldn’t keep his job in Cleveland. Their star running back Arian Foster is out for at least a few weeks, leaving the workload to Alfred Blue. The only bright spot in the Houston offense is DeAndre Hopkins, a star in the making. The KC offense is always deadly with Jamaal Charles

and with the addition of Jeremy Maclin, their streak of games without a TD pass to a wide receiver should end tomorrow.

Prediction: Chiefs 27 Houston 17

Seahawks vs. Rams

This matchup could be one of the more important games in the race for the NFC West crown. Whether people want to admit it or not, the Seattle D without Kam Chancellor and with a banged up Earl Thomas is a very big deal. The Rams offense is significantly improved with Nick Foles taking the helm and a healthy Tavon Austin. However, their defense will be the reason they win any games this season. Robert Quinn is an absolute force on the line, and can take over games by himself. But the Seattle offense is largely unchanged except for the addition of Jimmy Graham, the second best tight end in the league. Many people think his production will dwindle but he can be the focal point of this offense and change the scope of Seattle’s offense.

Prediction: Seattle 23 Rams 21

Browns vs. Jets

Except for the locals, it’s safe to say no one is too excited to watch this game. A matchup that includes two of the worst teams in the NFL last year, it’s not a leap to say that this will be a low scoring, turnover riddled game. The Jets get to see the return of Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie, who should cause problems for Josh McCown. However, New York’s starter Ryan Fitzpatrick might be completing a pass or two to Browns star cornerback Joe Haden.

Prediction: Jets 14 Browns 10

Packers vs. Bears

A century old rivalry that has diminished in recent years looks to be a lopsided victory for the Cheeseheads. Aaron Rodgers lost his favorite target Jordy Nelson to a torn ACL but still has Randall Cobb and Eddie Lacy, which should lead to a high scoring output against a feeble Bears defense.

Prediction: Packers 31 Bears 13

Dolphins vs. Redskins

The main story line of this game will be if Kirk Cousins can hold his own now that the team is finally all his. With new addition Ndamukong Suh, Miami’s defense makes that task for Cousins very difficult. Cameron Wake and Suh will make sure that the new Washington starter wakes up sore Monday morning. As long as Ryan Tannehill does his job, Miami should cruise in this one.

Prediction: Dolphins 28 Redskins 14

Saints vs. Cardinals

With the return of Carson Palmer, Arizona has a very good chance to win the majority of the games they play. And against a weak New Orleans defense, he has the potential to have a great day through the air, as does his counterpart, Drew Brees. In the end, the outcome of this game will be determined by which quarterback has a better day.

Prediction: Cardinals 24 Saints 16

Lions vs. Chargers

One of the more promising games of the afternoon looks to have tons of scoring with some high-powered offenses. Although he’s not what he used to be, Phillip Rivers is still a top 10 quarterback and has some reliable weapons at his disposal, including rising star Keenan Allen. Matthew Stafford, however, is in his prime, and has the receivers to make sure he doesn’t waste the best years of his career. Calvin Johnson will be Megatron, and paired alongside Golden Tate, they’re one of the best wide receiver tandems in the NFL and should allow the Lions to run away late tomorrow.

Prediction: Lions 30 Chargers 17

Bengals vs. Raiders

Many people will write this game off as a Cincy win, but the Raiders could be in a better position than most think. The AC/DC pairing of rookie Amari Cooper and Derek Carr could spell trouble for that Bengals D, who also have to deal with speedster Latavius Murray. If the Raiders D can hold their own, Cincinnati is in serious danger of losing in an upset in Week 1.

Prediction: Raiders 21 Bengals 20

Titans vs. Buccaneers

The matchup of the rookies: Jameis Winston vs. Marcus Mariota. Number one overall vs. number two overall. No one can really predict accurately who will win this game because we have seen so little of both quarterbacks. And with two underwhelming defenses, it’s anyone’s guess as to who will pull this one out.

Prediction: Titans 17 Bucs 13

Giants vs. Cowboys

The second best quarterback rivalry in the NFL is back at it Sunday night, with Tony Romo leading his Cowboys and Eli Manning taking the helm for the Giants. Unfortunately, unlike last time, there probably won’t be another Odell Beckham catch like the one we see last time these two played on Sunday Night last year in Week 12. But, we will see two offenses that look to continue their high scoring ways. But will the Cowboys feel the affect of losing Demarco Murray?

Prediction: Cowboys 31 Giants 24

Eagles vs. Falcons

It’s the first Monday Night game of the year, and it’s somewhat of a toss up. Sure the Eagles look better equipped to win, with former rushing champ Demarco Murray and new QB Sam Bradford, but the Falcons have a few new toys as well. Their new head coach, Dan Quinn, shook up the defense, and they look poised to turn a few heads this season. And with the receiver tandem of Julio Jones and Roddy White back, the Eagles will have their hands full.

Prediction: Eagles 24 Falcons 23

Vikings vs. 49ers

The return of Adrian Peterson is widely anticipated across the league, and couldn’t have asked for a better week one opponent. The 49ers endured one of the worst and tumultuous offseasons in history, losing countless key members on both offense and defense, as well as losing their head coach Jim Harbaugh. The Vikings on the other hand are in position to make a run at the playoffs this year.

Prediction: Vikings 31 49ers 17

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Bortles looks to catch NFL defenders in his crosshairs this time around:

Jaguars at Ravens 12/14/14

Photo credit: Keith Allison

Author: Jon Kuzma

When the Jacksonville Jaguars drafted Blake Bortles with the 3rd pick overall in the 2014 draft they were hoping to land an instant stand out quarterback. They didn’t necessarily get that with Bortles. While he starred as a quarterback in college at the University of Central Florida, Bortles didn’t find immediate success in his rookie season. He struggled in terms of touchdown pass to interception ratio for the Jags. Throwing just 11 touchdowns and 17 interceptions all of last year. While Bortles might have struggled last year, it may be too soon to write him off. Peyton Manning is another promising quarterback who struggled in his rookie season. However it must be noted that Manning still threw for 26 touchdowns that year. That is what has to be so frightening for the front office in Jacksonville, the fact that Bortles only threw for 11 touchdowns all last season. A number that is very low even though the former Knights quarterback only played in 14 games. This time around Blake Bortles will try to take that large step in sophomore progression. He looked alright in the preseason this far, but only time will tell if he is going to be the player that the Jaguars expected him to be. Anytime someone is drafted in the top 5 they are highly depended on by their teams to make a significant impact. It’s starting to feel like maybe the Jags reached for Bortles by drafting him so high. All that could change though if he comes out and has a big season. His quest for success will start at home vs the Carolina Panthers. A team that will be tough for the Jaguars to beat due to the fact that they have strong players like Cam Newton,and Luke Kuechly. If Bortles wants to be the best player he can be and we are sure he does. He must take that first step at home, and start the season off on the right foot. Look out for this match up and how Bortles performance pans out.

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Steelers offense will be fine when Bryant, and Bell return:

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Photo credit: Jeffrey Beall

Author: Jon Kuzma

The Steelers offense looked good in the regular season opener against the New England Patriots. They put up 21 points and very easily could have had 6 more if Josh Scobee didn’t miss a pair of field goals early on. Roethlisberger and company looked promising on several drives. The connection of Roethlisberger to Antonio Brown was on full display for all the fans in Foxborough to see. Brown finished with 9 catches for 133 yards through the air. Deangelo Williams also showed the world that he can still be a productive player. The former Panthers running back contributed 127 yards rushing on 21 rushing attempts. Clearly showing that the change of scenery was exactly what Williams needed to resurrect his career. All of this Steelers offensive success came without star players Le’Veon Bell and Martavis Bryant. Bell was suspended because of substance abuse issues that were stemming from an incident that occurred in 2014 when Bell was arrested for a D.U.I and marijuana possession. Returning one of the NFL’s best young running backs to the mix, will be a huge benefit for the Steelers. Bell rushed for 1,361 rushing yards in 2014, and that combination of him and DeAngelo Williams will be one of the better tandems in the league. It will be interesting to see how the Steelers mix up the backfield touches when Bell returns, especially since Williams is playing at such a high level. As far a Martavis Bryant goes, the Steelers really missed him against the Patriots in the opener. He was suspended for 4 games because of a fail drug test for marijuana. Bryant gives the Steelers a chance to take the top off the defense. That big play capability he brings to the table can easily turn into six points for the Steelers on any pass play. That was something the offense was clearly missing that night and to have that advantage back would add another dimension for this team. Just imagine how lethal this team could be if they could get their kicker Josh Scobee to clean up his game. And if they get Le’Veon Bell and Martavis Bryant back. It could be scary for opposing teams in the future.

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What the First Game of the Season told us (regular season opener)

 

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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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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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10 things to look out for this upcoming season:

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Photo credit: Jeffrey Beall

Author: Jon Kuzma

10. Will Jadeveon Clowney become the pro football player we all expect him to be?

Clowney missed most of last year and only registered 7 combined tackles. The guy is a freak of nature but can he truly put it all together and become an effective pro? Only time will tell.

9. Will Jaboo win?

Jameis Winston aka Jaboo has a lot of weight on his shoulders after being selected with the first overall pick. Will he live up to expectations with the Bucs? After a shaky preseason this is defintely something to keep an eye on.

8. Which team will end up securing a Los Angles bid?

The Rams, Chargers, and Raiders all hope to relocate in the mega Los Angeles market. What team will actually solidify that right though? While it’s almost certain that a team will be in L.A shortly, it will be interesting to see which of the three makes the most compelling push.

7. Can Drew Brees throw for his fifth 5,000 yard season?

It’s no secret that Drew Brees has been one of the league’s most prolific passers. Will he be able to do the unimaginable and throw for his 5th 5,000 yard season. With the Saints seeing a return of investment from promising young receivers like Brandin Cooks anything is possible.

6. After a one year hiatus how will Adrian Peterson fair?

Adrian Peterson has been one of the best running back’s the league has ever seen. Will he be able to keep up that high level of play after a year away from the game due to legal issues? The Minnesota Vikings sure hope so.

5. Will Peyton Manning regress into a shell of what he used to be?

Peyton Manning has struggled in the later half of his last few seasons. The veteran quarterback seems to be feeling the effects of three neck operations and variety of NFL hits. Manning might be on his last ride for the Broncos, does he go out on top (or at least in a respectable manner) or does he continue to regress into a less than serviceable player.

4. Did the Packers do enough to get to the next level?

The lost of Jordy Nelson is already going to set this team back. However there is always hope with Aaron Rodgers at the helm. Can the team figure out how to put the puzzle together without the key piece of Nelson? This will be an interesting topic to watch down the stretch.

3. Can the Seahawks keep the band together?

The Seahawks are already prepared to enter the season without standout safety Kam Chancellor. The team seems to be having some issues with its cohesion and keeping everyone happy. How will this effect the team’s morale? More importantly will they return to their third straight Super Bowl?

2. Will Roger Goodell finally get what is coming to him?

With the mess that Roger Goodell has made of pro football, one has to ask will he ever get what is coming to him? Maybe not from spygate however it’s almost guaranteed that Mr. Goodell will have another slip up. I mean he has had several during his tenure. Will the league finally pull the plug on the outlandish commissioner if he has another?

  1. Will Tom Brady achieve the great feat of winning his 5th Super Bowl Ring?

It’s no secret Tom Brady is the arguably the best quarterback ever. Since Tom terrific took over for Drew Bledsoe during his second season, he has been nothing short of outstanding. Amassing 4 Super Bowl wins, 3 Super Bowl Most Valuable Player awards, 2 league Most Valuable Player awards, and 10 Pro Bowl selections. Not too bad.

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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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Jameis Winston must improve as an overall passer but the tools are there:

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Photo credit: Kevin Thomson

Author: Jon Kuzma

Jameis Winston looked shaky as a passer in preseason action for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers looking much more comfortable with his feet. The rookie quarterback out of Florida State often relied on his running skills when the play broke down in preseason action, which is not a good sign for him in terms of his progression as a quarterback. Quarterbacks at the NFL level must be able to trust their reads and have a quick release before the defensive pressure gets to them. Jamies was evading the pressure by rolling out and buying time, or scrambling to the edge during plays. The first thing he must further develop is that ability to sit in the pocket and deliver all of the throws downfield. He never had a problem like this at the collegiate level and it was odd to see him developing these habits now as a pro. Despite all of that criticism, he did score two touchdowns rushing so you can’t completely knock him for those efforts. It’s just that 0 touchdowns and 2 interceptions passing wise over those 4 preseason games is not the production that will elevate the Buc’s in the regular season. The team is depending on Winston to step up and live up to that role as franchise savior. He has big time weapons in Mike Evans and Vincent Jackson that depend on an adequate quarterback to deliver the ball to them. Winston has all the tools as far as size, accuracy, and arm strength go. Now he has to put it all together on the field. To be fair he is still a rookie, but the Buc’s need him to grow up right now in order for them to have the success they’d like. If Winston can become that player they will be a force in the NFC South for years to come.

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Rams would be smart to be patient with Todd Gurley:

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Photo credit: Ken Thomson

Author: Jon Kuzma

Todd Gurley was one of the most electrifying players in all college football last year. He is clearly a big part of the St. Louis Rams future and that is why they chose to go with Gurley with the 10th overall pick in the 2015 draft. At the time Gurley was selected he was still recovering from a an ACL tear that he had sustained during his time at the University of Georgia. While a running back hadn’t been selected in the first round since the 2012 draft, the Rams selected Gurley despite the fact he was recovering from that knee injury. The commitment showed their beliefs in Gurley as a player. It also was a sign of how far medicine has advanced in sports. Since just two decades ago an ACL tear meant the end of a player’s career. In the preseason the Rams suited Gurley up before a few games but didn’t play him in the actual games. When watching him take hand offs in pre game warm ups in full pads vs the Colts. Gurley looked tense in and out of his cuts. His knee didn’t seem to have the strength to give him that fluent motion as a runner when planting and accelerating. In order for Gurley to be anywhere near the player that he was in college football last year. He will have to be playing at optimal health. That is why the Rams should be patient with Gurley and make sure he is indeed 100% healthy before putting him back on the field. Clearly he is going to want to get back on the field as soon as possible, so he can get back to what he does best. It’s up to the Rams medical staff to do their due diligence and make sure that is at the proper time. Gurley will have to play at an even higher level than what he was playing at last year to have success at the pro level. Sometimes rehab can push athletes to new heights in terms of their athletic abilities. So maybe Gurley will benefit from those rehabilitation sessions, and be able to regain that speed and quickness which made him so effective last season. Regardless it’s in the Rams best interest to be patient with the rookie.

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Teams Ready To Be In The 2015 Playoff Hunt:

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Photo credit: Joe Bielawa

Author: Joey Carr

Going into the 2015 regular season, a good majority of the teams that muddled in mediocrity in 2014 are ready to dive into the playoff race this time around. Whether it was acquiring big names in free agency or filling some glaring roster holes, several teams that finished around .500 are now set to threaten the division leaders and throw a cog into the 2015 playoff picture.

When talking about .500 teams, the first team that usually comes to mind is the squad down in South Beach, the Miami Dolphins. They have always been a somewhat dangerous team to play, home or away, but have not been able to solidify themselves as real threats in years past. Enter Ndamukong Suh and a revitalized and richer Ryan Tannehill. Suh has the ability, alongside Cameron Wake, to transform the Miami run defense, which ranked 24th in the league in 2014. A quarterback’s worst nightmare is someone as quick and powerful as Wake coming from the outside with someone as forceful and aggressive as Suh attacking the inside. With the pass defense already solidly established, ranking 6th in the league last year, the Miami defense looks like a force to be reckoned with. The Dolphins also boast Ryan Tannehill, a quarterback that put up impressive numbers a year ago, throwing for over 4,000 yards and tossing 27 touchdowns. However, a quarterback needs receivers, and Miami once again, like in 2013, brought in new targets instead of keeping the old ones (with the exception of Jarvis Landry). They traded Mike Wallace, a downfield threat, but brought in Greg Jennings, an older player who looks to revive his career. They also traded for Kenny Stills, a true speedster and proven pass catcher. With a new crop of receivers, a shiny new defense, and a stable running game, the Dolphins are primed to turn some heads this year in the AFC.

Switching conferences, the team in the NFC that seems equipped to be in the hunt for a playoff spot is the Minnesota Vikings. The Purple and Gold suffered a tough loss last season losing Adrian Peterson due to child abuse charges, which blew any chance they had at the playoffs. However, AP is back and he has a new quarterback, Teddy Bridgewater. The second year man out of Louisville took over for Matt Cassel early in the season last year and never looked back, leading the Vikings to a 7-9 record. He struggled at times, as most rookies do, but put up respectable numbers, throwing for just under 3,000 yards and tossing 14 touchdowns. However, he also threw 12 interceptions, but that number should go down with a deadly run game, which Adrian Peterson brings back for the Vikes. Rushing for over 2,000 yards just a couple years ago, Peterson looks to be fully healthy this year and has a chip on his shoulder, which should make him even tougher to bring down, presenting a bona fide problem for the opposing defense. With a stingy defense led by linebacker Anthony Barr and defensive back Xavier Rhodes, the Mike Zimmer led Vikings are itching to climb up the NFC ladder.

Another notable team that made a big splash in free agency and the draft is the St. Louis Rams. In years past, a great defense has been wasted due to the mediocrity and instability at quarterback. Sam Bradford was supposed to be the guy to lead the Rams to the promise land when he was drafted first overall back in 2010. However, several injuries later, St. Louis and Philadelphia swapped quarterbacks, landing the Rams Nick Foles and shipping Bradford up to Philly. Foles is a proven reliable QB, earning himself a trip to the Pro Bowl in 2013 after posting a 27-2 touchdown to interception ratio. With Foles at the helm, the Rams really needed a stable and dynamic running back, which they got with Todd Gurley in the draft. The true definition of a workhorse at Georgia, the Rams got just what they needed to transform the St. Louis offense. Although he was out for most of the preseason, Gurley looks ready to go by Week 2, and should present a problem for defenses that stand in his way. The one part of the Rams team that is established is the formidable run defense that is headed by Robert Quinn. The former first round pick is one of the best defensive ends in the league, and can singlehandedly change the outcome of a game. After acquiring proven QB Nick Foles and obtaining Todd Gurley in the draft, the Rams might finally be ready to make some noise in a crowded NFC West.

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