Patriots are able to escape MNF showdown against the Bills:

New England Patriots at Washington Redskins 08/28/09

Photo credit: Keith Allison

Author: Jon Kuzma

The New England Patriots had their hands full against the Buffalo Bills barely winning 20-13. Rex Ryan did a great job of game planning for the Patriots and mixed up his defensive fronts early on effectively giving Tom Brady trouble. The strategy worked so well that the Bill were able to hold Brady to season lows in touchdown passes with one, and passer rating with a 72.3. In the end though the Patriots like always overcame the odds and were able to pull out the win. This is despite the fact that the team is facing significant losses in personnel which include Julian Edelman, Nate Solder, and Dion Lewis. To make matters even worse the Patriots Danny Amendola left the game as well due to a knee injury. Still the Patriots always seem to plug in the next guy in line and continue to have success. That was James White at running back tonight who contributed 2 touchdowns one rushing and one receiving. Without that effort from White it would of been hard for the Patriots to beat the Bills tonight. Ryan really had this team amped up and ready to play, and the Bills have played the Patriots tough in two defeats this year. While Bills fans can’t be happy about those two losses to the Patriots, there is a chance to make adjustments and come closer to beating New England next time these two teams meet. While on the opposite end of the spectrum New England just has to get healthy. Brady is putting together an M.V.P type season but his teammates around him are starting to wear down. Amendola who contributed 117 receiving yards before getting injured was the 4th major player to get hurt for this New England team. Not to mention a number of other minor injuries that role players have sustained. The instability that has caused the Patriots offense have left New England a shell of the team that started off the season. It will be interesting to see if they can overcome all of the setbacks and make it back to the Super Bowl. It will be very tough for them to do if they keep amassing injuries.

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Cardinals notch a huge win over the Bengals 34-31:

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Photo credit: Tod Jones

Author: Jon Kuzma

In a match up that pitted the 7-2 Cardinals vs the 8-1 Bengals it was the Cardinals offense that stole the show. Carson Palmer who started the game sluggish with two interceptions early on. Really turned it around and showed why he is one of the best quarterbacks in the league. He would go on to finish the night with 4 touchdowns and just 2 interceptions. Showing that he can handle adversity and persevere through the tough times. Surprisingly every receiver besides Larry Fitzgerald caught touchdown passes. No one had a bigger day than rookie JJ Nelson who finished the evening with 1 touchdown catch and 144 receiving yards on the night. The fifth round draft pick out of the University of Alabama Birmingham made up for the loss of Michael Floyd who was sidelined after missing practice. The Bengals didn’t make it easy for the Cardinals in this match however. Andy Dalton led the Bengals to 17 points in the fourth quarter and surged Cincinnati back in the contest tying the game up at 31 apiece. That is when Palmer was able to put on another great game winning performance moving the Cardinals into field goal range. On that drive Palmer hit Larry Fitzgerald on two big pass plays and JJ Nelson on a big play as well. Allowing Chandler Cantanzaro a great chance to bring home the win for the Cardinals. Which he did connecting on a 32 yard field goal. Dalton would finish the match with 315 yards passing and 2 touchdowns on the evening. Showing he is an elite football player. However Carson Palmer is the reason why the Cardinals were able to walk away with a victory in this game. The guy is piecing together an outstanding season and could be an MVP candidate later on in the year. If Palmer can stay healthy the Cardinals are legitimate Super Bowl contenders. Don’t be surprised to see them there against the Patriots or even the Bengals. Both teams showed they were phenomenal teams in this contest and its very possible.

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Texans continue to roll beat Jets 24-17:

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Photo credit: Scott Miller

Author: Jon Kuzma

Don’t look now but the Houston Texans are now riding a 3 game win streak. After a slow start to their season which saw them sitting at 2-5 at one point, they’ve managed to completely turn their season around. Yesterday they beat the New York Jets 24-13 behind a big performance from quarterback T.J Yates. Yates finished the day 229 passing yards with 2 touchdowns and no interceptions. Showing that he can be a viable option if starting quarterback Brian Hoyer isn’t able to go. DeAndre Hopkins also continued his successful season recording two more touchdown grabs and 118 receiving yards. When Hopkins made the comment “that he is the best receiver in the game” last weekend there might have been some substance behind the claim. While its hard to crown him the best hands down, he is certainly a top five receiver and at this point may very well might be a top 3 receiver. A great progression for a player who had 1,210 yards and 6 touchdowns all of last year. This year Hopkins has already recorded 1,045 receiving yards and 9 receiving touchdowns. Showing that he will most likely beat every single statistic that he put up last year. It was that kind of growth that the Texans had hoped for when they drafted Hopkins in the first round back in 2013. Now he is clearly fulfilling his end of the bargain and is a big part of this Texans offense. On defense JJ Watt was  up to his usual ways recording 2 sacks and 8 solo tackles. JJ was a terror all night for the Jets and he also managed to also record 5 tackles for losses. The Jets clearly seem to be losing momentum after tough defeats against the Bills and Texans. Quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick’s hand seems to be hurting his play on the field. Fitzpatrick had torn some ligaments in his non throwing hand and has been having trouble grasping the football. If this team wants to get back to the team they were at the beginning of the season it will have to be done through Fitz. Unfortunately they haven’t been able to get it going lately. Give credit to the Texans and keep an eye on whether or not the Jets implode.

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Cardinals and Bengals headline week 11 game of the week:

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Photo credit: Todd Jones

Author: Jon Kuzma

Tomorrow when the 7-2 Cardinals meet the 8-1 Bengals football fans will be given a pro football treat. The match up pits the high octane Cardinals vs a very complete Bengals football team. Both of these teams possess great offenses that can put a lot of points quickly. The Cardinals are led by Carson Palmer who is a 12 year vet out of the University of Southern California. Despite his old age Palmer has been playing some of his best football throwing for 23 touchdowns and just 7 interceptions on the year. The Bengals also have a strong signal caller in Andy Dalton. Dalton has thrown for 18 touchdowns and 5 interceptions on the season. A big part of why the Bengals are 8-2. Right now you have to give a slight edge to the Cardinals in the quarterback comparison. The offensive attack for both of these teams doesn’t stop at the quarterback position however. Both teams have talented weapons around these quarterbacks to optimize their success. The Cardinals have Larry Fitzgerald and Michael Floyd two talented wide receivers that can make plays week in and week out for this offense. For the Bengals they have AJ Green and Tyler Eifert. Eifert leads the league with 9 touchdowns on the year and does a great job of working the middle of the field. AJ Green has been one of the better athletes in the NFL over the last five years or so and can always be counted on. Defensively they teams are both sound as well. The Bengals are led by Geno Atkins, and Pacman Jones. Both great athletes at their respective position. While the Cardinals have Patrick Peterson and Tyrann Mathieu leading their secondary. Two big time athletes who can change the game for the Cardinals by contributing big play after big play. It will be interesting to see if this games lives up to expectations. Most likely it will.

 

 

How the Patriots Have Remained Atop of the League for so long: A Balance of Change and Stability

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Photo credit: Keith Allison

Author: Joey Carr

You either love or hate the New England Patriots; there’s really no in between when talking about this sometimes controversial but always consistent NFL franchise. If you love them, you’re more than likely from New England or a surrounding area. If you hate them, you’re pretty much from anywhere else in the country. They’ve been given the nickname “The Evil Empire” by some of the haters, which was already given to the New York Yankees after their reign of tyranny over baseball. They’ve been accused of countless violations of the league’s rules, but have really only broken one, and are known as one of the most annoying teams in the league. However, if you take a look across all of professional sports since 2000, no other team other than the San Antonio Spurs have been nearly as consistent as the Pats. They’ve won 4 Super Bowls, had numerous Pro Bowlers and All-Pro’s, and so many Division Titles you can’t count them on your fingers. So the question I’m posing is how have the Patriots stayed so good for so long? The answer: an amazing balance between change and stability.

Stability and change aren’t usually paired in the same sentence unless you’re talking about an antonym for one of the words. However, like on many other occasions, head coach Bill Belichick has found out a way to balance out two things that shouldn’t go together. In regards to the “change” aspect, the phrase, “Next Man Up” defines the Patriots as a team better than any other phrase out there (with the exception of “Do Your Job”). For example: in week 19, the Patriots lost breakout running back Dion Lewis to a torn ACL in the second quarter. In the next quarter, backup running back Brandon Bolden comes in and catches a 20-yard touchdown pass, something that Lewis had grown accustomed to. Another example: the offensive line of New England is something that isn’t getting talked about too much but it was one of the more revolutionary things happening in football today. Instead of keeping a core group of offensive lineman out on of the field drive after drive, the Pats carry multiple extra linemen, and rotate them all game long. No other team in the NFL has been able to crack this or duplicate it, and it seems like such a simple idea. But the amount of work that has to be done to make this idea work is staggering; Tom Brady and the running backs have to develop a rapport with each linemen and linemen group so they can know what to expect when running a play. And while it’s had its kinks, Tom Brady hasn’t been sacked nearly as much as he was last year.

In regards to the stability aspect to the Patriots success, the only thing you need to look at is the head coach and quarterback. The one thing both of the positions have in common? They haven’t changed since 2001. Bill Belichick and Tom Brady will go down as the best head coach-quarterback duo in NFL history, and for good reason. They’ve been with each other for 15+ years and have yet to have a losing record together. That is truly spectacular. Every team in the NFL has had at

least one losing record since 2001, and every NFL team has had a different quarterback and head coach since the turn of the century, but not the Patriots. That amount of stability is something to marvel at. You see coaches and players bicker all the time (see Greg Hardy’s clipboard incident) and the fact that the Patriots haven’t had a noticeable locker room or sideline dispute all these years in just mind-boggling. The Patriot Way has been in effect ever since Belichick took over, and has stayed the persona of New England for the entirety of Belichick’s tenure, and that stability is one of the bigger reasons that New England has stayed so good for all this time.

There isn’t one NFL executive or coach out there that will tell you New England, while controversial, hasn’t been the best football team of this generation. “It’s almost unfair”, said Rex Ryan in one of his latest press conferences. Tom Brady isn’t getting worse with age, but better. Bill Belichick is only growing smarter and coming up with new ways to be stable by constantly changing his team. No one else in football does it better than New England, and if Tom Brady stays true to word that he wants to play another 10 years, the hatred for New England is definitely going to remain.

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Jacksonville outlasts the Titans win TNF match up 19-13:

Jaguars at Ravens 12/14/14

Photo credit: Keith Allison

Author: Jon Kuzma

The Jacksonville Jaguars were able to advance pass Marcus Mariota and the Tennessee Titans for a 19-13 victory yesterday in Thursday Night Football. While the game was a low scoring game that saw most of the action come from both team’s kickers. Give credit to Blake Bortles and Allen Robinson for doing what they’ve done all season long. Beat defenses through the air and looking good while doing so. Robinson finished the game with 5 receptions for 113 yards. The former Nittany Lion has been phenomenal all season long for the Jaguars bringing his receiving totals to 871 yards and 7 touchdowns on the year. Robinson has been a staple for the Jaguars offense and does a great job of making Bortles job much easier by giving him a 6 foot 3 209 pound receiver on the outside to throw to. It was clear because of players like Robinson, Bortles was able to outplay rookie sensation Marcus Mariota and that is a big part of why the Jags were able to walk away from this game as winners. When you compare the two young passers stats, Bortles finished with a 91.3 rating while Mariota finished with a 82.0 rating. That extra year of experience for Bortles clearly has made him the much more polished passer. Showing the Jaguars made a great move drafting him in the first round of the 2014 draft. While Mariota wasn’t as good as Bortles you can clearly tell there is potential there, The Jaguars have better players around Bortles which help him succeed. Outside of Delanie Walker Marcus Mariota doesn’t have that many reliable guys that help take the weight off his shoulders. If Dorial Green-Beckham can get it going that would be a huge uplift for this team. Still the Titans need to draft another edge player to help Mariota build this team into a future contender. Something the Jaguars have already done with Bortles.

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Something Special is Happening in Minnesota

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Photo credit: Joe Bielawa

Author: Joey Carr

Prior to the season’s start, many people, including myself, predicted that the upstart Minnesota Vikings would be one of the surprise squads that would sneak their way into a playoff spot come January. They were getting Adrian Peterson back from a year long hiatus, sophomore quarterback Tedy Bridgewater looked ready to improve on his rookie season, and the defense had a young, stable foundation that was above average the year before. All of the pieces were present for this Vikings team to compete with the St. Louis Rams or an NFC South team for a wildcard spot. Well, 10 weeks in to the NFL season, the Vikings are 7-2, in first place, and are more than capable to capture their first NFC North Title since the Brett Favre days in 2009.

There was wide speculation and agreements that the return of Adrian Peterson would spark an otherwise dormant Vikings offense that had plenty of weapons, but needed another piece to bring it all together. Well, low and behold, AP was exactly what the doctor ordered for Minnesota. As soon as he stepped on the field for Minny’s first game, it was evident that Tedy Bridgewater and the rest of the offense were stagnant no longer. While it’s true they lost their first game to the abysmal San Francisco 49ers, everything since has been flowing nicely, as they’ve gone 6-1 since, and it’s mostly in part to the large role Peterson has played in the Vikes offense this year. He currently leads the league in rushing yards with 961, and is averaging over 100 yards per game, which has enabled Tedy Bridgewater to be a much more effective passer. He’s (Bridgewater) not making nearly as many mistakes as he did in his rookie campaign that saw him throw 12 interceptions in just 10 games. His rating is up, yards per game have increased, and he’s certainly giving his receivers better chances to haul in passes.

Speaking of receivers, possibly one of the more surprising factors to the Vikes 7-2 record has been first year wideout Stefon Diggs out of Maryland. Diggs was taken with the 146th pick in last year’s draft, and was expected to carve out a minimal role with Minnesota’s offense this year. However, so far, his production has been anything but minimal, as he has compiled over 500 yards receiving along with a pair of touchdowns thus far. He’s undoubtedly been one of the brighter spots of this Vikings team, and should remain to be a big producer for Tedy Bridgewater and the offense. To go along with Diggs, Mike Wallace has also shown that he’s back to being a worthy receiver in this league. After an unsuccessful stint with the Dolphins, Wallace was shipped up north to Minny for Greg Jennings, and so far he’s proved that the Vikings were the clear winners of that trade, even if the Dolphins were trying to get rid of Wallace’s monster salary. While he hasn’t quite produced like some thought he would, he’s been a serviceable receiver that accumulates at least 30 yards every time he’s out on the field. Third year man Cordarelle Patterson on the other hand has disappointed to say the least after a couple seasons that saw him explode for big play after big play. Due to his dismal production as a receiver, he’s

been downgraded to kickoff returner, but he’s still providing excitement for this Vikings team with one kickoff return for a touchdown this season. The rest of the receiving corps consists of Jarius Wright and Charles Johnson, who both have over 100 yards receiving on the season and remain viable options in the passing game. Overall, the Minnesota Vikings offense, with the exception of Adrian Peterson, is comprised of average players who seemingly come together every game to form a reliable and sustainable offense for head coach Mike Zimmer.

Maybe the number one reason the Vikings have succeeded this season has been the stellar play of their defense. Anthony Barr and Terrance Newman lead the D, and so far have been good enough to keep Minnesota in games and have forced a fair amount of turnovers. The strong point of this defense is the secondary, however, which boasts two solid cornerbacks in Xavier Rhodes and Terrance Newman. The secondary as a whole has only allowed 228 passing yards per game, which ranks in the top 10 in the league and is a vast improvement from last year. While they’ve only intercepted 6 passes, they’re still limiting the damage that the opposing quarterback can cause with steady coverage and well timed pass breakups. The run defense isn’t too shabby either, as the front seven and linebacker corps are only giving up 100 yards a game. As a whole, the Minnesota defense is only allowing roughly 330 yards per game, and if they can sustain that number, they should find themselves in good shape heading into the postseason.

All in all, this Vikings team has something special about it. They’re not the high powered offensive juggernaut like the Patriots and they don’t have a shutdown defense like Denver or Carolina, but they still find ways to win games. While it’s not always pretty, how they win doesn’t matter; the only thing that matters is the number of wins in the win column at the end of the season. If Adrian Peterson, Tedy Bridgewater, and Stefon Diggs can keep pacing the offense with 25 points per game, then the defense should be able to take care of the rest. However, they have yet to play their long time division rival Green Bay, and those two games should determine if the Vikings have what it takes to make a playoff run this year.

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Bortles and Jags host Titans in Thursday Night Football Tonight

Jaguars at Ravens 12/14/14

Photo credit: Keith Allison

Author: Jon Kuzma

When the Jacksonville Jaguars take on the Tennessee Titans tonight it will be an AFC south showdown between the number 3 and 4 ranked teams in that division. With the Colts and Texans both tied at 4-5 on the year. It is still anyone’s division for the taking. The Jaguars are 3-6 and the Titans are 2-7 proving that a solid winning streak could put any team atop this division. That is why this game is so big for both of the teams heading into this match up. The winner inches closer towards clinching the division while the loser falls back into the abyss that is defeat (a dark unpleasant place). Believe or not the Jaguars enter this match up with a little momentum on their side. They were able to achieve a 22-20 win over the Ravens last week and are slowly improving with Bortles at the helm. Just a couple weeks before that they were able to knock off Rex Ryan and the Buffalo Bills, so clearly these Jaguars aren’t the same Jaguars of the last seven years or so. The team hasn’t been to the playoffs since 2007 and truthfully with the division being so wide open. This is their best chance at doing so. They’ve been beating the teams that they should beat which is a good sign for this young team. When they face the Titans tonight it’s another team that the Jaguars should beat. It will be up to Blake Bortles, Allen Hurns, Allen Robinson and the rest of the Jacksonville Jaguars to make that happen. Those three guys really make up the core group of this offensive attack. They will be going against a very sound Tennessee Titans defense who are ranked 5th in the league in yards surrendered. Will the potent Jaguars offense be enough to get by the outstanding Titans defense? Find out tonight on NFL Network.

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The end is near for Peyton Manning

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Photo credit: Jeffrey Beall

Author: Joey Carr

We all knew this day would come; all good things must come to an end, and it looks as if the best Regular Season quarterback to ever play is finally near his end. For years, Peyton Manning has baffled us with his insane accuracy, ability to read defenses, and most of all the amount of records he’s shattered with ease. But now, the injuries are piling up, there is little to no zip on his passes, short and long, and a Hall of Fame career might be near the finish line.

Two years ago, none of us would have expected Peyton Manning to be leading the league in interceptions (17!!!). None of us would have expected his illustrious career to come to a breaking halt just two years after he had one of the best seasons by a quarterback in the history of the NFL. But that’s where we’re at, and we just have to deal with the fact that we probably won’t be seeing the Peyton Manning we’ve all come to respect anymore. Sure, he might come back once his torn plantar fasciitis heals up, but still, how effective could he be? If you’re a diehard football fan like myself, you probably either love Peyton Manning, or you hate him, but you know you respect him. It’s like if you’re a Red Sox fan and you’re watching Derek Jeter play; you hate the Captain with such a deep, burning passion because he’s so darn good but in the end, you absolutely need to respect what the man has done for the game of baseball, even if he did play for the Yankees. It’s the same situation with the Sheriff (unless you’re a Denver fan or a Colt fan that still roots for him). There’s no denying that he’s a first ballot Hall of Famer, just look at the records he holds: Most passing touchdowns, most passing yards, single season passing yards and touchdowns, and the list goes on. Yes, he has choked in the playoffs quite a bit (13 three and outs), but that’s not what most people will remember him for. He will be remembered as the guy who started the Chicken Parm jingle, the guy who made the word “Omaha” so famous, and the guy who dazzled the world with crazy game after crazy game. I’m sure when he retires he will continue motivating his team and others, maybe he’ll even work with places like Sports Speakers 360 and become a motivational speaker!

Now, there is still an entire half season to go. Yes, Brock Osweiler is in at quarterback for the time being but Denver is 7-2 and still possesses a top tier defense that is capable of winning games by themselves so it is more than likely that we will see the Broncos in the playoffs. And if you don’t think John Elway will give Peyton Manning the chance to compete in perhaps his last playoff run, you’re out of your mind. Of course, this is all predicated upon whether or not Manning is healthy enough to give it a final go and if Brock Osweiler hasn’t pulled a 2013 Nick Foles and gone on a rampage through the final 7 games. But either way, let’s hope we haven’t seen the last of Peyton Manning because if we have, it’s a loss to the football and the football world.

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Week 11 Power Rankings:

Eagles at Redskins 10/04/15

Photo credit: Keith Allison

Author: Joey Carr

Week 11 Power Rankings

1. New England Patriots

2. Carolina Panthers

3. Arizona Cardinals

4. Minnesota Vikings

5. Cincinnati Bengals

6. Atlanta Falcons

7. Pittsburgh Steelers

8. Denver Broncos

9. Green Bay Packers

10. New York Giants

11. Seattle Seahawks

12. Kansas City Chiefs

13. Buffalo Bills

14. Oakland Raiders

15. New York Jets

16. Indianapolis Colts

17. Washington Redskins

18. St. Louis Rams

19. Miami Dolphins

20. Philadelphia Eagles

21. Houston Texans

22. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

23. Chicago Bears

24. Dallas Cowboys

25. Cleveland Browns

26. San Francisco 49ers

27. Detroit Lions

28. New Orleans Saints

29. San Diego Chargers

30. Baltimore Ravens

31. Jacksonville Jaguars

32. Tennessee Titans

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