Stafford and Johnson shine for Lions in Thanksgiving day match up:

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Photo credit: Mike Morbeck

Author: Jon Kuzma

Matthew Stafford saved his best game of the year for the people of Detroit on Thanksgiving. As most football fans are probably aware, the Detroit Lions play every Thanksgiving. So if you’re from the Detroit area watching the Lions is a year in and year out thing on turkey day. Lions fans must of rejoiced yesterday watching Stafford throw for 5 touchdowns and no interceptions on the day. Showing when he has time to operate he is still one of the most dangerous passers in the league. Whether Lions fans would like to admit it or not. Stafford is the best option the Detroit Lions have had at quarterback in a very long time. Now paired with the new Jim Bob Cooter led offense, the Lions are finally making some noise in the NFL winning their last 3 straight games. With five games left in the season will the Lions do enough to save Jim Caldwell’s job? If the Lions keep playing like this there is no doubt about it. The team seems to have ironed out all their wrinkles and are playing much better football these days. Calvin Johnson was finally able to get in a rhythm catching 3 touchdowns against the Eagles defense. If this team wants to have the success they had yesterday beating the Eagles 45-14. Johnson will have to be involved and be targeted early and often by Stafford. Rex Ryan said in press conference this week they are going to be forcing the ball to Sammy Watkins. That is exactly what the Lions should be doing with Johnson. While not the athlete he was in his earlier NFL days, Johnson can still be a dominant force when his confidence is up and he gets in the zone mentally. It all starts with Matthew Stafford getting the protection he needs from the offensive line and making it happen with Johnson in the aerial attack.

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Whats happening around the league Week 12:

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Author: Jon Kuzma

Honey Badger has high praise for Blaine Gabbert

Tyrann Mathieu had high praise for Blaine Gabbert heading into their week 12 match up with the San Francisco 49ers. Stating that he felt “Gabbert was a better option for the 49ers”. After reviewing film on Gabbert and comparing him to former 49ers starting quarterback Colin Kaepernick. Mathieu believes Gabbert is a better decision maker and turns the ball over less. Additionally he added “ we knew Kaepernick tendencies” meaning that Kaepernick was much more predictable than Gabbert. What truly stands out the most is Gabbert is a traditional pocket passer and a better fit for Tomsula’s offense. He can make the throws much easier than Kaepernick could. Meaning a more well rounded Niners offense.

Brady and Palmer headline M.V.P candidates

It’s no secret that Carson Palmer and Tom Brady have done an outstanding job of elevating their respective teams this year. Brady who after having his name drug through the mud in the Deflategate scandal, came out the other side clean. Playing his best football ever when everyone in the world was questioning his integrity. Brady has thrown for 25 touchdowns and only 4 interceptions. Proving he can persevere through times of adversity and he is the clear front runner for the MVP award. Carson Palmer the Arizona Cardinals quarterback is also having a phenomenal year. He has led the Cardinals to an 8-2 record which is largely due to Palmer’s performance on the field. Palmer has thrown for 27 touchdowns and 9 interceptions on the year. So while his numbers are not on par with Brady’s, he is still having an outstanding year. When the Cardinals lost Palmer last year they were no longer a Super Bowl contender. As long as they have him on the field they will have a shot to play in Super Bowl 50 at Levi Stadium.

Injuries pilling up all across the league

Peyton Manning is sidelined for at least two more weeks with a plantar fascia tear. At this point one has to wonder if this is it for Manning who just recently became the most prolific passer ever in terms of total yards thrown for. Now the Broncos will be turning to Brock Osweiler for his second straight start. Manning isn’t the only veteran facing a tough injury in his later age, Marshawn Lynch also had surgery on a sports hernia that is expected to keep him sidelined for at least a month. Beast mode has been pretty banged up this year and never really got it going. Thomas Rawls has done a phenomenal job limiting the loss of Lynch. Filling the void nicely for the Seahawks. Still its tough to see two of the NFL’s biggest stars have their careers come winding down.

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Stedman Bailey shot: gun violence a very scary issue in the world

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Photo credit: Shea Huening

Author: Jon Kuzma

With rumors breaking out of St. Louis Rams camp that Stedman Bailey has been shot in the head. We are still awaiting word on how the event unfolded, apparently Bailey was in the Miami area when the incident took place. The Rams released a statement confirming that the rumor of Bailey being shot was indeed true. Although word has just broke that the injury appears to be non life threatening, Bailey will still require extensive surgery which he will go into tomorrow. The shooting took place when Bailey and three relatives were in a car in South Florida. The driver apparently was Bailey’s cousin who took most of the shots and is in critical condition. The driver shielded Bailey and the two younger relatives in the car from taking more shots. As a result the drivers wounds do appear to be life threatening. The event signifies another case of gun violence crossing paths with an NFL player. Fortunately for this case it doesn’t appear that Bailey had any wrong doing in the event. Still tough to understand and a devastating blow for a young player who was seen as a key piece of the Rams receiving core. Keep Bailey and his family in your prayers when you go to sleep tonight.

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Johnny Manziel got the short end of the stick in Cleveland:

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Photo credit: Erik Drost

Author: Jon Kuzma

When the Cleveland Browns announced today that they were benching Johnny Manziel for Josh McCown I think everyone in the Cleveland area was frustrated with the Browns decision. Even if you don’t like Manziel it would be nice to see what the guy is capable of as the full time starter. Now however it seems like we will never get that chance, the Browns decided Manziel would be dropped down to 3rd on their depth chart a big demotion. Meaning Money Manziel most likely won’t be back in a Browns uniform next season. The move has to be a disturbing one for Manziel supporters who no doubt feel like Cleveland ruined his career. While most first round picks start from day one, Manziel has almost completed his second whole season without the Browns ever fully giving him the reins. While Johnny opposers will say that his latest “club video” is the reason for his demotion. One has to ask who are we to tell Johnny Manziel how to live his life? Just because Manziel doesn’t choose to be overly professional or politically correctly doesn’t mean that he can’t be a tremendous leader on the football field. Joe Namath was a former quarterback who was known for his frequent partying and outlandish lifestyle. He went on to become a Super Bowl champion and one the NFL’s biggest icons. The point is just because someone doesn’t fit the mold of what an ideal person is doesn’t mean they shouldn’t have any place in football. Manziel committed no crimes in the video and while it may be troubling he is over 21 and allowed to drink in America legally. Correct me if I’m wrong but isn’t there an old saying among football coaches when drafting a player. “Would you rather have a guy that you would want to marry your daughter or a guy that can win football games”. Clearly the Cleveland Browns wanted a guy that could marry their daughter. Now next year during this time they will be the big losers when they watch that guy who can win football games do it for some other team. While they try to make do with Josh McCown.

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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.

Charity of the day: Proliteracy Worldwide

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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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