Super Bowl bound: Broncos defense overwhelms the Patriots

Photo credit: Christian Petersen

Author: Jon Kuzma

The Denver Broncos defense absolutely destroyed the New England Patriots offense in the AFC championship game today at Sports Authority field. The match up that most stuck out in the contest was the Denver Broncos defensive line versus the New England Patriots offensively. Both the Patriots offensive tackles Marcus Cannon and Sebastian Vollmer had a rough outing trying to match up with the Denver pass rusher. It seemed like nearly every snap Brady had a Broncos defender in his face. Causing the 16th year quarterback out of Michigan to put a number of his passes in the dirt. It doesn’t matter how good your quarterback is if you don’t have the pass protection upfront to give that quarterback time to operate he will fail. Von Miller, Derek Wolfe, and Demarcus Ware all did their part in eliminating Brady’s comfort in the pocket. Offensively for Denver you have to give credit to Peyton Manning for getting the job done despite his old age. Manning finished the game with 2 touchdowns passes and no interceptions. Outperforming Tom Brady who had 1 touchdown and 2 interceptions. Turnovers kill your team and Manning did a great job of not turning the ball over through the air. Denver also did a much better job of utilizing the running game. The Broncos were able to rush for 99 yards as a team compared to the Patriots 44 yards as team. The Broncos were fundamentally a better football team. They ran the ball better and they played better defense. It’s very uncharacteristic to see Belichick get away from those football values. Ultimately that cost the Patriots down the stretch. As much as you can say the Patriots game plan was off though. You still have to give credit to the Broncos and their front office. They put a superior team on the field talent wise than New England. They were truly the most complete team in the AFC.

Charity of the day: National Osteoporosis Foundation

Go donate! www.nof.org

Patrick Peterson edges out Josh Norman as the top corner in the postseason:

Photo credit: Christian Petersen

Author: Jon Kuzma

Josh Norman has had an outstanding season this year for the Carolina Panthers. So good that he has been commonly referred to as one of the best defensive backs in football. Still it’s hard to give Norman the nod as the best cornerback in the playoffs over Patrick Peterson. While Norman certainly had a more productive year. Peterson has earned a reputation as one of the best corners in the game. Which causes opposing quarterbacks to rarely throw his way. The result of that is less interceptions for Peterson overall. That is why he finished the season with 2 interceptions compared to Norman’s 4. When you look at both player’s careers in comparison you get the true tale of the tape. Peterson has 17 interceptions over his 5 year career. While Josh Norman has 7 interceptions over a six year career. It’s really not disputable Patrick Peterson is one of the best in the league because he works so hard to hone his craft. On the field Peterson has the speed to keep up with the best in the league. He also has the football intelligence to read the quarterbacks drop and read the wide receivers route and make a play on the ball. It’s no secret playing defensive back is one of the hardest positions to play in all of sports. To be as effective as Peterson is just goes to show that he is indeed one of the best in the game today. Norman has done a great job of shutting down some of the league’s best receivers this year. He without doubt deserves that credit. Yet he has a long way to go before he gets recognized as a better player than Patrick Peterson. Truthfully you would have to think that both players would rather go home with a win over better player recognition. Expect the Panthers to pull the victory out on the field. They went 15-1 in the regular season for a reason. They were the most well rounded football team this year.

Charity of the day: Environmental Defense Fund

Go donate! www.edf.org

A few questions and answers with Tim Lelito from the New Orleans Saints:

Photo credit: Joel Auerbach / Getty Images Sport

Author: Jon Kuzma

Who was the toughest defensive lineman that you ever faced in the National Football League?

T.L- The toughest defensive lineman that I ever had to face was hands down Gerald McCoy from Tampa Bay. The guy was a load to handle and one of the best doing it.

2. What is it like playing with future Hall of Famer Drew Brees?

T.L- Drew is such a stand up guy and he genuinely cares about the people around him. Personally he has paid for two of my vacations to Mexico and just recently he took all of us on a duck hunting trip. So you can tell the guy is authentic in terms of caring about the people he works with.

3. What do you think about Brandin Cooks game?

T.L- Cooks is a very dynamic player. One of the best I’ve ever played with, he is just so explosive. He can beat you in a number of ways. Charles Johnson #12 on the Minnesota Vikings was the best wide receiver at Grand Valley State University when I was there. Both of those guys are amazing ball players at the receiver position.

4. What is it like going against Cameron Jordan in practice?

T.L- Cam is at the defensive end position so he is usually going against the tackles. However when they run loops or twists we have to go against each other sometimes. The guy is so quick for how big he is. He sets you up one way and then beats you the other way. He is just a tough draw and a handful for any offensive lineman. He is really choppy with his feet and his hands and can break you down quickly. It’s crazy to me how elusive he is!

5. Is Cameron Jordan a ripper or swimmer?

T.L- He is definitely a swimmer. He likes to work the swim move especially on my inside A gap on a direct path to the quarterback.

6. What was it like going against Cam Newton?

T.L- When I first got to New Orleans it was like how are we going to stop this guy? Now this year it was like, is there anyway that we can slow this guy down? Obviously this year nobody really slowed him down. So yea, he is a very special player.

*Notes- Tim Lelito was one of the must humble and down to earth professional athletes we’ve ever encountered. He wasn’t cocky at all nor did he make anyone at the interview feel inferior to him. Tim Lelito is a stand up guy and deserves all of the success that he has earned. We at endzoneblog.com would like to thank him for taking the time to speak with us and wish him nothing but the best in his NFL career.

Charity of the day: Environmental Defense Fund

Go donate! www.edf.org

Manning is the weakest quarterback remaining in the postseason:

Photo credit: Dustin Bradford / Getty Images Sport

Author: Jon Kuzma

It’s very rare that Peyton Manning is the worst quarterback in the playoffs. In 2016 that is the case this year. After Manning broke Brett Favre’s record and became the most accomplished passer of all time in terms of yardage. Manning got injured, lost his job, and threw for 9 touchdowns and 17 interceptions in the regular season. By some stroke of luck the Denver Broncos decided that giving Manning the nod for the postseason would be the best solution for this team. That couldn’t be further from the truth honestly. Brock Osweiler flat out had a more successful year than Manning did, and essentially willed the Broncos to the postseason. For the Broncos to turn the page on Osweiler when they desperately needed him just several weeks ago is a harsh move by the franchise. We know Peyton Manning is most likely done after this season. So why start the quarterback that the team has no future with? Not to mention Osweiler is a free agent this offseason. You would think with Osweiler proving he is a talented quarterback the Broncos would want to keep the young signal caller in their good graces. That doesn’t seem to be the case with Denver though. They believe Manning with his deep mental understanding of the game is a better suited option for this offense. Remember last year when Manning refused to come out of the game when the Broncos were blowing out the Oakland Raiders? Essentially cutting into Osweiler’s garbage time late in the fourth quarter. It’s things like that and benching Osweiler for Manning entering the playoffs that are going to drive Osweiler out the door this offseason. Would you want to work for an employer who clearly didn’t look out for your well being? Absolutely not, and don’t expect Osweiler to be back in Denver. If Denver would of started Osweiler not only would they have had a shot to do exactly what they’re doing now. Osweiler would of been leaps and bounds better next year in the postseason. Due to the development he would undergo this postseason. Manning is a great player, but he is a player of the past. His best days are behind him and it’s always a good thing to look to the future. The things you do today set you up for tomorrow. The Denver Broncos clearly don’t understand that. That is why they have the worst starting quarterback out of the 4 teams remaining. Hopefully for Denver’s fans sake the defense can pull out some victories. Because it’s very unlikely at this point of his career that Manning will be putting the team on his back and having those dominant 5 touchdown pass performances we’ve seen in previous years. It’s just past his time.

Charity of the day: Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research

Go donate! www.michaeljfox.org

 

Carson Palmer will try to put the Cardinals on his back this weekend:

Photo credit: Jennifer Stewart / Getty Images Sport

Author: Jon Kuzma

Carson Palmer had an outstanding year for the Arizona Cardinals. The 13th year quarterback threw for 35 touchdowns and 4,671 yards accumulating a passer rating of 104.6. Palmer has came a long way from the time he decided to sit out the season in Cincinnati. After slowly getting back into stride with the Raiders, Palmer really resurrected his career when he got to Arizona. Palmer was the perfect fit in Bruce Arians system. Which gives Palmer support by relying on a steady run game and tremendous defense. That is why we seen Palmers touchdown production jump to 35 touchdowns passes after being injured just a year before. When you factor in that Palmer is the perfect pro quarterback as well that is really what pays dividends for his game. Standing at 6’5 Palmer has the height to see over the line and make all of the throws. He isn’t fast or mobile like the opposing quarterback he will face this weekend (Cam Newton). Yet Palmer has arguably a better arm than Cam. All Palmer has to do is read the defense, take the snap, and hitch and throw from the pocket. It’s as simple as that. It will be up to the Cardinals offensive line to give Carson enough time to make his magic happen. Not an easy task when you factor in just how good this Carolina defense has been this year. Carolina has been decent against the pass ranking 11th in the league. However they are great upfront defensively. It will be up to Palmer to do his homework all week long and really find the weak links to this Carolina defense. Maybe that is going away from Josh Norman and attacking Robert McClain and Cortland Finnegan. Maybe that is putting a receiver like Michael Floyd on Josh Norman and letting Larry Fitz handle one of the lesser talented defensive backs. Whatever the formula is for success expect Palmer to do everything he can to find it. The 36 year old quarterback isn’t getting any younger, and you never know how many playoff opportunities you will have later in your career. Kickoff is slated for Sunday at 6:40 P.M. Don’t miss it.

Charity of the day: Arbor Day Foundation

Go donate! www.arborday.org

What is next for the New York Jets?

Photo credit: Tom Szczerbowski / Getty images Sport

Author: Jon Kuzma

The New York Jets had a great year under first year head coach Todd Bowles. The Jets finished 10-6 and were on the cusp of making the playoffs before losing their final game of the season to the Buffalo Bills. The Jets have some big challenges they face this offseason to repeat their first year success under Bowles. They must first and foremost retain free agent quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick. Fitzpatrick was a huge reason the Jets went 10-6 he provides a spark to this offense and Fitzpatrick and Brandon Marshall have already discussed their future together in the big apple. Meaning that is more than likely that Fitzpatrick will indeed re-sign with the Jets and be back in 2016. Another year together between Marshall and Fitzpatrick could spell danger for opposing defenses. The pair already had an outstanding first performance together which saw Marshall hauling in 14 touchdowns passes. When you add in the chemistry and rhythm and timing that they will achieve in their second year. This tandem could easily be even more dynamic the second time around. Defensively the Jets must do everything they can to retain Muhammad Wilkerson. Wilkerson was the Jets best defensive lineman in 2015 recording 12 sacks on the year. However the fifth year defensive lineman out of Temple broke his leg in the final game of the season against the Bills. With the Jets limited cap space wise they will have to make some tough decisions about who stays and who goes. Not an easy decision when you have to re-sign your starting quarterback and your best defensive player. To make matters worse the Jets have to determine what they will pay Wilkerson coming off that injury. There has to be some concerns about whether or not Wilkerson will be able to return to that top form after the injury. Wilkerson’s teammate Sheldon Richardson believes Wilkerson will bounce back but also believes the Jets might not get him back. Sometimes players need a change of scenery and that might be the case for Wilkerson. Like stated above expect Fitzpatrick to return.

Charity of the day: Arbor Day Foundation

Go donate! www.arborday.org

Where are they headed? Here are some key free agents that could be on the move

Photo credit: Steve Nehf / Denver Post

Author: Jon Kuzma

There are plenty of big name free agents on the market but maybe none bigger than Von Miller. Von Miller was the most talented prospect NFL scout Matt Miller has ever seen. All that talent that was seen in the combines and all those grades evaluators gave Von Miller ended up panning out. His game translated well to the NFL level and in Miller’s five year career he has managed to record 60 total sacks. That 12 sacks a year average has helped shape the Broncos into one of the best defenses in the league. Now with Miller slated to hit the open market after the season it will be up to the Broncos to do everything they can to keep one of their top players in Denver. With the talent and skills Miller brings to the table he will certainly be courted by more than several teams. Don’t be surprised if a team like the Oakland Raiders try to make a push for the 5th year pass rusher. Could you imagine that Raiders defense with Khalil Mack and Von Miller on it? The Raiders have a ton of cap room and we all know how often players jump teams but stay in division. So that could be one destination for Miller if he does leave.

Eric Berry is another talented player who is slated to hit the open market. It would be weird if Andy Reid didn’t try to retain the talented safety, but if he can’t there will a number of teams that will bid for Berry’s services. Berry is truly one of the most talented players in the league and would help upgrade any defense on the backend. If teams are wary of his health concerns Eric Weddle might be a decent fill in. Weddle is also a free agent heading into the offense season and with the way the Chargers treated him he won’t be back with that franchise.

Finally Bruce Irvin and even Kirk Cousins are free agents. You have to think that the Redskins will get a deal struck with Cousins however nothing is guaranteed. If the Skins want to emulate the success they had this year the first step would be re-signing Couins no matter what it takes. As far as Irvin goes, he had 5.5 sacks this year and will be a cheaper option than Von Miller. A team with limited cap space looking to add more pass rush might see Irvin as a good fit. The Jets are team who might look at Irvin to stack behind that talented defensive line. Adding Irvin would bolster the Jets pass rush even more and at the same time not break their back financially. Keep an eye out for more free agent updates to come. There will be some changes happening personnel wise for the NFL landscape.

Charity of the day: American Kidney Fund

Go donate! www.kidneyfund.org

Is Cam Newton the greatest dual threat quarterback of all time?

Photo credit: Ronald C. Modra / Sports Imagery

Author: Jon Kuzma

Yesterday endzoneblog.com’s question was used on NFL Network’s R and B podcast. The question of “is Cam Newton the greatest quarterback of all time?” was asked and the hosts Nate Burleson and Michael Robinson really nailed it with their observations of Cam. I must admit before going on the show I had the exact same opinion of Newton myself. After seeing Cam play the game this year one thing dawned on me. I felt like I was watching the greatest dual threat quarterback of all time. A guy that not only had the speed to run the football and evade defenders, but also a guy who had the size to endure the hits a running quarterback must take in the NFL. While Cam can run effectively he isn’t just a mobile quarterback. Newton has the ability to sit in the pocket, hitch step and make the big throws all night. Showing how much work he has put in to polish himself as a passer. That translated on the field to 35 touchdown and 3,837 yards. When you also add in he ran for 10 touchdowns and 636 yards you begin to understand why he is indeed the best dual threat quarterback of all time. He beats out some stiff competition in big name players such as Randal Cunningham, and Michael Vick. Stats wise he is better than Vick and by the end of his career he will surpass Cunningham. Another player he beats out is the highly respected Steve Young. Young was a tremendously talented passer who had a little scoot to him. Yet Cam Newton is a much more talented runner and has a better claim to the title of dual threat quarterback. Fran Tarkenton was one of the best mobile quarterbacks of the past. However quarterbacks of the past weren’t as polished passers as we see today. Tarkenton never threw for 35 touchdowns in a season nor never ran for 10 touchdowns in a season. So Cam Newton is better dual threat quarterback than Tarkenton as well. It’s undisputed Newton is the greatest dual threat quarterback the game has ever seen and it really isn’t even close. It’s scary how good Newton can be especially if he takes takes the mental strides like Michael Robinson mentioned in the podcast. On behalf of Endzoneblog.com thank you to NFL Network for allowing us on the show.

Check out the the Endzoneblog on NFL Network at the link here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JVXLgr6OKJ8&feature=youtu.be

Charity of the day: American Kidney Fund

Go donate! www.kidneyfund.org

Carolina and Arizona emerge as the top teams in the NFC but only one can be the best:

Photo credit: Scott Cunningham / Getty Images Sport

Author: Jon Kuzma

Carolina and Arizona will meet up in the NFC championship game this weekend. These teams have a few similarities and you can clearly tell why they both made it this far. First and foremost they both have dynamic offenses. Whether it is Cam Newton with the Panthers beating defenses with his feet and his arm. Or Carson Palmer with the Cardinals who is the poised pocket passer making the big time throws. Both quarterbacks lead these offenses and put their team in a position to win football games. As far as the running game comparison goes. The Panthers have the advantage being ranked second in the league with a 142.6 yards per game average. That is compared to the Cardinals 119 yards per game and 8th overall ranking. The Panthers main contributor in those outstanding rushing efforts is Jonathan Stewart. Who finished the season with 989 rushing yards and 6 touchdowns. Cam Newton is also a very lethal rusher for this Panthers offense. He ran for 636 yards and 10 touchdowns for the season. Proving that he gets it done in other ways besides just passing the ball for this offense. As far as the defense goes for both teams. The Carolina Panther surrendered 308 points in the regular season compared to the Cardinals 313. That 313 points was also before the Cardinals Tyrann Mathieu was sidelined with an ACL tear in his right knee. The Cardinals were able to get pass the Packers without the honey badger but sooner or later they are going to miss that 5 interception a year production on the backend of the defense. For the Panthers defense they will have to get over the loss of Jarred Allen. Allen will likely miss the game this weekend with a foot injury. Still Luke Kuechly and company will pose a serious threat for Carson Palmer and the Cardinals. The Panthers D gave Russell Wilson fits early on in the NFC divisional round and they will try to emulate that success this weekend against Arizona.

Keep an eye on Larry Fitzgerald, Fitzgerald was the x factor last weekend for the Cardinals. He can single handedly put the team on his back and win games for the Cardinals. If the team wants to make it to Levi Stadium and the Super Bowl it will need two more big performances from Larry Fitzgerald. Will that be enough to get past the Panthers? It’s hard to say but it will be nearly impossible for the Cardinals to win if Fitzgerald doesn’t show up and have a big game. For the Panther they just have to keep playing solid defense and stick to the ground game. Those have been the keys to their success.

Charity of the day: Children’s Cancer Fund of America

Go donate! www.ccfoa.org

Denver and New England will meet again in the AFC championship:

Photo credit: Dustin Bradford

Author: Jon Kuzma

The New England Patriots and the Denver Broncos will meet again in the AFC championship game. Both team’s quarterbacks Peyton Manning and Tom Brady are familiar foes who have faced off head to head 17 different times. At this point in their careers you have to give the advantage to Tom Brady who threw for 36 touchdowns and 4,770 yards in the regular season. That is compared to Peyton Manning’s 9 touchdowns and 17 interceptions in the regular season. So the Pats are clearly the more explosive team when it comes to the passing game. In the running game you have to give the advantage to the Broncos. With the combination of Ronnie Hillman and CJ Anderson the Broncos can really wear teams down with their rushing attack. Defensively the Broncos also have the advantage. They were the number 1 defense in total yards surrendered and they were the best defense against the pass. They also finished 3rd in rushing yards surrendered as well. The Broncos defense is in the top three in the league in all three major defensive statistics. Showing that this defense has been just outstanding all season long in a number of different ways. If they can get to Tom Brady and stir things up. The Broncos just might have a chance at winning this thing and moving on to the Super Bowl. For the Patriots it has to be about giving Tom time to throw and stopping the Broncos running game. Those are the key match ups for this weekend. Both franchises are very good football teams but only one of them can move on to the big game. History tells you defense wins championships but truthfully this one is too close to call. We will just have to wait and see which team can edge it out.

Charity of the day: Children’s Cancer Fund of America

Go donate! www.ccfoa.org

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