Detroit lions suffer meltdown in first game against the Chargers:

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Photo credit: Mike Morbeck

The Detroit Lions had an outstanding start against the San Diego Chargers in their regular season opener before facing a catastrophic meltdown. The Lions would start the game 21-3 before facing 30 unanswered points and losing the game 33-28. The let down was clearly an example of the team’s lack of mental toughness. While some losses can signify that a team is doomed from the start, this was not the case with the Lions. The Detroit Lions are a talented team that have plenty of weapons to succeed. This was clear in the regular season opener because when they were playing at an optimal level they were handling the Chargers. They just have to mature and learn how to win or in other words learn how to close games out. Closing games out or finishing the game is what separates the good teams from the bad teams in the National Football League. Each week there are several games that come down to the very last possession. The teams that can learn how to execute in the clutch when the pressure is on are the teams that eventually become successful in pro football. The Lions have talent, Ameer Abdullah was playing phenomenally for the Lions before they decided to go away from him in the second half. Another problem you have to have with the Lions meltdown is the fact that they were winning the football game significantly at one point, so why not rely on your run game to shorten the game a little bit when you’re ahead? Bell has been banged up recently but 13 carries between both Bell and Abdullah is ridiculously low. Good backs in the league can handle 20 carries to themselves. Why not feed one of those guys and wear down the defensive a little bit? Even if Theo Reddick had to take some carriers, that’s fine but to instead “air it out” when you’re ahead is just bad football I.Q by the Lions coaching staff. Whether it’s playing the game or coaching the game if you use bad fundamentals you are going to lose the game and that was the case for the Lion in their meltdown in San Diego. Bad fundamentals.

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Defense steals the show for Broncos in opener:

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Photo credit: Jeffrey Beall

Author: Jon Kuzma

The Denver Broncos defense has looked ferocious all throughout the preseason in limited action. Yesterday in the regular season opener against the Ravens they continued to show why they can suffocate opposing offenses. The Broncos were able to limit the Ravens to just 13 points in that game. Causing Joe Flacco to look flustered and panicked during his drop backs. In fact Flacco would go on to finish the game with no touchdowns and two interceptions. One of those interceptions being made by Aqib Talib and taken to the house for a Broncos touchdown. Talib was sensational in coverage all day, and proved yet again why he has always been respected as a big time player. While the secondary did a good job of locking down the Ravens wide receivers, it was the front seven of the Broncos who caused the initial disruption to the offense. Demarcus Ware and Brandon Marshall were a terror in the Broncos pass rushing efforts registering a sack each. The players helped cause Flacco to make ill-advised decisions, which consequently resulted in Broncos momentum time and time again. The game overall for both teams was somewhat of a defensive match up as neither offense could truly get off the ground. At the end of things however it was the Broncos defense that out played the Ravens. The old adage is “defense wins championships” and the Broncos defense has looked the best its looked since John Elway started calling the shots in Denver. Ware and Talib were veteran acquisitions in past years, and those investments in those players are starting to really reward the Broncos. In pro football today so much success in dictated by the pass rush upfront. That is why we always see pass rushers selected so high in the draft and sought after in free agency. It’s clear the Broncos have one of the better pass rushes in the league. That could yield huge results for this team down the stretch.

Mariota out shines Winston in week 1 match up:

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Photo credit:  Scott Enyeart

Author: Jon Kuzma

When Jameis Winston was taken number one in the 2015 draft, there wasn’t much disputing the Buccaneers choice. Winston was the most high profile player and he backed up that prominent respect by bringing a national championship back to Tallahassee. While Marcus Mariota was an outstanding player and a former heisman winner. There was no way you could argue he was better than Winston. Well that all changed week 1 of NFL regular season action. Marcus Mariota made a clear case for the claim of who was the better player between Winston and himself. Throwing for four touchdowns and completing 13 passes out of 16 passing attempts for 209 yards. Mariota looked nearly flawless at times against the Buc’s defense. On his first passing touchdown he sold a playaction run fake and then connected with Kendell Wright on a post route for a 52 yard touchdown. The play showcased Mariota’s recognition of the defense’s linebackers and how they were going to react to the playaction fake. Mariota’s next touchdown pass would come on a roll out play to the right. On that play the rookie quarterback was able to find his running back Bishop Sankey in the right flats, who would finish the play in the end zone for six. You could clearly see the young quarterbacks confidence growing within the Titan’s offensive system on every plan. While Winston on the other hand continued to look uncomfortable in the pocket, and played without poise. The game was really the tale of two completely opposite stories. Mariota would continue to roll completing another touchdown pass to Delanie Walker on a curl route. He also would complete a touchdown pass to Harry Douglass who seems to be having a nice role within the offense after previously playing with the Falcons. The offense collectively for the Titans looked much better and you can tell that is due to the combination of Ken Whisenhunt’s approach and Marcus Mariota’s leadership. The Buc’s on the other hand look like a team depleted of life. They clearly lack morale and that off-season hype of Jameis Winston being the savior hasn’t translated to on the field success thus far. It will be interesting to see who finishes the season better stats wise out of these two young gunslingers. Right now it looks like it will be Mariota.

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Endzoneblog’s week 1 pick em from the crew:

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Photo credit: Mike Morebeck

Jon                            Tammy                              Joey

Packers                 Bears                                Packers
Seahawks            Seahawks                        Seahawks
Colts                       Colts                                  Colts
Dolphins              Redskins                           Dolphins
Chiefs                   Chiefs                                 Chiefs
Panthers              Panthers                          Jaguars
Jets                        Jets                                      Jets
Lions                      Lions                                   Lions
Saints                    Saints                                 Cardinals
Broncos               Broncos                            Broncos
Bengals                Raiders                             Raiders
Buccaneers        Buccaneers                   Titans
Cowboys            Cowboys                         Cowboys
Eagles                  Falcons                              Eagles
Vikings                Vikings                               Vikings

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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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