The AFC West could be the best division in football in 2017:

Photo credit: Icon Sportswire

Author: Jon Kuzma

There are plenty of talented divisions in the National Football League but in 2017 the AFC West could be the best of them all. Three out of the four teams in the AFC West posted winning records in 2016 (Broncos, Raiders, and Chiefs) and to be honest the Chargers had one of the best drafts out of any team in the league. That could help Los Angeles close the gaps on the other teams in the division and one thing is for certain this race will be as tight as it can get. You’d think that the Chiefs or Raiders are the favorite to win the AFC West just because they were the best teams last year. However every year we have a few surprises and some teams get better while other teams get worse. Andy Reid is the best coach in the AFC West so you know Kansas City is going to be prepared better than the other teams. Although the Raiders could easily make a push for division supremacy as well. If Derek Carr can make a full recovery from that broken fibula he endured at the end of last season that would give Oakland a chance to be special again in 2017. On the opposite side of that argument if Carr isn’t up to par then the Raiders could slide back and maybe get passed by the Broncos. It feels like the Chargers will still be near the bottom of the division but anything can happen and we won’t know what any team’s capable of till the regular season rolls around. The other good news for the Chiefs is they have a fresh young quarterback in Patrick Mahomes to keep Alex Smith on a short leash. If Smith struggles and handicaps the Chiefs offense, Kansas City can at least give Alex Smith the impression that they might turn the page on him. While that likely won’t happen right away it’s a real possibility that Kansas City does indeed make a change at quarterback later on in the season. There’s no sense in Reid wasting another year with an underachieving Smith at the helm should the Chiefs win the division and make the playoffs. Finally the Denver Broncos seemed to have improve from 2016 to 2017. They got better at the quarterback position just because each quarterback on the roster has another year of experience under their belts. Denver also made some good picks in the draft as well so the Broncos have definitely been moving in the right direction and they could surprise some people this upcoming season. At the end of the day each of these teams have the potential to have a winning season and it’s not often that all four teams are this competitive. While the NFC East is usually the best division in football the AFC West certainly made a push for that title this off-season and it should make for a lot of great football in 2017.

Charity of the day: CARE USA

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The Seattle Seahawks are interested in signing Colin Kaepernick or Robert Griffin as their back up quarterback:

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Author: Jon Kuzma

The Seattle Seahawks have a vacancy to fill at the quarterback position and now Pete Carroll has announced Seattle is interested in signing either Colin Kaepernick or Robert Griffin III. Kaepernick performed well last season with 16 touchdowns passes and only 4 interceptions so that will likely be the choice the Seahawks go with. If Seattle does indeed sign Colin Kaepernick that would be a legitimate back up plan should Russell Wilson go down with an injury and to be honest Kaepernick wasn’t that far below Wilson stats wise. Russell Wilson only put up 21 touchdowns and 11 interceptions so truthfully if Wilson were to regress Kaepernick could indeed challenge Wilson for the starting quarterback job. From a football stand point that competition should bring out the best in both players and that’s ultimately what’s best for the team overall. Kaepernick also has a similar skill set to Wilson as well so the playbook wouldn’t have to change one bit if Wilson went down and Kaepernick came in. Both players are mobile quarterbacks and can effectively orchestrate the zone read concepts the Seahawks often like to employ. That also makes sense why the Seahawks targeted Robert Griffin III as possibly their other option. Griffin III is also a mobile quarterback that plays very much like Wilson and Kaepernick. If the Kaepernick deal should fall through, Griffin III would be the perfect candidate to play behind Wilson. Griffin III played in five games last year for the Browns but he struggled throwing only 2 touchdowns and 3 interceptions. Not many teams expressed interest in RG3 this off-season but consideration alone by the Seahawks could breathe life into Griffin’s career. If Seattle is compelled enough to consider Griffin III as an option then another team will likely feel the same. So keep an eye out whether Robert Griffin III can find a fit with another team if the Seahawks don’t end up getting a chance to sign him.

Charity of the day: CARE USA

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Landon Collins is a bona fide playmaker heading into his 3rd season:

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Author: Jon Kuzma

Landon Collins put together a terrific 2016 season and the 23 year old safety was able to amass 125 tackles, 5 interceptions, and 1 defensive touchdown. That stat line lets you know that Collins has officially arrived in the NFL and truthfully there is no ceiling in sight when you’re discussing Landon Collins’ capabilities. Collins has had over 100 tackles both years he has been a pro and now he is really starting to understand the game from a pass defenders prospective. That’s why we seen a spike in Collins’ interceptions in 2016 and you have to remember this guy only has two season of experience under his belt. Landon Collins will get much better as his development continues to progress and just look at the strides he has made from his rookie season to last year. As a rookie Collins was only able to nab one interception and then he increased that total to five the following year. That shows that the former University of Alabama safety is doing a great job of reading the quarterback’s eyes and he also understands how opposing offenses are trying to attack his zones. When you also factor in that Landon Collins now has the ball skills to intercept passes and finish those plays in the end zone for six points. That ends up being a potent defensive force for the Giants and Collins is big reason why New York went back to the postseason a year ago. Now with the Giants adding Brandon Marshall in the off-season this team will be poised to take the next step. That means the defense also has to raise the bar and expect Landon Collins to do his part. This guy has emerged into one of the best because he works extremely hard and because he truly loves the game of football. Fans should be in for a treat in Collins third season because lately this guy has been playing on a whole other level.

Charity of the day: Direct Relief & Direct Relief Foundation

Go donate! www.directrelief.org

Hue Jackson has projected that Cody Kessler will be the Cleveland Browns starting quarterback in 2017:

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Author: Jon Kuzma

The Browns finished 1-15 last season but one player may have solidified their starting position with the franchise. That player is quarterback Cody Kessler and clearly Browns Head Coach Hue Jackson has a ton of confidence in Kessler’s abilities. Jackson recently told the media that the other quarterbacks on the roster have to “take it away from Kessler”. Meaning Cody Kessler is indeed the projected starter for the Browns and that’s big news considering Brock Osweiler and DeShone Kizer are both on the roster. Jackson was adamant that Osweiler and Kizer have to beat out Kessler if they want to earn that spot but from the sounds of it Kessler certainly has his head coach’s trust. That’s as good as gold in this league and Hue Jackson is undoubtedly comfortable with the ball in Kessler’s hands. Cody Kessler threw for 6 touchdowns and 2 interceptions over the course of his eight starts in 2016. That was essentially an audition for Kessler and Jackson liked what he saw from the 24 year old quarterback out of Bakersfield California. If you don’t remember Kessler also spent four seasons at the University of Southern California as well, so he is no stranger to big time football and he has earned the right to lead Cleveland. Cody Kessler is 6 foot 1 so he is a little short for NFL quarterback standards but he is extremely accurate when throwing the football and he doesn’t turn the ball over very often. Those two factors have possibly elevated Cody Kessler to full time NFL starter status and as long as nothing changes in training camp expect to see number 6 out there leading the charge for the Dawgs in Northern Ohio. Truthfully this isn’t the time to celebrate for Kessler, now comes the hard part of leading this team and showing up to work hard everyday. If Kessler handles those intangibles well we could see a promising young quarterback start to emerge in Cody Kessler. That would be great news for the fans in Browns land.

Charity of the day: Direct Relief & Direct Relief Foundation

Go donate! www.directrelief.org

Mike Evans has quickly compiled three straight seasons of 1,000 receiving yards:

Photo credit: Thearon W. Henderson

Author: Jon Kuzma

Mike Evans came into the National Football League back in 2014 and every single year he has been a pro he has recorded at least 1,000 yards receiving. That is big time production and when you really think about how good you have to be to achieve a feat like that you understand that Mike Evans is a flat out superstar. Brandon Marshall a veteran receiver of the New York Giants has amassed eight seasons of 1,000 yards receiving and even Marshall didn’t start his career off with three consecutive 1,000 yard seasons. When you consider that Evans is already almost to Marshall’s half way mark, you begin to see just how good Evans has been and he really hit the ground running as a pro. Mike Evans is just 23 years old and he easily has several more seasons ahead of him. That will give Evans all the opportunity in the world to become one of the greatest receivers the game has ever seen and playing with Jameis Winston sure doesn’t hurt. Evans and Winston clearly have a unique cohesion which has allowed them to be extremely prolific. That duo will haunt defensive coordinators around the league for years to come and truthfully the best of Evans and Winston has yet to happen. Evans and Winston are actually both 23 years old and they still are maturing with each rep they take. That means both guys have a tremendous amount of upside and the future is extremely bright if you’re a Tampa Bay Buccaneers fan. The Bucs won the Super Bowl back in 2003 with an outstanding defense led by Warren Sapp and Derrick Brooks. Now Tampa Bay is emerging into a Super Bowl contender again except this time they have an extremely dynamic offense. That’s because of players like Mike Evans who come in and get the job done with their superior athletic ability. Tampa Bay has a number of players like that on their roster right now and it’s a lot of fun to watch this team play.

Charity of the day: Wounded Warrior Project

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John Elway faces the toughest task he has faced yet, turning the Broncos back into Super Bowl contenders:

Photo credit: Denver Post / Andy Cross

Author: Jon Kuzma

In many ways John Elway has already solidified himself as a successful general manager. Elway led the Broncos to one Super Bowl victory in 2016 and he signed Peyton Manning who is one the greatest quarterbacks the game has ever seen. All of those things were great accomplishments for John Elway but they are also in the rearview mirror. Now the Broncos are coming off a 9-7 record and the team failed to reach the playoffs just a year after winning the Super Bowl. That puts Elway in a rare underdog position, which he hasn’t found himself in since taking over as the Broncos lead man back in 2011. One thing that that stands out when you see the moves that John Elway has made is the fact that Elway wants to win in the trenches. The Broncos signed three defensive lineman this off-season ( Billy Winn, Domata Peko, and Zach Kerry) and two offensive lineman (Ron Leary and Menelik Watson). Those upgrades should yield great results on the offensive and defensive fronts which will help Denver dominate the line of scrimmage. If that wasn’t enough to convince you how much the Broncos love lineman, the Broncos also drafted an offensive lineman with their first round pick in the draft (Garrett Bolles). Elway then followed that selection with DeMarcus Walker a defensive end out of Florida State University. Boles and Walker are expected to come in and contribute sooner rather than later. Which let’s you know that John Elway wants to do two things effectively in 2017 and that’s protect the quarterback and rush the passer. All of these adjustments have been made and there are two other major story lines going on within the Broncos organization right now. That’s how Vance Joseph will hold up as the new head coach and who will emerge as the team’s starting quarterback? Those two factors will have a large outcome in the Broncos performance and also keep in mind the AFC West is maybe the toughest division in football right now. The Chargers have gotten much better and the Chiefs, and Raiders are both Super Bowl contenders. So Elway is facing the most pressure he has ever faced in Denver and it will be interesting to see if his transactions will improve on this team’s 9 win record from a year ago?

Charity of the day: Wounded Warrior Project

Go donate! www.woundedwarriorproject.org

It’s hard to believe that Sam Bradford is an elite quarterback:

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Author: Jon Kuzma

If you watched Sam Bradford at the University of Oklahoma you know he was an elite quarterback at the collegiate level. Bradford threw for 50 touchdowns back in 2008 and that eventually led the former Sooner quarterback to be drafted number 1 overall by the St. Louis Rams in the 2010 NFL Draft. Since entering the pros Sam Bradford has never really been able to find that confidence that propelled him to monumental heights like at Oklahoma. Bradford fizzled out with the Rams and was eventually traded to the Philadelphia Eagles in 2015. After serving as the starter in Philadelphia for a year, Bradford was then traded to the Vikings and that’s where we are at now. Over that course of time, in which Sam Bradford has played 6 seasons. Bradford has never once thrown for over 21 touchdowns in an entire season. So at the collegiate level Bradford is elite and throwing 50 touchdown passes a year, he gets to the pros and he isn’t even putting half of that production. Not only that but Sam Bradford has never thrown for 4,000 yards in a season either and if you follow this website you know we just talked about Kirk Cousins throwing for 4,000 yards the past two years. That means younger quarterbacks are coming into the league and bypassing Sam Bradford’s capabilities. Which is not want you want to see if you’re a Vikings fan with high expectations going into the 2017 season. The good news for Sam Bradford though is the Vikings added a lot of talent around him. Mike Zimmer runs one of the best defenses in the league and Minnesota has added a bunch of quality players on the offensive side of the ball. Latavius Murray and Dalvin Cook will give Bradford a ground game to lean on and the Vikings also picked up Michael Floyd recently. Those moves put the Vikings in a much better position than they were a year ago offensively and they should be a little bit better scoring wise. Still though you have to be worried about whether Sam Bradford himself can take that next step? If Bradford doesn’t rise to the occasion when the pressure is on there is no way the Vikings will be able to make a deep playoff run. So this season will be the truest test of Sam Bradford we’ve gotten so far and it’s really hard to see him becoming an elite player after failing to do so every year in the past.

Charity of the day: Conservation International Foundation

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Tom Brady will be on the cover of Madden 2018, the first time he has ever graced the cover:

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Author: Jon Kuzma

The folks of John Madden football finally decided to put Tom Brady on the cover of their highly coveted video game and it’s a great marketing move for E.A Sports. Tom Brady is widely considered the greatest quarterback to ever play the game of football and it would have been a complete failure on Madden’s behalf to never put Brady on the cover. Coming fresh off his 5th Super Bowl victory Tom Brady’s stock was hotter than ever and that’s why it’s the perfect time for Brady to be the poster child for John Madden football. Tom Brady threw for 28 touchdowns and only 2 interceptions in 2016 and keep in mind he didn’t play in four games due to a suspension. Brady still managed to have a better season than most quarterbacks who started all 16 games and there’s nothing that Brady can’t do at the quarterback position (Ok, maybe he can’t scramble like Mike Vick but you get it). John Madden football started way back in 1988 for the computer before eventually hitting regular Nintendo back in 1990. Although John Madden himself was on the cover from 1998 to 1999. In 2000 the franchise decided to go a different direction and allow players to be on the cover to help sell the product. There have been some mediocre players on the cover most notably Peyton Hillis back in 2011. That’s why it’s such a big deal to have Tom Brady on the cover now. When you have the best players on the cover of Madden, it sets the bar high for the game itself and the league. Make no mistake about the NFL tapped into a much wider audience when they licensed their rights to E.A Sports and now Madden is easily one of the greatest sports games of all time. It’s nice to see the greatest football video game of all time collaborate with the greatest quarterback of all time and it should be another awesome season of Madden when the game rolls out in August.

Note*- I personally grew up on Madden and I love to play the franchise mode. My favorite thing is building up a team and then simulating each game. Almost acting more as a general manager than actually playing the game. I can honestly say Madden helped me gain a better understanding of plays and it’s almost like a football bible.

Charity of the day: Conservation International Foundation

Go donate! www.conservation.org

Kirk Cousins is coming off back to back 4,000 yard passing seasons, he will be the key to the Redskins success in 2017:

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Author: Jon Kuzma

Kirk Cousins has been exceptional since taking over the Redskins starting quarterback job full time back in 2015. Since then Cousins has thrown for back to back 4,000 yard passing seasons and that’s outstanding production from the 28 year old signal caller. As most of you can remember Cousins was drafted the same year that Robert Griffin was selected by the Redskins. Since then Kirk Cousins has outperformed Griffin and it just goes to show that if you work hard and do the right things anything is possible. Cousins gives the Redskins a tremendous aerial attack and he also brings great leadership to Washington’s locker room. All of those abilities helped Kirk Cousins became a premier quarterback in the National Football League and Washington would take a huge step backwards if number 8 wasn’t on the field. In order to get the best out of Cousins the Redskins knew they had to put talent around their quarterback to help him succeed. That ultimately led to Washington signing Terrelle Pryor and that’s another weapons in Cousins arsenal when he drops back and scans the field. Pryor is 6 foot 4 so there is no missing the newly acquired wide out and keep in mind the former Browns receiver was able to go over the 1,000 yards mark last year. That output should help limit the loss of Pierre Garcon who signed with the San Francisco 49ers this off-season, and it also ensures Kirk Cousins isn’t depleted at the wide receiver position. Kirk Cousins will be throwing to a talented pass receiving group in Jamison Crowder, Terrelle Pryor, and Josh Doctson. If Jordan Reed can stay healthy in 2017 as well, then this team will certainly be able to get the job done offensively in the NFC East. At the end of the day though all of the Redskins success will depend on whether or not Cousins can play his best football? That means Cousins has to throw more touchdowns (he threw 25 last year) than ever and cut down on the 12 interceptions that he threw last season. If those to things happen the Redskins are going to be right in the thick of a division title race and it should further solidify that Cousins is the long term answer for this franchise.

Charity of the day: ALS Association

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Jared Goff has looked great at Los Angeles Rams off-season conditioning:

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Author: Jon Kuzma

The Los Angeles Rams gave up a boatload of draft picks to draft Jared Goff but apparently Goff has made significant strides entering his second season. Word out of California is Goff is handling new Head Coach Sean McVay’s offense excellently and that’s great news if you’re a Rams fan. Last year at this time Goff couldn’t even take a snap from under center and now it appears Goff is making reads and truly understanding what NFL defenses are throwing at him. Jared Goff finished 2016 with only 5 touchdown passes and 7 interceptions but keep in mind many great quarterbacks struggled during their rookie season. Peyton Manning, Steve Young, Brett Favre and John Elway all threw more interceptions than they did touchdowns in their first year of NFL action. While it’s definitely too early to mention Goff’s name in the same sentences of those legendary players, it’s also much too soon to write Goff off as a bust. Making the transition from college to the NFL isn’t easy if you’re a quarterback and that’s because it’s such a mental battle. As a quarterback you have to know every formation, all the terminology of the offensive playbook, and how to make hot reads all on the fly. Not only that but you have to understand what every other player on the offense is doing, so it’s a lot too soak up and it can overwhelm a young player early on. All of those intricacies of the game are exactly what Jared Goff has improved on and that means the Rams will have a much more polished quarterback in Goff’s second season. Now the bad news for Jared Goff is he doesn’t have very much help around him.The Rams overpaid for Robert Woods and Andrew Whitworth two free agents who are supposed to come in and make life easier on Jared Goff. However it’s hard to say if those guys will be enough to give Goff the talent he really needs around him to excel. Los Angeles is just depleted of talent right now and General Manager Les Snead hasn’t done enough to give this team a chance to compete. Goff will be better this year but if the Rams don’t get some players around him most of the football fans in Los Angeles will be Chargers fans next season.

Charity of the day: Human Rights Watch

Go donate! www.hrw.org

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