The Indianapolis Colts are in the thick of a playoff race with a 6-6 record and only four games remaining on their schedule. It’s surprising how far this franchise has come because they were absolutely awful in 2017. Andrew Luck’s return has definitely been the underlining factor in the Colts’ resurgence. So General Manager Chris Ballard is going to keep that in mind when it’s time to add the additional pieces to this rosters. One player who has already expressed interest in joining Indianapolis is Le’Veon Bell. The Steelers running back is going to be a free agent this Spring and he’ll be able to sign with anyone he wants. At first you have to wonder if the Colts would be willing to spend a big chunk of their cap space on someone who didn’t report to Pittsburgh? However there’s no denying Bell’s expertise when he’s on the football field and it’s possible that Indy could shake things up to sign the dual-threat offensive weapon. The first way to make that happen is by releasing T.Y Hilton. Even though Hilton has been one of the lone bright spots for this organization he’s getting up there in age. The 29 year old receiver also missed a couple of games this season with a shoulder injury. Plus the Colts can save $14M by parting ways with Hilton which is money that could be spent on Bell. After that acquisition Ballard will have to spend his remaining funds on three wide receivers. Golden Tate, Quincy Enunwa, and Jamison Crowder would be the perfect haul. Then the entire draft can go towards improving the defensive side of the ball. All of that firepower would help Andrew Luck be even better and it would put the rest of the AFC South on notice. How could you pass that up?
We’ve seen it happen a handful of times before in NFL history. A player like Willie Parker, Fred Jackson, or Marion Motley goes undrafted but ends up making an NFL roster and then becomes a contributor. Perhaps the greatest of the group of undrafted ball carriers are Priest Holmes, Joe Perry, and Arian Foster. Those three players are the standard when it comes to overlooked talent and the Broncos might have the next underrated tailback. Phillip Linday is making a splash for Vance Joseph’s offense and it’s keeping Denver’s playoff hopes alive. Lindsay has rushed for 937 yards and 8 touchdowns with four games remaining. That almost guarantees the rookie will go over the 1,000 yards rushing mark and it’s also a great start to what could be a very prolific career. From here it’s about putting together at least a decade of solid play which is very difficult to do in today’s era. The players are more physical than ever and it’s very tough to endure the punishment that comes with running the football. So the biggest challenge is to avoid being a flash in the pan. Every fall we see a couple of individuals completely unravel after having a success season. Lindsay needs to prove this isn’t fluke and that he can be relied on for years to come. If you’ve followed his past you know Lindsay has been a star at South High School (Denver) and the University of Colorado (Boulder). During both of those stops this guy rewrote the record books and it’s not surprising that he’s putting it all together for the Broncos. Some people just slip through the cracks when it comes to the draft process. Luckily Phillip Lindsay was a local hero and he eventually got a tryout with Denver. Obviously he impressed John Elway because Lindsay has never looked back.
Photo credit: Otto Greule Jr. / Getty Images Sport
Author: Jon Kuzma
If anything has been proven about the Seattle Seahawks throughout the first thirteen weeks of the season it’s that they’re a scrappy bunch. Pete Carroll’s squad is 7-5 and are siting in the fifth playoff spot. Dallas is behind them at number six and it’s been such an impressive year for Carroll considering all the question marks he faced this past off-season (a lot of players left). However his formula hasn’t changed at all he still puts most of his focus on the defensive side of the ball. Seattle isn’t loaded with talented defenders like the Los Angeles Rams are but the Seahawks have surrendered less points (259) than anyone else in the NFC West. It’s because Carroll gets more out of his players and he does a great job of playing to their strengths. While Wade Phillips likes to blitz and take chances which often leaves the Rams vulnerable. Carroll loves to play coverage and use a bend but don’t break philosophy. The result is less touchdowns being surrendered and it’s one of the main reasons Seattle has been a contender every year that Pete Carroll has been there. When you’ve run that system for so many years the players on your roster start to play more instinctively. Everyone knows their assignment and what’s expected of them. For the linebackers that usually involves dropping to their hook zones and it becomes effortless after doing it in practice everyday. Then the corners and safeties have to flourish in cover 2 and cover 3 schemes. Everything is basically a zone concept and most NFL defensive coordinators prefer man to man coverage. Tony Dungy used a very similar approach during his time with the Buccaneers and Colts. Lovie Smith also had a similar style of play with the Chicago Bears. The bottom line is it works and Seattle resembles the team they did back in 2011. Remember they ended up winning a Super Bowl shortly after that in 2014.
Urban Meyer is stepping down after the Rose Bowl and it will cap off a seven year run as the Ohio State Buckeyes head football coach. Meyer is leaving Columbus for what he’s described as “health reasons” but the community surrounding OSU could be part of the reason Meyer’s is so stressed. There was a lot of people who opposed the legendary coach after how he handled a domestic abuse case involving one of his assistant coaches. To be honest though Meyer himself never had any run ins with the law. This is a man who dedicated his whole entire life to opening doors for his players and he taught athletes life lessons through the sport of football. When you get as high up as Meyer is there will always be people who try to take you down but it’s magnified when people think you’re unethical. In Columbus there was individuals there that were unappreciative of the 54 year old coach’s efforts. Which is why a fresh start could be exactly what he needs to feel reinvigorated. It just so happens that the Cleveland Browns job is available too. Meyer grew up in Ashtabula Ohio which is only one hour away from Cleveland. How could you pass up the opportunity of leading the team you rooted for as a child? Urban Meyer made it clear he felt better about the state of the Buckeyes program and that’s one of the other reasons he’s leaving. Maybe it’s time for the x and os mastermind to save the Browns after their disastrous two year stretch? Baker Mayfield, Nick Chubb, and Myles Garrett have already helped the dog pound start to turn the page. Adding Meyer would be like adding nos to a high powered sports car and it’s the perfect time for him to make the leap. Plus if he does have success at the NFL level that’s one thing Nick Saban wasn’t able to do. So there’s a lot of incentive for Urban Meyer to take a crack at the pros.
Charity of the day: Save The Children
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Urban Meyer is a legendary football coach and now he needs to go compete against the best in the world (NFL).
The New England Patriots are coming off a 24-10 win over the Minnesota Vikings and that score was somewhat surprising because Kirk Cousins, Adam Thielen, and Stefon Diggs are usually good for at least 20 points. Yet once the final whistle had blown Mike Zimmer’s ball club was left frustrated with their lack of offensive output. The reason this is such a big deal is because last season the Patriots finished the year with the 29th ranked defense. Even though they’re currently 21st this season that can be the difference between sacking a QB late in the game or forcing a three and out and getting the ball back for Tom Brady and the offense. Which makes it apparent that New England is much less vulnerable on the defensive side of the ball. The player who is mostly responsible for this uptick is definitely Trey Flowers. Bill Belichick doesn’t have a 10 sacks guy on his roster but Flowers has the potential to be reach that mark someday. With 4.5 sacks the 25 year old defensive end (Flowers) does give this franchise something off the edge. The other main contributor has definitely been Deatrich Wise who also has 4.5 sacks. Those are the two top performers and then Adrian Clayborn is also a part of that rotation. Obviously those three ends are much better than what New England tried to get by with a year ago. Remember Jabaal Sheard and Chris Long left after the Super Bowl win over the Atlanta Falcons. Belichick couldn’t reload in 2017 but now it seems like the Patriots have enough to at least get the stops that they need. Now if there is any concern it’s that their offense is starting to lose a step but maybe Trey Flowers, Deatrich Wise, and Adrian Clayborn can force some turnovers and create additional opportunities for Tom Brady, Sony Michel, and Josh Gordon. Who knows maybe that will be the difference between winning and losing the Super Bowl?
Photo credit: Justin K. Aller / Getty Images Sport
Author: Jon Kuzma
This just in the Los Angeles Chargers are a really good football team. A lot analysis picked this ball club to make it to the Super Bowl and clearly there was some merit behind those selections. Last night was a perfect example and somehow the Chargers rallied from a 23-7 deficit in the first half. Philip Rivers was a big part of the reason why and he actually had a better night than Ben Roethlisberger. Rivers ended up airing it out for 299 yards, 2 touchdowns, and no interceptions. Most of those passing yards went to Keenan Allen who hauled in 148 yards and 1 touchdown. Those two players have such good rapport and they’re always on the same page. If teams can’t pressure Rivers and find a way to eliminate Allen then there’s no chance of beating LA. Derwin James was also very good in this game notching his 3rd interception of the season. Desmond King was the other standout defender he recorded a team high of 10 tackles. Maybe the craziest part of the night was on the final play. Chargers kicker Michael Badgley had to attempt three game winning field goals because the Steelers kept jumping offsides. Badgley actually missed the first kick so Pittsburgh bailed him out. It’s that lack of discipline which continues to haunt Mike Tomlin. Everyone knows how much talent there is on the Steel City’s roster but it’s often wasted because of boneheaded decision making. Last night was another example of that and it’s obvious there is a pattern here. Bill Cowher would’ve found a way to win with a 23-7 lead and it’s because he would’ve shortened the game by running the ball. Pittsburgh only had 17 rushing attempts and that’s a big strike against the coaching staff. We’re starting to see a change in power. Anthony Lynn is climbing the coaching ranks while Tomlin is tumbling.
The low points just kept coming and ultimately that cost Mike McCarthy his job. Green Bay shouldn’t have lost to the Arizona Cardinals and when they did it was the nail in McCarthy’s coffin. The fans in Wisconsin were tired of the direction the team was headed and now the Packers will look to hire their 15th head coach in the history of their franchise. There’s already rumors going around about who that might be? A number of different names have been thrown out but it’s too soon to take anything seriously. Right now it’s all speculation and there’s isn’t any credible reports. The one thing we do know is Joe Philbin will serve as the interim head coach. Green Bay’s President Mark Murphy already stated that they’re in the process of finding someone to replace McCarthy. So it doesn’t sound like Philbin will be a legitimate candidate for the job. The Packers are going to do everything they can to end up making a splash. When you think about how well this ball club has been ran it almost seems like they would rather have an already established coach rather than a young upstart like Kliff Kingsbury or Lincoln Riley. Jeff Fisher, John Harbaugh, or Bruce Arians could all be in play. The other options might be Jim Schwartz, Josh McDaniels, or John DeFilippo so there’s quite a bit of possibilities. Clearly Murphy is going to weigh all the angles and try to see which individual is the best fit for them? Obviously all of this is shocking though because McCarthy had been at the helm since 2006. We know now the Cardinals game was the straw that broke the camel’s back.
Charity of the day: Bob Woodruff Family Foundation
Everyone knew just how good of a player Roquan Smith was at the University of Georgia. In college the high octane linebacker played sideline to sideline and made so many tackles. However there’s always some question marks about whether a rookie athlete’s game will translate over to the pro level? Fortunately for the Bears Smith is doing an exceptional job of making that jump and he’s been instrumental in this team’s 8-3 record. Smith already has 81 tackles and 4 sacks this season. The reason the former Bulldog is able to make those plays is because of his block shedding ability and also because he diagnoses runs so quickly. There were times on film when you would see Smith flow and then shoot a gap for a TFL. It’s his instincts which allows him to quickly process the events unfolding. You develop that from playing the game over the course of a lifetime. Some players are in the league for five or six years and they’re just starting to unlock that level of awareness. Therefore it says a lot about Smith because he’s able to breakdown the game mentally even as a first year defender. With Danny Trevathan at the other inside linebacker position Chicago has two very good run stoppers. Then there’s Khalil Mack and Leonard Floyd coming off the edges which is a dangerous group of playmakers. If offenses don’t keep their head on a swivel then these guys will flat out take your head off. They’re the main reason that the Windy City fan base has Super Bowl expectations on their mind. Roquan Smith definitely propelled this defense towards those goals because he’s been dominant since becoming a full time starter in week two. People tend to forget Smith’s best days are still ahead of him because he’s going to develop quite a bit from where he is now.
Here’s a scheme-based white flag directed at Mack by Detroit. They’d rather match up Theo Riddick on a blitzing Roquan Smith (a battle Roquan will win every single time) than use their guard to block Smith and leave Taylor Decker and a chipping TE alone on Mack. Result: sack. pic.twitter.com/HRZJ3RIOAB
The Kansas City Chiefs decided to release Kareem Hunt because of a video that surfaced showing Hunt getting into an altercation with a woman. While releasing Hunt sets a great precedent and establishes a zero tolerance policy when it comes to this type of behavior. There’s no doubt that it hurts the Chiefs when it comes to their ability to perform on the field. Just last year Hunt led the entire NFL with 1,327 yards and he was on pace for another 1,000 yards this season. That’s a lot of output to lose out on and now there’s more pressure on Patrick Mahomes to produce. A lot of times there’s windows in the passing game due to the fact those linebackers are selling out to stop the run. Spencer Ware will have to step up and play well in order to keep defense’s honest. If Ware is sloppy though then there will be a ripple effect throughout this entire offense. Lets face it losing Kareem Hunt is a big hit to this team’s Super Bowl expectations. Hunt should’ve never allowed himself to be in such a poor circumstances but Kansas City has to put that in past and find a way to turn the page on this incident. Now if there is any good news it’s that the Chiefs did win some games in the first two weeks despite mediocre showings from Hunt. However that was at a point in time when Mahomes was playing at a level much higher than everybody else. The MVP candidate has thrown 10 interception in his last seven match-ups and it’s hurt his chances of wining that award. All of this makes it clear how difficult it’s going to be for Kansas City to come out of the AFC side of the playoff bracket. Mahomes is great but it takes a collection of outstanding players to be one of the elite teams in the league. Hunt was vital piece to the Chiefs’ DNA.
Photo credit: Otto Greule Jr. / Getty Images Sport
Author: Jon Kuzma
The Arizona Cardinals are almost done with a disastrous 2018 campaign and their 2-9 record lets you know just how bad it’s gotten. If there is anything positive to take away from this whole situation it’s definitely how well Chandlers Jones has played. Arizona is ranked 19th in the league defensively and that number would be a lot worse without Jones anchoring down that unit. After leading the league with 17 sacks last year the 28 year old pass rusher came back with another 11 sacks this season. The Cardinals are lucky to have one player that can produce this much single-handedly and the only solution is to get some pieces around Jones that can also have an impact. At the moment all those other role players have been mediocre at best. The only other guy who’s been decent is Robert Nkemdiche. He’s got 4.5 sacks so far but it’s really a case of one player being asked to carry most of the weight on his shoulders. The great teams in league have more depth than what this franchise has and the offense isn’t helping either. They’re punting a lot and settling for three and outs. Ultimately that’s keeping Jones and company on the field longer and it’s fatiguing them late in games. Therefore it’s easy to see that there’s not a whole lot of factors working in the sack champion’s favor. Making it even more impressive that Jones has been able to dominate like he has the past two years. Arizona’s opponents spend all week game planning to stop number 55 and then they double team him on game day. Somehow Chandler Jones usually ends up with at least one sack in every contest he plays in and it doesn’t seem like he’s slowing down. With the right supporting cast around him Jones could be a Defensive Player of the Year candidate.