After ten weeks of regular season play, it is time to start predicting who will win what awards in the NFL.
Offensive Rookie of the Year: Sammy Watkins, Wide Receiver, Buffalo Bills
Many may argue that Carolina Panther’s wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin is the clear offensive rookie of the year since he has caught seven touchdowns compared to Watkins’ five. However, Watkins provides more of an impact to his team. Anytime Watkins hauls in over 80 receiving yards in a game, the Bills are 4-0. When he records less than 80 yards in a game, the Bills are 1-4. Watkins and Benjamin have put up similar numbers but Watkins’ impact to his team is undeniable.
Defensive Rookie of the Year: Kyle Fuller, Cornerback, Chicago Bears
Despite dropping off the radar the last couple of weeks due to injury, Kyle Fuller is still in contention for defensive rookie of the year. Fuller’s performance this season should have Bears fans excited about their heir to Charles Tillman. As the first player in 20 years to record three picks and two forced fumbles in his first three NFL games, Fuller’s play indicates he will easily fill in Tillman’s big shoes. Fuller currently has three forced fumbles and three interceptions on the season. Regardless of Fuller’s impressive play, if the Bear’s defense keeps giving up 50 points per game, there is no way Fuller wins this award.
Comeback Player of the Year: Aaron Rodgers, Quarterback, Green Bay Packers
After breaking his collarbone last year in a contest with the Chicago Bears, Aaron Rodgers has sought out revenge against Chicago and is playing some of the best football of his career. Rodgers has torched Chicago this season throwing for ten touchdowns against them in two games, including a six down touchdown performance in the first half alone against the Bears this past Sunday. Rodgers isn’t only performing well against Chicago, as he is third in the league with 25 touchdowns and only three interceptions. What’s amazing is that Rodgers has thrown for 25 touchdowns on only 277 passing attempts. In comparison, touchdown leaders Peyton Manning and Andrew Luck have compiled passing attempts of 353 and 393, respectively. Rodgers is officially back.
Coach of the Year: Bruce Arians, Arizona Cardinals
Bruce Arians is the clear-cut coach of the year. Through Week 10, the Arizona Cardinals are 8-1 and hold the best record in the league after defeating the St. Louis Rams 31-14 in Week 9. Arians’ performance this season has been especially impressive since he has lost many key players on both sides of the ball, but the Cardinals somehow continue to win games. However, it will be tough for the Cardinals to recover after losing quarterback Carson Palmer for the season due to an ACL tear, but if Arians is able to get the Cardinals to win the NFC West with Drew Stanton under center, Arians should win the award unanimously.
Offensive Player of the Year: DeMarco Murray, Running Back, Dallas Cowboys
DeMarco Murray has been everything and more that the Cowboys have asked for this season. Murray started the season rushing for 100 yards in each of his first eight games. Perhaps the reason for these amazing numbers is that his workload is insane. He has carried the ball a total of 244 times and has rushed for a league high 1,233 yards. If Murray stays healthy, he is on pace to break the 2,000 rushing yard mark and possibly Eric Dickerson’s regular season rushing yard record of 2,105 yards. The only blemish on Murray’s resume is that he has fumbled the ball five times this season. Murray’s performance this season is one of the key reasons why the Cowboys are playing so well.
Defensive Player of the Year: J.J. Watt, Defensive end, Houston Texans
Watt’s dominant performance this season has not only put him ahead in the defensive player of the year discussion but also in the NFL MVP conversation. In addition to three touchdowns, Watt also has 39 tackles, eight and a half sacks, three fumble recoveries, and one forced fumble. Since 1957, the NFL MVP has been awarded to the best player who is thought to be the most valuable to his team. The award is almost always won by a quarterback or a running back and has only been awarded to a defensive player twice. Lawrence Taylor, linebacker of the New York Giants, last won the award back in 1986. Watt is with no doubt going to win the defensive player of the year award, the real question is, will he be the first defensive player to win the MVP award since Lawrence Taylor?
Most Valuable Player: Andrew Luck, Quarterback, Indianapolis Colts
There are many candidates for MVP in the NFL this year including Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, and J.J. Watt but, through Week 10, Indianapolis Colts starting quarterback Andrew Luck is the frontrunner for the award. With a league leading 3,085 passing yards through nine games, Luck is on pace to break Peyton Manning’s record of 5,477 passing yards in a season. Luck’s completion percentage (63.6%) and average yards per attempt (7.85) are significantly higher than his first two seasons in the NFL. Luck and the Colts are also on pace to win the AFC South for the third straight year and could possibly clinch a first round bye in the postseason. Even with similar numbers to Brady and Manning, Luck might be given the award simply because he has never won it before.
With the ball on the one-yard line and Peyton Manning one touchdown pass away from the all-time record, everybody in Sports Authority Field at Mile High Stadium and everybody watching at home knew the Broncos were going to throw the football.
The play sequence on the one-yard line to reach 509 was not particularly picture-perfect for Manning. On first down, Manning threw a tough pass that tight end Julius Thomas was unable to control. On the next play, Manning tripped on his center’s leg and fell back all the way to the eight-yard line.
The third time was the charm.
On third down, with 3:09 left in the second quarter, Manning threw an eight-yard strike to his favorite target, wide receiver Demaryius Thomas for the score, putting Manning on top of the NFL record books.
Manning made his record breaking touchdown pass look easy but Bronco’s receivers Demaryius Thomas, Wes Welker, Emmanuel Sanders and tight end Julius Thomas played a friendly game of keep away with the record-setting touchdown ball, making it a little more challenging for Manning to get the ball back.
Brett Favre, now second on the all-time touchdown list, had some gracious words for Manning on the jumbrotron after he threw his 509th touchdown pass.
“I want to say congratulations for breaking the touchdown record,” Favre said. “I’m not surprised. You’ve been a wonderful player and I’ve enjoyed watching you play. I’ve enjoyed competing against you. I wish you great success for the rest of the season and the rest of your career.”
Later in the game, Manning threw his fourth touchdown pass of the day to Demaryius Thomas putting him at 510 touchdown passes overall and leading the Broncos to a 42-17 win over the 49ers.
Manning was able to break Favre’s record in only 246 games, 56 games fewer than Favre. That’s more than three seasons worth of football.
Peyton Manning attributes the success throughout his career to his coaches and teammates in Denver and Indianapolis.
“I do think about how many people have helped throughout my career with something like that and just how grateful I am for that help and support,” Manning said. “Football is the ultimate team game and so I guess one man kind of has to accept it, but I kind of accept on behalf of a lot of coaches and teammates.”
Throughout his career, Manning has thrown his 510 touchdown passes to 45 different players. His top five touchdown targets are wide receivers Marvin Harrison (112), Reggie Wayne (67), tight ends Dallas Clark (44), Marcus Pollard (34) and wide receiver Demaryius Thomas (29).
Most people consider Peyton Manning to be the best regular season quarterback of all time but due to his lack of Super Bowl victories critics hesitate calling him the greatest quarterback ever.
Many people associate Joe Montana, the former 49ers quarterback, as the best quarterback of all-time after Montana won four Super Bowls in four attempts. Peyton Manning only has one Super Bowl victory in three attempts but his regular season statistics throughout his career speaks for themselves. Joe Montana threw for only 273 touchdown passes and Montana’s replacement, Steve Young, threw for 232. Manning has thrown more touchdown passes than both Montana and Young combined.
Manning’s record-breaking touchdown pass might silence his critics.
Free agency is always fun, especially the fantasy implications that come with it. If you don’t realize that it has fantasy implications, let me refresh your memory.
Last year, here is what we saw:
Stephen Jackson signed with the Atlanta Falcons (fantasy bust)
Mike Wallace signed with the Miami Dolphins. (solid fantasy year)
Danny Amendola signed with the New England Patriots (fantasy bust)
Wes Welker signed with the Denver Broncos (fantasy stud)
Martellus Bennett signed with the Chicago Bears (fantasy sleeper)
Reggie Bush signed with the Detroit Lions (fantasy sleeper)
Rashard Mendenhall signed with the Arizona Cardinals (bust)
Percy Harvin signed with the Seattle Seahawks (injuries made him a total bust)
See what I mean? Clearly, free agency impacts our fantasy squads. That was last year, though. So let’s take a look at just some of the many moves thus far for 2014, as many teams wasted no time signing big names.
(Denver Broncos -> Miami Dolphins)
From Super Bowl contender to a locker room full of bullies, Moreno is joining the tandem of Lamar Miller and Daniel Thomas in South Beach. This is not promising for Moreno’s fantasy value. With Peyton Manning, he finished fifth last year in total yards and topped it off with 13 touchdowns. Now, he goes to a Dolphins team with two other running backs that will get significant playing time, limiting his rush attempts. However, this could give Montee Ball a boost in Denver and make him a sleeper in 2014.
(Jacksonville Jaguars -> Oakland Raiders)
Jones-Drew will join Darren McFadden, an all-time fantasy bust, in the Raiders backfield. It looks nice on paper, but Jones-Drew is not the same running back he once was. In Oakland, he will likely enter the season as the starter and be solid. He won’t be the Jones-Drew we used to know, but he should improve over his past two years.
(Pittsburgh Steelers -> Denver Broncos)
It doesn’t get much better than catching balls from Peyton Manning. Sanders’ fantasy value is definitely up, and I expect a big year out of him. He will replace Eric Decker, who left for the New York Jets.
(Denver Broncos -> New York Jets)
Decker is now the number one option for the Jets, and he is going to have a solid fantasy year. However, his value is definitely down from last year. Simply put, Decker just left Peyton Manning for Geno Smith and Michael Vick.
(Houston Texans -> Cleveland Browns)
Tate’s value has skyrocketed. I am a fan of what Tate did in Houston when he got his carries, averaging 4.7 yards per touch over his career. He will be the starting running back, and I am boldly predicting he’ll finish as a top-12 fantasy back.
(New York Giants -> Indianapolis Colts)
Nicks signed a one-year deal, meaning he will have to prove he can still be a stud wide receiver after a disappointing year last year. Nicks, who failed to score a touchdown last season, is going to be playing with Andrew Luck and I expect his fantasy value will increase as a result.
(Carolina Panthers -> Baltimore Ravens)
It is going to be weird not seeing him in a Panthers uniform, but Smith should step into a starting role with the Ravens and do what he does. Count on Smith, and don’t be afraid to draft him.
(New Orleans Saints -> Philadelphia Eagles)
The combination of Chip Kelly and Darren Sproles is a fantasy football dream. I expect Sproles to explode this year. I suspect Chip Kelly to use him in a variety of ways and gain a ton of yards with some scores here and there.
(New England Patriots -> Pittsburgh Steelers)
This is the perfect type of running back for the Steelers. A guy that can ground and pound the football, Blount is going to be a factor on the Steelers. Blount will be a goal-line back at the least, and he will be among the league leaders in touchdowns.
(Seattle Seahawks -> Detroit Lions)
This definitely helps Tate because the Lions aren’t afraid to throw the ball, and Calvin Johnson will take away a lot of the coverage. If Matthew Stafford looks to his left, Tate should be open. His stock is up.
(Green Bay Packers -> Oakland Raiders)
Jones is in a similar situation to Decker, except worse. Not only does he not have Aaron Rodgers anymore, he is going to the Raiders who haven’t had a successful passing season in a long time. His stock is down.
Super Bowl XLVIII: Denver Broncos vs. Seattle Seahawks
Metlife Stadium, East Rutherford, N.J.
Time: 5:25 p.m. CST
Spread: Denver (-3)
This year’s Super Bowl features the number one scoring and yards defense as well as the top-ranked offense in scoring and yards.
This is what happens when an unstoppable force meets an immovable object; the offensive juggernaut Denver Broncos meet the stingy Seattle Seahawks defense in a Super Bowl matchup for the ages.
The Broncos make their first appearance in the Super Bowl since 1998 while the Seahawks make their second appearance, first since 2006.
This is only the second time in the past two decades that the top seeded teams in the AFC and NFC will meet in the super bowl.
The Seahawks will rely on their star-studded secondary to keep Peyton Manning in check. While Manning and the Broncos will try to exploit any possible mistakes made by the Seattle defense.
This game will be won by the team that can use their style to their advantage. Will the Seattle defense contain the Broncos high-scoring offense or will the Broncos offense be too much for the Seattle to handle?
Peyton Manning has had one of the best seasons any NFL quarterback in the history of the game. During the regular season, Manning threw for 5,477 yards and 55 touchdowns, both NFL single-season records. Manning is a four-time MVP, a Super Bowl MVP and two super bowl appearances. While Seattle’s Russell Wilson has had success during his two years in the NFL, Manning’s experience gives the Broncos the advantage.
Known for his “Beast Mode” nickname, Seattle’s Marshawn Lynch rushed for over 1,200 yards and scored 12 touchdowns this year. Complimented by Robert Turbine, Lynch and the Seahawks have an advantage over Denver’s Knowshon Moreno, Montee Ball and Ronnie Hillman.
Denver has a trio of receivers - Demaryius Thomas, Eric Decker, and Wes Welker that have scored 35 touchdowns and have accumulated over 3,400 receiving yards. Throw in tight end Julius Thomas, who had 12 touchdowns during the season, and the Broncos’ receivers clearly outshine Seattle.
Seattle’s line has a slight advantage over Denver. Seattle has not lost any defensive lineman while Denver lost defensive end Derek Wolfe and defensive tackle Kevin Vickerson.
Denver lost Von Miller for the season in December; Miller was one of the Broncos’ best linebackers. The Broncos still have linebackers Danny Trevathan and Wesley Woodyard. While Seattle has three solid linebackers - Bruce Irvin, Malcolm Smith and Bobby Wagner - Denver has a slightly better linebacker corps.
Known as the Legion of Boom, Seattle’s secondary is the best in the NFL. Richard Sherman and Earl Thomas anchor the secondary. Sherman and Thomas account for 13 of Seattle’s 28 interceptions. Kam Chancellor and Byron Maxwell are Seattle’s other secondary starters. Seattle’s starting secondary accounted for 204 tackles and four forced fumbles.
Seattle 26 Denver 24
Stepping into the batter’s box used to be a part of Russell Wilson’s normal routine. The Colorado Rockies drafted Wilson in the fourth round of 2010 MLB Draft.
Wilson had two solid seasons in the Rockies farm system but he had an urge to play football that he couldn’t shake.
Wilson left the Rockies organization in the winter of 2011 and enrolled at Wisconsin to play football.
Wilson had a successful season for Wisconsin throwing for over 3,000 yards, 33 touchdowns and led the Badgers to the 2012 Rose Bowl.
In the 2012 NFL Draft, the Seattle Seahawks gambled on Wilson.
Many sources didn’t like the Seahawks decision to draft Wilson and Seattle was given an ‘F’ for the selection. At the time, drafting Wilson didn’t make sense, Seattle had just spent $25 million on free agent quarterback Matt Flynn.
But when Wilson stepped on the field, it was obvious why the Seahawks gambled on Wilson. Wilson has a strong arm, functional mobility and great downfield vision.
Those skills led Wilson to a stellar rookie season- 26 passing TDs, 4 rushing TDs, 3,118 passing yards and 489 rushing yards.
Unlike many NFL players, Wilson didn’t suffer through a sophomore slump, he followed his rookie season with an equally impressive 2013 season- 26 passing TDS, 1 rushing TD, 3,357 passing yards and 539 rushing yards.
As Wilson prepares for this weekend’s super bowl, the Seahawks can rest easy, their gamble paid off.
For Manning, it’s been a clear cut path to NFL success. Son of NFL great Archie Manning, Peyton has football in his genes.
Manning was a coveted high school recruit who chose to play for the Tennessee Volunteers. Manning played all four years for the Vols.
During his senior season, Manning threw for 3,819 yards and 36 touchdowns. Manning was awarded the Davey O’Brien award and the Johnny Unitas Award.
Manning was picked first overall by the Indianapolis Colts in the 1998 NFL Draft.
During his 13 seasons with the Colts, Manning won four MVP Awards, appeared in two super bowls and won one.
Now, with the Denver Broncos, Manning has an opportunity to win his second Super Bowl in his third appearance.
Two Paths Collide
The 12-year gap between Manning and Wilson is the largest age gap between competing Super Bowl quarterbacks in the history of the game.
And while they may have taken different paths to get to this Super Bowl, they have one thing in common - work ethic.
Both quarterbacks are known for being the first ones into work and the last ones to leave.
Wilson has made an impression on the players and coaches in the Seahawks organization.
“Man, around 6:15 a.m. It's hard to beat (Wilson) here,” Seattle linebacker Malcolm Smith said. “It rubs off on guys. You don't want to be slacking when you know he's in here getting better."
“Russell is fabulous in everything we have asked him to do. He's done a great job of managing all of the situations, and he's come up big just about every time," Seahawks offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell said.
During his fifteen years in the NFL, Manning has been admired for his hard work.
“Peyton's attention to detail, that's probably what separates him from other guys and other people that have played this game," tight end Julius Thomas said. "Every day, I see how much he prepares, I see the little things that he does to make sure he's on top of his game.”
While Super Bowl XLVIII brings these quarterback’s paths together, this game will also send them in different directions.
For Wilson, his career is still young and with his skill set, this probably won’t be his only Super Bowl appearance. A win would put Wilson among the NFL’s elite.
Manning’s career is at its twilight. This Super Bowl is an opportunity for Manning to silence his critics and cement his place as one of the all-time best NFL quarterbacks.
Denver defeats Patriots 26-16; Advance to Super Bowl XLVIII
Late in the third quarter, down 20-3 to the Denver Broncos, the New England Patriots had a decision to make-- go for it on a fourth and two at the Denver 30 or kick a 47-yard field goal down.
The Patriots rolled the dice and came up empty as Denver sent a well-timed blitz and sacked Tom Brady.
Whether New England wants to admit it or not, the game had been long decided before that moment. Peyton Manning and the Denver offense carved through the Patriots defense which lead to a 26-16 Broncos victory.
Manning outshined rival quarterback Tom Brady throwing for 400 yards and two touchdowns. Manning played a well-crafted game, completing an AFC championship game record tying 32 passes.
“It's very rewarding when you put a lot of hard work into the offseason and the regular season,” Manning said. “It pays dividends with a huge win.”
Meanwhile, New England was held in check for most of the game. It took the Patriots over 50 minutes to find the end zone by the time they scored it was already too late.
New England was able to score 13 points in the final ten minutes but fell short when they were unable to punch in a two-point conversion to make it a one possession game.
With the win, Denver will make their first super bowl appearance since 1998. For Manning, it will be his third appearance in the super bowl, his first with the Broncos.
“We kept our nose to the grindstone, kept persevering,” Manning said. “It’s gratifying to get this win today.”
Denver will matchup against the Seattle Seahawks in Super Bowl XLVIII at Metlife Stadium on February 2, 2014.
Late turnovers sink 49ers; Seahawks advance to Super Bowl XLVII with 23-17 win
49ers quarterback Collin Kaepernick launched a pass in to the end zone intended for Michael Crabtree, Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman tipped the pass and it landed in the hands of linebacker Malcolm Smith.
The interception sealed a 23-17 victory for Seattle and a trip to the super bowl.
“I’m the best corner in the game,” exclaimed Sherman in a post-game interview with FOX’s Erin Andrews. In another interview, Sherman said that he “knew it would come down to (the defense) in the back end to win this thing.”
The game was a classic heavyweight fight, each team delivering and taking shots. The 49ers were first to strike with a strip-fumble on the first play of the game.
Kaepernick was key to the 49ers offense, he lead the 49ers with 130 rushing yards. But the Seahawks were able to take advantage of Kaepernick’s mistakes, he turned the ball over three times in the second half.
For the Seattle offense, momentum swung their way when Marshawn Lynch scored on a 40 yard run. Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson managed the game with 215 yards passing and one touchdown.
The NFC championship game was defined by the defensive play by both teams. The 49ers made two fourth down stops and forced a turnover. But it was the Seattle that landed the last punch with three forced turnovers in the second half.
“This is as sweet as it gets,” Sherman said.
“This is really special,” Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll added, “It would really be a mistake to not remember the connection and the relationship between this football team and the 12th Man and these fans. It's unbelievable."
Seattle will meet the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl XLVIII at Metlife Stadium on February 2, 2014.
January 19, 2014 2 p.m.CST
Spread: Denver -5 ½
When I originally started to write this, I tried hard to avoid the Brady vs. Manning narrative. However, the more research that was done, the more I realized that the Brady-Manning narrative defines this game.
Peyton Manning and Tom Brady meet again for their fifteenth match-up against each other. Brady has dominated the head-to head series, leading with a 10-4 record. More importantly Brady is 2-1 against Manning in the playoffs.
However, this game will be much different than the previous fourteen. This is the chance for Manning to overcome his doubters. Although Manning has statistically had one of the best careers of all-time, Manning has been defined by his struggles in the playoffs. Over the years, Manning has faltered in the postseason—only posting a 10-11 record.
Manning’s career has been defined by his head-to-head matchup against Brady. Brady has stood in Manning’s way throughout his career. The first, and only, time Manning beat Brady in the playoffs led to his only Super Bowl victory.
As Manning’s career comes to a close, this could be the final Brady vs. Manning playoff matchup. It is a chance for Manning to beat Brady one more time and lead his Broncos to a Super Bowl.
The narrative for Brady isn’t much different. Brady has made five super bowl appearances and won three.
But Brady hasn’t been able to hoist the Lombardi trophy since 2005. An AFC Championship win over Manning and a Super Bowl win will add to his legacy as one of the best quarterbacks of all-time.
As for the team matchups, the Broncos and Patriots represent two opposite offenses.
The Broncos are a pass happy team. Manning threw for a NFL record 55 touchdowns and 5,477 yards. Manning and the Broncos throw the ball because they have great receivers—Wes Welker, Demaryius Thomas, Eric Decker and Julius Thomas.
The Patriots are a team dedicated to running the ball. With a stable of solid running backs—Legarrette Blount, Steven Ridley, Shane Vereen and Brandon Bolden—the Patriots have had success pounding the rock. Blount showed the Patriots dedication to the run with a four touchdown performance against the Colts in the AFC Divisional round.
Both defenses are average but the Broncos have been ravaged with injuries. Denver will be without outside linebacker Von Miller, cornerback Chris Harris and defensive end Derek Wolfe.
With the narrative set, the winner of the AFC Championship game will be determined by which quarterback plays the best. Will Manning prevail over Brady or will it be Brady once again walking off a winner against Peyton Manning?
NFC Championship Game: San Francisco 49ers vs. Seattle Seahawks
January 19, 2014 5:30 p.m. CST
Spread: Seattle -3 ½
The San Francisco 49ers and the Seattle Seahawks will play their third game this season when the 49ers travel to Seattle to play in the NFC Championship game.
The 49ers will be playing in their third consecutive NFC Championship game and will look to advance their second Super Bowl in-a-row.
The Seahawks return for to the NFC Championship game for the first time since 2006.
The two teams split their regular season matchup. The Seahawks defeated the 49ers in Seattle 29-3 and the 49ers won in San Francisco 19-17.
The Seahawks and 49ers have equally great offensive and defensive units.
The Seahawks and 49ers possess top ten defenses. The 49ers rank fourth in total defense and the Seahawks in ninth.
The Seahawks arguably have the best secondary in the NFL led by Earl Thomas and Richard Sherman.
The 49ers boast one of the best linebacking corps in the NFL, Patrick Willis, Navarro Bowmen, Aldon Smith and Carlos Rogers lead the defense.
The Seahawks and 49ers offenses are led by two of the NFL’s rising stars—Russell Wilson and Collin Kaepernick, respectively.
The 49ers have a reliable running back in Frank Gore and Seahawks have a dominant back in Marshawn Lynch.
Although both teams mirror each other, the Seahawks have a clear home field advantage. Known for their rambunctious crowd, CenturyLink Field is one of the loudest stadiums in all of sports.
The key to the game will be the 49ers overcoming the Seahawks home-field advantage. The 49ers have lost their last two game in Seattle by a combined 71-16.
Will the Seahawks continue their home domination over the 49ers or will the 49ers defeat the Seahawks in Seattle and advance to their second consecutive super bowl?
Chicago Bears running back Matt Forte (22) stiff-arms Detroit Lions linebacker Justin Durant (52) during a 13-7 win Monday.
As October winds down and we enter the eighth week of the NFL season, it’s easy to wonder where the time has gone. In case you missed it, here are a couple of observations from the first two months of games: One, Robert Griffin III is really, really good. Two, Peyton Manning is back and as effective as ever. Lastly, fantasy football is still a crapshoot. Looking ahead to this weekend’s games, here is some advice to help make your fantasy lineup a sure thing:
Although he hasn’t reached the end zone since Week 1, Forte is completely healed from an ankle injury and is back at full strength. Considering the Bears are facing the struggling Panthers, who Forte gashed for a total of 416 rushing and receiving yards and three touchdowns in their last two meetings, he should be due for a huge day. Expect Forte to rack up fantasy points in both the running and the passing game.
Stepping in for injured starter Jake Locker, Hasselbeck has played considerably well over the past three weeks. With Locker out again and the Titans facing a Colts team that has given up at least two passing touchdowns in all but one game this season, Hasselbeck is a good option at quarterback this week.
Many people believed Wayne would struggle this year without Peyton Manning throwing to him. That’s hardly been the case, however, as Wayne has had at least 70 yards receiving in every game this year. With the Colts’ offense working efficiently under rookie QB Andrew Luck and Indianapolis facing a generous Titans secondary, Wayne should have a solid game Sunday.
After a strong start to the season, Smith has struggled lately, turning the ball over four times and throwing only one touchdown in his past two games. Unfortunately, things don’t get any easier for Smith this week, who faces the Arizona Cardinals on Monday Night Football. So far this year, Arizona has given up the second fewest fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks. Sit Smith if you have another viable option.
With the Steelers’ top two running backs injured, Dwyer seized his opportunity last Sunday, rushing for 122 yards against the Bengals. However, with Pittsburgh facing a Washington Redskins defense that is ranked dead last in fantasy football against the pass and tenth against the run, the Steelers will likely be throwing the ball Sunday.
Printed on Thursday, October 25, 2012 as: Fully recovered Forte should gash Panthers D
When comparing Luck to Griffin Robert Griffin III, it’s easy to overlook Luck’s athleticism. But the Stanford product ran the fourth-best 40-yard-dash among quarterbacks, turned in the fifth-best vertical leap and had the furthest broad jump. He’s much, much more athletic than Peyton Manning, Tom Brady or Drew Brees. Luck’s arm and touch could eventually put him in that upper-echelon of NFL quarterbacks, though: he ranked seventh in the NCAA with a 71.3 completion percentage, sixth with 8.7 yards per attempt and tied for fifth with a touchdown percentage of 9.2 — meaning for every 100 passes he attempted, roughly 10 of them were for touchdowns. But will he have anybody besides Reggie Wayne to throw to in Indy?
Bear with me here, but I like the Heisman Winner from Baylor better than I do Luck. In those aforementioned passing metrics, RG3 ranks better than Luck — third in completion percentage, first in yards per attempt, a tie with Luck in touchdown percentage and also a interception percentage that ranked among the best in the country (1.5, good for 12th). Luck, on the other hand, threw an interception 2.5 percent of the time he put the ball in the air — 46th in the country.
It really is arguable that Griffin III is a better passing prospect than Luck. It’s unarguable that he’s a better athlete (best 40 time of any QB, best vertical leap), one who put up whopping rushing numbers in college with 2,943 total yards and 10 games of triple-digit yardage in essentially three seasons.
One last stat: his passer-efficiency rating in 2011 was the second best ever.
USC tackle Matt Kalil has been penciled in at this spot since the combine, but it won’t be too surprising if the Vikings elect to go with this year’s best cornerback. In a division where you’re facing Aaron Rodgers, Matthew Stafford and Jay Cutler (not to mention, Calvin Johnson, Jordy Nelson, Greg Jennings and Brandon Marshall) twice a year, you need to be able to stop the pass.
Offensive tackles aren't full-proof options, either. Jason Smith, Eugene Monroe and Trent Williams are recent examples of top-10 tackles whose teams (St. Louis, Jacksonville and Washington, respectively) rank among the worst in the league (32nd, 28th, 26th, also respectively). Take Claiborne and give yourself a secondary to build on.
Montario Hardesty, Greg Little, Ben Watson, Mohamed Massaquoi, Josh Cribbs, Chris Ogbonnaya…I don’t care who your quarterback is, or who you’ve got on the offensive line; you’re not winning many games with that core of skill players. That’s why the Browns have to get the best running back prospect since Adrian Peterson. Cleveland traded down last year (and drafted a defensive tackle, Phil Taylor, at 21) in order to stockpile picks. Those picks need to be used to help give a quarterback — for now it’s Colt McCoy — a prayer at winning games in the AFC North. Richardson steps in and starts from day one.
With Claiborne and Richardson off the board, the Bucs have to reach a bit here to get a cornerback, but it’s a major position of need. Ronde Barber has very little left in the tank and the troubled Aqib Talib is being shopped.
From 2010 to 2011, Blackmon scored 38 touchdowns and hauled in 232 passes. His 3,304 receiving yards might be a byproduct of a system, but that’s insane no matter how you slice it (as is his ypc average of 14.6). He’s neither the fastest nor the tallest receiver in this draft, yet he is far and away the most productive and should immediately become Sam Bradford’s top target.
7. Jacksonville Jaguars — Matt Kalil, OT, Southern California
Since 2008, the Jags have chosen in the top 10 every year. And with little results to show for it: Derrick Harvey busted, Monroe has provided little semblance of a building block, Blaine Gabbert could be a disaster. The pick of defensive tackle Tyson Alualu is actually the best so far — and even that is saying something. So this pick needs to be right, and when you’re facing that kind of pressure, you take the best player available, regardless of need. Kalil, a potential franchise left tackle, is just that.
Here’s what I don’t like about Tannehill: He has only 20 games at quarterback under his belt and he was perhaps the main culprit in A&M’s choke job of 2011.
Here’s what I do like: He’s a confident, stand-up type of guy with an above-average arm.
Here’s what I hate: His 61.6 completion percentage last season, his seven yards per attempt, his 2.8 interception percentage.
And here’s what I love: He was sacked only nine times last year, so I know the former wide receiver can avoid the pressures of the Jets, Patriots and the newly-revamped pass rush of the Bills in the AFC East, and he can throw on the run. When a play breaks down, or when a receiver just can’t get open — with Brian Hartline and Davone Bess, this could happen quite often — Tannehill can make things happen with his feet.
Look, Tannehill is the ultimate project quarterback. But the Dolphins can afford to be patient. Matt Moore is a serviceable option and it’s not like the team is about to challenge New England or New York for the division. He’s worth the risk here at 8.
With Cam Newton and Steve Smith doing their thing on offense, it’s time for Carolina to shore up things on the other side of the ball. The NFL’s seventh-worst rushing defense would be buoyed by the addition of Cox, who had five sacks and 14.5 tackles for loss last season.
Despite the offseason signing of Mario Williams, there’s still work to be done to improve Buffalo’s D, which ranked 28th in total defense and 30th in run defense. Kuechly, who led the NCAA in tackles last season, gives the Bills one of the best front sevens in the league. Offensive help — mainly, receiver — can come in the later rounds.
Probably a reach here. Then again, they said the same thing about Jason Pierre-Paul at No. 15 a few seasons ago. The Seahawks put up pedestrian sack numbers in 2011 (33, for a sack percentage of 5.7). Coples never put up huge numbers at UNC, but it’s his potential — a 4.7 40 time at 6-foot-6 and 284 lbs. — that has Seattle pulling the trigger.
The Cowboys have taken three defensive backs in the first round the last decade — safety Roy Williams in 2002 and cornerbacks Terence Newman in 2003 and Mike Jenkins in 2008. Barron becomes No. 4 here and it’s easy to believe he could be better than any of the three.
Philly chose a guard with its first-round pick a year ago, but it’s been a long time since it used such a high pick on an offensive tackle — 1998 ,to be exact. With left tackle Jason Peters possibly out for the season, now seems as good a time as any to break the streak.
For a team that’s made the AFC Championship game two of the last three years, the Jets sure do have a lot of holes. The “ground and pound” offense hasn’t gone anywhere behind Shonn Greene (22nd in team rushing last season), the passing game is in a state of disillusion (21st) and the Jets finished in the red in takeaways. But dangling Poe in front of Rex Ryan — who loves taking on defensive projects — is just too tantalizing.
With a boatload of draft picks after dealing Carson Palmer to the Raiders midseason, there’s plenty of time later on for the Bengals to make a sexier choice, possibly at corner or receiver. Take the draft’s best guard prospect off the boards.
What is it that has caused the Chargers to fall short so often? Among other things, the team failed to establish the run it its six-game losing streak in the middle of last year, posting a paltry 98 yards per game. You’ve got a capable runner in Ryan Mathews, now give him somebody to run behind.
Unless the plan is to turn Jay Cutler into David Carr, it’s high time to improve the offensive line. Stick Glenn at right tackle and hope last year’s top pick, Gabe Carimi, is healthy enough to play a full season at left. Then bid adieu to J’Marcus Webb and Lance Louis, the weak links of a unit that allowed 49 sacks in 2011.
In a division that will one day be run by Andrew Luck, it’s imperative to have somebody who can get after the passer. Upshaw (8.5 sacks last season) can put his hand in the dirt in a 4-3 defensive set or play upright in a 3-4.
Randle is just the kind of deep threat the Browns need to stretch the field, and clear out the box for fellow rookie Trent Richardson. His 17.3 yards per reception ranked among the top 20 in the nation a year ago.
Character issues, schmaracter issues. When you can get this kind of talent this late in the first round, and fill a need while doing it, you take a risk. (Jenkins was dismissed by the Florida Gators after a myriad of drug problems and he’s fathered four children with three different women.) If Jenkins can stay out of trouble — granted, a big if — he can help the Lions.
It has been a game of musical chairs at the right guard position for Steelers, where Darnell Stapleton, Ramon Foster and Trai Essex have been used as temporary replacements until a franchise-type player comes along. In the rugged AFC North, with Ben Roethlisberger feeling the heat, here’s the opportunity to grab a long-term starter.
Those who didn’t flip the channel in between Tim Tebow’s series on offense most likely noticed Denver’s glaring weakness. In eight losses, the Broncos gave up an average of 150 rushing yards a game. Peyton Manning won’t be nearly as effective if he’s sitting on the sidelines watching the opposition run at will.
It’s a choice here between Wright or Stephen Hill of Georgia Tech. Because Houston needs somebody to step in opposite Andre Johnson immediately, the best bet is it’s the uber-productive Wright (one touchdown in every seven catches last season) over a raw talent like Hill.
Last year’s sack leader (16) winds up on a team that has twice seen, firsthand, what an effective pass rush can really do (the New York Giants of 2007, 2011). There's a hole to fill, too, with Mark Anderson signing with the Bills.
Like Clay Matthews, McClellin is a bit of a late-bloomer who’s just now starting to pick up steam. Funny timing. Green Bay is in desperate need of a pass-rushing ‘backer to draw some attention away from Mr. Matthews.
This pick might fall into the hands of a team trying to trade up for Brandon Weeden. Among the contenders, Cleveland has the most to offer in terms of draft picks (Nos. 37 and 67). If not, Patriots should go defense again.
One minor cost of the Giants winning the Super Bowl in Feb. was that two of their tight ends, Jake Ballard and Travis Beckum, suffered knee injuries that could cause them to miss the entire 2012 season. Fleener averaged about 20 yards a catch in his final year at Stanford and also hauled in 10 touchdowns.
LSUs Morris Claiborne is projected by many to go within the Drafts first few picks. Claiborne impressed at the combine and saw his stock climb.
This draft has had more drama leading up to it than others. The seemingly never-ending Manning, Tim Tebow and Luck saga will finally come to an end, and Luck will be heading to Indianapolis.
Although Heisman winner Robert Griffin III is a standout quarterback, he will be chosen second and going to Washington. This will be the fourth time since 1967 that a pair of quarterbacks will go No. 1 and No. 2 in the draft. With the first two picks virtually set in stone, the ones following are where it gets more unclear.
There is no doubt that Trent Richardson is one of the best players in the draft. The 5-foot-11 speedster has the ability to break tackles, catch the ball and run (he ran the 40-yard dash in 4.5 seconds).
But how long it will take for his name to be called on draft day is unclear. Running backs are often underappreciated and teams will likely be torn as to whether or not he deserves to be a top-10 pick.
He was vital in Alabama’s national championship season. But in a pass-heavy NFL, teams that will be calling names early may be hesitant to choose Richardson.
Although it is unclear where Richardson will go, the Browns are in need of a solid running back. Richardson could be that guy.
But it would be hard to use the No. 4 pick on a running back.
Some surprises could break into the first round
LSU wide receiver Rueben Randle had 53 catches for 917 yards and eight touchdowns during LSU’s impressive run to the BCS National Championship. He had a breakout season and was named to the All SEC-First Team. He only caught 44 passes in his first two years as a Tiger, but this year he proved he is NFL-ready, even potentially deserving to be a first rounder.
Like Randle, Notre Dame’s Harrison Smith had a strong year that will put him in contention to be a first round pick. This season he had 93 tackles, seven interceptions and seven pass break ups. He could be a strong fit for the defending Super Bowl Champion Giants or the Patriots, who are in need of some improvement on the defensive end. Smith has snuck up and is the second best safety in this year’s draft behind Alabama’s Mark Barron.
No surprise here; the SEC will dominate first round
With the SEC winning the last six national championships, it’s no surprise that players from the conference will be hearing their names called very frequently today. Between nine and 12 players will likely be picked from the conference in the first round.
Alabama’s Richardson and LSU cornerback Morris Claiborne will likely be the first two chosen from the competitive conference. Barron will be chosen in the first round, even though safeties aren’t typically chosen so early. South Carolina’s Stephon Gilmore and Melvin Ingram will probably be top 20 picks.
Printed on Thursday, April 26, 2012 as: SEC expected to represent, dominate first round picks