Category Archives: NFL

Super Bowl Preview – Pats vs Birds

Philadelphia Analysis

Even without starter Jordan Hicks, even without Pro-Bowler Darren Sproles, even without All-Pro Jason Peters, and even without MVP candidate Carson Wentz, the Philadelphia Eagles put forth one of their best efforts of the year by demolishing the Minnesota Vikings at Lincoln Financial Field. When MVP favorite Carson Wentz came off the field in Los Angeles with a torn ACL in week 14, the football world counted out the Birds. However fast forward one month, a 38-7 thrashing over Minnesota are now sending the Eagles to the Super Bowl for the first time since 2005. Outside of the opening drive for the Vikings, which resulted in a touchdown from Case Keenum to Kyle Rudolph, everything went right for the Eagles. The following Vikings’ drive resulted in a pick-6 from Patrick Robinson and the rout ensued. In the Super Bowl, the Eagles will be facing a similar foe: Brady and Belichick, the duo that defeated them in 2005, 24-21. Instead of the combination of Donovan McNabb, Brian Westbrook, and Terrell Owens, this Eagles team will be led by backup quarterback Nick Foles and one of the stingiest defense in the league.

Even though Foles is a backup, he played anything like that against the Vikings. Against the Vikings defense, which was cited as one of the most daunting in the league, Foles had a stellar game by throwing for 352 yards, 3 touchdowns, and 0 turnovers. Foles will be surrounded by one of the most underrated receiving units, Zach Ertz, Alshon Jeffrey, and Nelson Agholor. Ertz has established himself as one of the three best tight ends in the league as he recorded 74 catches, 824 yards, and 8 touchdowns in only 13 games. Ertz has been especially effective because of his ability to excel in the red zone. Along with Ertz, Agholor has become one of the most improved players in the league. During Agholor’s first two seasons in the league, he was one of the fans least favorites players because he was the team’s first round pick in 2015 yet had one of the worst set of hands in the league. This season we have seen a totally different player. Coach Doug Pederson has been able to utilize the USC’s product impressive speed in order to line him up in different sets. At the end of the year, Agholor posted impressive stats, 62 receptions, 768 yards, and 8 touchdowns. The last main option for Foles is Alshon Jeffery. The Eagles signed Jeffery away from the Bears this offseason and he has been everything that the franchise hoped he would bring to the team. Jeffery’s large body allows him to become a terror against opposing defensive backs, especially on the outside. Like Ertz, Jeffery has become a safety valve for Foles and previously Wentz.

The Eagles will have a great opportunity to excel against the Patriots’ offense because they do not have one singular main option. Belichick has been a master at defending teams because he is extremely effective at removing a team’s best option from the game. However, with this Philadelphia team, it is impossible to deny all of their options, which makes them a scary matchup. In addition, the combination of Jay Ajayi, LeGarrette Blount, and Corey Clement allows for the team to not become one dimensional.

The Eagles’ offense may be impressive, but the defense is the best aspect of the team. The team ranked top five in yards allowed per game and points allowed per game. Over the past four games, including two postseason games, the defense has allowed on average 8 points per game. The Birds have talent throughout the defense. The front four of the Eagles is incredible because they can rush the passer effectively and rank as the best rushing defense in the league. In the secondary, the Eagles like to refer to themselves as the “No Fly Zone”. During the regular season, they ranked fourth in the league in interceptions. Although the group has talent, they have the tendency to have break downs in coverage and allow big plays. It will be imperative that they keep big play receiver, Brandin Cooks, in front of them and do not score.

New England Analysis

While the Eagles contest was never in doubt after the first ten minutes, the Patriots needed a classic Tom Brady comeback to overcome the Jacksonville Jaguars and their ferocious defense. Although ESPN statcast had the Jaguars chances of winning the game at over 80% when they were up 10 points with under 9 minutes to go and the Patriots did not have Gronkowski, nearly every football fan watching knew that Brady was somehow going to pull a rabbit out of his hat and escape with another AFC Championship.The Patriots are a 6.5 point favorite in the game and history will dictate that they will win a close contest. The defending champions are in the middle of one of the greatest stretches in NFL history. Since 2001, the team has won 5 Super Bowl Champions, claimed 8 Conference Championships, and been to every postseason but two.

The biggest question of the game will be the health of Rob Gronkowski. During the second quarter, Gronk was forced to exit after a head to head collision with Barry Church. Gronkowski is not even the most dominant player in the NFL today, but he is likely the most physically impaling and best tight end in NFL history. His combination of talent and size makes him impossible to defend. Currently, the Patriots believe that Gronk will be able to recover from his concussion due to the extra week in between contests. Although the Patriots won the title last season without Gronkowski, the Eagles have a much better defense than the Falcons and this team does not have Julian Edelman. Without Gronk and Edelman in the lineup, Danny Amendola and Brandin Cooks stepped up and became the go to targets for Brady down the field. In addition, like the Jacksonville game, the Patriots will need to rely on the passing game because their rushing attack will likely be negated by the Eagles stout front four. Outside of Dion Lewis’s big first down run to ice the game, the Pats rushed the ball 18 times for 28 yards. Due to the aggressive nature of the Eagles’ secondary, expect the Patriots to run a lot of double moves and move the ball deep down the field.

While the Patriots have put forth a constant offensive attack throughout the season, the defense has been the story of New England’s season. Through the first quarter of the season, the Patriots had serious concerns as the defense allowed 32 points per game. Outside of Houston, although this was with Watson before he went down with a torn ACL, each of these teams made the playoffs. However, as the season extended, the defense began to develop and new stars arose. The front four, which could not create a pass rush during the first half of the season, now has capability to put frequent pressure on opposing quarterbacks. Trey Flowers has grown into a stud pass rusher, while the addition of former Steeler James Harrison has given the Patriots an extra third down edge rusher. Although the front four does not have many known stars, the secondary has the talent to play at a Super Bowl level. Malcom Butler, Patrick Chung, Devin McCourty, and Stephon Gilmore are all high profile players that have impressive resumes and have each played in big games. Gilmore made the play of the game against Jacksonville when he somehow came out of nowhere to deflect Bortles deep pass on 4th and 10.

Prediction

Of the seven previous Super Bowls that Tom Brady competed, each of the contests were decided by 4 points or less. Due to the fact that neither team is significantly better than the other and past history, it is likely that this game will be very close. The Eagles seem like a team of destiny with a chip on their shoulder. In a close back and forth game, I predict the Eagles to come on top and win their first Super Bowl in team history.

Eagles over Patriots 21-17

NFL Playoff Picture Heading toward the Final Quarter of Year

AFC: 

The AFC Playoff Picture is unquestionably interesting and intriguing because of the different races that are occurring. The first of the three races is between the New England Patriots and the Pittsburgh Steelers for the number one overall seed and home field advantage throughout the playoffs. If the Steelers are able to win on Monday Night against the 5-6 Bengals, they will move to 10-2 and put themselves into a tie with the Patriots for the number one overall seed. The Steelers would be given the number one seed in this situation because they have a better winning percentage in common games. This is due to the fact that the Steelers were able to beat the two teams that the New England Patriots suffered defeats to early in the season, Kansas City Chiefs and Carolina Panthers. Although both teams will definitely end up with playoff positions and first round byes, this race is incredibly important because of the home field advantage at stake. Over the past several years, the Steelers have had solid teams with impressive offensive talent, but they have not been able to overcome Tom Brady in Foxborough. Although it is possible that Roethlisberger and the Steelers can win in New England, in reality there only chance at reaching the Super Bowl and defeating the reining world champions is if they play them at Heinz Field. Fortunate for fans, the owner of the best record in the AFC will be decided in two weeks, when the red hot Patriots, winners of eight straight games, head into Pittsburgh to face the high flying Steelers. This is set to be an intriguing matchup, but I believe the Steelers will win due to their home field crowd.

The second race in the AFC playoff picture is the AFC West Division. After the first half of the season, it looked like the Chiefs were not only going to win the division, but also were the favorites to win the Super Bowl. However, since the midway point, the Chiefs have looked like one of the worst teams in football and are now tied with the Raiders and Chargers for the AFC West Crown. Although none of these three teams are particularly impressive or dominant, the Chargers are the most likely to win the division and claim the fourth playoff spot and a home game in the Wild Card round. Not only do they have an elite quarterback, who has led his team to the playoffs multiple times, they have the easiest of the three schedules and are the hottest of the teams. It is likely that 9-7 or maybe 8-8 will win the divisional crown, but the Chargers should win at least 2-3 of the remaining four games to clinch a playoff spot.

The final race in the AFC is for the final Wild Card position. At both 8-4, the Jaguars and Titans will make the playoffs as either the AFC South Champion or other Wild Card position. However, the 6th position is still up for grabs. The Ravens are currently the owner of the spot and it is likely that they remain in the playoffs. Although the Ravens should make the playoffs, it is more due to the strength of their remaining schedule or I should say lack of strength than their actual talent. Outside of a tough game at Pittsburgh, the team is playing at the Browns and then at home against the Colts and Bengals to finish the season. Although the team is volatile and goes through stretches in which they have trouble scoring or playing well in tight games, they will finish the season at 10-6 and play serious January football.

NFC:

While the AFC has a clear difference in power between the top teams and teams that are struggling to make the playoffs, the NFC is stacked with quality teams. This race became even more interesting after the Philadelphia Eagles were defeated by the Seattle Seahawks in Seattle on Sunday Night Football. The loss moved the Eagles in a tie for the first overall seed with the Minnesota Vikings. However, due to tie breakers they are the second seed. Over the past several weeks, the best team in the NFC and maybe the league is the Minnesota Vikings. The combination of great defense and impressive quarterback play from surprise starter Case Keenum enabled the team to defeat the Rams in Minnesota and Falcons on the road. The Vikes still have tough games verses the Packers and Panthers, but they are definitely going to make the playoffs and should keep at least a first round bye. The Eagles are in a similar situation because they will win the NFC East and should be able to claim a first round bye, especially if they can beat the Rams next week.

The next four playoff seeds will be fought between five different teams, Los Angeles Rams, New Orleans Saints, Seattle Seahawks, Carolina Panthers, and Atlanta Falcons. The final four weeks should be incredibly exciting and high quality football because they will be competing against each other to claim their division title and playoff or Wild Card position. Ultimately, it is most likely that the Seahawks will win the NFC West over the Rams and the Saints over the Falcons and Panthers. The Seahawks have the fortunate opportunity to play the Rams at home, which should be the difference because they rarely lose at home. The Saints should claim the NFC South because they are the most complete team. Brees is the best quarterback of the bunch, even though Matt Ryan and Cam Newton are no slouches, and the defense, which has been notoriously terrible for years, is now above average. In addition, the Saints’ schedule is conducive for the championship because they do not have any difficult matchups besides for the Falcons. The last four weeks of the season should be interesting and exciting football as the playoffs come fast.

 

2017-2018 NFC Division Preview

NFC East

Winner: Dallas Cowboys

The NFC East should be the most exciting division in the NFL. Not only do they have some of the most heated rivalries in the entire sport, they possess four solid teams that could all make the playoffs and win the division. However, the Cowboys are still the favorites even with the loss of Ezekiel Elliott for the first six games. There is no doubt that Zeke is one of the best running backs in the NFL because of his combination of power and speed, but the Cowboys have one of the best offensive lines, which significantly contributed to his success. In addition, Darren McFadden represents a solid backup who should be able to handle the role for the first third of the season. Without Zeke, the Dallas defense, which was underrated last season, and Dak Prescott need to elevate their games and prove that their success from last season can be repeated. If the Boys do not claim the division for the second straight year, the next favorites are the Giants. The Giants have a plethora of talent on both sides and on paper may be the best team in the division. However, their shaky offensive line and injury history are factors that could keep them from matching their talent.

NFC North

Winner: Green Bay Packers

Seemingly every year the Packers are predicted to win the division, but always find a way to either make things interesting or lose the NFC North title. With only Mitchell Trubisky, Matthew Stafford, and Sam Bradford as the other quarterbacks in the division, Aaron Rodgers has a huge leg up on the competition and should win the division every year. The amount of weapons on the Green Bay offense is never questioned, but the offensive line must be able to keep Rodgers up in the pocket for him to exploit his matchups. In addition, their acquisitions on defense, especially in the secondary, should improve a unit that consistently ranks toward the bottom half of the NFL. If the Packers are unable to claim their second straight division crown, it will be due to injuries on the offensive line and defense, improved play from Minnesota’s quarterback whether it be Sam Bradford or Teddy Bridgewater, or significant enhancement of the Lions’ defense to complement Matthew Stafford and his offensive barrage.

NFC South

Winner: New Orleans Saints

Outside of the NFC East, the NFC South has the potential to be one of the most interesting division because of the quarterback depth.  The Saints have been mired in mediocrity for years and Drew Brees is nearing the end of his legendary career.  The Saints’ offense is blessed with multiple options such as former All-Pro Adrian Peterson, Willie Snead, Mark Ingram, and Michael Thomas, while the defense has slowly been improving over the past few years. The Saints are never going to have one of the best defenses in the league, but their great offense and home-field advantage should let them complete for the NFC South. Last season, the Falcons were the undisputed best team in the division and nearly won the Super Bowl, but they are destined for a setback this season. The Panthers recently made the Super Bowl, but they do not have a reliable offensive line to keep Newton upright in the pocket. The Buccaneers are also a team on the rise, but Winston has not shown an ability to lead a team to the playoffs.

NFC West

Winner: Seattle Seahawks

Last year, the NFC West was one of the weakest divisions as the Cardinals did not live up to expectations and the 49ers and Rams were awful. The Seahawks beefed up their team this offseason with the addition of Sheldon Richardson, one of the premier pass rushers in the league. On offense, the team has the potential to be elite if Eddy Lacy and Jimmy Graham can return to form, Russell Wilson continues his progression as an elite quarterback, and the offensive line stays healthy. On defense, they are still one of the best with Richard Sherman, Earl Thomas, Michael Bennett, Sheldon Richardson, and Cam Chancellor. In addition, the Seahawks still have the best home field advantage in football at CenturyLink Field. The Rams have the chance to step forward, if Goff can make significant improvements in his second year. The Cardinals were a dark horse candidate to win the Super Bowl last season before everything fell apart, but they still have the talent with Carson Palmer, David Johnson, and Larry Fitzgerald to compete for a playoff position.