Tag Archives: Anquan Boldin

Preview of the NFL Conference Championships

By: Evan

After this weekend, we will know who will play for the Super Bowl and the Vince Lombardi Trophy
After this weekend, we will know who will play for the Vince Lombardi Trophy            Courtesy of Footballpros.com

The NFL must be ecstatic about the two match-ups in the Conference Championships, the New England Patriots and the Denver Broncos in the AFC game and the San Francisco 49ers and the Seattle Seahawks in the NFC. Brady vs. Manning, Wilson vs. Kaepernick, legend vs. legend and rising star vs rising star. Here are my predictions for both games.

AFC Championship: New England Patriots vs. Denver Broncos 3:00 PM EST

Sunday might be the last time these two HOF's meet up.  Courtesy of Bleacherreport.com
Sunday might be the last time these two HOF’s meet up.
Courtesy of Bleacherreport.com

Reasons Why the Patriots will win:

Can Brady and Belichick get to another Super Bowl? Courtesy of ESPN
Can Brady and Belichick get to another Super Bowl?
Courtesy of ESPN

1.) Belichick and Brady have Peyton’s number: In the 14 times Brady and Manning have squared off (Denver and Indy), the Pats are 10-4. In those 14 games Manning has thrown for 29 TDs and 20 INTs, a rate less than impressive for a quarterback of his stature. Earlier this year the Patriots came back from a 24-0 deficit to win in overtime in Foxborough. After leading three drives that resulted in 17 points in the first half (Von Miller had a fumble return TD), Manning could only muster seven more points in the second half, giving further evidence on why other pundits question Manning’s “clutch gene”. When you are one of the best quarterbacks in the history of the game, you are graded on the highest curve and your accolades are praised but your mistakes are also highlighted. And truthfully, Manning has work to do if he wants to overcome his reputation as a “regular season quarterback.” A playoff victory over the Pats would help but seems improbable.

2.) Playing with House Money: Another truth about this game is the Pats have less pressure on them then the Broncos do. The Broncos have put up impressive stats, breaking the total points record with 603 and obviously one of, if not the greatest statistical years ever had by a quarterback. Meanwhile, Brady and the Pats have been chugging along losing bodies on both sides of the ball. On offense they lost Gronk for the first six weeks and then lost him for the season with a torn ACL, wide receivers Aaron Dobson, Kenbrell Thompkins and oft injured Danny Amendola have combined to miss 13 games this year.  And, of course, they lost Aaron Hernandez because of his arrest for murder.  These losses on the offense would make any team less of a threat, but not the Patriots as they turned Julian Edelman, a college quarterback drafted in the 7th round into a 100 catch player. On defense, they lost stud defensive tackle Vince Wilfork to a ruptured achilles, and linebackers Brandon Spikes and Jerrod Mayo to other season ending injuries. Did this stop the Pats? No. Players like Jamie Collins and emerging stars like Chandler Jones stepped up and preformed valiantly for their injured teammates. I know the Pats won’t make the excuse but they most definitely have one to fall back on, hence the pressure is off them and on Manning to beat such a depleted Patriots team.

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3.) The Run Game: Coming into the season, LaGarrette Blount was considered to be a head case that would never be solved, but now with the Patriots he has emerged as their lead running back. In his lone playoff appearance, Blount rushed for 166 yards and four TDs, incredible numbers for a player as stout as Blount. This hot streak could continue as the Broncos gave up 15 rushing TDs this season. The Patriots also have the advantage in terms of running back depth as Stevan Ridley and Shane Vereen provide a balance of both speed and power that should wear down the Broncos defense. With the high altitude in Denver, runners can tire easily and with this litany of quality backs, the Patriots should have no trouble interchanging all three. Although the focus will be on Brady vs. Manning, the running game will have to run down the clock and keep Manning and his potent offense off the field.

Reasons Why the Broncos will win:

Will Peyton still be smiling after tonight? Courtesy of Denver Post
Will Peyton still be smiling after tonight?
Courtesy of The Denver Post

1.) Better Weapons: I just mentioned that the Pats have three solid running backs who can carry the load on offense, but the Broncos have a stable (horse joke haha) of receiving and running options that only make Peyton Manning’s job much easier. Demaryius Thomas, Julius Thomas, Eric Decker and Wes Welker all had 10 or more TDs this season and Knowshon Moreno had a career year with a combined 1,538 yards and 13 TDs on the ground and through the air. For a secondary that gave up 239 yards per game, the Patriots do not seem equipped to handle all of the Broncos’ targets. If Manning gets going early, it could be a long day for the Patriots.

2.) Peyton is on fire: Peyton Manning will be the MVP and I do not want to hear people make the case for Brady to win it because of the Patriots injuries. He amassed 5,477 yards and 55 TDs with only 10 INTs and a total QBR of 82.1 (0-100). In the playoff game against the Chargers, Manning had a solid game throwing for 230 yards with two TDs and an interception with 91.1 QBR, but the most important moment came in the 4th quarter with San Diego mounting a comeback and Manning complete a first down to Julius Thomas, virtually putting the game away. He made the critical throw and avoided criticism for at least another week. As I mentioned before the Pats defense against the pass is vulnerable and Manning could have a great day if he avoids turnovers.

3.) Revenge is in order: The Broncos should come into this game with a little chip on their shoulders because of the aforementioned regular season defeat at New England earlier this year. This would a perfect opportunity for Peyton to erase the hard memories of Brady defeating him in various playoff games and go on to play in the Super Bowl. Peyton doesn’t have that many more NFL years in him, so if the Broncos want to make a run at a championship, they better win this game.

Prediction:

This game is going to be a high scoring affair with the game probably coming down to who has the ball last. An if they scenario happens, I have more confidence in Brady than I do in Manning. Pats 38- Broncos 35.

NFC Championships: San Francisco 49ners vs Seattle Seahawks 6:30 PM

This rivalry dates back to the USC Stanford days. Courtesy of NFL.com
This rivalry dates back to the USC vs Stanford days.
Courtesy of NFL.com

Reasons why the Niners will win:

Anquan Boldin will have to lead the 49ers receiving corps. Courtesy of NFL SI
Anquan Boldin will have to lead the 49ers receiving corps.
Courtesy of NFL SI

1.) They’re on fire: The Niners have a similar feel to the 2011 Green Bay Packers, star quarterback playing at an extremely high level and a defense making key plays. The great thing for the Niners is their defense is better than the Packers’ defense was– to limit star quarterbacks Aaron Rodgers and Cam Newton to a combined 30 points is fantastic. Colin Kaepernick has been highly effective, running for clutch 3rd down conversions and throwing strikes to his receivers and most importantly he has been playing safe, game managing style of football, allowing his stout defense to assert their dominance. Hot teams tend to be dominant during the playoffs and the Niners have run through their opponents and now face a struggling Seattle team.

2.) Better receiving core: Anquan Boldin, Michael Crabtree and Vernon Davis are all hard match-ups for secondary players, even for a talented Seattle team. Anquan plays a physical style and won’t be intimidated by press coverage or the hard hitting Kam Chancellor. Look for CK7 to look for ‘Quan if he gets in trouble inside the pocket. Michael Crabtree has provided a deep-threat presence that allows for other receivers to get open across the middle of the field. He too has a tremendous set of hands as his coach Harbaugh said he would trust Crabtree to catch a ball to save his life. And then finally, Vernon Davis one of the most versatile players in the game, combining speed with power creating a headaches for defensive coordinators everywhere. Davis, like most of the Niners, has struggled against the ‘Hawks hard hitting Legion of Boom as he was held to 41 yards receiving in both games this year. He might play the role of decoy, allowing Anquan and Crabtree to roam down the sidelines.

3.) Better Linebackers: This is a close battle but the edge goes to the Niners as they have the best two inside linebackers in the game in Patrick Willis and Navorro Bowman. Both have sideline to sideline speed and will not be afraid to confront Beast Mode head-on. The X-factor will be Ahmad Brooks a combo-linebacker who can rush the passer and play the run game. The linebacking corps also provides the emotional edge for the Niners as their leadership goes unquestioned. Look for the two-headed monster of Willis and Bowman to play well if the Niners want to win this game.

Reasons why the Seahawks will win:

Seattle is led by the notorious Legion of Boom. Courtesy of Full Scale Sports
Seattle is led by the notorious Legion of Boom.
Courtesy of Full Scale Sports

1.) They have a psychological edge at home: The 12th man is more like an outdoor asylum, full of crazy fans who bleed Blue and Green. The Seahawks are 15-1 in the last two years at home and they seem to play with an inherent swagger in the Emerald City. The Seahawks have also demolished the Niners at home the last two years by the scores of 42-13 (2012) and 29-3 (2013). Kaepernick has struggled mightily in Seattle with only 1 TD and 4 INTs and with a quarterback rating of 41.7. The playoffs will be even louder and the crowd will definitely cause problems for the Niners.

2.) Best secondary in all of football: The Legion of Boom is by far the strength of the Seattle Seahawks. Richard Sherman is the best corner (DPOY candidate), Earl Thomas is the best free safety (DPOY front-runner) and Kam Chancellor is the best strong safety (should be DPOY candidate). They hit hard, they talk trash and most importantly they play the ball, turning unadvised throws into costly interceptions. After the suspensions of Brandon Browner and Walter Thurmond, players like Byron Maxwell and Jeremy Lane stepped up and played superbly with 17 passes defensed and 4 INTs. The Legion of Boom needs to come to play and they should create at least a turnover.

3.) Beast Mode: Marshawn Lynch is a handful, combining 215 lbs of straight muscle with 4.46 speed means trouble for opposing defenses. Marshawn has had success against a stout 49ers defense rushing for 170 yards and 3Tds in their two meetings this year. He can wear down a defense, collecting extra yards after initial contact and turning first downs into touchdowns. If Seattle wants to take the pressure off of Russell Wilson they need to have Marshawn touch the ball at least 30 times.

Prediction:

The Seahawks are close to invincible at home and until the Niners beat them in Seattle, I am picking the Seahawks. The Niners can’t stop Beast Mode and the Seahawks, supported by their crazed 12th man, wins 28-21.

Stats from ESPN

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2013-2014 Baltimore Ravens Preview

By: Jon

 

Projected Record: 10-6

AFC North Rank: Tied for 1st with Steelers

Addition:

Elvis Dumervil
Elvis Dumervil

The defending Super Bowl Champion underwent a major roster overhaul because the roster was aging and they had a lot of free agents. The Ravens lost several key players on offense and defense. The three most important departures may have been Ray Lewis, Ed Reed, and Anquan Boldin. Although Reed and Lewis were on the down side of their careers, they were the heart and soul of the team because they had been apart of the team for over a decade. The Ravens were forced to let go of Reed and many other free agents because other teams were offering them huge deals. The Ravens will be starting four new defensive players this season because they need to replace Lewis, Reed, Paul Kruger, and Ellebre. The Ravens added veterans Chris Canty, Elvis Dumervil, Daryl Smith, and Michael Huff, during free agency. Although the Ravens were not ranked in the top five or even fifteen in either opposing passing and rushing, they were able to play good enough defense to win the division and win the Super Bowl. In an attempt to add youth on defense, the Ravens drafted Safety Matt Elam, Linebacker Arthur Brown, Defensive Tackle Brandon Williams, and Defensive End John Simon in the first four rounds rounds. Elam is a solid safety and will add depth to the safety position. Arthur Brown will help the Ravens improve their linebacking corp that lost two starters from last year’s team. The other players on the defensive line will improve the depth and allow the Ravens to play more athletically. For the first time in a decade, the Ravens offense led the team to a bulk of their wins.

Joe Flacco
Joe Flacco

On offense, the Ravens did not need much help. Joe Flacco looks like he will be ready to become a top ten quarterback in the league. The Ravens also have star running back Ray Rice that they can rely on when Flacco is having a bad game. They finished in the top fifteen in rushing and passing yards per game. In an attempt to replace the production from Anquan Boldin, the Ravens signed Brandon Stokely and will give more playing time to speedster Jacoby Jones. The Ravens may be forced to run the ball more this season because the talent on the outside is not good. Besides, Torrey Smith, the Ravens do not have a lot talent at wide receiver or tight end because of the injury to Dennis Pitta. The Ravens signed tight end Dallas Clark, however he is not have the ability to catch passes like when he was is his prime with the Colts. If the Ravens are going to reproduce their offensive success, Joe Flacco must continue the success he experienced during the playoffs when he was an efficient deep ball thrower and an accurate mid range passer. Rice should also help Flacco because he can do everything that a running back must do to be productive. Rice can block, catch, and run.

Schedule Analysis:

The Ravens have a great chance of making the playoffs for a fifth straight season. The Ravens have made the playoffs during every season of Flacco’s career and that streak should continue next year. Although the Ravens won the Super Bowl, they will not be playing at home against the Broncos because the Orioles are playing at home. The Broncos are one of the favorites to win the Super Bowl. Even though they will not have their star defensive end Von Miller, they will still win because they have more talent. After a week one loss to the Broncos, the Ravens will play Browns, Texans, @Bills, and @Dolphins. The Ravens will win three of the four games. Although they are playing at home, the Ravens will not have the talent to beat the Texans. The Texans have been great during the first month of the season when the pressure is the lowest so I give the Texans the edge. Before the Bye, the Ravens will lose the two games against the Packers and @Steelers. The Packers are one of the best teams in the league and the Steelers are one of the toughest teams to beat at home.

After the week 8 Bye, the Ravens will begin their playoff push. The extra week will help a young team refocus and regroup. After the Bye, the Ravens should player better football because they will be more acclimated to playing with each other. The Ravens play four of the first seven games after the Bye at home. Although it is a bold prediction, I expect the Ravens to go on a seven game winning streak. The Ravens will be playing their best football and will be playing the easiest part of their schedule. The Ravens toughest games will be against the Steelers at home and away against the Bears. The Ravens will be able to defeat the Steelers because the crowd at MT&T Stadium will be electrified and the players will definitely rise to the occasion. The Ravens will beat the Bears because the Bears are an inconsistent team. After their seven game win the streak and a win on the road against the Lions, the Ravens will head home and play the New England Patriots. I predict that the Patriots will beat the Ravens because the Patriots will probably be healthy and have a better team than the Ravens. The Ravens will already have clinched the division so their week seventeen game will be meaningless. The Bengals will be fighting for a possible playoff spot so they will not allow the Ravens to beat them at home. The Ravens should finish the season with 10 wins and a 3 or 4 seed in the AFC. The Ravens will win the Wild Card Round, but lose in the next round to the 1 or 2 seed.

Key Players:

Torrey Smith
Torrey Smith

On offense, Torrey Smith must take the next step and become a true number one receiver for the Baltimore Ravens. The Ravens lost a lot of talent on offense because of cap issues and injuries. Smith will be the lone starting receiver or tight end on the roster. Smith has put together two nice seasons over the last two years, but he must improve. Flacco is not a top five quarterback so he must have some talent to work with in order to be successful. Smith has the size and speed to be an 1000 yard receiver and a player that can catch 10 touchdowns. Smith has the ability to go deep and out run defenders. Joe Flacco is a perfect match for Smith because he can throw a great deep ball and allow Smith to run the balls down.

Terrell Suggs
Terrell Suggs

On defense, Terrell Suggs is a great player and continue to produce at a high level if the Ravens are going to return to the playoffs. Although Ray Lewis and Ed Reed have been a major part of the Ravens defense the last few years, Suggs has been the best player on the defense. Before injuring himself last season, T-Sizzle from Ball so Hard University average 12.5 sacks during his 2010 and 2011 campaigns. If Suggs can return to his form, the Ravens defense will probably not miss a beat because Suggs is one of the best players in football. Although he is heading in the wrong direction, I still believe that Suggs can turn in another 10 or 12 sack season. The Ravens will have a great weapon if Ngata and he can apply pressure on the quarterback and force a few turnovers. When motivated and active, Suggs is a beast and can single handily disrupt an offense.

 

All pics and stats from espn.com