Tag Archives: Rob Gronkowski

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.

[ads2]

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

[ads]

2013-2014 New England Patriots Preview

By: Evan

 

Projected Record: 11-5

AFC East Rank: 1st

The AFC East has been Patriot East with the Pats winning the 9 of the last 10 division crowns. Led by Tom Brady, the Patriots have faced little competition for a once storied division in the AFC.

With Gronk hurt, Wes gone, and Hernandez jailed, Tom Brady will not have his favorite targets.                                         Courtesy of Prosportsextra.com
With Gronk hurt, Wes gone, and Hernandez jailed, Tom Brady will not have his favorite targets.
Courtesy of Prosportsextra.com

With all of the attention surrounding the Aaron Hernandez murder case, many people have forgotten about other the significant losses the Patriots have suffered including Wes Welker, Danny Woodhead and Patrick Chung. Not to mention the uncertainty about Rob Gronkowski and his four surgeries that have earned Gronk the reputation for being injury prone. This might be one the least talented teams Tom Brady has ever played with and with his increasing age, the Patriots could be in some trouble. Despite all of the notable departures, the Patriots still made some significant moves in signing Danny Amendola, Leon Washington and Adrian Wilson. All of whom will be called on to significant roles for the foreseeable future. The most important signing was obviously Danny Amendola who will have to play a Wes Welker type role for the Patriots to succeed. He has his share of injuries, which is troubling, but when he plays he is a dangerous weapon. The Pats also made some crucial re-signings in Kyle Arrington, Julian Edelman, Michael Hoomanawanui, Sebastian Vollmer and Aqib Talib. The most important of these signings was Aqib Talib, a talented but troubled cornerback who played well under immense pressure in New England. Talib helped sure up the Patriots’ secondary last year and hopefully he can live up to his billing for this year. The Pats have one of best coaches in the league in Bill Belichick, who is capable of making the necessary adjustments for this team to succeed and continue on as a perennial Super Bowl contender.

X Factor:

Danny Amendola will have to carry a depleted Pats' receiving corps  Courtesy of ESPN
Danny Amendola will have to carry a depleted Pats’ receiving corps
Courtesy of ESPN

This one is obvious, Danny Amendola will be the key piece to the Patriots run at a fifth straight divisional crown. Amendola was signed to a 5 year-$31 million deal with $10 million guaranteed. He even signed the contract before Wes Welker left, proving he was going to be a key factor whether or not Welker stayed. Amendola plays a similar role to Welker as a slot receiver who can stretch the field and use his lateral quickness to explode into the secondary. The only problem with Amendola is his health as he has missed 20 games over the last two seasons. The Patriots cannot afford an injury and with a heavier workload the propensity for injury becomes even greater. Look for big numbers from Amendola this season as he will become one of Tom Brady’s favorite targets.

With Brady and Belichick at the helm, the Pats are always a threat                                                                             Courtesy of the NY Times
With Brady and Belichick at the helm, the Pats are always a threat
Courtesy of NY Times

Sure the Patriots have had some significant losses, but as long as Brady and Belichick are together the Pats have a chance. The Pats play a moderately difficult schedule including: at Atlanta, at Cincinnati, home vs New Orleans, home vs Denver, at Houston and at Baltimore. All of these games could be tough but I see them winning at least four of the aforementioned games. Look for the Pats to make another run at the Super Bowl this year.

Top Fantasy Football Players at each Position and Sleepers

By: Jon

Quarterback

Best: Aaron Rodgers

Aaron Rodgers
Aaron Rodgers

Rodger is the best quarterback in the league because of his quick release and accuracy. Last year, Rodgers had the second most fantasy points in the league. Rodgers has one of the best receiving corp in the league, Cobb, Nelson, and Jones. Compared to Drew Brees, Rodgers has better accuracy and more weapons on offense. Rodgers does not throw as many INT as Brees and runs more than Brees. Although he is no RGIII, he can run for 250 yards and a few touchdowns. Aaron should have another great season for the Packers this season.

Rest:

2) Brees

3) Manning

4) Ryan

5) Brady

Sleeper: Ryan Tannehill

Ryan Tannehill
Ryan Tannehill

The second year player has the potential to be a solid a good fantasy quarterback. Tannehill is a dual threat quarterback because of his strong arm and fast feet. Last year as a rookie, Ryan was ineffective because he has not played many games at quarterback in his life, only 19 before last season, and his receiving corp was horrible. However, the Dolphins added Mike Wallace and Dustin Keller, while re-signing 1000 yard receiver Brian Hartline. Although he may not be a top 5 quarterback, he may be a top ten fantasy quarterback by the end of the season.

Reach: Tom Brady

Tom Brady
Tom Brady

I know people are about to refresh their page or think that I am an absolute retard for calling Brady overrated, but he is not deserving of a first or second round pick. I am not doubting Brady as a quarterback, but rather his fellow offensive play makers. If ‘Gronk’ is not there for the Patriots first game, the Patriots second best receiver will be Danny Amendola. The Patriots receiving corp is in complete disarray, which will hurt Tom Brady’s stats. For the first time in a long time, the Patriots will have a quality running game. The Patriots have three quality running backs, Ridley, Vereen, and Bolden, which will take away from Brady’s pass attempts and stats. Although I still believe Brady is one of the best quarterbacks in the league, his stats will not warrant a first or second round selection.

Running Back

Best: Adrian Peterson

Adrian Peterson
Adrian Peterson

Peterson, the MVP, is an absolute freak and should be the first pick in your NFL fantasy football draft. Last year, Peterson came within a few yards of breaking the all-time rushing record, while his next closest peer was 450 yards away from Peterson. Peterson is going to get his touches because Ponder is not able to lead a offense, like the Minnesota Vikings. Peterson is one of the most consistent backs in the NFL and will rack up at least 15 points every week. Unlike other backs, Peterson is a goal line back so he will  Peterson has the ability to catch the ball, which adds to his fantasy value.

Rest:

2) Foster

3) Lynch

4) Rice

5) Morris

Sleeper: Chris Ivory

Chris Ivory
Chris Ivory

The new Jets running back is going to have a breakout season for the New York Jets. The Jets will run the ball frequently this season because their quarterback situation is one of the worst in the league. Ivory is a talented running back and should have a great season because of the increase in touches. The Jets have a quality offensive line, which will help Ivory gain extra yardage and points. Ivory has the ability to gain extra touchdowns because of his physicality. Ryan likes to run the ball, which will help Ivory’s case.

Reach: CJ Spiller

CJ Spiller
CJ Spiller

The Buffalo Bills running back will not produce the same stats as last year. Spiller will not be receiving the touches and carries, like the other first round running backs. Spiller is going to be a first or second round pick in fantasy football drafts, hopefully you will not select him that early. Last year, Fred Jackson hurt himself, which enabled Spiller to receive more carries. When Jackson played for the Bills, Spiller only accumulated 100 yards once and scored more than 15 points only once in ten games. Jackson is a quality running back, who will take carries away from Spiller. Spiller has been injury prone as well.

Wide Receiver

Best: Calvin Johnson

Calvin Johnson
Calvin Johnson

‘Megatron’ is ridiculous and the best receiver in football since Jerry Rice, in my opinion. Johnson was first in points, among receivers, although he caught only 5 touchdowns. Johnson set the record for most receiving yards in NFL history. Luckily for Johnson, the Lions throw a lot, most in NFL history, and Stafford is a really good quarterback. Johnson ended the season with eight one hundred yards games in his last nine games, including two two hundred yard games. Johnson should be a first or second round pick because he will have a better season than last year. Johnson will score more touchdowns to make up for his lack of yardage.

Rest:

2) Marshall

3) Thomas

4) Green

5) Bryant

Sleeper: Hakeem Nicks

Hakeem Nicks
Hakeem Nicks

After a lackluster season, Nicks will come back and become a star once again next year. Hicks is a big and talented receiver entering a contract year for the New York Giants. Nicks is finally healthy, which will make him perform like a top receiving option once again. Nicks has the ability to be a number one fantasy receiver because of his ability to catch touchdowns and Manning’s throwing ability. Nicks will probably be around in the sixth round. Nicks will be determined to top his fellow receiver Victor Cruz, who was just given a contract extension.

Reach: Percy Harvin

Percy Harvin
Percy Harvin

Percy Harvin is given a lot of credit and prestige for a player that has never recorded a 1000 yard year. Although Harvin is a good talent and versatile, most of Harvin’s stats do not help fantasy teams, PR and KR. Harvin does not record many touchdowns, which significantly damages his fantasy value. Harvin will probably be drafted in the third round, ahead of players like MJD, White, Johnson, Cruz, and Fitzgerald. Harvin is a good player in real life, but should not be your first or second wide receiver. Fantasy owners should make risks in later rounds.

Tight End

Best: Jimmy Graham

Jimmy Graham
Jimmy Graham

Although Jimmy Graham is not the most talent tight end, Rob Gronkowski, he is the most dependable and consistent. Graham is Brees’s favorite target, which allows him to rack a lot of yards and score a lot of touchdowns. Brees constantly throws Graham’s way  because of their lack of running game. Over the last two years, Graham has averged 1100 yards and 10 touchdowns. Those stats make Graham worthy of a second or third round pick in fantasy football drafts. Graham is a physically dominating presence, which allows him to overmatch defenders and score a lot of fantasy points.

Rest:

2) Gronkowski

3) Gonzalez

4) Written

5) Davis

Sleeper: Dustin Keller

Dustin Keller
Dustin Keller

The former first round pick has a lot of talent and hands. Last year, Keller was injured for most of the season, which played a major part of the Jets’ disaster. Keller will have the benefit of playing with an actual quarterback, Ryan Tannehill, instead of Mark Sanchez. The tight end is important and is frequently called upon by a young quarterback. Defenses will no longer focus on Keller, which will allow him to find wholes in the defense and score touchdowns. Keller may not be drafted in most leagues, as he is currently ranked 173 according to ESPN.com

Reach: Antonio Gates

Antonio Gates
Antonio Gates

The veteran tight end is on his last legs as a star NFL tight end. Gates will be a future Hall of Famer because of his skill and ability to catch the ball in tight windows. However, Gates cannot be depended on to be a consistent starting tight end. Gates is frequently injured, which hampers his performance and numbers. Players, such as Keller, Bennett, Pettigrew, and Finley, will be drafted behind Gates and may perform better than Gates. Gates’ stock drops even further because Rivers is an inconsistent quarterback. If Gates is drafted, fantasy owners should pick up tight ends on the waiver wire, like Keller, Fleener, or Davis.

Defense/Special Teams

Best: San Francisco 49ers

49ers
49ers

The 49ers have the best defense in football. San Fran’s D/ST is improved because they have special team studs like Ted Ginn Jr and LaMichael James. San Fran’s defense is full of studs and All-Pros. Players, such as Patrick Willis, Justin Smith, Aldom Smith, Navarro Bowman, and Donte Whitner, make the 49ers defense incredibly formidable and fantasy gold.

Rest:

2) Seahawks

3) Texans

4) Bears

5) Broncos

Sleeper: Redskins

Redskins
Redskins

Although the Redskins had a bad year last season, they will rebound because of their young talent. Last year, Brian Orakpo and Ryan Kerrigan were hurt and could not make an impact on the Washington defense. The Kerrigan and Orakpo combination is one of the best and most feared pass rushing combinations in football. They will add pressure to the quarterback, which will improve the entire defense. The Redskins’ pass defense was horrendous because they did not have a pass rush, last season.

Reach: Ravens

Ravens
Ravens

The Ravens defense is no longer THE Ravens defense of the past. The Ravens have lost five starters from last year’s championship team, Lewis, Reed, Kruger, Ellerbe, and Pollard. Many fantasy owners will draft the Ravens because they have been known as a great defense. However, times have significantly changed in Baltimore. I would stay away from the Ravens because of the myriad of questions this team must answer. Owners should be wary and keep away from the Ravens defense this year.

Kickers

Top Five:

1) Walsh

Blair Walsh
Blair Walsh

2) Tucker

3) Bryant

4) Janikowski

5) Gostkowski

Stats and Pics from ESPN.com