Sunday, February 7, 2016

Super Bowl 50 Preview

Super Bowl 50 is about to begin and needless to say all of America is ready to go. The match up between the Panthers and the Broncos is so fitting for the 50th Anniversary of the NFL's championship because it is such a great match up of great and iconic characters and two fascinating teams. I think this will be an incredibly close game and either team can win. That being said there is something special about this Bronco team and I have a feeling Peyton Manning and the Broncos will ride off into the sunset with a 24-21 win. That being said I could definitely see either team win and here is what they will need to do to make that happen.

The Broncos defense needs to establish dominance because if they don't this game will get out of hand. The only way the Broncos can win is if the Wade Phillip's defense keeps it close because I believe then the Panthers will start to panic. In order for the Broncos to win Von Miller and the defense needs to carry the team. As far as offense goes the Broncos need to establish a run game early and protect Peyton. The Broncos need to unleash the one-two punch of C.J. Anderson and Ronnie Hillman and they both need to have a good game. If the Broncos can get a run game going the pressure of the game is taken off of Peyton's shoulders. He will then be able to make easy passes and be the game manager, which has been the reason why the Broncos have won there past two games in the playoffs.
X Factor: C.J. Anderson and Ronnie Hillman one-two punch

The Panthers need to start fast and get ahead. I know this seems pretty easy for Cam and company to do considering the Panthers have a combined first half score of 55-7 in the playoffs this season, but the Broncos have the best defense in the NFL and maybe all-time. Not to mention they have had time to study the Panthers offense. If the Panthers come in cocky and let the Broncos defense throw them around then they could be in trouble. But, if Cam comes out hot like the Panthers have done before I don't see Peyton being able to catch up. Defensively the Panthers need to force Peyton to win the game. That means Luke Kuechly and the Panthers defense must stop the run even if that means leaving eight or more in the box. The reason why the Broncos offense has been so successful in these playoffs is because not a lot of pressure has been put on Peyton. Peyton hasn't had to put the game on his back and the Panthers need make him do that. 
X Factor: Luke Kuechly

Super Bowl 50 Story Lines

Can Peyton win what is probably his last game?
Can Demarcus Ware finally win a Super Bowl?
Can Jared Allen finally win a Super Bowl?
Who wins the battle between the Panthers offensive line and the Broncos pass rush?
Can the Broncos average offensive line deal with the Panthers incredibly talented front seven?
How will the Broncos defense deal with Greg Olsen?
Can the Broncos get a run game going?
Can the Panthers get an early lead?
How will Thomas Davis play after just breaking an arm?
Who wins the battle between Josh Norman and Demaryius Thomas?
How low will the score be with two great defenses playing?

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Championship Round Power Rankings 2016

1. Panthers                   +0 15-1
2. Cardinals                   +0 13-3
3. Patriots                      +0 12-4
4. Broncos                      +1 12-4
5. Seahawks                 -1 10-6
6. Chiefs                        +0 11-5
7. Packers                       +0 10-6
8. Steelers                   +0 10-6
9. Vikings                        +0 11-5
10. Bengals                  +0 12-4
11. Redskins               +0 9-7
12. Jets                            +0 10-6
13. Texans                    +0 9-7
14. Bills                          +0 8-8
15. Raiders                   +0 7-9
16. Colts                         +0 8-8
17. Falcons                       +0 8-8
18. Lions                       +0 7-9
19. Giants                       +0 6-10
20. Saints   +0 7-9
21. Rams                        +0 7-9
22. Buccaneers              +0 6-10
23. Jaguars   +2 5-11
24. Bears      +0 6-10
25. Dolphins   +1 6-10
26. Chargers                  +1 4-12
27. Ravens                      +1 5-11
28. 49ers                         +2 5-11
29. Cowboys                 +0 4-12
30. Browns                      +2 3-13
31. Eagles     -8 7-9
32. Titans                      -1 3-13

Conference Championship Predictions

Because I have gone 7-1 in my playoff predictions from before the playoffs and both my Superbowl picks are still alive I am going to have a the same winners from then.

Denver Broncos at New England Patriots: Patriots win
In all likelihood this is the last Brady-Manning game. Its been a real treat to see these two legends of the gridiron battle it out for the last 15 years and America will surly miss it. That being said Brady has gone 11-5 in the past 16 matches and I don't expect too many surprises in this game. Sadly Peyton is on his last leg and it is pretty obvious that he can't keep up with Brady. Yes, the Broncos defense is lethal and they will more then likely keep the score reasonably low, but when it counts Brady has almost always pulled through.
Patriots 24-17 Broncos

Arizona Cardinals at Carolina Panthers: Cardinals win
With an impressive win over the Seahawks in last week's divisional round game the Panthers proved to everyone that they are not some playoff choker. That being said, there is something special about this Cardinal team. While this should be a really close game and it definitely could go either way. It just feels like this veteran Cardinal team will find a way to win against the still young and cocky Panthers.
Cardinals 31-30 Panthers

New Coaching Hires Ranked

1. Chip Kelly-49ers
I am still a huge critic of Chip Kelly, but there is no denying he has had success in the NFL, with a career record of 26-21. He is also getting a fresh start with Colin Kaepernick as his quarterback. While the Kaepernick and Kelly marriage isn't guaranteed to work out, Kaepernick is by far the most talented quarterback Kelly has ever had. The 49ers will also have anywhere from 8 to 12 picks in the upcoming 2016 draft so Kelly can begin to mold the team in his image. Bottom line is that I don't love any of the head coaching hires, but the Kelly hiring has the most potential to be successful.

2. Ben McAdoo-Giants
McAdoo wasn't a proven coordinator when he got hired so it's tough to say how he will translate, but the one thing that can be said is that he has made his presence known in New York. In 2013 the Giants were 28th in total yards. In 2014 McAdoo was hired and over the next two years the Giants were 10th and then 8th in yards. After only two years he has left a distinct impact on the Giants offense and staying in New York, where his system is already implemented makes his job that much easier. The ownership, by the Mara family, is also extremely stable and will back McAdoo and give him time, making the Giants the easiest job to be successful in. But, with the small sample size he is still a risk, but like Kelly, there is also a large reward.

3. Adam Gase-Dolphins
Adam Gase is similar to McAdoo in that he has helped to make quarterbacks and offenses better wherever he goes, but not only does he have less to work with in Miami, but I don't think he is as good. Yes, he was with Peyton Manning during his record setting season in 2013, but he's not the reason why Peyton succeeded. In 2015, where he was coordinator for the Bears, the total offense didn't improve. In fact it stayed at 21st in the NFL. Unlike McAdoo, Gase has to put his new offensive system into place in Miami which will take at least two years. Gase is a talented coordinator who has potential, but he is extremely unproven and has to start from scratch in Miami.

4. Dirk Koetter-Buccaneers
The Buccaneers shouldn't have fired Lovie Smith. He was leading the team in the right direction and he has a proven record as a good head coach. That being said Koetter was phenomenal for the Buccaneers in his first season. He took a Bucanners offense that was 30th int total yards and coached them to 5th. Not to mention, like McAdoo, he is becoming the head coach of the team he was on in 2015 so the players already understand his and schemes. Could that one year in Tampa have been a fluke? yes, but with Lovie gone, he is the best available for the Buccaneers.

5. Hue Jackson-Browns
Hue Jackson wasn't given a fair shake in the NFL after he was fired by the Raiders after only one season. And in that season he went 8-8, which is a pretty darn good record for a first year. That being said he is going to the Cleveland Browns, a team with so many holes and a very impatient ownership. Jackson if definitly a talent, but his two head coaching turns will have been with the two worst run franchises in the NFL. Is there a chance that he is the savior in Cleveland? yes, but if Terry Robiskie, Romeo Crennel, Eric Mangini, Pat Shurmur, Rob Chudzinski and Mike Pettine couldn't lead the Browns to the playoffs then the odds are looking pretty slim for him to do it.

6. Doug Pederson-Eagles
I was definitely among the group that said Chip Kelly needed to be fired, but  that doesn't make Pederson a better head coach. During his time with the Chiefs he didn't even call his own plays and was the second fiddle to Andy Reid on a Chiefs offense that ranks 25th in total yards and 16th in total points. Not to mention the hiring for his new staff hasn't been great either. Sure it's cool that he was the quarterback for the Eagles for one year, but that doesn't make him head coach material.

7. Mike Mularkey-Titans
Hiring Mularkey was a big mistake on the part of the Titans. It was a desperation hire because all of the other major candidates had been taken. So the Titans probably felt that he was the best option to hire in the moment. But, that doesn't change that in his four seasons as head coach with three different teams, including last year as an interim, he has amassed an 18-39 coaching record. What makes him worse then Pederson is that he has been given his chances and proven multiple times that he is not head coach material. They should have waited for Josh McDaniels, Sean McDermott, Darrell Bevell, or Wade Phillips to be out of the playoffs because all of them are better candidates for a head coaching gig. This hire becomes even worse because this is probably the least talented team in the entire NFL so it's not like Mularkey has anything to work with.

Story Lines for the Championship Round of the Playoffs

Denver Broncos at New England Patriots
Will Brady vs. Manning 17 be the final game between the two legends?
Will this be Peyton's final game?
Can Peyton step it up in possibly his final game?
Can the Patriots struggling o-line handle the Broncos lethal pass-rush?
Can the Patriots pass rush beat a struggling Broncos o-line and get to a very immobile Peyton Manning?
Do the Broncos running backs have more rushing attempts then Peyton Manning has passing attempts?

Arizona Cardinals at Carolina Panthers
Who plays better in the first ever playoff game between Heisman winning quarterbacks?
Who does Josh Norman cover?
Can the Cardinals smaller linebackers handle the Panthers power run game?
Does this turn into a offensive dominated game or a defensive one?
How snowy will the game get?

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Divisional Round Predictions

Because I went 4-0 in my playoff predictions last week my predictions for this week are the same as the week before.

Kansas City Chiefs at New England Patriots: Patriots win
The Chiefs are riding high off of an 11 game win streak and the Patriots are beat up, or in some cases having bad reactions to synthetic marijuana. If there was any time for the Chiefs to pull off an upset it would be now, but I just don't see that happening. The Chiefs biggest issue is that they are vertically challenged on offense and with the return of Rob Gronkowski and Julian Edelman to the Patriots, Tom Brady is going to put up some points and I just don't think the Chiefs can keep up. I think this will be a pretty close game so the Chiefs definitely have a chance, but in the quarterback duel between Brady and Smith I simply don't see Smith keeping up.
Chiefs 17-24 Patriots

Green Bay Packers at Arizona Cardinals: Cardinals win
I tend to pick teams to commit playoff upsets after being blown out in the regular season, but the Cardinals are simply a better team. All the sucess that the Packers had against the Redskins last week probably won't transfer over because the Cardinals are so much better on all fronts. Not to mention the inferior Redskins defense gave the Packers fits in the first half of last weeks Wildcard game. While it will be a closer game then the Week 16 debacle, the Cardinals are too good to lose to one of the worst Packer teams in recent years. 
Packers 24-31 Cardinals

Seattle Seahawks at Carolina Panthers: Seahawks win
The Seahawks get it done. Simply put, they are the better playoff team and one that is used to playing in big moments. While the Cam Newton led Panthers have a 1-2 career playoff record the Russell Wilson led Seahawks have a whopping 7-2 career playoff record. Not only that, but as stated before I like to pick teams who lost in the first regular season meeting to win the second playoff meeting, the Seahawks lost to the Panthers in Week 6 with a score of 27-23. The Panthers also have a cockyness to them that won't serve them very well in the playoffs.
Seahawks 24-21 Panthers

Pittsburgh Steelers at Denver Broncos: Broncos win
Peyton Manning is one of the worst playoff quarterbacks in NFL history and normally when he is in the playoffs I pick the other team to win. This game is one of the few exceptions. The Steelers are so banged up and hurt that we aren't even sure that Ben Roethlisberger will play. And even if he does the last time the Steelers had a playoff game with a hurt Ben Roethlisberger they lost in Denver to a 7-9 Tim Tebow led Broncos. On the flip side the Broncos are the healthiest team in the playoffs by a mile. No Broncos player is out for tomorrow's game and only Brock Osweiler is considered to be questionable. The Broncos running game is also red-hot and the well rested Peyton Manning only needs to serve as a game manager, something he can probably do. 
Steelers 14-28 Broncos

Divisional Round Power Rankings 2016

1. Panthers                   +0 15-1
2. Cardinals                  +0 13-3
3. Patriots                      +0 12-4
4. Seahawks                +1 10-6
5. Broncos                    -1 12-4
6. Chiefs                      +2 11-5
7. Packers                     +3 10-6
8. Steelers                  +1 10-6
9. Vikings                      -3 11-5
10. Bengals                   -3 12-4
11. Redskins               +0 9-7
12. Jets                            +0 10-6
13. Texans                    +0 9-7
14. Bills                          +0 8-8
15. Raiders                   +0 7-9
16. Colts                         +0 8-8
17. Falcons                       +0 8-8
18. Lions                       +0 7-9
19. Giants                       +0 6-10
20. Saints   +0 7-9
21. Rams                        +0 7-9
22. Buccaneers              +0 6-10
23. Eagles     +0 7-9
24. Bears      +0 6-10
25. Jaguars   +0 5-11
26. Dolphins   +0 6-10
27. Chargers                  +0 4-12
28. Ravens                      +0 5-11
29. Cowboys                 +0 4-12
30. 49ers                         +0 5-11
31. Titans                      +0 3-13
32. Browns                      +0 3-13

Story Lines for the Divisional Round of the Playoffs

Kansas City Chiefs at New England Patriots
How will the Chiefs offense play with offensive coordinator Doug Pederson already being named the head coach of his former team the Eagles?
Will the week off help the beat up Patriots?
How will Gronk play after coming back from a knee injury?
How will Julian Edelman play after returning for his first game in almost 2 months?
Can the return of Sebastian Vollmer help to shore up the Patriots offensive line?
Will Jeremy Maclin play?
How will Chandler Jones play after his incident?
Can Alex Smith keep up with Tom Brady?
Who will win the Patriots banged up offensive line or the Chiefs banged up, but lethal, pass rush?

Green Bay Packers at Arizona Cardinals
Will the week off help the Cardinals?
How will the Packers play after they were crushed by the Cardinals less than a month ago?
Who wins the quarterback battle Aaron Rodgers or Carson Palmer?
Who gets more carries Eddie Lacy or James Starks?
Can the Packers bring the pass rush like they did last week against the Redskins?
Can Bruce Arians win his first playoff game as a head coach?
Can Carson Palmer win his first playoff game as a head coach?

Seattle Seahawks at Carolina Panthers
Will the week off help the Panthers?
Can the Seahawks avenge their Week 6 loss to the Panthers?
Can the Panthers finally beat the Seahawks in a playoff game?
How will Marshawn Lynch perform after his first game back in almost 2 months?
How will the Legion of Boom match up with the less known Panthers receivers?
Is Russell Wilson vs. Cam Newton becoming the new Brady vs. Manning?

Pittsburgh Steelers at Denver Broncos
Will the week off help the Broncos?
Will Ben Roethlisberger play?
If he needs to, can Landry Jones step it up?
How will the Steelers replace Antonio Brown?
How will Peyton Manning play?
Will Joey Porter go on the field?
Will Jordan Todman and Fitzgerald Toussaint be enough to give the Steelers a run game against the tough Bronco defense?

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Story Lines For Wild Card Weekend

Kansas City Chiefs at Houston Texans
Can the Chiefs continue their 10 game win streak?
How will J.J. Watt perform in the playoffs?
Can Alex Smith carry the Chiefs?
Can Brian Hoyer carry the Texans?
Who gets more carries and has a better game Charcandrick West or Spencer Ware?
Who has a better game Jeremy Maclin or DeAndre Hopkins?

Green Bay Packers at Washington Redskins
Can the Packers get out of their slump?
How will Kirk Cousins do in his first playoff game?
Will Kirk Cousins say "You Like That" at the end of the game?
Who gets the most carries for the Redskins?
Can Eddie Lacy have a good playoff performance despite the disappointing season?

Seattle Seahawks at Minnesota Vikings
How will one of the coldest games in NFL history effect these two teams?
Can the Seahawks continue their hot streak into the playoffs?
How will the Seahawks split the carries with Marshawn Lynch out?
How will Teddy Bridgewater do in his first playoff game?
How much will the passing game be effected by the cold?
Will Adrian Peterson rush for more yards than Teddy Bridgewater throws for?

Pittsburgh Steelers at Cincinnati Bengals
How will AJ McCarron do in his first playoff game?
How will the Steelers replace DeAngelo Williams?
After being called out will Martavis Bryant?
How different are the teams game plans after already playing two times this season?
Can the Bengals pass rush get to Ben Roethlisberger?

Wild Card Weekend Power Rankings 2015

1. Panthers                  +1 15-1
2. Cardinals                 -1 13-3
3. Patriots                     +0 12-4
4. Broncos                   +0 12-4
5. Seahawks               +0 10-6
6. Vikings                     +1 11-5
7. Bengals                  -1 12-4
8. Chiefs                      +0 11-5
9. Steelers                  +0 10-6
10. Packers                    +0 10-6
11. Redskins               +1 9-7
12. Jets                          -1 10-6
13. Texans                   +3 9-7
14. Bills                          +0 8-8
15. Raiders                 -2 7-9
16. Colts                        +2 8-8
17. Falcons                     -2 8-8
18. Lions                       +1 7-9
19. Giants                      -2 6-10
20. Saints  +4 7-9
21. Rams                        -1 7-9
22. Buccaneers             -1 6-10
23. Eagles    -1 7-9
24. Bears    -1 6-10
25. Jaguars   +0 5-11
26. Dolphins    +2 6-10
27. Chargers                -1 4-12
28. Ravens                    -1 5-11
29. Cowboys                  +0 4-12
30. 49ers                         +1 5-11
31. Titans                       +1 3-13
32. Browns                    -2 3-13