NFL

Week 15 Game Notes

With week 15 behind us now (except for tonights game), the playoff picture didn’t get any clearer this weekend. The Broncos started the week off with a shocking loss at home to the Chargers.  This win kept the Chargers in the playoff hunt, but it also opened the door for the Pats to claim the #1 seed in the AFC.

  • The Pats had a great opportunity to go down to Miami and clinch the division as well as position themselves for the #1 seed in the AFC. Unfortunately a late drive by the Dolphins spoiled the Patriots’ day. Without Gronk out there, the room for error is very slim for the Pats. Their two most reliable receivers right now are Amendola and Edelman, but both those players have similar styles of play unfortunately. The Pats have no deep threat now since Thompkins and Dobson are injured making their offense a lot easier to cover. Ridley is gradually being reintroduced to the Pats’ offense while Vereen and Blount are seeing most of the action out of the backfield. After a few good weeks, Vereen was shut down by the Dolphins.  The Patriots have a lot of work to do before the playoffs but thank god they have Tom Brady. He will find a way to win with his limited weapons when it counts.
  • With the Patriots loss, that opened the door for the Bengals to claim the #2 seed but as soon as the game started you could tell they didn’t want it. They were bullied out there by the Steelers. The first quarter was just an embarrassment for the Bengals and they were not able to recover from that.
  • Apparently no one in the NFC East wants to win. The Eagles opened the door wide open for the Cowboys, but Romo decided that the pressure of leading the division this late in the season was too much for him to handle. The Eagles’ offense was working well yesterday, with Foles having another productive game. But their defense was a whole different story. Giving up 48 points to a team like the Vikings is inexcusable. If the Eagles have any intentions of winning games in the playoffs, they’ll have to figure that out.
  • With the Eagles losing the 1 oclock game, the Cowboys knew that a win at home against the Packers would put them into first place in the NFC East. The Cowboys had a monster first half, going up 26-3 at half time. Demarco Murray was rolling early on, picking up a first down almost every time we saw him with the ball. Unfortunately Romo decided he didn’t want to win and figured that keeping the ball out of Demarco Murray’s hand would help the Packers get back into the game. If the Cowboys just kept giving Murray carries in the 4th quarter, they would have run out the clock and won the game easily. If you look at the graph below, you can really see how hard it was for Romo to blow that game.

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  • There is nothing much to say about the Giants except for the fact that Eli Manning is AWFUL. As one of the highest paid QB’s in the league, he is having arguably the worst season out of any QB in the league. Out of the 35 QB’s with an eligible Passer rating, Eli Manning ranks 33rd. He has 25 picks this year, the most out of any QB. I have always said that Eli is one of the most overrated QB’s in the league and that he should never have received that contract. There is so much to prove that point but I think at this point everyone can agree.
  • One more game I would like to talk about is the Saints game. Their inability to win games away from home is very scary. Playing the Rams on the road should have been an easy win. They were playing a mediocre team in a dome so there is no reason they should have lost. Coach Fisher has done a great job with his team in St Louis but this game was lost by the Saints and not won by the Rams. With 2 early picks, Brees just handed the game to the Rams. After a big win against the Panthers last week, Brees just let them right back into the race for the division title. Losses to the Rams and the Jets on the road this year should really worry Saints fans.
  • The Playoff Picture looks like this right now:
    • NFC –
  1. Seattle 12-2
  2. New Orleans 10-4
  3. Philadelphia 8-6
  4. Chicago 8-6
  5. Carolina 10-4
  6. San Francisco 10-4
  7. Arizona  9-5
  8. Detroit 7-6
  9. Green Bay 7-6-1
  • AFC –
  1. Denver 11-3
  2. New England 10-4
  3. Cincinati 9-5
  4. Indianapolis 9-5
  5. Kansas City 11-3
  6. Miami 8-6
  7. Baltimore 7-6
  8. San Diego 7-7
  9. Pittsburgh 6-8
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NFL

Fantasy Football: Studs and Duds of 2013

With every fantasy football season, comes great surprises but also big heartbreaks. There were some very unlikely candidates this year that surprised us with “STUD” performances week in and week out. But we also saw massive disappointments from players that have been huge fantasy stars in years past. Here are a few players that had surprisingly STUD years, and players that ended up being massive DUDS.

STUDS

Josh Gordon – WR – Cleveland Browns

Josh Gordan

Going into the season Trent Richardson was the only player on the Browns that had any fantasy value but that only lasted a few weeks. Josh Gordon who was drafted in last year’s supplemental draft was suspended for the first two games of the season for violating the leagues substance abuse policy. In most fantasy football leagues, Josh Gordon went undrafted, something that he made many owners regret. Despite missing the first two weeks of the season, Gordon currently leads the league in Receiving Yards and YPC (Yards per catch). Many expected a player like Calvin Johnson, Dez Bryant, AJ Green or Brandon Marshall to lead the league in one of those categories, and not a undrafted receiver like Gordon. What makes Gordon’s feat even more incredible is the inconsistency of the Browns’ quarterbacks this year. Brandon Weeden, Jason Campbell and Brandon Hoyer have all started games under center for Cleveland which usually prevents receivers from building chemistry with their QB but it hasn’t stopped Gordon from producing.

Julius Thomas – TE – Denver Broncos

Julius ThomasThis past offseason, the Denver Broncos signed Wes Welker to a contract, providing Peyton Manning with another lethal weapon. With Demaryius Thomas, Eric Decker and Wes Welker all suiting up for the Broncos on a weekly basis, no one thought that there was room for another pass catcher with any fantasy value. Then Week 1 happened. Julius Thomas, a tight end that went un-drafted in most leagues, caught 5 passes for 110 yards and 2 touchdowns in the season opener. Since then, Julius Thomas has caught a touchdown in each game except for 2, totaling 11 touchdowns. The TE position is a very hard position to draft because each week their production can vary so much, which is why Julius Thomas’ consistency makes him one of the biggest studs of the year.

Knowshon Moreno – RB – Denver Broncos

Knowshon MorenoIts hard to mention Julius Thomas and the Broncos offense without bringing up Moreno’s name. He was drafted in 2009 and has been on the Broncos ever since, but never really lived up to expectations. The Broncos drafted Montee Ball in last year’s draft, leaving many to believe that the Broncos had seen enough from Moreno. But to everyone’s surprise, Moreno emerged early on as the Broncos starter and has become a fantasy stud. He has racked up 1256 total yards and 11 TD’s so far this year making him one of the best fantasy RB’s in the league. From now on, it’s safe to say that any player that suits for the Broncos offense has a a good chance at becoming a valuable fantasy player. I think we have all learned our lesson this year.

DUDS

Arian Foster – RB – Houston Texans, CJ Spiller – RB – Buffalo Bills, and Doug Martin – RB – Tampa Bay Buccaneers

As many fantasy owners were preparing for their draft before the start of the 2013 NFL season, they were trying to figure out how they were going to draft two top RB’s early in the draft. With many teams incorporating “running backs by committee” into their offense, it was imperative that fantasy owners drafted the few remaining three down backs in the league. Rice, Foster, Spiller, Martin and Richardson were all players that were viewed as solid fantasy options considering their involvement in their respective teams’ offenses. They received close to 20 carries and 5 catches a game in their previous seasons. Whether it was on the ground or through the air, many fantasy owners were confident that these players would find the end zone one way or another. Injuries to Foster and Martin were the main reasons for their lack of production this year but even before being put on IR they were not producing their usual numbers. Going into the preseason, Doug Marrone, the Bills new head coach, vowed that Spiller would be used as much as possible (both in the Rushing and the Passing game). However, no one anticipated Fred Jackson being the #1 back in Buffalo this season. Going into week 15, Fred Jackson has 157 carries and 41 catches while Spiller has 149 carries and 24 catches. Spiller has missed time due to some nagging injuries but it still does not explain the backfield situation in Buffalo.

Ray Rice – RB – Baltimore Ravens, Trent Richardson – RB – Browns/Colts

Trent Richardson and Ray RiceRay Rice and Trent Richardson’s pathetic seasons however, cannot be explained. Going into week 15, Ray Rice has 549 yards and is averaging just 3 YPC. Some experts even compared Rice’s open field running to that of “a child in a snow suit”. The Ravens’ offensive line has been horrendous and incapable of creating gaps for Ray Rice, but even when he has an open field ahead of him he can’t create the type of separation that he has had in previous years. There are 26 Running backs that have more rushing yards than Rice, something that none of us could have predicted going into the season. Richardson’s production is even more confusing considering he is still a relatively new player in the league. He was traded in early September to the colts, a team that believed they were acquiring a franchise running back. After racking up 1317 total yards and 12 TD’s last year, many believed that Richardson was primed for a great year. However, his season in Indianapolis so far has been a nightmare. He has racked up 326 yards on the ground, averaging whopping 2.9 yards per carry. Donald Brown, a running back who had spent his career up to now as a backup, has even replaced Trent Richardson as the starter.

Lets hope that these running backs will bounce back next year, but many fantasy owners will not forget the agony and disappointment they cost them.

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NFL

Less Head Injuries but more Knee Injuries? Is this what the NFL wants?

Over the last few years, the NFL has been fining players almost every week for high tackles. They have become increasingly worried about player concussions and the long-term effects that these cause. The league started fining players with the belief that they would protect defenseless receivers from defenders that were flying in with their helmets.

Playing by the Rules

Rob Gronkowski wheeled off after receiving a knee injury.This past week in New England, Rob Gronkowski suffered a season ending knee injury from a low tackle by Browns’ TJ Ward. Ward’s hit was legal and had no malicious intents but was an indirect result of the NFL’s strict policies. After the game, Ward said:

“My intention is never to hurt anyone. That’s not what this game is about. That’s not how I play. I hate to see guys go down with any kind of injury. I just wanted him to know, whether he accepted it or not, it wasn’t an intentional hit. We have to play this game. We have to play the way they force us to.”

Concussions have been very well documented over recent years as many researchers have tried to show the long-term effects of concussions and the struggle of retired players. The NFL also recently reached a $756 million settlement with the NFLPA in a concussion lawsuit. Its pretty clear that the NFL are actively trying to eliminate any possibility of concussions occurring during a game.

This aggressive approach that the NFL has taken, has replaced concussions with serious knee injuries. Ask most players and they will tell you that they would rather miss 2 games because of a concussion rather than miss an entire season because of a torn ACL. Many players can recover after having multiple concussions and continue to have a productive career, but recovering from two or more knee injuries is a different question. Some players can’t even recover from one torn ACL.

Earlier this season, Rodney Harrison had a few words to say about this.

“As a player you have a warrior mentality” Harrison said. “Players would rather take a shot high. I get hit in the head and I miss a game or two. But if you take out my knees, my career is done”.

The Players’ Responsibility

Another one of my biggest issues with the NFL’s approach towards preventing concussions is their focus on defenders. Many offensive players lead with their head just as much as some defenders but they get away with it all the time. But, what really bothers me is that many players who have a serious history of concussions continue to play football despite doctors advising them not to.

Defenders will continue to be the targets of extravagant NFL fines. Austin Collie is a young and talented Wide Receiver who has seen his career impacted by very serious concussions. Since being in the league, he has experienced 3 concussions, one that left him motionless for 10 minutes. Many doctors have told him that it might be time to walk away from the game even though that’s not what his heart is telling him. The NFL is trying to make rules to protect players from concussions but concussions will always remain a big part of the game which is why players need to protect themselves too. It is for players to know when its time to walk away from the game instead of pointing the finger at the NFL once its too late. If Collie gets a few more concussions and has serious brain trauma later in his life, is the NFL to blame? Unfortunately, retired players suffering from brain trauma are causing the NFL to take this approach.

The NFL is protecting players from concussions, but are players protecting themselves?

Will low hits become a bigger part of the game as the NFL keeps fining players for high hits?

Will we see players’ careers being ended by low hits to the knee?

Player safety is one the main focuses of the league, but the NFL’s current approach has worsened the problem and better policies will need to be introduced. Hits like the one Gronkowski took this past weekend, will make the NFL take another look at the rule book.

One thing for sure, is that no one wants to see these season/career ending knee injuries on a weekly basis.

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