NFL Week 12: Robert Griffin III or Andrew Luck??

Robert Griffin IIIWhen you talk about sports there is always some team or someone being compared…Magic vs. Bird, Jim Brown vs. Walter Payton, Barry Sanders vs. Emmitt Smith, the 1985 Chicago Bears defense vs. the 2000 Baltimore Ravens defense, and without further adieu we bring you the newest in Andrew Luck vs. Robert Griffin III. For those that are fans fo the Colts or Redskins, we know you’re biased and this is more for the NFL fan who can stay objective.

So who is better??

From the Heisman Trophy presentation in New York, through the combines and the NFL Draft, these two have been compared extensively to one another. Right now, both the Washington Redskins and Indianapolis Colts feel they have their man. Although Washington has a 5-6 record at the present time, there is a new energy and excitement this team is building on this year. Do you realize that when the ‘Skins and RG III beat Minnesota 38-26 back in October, they broke an 8 game losing streak at home?? At home?? The final touchdown was a 76 yard touchdown run off of a scramble that iced the game. For many, this is the stark difference between the two quarterbacks.

RGIII has completed nearly 70% of his passes in his rookie season.

RGIII has completed nearly 70% of his passes in his rookie season.

However upon further review of Griffin III’s passing statistics (205 of 304 for 2,497 yards 13TDs and 4 ints), you notice that he’s completing 67.4% of his passes and has a 1.3% interception ratio. At the moment his passing percentage is higher than Tom Brady’s 65% and has a lower interception ratio than Aaron Rodgers at 1.7%. When he has gone back to pass, he’s made plays from the pocket  just like his first TD to Pierre Garcon against the Saints in week 1. Yet his detractors aren’t giving him credit for this. Sure he has made some spectacular plays on the run but his nerve with the clock winding down is something he displayed even back at Baylor.

In the aforementioned game with Minnesota, the Vikings had just scored to come within a touchdown and had the momentum. On second down, the pocket broke down and Griffin III scrambled for the first down before a downfield block opened it up for him to take it to the house. A very improptu play. The following week, his Redskins faced a fourth and 10 play with less than 4 minutes to go. After a scramble and throw for the first down, he calmly led the Redskins for what looked like a game winning drive. Once at the 30, RGIII perfectly read a Giants blitz and feathered a pass to Santana Moss who had adjusted and run a corner route. With less than 1:30 to go in the game it appeared to be the game winner. However Eli Manning’s 77 yarder to Victor Cruz won it for New York 27-23 on the next play, but Griffin had done his part.

Speaking of doing their part…

Luck runs for yardage against the Buffalo in last week's 20-13 over the Bills.

Luck runs for yardage against the Buffalo in last week’s 20-13 over the Bills.

Wasn’t the Indianapolis Colts supposed to struggle under the weight of a rookie coach and quarterback?? Now consider the fact that Head Coach Chuck Pagano has missed the last four games. How much leadership has Luck had to display as a rookie?? Might be the most in NFL history when you really give it some serious thought. The reality is with his being drafted to replace Peyton Manning, he has two quarterbacks to be compared to…so let’s start with the obvious: Luck v. Peyton Manning.

If you look at what Luck has had to endure as a rookie versus Peyton, keep in mind Manning had Jim Mora who was in his second stint as a successful NFL Head Coach, although was in his first year with Indianapolis. The steadying hand of a coach who had been there before along with future Hall of Fame running back Marshall Faulk, kept Manning from feeling the weight of the franchise on him. He also had a young dynamic Marvin Harrison at wideout where now the top wideout is an elder version of Reggie Wayne.

Wayne has helped ease Luck into the mix like Marshall and Harrison did for Manning. Unfortrunately this year’s Colts are 17th in rushing which has put the onus back on Luck and the passing attack. This year’s statline isn’t that bad where Luck’s completed 56.8% of his passes, completing 255 of 449 for 3,205 yards 13 TDs along with 13 interceptions. Yet let’s ask the question: With this year’s mediocre running attack (Ballard 427 yds / Donald Brown 404 yds) how often has Luck had to throw into the teeth of defenses?? Seriously?? Do you realize Colt running backs have combined for just one touchdown this year??

Before we give you Luck’s rushing totals, remember Peyton Manning had Marshall Faulk come within 92 receiving yards of joining Roger Craig as the second 1000/1000 yard running back. Faulk ran for 1,319 yards 6TDs while catching 86 passes for 902 yards and another 6 scores. With that help Peyton Manning completed 56.7% of his passes, 3,739 yards, 26 touchdowns and 28 interceptions. So with less, Luck has done more than his predecessor’s rookie season. Especially when you factor the 2012 Colts record of 7-4 vs. the 1998 Colts going 3-13.

302853-andrew-luckSo where one school of thought doesn’t give RGIII his due as a passer, Luck’s detractors overlook the fact he’s rushed 41 times for 183 yards and a team leading 5 touchdowns. That only gives him one less rushing touchdown than the 6 RGIII has for the Redskins. However RGIII has run twice as often with 100 attempts for 642 yards and is just off pace from a 1,000 yard season. Yet Luck isn’t glued to the passing pocket and can run when he needs to.

In RGIII’s rookie year he’s had the benefit of a two time Super Bowl winning coach (Mike Shanahan) and a veteran laden squad as compared to the Colts, who are rebuilding on the run. The Washington Redskins are 5-6 and have a two game home winning streak. They are much better than they have been over the last decade or so and have a promising future thanks to their rookie quarterback. Yet when you look on the other side of the conference ledger at the 7-4 Colts, Luck has made that team relevant faster than our CEO originally thought, and it’s hard to believe how hope with his play and future has drowned out the despair over Manning’s departure.

Each have an edge over the other whether we’re talking stats or wins and playoff position. You thought we were going to conclude this argument?? We just want to pour gas on the fire. Much like Barrack Obama and Mitt Romney… their followers aren’t going to be swayed. The beauty of this one is that each has gone to the other conference and a possible Super Bowl matchup between the two could happen.

How do we know which veterans right now are looking at Washington and Indianapolis as future free agent destinations because of these two?? What happens if somehow the Colts draft Le’Veon Bell, RB from Michigan State or Kenjon Barner RB from Oregon?? Think that would pull up the defense and allow Luck some passing room?? What happens if the Redskins draft Baylor wideout Terrance Williams (1,693 yds/ 12TDs) to reunite with RGIII and this year’s draftee Leonard Hankerson?? How much more potent will the Redskins be??

Possible Super Bowl L matchup??Time will tell...

Possible Super Bowl L matchup?? Time will tell…

 In Washington and Indianapolis, the future is bright!! So the question is: Robert Griffin III or Andrew Luck?? The choice is yours…

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NFL Week 13: Playoffs and Changing Quarterbacks

Colin Kaepernick basking in the afterglow of Monday night’s win over Chicago.

The San Francisco 49ers are playing russian roulette with their current quarterback situation. Alex Smith has earned his starting role and with his recent injury, allowed 2nd QB Colin Kaepernick some much needed playing time. First he takes down Chicago on Monday night 32-7, and now he plays well in his first start when Smith has been healthy, winning 31-21 in New Orleans. Yet how great a chance does this team fare changing quarterbacks so late in the year?? The history of the NFL is littered with losing lottery tickets by teams rolling the dice with the quarterback position heading into the playoffs. Why should the 49ers be any different?? The Chancellor expects disaster… how did those other teams fare??

Once upon a time there was a team called the New York Jets. It was 1986 and the team started 10-1 and were the best team in the AFC. However there was a disturbing 45-3 loss to the Miami Dolphins on a Monday night, which sapped their confidence and sent them into a tail-spin. After losing their last five, Head Coach Joe Walton figured to make a coaching change at quarterback as they headed into the ’86 playoffs. They replaced Ken O’Brien with Pat Ryan…how did they fare?? Well they beat the Kansas City Chiefs in a wildcard game 35-15 but fell in double overtime to the Cleveland Browns 23-20.

In that game, the Jets quarterback was knocked out and Ken O’Brien had to come back in. Neither played well on the road and were sacked an NFL playoff record NINE times in that game. Are you sure you don’t want continuity going into the playoffs Jim Harbaugh?? Well the Jets fell on the road…had they played at home they would have been in better shape, right??

Then you had the defending champion Chicago Bears in 1986. Jim McMahon was slammed to the turf by Green Bay Packer Charles Martin and lost for the season. Now the Bears had Steve Fuller and Mike Tomczak who were there for the 1985 season and it was Fuller who brought Mike Ditka his first playoff win in 1984 over the Washington Redskins 23-19. As the 1986 season was dwindling down, Iron Mike decided to sign Doug Flutie, who hadn’t played NFL football yet. With a 14-2 team and a record setting defense (187 points allowed) the team had won close games yet Ditka decided to go with the “hot hand” and go into the playoffs with a quarterback with 2 prior NFL starts.

  • Nevermind the team was on a 7 game winning streak.
  • Nevermind Flutie was 4th on the team in completion percentage (50.1%)
  • Nevermind the Bears defense hadn’t given up 2TDs in a game in 10 weeks.
  • Nevermind the fact you had the #1 rushing offense in the league and Walter Payton still a 1,000 yard rusher (1,336)

The Bears were at home and had to face an inferior team in the 1986 Washington Redskins with first time playoff starter Jay Schroeder. One significant difference though is Jay was the starter for the entire season and had his first win in the wildcard over Los Angeles…19-7. In the divisional round Jay Schroeder in his 18th start in 1986 was pitted against Doug Flutie in his 3rd. So what happened?? Dexter Manley and 6ft 5 inch Charles Mann batted down 4 of his passes and chased him all over Soldier Field. Flutie went for 11 of 31 for 134 yards, 1TD but 2 big interceptions on his side of the 50. Just enough for the Redskins to pull off the upset 27-13 and end the Bears chance to go back to back. Thirty five percent was all Flutie could complete at home without crowd noise??

Keep in mind Redskin defensive co-ordinator Richie Petitbon had come up with a confusing set of alignments Flutie wasn’t prepared for. In a playoff game on the fly, an inexperienced quarterback can be unnerved in the NFL playoffs and there are hundreds of lessons where it’s been done. We, at Taylor Blitz Times showcased one in Fritz Shurmur’s Zone Blitz Eagle Defense that unnerved Randall Cunningham and confounded quarterbacks in the 1989 playoffs. Coach Harbaugh, are you sure you want to have Kaepernick in game 6 or 7 face a confusing Giants or Falcons defense?? It takes much more than a few games to get up to NFL game speed…then another to get to NFL playoff speed. What can a quarterback thrown off his game do in a playoff even if he has a strong defense to bail him out?? The defense should keep them in a close game… will he have enough time to bail his team out in a one and done scenario like the NFL playoffs??

Enter Doug Flutie again…

The year was 1999 and the Buffalo Bills fielded the #1 defense in all of pro football. Going into the last game of the season, Bills brass had been in Head Coach Wade Phillips ear about playing Rob Johnson. He had been an expensive free agent in the offseason, whom Flutie beat out during the year, yet brass wanted to see what they had in Johnson. So the finale would have the Bills at home against the Indianapolis Colts who were also resting their starters for the post season. Johnson had a good game as the Bills won 31-6, prompting the pressure to play Johnson in the upcoming playoffs.  For the second time in NFL history, a team replaced it’s starter going into the playoffs without injury forcing the decision. So what happened??

The 1999 AFC Wildcard tilt had the Bill travel to face the Tennessee Titans and super rookie Jevon Kearse. In a defensive struggle the momentum of the game turned when a punt put Buffalo near their own 10 yard line. Wouldn’t you know Jevon “The Freak” Kearse chased and sacked Rob Johnson for the first score of the game. The ensuing short kick put the Titans in Bills territory where they scored to take control 9-0. Forever leaving Bills fans wondering if Kearse would have caught the elusive Flutie, who by now had been a Bills starter for the better part of two years at this point.

Nevertheless Rob Johnson had a dismal day as he tried to adjust to a blitzing Titan defense and the speed of NFL playoff football. It took until the Bills final do-or-die drive where he completed 5 passes to get Buffalo in range to kick a field goal for a subsequent 16-15 lead with :12 to go. Then came the short kick that led to The Music City Miracle, Kevin Dyson’s return of a lateral from Frank Wycheck. Although the Bills #1 defense led by Bruce Smith’s 2.5 sacks in his last game as a Buffalo Bill had held the Titans in check, it was offset by the 6 sacks Tennessee engineered. Furthermore, Johnson was anemic in the game going 10 for 22 and 131 yards in the game. Yes that includes the five completions on the final drive.

Leading to the inevitable question: Had Flutie been able to elude Kearse and that first safety would the Bills have gained the upper hand with their playoff experience?? Tennessee was in it’s first playoff game. Then the other question was: Had the safety not taken place and Buffalo was up 16-13 instead of 16-15, would the Bills have kicked the ball deep instead of overcoaching with a short kick??

Nevertheless, in the past the defense did what they could to keep the score down. It almost worked for Rob Johnson that day, will it for Colin Kaepernick?? Everyone of Alex Smith’s detractors say he’s the beneficiary of a great defense. Well in a 31-21 win over the Saints which included 2 defensive touchdowns by Ahmad Brooks and Donte Whitner respectively, isn’t that what was provided for Kaepernick?? Wasn’t that the same in Monday night’s game against Chicago??

Do you realize for the season Alex Smith has a better completion percentage than Colin Kaepernick?? For the season including Sunday’s game with the Saints, Smith has connected on 70% of his passes for 13TDs and 5 interceptions versus Kaepernick’s 64% for 3TDs and 1 interception. Even the game Sunday, Colin was only 16 for 25 for 231 yards, 1TD and 1 pick and was bailed out by those two defensive touchdowns.

Sure he brings a missing element to the table with his mobility but you now give up the seasoning of a quarterback who went through last year’s playoffs. Take that back, he excelled in last year’s playoffs. First he came of age by outdueling Drew Brees in the divsional round… Remember his 24 of 42 for 299 yards, 3TDs and no interceptions which included a game winning rocket to Vernon Davis. Then in an NFC Championship overtime loss to the Giants, he never threw the ball up with pedestrian receivers covered tightly by New York. This kept them in the game and without the late game special teams disasters could have played in Super Bowl XLVI.

So now if you decide to go with Kaepernick, you’re replacing playoff experience for?? You tell me… If San Francisco goes with a late season quarterback switch, not to be a nay-sayer, but NFL history tells us this is a playoff disaster waiting to happen. Sure there was the Tom Brady year of 2001 but he started in week 3. Then you have the 1990 – Jeff Hostetler scenario replacing an injured Phil Simms in week 14, yet he’d been with the Giants for 7 years and had some experience.

Coach Harbaugh, it would be in your best interest to approach this in the offseason. No matter what pressure you’re getting from brass to put in the high draft pick. Once upon a time, Alex Smith  was a 1st rounder for you compared to Kaepernick’s 2nd round selection. A possible visit to Super Bowl XLVII could hinge on this decision. Don’t wake up in a 17-13 slugfest in the playoffs against the Giants and need a touchdown with a first time signal caller under center. With a possible Super Bowl win you can get up to 6-7 years extended on your contract. Another playoff loss, no one, not even the brass aiding in this decision will give you a mulligan for a playoff loss with a first time quarterback. Take heed…you can go with the flavor of the month but realize they don’t make history.

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NFL Week 11: AFC North -The Defense Rests…Literally

The glue to this year’s defense…Larry Foote

At one point last year the AFC North featured four of the top five defenses in the NFL. This year however has seen a reversal of that trend as only the Pittsburgh Steelers have maintained solid defensive play. For some teams you want to say it’s due to injuries or free agent losses yet the Steelers have been afflicted with the same things yet have stayed productive on that side of the ball.

Didn’t this team lose James Farrior, Aaron Smith, and William Gay in the offseason?? Then you factor in the 10 games lost due to injury to two former NFL Defensive Player of the Year recipients in Troy Palamalu (7 missed) and James Harrison (3 missed)?? Then you had FS Ryan Clark miss the 1st game due to sickle-cell complications against Denver. What is keeping this defense together??

Enter Larry Foote. The Steelers lost him too… back in 2009 when he played that season for the Detroit Lions. He almost signed with Arizona and former Steeler assistant now head coach in Ken Wisenhunt, for 2010 when Pittsburgh righted a wrong and brought him back. He started for the two winning Super Bowl teams while finding a role on the one that fell to the Packers in XLV. His best year was 2005 when he had 102 tackles and 3 fumbles to help he and Jerome Bettis play Super Bowl XL in their hometown of Detroit.  For 2012, he’s amassed 64 tackles, 3 sacks, forced 2 fumbles while recovering 2 more. He’s on pace for 114 tackles, 5 sacks and 4 forced fumbles. If this keeps up, you have to include him in defensive player of the year discussions. This inspirational play is what leads the #1 defense in football into a pivotal match-up with the 28th ranked Ravens who are missing theirs.

The Ravens ranked 28th in defense?? We wouldnt’ lie to you but first the tale of the tape:

North Division

W

L

T

PCT

PF

PA

HOME

ROAD

DIV

CONF

STRK

LAST5

Baltimore Ravens Ravens 7 2 0 .778 254 196 5-0 2-2 3-0 6-1 W2 4-1
Pittsburgh Steelers Steelers 6 3 0 .667 207 177 4-0 2-3 1-0 3-3 W4 4-1
Cincinnati Bengals Bengals 4 5 0 .444 220 231 2-3 2-2 1-3 2-5 W1 1-4
Cleveland Browns Browns 2 7 0 .222 169 211 2-3 0-4 1-3 2-5 L1 2-3

Going into this pivotal game between the Steelers and Ravens is how quietly Pittsburgh has won 5 of their last 6. Slowly they have crept into contention. The offense revised by Offensive Co-ordinator Todd Haley was starting to make waves and then… the Roethlisberger injury. The good news is, it happened during the game where Byron Leftwich was able to knock off some rust. Wide out Antonio Brown is out for this one and Leftwich needs to be patient and lean on his running game and defense.

Has there been a more deceiving 7-2 team than this year’s Baltimore Ravens?? Yes we know they have won 6 of their last 7, but against who?? That isn’t entirely fair either, this team did beat New England and found a way to win against Dallas 31-29. However we have to be honest in assessing their season may have peaked at that point.

Since that October 14th win they have lost Ray Lewis to a tricep injury that will sideline him until the playoffs. Then in a big game on the road against the team they knocked out of last year’s playoffs, Houston drew and quartered them 43-13. In light of last week’s 55-20 blowout of Oakland, the Texans game is more of an indicator of how strong they are at the present. On the road this team is averaging only 15 points and their two road wins came courtesy of Cleveland and a lackluster 9-6 win over the Chiefs.

If this game were taking place in Baltimore, we believe the outcome would be different. However these two play again in three weeks at the “Big Crabcake” which give the Steelers more urgency to win this one at home and we think they will.

The downfall of the Ravens defense is as big a story this season as Peyton Manning bringing life to the Broncos offense. Haloti Ngata, long since thought to be the best defensive linemen in football, is dinged up yet playing at a high level still. His 31 tackles and 3 sacks are a season’s worth for other interior linemen. If Dannell Ellerbe can make a few more splash plays he could help lead the Ravens to an upset in Pittsburgh. On the season he has 60 tackles and 3.5 sacks yet won’t get recognition with such a low defensive ranking or we’d be asking “What is the glue holding together the Baltimore defense?” now wouldn’t we?? He is to the linebackers what SS Bernard Pollard is to the Ravens secondary: They both live in the shadows of future Hall of Famers Ray Lewis, Ed Reed, and possibly Terrell Suggs. This game is where Ellerbe and Pollard (69 tackles) need to make some turnovers happen. Between them, only 1 interception, no forced fumbles, & no fumble recoveries or these two would be recognized among the best defenders in the league this season.

One ace up the Ravens sleeve is Jacoby Jones. He hasn’t been here for all the Ravens v. Steelers games for the past decade so he hasn’t been burdened with past big game losses. His explosiveness on kickoffs (14 returns / 540 yards / 2TDs) has been a welcome addition to a team that depends too much on Ray Rice on offense. Also Joe Flacco, in a contract year, has been dismal on the road. Look at these stats: 71 of 136 for 719 yards, 3TDs and 4 interceptions. He’s only completing 52% of his passes when he constantly checks down to Ray Rice?? It’s not like he’s faced the 1985 Chicago Bears. He faced the 11th ranked Chiefs and couldn’t muster a touchdown in a 9-6 win and only threw for 153 yards with one touchdown against the 24th ranked Browns. Now he’s supposed to go into Pittsburgh on a Sunday night against the #1 defense in football?? Last time we saw him against the #2 defense Texans he was sacked for a safety as the Ravens lost by four touchdowns. Again we say “in a contract year”. The Ravens should go shopping for a quarterback after this season because this isn’t leadership. Everyone talks of Michael Vick regressing, what is this?? Its been masked by the Ravens record but that should get exposed in Pittsburgh. Stay tuned.

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NFL Week 8: NFC South- Shipyards

Doug Martin exploded onto the NFL scene last Thursday night.

When viewing the vessels of a shipyard, we see units that are being built initially or those that are retooling for an endeavor that requires additional equipment. In some instances like the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the ability to navigate choppy waters has become easier with the addition of a new outboard engine in the form of rookie RB Doug Martin. Up until last week’s game against Minnesota, the offense was rudderless depending on a passing game that moved the ball in fits and starts. Bouyed by Doug Martin’ dynamic performance (135 yd rushing / 79 yds rec.) their offense rolled throughout in a dominating 36-17 performance. http://www.nfl.com/voting/players-air-and-ground/2012/REG/8?module=HP11_content_stream_voting_fedex#playerId:0ap2000000085516

In their last two games, Martin has gained 336 yards of total offense and scored 3 touchdowns. Something was discovered 3 weeks ago during the team’s bye week. Head Coach Greg Schiano must have been hit in the head and mistaken his young running back for Ray Rice, whom he coached in college. In that time he has turned to his rookie runner more and the team has averaged 34 points per game ever since as compared to 20.5 over the first four weeks. Undoubtedly the game is slowing for Martin who has adjusted to the speed of the NFL. With back to back games coming against the struggling Raiders and Chargers, who just lost to Cleveland (seriously?), this team could be 5-4 and winners of 3 out of 4 before they take on Carolina and Atlanta in pivotal divisional match-ups. If any of you have been following the feud between the Bucs and Atlanta, you will not want to miss that game.

Before we go there, lets take a look at the standings:

South Division

W

L

T

PCT

PF

PA

HOME

ROAD

DIV

CONF

STRK

LAST5

Atlanta Falcons Falcons 7 0 0 1.000 201 130 3-0 4-0 1-0 3-0 W7 5-0
Tampa Bay Buccaneers Buccaneers 3 4 0 .429 184 153 2-2 1-2 1-1 2-4 W1 2-3
New Orleans Saints Saints 2 5 0 .286 190 216 1-2 1-3 1-1 1-3 L1 2-3
Carolina Panthers Panthers 1 6 0 .143 128 167 1-3 0-3 1-2 1-6 L5 0-5

Leaving the shipyard and headed for uncharted waters sail the Atlanta Falcons. What has been interesting over the last two months is how few want to recognize them as the best team in the NFC or the NFL for that matter. The key to becoming a champion in the NFL is winning the close games. Especially those against lesser teams who are hard to get up for, or in last week’s match-up with the Philadelphia Eagles, a wounded dangerous team desperate for a win. Over the last few years, games of the latter category gave the Falcons problems. This time they came out with purpose and were up on the Eagles 24-7 before Andy Reid’s team knew what hit them.

Michael Turner helped the Falcons control the tempo of the game with 24 carries.

Even more remarkable was the fact in 13 seasons, Reid’s team were 13-0 coming off of bye weeks. Although the Falcons have a 3 game lead in the division, they took this road game very serious and set the tone from the outset. Philadelphia’s big name secondary was lit up by Julio Jones who had 5 receptions for 123 yards and scored from 63 yards out. Matt Ryan was 22 for 29 for 263 yards and 3TDs and is having an MVP type season. Do you realize Matt Ryan had a career high 29 touchdown passes last year yet is on pace for 39 this season??

This was a big road win that showed how this team and coaching staff is maturing. Pundits and fans have scoffed at their early playoff exits of the last few years but this team is playing with a gritty resolve not seen in previous seasons. Last week’s game against the Eagles was the type of game the Falcons would inexplicably not show up. Exhibit A: Last year during the second half they could solidify themselves as legitimate Super Bowl contenders, yet lost a game to the Houston Texans and were swept by the New Orleans Saints in a five week stretch. Those could have been confidence building wins yet left the team doubting itself. That doubt showed in the 24-2 ouster in the playoffs by the world champion Giants.

However this year we have Exhibit B: They held off Peyton Manning and the Broncos in a Monday night thriller 27-21. They knocked back a Washington Redskin team which is a mirror image of who they once were 24-17 and now this win. These wins against quality teams are those that have you believing in yourselves by season’s end. Especially when you can step on a team that desperately needs a win and you perform that feat on the road. Naysayers will conclude they haven’t played other top-tier teams but that isn’t the Falcons issue. Just keep winning games and building confidence for the playoffs. Food for thought?? Once upon a time, there was a Miami Dolphin team that went 14-0 in the regular season and won the Super Bowl. They only beat 3 teams that year with a winning record…so don’t listen to the idiot pundits who miss this.

Now we have to talk about Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers. Looking at their record the quarterback is the first to get the blame when truth be told, Newton has given the team four 4th quarter leads this season. The fact their defense keeps letting the team down is what everyone is missing. Nevermind the frustrated press conferences of Cam Newton. Head Coach Ron Rivera may be sunk if his team gives up any more 4th quarter leads. It may be in the Panthers best interest to pick up a receiver before the trade deadline to help open up the offense. With Steve Smith (35 rec. 589 yards/ ZERO TDs) they have a good mid-range receiver. They need someone to blow the top off the defense to back the safeties back from the running game. Everyone knows the Panther offense can be defensed 20 yards and in. Once they can get a deep receiver this could open up the offense both running and passing. They still have time to right the ship…they just have some work to do.

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NFL Week 8: The Buccaneers – Doug Martin & The Boise St 50 Club

Doug Martin burst onto the NFL scene with last night’s dazzling performance on NFL Network.

“On any given Sunday” was the phrase coined by the late commissioner Bert Bell back in the 1950’s. Well lets extend that to Thursday nights as well. With NFL Network carrying a full slate of games this year, another stage has been added to showcase players who otherwise would be obscured outside of Sunday highlight shows. Enter Doug Martin of the Tampa Bay Buccanneers.

He powered the formerly 2-4 Bucs to a 36-17 victory over the 5-2 Vikings up in the Metrodome. This was an impressive win for Tampa. Going into the game the Vikings were 4-0 at home and had the NFL’s 11th ranked defense which only allowed 14.25 points per game in those 4 wins. Even NFC heavyweight San Francisco could only manage 13 points in the home of the Norsemen. So who was this group that came up north to wreak havoc on a former division rival??

Well avid readers of the Taylor Blitz Times know this doesn’t come as a shock to us. In Tampa’s previous 4 losses, they came by a total of 22 points, and one of those came courtesy of Eli Manning’s 245 yard 4th quarter (520 overall), 25 point performance when they faced New York. Even in that 41-34 defeat, they stared down the defending champion Giants and have scored 28 or more in 4 of their 7 games this year. Josh Freeman is back to how he looked in 2010 when he was second to Tom Brady in the touchdown to interception ratio with 14 TDs to only 5 interceptions. Here we predicted the Bucs to rise into possible wild card contention with the addition of Martin from Boise St. https://taylorblitztimes.com/2012/08/27/2012-nfc-south-previews-predictions/ Even with our eye on him Martin’s start to the season has been slow and developing. His play mimics that of a team that showed flashes but hadn’t put a complete game together.

The Buccanneers learned to entrust Doug Martin with the football in his hands as the lead horse.

The big night began for Martin in the first quarter where he took a routine draw play 41 yards to the Vikings 16 to set up the first score of the night to make it 3-0. He finally showed the package of speed and burst this night that Boise St. Bronco fans had been accustomed to seeing. Later in the first now up 10-0, from his own 46 yard line, Martin took off on a counter gap and completely plowed over Viking DB Jamarca Sanford (SEC / Ole Miss) for 12 more. A completely physical run, the type of attitude run that establishes dominance on a football field. On this night the Buccaneers ran him on counters, stretches, and draw plays that allowed him to gain over 100 yards by halftime. Then early in the 3rd quarter came his signature play of the night. On a routine screen play, two Viking defenders converged on him, with a signature stiff arm to DT Letroy Guion (from Florida St.) he burst through 3 more Vikings and 64 yards later the Bucs were up 27-10. Ballgame!!

For the night Martin had 29 car. for 135 yards and 1 TD, to go with 3 receptions 79 more yards and another touchdown. Martin was the star of the game and did it on a national stage with the rest of the NFL watching.  Those that doubted his ability to play on this level have all shut their collective mouths for this was a strong performance. Consider his next three games are against the Raiders (12th against the run), down on their luck Chargers (2nd against the run), and Carolina (19th against the run) he might be able to string together a few hundred yard games here.

For the season Doug Martin sits at 543 yards, which is more than halfway to the 1,000 yards The Chancellor of Football told you he’d get. Do you realize he’s only played 7 games?? Do you realize if he duplicated last night’s performance next week, it would put him on pace for a 1,356 yard season?? For all the Johnny Come-Lately’s we have been touting this talent here for more than two football seasons now. https://taylorblitztimes.com/2011/08/02/2011-heisman-campaign-doug-martin-of-boise-st/ This was a gem we wrote to get some exposure out there about him when no other writer or pundit had anything good to say. It was us and no one else writer-wise. The only guy who did talk about Martin as a 1st round pick and will do great in the pros was fellow NFL analyst Mike Mayock. Ironically, he was the color analyst for last night’s game. We argued the merits of Doug Martin and the National Championship legitimacy of the Boise St Broncos against a tidal wave of naysayers… Which brings us to our next point…

Are you familiar with the Boise St 50 club?? I know you aren’t… The Boise St Broncos class of 2011 was the first Division I (we use old school terminology here) graduating class to win 50 games during their collegiate career. They should have played for the National Championship at least one of those years. Yet NCAA, CBS and BCS politics kept them from their legitimate place as one of the great teams in college football history because they didn’t play in the SEC or a BCS power conference. They were 6-0 against teams from BCS conferences, won 4 bowl games including 2 BCS bowl games, and had 2 undefeated seasons. Now those former colleagues that argued against The Chancellor’s points are nowhere to be found now that every skilled player from that Boise St. team made the NFL. Kellen Moore is in Detroit along with WR Titus Young, and WR Austin Pettis (Rams) who scored in last week’s game against the Packers. They were the winningest team in college football from 1999-2011. There are other notable Boise St Broncos in the NFL… Ask Aaron Rodgers and now Matt Ryan what they think of Daryn Colledge as a tackle. He started for the 2010 Super Bowl Champion Packers. Then go tap Peyton Manning on the shoulder and ask him what school his left tackle Ryan Clady went to.

Yet the lasting legacy of that group will be Doug Martin’s NFL career and he’s now off and running. He was the crown jewel of that group and last night was a glimpse into what he can do as a runner. Isn’t it ironic that Tamp Bay RB LaGarrette Blount became infamous for punching a Boise St player and now he sits behind one on the Buccanneer depth chart??

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Another friend to the Taylor Blitz Times is the Ray Ellis Show on Voice of America Sports. Talks about pro football on every Tuesday and has many former players on his show. The Chancellor has been on the show a few times talking football and being from Ohio he knows his football. Tune in on Tuesdays http://www.voiceamerica.com/episode/64762/ray-ellis-sports

NFL Week 8: NFC North – New Beginnings

Will Jay Cutler’s toughness be questioned after coming back from a frightening sack on Monday night??

In a gritty performance on Monday night, the Bears upped their record to 5-1 beating the Detroit Lions 13-6. The game wasn’t an artistic one for the Bears by any means but a win is a win is a win. Bear fans were thrown for a huge scare when Ndamukong Suh slammed Jay Cutler to the turf in the second quarter. As trainers attended Cutler, everyone flashed back to the 2010 NFC Championship Game. In that one he left with what looked like a questionable injury and his toughness has been in dispute ever since. The Monday night crew showed replay after replay and it looked like he may have suffered a serious injury to his shoulder or collarbone.

The silence at Soldier Field was deafening until he popped up and ran to the sideline. The uneasiness of losing Cutler could derail what looks like a possible super season for the Bears. Anxiety turned to appreciation when he jogged onto the field a few minutes later. A quarterback once questioned for his toughness, was now receiving a standing ovation for exhibiting such. There was something gained during those anxious moments between the Bears fan-base and Jay. It will be interesting to watch as we move forward on how he will be perceived. We believe a new found respect for Cutler and the Bears offense will emerge from this. They won more than a game a few days ago.

Lets take a look at the standings…

North Division

W

L

T

PCT

PF

PA

HOME

ROAD

DIV

CONF

STRK

LAST5

Chicago Bears Bears 5 1 0 .833 162 78 3-0 2-1 1-1 3-1 W4 4-1
Minnesota Vikings Vikings 5 2 0 .714 167 131 4-0 1-2 1-0 3-1 W1 4-1
Green Bay Packers Packers 4 3 0 .571 184 155 2-1 2-2 1-0 3-2 W2 3-2
Detroit Lions Lions 2 4 0 .333 133 150 1-1 1-3 0-2 2-3 L1 1-4

Charles Tillman has been a Pro Bowl caliber corner for years. On Monday Night he turned into Optimus Prime, holding Megatron to just 3 receptions for 34 yards.

Now according to NFL accounting, the Bears field the 6th best defense in pro football. Yet what jumps out at you is they have only given up 78 points this season. In the last four games they have held three of their opponents to 10 points or less. An argument can be made against them since they haven’t beat a team with a winning record. However if you’ve looked at their schedule, seven of their last eight have winning records and we will know where this team is going facing that gauntlet. When our CEO did his Pro Bowl voting, he could only find spots for four of these defenders on his ballot. Charles Tillman, Henry Melton, Tim Jennings, and Taylor Blitz Times Defensive Player of the Year candidate Lance Briggs. Melton has reaped the reward of teams paying so much attention to Julius Peppers on the corner. His 18 tackles and team leading 4.5 sacks is best for NFC interior defensive linemen. As the season progresses and teams make Melton more of a focal point, it will free Peppers to make more of an impact.

They are playing team defense that hasn’t been seen since the 2008 Steelers or 2002 Buccaneers. Do you realize in 6 games, they have 21 sacks, 14 interceptions, 5 defensive touchdowns, forced 9 fumbles, recovered 7 of those to the tune of 21 turnovers?? Those are ’85 Bears numbers if you project them out to a full season.

As it appears the Packers have righted their ship, they lose a rudder with Charles Woodson going down with a broken collarbone. He is out indefinitely and this is a big loss. He is the reason they are able to juggle him around at safety, nickel corner on slot receivers, and can use a variety of blitzes with his man to man cover skills. Without him the Packers may change how they are calling plays from a defensive standpoint. Right now they are 14th in total defense and 17th against the pass while giving up 22 points per game. They will have to score to win.

Speaking of which, the Packers have sprung to life on offense averaging 33 points per game in their last three. All of them against defenses that rank in the top half of the league. After a slow start Aaron Rodgers has thrown 16 touchdowns in the last 4 games. That is a torrid pace and here comes the 24th ranked defense of Jacksonville to help pad his Pro Bowl stats. Yet in back to back games the Packers have been unable to run for 100 yards and this will eventually come back and haunt the offense at some point. This deficiency may not come back to bite them this week, but the week after against the 4th ranked Cardinal defense it may. Still a season on the brink in Green Bay.

Adrian Peterson is the heart and soul of the Vikings offense once again.

Is there a more below the radar 5-2 team than the Minnesota Vikings?? Whenever we hear the so called experts talking about the best team in the NFL no one mentions them. Everyone anoints the Niners the team to beat but these Vikings hammered them in week 3, 23-14. Not only does this team have a 2-1 record against teams with winning records, they are an RG III 76 yard touchdown run and an Adam Vinatieri field goal from being undefeated. Percy Harvin has been one of the league’s best players and received a Pro Bowl vote from our CEO. He has 53 receptions for 577 yards and teams never know where he’s going to line up.

As the season goes on, Adrian Peterson looks like he’s getting stronger with each game. With 652 yards on 136 carries (4.8 yd avg) and 3 touchdowns, already worthy of a Pro Bowl vote, we’re waiting for that breakout game during the second half of this season. It’s coming. Think back to Jamal Lewis who once played for the Baltimore Ravens. He tore up his knee in 2001, and after a slow 2002, burst out with a 2,066 yard season which was the second highest in NFL history. We see the same thing coming in Peterson and with his speedy recovery we expect him to be a tornado come playoff time. It’s not far fetched when you remember this guy holds the NFL rushing record of 296 in one game.

Then you take a look at the defensive side of the ball and you’ll see it’s a complete systemic effort. Pressure from the front four starts with Jared Allen (pro bowl vote) with 6 sacks, along with Brian Robison’s 4, only then do you realize they have more sacks than the Bears at 22. Is there anyone Chad Greenway (pro bowl vote) hasn’t tackled?? He has 75 and we’re not at the half-way point of the season! He is on pace to be over 160 for the season and deserves to be recognized for his steady play. With 55 tackles, 1 sack and 2 interceptions Antoine Winfield is having a great year, but can he keep it up at 35 years of age. As a group they don’t force a lot of turnovers yet are ranked a respectable 11th.

So we at Taylor Blitz Times understand what we see: A serious contender for the NFC North title and serious NFC representative for the Super Bowl if they can get through weeks 12-17, when the division faces one another. First off, they have tie break advantages over San Francisco and Arizona if they are both division champions or wild card participants. They play Seattle in two weeks where they could possibly have them under their thumb also. By the way, the Vikings are 4-0 at home and only have one loss in the conference. It’s all these tie breakers that will propel the Vikings forward and should come back to haunt Green Bay. As The Chancellor of Football has said many times “At some point you have to believe what your eyes are seeing.” Wake up!! That holds true when you think of this team and a new way to look at them as a contender.

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By the way, many thanks to The Artie Clear Show where The Chancellor was on talking football with Artie yesterday. The show is a friend to the Taylor Blitz Times in more ways than one. Check out all the former pro players, from all sports that he has on. Tellin’ it like it is except when he’s debating The Chancellor, give the show a listen. Especially with the baseball postseason going. He’s on it… http://www.theartieclearshow.com/