On This Date In 1994: Jerry Rice Eclipses Jim Brown’s Touchdown Record

On this date 19 years ago, Jerry Rice became the all time touchdown scorer in NFL history. He passed Walter Payton and Jim Brown in one night during the opening of the 1994 season. What did it look like?? Here we go into the Taylor Blitz Times way back machine.

Taylor Blitz Times

On the first Monday Night Game of the 1994 season, there was an outside chance Jerry Rice could break Jim Brown’s touchdown record of 126. He entered the season with 124 and was in the prime of his career. The San Francisco 49ers were retooling their team to take down their arch nemesis in the Dallas Cowboys who bested them in the last two NFC Championships. At this time fellow Hall of Fame member Michael Irvin was starting to move into the “best receiver in the NFL” talk as well. All of this kept an already certain Hall of Famer Jerry Rice motivated.

In came the Los Angeles Raiders who had been a playoff team the year before. They had a defense that ranked 9th overall in 1993, and fifth against the pass. To bolster their defensive secondary they signed free agent CB Albert Lewis formerly of the Kansas City…

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2013 NFC North Predictions

Welcome to the kickoff of the 2013 NFL season where we begin our prognostications for teams vying to get to Super Bowl XLVIII. Who will make it to New Jersey?? Well that comes in a couple articles but for now there are division races to settle first. We begin with the old black and blue division…

minnesota_vikings_wallpaper_5-normal2013 NFC North Predictions

Minnesota Vikings 11-5 *

Chicago Bears 10-6 #

Green Bay Packers 9-7

Detroit Lions 5-11

Now of course there are Christian Ponder detractors going into the season yet no one remembers how he improved as last season progressed. There isn’t a quarterback in the NFL who can lean on a Hall of Fame rusher as he can with Adrian Peterson. This season watch for the Vikings to learn the full range of what their front office put together on offense and defense. Jared Allen is in a contract year and Peterson will become the first runner in NFL history to have two 2,000 yard seasons.

The Chicago Bears are a year away from fully coming into their own as they transition into an offensive team. There will be some growing pains as Jay Cutler learns to spread the ball around to Jeffery and his other receivers more. The defense will be fine in Chicago as they still boast the best set of cornerbacks in the NFL in Jennings and Peanut Tillman.

Up in Green Bay there will be more pressure on Rodgers to keep outscoring the opposition. However his receiving corps is in a youth movement and neither the offensive or defensive lines look like they will hold up the entire season. Watch for the Packers to slip from playoff contention for the first time in several years as they struggle to incorporate the run in their pass happy offense.

The Chancellor hates to say it but expect more of the same from the Detroit Lions. Reggie Bush will provide some sizzle on plays out in space but they will telegraph what they will run with whoever is in the backfield.

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2013 Washington Redskins Preview – RGIII In Camp On Time

All eyes on Robert Griffin III as he returns from off season knee surgery.

All eyes on Robert Griffin III as he returns from off season knee surgery.

Think back to that dark January evening, when Washington Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III, fell awkwardly fumbling the football on his last play of the game. More than the Redskins faithful held their collective breath as he was helped to the sideline. It initially looked like the Redskins had lost more than a wild card playoff game to Seattle, for a period it lost faith and trust in head coach Mike Shanahan as well. Why would you risk your injured star quarterback and jeopardize his career??

Clearly RG III is one of the most electrifying talents the NFL has had in more than a decade. His jersey has been among the most popular sold during the 2012 NFL season. When it was learned that he would have to go through another knee reconstruction, the NFL fan base held their collective breath. After months of what sounded like wishful thinking, Griffin III made it to pre-season camp on time to run one play with a knee brace before coaches sent him in to get it. The sigh from Redskin fans could be heard nationwide, and now we have to assess this team moving forward. How will the Redskins fare defending their NFC East title?? For the first time since 2000, the Redskins are the team to beat in the NFC East, this time based from on-field performance.

Quarterback: We just covered the importance of Griffin III’s return.  Although he and Andrew Luck were compared throughout the 2012 season, it was RG III’s performance that gained momentum as the season progressed. Forgotten amid his off season recovery is the fact the Redskins ended the season on a 7 game winning streak after a 3-6 start. The NFL’s fifth best offense was powered by a QB who completed 65.6% of his passes (258 of 393) for 3,200 yards 20 TDs and only 5 interceptions. However it was the stretch plays using the read option that saw Griffin explode for 815 yards and another 7 touchdowns.

Yet there is more to talk about than meets the eye. He made his teammates believe they could win every game. The Redskins broke a 9 game losing streak at home when they topped the Vikings 38-26 in week 6. Now they come in with a 4 game winning streak at home and more important, come in with a 5 game winning streak within the division. In a winner take all game against the hated Dallas Cowboys in the finale, RGIII outperformed Tony Romo in a 28-18 win.

As long as he retains his ability to keep plays alive and stretch them with the “read opion” from The Pistol, right now defenses don’t have an answer. The beauty in the mechanics of the play are linebackers are slow to get in position to defend intermediate passes. Griffin showed the touch to make those throws as much as he deftly handed the ball off, or took advantage of a defensive end crashing down. He does need to slide more when the hit is inevitable or run out of bounds. As for defenses against him, expect teams to crash the front part of this play and delay blitz on the outside. They will have to take this play away and make him a pocket passer only. He’s showed the ability to be ahead of defenses at this point which keeps him a playoff level performer at this point.

Can Morris repeat his great rookie season??

Can Morris repeat his great rookie season??

Offensive Backfield: The biggest beneficiary of RGIII was obviously first year back Alfred Morris. His 1,613 yards and 13 touchdowns were among the NFL’s best. His patient feet are key to the read option. He sets up blocks well when he gets the ball and carries out his fake well when he doesn’t get the ball. However lets face it, this will be an interesting season for him if RG III misses some time.

He does break some arm tackles but can he stay so productive if he’s the focal point of the offense?? It didn’t go unnoticed the running game disappeared when Griffin III left the wild card tilt with Seattle. Morris keeps the running game Super Bowl level as long as the quarterback stayed healthy. Yet don’t be surprised if his rushing totals dip to 1,200 yards this season.

Hankerson needs to show improvement this year. He had a great one handed catch for a TD in preseason action last night.

Hankerson needs to show improvement this year. He had a great one handed catch for a TD in preseason action last night.

Receivers: Looking to improve at receiver, Mike Shanahan brought in 6 guys this off-season. The most notable are veteran free agents Donte Stallworth and former New Orleans Saint Devery Henderson. However when was the last time these two were top tier performers?? Returning is second year pro Leonard Hankerson who needs some more polishing after a 38 catch 543 yard 3 touchdown campaign. He’s still learning the pro game but lacks burst out of his cuts running routes.

Oops, the Redskins just released Henderson. They must have been proofreading this article and asked themselves the same question.

Pierre Garcon (44 rec/ 633 yds / 4TDs) and slot receiver Josh Morgan (48 rec / 510 yds / 2TDs) were solid but have limitations as well. The player that bonded with RGIII and was the most productive was grey-beard Santana Moss. He led the team with 8 touchdowns on his 41 receptions, However he will be 34 years of age and could slip due to age and the Redskins need to be prepared. Truth is the Redskins should have drafted another receiver. Shanahan must have doubts in Hankerson and Garcon or he wouldn’t have signed so many receivers this spring. They need to get better on the outside and ranks as a bad receiving group.

Offensive Line: Did we see a return of The Hogs?? The Redskins dominated upfront when it came to blowing open holes for the running game. Only the Minnesota Vikings had a better per rush average than Washington’s gaudy 5.2 yard team average. They were the #1 rushing team in football and showed no nonsense power in obvious rushing situations. When it came to 3rd or 4th and short/goal, they earned the first down or touchdown 65% of the time to the weakside and 75% up the middle. Couple this with posting NFL highs in 1st downs rushed for both weakside (67) and strongside (51), you can see why the focus was to stand pat and re-sign their guys.

The flip side of having a dynamic quarterback who can keep plays alive is in the times he gets hit and sacks allowed. This year Shanahan will emphasize throwing the ball away to keep from getting hit 80 times while back to pass. Far too many since that ranks 23rd in all of football. Yet the team only allowed 33 sacks which ranked 13th. A majority of these happened on impromptu scrambles which will improve in the latter stages of the season. When measuring a Super Bowl level line you have to take in consideration what the emphasis of the offense is. When you can run efficiently to both sides and power up the middle, you keep the defense off balance.

Defensive Line: When a team transitions to a 3-4 defense, that first year is a wash as the linemen adjust to eating up space where in most 4-3’s, they’re going after the quarterback first. Surprisingly this defense collapsed to 28th overall. This shouldn’t happen when your offense is one of the best at running the football and time of possession. The good news is the triumvirate of NT Barry Cofield, along with DEs Jarvis Jenkins and Stephen Bowen started 46 out of a possible 48 starts between them in 2012.  Right now Cofield is nursing a few injuries and leads an average line.

The defense is held together by the ageless London Fletcher.

The defense is held together by the ageless London Fletcher.

Linebackers: Holding down the middle is 16 year pro London Fletcher. Someone please get our CEO some of what he’s drinking. Are you serious?? Football is a young man’s game and at 37 years of age he had 141 tackles, 3 sacks, 5 interceptions, and 11 passes defensed. Again he looks in great shape but how long can he perform at this level?? Washington hopes at least another season.

Depth won’t be a problem now they have signed LB Nick Barnett.  He makes the team he will back up Fletcher and youngster Perry Riley. Last year, he garnered 125 tackles, 3 1/2 sacks, and 7 passes defensed. This team was active in the preseason match-up with the Steelers the other night. Experience and youth are serving in the middle.

The real need is to have Bryan Orakpo back to be the trigger man for the Redskins pass rush. In a perfect world he’d have a bounce back year with 12 or more sacks. He should be fresh after missing most of last season. If Fletcher and Orakpo can perform as they have in the past, this is a Super Bowl caliber group.

Rookie Baccari Rambo will get every opportunity to start for the Redskins.

Rookie Baccari Rambo will get every opportunity to start for the Redskins.

Secondary: There could be major wholesale change on the back side of this defense. Mike Shanahan had to face the fact that Reed Doughty and Madieu Williams are limited safeties. They combined for 1 interception and 7 passes defensed. In the 4th and 6th rounds the Redskins picked up Phillip Thomas from Fresno State and Bacarri Rambo from Georgia. Couple this with their top pick being cornerback David Amerson of North Carolina State, this team could field 3 rookies in the secondary.

Think not?? Why else would you re-sign DeAngelo Hall other than help mentor a young secondary. Did you notice they waived two safeties a couple weeks ago?? These rookies are going to stick and their development will dictate if they’ll start or not. Although they have SS Brandon Merriweather starting right now, keep your eye on them this preseason.

Hall turned in a decent year with 90 tackles, 1 sack, 4 interceptions and 14 passes defensed. However he is about to turn to the dark side (30 years of age) where a player can lose his prime in an individual year. When you come in 28th on defense, although you’re one of the best time of possession teams that leads the league in rushing?? You’re a bad secondary and have to take drastic measures.

Overall: This team didn’t win with smoke and mirrors last year. They had an equation no one really had an answer for offensively. Let’s not forget this team was up 14-3 early in their playoff loss to Seattle. However teams have studied RG III’s tendencies and should have a better grasp of what they have to do to slow him down. That is until he breaks the pocket, then all bets are off. In all probability we will get the same RG III when it comes to spontaneous play. He can’t change who he is. However the maturation has to come from his knowing when to slide to protect himself from the bigger hits that occur downfield.

What will be challenging for this team defending their NFC East Title is a much rougher schedule down the stretch. In weeks 10-15, Washington is on the road to Minnesota, to whom they nearly lost to last year. On the road to Philadelphia, home to San Francisco, the New York Giants, and the Kansas City Chiefs. Then they travel to Atlanta to play a Falcon team who will be vying for home field advantage. The Giants and 49ers are the last two NFC Champions who have Super Bowl aspirations as well. How they do in this stretch is how they’ll fare for the season.

Last year the Redskins swept the Cowboys and the Eagles and split with the Giants within the division. With Bryan Orakpo back to bolster the defense, they should stay with the Giants who will battle them for NFC East supremacy in 2013. This team isn’t ready to repeat the playoff run they had last year due to a much rougher schedule. The Chancellor sees the Redskins finishing at 9-7 or 8-8 this year.


Top Ten Running Backs Going Into 2013 Season

As the NFL has evolved into more of a passing league, it seems that the importance of the running back position should wane. However there is nothing more powerful than a rushing attack to wear down your opponent or take time off the clock. What we have seen is the evolution of the type of back in most instances. Gone is the huge bruiser to lean on the defense and he has been replaced with a smaller, shiftier type of back. The type to take a handoff in a stretch running play whether the quarterback is under center or from the Pistol and Shotgun formations.

Do you realize Jamaal Charles has rushed for over 1,000 yards 3 times in a 5 year career??

Do you realize Jamaal Charles has rushed for over 1,000 yards 3 times in a 5 year career??

The best can operate in multiple sets as well as run routes to catch the ball in space. However there are a few throwback types who smash into the line and come off traps, sweeps, and multiple tight end sets as well. Each team needs to adapt their offense to the type of running and passing plays suited to their back’s ability. To make this list, running backs need to be able to break the first tackle. Well here we are with the Taylor Blitz Times best NFL running backs coming into the new season.

10. Maurice Jones-Drew – Jacksonville Jaguars: Although he’s led the league in rushing with 1,606 yards in 2011, Drew is coming back from a major leg injury where he missed most of 2012, and has carried a heavy load the last four years. He has been the Jaguars offense and could be on the verge of possibly burning out as Michael Turner did. This year we’ll have to watch if he’s able to slip tackles and power through arm tackles as he has over his 7 year career. It’s those 954 runs between 2009-2011 that worry us about burning out. He should be good for 1,000 yards this year but we’re keeping our eye on him.

9. Chris Johnson-Tennessee Titans: Did we say gamebreaker?? Well CJ2K is still on the launch pad down in the volunteer state. With a head coach who is a Hall of Fame lineman in Mike Munchak, it’s expected the Titans will come together on the line. This former 2,000 yard rusher stands on the launch pad destined for another big year, yet the vision of that coming is beginning to wane. However he did flash his explosiveness with a 94 yard touchdown last year. In all he ran 276 times for 1,243 yards and 6 TDs.

Spiller could be the Buffalo Bills second 2,000 yard rusher behind OJ Simpson.

Spiller could be the Buffalo Bills second 2,000 yard rusher behind OJ Simpson.

8. CJ Spiller-Buffalo Bills: Last year he burst onto the scene as the electrifying talent Bills brass and fan base had been expecting. The team needs to quit with Fred Jackson and give the ball to this game breaker 25 times a game. He was on his way to bust status after two years of flashes once he got onto the field. However an injury to Jackson left Spiller as the only runner in town and he exploded for 1,244 on just 207 carries. That is 6.0 yards a crack!! The same average as Peterson who ran for 2,000 yards. This year it should be his year and his team as he shows 2012 was no fluke. He also accounted for 43 receptions for 453 yards and combined for 8 touchdowns.

7. Alfred Morris-Washington Redskins: A surprise rookie performance was turned in by Morris, who was a fourth round draft choice. His 1,613 yards and 13 TDs were among the best in football but let’s ask a fundamental question: Was his performance indicative of his talent or was he the beneficiary of RG III carrying out read option fakes?? He was the second option when it came to rushing the football in many a defensive coordinator’s game plan. Year two will be interesting to watch how teams play him.

Yet you can’t underscore he was a tough durable low center of gravity back that thrived in the Redskin’s offense. He’s shifty enough, he seldom took a real big hit with most of the plays being stretch type runs. It reciprocated in holding linebackers honest and allowed Griffin III to rush for another 815 yards and 7 more TDs. He did disappear in the playoff loss to the Seattle Seahawks once Griffin III went down. Would he be nearly effective if he played with another quarterback??

6. Frank Gore-San Francisco 49ers: One of the last of a dying breed, the do everything power back. One huge beneficiary of the new Pistol offense is Frank Gore. There are still running plays where the 49ers line up in power formations but in large part Gore isn’t facing downhill charging linebackers. The Pistol forces teams into 4-2-5 or 3-3-5 nickel variations where the linebackers are a step behind on the front side of the read option.

They are not attacking the run lanes like they do in a traditional sense and this will lesson the wear and tear on a running back entering his ninth year. For the first time in many years, Gore looked fresh the entire season. He started all 16 games while rushing for 1,214 yards 8 TDs while averaging 4.7 yards per rush. His carries will be split between Kendall Hunter and LeMichael James to keep him fresh for the stretch drive. So expect his totals to be a little less also.

NFL Network dubbed him "The Muscle Hamster" as he has shown tackle breaking power in his first season.

NFL Network dubbed him “The Muscle Hamster” as he has shown tackle breaking power in his first season.

5. Doug Martin-Tampa Bay Buccaneers: A shifty power runner in an Emmitt Smith type roll yet he has a better downfield burst. If you’re new to the Taylor Blitz Times, we have touted him as an NFL ready back and produced an article on his Heisman Trophy legitimacy before his senior season at Boise St. http://www.pro-football-reference.com/boxscores/201301120den.htm His rookie campaign saw him rush for 1,454 yards 11 TDs while catching 49 passes for another 479 yards and a touchdown.

Last year it started when he burst onto the NFL scene with a national televised game against the Vikings. That night he ran for 137 yards with a touchdown while catching 3 passes for another  79 yards and a touchdown. He had a 41 yard run and a 64 yard touchdown on a screen. Just when folks began talking about him he breaks out with his masterpiece. He showed there was another runner on the field that night along with Adrian Peterson.

The following week out in Oakland, in front of his bay area family, Martin ran for 264 yards with 4 touchdown runs of 67, 70, and 41, and 1 yards. For much of the fourth quarter Fox was airing his exploits to all other games since he was so close to the all time record. Walter Payton, Eric Dickerson, Jim Brown, OJ Simpson, nor Corey Dillon had ever run that far as a rookie in a game. No SEC back including Bo Jackson has ever run that far in an NFL game period. Only Adrian Peterson as a rookie ran farther. We’re talking all of NFL history here. He will be a candidate for 1,500 yards again down in Tampa.

4. Jamaal Charles-Kansas City Chiefs: The most underrated running back in football. We have heard former Chief now analyst, Bill Maas proclaim he is a smallish type back. The saving grace for the Chiefs offense last year was former Texas Longhorn Jamaal Charles. Last year he ran with enough power to break tackles and have a Pro Bowl season with 1,509 yards. He had a whopping 5.3 yard average and don’t forget he was a Pro Bowl performer in 2010, when he rushed for 1,467 yards and an even better 6.4 yard average. This is no fluke. He’s only going into his sixth season. Now with Alex Smith and a good passing combo, he should keep up the pace set last year.

Texans Super Bowl hopes ride with Foster.

Texans Super Bowl hopes ride with Foster.

3. Arian Foster-Houston Texans: Going into his 5th season, the Texans couldn’t be more solid at running back with Arian Foster leading the charge. Next to Adrian Peterson, no back in football has been more productive than Foster’s 4,264 yards and 39 TDs over the last three years. He is not the flashy runner breaking the huge play like CJ2K or Adrian Peterson, but he’s a steady performer that churns out important first down after first down as the Texans closer.

2. Marshawn Lynch-Seattle Seahawks: No runner sets the tempo for his football team like Lynch. He brings a physicality and attitude to the Pacific Northwest that is infectious and goes over to a swarming defense. He has been the lightning rod ever since his famous 67 yard touchdown run to oust the defending champion Saints in the 2010 wildcard game.

Although he’s entering his seventh season, he doesn’t have a lot of wear and tear on him. In 2009 & 2010 he only carried the ball a combined 320 times as he played for both Buffalo and Seattle. Last year he thundered for 1,590 yards and 11 TDs as he powered the Seahawks into the playoffs. This is the only running back in the game today that raises the level of the entire football team with his play. Expect another 1,500 yard season easily.

Peterson is the best in the game today and is already a Hall of Fame talent.

Peterson is the best in the game today and is already a Hall of Fame talent.

1. Adrian Peterson-Minnesota Vikings: The 21st century version of Eric Dickerson is absolutely a Hall of Fame running back. Yes you read that correctly. He’s a Hall of Fame runner already. Less than 7 months from damaging his MCL and ACL, he burst for 2,097 yards in a season where the Vikings eased him in. In year’s past we had Jamal Lewis and other runners who tore their ligaments and came back, but they had nearly a full season they sat out or eased themselves into the game first. Not Peterson.

What’s startling is this is the season he’ll hit full stride and should break Eric Dickerson’s record of 2,105 yards. Last year he broke breathtaking runs when he was the Vikings only legitimate offensive weapon. Now with quality receivers on the outside in Greg Jennings, Cordarrelle Patterson, and Pro Bowl TE Kyle Rudolph, defenses can’t key on him.

You do realize that he already holds the all time rushing record of 296 yards which is also the rookie record as well. When he get’s to Dickerson’s 2,105 yards, he will be the only back in league history to have two 2,000 yard seasons. There have been only 2 runners who have held these records at the same time. Both OJ Simpson and Jim Brown made the Hall of Fame along with Eric Dickerson. Peterson is already among that group. Another 2,000 yard season will cement it.

Next: Washington Redskins 2013 Preview

Top Ten Quarterbacks Going Into 2013

NFL_Logo_NewWhen you’re outlining the play of NFL quarterback, you have to assess how the player will do going into the given season based upon performance and relative age. Will the quarterback break down during the season if he’s older?? What will be his prospects based upon the receiving talent coming into the new year.

The Chancellor of Football bases his analysis on a multitude of things. How does the quarterback fare statistically and is he still in his prime?? With Robert Griffin III just coming back from serious knee surgery, we left him off of this list. Everyone has their opinions and without further adieu here is ours.

Honorable Mention. Matt Schaub – Houston Texans: This has been a model quarterback in the regular season over the last 5 seasons, 3 of which he threw for more than 4,000 yards. His listing here is he has yet to gain a signature win in the playoffs. At 31 years of age we may have seen the best of Schaub who’s prime is passing with each day. This season is going to make or break his career in Houston where it’s Super Bowl or bust with an aging team.

Colin's 181 yard rushing performance was a transcendent performance.

Colin’s 181 yard rushing performance was a transcendent performance.

10. Colin Kaepernick -San Francisco 49ers: Now the knock on him is he hasn’t played a complete season as a starting quarterback. It doesn’t matter, you can’t underscore the performance he had in last year’s playoff run. The Pistol formation and the read option is a part of the NFL as it evolves into a space game.

Clogged lines of scrimmage is a thing of the past outside of obvious goal line and 3rd or 4th and shorts. Kaepernick proved last year he developed touch on his intermediate passing game and learned to exploit Vernon Davis during the playoff run. This year will be a set back season with the loss of Michael Crabtree. Could pass for 3,000 and run for 1,000 with a healthy season. You can’t coach speed…he breaks containment…good bye.

9. Joe Flacco – Baltimore Ravens: When you come through a post season with 1,140 yards 11 touchdowns and no interceptions, it’s hard not to anoint a quarterback among the league’s elite. Not so fast. He only completed 59% of his passes in the regular season which is what he had as a percentage in the playoffs. His security blanket in Anquan Boldin is running routes 2,000 miles to the west. This will have an affect on Flacco coming into 2013.

Think back to every tight situation the Ravens were in, who did Flacco turn to? He turned to Boldin where he hadn’t in years past. See pass to Lee Evans at the end of 2011 AFC Championship Game. Think back to last year’s Super Bowl when the 49ers made it to 31-29. Flacco had a key third down where he needed to keep the Niner’s offense off the field: Who did he go to even with tight coverage?? Boldin. He fought for the ball and a key first down. According to ESPN, he completed 62% of his passe attempt to Boldin and only 48% of his passes to every other Raven.

It took him nearly 5 years to develop a trust for Boldin in key situations. So where do we go from here?? He does have Jacoby Jones and Torrey Smith to throw to but how bad will he miss Boldin. Today Jones fails the conditioning contest as the Ravens reported to training camp. Does he turn back into the dink and dunk quarterback throwing outlet passes to Ray Rice or keep throwing down-field?? This will be a season of growing pains early on for him and why he’s 8th on this list.

Mannung delivered in year one as the Broncos finished 13-3 in 2012.

Mannung delivered in year one as the Broncos finished 13-3 in 2012.

8. Peyton Manning -Denver Broncos: In the twilight of his career, he had one of his greatest statistical seasons in 2012. However a closer look at his play down the stretch and against teams in particular, lowered his ranking. His season mirrored that of the Broncos overall, they feasted on a lot of patsies to pad their stats. In the last five weeks of the season, he faced the Chiefs twice, Oakland, Baltimore, and Cleveland or the teams that were 12th (twice), 32nd, 20th, 17th, and 25th against the pass. Not a strong group as the team went 5-0 down the stretch. The only reason the 2-14 Chiefs pass defense wasn’t rated lower (12th), they were a team that had given up at that point of the season, were behind and opponents weren’t passing.

Yet if you look at his play against the five playoff teams faced, two of his worst outings were in this pack. He threw 3 interceptions losing in Atlanta, and 2 more in a 31-23 win against Cincinnati. Still he’s a Super Bowl caliber quarterback in the early part of the season and the AFC West will be better prepared for Manning 2.0. His arm may give out late on him again and he’s had some issues with his neck and arm this off-season. He’s never been that good in cold games and if the Broncos did make it to this year’s Super Bowl, good luck with the weather in New Jersey.

7. Matt Ryan-Atlanta Falcons: ‘Matty Ice” has grown every single year in the NFL and is this season’s version of Joe Flacco. He finally won his first playoff game and has had numerous 4th quarter drives as well. He had to lift his Falcons with a playoff comeback against the Seahawks in the final stanza as well. Last year he completed a whopping 68.6% of his passes for 32 touchdowns. One problem he has is he disappears in the middle of games which necessitates the need to come from behind. If he can make it to Super Bowl XLVIII, this list definitely gets revamped.

Center Max Unger was an All Pro and protected Russell Wilson like The Hope Diamond.

Center Max Unger was an All Pro and protected Russell Wilson like The Hope Diamond.

6. Russell Wilson- Seattle Seahawks: One of the biggest beneficiaries to RGIII when it comes to this list is Wilson. After all his team did beat Washington in the playoffs and took a late 28-27 lead against the Falcons in the divisional round, and appeared headed to the NFC Championship Game as well. However folks that want to talk about Andrew Luck and RG III, forgot that it was Wilson who had the best rookie QB season in NFL history. Not only did he tie Peyton Manning’s 1998 record of 26 TDs thrown, he only had 10 interceptions as compared to the 28 Manning threw. All this while throwing for 3,118 yards and rushing for 489 yards and another 4TDs. He also has Percy Harvin to run after the catch for him at least 65-70 times coming up. He could be Super Bowl bound this year also.

5. Ben Roethlisberger -Pittsburgh Steelers: The quarterback that is always left out of the conversation when you talk about the NFL’s best signal callers. One might look at this list and say Big Ben was only 7-6 as a starter last year. Yet those same pundits forget that the Steelers put in a new offense, one he didn’t favor. Yet in that crucible he still completed 63% of his passes for 26 TDs and only 8 interceptions. Uh…excuse me those TD and interception numbers were the second best of his 9 year career. What do you think he’ll do as an encore now that he has a running game with the arrival of LeVeon Bell??

Brady will be pointing out more than protections and who is the "Mike" linebacker in 2013.

Brady will be pointing out more than protections and who is the “Mike” linebacker in 2013.

4. Tom Brady -New England Patriots: It’s hard to believe but Brady could have and should have fallen farther on this list. No time in NFL history has a high ranking offense (#1) returned with 91% of their starters gone. We’re in uncharted waters here. However the Patriots drafted him two dynamite receivers in Aaron Dobson and Josh Boyce. Yet it remains to be seen how they’ll develop. The same can be said of the prospects of Gronkowski returning from multiple surgeries. Will Danny Amendola live up to the $31 million contract as well?? Odds are 2 of the 4 will come through but that would mean a drop from an offense that has scored over 500 points in 3 straight years.

Could you imagine The Greatest Show on Turf going into a new season and Kurt Warner didn’t have Isaac Bruce, Tory Holt, Az Zahir Hakim, and Marshall Faulk?? That is the only equivalent to what Brady faces going into the 2013 season. Why?? This was the only other team that scored 500 points in 3 successive seasons. Brady has played well with other receivers but remember last year the offense went back to Wes Welker once the tight ends were in the infirmary. Welker is in Denver now…so we shall see.

3. Drew Brees- New Orleans Saints: The Saints are coming off a year where Brees had to overcome Head Coach Sean Payton enduring a season long suspension. Now he gets his confidante back yet loses his Pro Bowl LT Jermon Bushrod in free agency to the Chicago Bears. They did retain WR Marques Colston but they found themselves over the cap and couldn’t help their $100 million quarterback out much.

The Saints face what all Super Bowl champions wind up facing. You try so hard to field the team that won the Super Bowl in ensuing years, that you forget to make adjustments to all the moves opponents are making to knock you off. So while they kept WR Marques Colston, in comes CB Darrelle Revis and S Dashon Goldson to Tampa Bay.

This illustrates how Brees will stay down a notch in 2013 like he did last year. He threw for 19 interceptions as he tried to rally the Saints from deficits his defense gave away. With 5,177 yards and 43 touchdowns this should be the #1 quarterback. With the flux on the line, better defenses within the division, and porous defense, he’s going to throw more interceptions than he should and keep him 3rd on this list.

If Rodgers continues at this pace, his career statistics could be staggering.

If Rodgers continues at this pace, his career statistics could be staggering.

2. Aaron Rodgers -Green Bay Packers: You’re looking at the game’s statistical anomaly in Rodgers. Do you realize he’s only thrown 14 interceptions vs 84 touchdowns over the last two years?? Only Drew Brees has stayed on such an extended run of excellence. Last year Rodgers completed an astonishing 67.2% of his passes for 4,295 yards. So why just a number two ranking??

The first is Rodgers is a tremendous quarterback as long as the Green Bay Packers have a lead. When others get in front he doesn’t bring them from behind. The same can be said if a defense knocks he and the Packers offense off of their timing early, they stay a bit off pace the rest of the game. Take a look at their losses to the San Francisco 49ers to bookend the season. In week one, the Niners jumped on top 16-7 in Lambeau before halftime. It took until 6:00 to go in the game before the Packers saw the endzone in a 30-22 loss. In the playoff loss they fell behind 24-21 and couldn’t muster a touchdown for nearly the entire second half. By then the 49ers were on cruise control 45-24.

Sure it can be harsh using a comparison for Rodgers against the eventual NFC Champion 49ers, but Russell Wilson clobbered them 42-13 on Sunday Night Football. Eli Manning danced over them 26- 3 in Candlestick. You want to believe you are the best you need to prove you can beat the best and Rodgers’s Packers fell short of that in 2012.

Last year Rodgers and the Packers lost 5 times, each to a  team that made the playoffs, while going 1-2 against quarterbacks on this list. The lone win?? A 28-27 win over Brees and New Orleans. Now Donald Driver retires and Rodgers favorite target of the last four years, Greg Jennings, signs with the hated Vikings. There is some speculation the team may move Jermichael Finley as well. This will be a new year for him now with a few rookie linemen protecting him also. He’s number one on a lot of lists….just not at the Taylor Blitz Times for all we just pointed out to you.

Eli Manning's late game heroics make him the best in the NFL today.

Eli Manning’s late game heroics make him the best in the NFL today.

1.Eli Manning-New York Giants: Our CEO lobbied loudly for Eli to be the number one quarterback on this list. Yet like we offered up front, this isn’t a lifetime achievement award but we are talking about a two time Super Bowl MVP. What separates Eli from his contemporaries is how he’s at his best against the highest level of competition, and his performance at the end of games. So you forgot that Eli and the Giants routed future NFC Champion San Francisco 26-3, routed Drew Brees and his Saints 52-27, and head slapped the Packers 38-10 last year. That’s #2 and 3 on this list he beat head to head in 2012.

Last year’s Pro Bowl status was actually cemented in week 2, when he threw for 245 yards in the fourth quarter to bring the Giants back to win 41-34. He finished with 510 yards passing & came within 44 yards of Norm Van Brocklin’s 62 year old record of 554. One of the NFL’s oldest records.  The Giants scored 25 4th quarter points. Yikes!

In that game, the nerves of steel he flashed on two Super Bowl winning drives before, was on full display and has won over some critics. Five weeks later, Eli was behind late in his first high profile game against RGIII’s Redskins, and he struck again. Down 23-20 with 1:27 left, the Giants were pinned to their own 20 yard line. Where other quarterbacks are conservative with their throws trying to get into field goal range, Manning struck a thunderous blow by going 77 yards for the winning touchdown with a bomb to Victor Cruz. Ballgame!! He caught the safety cheating up and applied a sword to the heart. The New York Football Giants are never out of a game with Manning at the helm. They came from behind 3 times last year.

Others don’t realize how durable he is. He hasn’t missed a game in 8 years and now he has been to the last two Pro Bowls. His best receiver Victor Cruz just signed a $46 million contract keeping him in New York along with WR Hakeem Nicks. He’s a Hall of Fame quarterback in his prime and he will win a 3rd Super Bowl for the Giants within the next 3 years. Possibly this year in his own stadium. Do you realize he’s the only quarterback in the top 5 of this list who returns with his top receivers intact?? What will this list look like next year??

So that’s it… Our 2013 list…

Epilogue: Ron Jaworski picks Eli 8th in his selection going into 2013. Absolutely the dumbest analysis I have heard in nearly a decade. Just a year removed from his second Super Bowl ring I offered this in the Giants 2012 team preview — “Get used to it Giant fans, Manning is like a great “B” student. He will stumble on some assignments but he’s a great test taker and comes through in the end. Do you realize Manning is now 7-1 in postseason games away from the Meadowlands? He now has postseason wins over an 18-0 Patriot team in Super Bowl XLII, and an upset over a 15-1 Packers team in last year’s playoff.  He is the only quarterback in NFL history to defeat 5 postseason foes with records of 13-3 or better.  No one even comes close to that.”

Since he’s not the sexiest player in some sportswriters eyes, no one is talking about the fact he could possibly become the first quarterback in NFL history to play in the Super Bowl in his own home stadium. This isn’t the Cowboys and Tony Romo hoping against common sense two seasons ago when the big game was in Dallas. We’re talking about a two time Super Bowl MVP who could tie Joe Montana if he gets there and captures that award again. Recognize greatness when you see it…and don’t give him the ball for a final drive within striking distance either.

Next: Top ten running backs going into the 2013 season

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Taylor Blitz Times new logo!!

Taylor Blitz Times new logo!!

Von Miller Facing A Four Game Suspension – The New LT

The AFC's best linebacker will see more double teams unless someone can emerge to replace Elvis Dumervil.

The AFC’s best linebacker will see more double teams unless someone can emerge to replace Elvis Dumervil.

The NFL has had it’s worse off-season in it’s history and the hits just keep on coming. Think back to prior years where there have been headlines off the field, they rarely happened to teams at the top. Now here comes the latest in Von Miller appealing a violation of an NFL policy that may be drug related. We know that he is a star and this will not hurt him overall but what does this do to his team??

When we last talked about the Denver Broncos, we gauged how effective Miller was going to be now that his bookend counterpart is now in Baltimore. In our season preview: https://taylorblitztimes.com/2013/05/08/2013-denver-broncos-preview-one-more-moment-for-manning/ we wondered if they had adequately replaced Dumervil and here we are headed to camp when this bombshell hits.  If his appeal goes down in flames, the Broncos will be without the services of their best player against the Baltimore Ravens, New York Giants, Oakland Raiders, and the Philadelphia Eagles. Which gives game 2 some added significance.

One of the bigger stories for us is how Raven Tackles Michael Oher and Bryant McKinnie totally neutralized him in last year’s playoffs. He only mustered 1/2 a sack in that 38-35 overtime loss. That performance was the impetus to the collapse of the Bronco defense in that game. Flacco went deep often and scorched the secondary with no pass rush in sight. After stealing Dumervil in free agency, how does the Denver defense stop Baltimore when they come to town September 5th??

If the Broncos go down in week one they have to go to New York and face Eli Manning in what should be the final Manning Bowl. With the chance to play the Super Bowl in their own home stadium as a backdrop to Denver facing one of the league’s best QBs with no pass rush, an 0-2 record is a distinct possibility. The Giants have shown the ability to clamp down on offenses that struggle to throw past 15 yards. Everyone watched the film of that playoff loss and there have been grumblings that he’s having some physical discomfort during the OTAs. This would be a game where they desperately need a pass rush.

After a four game suspension, the Broncos can ill afford his coming back rusty. In upcoming weeks he’ll have to chase Tony Romo, Andrew Luck, and RG III before we get to the second half of the season. If this suspension holds up this could have a domino affect on the season. Not as great as what Aaron Hernandez will have on the Patriots, but it will take it’s toll. To lose 29.5 sacks in Dumervil and Miller is a lot of QB pressure. If the Broncos have to manufacture a rush with the blitz, Peyton and company had better be ready for some high scoring affairs.

The only player to come back from a four game suspension and  have a monster year was Lawrence Taylor in 1988, when he gained 15.5 sacks in just 12 games. Although they finished 10-6, it was their 2-2 start that kept the Giants from entering the postseason. What will the Broncos record be after 4 games without Miller?? To who would the losses come against and how would that structure AFC playoff proceedings?? Don’t forget that Lawrence Taylor’s Giants in 1988, lost the fourth game to the Los Angeles Rams 45-31. Take a wild guess who finished with an identical record and went to the playoffs on a head to head tiebreaker. Something to think about… Von Miller, your mission, should you choose to accept it….

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