2017 AFC South Previews & Predictions

The 2017 season has to have the most parody of each NFL division in the NFL. Each team have strengths and weaknesses that are glaring as the season nears. There are some camp battles that won’t be settled for several weeks but we have to get a tentative look at what we expect in the upcoming season. However each team have huge questions that need to be answered.

Murrray is 1/2 of a potent backfield.

With Andrew Luck entering his 6th season and the prime of his career… Is he the great quarterback some pundits tried to label him as or has he regressed?? Does he have enough talent around him??

Will the Houston Texans produce enough offense to offset their #1 defense?? At what point will the team turn to rookie QB DeShaun Watson when Tom Savage under performs?? Yes when…not if…

Only one team comes in on a high note coming into 2017 and no we’re not talking last year’s division winner in Houston.

2017 AFC South Predictions

  1. Tennessee Titans 10-6 *
  2. Houston Texans 8-8
  3.  Jakcsonville Jaguars 6-10
  4. Indianapolis Colts 5-11

One of the Chancellor of Football’s measures going into a new season is how a team finishes the season before. Tennessee finished winners in 4 of their last 5 games in 2016 including a 24-17 over Houston in the finale. Keep in mind QB Marcus Mariota had already been injured and missed that game.

A closer look and the Titans finished triumphant in 5 of their final 7 games highlighted by a 45-27 thrashing of the Green Bay Packers. DeMarco Murray finished as the 3rd leading rusher with 1,287 yards and if he stumbles, former Heisman winner Derrick Henry (490 yds/5 TDs) can pick up the slack. By the time we look at Mariota running when passing plays breakdown, Coach Mularkey’s team was 3rd in football with 2,187 yards. With a 4.6 yard average and returning 2 Pro Bowl Tackles (Jack Conklin & Taylor Lewan) the running game should be there to keep defenses honest.

In Indy, the Colts have a lot on Coach Pagano and Andrew Luck in what could be the head coach’s last season. This team was 1-6 against playoff teams last year and suffered a huge loss with the retirement of DE/LB Robert Mathis. Not only was he a team leader he finished with 2nd on the team with 5 sacks behind Eric Walden (11). The Colts drafted 7 defenders last April yet will that be enough to elevate last year’s 30th ranked defense??

With defenses gearing to stop TY Hilton (91 rec. 1,448 yds 5 TDs), Phillip Dorsett (33 rec. 528 yds 2 TDs) could emerge as a 2nd 1,000 yard receiver. Luck will have to push the football this season and won’t be able to play it safe. His interception totals may go up as pressure mounts to save Pagano’s job.

However rebuilding a defense one year after rebuilding an Offensive Line, the Colts are a year away from improving on the field.

Watson has to finish camp as the starter.

If DeShaun Watson can begin the season as the starter, Houston can make the playoffs. Odds are he wont but circle the calendar on October 8th, a week 5 affair vs Kansas City. A 1-3 start is possible as they host Jacksonville, at Cincinnati, at New England, then return home against the Titans. Coach O’Brien will lean on his defense and hope he has time to develop the prized rookie. Savage will struggle and with the recent success of rookie QBs including Dak Prescott up the road in Dallas, he will be thrust into the action.

The other date to circle is Sept 24 week 3 v. Seattle.  The Titans will look at this early season inter-conference game against the NFL’s elite and with a win comes newfound confidence. A win in week 4 v Houston and the Titans will put everyone in the AFC South on notice that they’re the heavyweight in the division. Mariota improved in yardage (3,426 v 2,818), touchdowns (26 v 18) and threw 1 less interceptions although he attempted 80 more passes. The only improvement to match Mariota’s in the last two years is Oakland’s Derek Carr.

The team he gets a shot at in week 1. This could be the 1st of 2 meetings in 2017. The Tennessee Titans will win the AFC South.

How did Taylor Blitz Times fare with predictions in 2016??

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2015 NFC East Predictions

One of the most perplexing aspect of picking the NFC East is what is going on with Jason Pierre Paul’s hand?? How damaged is it?? Is he really missing his thumb?? Today he showed up to the facilities and is about to sign his contract yet we haven’t been shown what his hand looks like. As the Giants “alpha dog” on defense, without him being what he had been could have a ripple effect on the Giants as a whole.

dez2015 NFC East

  1. Dallas Cowboys 9-7 *
  2. Philadelphia Eagles 8-8
  3. New York Giants 7-9
  4. Washington Redskins 4-12

The Dallas Cowboys will come down a peg now that they are running by committee. This is the first time since 1946 when the NFL’s leading rusher switched teams the following year. Here at Taylor Blitz Times we made mention of “The Great Wall II” and an offensive line is great for an era. We stand by that but we have to see how the often injured Darren McFadden and Joseph Randle will perform.

Cowboys brass has to have some reservations or they wouldn’t have traded for Christine Michael from Seattle. The penchant is there to revert back to the pass happy era we saw earlier in Tony Romo’s career. At least in a few games this can happen. The defense begins the season with Rolando McClain, Kevin Hardy and Orlando Scandrick beginning the season suspended and on the reserved injured list doesn’t bode well. Dallas will have a sloppy start to this season as they try to establish their running game and find defensive continuity.

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Sanchez will have to play for Bradford several times this season.

Interestingly the Eagles are coming into 2015 with something old and something new. The old?? Chip Kelly jettisoning off top shelf talent. Gone is RB LeSean McCoy to Buffalo and WR Jeremy Macklin to the Chiefs. The something new is swapping QBs Nick Foles for Sam Bradford from the Rams.

The often injured Bradford won’t remain on his feet for the entire season. We saw the hit Terrell Suggs put on Bradford in the pre-season. Chip Kelly’s offense will expose Bradford too additional hits and Sanchez will have to take his place several times this season. This kills offensive continuity and we know Kelly’s too arrogant to change his play calling.

Not only will the Eagles wear down but the Giants will remain too inconsistent to take the division. Eli Manning just inked a new contact extension and will play loose. However Victor Cruz is still rounding back into game shape and Odell Beckham is getting the business from defenders set to get after him in his sophomore season.

If Jason Pierre-Paul had showed up with 10 fingers the Giants win the division. With his being sent home without signing his contract something is definitely up. And without an index finger he’s rendered one of his hands to be useless to pull on jerseys in pass rush hand fighting techniques. Pierre-Paul won’t be the same player and the defense will take a big step back without it’s dominant pass rusher. Remember he was their franchise player… not any more.

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Thanksgiving Day: Philadelphia Eagles at Dallas Cowboys

The NFL finally did something great with making all these divisional match-ups make up the bulk of the final slate of games. All season long we’ve looked at the impending battle lines that make up today’s Eagles vs Cowboys tilt in Jerry World. A pair of 8-3 combatants fighting for NFC East supremacy. What could be better??

DeMarco-Murray-hd-imagesThis is a game that will challenge Head Coach Jason Garrett and QB Tony Romo. One of the penchants they have to fight is trying to fool opponents when they play high profile games like this. It almost came back to bite them in the game against the New York Giants. They get away from controlling the clock and running DeMarco Murray right at opponents wanting to show Tony Romo is healthy or the defacto leader of the football team.

They come out and do this as they did against New York or Washington and they will lose.

Mark Sanchez could be the Eagles key to victory.

Mark Sanchez could be the Eagles key to victory.

An interesting note, the Philadelphia Eagles are not only 2-1 under Mark Sanchez, his stats for 2014 are better than the man he replaced in Nick Foles. For the season Sanchez has completed 62.3% vs 59.8% for the man he replaced however his interceptions have been up in recent weeks. If the Eagles can get Sanchez passing the football early and force Dallas to feel pressure to score with them…the Eagles will win.

What Dallas needs to do is slow this game down and run Murray downhill at them. The Eagles can’t stand up to The Great Wall 2 for 40-45 rushes. They are ranked 16th against the run but that is due to playing against teams trying to pass to keep pace with their offense. We saw how poorly this defense tackles when they lost to the Packers a few weeks back. They also wilted in the second half in a 26-21 defeat in San Francisco earlier in the season.

The Eagles have feasted on patsies and lost their 3 games to playoff caliber talent in San Fran, Arizona, and Green Bay. Well…make it a 4th in what should happen today. The Cowboys should win 34-27.

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Arizona Cardinals v Dallas Cowboys: Is Romo In of Out??

The story that is hitting the rumor circuit is Tony Romo will not play in today’s game. This game between the Cardinals and Cowboys is big when it comes to tie breaker advantages for the end of the season. If the Cowboys thought it was important to put him in for those final 5 minutes last week, The Chancellor believes he will play when you look at the big picture.

Romo will be a game time decision. We think he will play.

Romo will be a game time decision. We think he will play.

With a win today, the Cowboys move to 7-2 on the season. However more important is they would have divisional and wildcard tiebreakers over both Seattle and Arizona depending on how the NFC West shakes out. They would be 5-2 within the NFC and believe it or not, the Cowboys will pull for Seattle and Arizona to finish ahead of the 49ers. San Francisco beat Dallas head to head and is 3-2 in the conference before today’s game against the Rams.

With that important a backdrop, Tony Romo will be “asked” to play.

Larry Foote and the defense has been clutch all year.

Larry Foote and the defense has been clutch all year.

This could play right into the hands of the Arizona Cardinals, whose defensive game plans and blitz packages mimic those the Cowboys struggled to block on Monday Night. As we alluded to in our Cardinals article last week, they thrive on situational football. Each week Defensive Coordinator Todd Bowles comes up with a variety of blitzes for their opponents.

This fact has to be brought up in case Tony Romo plays. Before last week, the Cowboys stuck to the gameplan of rushing DeMarco Murray (1,054 yds) straight ahead. However the penchant to audible out of running plays finally came back to bite the Cowboys in their overtime loss to Washington. If Weeden plays will he have the latitude to call those audibles or will Jason Garrett mandate he stay with the play??

This could cause a problem because the Cardinals are #1 in the NFC against the run and #2 overall. This is a battle hardened group used to facing Marshawn Lynch and Frank Gore within their division. So they will put pressure back on the quarterback as they have all year. With the Cardinal offense on pace to set an NFL record for fewest turnovers, someone for Dallas needs to make a few plays.

The Cardinals are on course for homefield advantage and could possibly play a first ever Super Bowl in their own home stadium. Dreams are starting to materialize. With a win today, they’ll be 5-0 against the NFC with tie break advantages against San Francisco, Philadelphia, and Dallas. Sure they have two huge games against Seattle coming up but they are building a hell of a cushion.

This will be a slugfest and The Chancellor of Football sees Arizona winning this game 22-17.

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First Quarter Report Card: Dallas Cowboys

With today’s 20-17 win over the Houston Texans, the Dallas Cowboys stretched their record to 4-1. Detractors are waiting for the shoe to drop on this team. However the front runner for Taylor Blitz Times Coach of the Year is Scott Linehan who has kept Dallas a run oriented offense. So much so DeMarco Murray just became the first RB since OJ Simpson in 1975 to begin his season with 5 straight 100 yard games.

Murray and Bryant have weathered the storm of 8-8 seasons.

Murray and Bryant have weathered the storm of 8-8 seasons.

Yes you read that correctly, it’s the first time in 39 years a back has begun the season with 5 straight 100 yard games. Here we have been critical of Murray from going down at first contact. He has run with purpose and fury in this his contract year and redefining his career. Never in his career has he been able to string together more than 7 straight starts.

Now they have to travel to Seattle to take on the defending Super Bowl champions. This line with 3 – 1st round draft picks & has matured into road graters. Murray is running with purpose and fury. A contract year will do that for a runner. To The Chancellor he’s always been a displaced 3rd down back. He’s breaking 2 to 3 tackles and falls forward after contact.

Rolando McClain has made plays along with fellow LB Bruce Carter.

Rolando McClain has made plays along with fellow LB Bruce Carter.

Right now he’s on a torrid pace with 670 yards rushing. On pace for 2,144 yards this season, which will be hard to maintain. Yet make no mistake about it, the Cowboys are 4-1 and teams that start with that record make the playoffs 75% of the time.

With the offensive line controlling the line of scrimmage, this is no fluke. This is The Great Wall II and they are built for a 5-7 year run of dominance barring injury. If they could play game 1 again against the 49ers this team would be 5-0. When you can physically dominate your opponent on the line of scrimmage, it sets the tone for your football team. Now your defense is rested and playing less. Remember that worst defense in NFL history?? Well now they’re just 21st in defense. Keep in mind fresh defenders can make game changing plays.

Take it from The Chancellor of Football this is a recipe for championship football. Don’t listen to these idiots on ESPN who keep trying to feed the masses “it’s a passing league.”

With a run first offense, Romo isn't forced to make every throw which lead to some of his interceptions.

With a run first offense, Romo isn’t forced to make every throw which lead to some of his interceptions.

If so, then why did Seattle destroy Denver in last year’s Super Bowl?? Why has Drew Brees and the pass happy Saints watched the ground and pound 49ers play in 3 straight NFC Championships?? Why did it take the Cowboys, averaging 37 pass plays to 21 runs until week 7 to pick up their 4th win last year??

Before yesterday, Dallas was averaging 32.5 rushes to 29.5 passes per game. Murray ran for 136 yards on 31 carries as the Cowboys won their 4th game in a row to start this 2014 season. If you asked the Cowboys they would love to replay game 1 with the 49ers again. Somewhere down in Texas, they must be in the meeting room showing this offensive line the Football Life for The Great Wall of Dallas. Just as the team’s history had a second version of The Doomsday Defense, keep your eye on this offensive line.

This team is going to make the playoffs.

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NFL Week 12 Thanksgiving Edition II: Leon Lett Bowl

Murray breaks a 95 yarder a few weeks back.

Now how many of you saw the Miami Dolphins vs the Dallas Cowboys on Thanksgiving and had flashbacks to the famous Thanksgiving game in 1993?? It hit me immediately and I know NFL.com had a vote to redeem Leon on their site with a snickers campaign. While that is a fun look at a past encounter between these two teams, it was nowhere near as surprising as to wake up Monday morning with Dallas first in the NFC East. Are you kidding me?? Cowboy fans were ready to hang Tony Romo in effigy and still are dissatisfied with his performance.  The Eagles shocked the Giants in the New Meadowlands on Sunday night to quiet Cowboy detractors.

However when you look at this team something is missing. You want to call this an elite team yet you can’t because they don’t pass the eyeball test. Yes even though they are 6-4 and have won 4 of their last 5 games. First you have the 4th quarter interceptions that have caused every Cowboy fan concern. Deion Sanders, and Thomas “Hollywood” Henderson to name a few, have been critical of throws that were not only poor in judgment but should have been thrown away. It cost the Cowboys games against the Jets and the Lions directly yet his numbers aren’t all that bad. For the year Romo has completed 64.5% of his passes for exactly 2800 yards, 19TDs and only 7 interceptions. Its just when the interceptions come in the fourth quarter or rather being thrown right at Darelle Revis, huh Hollywood. Alright we’ll leave it alone but he is well on his way to throwing for nearly 5,000 yards as we explained he would do in our PreSeason spectacular. https://taylorblitztimes.wordpress.com/2011/06/08/2011-dallas-cowboys-preview/ Passing records will fall in Dallas as they are more of a pure pas.sing team than a pure running team.

Of course there has been a few strides in the running game with DeMarco Murray for the last 4 games he’s started. Get this?? Of the 747 yards he’s rushed for he’s only made it into the endzone twice. As a team the Cowboys have only rushed for 4 touchdowns in ten games which isn’t acceptable. Sure Murray has run with a little thunder as of late but he really is a 3rd down back in the Steve Sewell mode for the 80’s Broncos. He along with Felix Jones should be breaking touchdowns yet can’t finish off big plays. These are the reasons Cowboy fans don’t trust their team, even with a surprise vault into 1st place in the NFC East.  How will they fare tomorrow??

After 7 straight losses and looking as though there was no life left in them, the Miami Dolphins have awakened. It’s not that they have won a few games, they have played with a reckless abandon as though the game means something to them. Do you realize the Dolphins in this 3-0 rebound has held each team to under 10 points and two of those three to under 247 yards total for the game?? This is the same team that gave up 517 passing yards to Tom Brady in week 1?? Well last week they shut down Buffalo’s Ryan Fitzpatrick to the tune of 2 sacks while intercepting him twice. However it is also due to committing to the run. In the last two games they have averaged 32 rushes to rest their defense and the game against Kansas City had 24.

Reggie Bush

The other factor for this resurgence is Matt Moore. He’s outperformed Chad Henne and not turned the ball over as much. Do you realize that in the four games Moore has played he’s thrown 5 ints to Henne’s 4 although he’s thrown 75 more passes?? This has translated to his throwing 7 TDs to Henne’s 4 and the impetus for the 3 game winning streak. Look they’re not beating themselves like when Henne was in there. In their first 7 games, this Dolphins team was -8 in the turnover department as compared to being +2 in the last 3 games. This team would play well, fall behind from a careless turnover and press to get back into the game and turn it over some more.  Now the punt is they’re friend and playing a ball control game. In fact Reggie Bush has a chance quietly to rush for 1,000 yards this season.

Much like the Oakland Raiders once they lost JaMarcus Russell, they aren’t demoralizing themselves and have found a new spirit. One of the true reasons for the turnaround is they have vaulted from #31 in defense after two weeks to a respectable #16. Although they are still only 25th against the pass they are 7th against the run and 5th in rushing average allowed at just 3.4 yards per carry. Watch for #91 Cameron Wake to come off the corner and harass Tony Romo. Can they hold the Cowboys pass offense down enough to force Dallas to run the football on draws and bubble screens?

One thing that’s missing in this four game winning streak is the Cowboys defense has slid a little statistically. Going into week 8, this defense was #6 overall and #1 against the run and then came the 34-7 loss to the rival Philadelphia Eagles. Now they are ranked #11 overall and are 10th against the run. Right now they are being aided by a more stout running game as of late. They have forced 8 turnovers in the last three games and that opportunism was showcased in the 44-7 rout of Buffalo. Yet who is this team?? The one who clobbered Buffalo or was sodomized in Philadelphia??

Well this game will answer several questions and has two teams coming in on 3 game winning streaks. We don’t think the Dolphins DBs will be able to handle Jason Witten, Miles Austin and especially Dez Bryant. The Dolphins have some fire power but it’s going to be hard to slow DeMarcus Ware who has been terrorizing with 14 sacks so far. He should star in this game and sack Moore 3 times. Our crystal ball tells us Dallas wins a close game and Snickers will have a Leon Lett redemption commercial. He was just hungry and thought the football was a Snickers!! Honestly!!

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