2018 AFC Predictions

It seems that we have been predicting the demise of the New England Patriots unsuccessfully for the last 7 years. This season the Patriots will miss this player or this player. Yet here we are again with the 2 time defending AFC Champions ready to battle off conference contenders who appeared to have closed the gap.

3d illustration of an NFL logo behind a transparent silver American football on top of a green football field

Yet here we are with a great number of marquee players returning from serious injury. How quickly can DeShaun Watson, Andrew Luck, and JJ Watt return to form?? Can the Steelers offense find a rhythm once they get LeVeon Bell to report to the team??

There is this team out in Los Angeles no one wants. Not only do they return with the NFL’s 4th ranked offense featuring Melvin Gordon (1,105 yds 8 TDs rushing / 58 rec. 476 yds 4 TDs) & Phillip Rivers (4,515 yds 28 TDs and only 10 ints) on a team that went 9-3 to finish the season.  It took the Chargers 4 weeks to get used to Coach Anthony Lynn’s staff and a new home as they started 0-4.

2018 AFC Predictions:

AFC Wast Champs: LA Chargers 12-4*

AFC East Champs: New England Patriots 11-5

AFC North Champs: Pittsburgh Steelers 10-6

AFC South Champs: Houston Texans 9-7

Wild Card: New York Jets 10-6

Wild Card: Kansas City Chiefs 9-7

AFC Champions: LA Chargers

Yes the city of Los Angeles will have a team in Super Bowl LIII but not the team that everyone is anointing.

The Chargers best pass rush since the mid 80’s.

Keep in mind the Chargers defense was middle of the road ranked 15th and should improve as Joey Bosa returns from a foot injury. However a closer look shows this team gave up 319 yards per game in the last 8 games. Good enough to make the top ten. Fellow DE Melvin Engram III came on with 10.5 sacks to combine with Bosa’s 12.5 which anchored the NFL’s 3rd ranked defense against the pass. This team is ready to make a move.

A lot of pundits want to anoint Andrew Luck as back however The Chancellor sees nothing but rust, rust, rust. He hasn’t played football in over 600 days and Colts fans will wince everytime he hits the ground. Keep in mind he has 4 games against Sacksonville (55 sacks) and Tennessee (43 sacks) which finished in the top 5 in QB take downs. Oh…and 3 time NFL Defensive Player of the year JJ Watt also returns. Sorry Calvin Ladd the Colts will be losing a lot of games. Did you just see that Redzone interception??

Can Forunette stay healthy this season? Has a tendency to get nicked up.

The AFC South will have 3 even teams beating up on each other as no one will take command until the final week. The Titans and Jaguars play several close to the vest affairs. One bounce of the ball one way or the other spells win or loss in at least 6 of their games. Its going to come down to which QB can make plays beyond the X’s and O’s and DeShaun Watson edges Marcus Mariota and Blake Bortles in that regard.

The Steelers and Patriots rule the AFC North and East respectively largely on Hall of Fame QBs. The underappreciated Ben Roethlisberger (4,251 yds 28TDs 14 ints) will have to keep the offense going in Bell’s absence. Pittsburgh is still the class of their division although this could be the last year on that perch. This situation with LeVeon Bell will linger all season. The back and forth between Pro Bowl C Maurkice Pouncey could prove disruptive to team chemistry once Bell joins the team.

This is how The Chancellor of Football’s crystal ball shapes up for 2018. It will be the L.A. Chargers traveling to Atlanta to play for this trophy:

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Super Bowl LII Recap: Eagles 41-33 Fly Eagles Fly!

Ahhh yes Super Sunday dawned with the aplomb and pageantry that has become an American holiday surrounding the NFL championship. Although this year was at a cold weather site, Minneapolis put on a great event.

Right from the opening kick the Eagles came out with their patented read-option look to settle Foles into the game. Each team came out with long marches that stalled inside the  leading to field goals.

The first big play came on the 2nd play of the following drive when LeGarrette Blount burst off guard for a 37 yard run where he broke two tackle attempts. Establishing an attitude the Eagles were here to play. Then Foles on another run option feathered a 34 yard bomb to Alshon Jeffries …surprise 9-3 Iggles!! Two bold strokes opened up a game where each team had been probing with intermediate shots.

All of a sudden we were reliving the early stages of Super Bowl LII as Brady fell behind by score and tempo of the game. The Patriots had been moving the ball and keeping even from a momentum perspective…and then S Malcolm Jenkins hit wideout Brandon Cooks knocking him out of the game. From that moment on the Patriots played nervous as momentum was on Philly’s side. New England even reverted to trickery with an Amendola reverse throw back to Brady. Once he dropped that pass and a failed 4th down attempt gave Foles a short field.

It was the corner throw from Foles to Jeffries that allowed the Iggles to maintain momentum. Then Blount turned in his second big play when he burst off a belly to the left for a 21 yard TD and a 15-3 lead.

Then came the 2nd turning point that many fans and pundits have issue with Patriot playoff games. With a 15-6 lead the Eagles were intercepted on a deep throw to Jeffies. The ball was tipped and intercepted. After beginning on their own 10 the Patriots started a drive that faced a 3rd and long when a questionable defensive holding call kept their drive alive. New England was saved by a bogus call again and a completed a 90 yard drive against a stunned Eagle defense. They cut the lead to 15-12 after White’s 26 yard touchdown tackle breaking run.

Just when the feeling of “here we go again” with the Patriots seizing control of the game, Nick Foles showed a cool no one thought he would have in a championship game. First he has Torrey Smith drop a sure 1st down and you could sense the unease rising where the Eagles needed a play. Then Foles hit with this:

 

The 55 yard swing pass to Clement brought the Eagles back to focus and after bogging down inside the 5, Foles threw to Jeffries where interference could have been called. Facing a 4th and goal Coach Pederson rolled the dice with Nick Foles…

 

In what could have been the greatest call in Super Bowl history Foles became the 1st QB in Super Bowl history to catch a TD. Its the type of play where an underdog has to take some chances and was the turning point of the game. Inside your opponents 5 on 4th down?? Those are some huge stones Coach Pederson and Offensive Coordinator Frank Reich called. Cinderella and her glass slippers led 22-12 going into the half.

However did we mention this is the Super Bowl?? Well Tom Brady who saw pressure yet had fired for nearly 200 yards in the 1st half. Well he went on to dominate the 3rd quarter and on his next drive completed 4 to a no longer quiet Gronkowski. The last being a 5 yard toss and the lead was 22-19 and could Philly answer the bell again??

super-bowl-52-tom-brady-loser-3Foles did answer with a touchdown however the defense that was supposed to put pressure on Brady was tiring out. Brady led the Patriots on 3 straight drives of 75 yards to take a 33-32 lead as the 4th quarter began. He was masterful and just completely demoralized the Eagle defense. The pass rush was exhausted and the Eagle DBs were running in cement. Danny Amendola and Chris Hogan were running open all through the 2nd half.

In what was becoming one of the greatest Super Bowls ever we were locked into a track meet where Nick Foles was battling Tom Brady in a heavy weight fight. Who would blink?

Finally Foles leads the Eagles on a touchdown drive with a pass to Zach Ertz that was debated, but clearly was a catch two steps and a lunge with an 11 yard pass to take a 41-33 lead. Cinderella was still dancing with a lead 2:21 to go on the clock and just steps away from their 1st championship since 1960. The stage was set for Tom Brady, who had been on 3 straight touchdown drives. Could Brady pull another miracle.

Holding their breath with a defense that hadn’t sacked Brady all night Brandon Graham blew into the backfield for the 1st, a forced fumble and a Lombardi Trophy for the City of Brotherly Love.

This was easily one of the most entertaining Super Bowls ever played and the Chancellor of Football’s choice for MVP?? Nick Foles… how could you not?? He completes 28 of 43 for 373 yards 3 TDs and caught another touchdown.

Celebrate Philadelphia, you produced the timely plays to win it. Your first NFL Championship since 1960. Fly Eagles Fly! E-A-G-L-E-S Eagles!!

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2017 AFC Predictions

Well we’re off and another NFL season is under way where we have to place predictions and previews into what Taylor Blitz Times crystal ball offers. For the most part the 2017 season has shaped up based upon watching players grow into their roles and there are a few draft picks that will make an impact.

As the season concluded last February, the world was treated to the 1st overtime in Super Bowl history. However it placed salve over an open wound as the Raiders had to enter the playoffs without Derek Carr, and the Titans losing their last 3 without Marcus Mariota. It gave a feeling of inevitability to the Steelers and Patriots meeting for the right to go to Super Bowl LI.

2017 AFC Predictions:

AFC East Champs: New England Patriots 12-4**

AFC West Champs: Oakland Raiders 12-4

AFC North Champs: Pittsburgh Steelers 11-5

AFC South Champs: Houston Texans 9-7

Widcards: Kansas City Chiefs, Baltimore Ravens

AFC Champions: The Oakland Raiders

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One of the biggest acquisitions this year was the signing of Marshawn Lynch to ignite the offense and bring toughness to the team. His punishing running style and spirit will merge with reigning TBT Offensive Player of the Year David Carr to carry the Raiders through the west and beyond. Last year the Raiders were 6-1 on the road with David Carr with 4th quarter comebacks in 4 of those games. Had Carr been healthy for the playoffs they could have won in New England.

 

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The 2016 Taylor Blitz Times MVP Preview: Derek Carr Leads The Charge

The mid-point of the season is a large enough sample size for us to assess what is taking place. Youth has not only served this season its starred. You’d have to go all the way back to the quarterback class of 1983 and the arrival of Eric Dickerson to find another where young players had this type of league wide impact. As twilight descended on the career of Peyton Manning and soon will for Tom Brady and Drew Brees, the emergence of the next generation of stars is upon us.

Carr & Mack have a lot to celebrate so far in 2016.

Carr & Mack have a lot to celebrate so far in 2016.

Derek Carr – Oakland Raiders: Easily the leading candidate for NFL MVP. No player has put a stamp on the 2016 season as the signal caller out in Oakland. Today he frosted the Tampa Bay Buccaneers defense for a team record 513 yards and 4 touchdowns on 40 of 59 passing. The team is 5-0 on the road where Carr threw a game winning touchdown in every one of them.

Carr is on pace to complete 66% of his passes for 5,305 yards 39TDs and just 7 interceptions.  Last year’s performance (350 of 573  3,987 yds 32 TDs / 13 ints) marked him as an up and coming superstar and he is growing by leaps and bounds every week. He only faces 3 top 10 defenses in his final 8 games and 3 of them are 24th, 30th, and 31st against the pass. Today he overcame his team setting a league record with 23 penalties and kept on firing. This is not a fluke… Carr is growing  and could be Taylor Blitz Times MVP for 2016.

Brady’s suspension has him on a tear to start his 2016.

Tom Brady – New England Patriots: How can one player come back from suspension and instill fear in the rest of the NFL?? Well look no further as the Patriots drew and quartered the Buffalo Bills 41-25 to avenge an earlier loss to their division rival. On a game circled on the schedule after the Bills won 16-0 four weeks ago. With the chance to sweep New England and cast doubt the Patriots are still the leaders of this division….well… Brady led Belichick’s bunch on scoring drives on 5 straight possessions and goodbye.

The team is 7-1 and on a 4 game winning streak and headed into their bye week where Brady can hone his skills even more. In the 4 weeks since his return from suspension Brady has thrown 12 TDs and 0 interceptions. He has already gunned down Pittsburgh and aside from a game against Seattle, they’ll face Denver in week 16 in a game what could decide home field advantage. He is going for history as he wants to tie Bart Starr with the most rings for a starting QB with 5. Only Father Time, who is due to arrive at any moment, looks to be the only defense Brady can’t outrun. Until then… Brady is an MVP candidate.

Dak Prescott & Ezekiel Elliott – Dallas Cowboys: With the Philadelphia Eagles vanquished in primetime 29-23, it propelled the Cowboys into the NFC East lead with a 6-1 record. A sixth straight win and 2 game lead in the division has signaled the end of the Tony Romo era.

Prescott has shown leadership while knocking off a 3rd straight team that figures prominently in the upcoming playoffs. The rookie is currently ranked 7th of all starting quarterbacks with a 99.6 rating. He’s thrown for 1,773 yards 9 TDs with only 2 interceptions.  He broke Tom Brady’s record for most attempts to start a career without an interception extending it to 176.  All while breathing confidence in the offense with the aid of running mate Elliott.

The NFL’s leading rusher with 799 yards is still on pace to break Eric Dickerson’s rookie record of 1,808 yards. His physical style along with The Great Wall 2  offensive line establishes dominance and an attitude that permeates the entire team. The synergy between Elliott & Prescott has allowed each to take the pressure off the other. It’s even picked up the defense which ranks 11th where last year with similar personnel ranked 17th. Now that we’ve made it to the halfway point of the season its time to assess things for what they are regardless of rookie status. Which is why these two have to be considered as Co-MVPs at this point of the season.

These are the men who have made the first half of the 2016 season. Thanks for reading and please share the article.

 

2016 AFC Predictions

As the 2016 NFL season is about to kickoff we need to gaze into the crystal ball and see who will make it to Super Bowl LI. The very first impulse is to look in on the defending champions. However when you’re replacing a retired legend at quarterback there has to be a void in the leadership and make-up of the Denver Broncos. Its one of the reasons Taylor Blitz picked the Oakland Raiders to win the AFC West.

For the 1st time in more than a decade true optimism has hit the AFC East with Tom Brady’s 4 game suspension. Will he come back rested or rusty as he can’t practice with the team either?? The league will get a brief view of what life will be like without Brady as Jimmy Garoppolo heads under center. He has a Sunday Night opening date on the road in Arizona, then 3 home games as Belichick will dial back the game plan to keep his reads manageable.

Brady should return to guide the Patriots to an AFC East championship with a 10-6 record. The last division title for the Bill Belichick / Tom Brady era.

NFL: Preseason-Green Bay Packers at Pittsburgh SteelersAFC North Champs: Pittsburgh Steelers 11-5**

AFC South Champs: Houston Texans 10-6

AFC East Champs: New England Patriots 10-6

AFC West Champs: Oakland Raiders 10-6

Wildcards – Cincinnati Bengals, Jacksonville Jaguars

The team to represent the AFC in Super Bowl LI in Houston Texas?? The Pittsburgh Steelers

Head Coach Mike Tomlin has the most explosive player at WR in Antonio Brown and RB with LeVeon Bell. Ben Roethlisberger will make his 4th trip to the Super Bowl this February and his grit will see Pittsburgh through the first 3 games while Bell serves a suspension.

One of the hallmarks of the Steelers will have to return to make the trip to Houston, and that’s defense. They don’t have to be Blitzburgh or The Steel Curtain II. If they can rise from the NFL’s 22nd ranked unit to a top 15 defense that can come up with timely stops, they will be in Houston.

The Chancellor & Super Bowl LI Trophy at the Hall of Fame.

The Chancellor & Super Bowl LI Trophy at the Hall of Fame.

Who do you have in the AFC??

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SUPER BOWL XXXI RUNNER UP 1996 NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS

The casual football fan may or may not remember when the NFL had a period where the NFC won 13 Super Bowls in a row. True free agency didn’t come to the NFL until the 1993 season yet the disparity between the two conferences in terms of physicality was pronounced.

31patsOr at least it had been leading up to the mid 1990s. However a series of long time NFC Head Coaches started to switch conferences beginning with Bill Parcells. Coaches look to sign players they are most familiar with.

The ’96 Patriots roster was populated by players from the NFC. Keith Byars (Eagles), S Willie Clay (Lions), CB Ricky Reynolds (Bucs), DE Mike Jones (Cardinals), DT Mark Wheeler (Bucs), and starting G William Roberts with reserve G Bob Kratch from the New York Giants respectively.

Then you had  third down back / kick returner Dave Meggett (Giants) who made the Pro Bowl, CB Otis Smith (Eagles) and reserve CB Michael McGruder (49ers).  They drafted NFC style players in LB Chris Slade and DE / LB Willie McGinest. Defensive Coordinator Bill Belichick platooned his personnel based on individual strengths from week to week. McGinest was their only defensive Pro Bowl performer. Their stats didn’t wow you, finishing 19th overall, they seemed to always come up with key stops.

31pats2Before there was the draft question of Ryan Leaf or Peyton Manning in ’98, the first was Drew Bledsoe or Rick Mirer in 1993. Bledsoe, the #1 overall selection, had come into his own leading the Patriots to the playoffs in just his 2nd season in 1994. Now in his 4th season he threw for 4,086 yards and 27 touchdowns leading New England to the Super Bowl.

However the Patriots in ’96 had 2nd year runner Curtis Martin. During the season they forgot to give him the football as his stats fell from 368 carries for 1,487 yards to 314 attempts gaining 1,152. This trend continued in the Super Bowl as Martin had just 11 rushes for 42 yards in the game. One of which was the 18 yard touchdown in the 3rd quarter where he broke 4 tackles.

super-bowl-logo-1996This touchdown set up Desmond Howard’s 99 yard kick return to ice the game for the Packers. New England could have won had they fed Martin the ball. This would have kept Bledsoe’s passing lanes open. Instead Bledsoe’s 4 interceptions, 3 in the 2nd half sealed New England’s fate.

How different would Bledsoe’s career and legacy been had New England won Super Bowl XXXI?