2015 AFC Predictions

Before we get into the heart of this conversation, The Chancellor of Football is going to take you back to a simpler time. The year was 1999 and the St Louis Rams were gearing to take on the NFC West bully on the block San Francisco 49ers. The Rams won the 1st game of the 1990’s between the two then lost the next 17 straight. They were the laughingstock of the league and beating the Bengals, to go 3-0 broke the tie between St Louis and Cincy as to which team had the most losses in the decade.

For the Rams to be taken seriously, they had to beat their long time division bully. A young Chancellor of Football explained to my friend Allan Kennedy – if the Rams can win this game they will make the playoffs. If they beat them handily they can make it to the Super Bowl. He looked at me as though I was crazy. When a team builds and the animosity permeates the entire roster, when its good enough, it goes looking for that bully. Do you realize with a win today Buffalo will have beaten the two teams that faced off in last year’s AFC Championship Game??

buffalo bills2015 AFC East Champions: Buffalo Bills

2015 AFC North Champion: Cincinnati Bengals

2015 AFC South Champion: Indianapolis Colts

2015 AFC West Champion: San Diego Chargers

Wildcards: New England Patriots, Pittsburgh Steelers

AFC Champion: Buffalo Bills

This is what sits before the Buffalo Bills today as they take on their nemesis in the New England Patriots. The confidence gained from knocking down a conference heavy is what cements a team on the rise. In 1980 the Bills beat the Dolphins for the first time after losing all 20 games to them in the 1970’s. They made the playoffs andnearly the AFC Championship Game.

The Indianapolis Colts will win the South but Andre Johnson looks extremely slow in a Colts uniform. They need to establish Frank Gore and gain some physicality on the offensive side of the ball. Luck is a growing quarterback but struggles against Defensive Coordinators that give different looks. Do they have enough defense to get to Super Bowl L?

Phillip Rivers will have a great 2015.

Phillip Rivers will have a great 2015.

The team that is growing steadily is the San Diego Chargers under Mike McCoy.  Phillip Rivers and his Charger teammates in the past have played up and down to their competition. This is the year they break the hex the Denver Broncos have over them and win the division. Last year Rivers threw for 4,286 yards 31 touchdowns and just 18 interceptions. Once they can get rookie Melvin Gordon running the football and Antonio Gates back from suspension, this team could be 3-1.

They fielded the NFL’s 9th best defense and added Jacoby Jones to bolster their return game. Their solid at every position on their roster now the young talent needs to mature and Rivers can’t have down games. He’s 33 now and a veteran that should put it all together this season.

The AFC is wide open this year and the Steelers and Patriots have serious deficiencies on defense. These units will grow and mature but not in time to to serious damage this season. Malcolm Butler is a Super Bowl hero but he got torched by Brown of the Steelers in week 1. If corners Brandon Browner and Darrelle Revis gave the Pats a championship pedigree defense, then losing them reduces them to the latter half of the league.

Taylor is prepared to lead the Bills into the playoffs.

Taylor is prepared to lead the Bills into the playoffs.

Which brings us back to the Bills who return the 4th best defense in football. Rex Ryan the season before had the 6th best defense when he ran the New York Jets and the Bills have better personnel. Now that DT Marcell Dareus is back to join Mario Williams this team can be lethal if they can play with a lead. They will finish as the #1 defense and have a stable of backs. LeSean McCoy and Percy Harvin are the wildcards to keep Tyrod Taylor from feeling like he has to make all the plays. Rex will play him like the AFC version of Russell Wilson. If you get through the first two reads and aren’t comfortable, take off for 5 yards.

Ryan used the formula of power running, solid defense, and a quarterback minimizing turnovers and made it to back to back AFC Championship Games in 2009 and 2010. That was with a rookie in Mark Sanchez at quarterback. Tyrod Taylor has a Super Bowl ring from his days in Baltimore as he learned the NFL going against the Ravens defense in practice. he is not overwhelmed and will do fine.

Tyrod Taylor celebrating at the end of Super Bowl XlVII.

Tyrod Taylor celebrating at the end of Super Bowl XLVII.

As for the intro?? The St Louis Rams blew out the San Francisco 49ers in that 1999 match-up 42-20, went on to sweep them for the season and won Super Bowl XXXIV. Buffalo will win handily today over New England.

If they can get to Super Bowl L as The Chancellor of Football thinks…. they’ll run right into a former Buffalo Bill playing running back for the NFC Champion.

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New England Patriots Super Bowl XLIX Ring: Capping An Era

Patriots frontLast February the New England Patriots won their 4th Super Bowl championship in the last 14 years. Coach Bill Belichick and Tom Brady have been front and center for each one. In doing so they became only the second coach /quarterback combo to achieve 4 titles in the Super Bowl era. On Sunday they attended a ceremony hosted by Robert Kraft to receive the hardware commemorating the event.

With all that has hit this organization over the last couple of years, you knew Kraft was going to go all out. Detractors had said Belichick hadn’t won since Spy-Gate. The legacy of Tom Brady as the best quarterback of his generation, was in question by some pundits. Victory in Super Bowl XLIX completely laid those to rest.

First off the team had gone undefeated, played in two Super Bowls, and appeared in two more AFC Championship Games since. So where the Patriots hadn’t won since Spy-Gate argument came from never made sense. How Tom Brady held a 3-1…oops make that 4-1 advantage in Super Bowl victories somehow had him behind Peyton Manning was lunacy.

Patriots side 2Going into Super Bowl XLVI, I already gave Belichick his laurels. Where Vince Lombardi was the NFL’s greatest coach of the first 50 years of pro football, Belichick is the greatest of the last 50. Eight trips to the AFC championship game, six Super Bowl appearances with four wins. No one comes within hailing distance of that type of performance.

It will be interesting to watch how pundits speak of this era of Patriot championships in the future. The first dynasty ended with their victory in XXXIX against the Eagles. Yet they won consistently for the next decade before winning it all 10 years later. Someone might bring up the 1980-1990 San Francisco 49ers, but they didn’t have two more trips to the Super Bowl between championships during their tenure. Just NFC Championship losses to the Dallas Cowboys.

Patriots sideWhat about the Dallas Cowboys of the 1990’s who won 3 championships in 4 years?? Well the first dynasty equaled that feat of 3 in 4 years and consistently won for a decade after that, appearing in 3 more Super Bowls winning one. Dallas won only 1 playoff game in the next decade after that.

Now if we put the Patriots up against the Pittsburgh Steelers of the 1970s and the Green Bay Packers of the 1960’s the debate intensifies. Many will point to the Spy-gate and Deflate-gate incidents to tarnish their accomplishments, yet it’s not enough.

This run for sustained excellence is one of the best in NFL history. As The Chancellor of Football, looking at this ring I don’t think of  the 2014 championship, I think about the closing of an era. Last year they won on guile and quarterback know how, they weren’t clearly the best team. Yet they didn’t have to be.

Winning back in February had more to do with the championship mettle Belichick and Brady were able to instill in a new group of Patriots. Much like the 1979 Pittsburgh Steelers, 1995 Dallas Cowboys, and the 1967 Green Bay Packers they barely finished ahead of the pack. Will they do so in 2015?? You’ll need to read the previous article to see how The Chancellor thinks they’ll fare in 2015. It’s this bauble that cemented the legacies of the Patriots, Belichick, and Brady.

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2015 New England Patriots Preview: Winds of Change

When Malcolm Butler jumped Ricardo Lockett’s slant in the waning moments of Super Bowl XLIX, it was one of the great plays in NFL championship history. In one swoop Butler thwarted a Seahawk dynasty. Cemented the post Spy Gate legacy of Tom Brady, and insured his name will be bought up at the end of every close Super Bowl through out eternity. In the next couple of weeks, the Patriots will receive their championship rings commemorating the event.

McCourty and HightowerYet now the Patriots have to get back to work. Amid all the pomp and circumstance is the pending suspension of Tom Brady. The Chancellor’s stance is he will miss the first 4 weeks.

If it were true the signing of CBs Brandon Browner and Darelle Revis made the Patriots a Super Bowl contender, what does their departure mean?? Now subtract Vince Wilfork (The U) from the center of that line and the Patriots are rebuilding defensively.

They re-signed LB Brandon Spikes and released him after the ordeal with his abandoned car / accident. They did not need another p.r. hit on the heels of an Aaron Hernandez guilty verdict, and the aftermath of “Deflate-gate.

Brady's suspension appeal will fully impact the 2015 season.

Brady’s suspension appeal will fully impact the 2015 season.

Offensively: This begins and ends with the upcoming suspension of Tom Brady. If he serves his full suspension, he can’t practice with the team and wouldn’t be back until week 5 against the Colts. The offense won’t get in rhythm until the 9th or 10th week. Keep in mind Brady is 37 yrs of age where the difference shows up in hundredths of a second off in throwing motion and velocity. This leads to interceptions on passes toward the sideline 10-15 yards downfield.

Belichick will have to balance the offense in his absence. He did it masterfully with LeGarrette Blount (281 yds) and Jonas Gray (412 yds) last year when Stevan Ridley was lost to injury. Last year’s 2nd leading rusher Shane Vereen (391 yds) was re-signed where Ridley was lost to free agency.

The team just announced today the signing of QB Matt Flynn. In Jimmy Garoppolo the Patriots don’t fully trust. So now they have some quarterback insurance if Brady’s appeal is unsuccessful.

Chandler Jones and Rob Ninkovich are averaging 16 sacks per season as a tandem.

Chandler Jones and Rob Ninkovich are averaging 16 sacks per season as a tandem.

Defensively: One block in the rebuilding of the defensive line came on draft day when Texas DT Malcolm Brown was taken in round 1. The 320 lb. is more of a 3 technique DT than a NT like the departed Wilfork. Belichick will rotate him in with Alan Branch and Chris Jones given all the fronts he uses.

The saving grace to this defense is the tandem of Chandler Jones and Rob Ninkovich. Jones, with 23.5 sacks in his first 3 years, is due to break out in his 4th season. Those long Jevon Kearse-like arms make him an ideal blind side rusher. He’s across from Ninkovich, who is the consummate professional coming off an 8 sack season. The rush will need to offset the inexperience in the secondary.

Overall: This team is steady but not spectacular and that will come back to haunt New England in 2015.  It looks to be the last time the Patriots will be clearly the best team in  the AFC East. As a champion last year they split with Miami and Buffalo then swept the Jets by a combined total of 3 points. It just takes a couple bounces of the ball to go from 12-4 to 10-6.

Now remove Tom Brady from the equation for 4 weeks and the accumulative effect of all these distractions. Add to that the loss of Revis and CB Brandon Browner and an 8-8 to 9-7 record is very possible. Remember this defense was 16th against the pass, 13th overall and allowed 313 points with those two and Wilfork. Where will the on-field leadership come from??

Patriot fans better pray that Brady’s suspension is reduced. If not, this team could be 1-4 after the first 5 games. This team is steady but not spectacular. There are no real play makers to turn around tight games outside of Brady and he turns 38 August 3rd. If the suspension stays in place, the best this team will finish is 9-7.

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The Chancellor’s Take on Deflategate

nfl-iphone-wallpaper-2Well here we go again as the New England Patriots are locked in the latest scandal involving deflated footballs. I’ll be brief… A new football is like a new baseball glove. You work it in and squeeze it rub it and get the sheen off of it so you can get a better grip. This is common place in the NFL of not only quarterbacks but kickers.

Remember the introduction of the “K” ball??  The NFL believed that the higher percentage of field goals made was directly related to kicking “worked in” footballs. So the decision came down to have a series of balls marked with a “K” that were hands off to teams. The other balls they were able to throw, squeeze, and work in the 12 they want to use for game play. Every team does it…every quarterback does it.

The late Weeb Ewbank, who coached the Jets to victory in Super Bowl III, once said at a coaches clinic  “All I want is my fair advantage!” Which means everyone is pushing the envelope of what they can get away with or at least moving ever so close to the line.

However it has set in that the rest of the NFL is tired of the New England Patriots. Not one active quarterback came to Tom Brady’s defense as “Deflate-gate” was first investigated. They’re all squeezing and working in balls all the time. Where they have overstepped their bounds is having the equipment guy taking the air out of the football. That is what will get the Patriots and Roger Goodell in trouble.

The Patriots are in trouble because of their history with “Spy-Gate” and the $250,000 fine levied against them. This makes them a repeat offender. In a year where the Cleveland Browns and Atlanta Falcons were penalized for pumping in crowd noise, expect a heavy fine. Richard Sherman pointed a light at Roger Goodell’s chummy relationship with Patriots owner Robert Kraft during Super Bowl week. That spotlight is about to intensify…

Richard Sherman's comment about the relationship between Roger Goodell and Robert Kraft are coming back to haunt.

Richard Sherman’s comment about the relationship between Roger Goodell and Robert Kraft are coming back to haunt.

Did you notice the decision came down 1 week after the draft?? Now the Patriots can’t be penalized draft picks for this season. That will cause a groundswell of anger amid owners over this next week. Looks like a “scratch my back” move by Goodell and it can come to cost him. When it comes to competitive balance you have to be decisive and the punishment severe. The man that will have to be suspended when the axe falls is Tom Brady.

Brady wasn’t forthright in dealing with the investigation and lied about his involvement. Of course he knew what was being done because its the quarterback who selects what 12 balls a team is going to use on gameday. As Goodell has been harsh with his suspensions of players over domestic abuse and non-competitive violations, he has to be harsh here. Brady has to be suspended between 4-6 games or Goodell will come off favoring Kraft again.

The other owners shouldn’t stand for a suspension less than that and there will be grumblings from players if the punishment isn’t severe either. Black players will come forward stating Goodell won’t harshly punish a prominent white player. Teams that face the Patriots in the first 4-6 weeks will rally on the side of suspending Brady for those reasons. More importantly, Goodell is going to have to face the Richard Sherman allegation of favoring the New England Patriots owner.

During Super Bowl week, Robert Kraft vehemently demanded an apology for Bill Belichick and Tom Brady if they were cleared of wrong doing. Now that they haven’t all eyes are on Goodell in New York.

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Adrian Peterson Sweepstakes

The saga that has been Adrian Peterson and the Minnesota Vikings is just heating up. Did the Minnesota Vikings do enough to show support while Peterson served his suspension??  It culminated in a shouting match at the scouting combine between team brass and Peterson’s agent. Clearly there is a disconnect and the best back in Viking history wants out.

Where will Peterson play in 2015??

Where will Peterson play in 2015??

The key is he said he will not take a pay cut nor will he renegotiate his contract in any fashion. So a sign and trade is out of the question. Will the Vikings be forced to cut him?? Now that he is reinstated it’s time to talk about possible destinations for the NFL’s best back. Sure his father has an idea where he wants to go but a lot can change when GMs move quickly.

1. The Arizona Cardinals – Please, please, please get the on air radio personalities out here to quit talking about Andre Ellington like he is an elite back. Never have I heard a more marginal talent talked about with such reverence. Peterson’s lifetime average of  5.0 per carry would be a serious boost here over Ellington’s paltry 3.3 yard average in 2014. If Arizona had a legitimate running game last year they may have had a deep run in the playoffs.

In all actuality, cutting DT/DE Darnell Dockett, Ted Ginn Jr, and restructuring Larry Fitzgerald’s contract has freed $15 million in cap space. The Cardinals can sell him on the weather, a stout defense, a returning Carson Palmer, and the fact the last 3 NFC representatives in the Super Bowl hail from the NFC West.  Peterson is 30 and if his intentions are to make it to a Super Bowl this is a legitimate landing spot.

You know they have talked at the Pro Bowl what it would be like to play together.

You know they have talked at the Pro Bowl what it would be like to play together.

2. The Detroit Lions – This is a great landing spot for all the reasons mentioned with the Cardinals. Last year it was the Lions with the NFL’s #2 defense and only a controversial call kept Detroit from the divisional round of the playoffs. You want to talk about a big three?? Matthew Stafford, Calvin “Megatron” Johnson, and Adrian Peterson would be a sick combination. Keep in mind Peterson has at least 3 good years left and the Lions just cut Reggie Bush.

Another note to keep in mind is the high propensity for players to sign with a division rival to show their old team that they still have it. Emmitt Smith to the Cardinals, Thurman Thomas to the Dolphins, Lawyer Milloy & Drew Bledsoe to Buffalo, Brett Favre to the Vikings, then last year with Julius Peppers going to Green Bay and Jared Allen going to Chicago.  What better way to get back at Minnesota than to go for 200 on them??? Detroit is on the rise folks and Peterson is that missing piece.

3. New England Patriots – Now here is where folks will think The Chancellor of Football has lost it. Until I remind you when the 2003 defending champion Patriots acquired Corey Dillon…remember that??  Again Peterson is 30 with a few prime years left and just like Dillon never had a great team around him. Well in 2009 the Vikings with Favre did make it to the NFC Championship but the balance of his career has been spent with very average talent.

Peterson may be willing to take a little less for the chance to play for the game’s ultimate prize. Take a look at the long list of veterans who have signed with New England to play with Tom Brady. Look at last year alone in acquiring Darrell Revis, Brandon Browner, and Brandon LaFell.

It could even be on a 1 year proposition. Remember when Deion Sanders bypassed several 4 yr – $15-17 million contracts to sign with the 49ers for $1.1 million in ’94?? Of course the collective bargaining agreement would force the Pats to pay him a minimum around $4 million but you get the point. Bill Belichick always has an ace up his sleeve and to pull in a Peterson is within range.

4. Indianapolis Colts – After the Trent Richardson trade cost them this year’s #1 draft pick, the Colts would overpay to get Peterson. Everyone says you can get a quality running back in later rounds. Well not this team. The Colts haven’t had a running back pay off since they drafted Joseph Addai in 2007. That is 8 years ago!!

Signing Peterson would shift the balance of power in the AFC and Andrew Luck could have the weapon that would propel him to the Super Bowl. Luck has proven he can carry the organization but he needs help to topple New England. Painfully we have seen this for several years.

Adrian Peterson has a decision to make but one thing is certain, he will play with a serious chip on his shoulder this first year back. If the performance is anything like his 2012, he will get stronger by the game. He should have at least 3 prime years left as a work horse runner. That is his Super Bowl window.

nfl-iphone-wallpaper-2Everyone, including Peterson is saying the Dallas Cowboys but lets give this some thought… Why would the Cowboys get a 30 year old runner over a 27 year old runner who just set the season record for rushing?? Why would you challenge the collective adhesiveness of the offensive line, running back, and huddle temperament with QB Tony Romo??

In reality, the Cowboys are taking a hard negotiating stance with Murray and Dez Bryant as they have with black players throughout the team’s history. Remember when Troy Aikman received a new contract for $50 million before his contract was up and Emmitt Smith had to hold out just to get $13.5 million?? Us old timers do and know several other stories…so Peterson beware. You’re just a bargaining chip to Dallas.

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Divisional Preview: Baltimore Ravens @ New England Patriots

Now its time for the big boys to swing into action. For most Patriot backers, they believe that Rob Gronkowski is going to be the difference. He wasn’t there as the Ravens had playoff success in Gillette Stadium.

Terrell-Suggs-Baltimore-Ravens-Football-2011-NFLIf you think back to Lee Evans dropping that last second touchdown in the 2011 the AFC Championship, this team would be on a winning streak in Foxboro. Baltimore can pressure with Elvis Dumervil along with Terrell Suggs. This will allow Darryl Smith and CJ Moseley to concentrate on clogging Brady and Gronk’s passing lanes. With Haloti Ngata back from suspension, he’s rested and should stop the run.

New England fields a better defense and Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner can take away the Ravens receivers as well. The truth is Steve Smith will sneak open a couple times as will Torrey Smith. It will be a tight contest and the winner will be the Baltimore Ravens 26-21.