2013 Denver Broncos Preview – One More Moment For Manning

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

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

Last year the Mile High City was buzzing with the prospect of Peyton Manning taking over the quarterbacking duties for a team that had been 8-8 in 2011. He didn’t disappoint as he led the Broncos to a second straight AFC West crown. This time with a 13-3 record accompanied with a first round bye. However a 38-35 overtime loss to the Baltimore Ravens brought an abrupt end to a dream season.

The window for the Broncos to crash the Super Bowl with a 37 year old quarterback is a short one. This off-season they picked up ace slot receiver Wes Welker and made some key draft selections that should have the Broncos in the thick of things in the AFC West. Was it enough to allow Denver to maintain their status as the division’s best??

Quarterback: Now we did mention that Manning will be 37 years of age right? That is 259 in dog years and is an age that could prove difficult to make it through a complete NFL season. When you flash back to last year’s playoff loss to Baltimore, there were a few times his passes seemed to get away from him. Some sailed and some floated and the question had to be asked: Was Manning tired or was he struggling in the cold??

Although he was learning new receivers in 2012, it could be argued Manning had his best season. He completed 400 of 583 passes (68.3%) for 4,659 yards, 37 TDs with just 11 interceptions. During the early part of the season he would have to find his stride during the first quarter of games. Then his production would pick up for the latter 3 quarters. Keep in mind during their season ending 11 game winning streak, only 3 of the defenses faced finished in the top half of the league statistically.

Now the element of surprise is gone as teams have a complete season worth of film to study the Broncos offense. Last year the penchant for throwing only in the middle of the field was noticed by many teams. The saving grace is he has big receivers that are good space eaters. However as the season progresses he will wind up with a “sore” arm and defenses will crowd the intermediate pass routes under 20 yards. He won’t have as good a year statistically as it happened to Brett Favre in his second year with the Vikings & Joe Montana in his second year with the Chiefs.  He will still be playoff caliber at quarterback in what should be his last season.

Montee Ball fell to the Broncos late in the second round.

Montee Ball fell to the Broncos late in the second round.

Offensive Backfield:  Yes it’s true Willis McGahee (731 yds / 4.4 avg) was on  pace for 1,000 yard season before he fell to an injury, but that’s just it. At 32 years of age a running back is at the point of breaking down and needs to be replaced or spot duty at best. Enter draftee Montee Ball out of Wisconsin. The NCAA all time touchdown scorer (83) will have every chance to win the job outright. He’s played against tough Big Ten defenses and can take the pounding. Ball runs between the tackles and has decent speed.

The same can’t be said of Knowshon Moreno (525 yds / 3.8 avg) or Ronnie Hillman (327 yds /3.9 avg). Neither have shown the tackle breaking power consistent enough to sustain a starting assignment. In fact it was Moreno’s inability to sell his wares to the coaching staff that made Broncos’ brass sign McGahee in the first place in 2011. Moreno has missed 17 games in the last two years to injury and entering the final year of his contract. He will be cut this summer.

The Broncos need the drafting of Ball to pay off. If he comes in and either starts or splits time with McGahee this can be a playoff caliber backfield. However they will only run enough as a team to make them an average backfield.

Thomas and Decker are the best Bronco receiver tandem since Rod Smith and Ed McCaffrey.

Thomas and Decker are the best Bronco receiver tandem since Rod Smith and Ed McCaffrey.

Receivers: The equivalent of hitting the lottery happened to Demaryius Thomas (94 rec.1,434 yds 10 TDs) and Eric Decker (85 rec. 1,064 yds 13TDs) in 2012. They had career years with a quality passer in Manning with Thomas improving his receptions by 62 and Decker 41. Now they have perennial 100 reception season slot ace Wes Welker to add to the fold. All three will see their reception totals go down as there aren’t enough passes thrown to sustain those numbers.

Now they also add Georgia wideout Tavarres King with a 5th round pick. This team is really stacked before we get to TE Jacob Tamme. Who benefits from being a part of a talented receiving corps more than just his excellent physical gifts.

However defensive coordinators have to ask themselves; Which receiver do you gear your defense  to stop first?? Thomas and Decker with their size can go up and get the football over smaller corners. It’s de ja vu’ as they look like a bigger version of Rod Smith and Ed McCaffrey, yet like the aforementioned Bronco pair neither are burners. They can get deep in situational scenarios but both of them are big targets in intermediate routes and will continue to produce. This is a playoff caliber group and Thomas should have made the Pro Bowl in 2012.

At 6'6 315lbs., Clady has become the prototypical LT and has made the Pro Bowl 3 times in the past five years. He has a long career ahead of him as the Bronco blind side protector.

At 6’6 315lbs., Clady has become the prototypical LT and has made the Pro Bowl 3 times in the past five years. He has a long career ahead of him as the Bronco blind side protector.

Offensive Line: To underscore the difference between a Hall of Fame quarterback and a couple of substitute teachers… Do you realize in 2012 the Denver Broncos attempted 159 more passes than in 2011 yet had their sack totals drop from 42 to 21?? As we alluded to                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            last year, this offensive line was better than their sack totals showed. Now that they have a pro quarterback in Manning to get rid of the football whether completing the pass or throwing it away, this groups was second in sacks allowed (21) while allowing the fewest hits on the quarterback in the NFL with 46.

Again LT Ryan Clady from Boise St didn’t disappoint, as he garnered 1st team All Pro status and made his 3rd Pro Bowl in a brief 5 year career. He hasn’t missed a game in his career up to this point. One place where the line could use some improvement is in the running game. They had 46 negative rushing plays and on obvious power situations (3rd /4th & 2 or goal) they were only able to power for a first down 69% of the time up the middle, and 62% to the strong side. If they were to run the football more effectively they can rest Manning’s arm during the season’s stretch run. Until we see more out of the running game we have to give them a playoff caliber grade.

If Sylvester Williams shows up in Denver, the rest of the AFC West could be in trouble.

If Sylvester Williams shows up in Denver, the rest of the AFC West could be in trouble.

Defensive Line: Whatever you do, don’t bring up former DE Elvis Dumervil when it comes to the defensive line. The Broncos spent their first round draft pick this year on DT Sylvester Williams who should be in the rotation from day one. Then they drafted DE Quanterus Smith in the 5th round who is going to be given every chance to show that he’s recovered from a knee ligament injury last season. They have signed a DT free agent in Terrence Knightson along with re-signing DT Kevin Vickerson. Keep in mind this is a team that finished #2 in defense overall and #3 against the run.

Vickerson turned in a solid 2012 with 40 total tackles and 2 sacks. He and Justin Bannan (42 tackles /2 passes defensed) were there to keep offensive linemen off the middle linebacker. Adding Williams in the first round will add some explosion to disrupting opposing running games. Second year DE Derek Wolfe quietly contributed 6 sacks last year opposite Dumervil. Have they adequately replaced him?? No… not yet but this team is sitting at  Super Bowl quality against the run without him. Especially if Williams and Smith can come through as rookies.

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.

Linebackers: The conversation on who is the best Outside Linebacker in the AFC begins and ends with Von Miller. In 2012 his stat-line was NFL Defensive Player of the Year worthy with 68 tackles, 18 1/2 sacks, 6 forced fumbles and an interception. He’s only 24 years of age and has a lot of productive years left. With Dumervil gone look for teams to slide their protection to him until someone emerges on the other side. He did disappear in last year’s playoff loss to Baltimore and had to live with that all offseason. He will come into 2013 motivated to show he can play without Dumervil on the other side, but his production will go down.

One glaring hole is at Inside Linebacker where Joe Mays stands to inherit Keith Brooking’s spot. On many occasions he misdiagnosed plays and couldn’t disengage from blocks. Play from the line up front masked most of this. If he can’t unseat a 38 year old linebacker in Brooking, the Broncos have to look elsewhere.

Another season like last year and Wesley Woodyard could be on his way to the Pro Bowl as his speedy play from the weakside made up for the lack of production from Inside Linebacker. He led the Broncos with 114 tackles and had 5 1/2 sacks along with 3 interceptions. With this much production we’re not necessarily sure where free agent pickup Shawn Phillips fits in here. This is a playoff caliber group until they can improve more on the inside.

Secondary: This is the Achille’s Heel of this defense. No we’re not just talking about S Rahim Moore, who let Jacoby Jones get behind him with 1 minute left in last year’s playoff loss. With such a strong pass rush (52 sacks) they should have had more interceptions (12) as a secondary. Also exposed in last year’s playoff loss was grey beard Champ Bailey who could not stay with the Ravens Torrey Smith. Twitter and Facebook blew up with fans saying he needs to be moved to safety next year. To which Elway and Broncos brass assured that wouldn’t happen.

S Rahim Moore will be able to excorcise his demons when the Broncos host Jacoby Jones and the Super Bowl champion Ravens in week one.

S Rahim Moore will be able to excorcise his demons when the Broncos host Jacoby Jones and the Super Bowl champion Ravens in week one.

Time to face some facts, by the time we get to the latter stages of the 2013 season, Bailey will be a liability and need safety help. He will be 35 and the season will take it’s toll. The problem is this safety group is anemic against the pass. How does Rahim Moore and Mike Adams only snatch one interception between them on a 13-3 team that always played with a lead?? Behind one of the league’s best pass rushes that had 52 sacks? That’s pathetic. Now the rush may not be as strong without Dumervil and if they have to blitz to make up for it….uh oh.

The Broncos brought in Dominique Rogers -Cromartie to help solidify the corner and drafted  Kayvon Webster in the 3rd round. Many draft pundits considered Webster a reach which underscores how desperate they are to get their secondary together. Rogers-Cromartie’s play has been mixed in the last two seasons. This is a good tackling secondary but bad in coverage. This is a below average secondary.

Overall: Last year the Broncos feasted on patsies while running away with the division. At one point last year, they’re division brethren were mired in a 17 game losing streak late in the year. Fellow AFC West teams have geared themselves toward facing the Broncos offense with Peyton Manning. Expect other teams to be better prepared this year. In all actuality the Broncos let one get away and now will have to face a newcomer in Kansas City and Andy Reid within the division.

This year they finish the regular season with 3 of 5 on the road facing the Chiefs and Texans. That December 1st game with Kansas City will have AFC West title ramifications. Denver also lost to Houston at home last year and many feel the Texans are geared to make it to their first Super Bowl. That will also be a big game. Don’t forget they start by hosting the defending champion Ravens then travel to New York to face the former champion Giants. This is no easy schedule.

http://www.denverbroncos.com/news-and-blogs/article-1/2013-Denver-Broncos-Schedule/aff0d7d5-1726-48ab-8979-73e02b391f43

What about Peyton Manning going back to play the resurrected Colts with Andrew Luck in week 7 on Sunday night?? Remember they were a playoff team last year and the Broncos were 1-3 against playoff teams in 2012. The murderous stretch run in December is the reason they will finish 10-6 this year. A possible wildcard could be looming…at least that is where The Chancellor of Football’s crystal ball tells us for 2013.

Next up: Kansas City Chiefs

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Taylor Blitz Times new logo!!

Taylor Blitz Times new logo!!

2013 Green Bay Packers Preview – Change Has Come To Lambeau

The Packers stand-out linebacker just inked a five year deal worth $65 million.

The Packers stand-out linebacker just inked a five year deal worth $65 million.

The Green Bay Packers filed out of San Francisco’s Candlestick Park in stunned amazement last January. They had just been victimized by one of the most electrifying post season performances in NFL history. Colin Kaepernick’s record setting 181 yards rushing on 16 carries while throwing for another 263 yards for a combined 4 touchdowns suggested the Packers were indeed a bad defense.

Aaron Rodgers and the Packers offense for the better part of 2 years masked the Packers defensive deficiencies. Yet they were exposed as needing speed in the secondary and  in need of power on the defensive side of the line. This off-season, gone is Charles Woodson, the game having robbed him of his once great speed through a series of injuries. Linebacker Eric Walden took his talents to Indianapolis. Factor these departures with the medical retirement of S Nick Collins, LB Frank Zombo signing with the Chiefs this offseason, then the run defense having never recovered from DT Cullen Jenkins’ departure and you have a defense in ruin.

This isn’t the team that won Super Bowl XLV in Dallas, February 2011. Now they have lost arguably their best receiver in Greg Jennings to the hated Vikings.  Ted Thompson and Mark Murphy have some work ahead of them in this year’s draft to restock a defense that had been deep. The question is: Will they keep their “Midas Touch” in mining good talent for the Packers coaching staff to mold into a good defense?? Or will this side of the ball let down Green Bay when they face the NFL’s elite?? Did you know the Packers were only 1-4 against playoff teams last year??

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

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

Quarterback: Suffice to say the Packers are more than sufficient behind center. Aaron Rodgers is in his prime and his last four years have been off the charts comparing him to any quarterback in football history. In contemporary times it is he and Drew Brees that have battled it out as to who is the best quarterback in the NFL. Taylor Blitz Times gives the nod to Rodgers. In the last four years he has attempted 429 less passes than Brees, yet is just behind Brees 142TDs to 156 TDs, while throwing a ton less interceptions with 32 to 66 for the man in the Bayou. By the numbers, if he threw another 429 passes he would be nearly 15 touchdowns ahead of Brees.

In 2012, the Packers won on his right arm as he conected on 371 of 552 attempts for 4,295 yards, 39 TDs and only 8 interceptions. A whopping 7.1  TD to interception ratio and 67.2% completion percentage. Rodgers is up for a big payday, an extension in the neighborhood of $120 million, but will this cripple the franchise by doing so?? https://taylorblitztimes.com/2013/03/30/huge-quarterback-salaries-feast-or-famine/

One thing that has crept up is Rodgers has a tendency to press in close games in the second half. It happened up in Seattle in the 14-12 loss   on Monday Night. We saw it in the loss to the Giants last year in the regular season, the 2011 playoff loss to the Giants and last year’s loss to the 49ers in the playoffs. He’ll miss on some throws that he has hit all year long, especially if he has been hit early in the game.

One game he didn’t was the 37-34 loss in the season finale to the Minnesota Vikings. Despite being sacked 5 times, he threw for 365 yards and 4 touchdowns which included a game tying touchdown to Jordy Nelson. Yet keep an eye out for this with a team with a deficient defense and an offense minus Greg Jennings. The boys in Lambeau are Super Bowl quality at quarterback no question.

Offensive Backfield: This is a spot on this team that is a mess right now. When Aaron Rodgers, who is not a running quarterback is second on the team in rushing with 259 yards, something is definitely wrong. Free agent Cedric Benson failed to pan out with only 248 yards, and a favorite during the Super Bowl stretch two years ago James Starks, rushed for only 255 yards. For us the jury is out on James Starks much as it is on Miles Austin in Dallas. When there are weapons around them… they can surprise. But when those defenses start focusing on them, they turn back into the moderate talents that they were scouted and regarded as. Could be time to cut ties here.

The Packers need to draft a quality back to take some of the pressure off Rodgers. Not a sixth round steal, they need a blue chip talent. Just as we warned before about putting all your money at the quarterback position and not spending to improve other positions, the Packers are at the crossroads. They haven’t gone after any runners in free agency this year. Hopefully they realize this and make some moves this weekend in New York at the draft. This group has a bad ranking until they draft someone better.

Randall Cobb brought a game breaking element to the Packers receiving corps as a rookie.

Randall Cobb brought a game breaking element to the Packers receiving corps in his second year.

Receivers: We mentioned several times already that Greg Jennings departed for the lakes of Minnesota. Now James Jones will have to step up to be “that guy”. Last year he led the Packers with 14 receiving touchdowns (64 rec. for 748 yards) which was due in large part to being the third receiver in four wide formations. Is he polished enough to be a solid X in Jennings place??

At tight end, Jermichael Finley is as solid as they come and should have his best season this year. Last year he hauled in 61 receptions for 667 yards and 2 TDs despite missing two games. The coverage he drew when the Packers were close to scoring is why Jones had so many touchdowns. Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb round out this receiving corps. These are the big play men when it comes to the passing game.

Nelson was nicked by injuries and only started 10 games. He averaged 15.2 yards per catch (49 rec / 745 yds / 7 TDs) and hopes to have a year like 2011 when he reached the endzone 15 times. Cobb is the explosive new element to the Green Bay arsenal. He’s a threat to return a punt for a touchdown or do so after a short pass. Last year he made it on the field as a receiver and had the type of season (80 rec /954 yds/ 8 TDs) that Packers’ brass believed they could let Jennings go. This is a playoff caliber group rather than a Super Bowl group… We have to see if Jones can be as solid as Jennings was as a starter. If not they can go 4 wide and still be effective.

Offensive Line: This is a spot where the Packers could use some improvement big time. If you’re going to pump $120 million dollars to retain the best quarterback in the league, you better be able to protect him. Everyone forgets that Rodgers, during the Super Bowl year, was one concussion from sitting the rest of the year by mid-season. Last year the Packers were second to last with 51 sacks allowed and he was hit an additional 85 times. He will get hit and with no proven depth behind him, his loss would doom the season if he were injured.

Everyone saw the Monday night massacre in Seattle when Rodgers was sacked 8 times and chased all over Qwest Field. In 6 of the first 8 games of this season, they face top ten defenses when it came to quarterback sacks last year. Three of those they play on the road… at Cincinnati, at Baltimore with Elvis Dumervil now, and at Minnesota. They start the season in San Francisco and they can ill afford to get Rodgers hit in that game.Don’t be surprised if the Packers use a high draft pick on the offensive line.

Part of their problem is they practice their passing and can’t provide a push in the running department. The Packers were 22nd in the NFl with less than a 4 yard average. Along with the injuries seen at the running back position, a fleet of runners started for Green Bay last year and not on of them could average 4 yard per carry. The weakness of this offensive front has been covered up by Rodgers and the receiving corps connecting on quick passes. This is a below average group and have to get tougher up front.

Defensive Line: Where do we begin when it comes to this defensive front?? In all reality this group wasn’t one of the reasons the Packers rose to 11th overall in defense. They were still ranked 17th in defense against the run and allowed 4.5 yards per rush to rival ball carriers. This is a need position in the draft. No question…

No player has fallen from grace as far as DT BJ Raji. He was pushed around and bullied in that playoff loss to San Francisco for playing too high. He recorded 0 tackles and 0 quarterback pressures during that game. For the season he recorded 26 total tackles and 0 sacks. Terrible. Fellow inside Defensive Tackle Ryan Pickett also never recorded a sack during the 2012 season. Here is where the Packers should use a draft pick in the next four days when the draft commences on Thursday. How could they not??

We spoke of the Packers inability to stop the run since the departure from Ryan Pickett. This defensive line gets shoved right into the safeties faces. Evidence by Adrian Petersen’s nearly back to back 200 yard games against them. With no transactions during free agency we have to wait and see who they pick in the draft. If they could spend two picks here…it would be beneficial to the defense. right now this group is bad….not below average. They’re making far too many plays downfield after the ball carrier has gained 5 yards.

Desmond_Bishop

The Packers best all around linebacker spent 2012 on injured reserve.

Linebacker: Although Clay Matthews was inked to a long term deal, the best overall linebacker was Desmond Bishop that missed last season on injured reserve.. He led the team with 121 total tackles 5 sacks and 2 forced fumbles in 2011.  He rejoins AJ Hawk who led the 2012 Packers with 120 total tackles and 3 sacks. However Hawk is somewhat of a liability against the pass without a  single pass defensed all year. He can get caught in space against speedy receivers and third down backs at times also.

One question is who will Kevin Greene develop to take Walden’s place at OLB opposite Matthews?? Will they draft a new player or possibly shift present ILB Brad Jones outside or promote Dezman Moses who had 4 sacks in spot duty last season. One position that is solidified is Matthews who is one of the league’s best pass rusher. His new five year deal will keep him in Green Bay until he’s 31. Last year he had 13 sacks and is the focal point of the pass rush. This group had 34 of the team’s 52 sacks. This is a playoff caliber group that is the best part of this defense.

Secondary: This group will have to develop a new leader with the loss of team captain and team favorite Charles Woodson. However they will be better at cornerback with the development of Casey Hayward (6ints) to go along with Sam Shields and Tramon Williams. Hayward led the team in interceptions and passes defensed with 21. Williams was 5th on the team with 61 total tackles and another 15 passes defensed.

New FS Morgan Burnett made plenty of open field tackles with 122 but needs to make a few more plays against the pass. He should improve in his second season as a starter. Right now there are more cornerbacks than safeties in-house and may. They would be better suited to move Burnett to Strong Safety and drafting a more natural ball hawk. Not trying to keep a fading Woodson in the lineup, this secondary could be even better and should be a playoff caliber group.

Casey Hayward,  Morgan Burnett

Hayward’s development gives the Packers three quality young corners.

Overview: Now someone may read that and ask if The Chancellor felt they needed to improve on back  seven yet gave the a playoff caliber grade. The Packers do pressure opposing quarterbacks yet have to blitz to do it. This includes the secondary who contributed with 5.5 sacks themselves. Yet this feast or famine leaves players in coverage too long or provide a Colin Kapernick immense running lanes.

The Packers have been quiet this off-season keeping the team intact and trusting their ability to draft. Over the last few years Green Bay has been able to stock the roster with quality talent. Can they stay ahead of their NFC North counterparts?? This draft will tell the tale. However they have come down from their perch as an NFC heavyweight and looks like they will battle it out just to be a wild card in 2013. Aaron Rodgers and the passing game can cover only so many deficiencies.

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2013 Cincinnati Bengals Team Preview – Slowly Building A Winner

Pau Brown Stadium

Pau Brown Stadium

Over the last two years the Cincinnati Bengals have charged into the NFL playoffs. It’s the first time they have gone in back to back years since 1982, the year after their appearance in Super Bowl XVI. In these recent years, they fell to the Houston Texans in the wildcard round of the playoffs. In 2011 they fell 31-10, however last year they lost a tightly contested contest 19-13. This year many pundits are calling the Houston Texans a Super Bowl favorite. If the Bengals have made strides to catch the Texans what does that make them??

If they were to meet the Texans for a third straight time in the playoffs, you do realize the odds are on the Bengals side…correct?? Over the course of NFL history, there are few teams that have won 3 in a row against an opponent in a five year period in the playoffs. Since 1950, only 4 times out of 11 had a team won all three times. Remember how the Indianapolis Colts vanquished playoff nemesis New England on their way to the Super Bowl XLI title?? How about when the Tampa Bay Buccaneers turned the tables on Philadelphia in the 2002 NFC Championship on their way to the Super Bowl XXXVIII title?? What are we getting at here?? Keep reading

Third year pro has led the Bengals to the playoffs in back to back years.

Third year pro has led the Bengals to the playoffs in back to back years.

Quarterback: Well coming off a sophomore slump is Andy Dal…wait…what sophomore slump?? Dalton is entering his third year where he improved on his rookie numbers in completion percentage (62.3% v. 58.1%), yards (3,669 v. 3,398) and touchdowns (28 v. 20). Now don’t forget he made the Pro Bowl as a rookie in 2011. Now that the Bengals have opened up the playbook further for a growing quarterback, he did suffer a few more interceptions (16 v. 13) and sacks (46 v. 24) than the year before. However the arc is going up on this kid at the exact same time the division is losing Raven Safety Ed Reed, and he’ll face 32 year old Safeties in Troy Palamalu along with a 34 year old Ryan Clark when he faces the Steelers. If their healthy.

He has gained NFL playoff experience over these last two years and you have to ask yourself; Is this the year he can break through and win a playoff game?? He has to continue his maturation for this to happen. Last year he didn’t look good in the wild card loss to the Texans. He was 14 of 30 for only 127 yards and 1 interception. He was a little unnerved by the crowd noise in Houston. He was apprehensive in that game and had to live with that the whole off-season.

He hasn’t missed a game in his brief career. At 6-2 215lbs, he is a big strong quarterback. He isn’t a threat to run like some of his contemporaries who have dazzled in The Pistol, however he did run for 4TDs last year. He isn’t afflicted by the Bengals losing ways of the past and has helped the team improve from 9-7 in 2011 to 10-6 in 2012. Only an injury seems to be all that could derail further development. Dalton is no fluke and gives the Bengals a fighting chance and ranks as a playoff caliber quarterback.

Offensive Backfield: This is where the Bengals should use a draft pick in a couple of weeks. Last year the Bengals let go of Cedric Benson and former Patriot BenJarvus Green-Ellis ran for 1,097 yards and 6TDs. He is a steady but not spectacular player. Yet just like Benson, they keep grabbing running backs off the scrap heap. To take the next step they need to put a play maker at this position instead of a stop-gap performer. With all the SEC picks in the last few years, would they take Eddie Lacy out of Alabama?

http://www.nfl.com/videos/auto/0ap2000000122777/RB-Green-Ellis-29-yd-run

The time is now to plug in a viable rookie running back with Green-Ellis still in the fold. He’s only 27 and has a few years left in him. Bengals brass has also re-signed Cedric Peerman who had a better average than Green-Ellis (4.7 yard avg v. 3.9 yard avg) but there had to be a reason why they named Green-Ellis a starter over him. It couldn’t have been pass protection with the team giving up so many sacks. Cincinnati needs a runner not a ball carrier to push the envelope. The league average for yardage per rush is always around 4.0 and that’s all they can get with these players. With that in mind the Bengals can only be average at the position. Maybe Green-Ellis in his second year with the team can be that guy. We’ll wait and see.

AJ Green is the best young receiver in the AFC, period.

AJ Green is the best young receiver in the AFC, period.

Receivers: The other component to the equation why the Bengals are rising to prominence has been the play of AJ Green and TE Jermaine  Gresham. Both are coming off back to back Pro Bowl seasons even though they are so young. In only his second season, Green caught 97 passes for 1,350 yards and 11 touchdowns. Do you realize he caught 32 more passes than his rookie year? He improved in all statistical categories. The Bengals have to develop or draft a complement to him so teams, like the Texans in last year’s playoffs, can’t roll coverage to his side.

Green has been able to blossom due to safeties having to pay attention to Gresham in the middle. At 6’5 261lbs, he is too much man for most safeties and linebackers struggle with his speed. He’s the AFC version of Vernon Davis just not as fast. Last year he had 64 receptions for 737 yards and 5 TDs. Career highs in catches and yardage. If the Bengals weren’t in so many spread formations, he would be a 1,000 yard performer. Do you realize he’s only going into his 4th season?? These two alone make the receiving corps. playoff caliber. Develop or draft another receiver and they will be Super Bowl quality.

Offensive Line: This is another area where the Bengals should look on draft day to improve team fortunes. Last year the Bengals rushed for 1,745 yards and 11 TDs. Very middle of the pack numbers in terms of production. Keep in mind they allowed 46 sacks which ranked 26th in the league. Now is not the time for RT Andre Smith to play hardball in contract negotiations. If they lose him they may have to draft a tackle in the first round. When rushing to the strong side last year, the Bengals were thrown for losses 10 times. While in obvious power situations (3rd /4th and 2 or goal line) they converted on 76% of their attempts. All factors indicate he will re-sign.

Left Tackle Andrew Whitworth just came off his first Pro Bowl and is going into his 8th season. Where he didn’t have to face a James Harrison in Pittsburgh last year, he’ll face division new comer Elvis Dumervil in Baltimore.  Elvis did beat him for a sack in last year’s 31-23 loss to the Broncos. This will be his nemesis when they face the Ravens. However up the middle is where the running game is most solid and should improve with Guards Kevin Zeitler and Clint Boling who will be 23 and 24 respectively. This group needs to improve in their pass protection and right now they are just average.

Geno Atkins leads the Bengals beastly pass rush.

Geno Atkins leads the Bengals beastly pass rush.

Defensive Line: One of the best defenses in the NFL is strongest right on the defensive front with DT/NT Geno Atkins and DE Michael Johnson. Atkins is only going into his fourth year and has been to the Pro Bowl two straight years. Last year he was 5th on the team in tackles with 54, had 12 1/2 sacks, and four forced fumbles while being voted All Pro. Johnson was right behind him with 52 tackles, 11 1/2 sacks as the team was 2nd in sacks with 52. Wallace Gilberry and Carlos Dunlap gave them 4 linemen with at least 6 sacks. This is a Super Bowl caliber group.

Linebackers: The surprising play of free agent rookie Vontaze Burfict gave the team a faster look on defense than in years prior. In only 14 starts, he led the team with 127 total tackles and had 1 sack. Rey Maualuga was right behind him with 122 stops and another sack. They just need to force more turnovers by interception or fumbles to be a great group.  If they can get a third blood thirsty linebacker behind that pass rush..watch out! Still a playoff caliber group with Manny Lawson still on board. Former Steeler James Harrison is close to a deal also. To add to the pass rush they already have??

Secondary: Did you know the Bengals were ranked 7th in the NFL against the pass and was 4th in passing touchdowns allowed  with 16?? They were right there with Atlanta (14), Seattle (15), and Baltimore (15) respectively. You’ll note that one won the Super Bowl and the other two battled to make the NFC Championship Game. However this group hasn’t lost anyone like the Ravens losing Ed Reed or the Falcons losing CB Brent Grimes to the Dolphins.

Defensive Co-Ordinator Mike Zimmer gets the most out of a hodge podge veteran laden group that doesn’t give up the big play. Leon Hall (37 tackles / 2 ints) is solid on one corner where they may need to look for Terrence Newman’s ( 73 tackles / 2 ints) replacement on the other side. He’s still playing well but will be 35 when the season starts. Adam “PacMan” Jones is there to lend support as is Nate Clements formerly of the Bills and Niners. Clements made the switch to safety for 9 games last season yet may have to mold a young safety if the Bengals can draft one. Another season like last year and Reggie Nelson will be in the Pro Bowl. He was 3rd on the team in tackles with 83, defensed 9 passes, and had 3 picks. This group is Super Bowl caliber based on their collective production.

Vontaze Burfict is another reason the Bengals are going to make a move in 2013.

Vontaze Burfict is another reason the Bengals are going to make a move in 2013.

Overview: This is as solid a team that the AFC has to offer. Their greatest asset this year is the continuity in coaches and player personnel. Then you look at the relative youth of all the key positions with Dalton, AJ Green, Vontaze Burfict, and Geno Atkins. Now The Chancellor has had his eye on this defense for some time now. https://taylorblitztimes.com/2011/11/01/week-8-afc-north-protecting-the-nfl-republic/ This team has an arc that is still going up. They were 7th in defense in 2011 and improved to 6th last year. This is no fluke.

If you look at their division record, in 2011 it was 2-4 which improved to 3-3 in 2012. They finished 10-6 which was the identical record of the Super Bowl Champion Ravens. Yet look at all the upheaval of personnel in both Baltimore and Pittsburgh this offseason. Now think of the hole Elvis Dumervil left in the Broncos defense. Who has a better defense than this football team??  The Bengals can finally concentrate on luxuries in the draft without any obvious weaknesses. Having adjusted to playing near the league’s elite, this young team will crash the playoffs and might make it to Super Bowl XLVIII. Don’t forget the first cold weather Super Bowl had the Bengals in the 16th edition. They will at least make it to the AFC Championship Game. You heard it here first.

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2013 Atlanta Falcons Preview – Did They Let Their Super Bowl Window Close?

Julio Jones was on a roll in the first half of the NFC Championship Game.

Julio Jones was on a roll in the first half of the NFC Championship Game.

Think back to the second quarter of last year’s NFC Championship Game for a second. Julio Jones had just caught his second touchdown to put the Atlanta Falcons up 17-0. The crowd was into the game and after the comeback scare the Seattle Seahawks threw at them the week before, there was no way the 49ers were going to comeback. No way. They were just a little over 2 quarters away from Super Bowl XLVII….or so they thought.

The 49ers roared back to rob the Falcons of that trip. It looked like the maturation of the 5 year plan of Head Coach Mike Smith had fallen just short. Future Hall of Fame Tight End Tony Gonzalez stood before the media  saying goodbye. A great NFL season had come to an abrupt halt.

However it looks like the 5 year plan came with a one year option as the Falcons coaxed Gonzalez out of retiring. They replaced a slowing Michael Turner with former St Louis Ram Steven Jackson to increase offensive firepower. Talks are still ongoing with former Giant DE Osi Yumeniora, who lives in Atlanta by the way, to replace the departed John Abraham.  Then get this… since the Falcons have lost more free agents then they have signed they have been awarded four additional draft picks for this year. An extra fourth rounder and three seventh rounders for a total of 11 draft picks. Maybe this sixth year won’t be so bad after all.

Matt Ryan's 6th year is where he has to step into the league's elite in the playoffs.

Matt Ryan’s 6th year is where he has to step into the league’s elite in the playoffs.

Quarterback: Nowhere else can you look at a quarterback and say the future is now like you have to with Matt Ryan. Once we watched Joe Flacco break through to join the ranks of Super Bowl champion quarterbacks, just winning a playoff game is not enough. Although if you look at the playoff game he won he showed you why some still have question marks about him. In that game he was 24 of 35 for 250 yards 3TDs, but threw 2 interceptions that helped fuel Seattle’s comeback. He disappears in the middle of games and did so in the NFC Championship as well.

What leads to the upside is he did march the Falcons to his first playoff win after falling behind with :31 left to play. With a berth in the NFC  Championship at stake “Matty Ice” connected on 3 passes and put them in range of the winning field goal to escape 30-28. He led the Falcons on 6 last second winning drives like that in the regular season, so he is cool under fire.

For the season, his stats were spectacular completing 68.6% of his passes for a team record 4,719 yards and 32 touchdowns. Owner Arthur Blank succeeded in drafting a QB to be the face of the franchise after the Michael Vick era. However Ryan sat in that tier of “yeah-but” quarterbacks with Joe Flacco, Matthew Stafford, Jay Cutler, and Tony Romo as regular season statistical guys that hadn’t shown up in the post-season. Now that he’s in his prime and Flacco broke through that wall, he has to do so as well. He has to keep his intensity for the entire game and not wait until the last minute. At quarterback the Falcons are Super Bowl quality.

Jackson should be deadly in this offense.

Jackson should be deadly in this offense.

Offensive Backfield: The signing of former St Louis Ram running back Steven Jackson could be the move to put Atlanta over the top. Face it Michael Turner in recent years declined from being a good running back to a marginal ball carrier. He could only get the yardage the offensive line produced and nothing more. Evidence?? How about 3.6 yards per carry for the season??

Enter Steven Jackson. There was an overall feeling in previous years, throughout the league, that the Falcons weren’t a tough team. Jackson with his bruising style should change that completely. Although the Rams went to a passing offense he still made it to 1,042 yards in just 257 carries. In 7 of the last 8 seasons he has averaged 4.1 yards per carry or greater. That’s as the focal point of the offense.

Now he gets to line up with Julio Jones, Roddy White, and Tony Gonalez as passing targets to free the running lanes?? Yikes!! He hasn’t had anywhere near that much talent around him before…trust us Danny Amendola doesn’t scare defensive co-ordinators. He should have a 1,400 yard season now that he has a chance at a Super Bowl ring. That hunger should feed the team’s urgency as well. Jacquizz Rodgers is the 3rd down / change of pace back who has some burst. Only going into his 3rd year he’s learning the game and is adept at slipping out and catching passes for 1st downs. They’re going to be playoff quality at least with Jason Snelling backing up Jackson as well.

One more year for the future Hall of Famer.

One more year for the future Hall of Famer.

Receivers: Just when NFC South defensive co-ordinators thought they could take a break, Atlanta drafts Julio Jones. Now they bring back Tony Gonzalez for another go ’round. By the way you do realize in 2010 Roddy White led the NFL with 115 receptions while being second in yards with 1389 yards right? That was 3 years ago?? Well last year White caught 92 passes for 1,351 yards and 7 touchdowns and may not be the best receiver on the team anymore. Julio Jones replaced him on the NFC Pro Bowl roster after a 79 catch  1,198 yard season where he scored 10 touchdowns. This is firepower!! Jones is only going into his 3rd season and benefits from the coverage afforded White and Gonzalez. Defenses can pick their poison because they are going to lose.

Which brings us to the slowing, aging veteran tight end in Tony Gonzalez. Wait a minute, what aging process?? He caught 93 passes for 930 yards and 8 touchdowns. He was voted All Pro and made the Pro Bowl. In all actuality, this may be the greatest group of traditional receivers (2WR / 1TE) in NFL history. It certainly is when it comes to production. These guys had 264 rec. for 3,479 yards and 25 touchdowns. Compare this with the 1980 San Diego Chargers who had John Jefferson, Charlie Joiner, and Kellen Winslow when they had 242 receptions for 3,762 yards and 26 touchdowns. It’s certainly worth debating and for one more year this team is Super Bowl quality at the receiver position.

Offensive Line: One loss for Atlanta is the retirement of 14 year Center Todd McClure. However the line needs some improvement as evidenced by their fall to 29th in rushing with just over 1,300 yards. In contrast with the same cast of characters they were 12th in 2010 with almost 1900 yards. Look for a draft pick to be used to fortify the offensive line, whether a Center is drafted or a guard is picked. One will switch over to snap the football. They only allowed 28 sacks as a unit but frequently couldn’t push the pile on 3rd and 1 to keep drives going. Did you know that on 3rd or 4th and 1 including goal line, this group could only power for the first down or touchdown on 50% of rushing plays up the middle or to the strong side??

How much of that falls on the line and how much falls on the running backs?? Well since every running back ran for less than 4.0 yards per carry and the short yard percentages were 25th and 24th respectively, this group gets the blame. When it’s 3rd and 1, you don’t need Eric Dickerson to get that yard. It’s a matter of attitude and toughness at that point and this team needs to get tougher on the point when they run. Since they did get Matt Ryan hit 80 times passing the football this team gets an average grade on the offensive line. We have to see how they develop.

Defensive Line: Although there is speculation this team still hasn’t signed Osi Yumeniora or the replacement for John  Abraham yet. You have to understand they needed help to rush the passer anyway. Did you know that John Abraham not only didn’t record a sack in last year’s two playoff games, he didn’t produce 1 tackle?? You have to go back to the two losses to the Giants and Packers in 2011 and 2010 to find some postseason pass rush from him. Just one sack in each of those which turned out to be losses. Kroy Bierman (4 1/2 sacks) Jonathon Babineaux (3 1/2 sacks) and Vance Wlker (3 sacks) are the returning linemen. Just 10 sacks between them. The Falcons were 24th overall and 21st against the run and this group has to take the brunt of that as well.

The Falcons will need to draft some help and possibly sign two key free agents here. After watching this group get tortured trying to chase Russell Wilson who threw for a postseason rookie record of 385 yards against them, you see why Falcon’s Brass is making the change. That should have favored a John Abraham and it didn’t. This could be the group that sinks the Super Bowl aspirations of this team and is below average.

Weatherspoon is a fast heady player who should continue to get better.

Weatherspoon is a fast heady player who should continue to get better.

Linebackers: This is a speedy group that often gets linemen out on them when the team is run on. They have to shed blocks better and Sean Weatherspoon should have a breakout year going into his fourth season. Last year he tied Stephan Nicholas with 95 tackles for the team lead while compiling 3 sacks, an interception and a forced fumble.This is with him missing 3 games last year.

Nicholas also garnered 2 sacks and an interception in his 6th season. Right now they are as good as it gets in the NFC South. These two are on the field for nearly every play including the Spread and Pistol formations. They just need to make a few more splash plays and force more turnovers to improve the defense from a statistical and tactical standpoint. With a little improvement this will be a playoff quality group.

Secondary: Last year the Falcons acquired Asante Samuel to help with the nickle slot receivers and insurance if they lost Brent Grimes or Dunta Robinson. Turns out Grimes went down with an injury and all Samuel did was intercept 5 passes returning them for 110 yards and 1 touchdown. What was amazing is the Falcons only had 7 total interceptions from their cornerbacks. Now Grimes and Robinson are elsewhere and Samuel is entrenched as a starter. Opposite him could be Robert McClain but he’s more of a journeyman than a starting cornerback. Look for the Falcons to make a move for a veteran here with a late summer pick up more than a draft choice since they’re trying to win now.

Samuel is the NFL's all time post season interceptor, yardage, and touchdown leader.

Samuel is the NFL’s all time post season interceptor, yardage, and touchdown leader.

The Falcons are better at safety where Thomas DeCoud (76 tackles / 6 ints) and William Moore (76 tackles / 4 ints) had a nose for the football. Each will support the run and tackle well in space. Since the Falcons have to manufacture a pass rush they’ll blitz their safeties as well. Both DeCoud and Moore recorded sacks last year. One of the reasons the Falcons were exposed in the secondary was the weak pass rush that left them in coverage too long. If they can shore that up this would be a playoff quality group, right now we have to leave their ranking as average.

Overall: The Chancellor of Football’s crystal ball comes down to the Falcons taking a trip to Seattle for the NFC Championship if the Falcons complete the moves necessary to move forward. Shore up the Center position, rush the quarterback better and give the ball to Steven Jackson to maintain drives like Michael Turner used to in years gone by. Matt Ryan needs to play complete games and not take 3rd quarters off and a better running game can aid from a tactical standpoint. Shore these up and they can make a run at history. Keep your eye on one or two defenders that get cut by other teams being scooped up to fill holes in the defense. Last year it worked with Samuel. For the 3rd straight year Taylor Blitz Times has the Atlanta Falcons headed for the conference championship…

They host RG III and the Redskins, Patriots, and Seattle again with the winner of that game possibly getting the homefield advantage. After that there are two away games that present problems. One trip to San Francisco and one to Green Bay, if the running game is intact each of those are very winnable. The Chancellor sees the Falcons with an 11-5 or a 12-4 record. They won’t go 13-3 again. It’s all lined up for them if they get the breaks and shore up their defensive front. Time will tell if Matt Ryan is going to make them a Super Bowl team.

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2013 Seattle Seahawks Preview – Ready To Make A Move

Coach Pete Carroll has the NFL's best young defense.

Coach Pete Carroll has the NFL’s best young defense.

There had to be some serious angst going through the minds of Seattle Seahawk players, coaches, and fans when the 49ers came back and won the NFC Championship. Just a week prior the Seahawks were :31 seconds away from the biggest road playoff comeback in NFL history. Being down 20-0 in Atlanta, the Seahawks made a furious rally that saw them take a 28-27 lead and a rematch with the San Francisco 49ers was beginning to crystalize.

A team they had throttled 42-13 just three weeks prior. Then Matt Ryan ended those hopes with two completions and a last second field goal for Atlanta to escape 30-28. As the two teams left the field that day there was a sense the better team hadn’t won. Then to watch history repeat itself with the Niners comeback and you could feel the groans coming from the pacific northwest. Furthermore, how different would the NFC divisional against Atlanta have been had sack leader Chris Clemons (11 1/2 sacks) not been injured??

Quarterback: For all the talk of Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III, and even Colin Kaepernick, it was Russell Wilson that was the most impressive first year signal caller in 2012. It was his play that set in motion the late season quarterback change in San Francisco. They were tiptoeing around the issue playing Kaepernick in spots until they saw Wilson’s progressive improvement at the season’s midway point. Then the Niners pulled the trigger.

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.

Russell’s performance last year was the best rookie quarterback season in NFL history. Not only did he help turn around the fortunes of the Seahawks, he tied Peyton Manning’s rookie record of 26 TD passes. However he only threw 10 interceptions compared to Peyton’s 28 during that same 1998 campaign. His total stats were 252 of 293 for 3,118 yards along with 94 car. for 489 yards and 4 touchdowns. He never showed any nerves nor did the games ever seem too big for him. Where the Seahawks started 1-5 on the road, Wilson’s play improved and they won their last 3 including a wild card win in Washington.

The key to his use of The Pistol was he improved his throwing touch and ball placement as the year went on. He knew when to throw the ball away as much as when to run when the ‘read option’ was called. Unlike a few of the other quarterbacks in the same offense, The Chancellor of Football doesn’t see a sophomore slump. The number one reason is he had to endure the baptism by fire at the beginning of last season. Where others like Luck and RGIII seem to hit a wall, Wilson kept improving and was within :31 seconds of the NFC Championship. Head Coach Pete Carroll has to get him in camp and get working on his second season and keep him from having his head in the clouds. At quarterback the Seahawks are Super Bowl quality.

Marshawn Lynch closed in on the goal line during the playoff loss to Atlanta.

Marshawn Lynch closed in on the goal line during the playoff loss to Atlanta.

Backfield: Is there a tougher running back in the NFL than Marshawn Lynch?? Along with Adrian Peterson of the Vikings, no running back clearly defines his team and inspires it through his play. He powered for a career best 1,590 yards rushing and 11 touchdowns as he benefited from the Pistol and the read option in 2012. Last year Lynch was able to get a step on linebackers who were hesitant to attack the line of scrimmage trying to defend against Wilson pulling the ball out and running himself. He was able to be full speed at the point of attack in many of his runs. It’s no coincidence he had a career best 5.0 yards per carry average which was up from 4.2 just a season before. Both years he was a Pro Bowl player. Entering his 7th season, “Beast-mode” may have his career prolonged with this offense allowing less wear and tear on him. He’s only turning 27 this year so there is at least a three year run with him as the featured back barring injury. This team is Super Bowl quality as long as Lynch is running the football.

Receivers: This could be where the Seahawks address a need in this year’s draft. Sidney Rice (50 rec. 748 yards 7 TDs) needs a new running mate. Golden Tate (45 rec. 688 yards 7TDs) benefits more from Wilson’s mobility to get open than Rice does. With the right compliment, Rice could return to being a 1,200 yard receiver as teams try to jam the intermediate area (15 yards and under) playing the ‘read option’, it’s fakes and a bigger better receiver that can get open underneath. Because of his physical nature, Tate is better in the slot where he can block and doesn’t shy away from contact. Ask Cowboy linebacker Sean Lee after last year’s encounter.

When the team is lined up in more traditional sets, Wilson has Tight Ends Zach Miller (38 rec. 396 yards 3TDs) and Anthony McCoy (18 rec. 291 yards 3TDs) to keep the chains moving. Tactically they are good enough as a unit to win with but could use an upgrade at the ‘Z” receiver and that would free Rice to attack the deep safeties. If they don’t make a move here they will stay below average.

LT Russell Okung is one of the best tackles in the NFL.

LT Russell Okung is one of the best tackles in the NFL.

Offensive Line: This was one of the quiet strengths of the team last year and should be a staple in 2013. John Madden gave his award to the San Francisco 49ers offensive line but this group had a better season. Not only did they give up fewer sacks (33-41) but they paved the way to 2,579 yards (3rd best in the NFL) and 17 touchdowns. Center Max Unger and Left Tackle Russell Okung both made the Pro Bowl and are going into their 4th and 3rd years respectively.  In two games against the 49ers they only game up 1 sack against Aldon Smith in both games combined. Without any weaknesses, this group looks to be intact for the next three years and is Super Bowl quality.

Defensive Line: The end of the line for the Seahawks came when it was announced that sack leader Chris Clemons was going to miss the NFC Divisional round against Atlanta. They couldn’t mount a pass rush and Matt Ryan was never sacked in the game. This is where the Seahawks could go after another pass rusher whether they bring in a free agent or draft a few players. Clemons had 40 tackles to go along with 11 1/2 sacks and needs some help from LE Red Bryant never got to the quarterback all year. That has to change if they’re to get where they want to go. Designated pass rusher Bruce Irvin did amass 8 sacks but you have to be able to rush the passer on every down since it’s more of a passing league now.  Defensive Tackles Brandon Mebane and Alan Branch were stout against the run with 56 and 30 tackles respectively. They ranked 10th against the run and had 20 1/2 sacks but could use more quarterback pressures and are playoff caliber up front.

Bruce Irvin tallied 8 sacks in spot duty rushing the passer.

Bruce Irvin tallied 8 sacks in spot duty rushing the passer.

Linebacker: The speed of the Seahawks was most evident at linebacker. Bobby Wagner led the team with 139 tackles and also had two sacks and three interceptions. He had an even better season than divisional rival Patrick Willis at MLB. Whom he might replace in next year’s Pro Bowl with another season like he had. Outside linebacker K.J. Wright started 15 games and garnered 96 tackles and 1 sack. Thes two play a relatively fast game. Trained by Coach Ken Norton Jr, these two fly to the football smothering running backs and tight ends in the under and immediate areas. They don’t miss tackles and at 23 and 24 years old respectively, we should see even more improvement this year. Leroy Hill rounds out this unit and is the greybeard at 30. Will he maintain his starting role in 2013 is a question as this young team develops. This is a Super Bowl caliber group.

Earl Thomas patrols the deep middle for Seattle.

Earl Thomas patrols the deep middle for Seattle.

Secondary: Twitter feud and arguing with Skip Bayless on ESPN’s First Take withstanding, Richard Sherman is one of the best cornerbacks in the NFL. Last year he made the Pro Bowl with 8 interceptions, 63 tackles, a quarterback sack, and 3 forced fumbles. That’s a tremendous year for a player going into his 3rd season. You play like that, you can talk like that. FS Earl Thomas joined him in Hawai’i after a 61 tackle, 3 interception performance. However a couple of dropped interceptions kept SS Kam Chancellor from joining them. He had 91 tackles and several thunderous shots as the enforcer of the best secondary in football. These three are 24, 25, and 25 years of age and play a fast physical game.

Brandon Browner is at the other corner and stands 6’4. He along with 6’3 Richard Sherman are the first issues that teams face. They can’t throw over them. They also manhandle smaller receivers when they jam them on the line of scrimmage. Don’t forget Head Coach Pete Carroll’s expertise is coaching in the secondary. Right now he has the best in football and is definitely Super Bowl quality.

Overall: If you thought you read the phrase Super Bowl a bunch while you were reading this, you weren’t mistaken. This team was undefeated at home in 2012 and then learned to win on the road as Russell Wilson matured. Their margin of victory at home got wider and wider as the season progressed. In their last two home games they beat the Cardinals 58-0 and the NFC Champion 49ers 42-13. They are aggressive, young and fast.

They were the first team to score 150 points in a 3 game stretch in the last 60 years in the NFL. Even in defeat down in Atlanta, Russell Wilson concluded his rookie of the year campaign with 445 combined yards and almost pulled off a great comeback. If you think this team isn’t on a Super Bowl course for 2013, you haven’t watched the NFL that long. They have no obvious weaknesses. The Chancellor of Football sees the NFC side of the ledger going to this group from the pacific northwest.

2012 NFC East Previews & Predictions

Robert Griffin III, the new hope for the Washington Redskins.

Its always interesting to watch the reaction of division foes when you have a surprise NFL champion. There will be responses from the Jerry Jones’ comments on the Cowboys “Super Bowl window closing.” As though they too can make the necessary leap from also ran to world titlist. You’ll have teams like the Washington Redskins make an immediate splash that will pay future dividends in drafting a dynamic quarterback like Robert Griffin III. While a loaded Eagle team, long thought to be the division’s most dominant, do minor tinkering figuring this to be the year they put it all together.

Meanwhile the steady Giants have just marched along with a ‘business as usual’ quiet approach to the new season.  However they did make a move in signing TE Martellus Bennett formerly of the Dallas Cowboys He will want to make an impact against his former team this Wednesday in the NFL’s Season Kickoff Classic.  How will things play out in the NFC East for 2012??

2012 NFC EAST PREDICTIONS

New York Giants 10-6 *

Philadelphia Eagles 10-6

Dallas Cowboys 6-10

Washington Redskins 4-12  

Hate to say it but the buzzards will be circling Cowboys Coach Jason Garrett by week 10. Take a look at Dallas early schedule and tell us who they will beat in their first 8 games. Maybe Seattle and Carolina as the only sure wins. Then they follow that up with back to back road trips to face a playoff bound Falcon team and the hated Eagles. Of 2011’s top 13 ranked defenses, they face 8 of them in a total of 10 games which doesn’t include the two with the World Champion Giants. For a fan base that doesn’t entirely believe in Tony Romo this could be it as the Cowboys will face a truly difficult season. The pressure heaped on an under talented team by one Mr. Jerry Jones will come back to haunt them.               https://taylorblitztimes.com/2012/05/26/the-chancellor-weighs-in-on-jerry-jones-comments-on-cowboys-super-bowl-window-closing/

As for the talented Eagles, they will frustrate their fans with games where they look like world beaters and then come up anemic against a team they should beat handily. Truth of the matter is we may have seen the best of Michael Vick already. At 32 years of age this isn’t the spry kid running around the SuperDome with Virginia Tech anymore. The hits have mounted and he has missed 7 games in the last two years. Now they have former Buffalo Bill Trent Edwards, who was a starter that was cut and not traded, backing him up and not a somewhat proven Mike Kafka. Uh oh!! Losing former Pro Bowl Tackle Jason Peters to injury this off-season is not going to help matters. Vick has to be more controlled with his feet and use his arm more to cut down on his hits. He goes down for another 3 or 4 games this season, that will be the losing streak that will allow the Giants to take the division from them when they face each other in Week 17.

McCoy operates best in space. To do so he needs Vick to remain healthy to be most effective.

For Eagles fans they have to realize the tactical disadvantage for RB LeSean McCoy this year if Vick goes down for any significant time. Sure he ran for 1,309 yards and 17 touchdowns but did so with Vick and Vince Young as quarterbacks. Peeling defensive ends and linebackers had to pay attention to those two mobile quarterbacks first. This gave McCoy freedom he won’t see with a stationary Trent Edwards on the field with him.

Although the Eagles ranked 8th in total defense in 2011, many are considering this a bounce back year for them. They did sign former Texans underrated LB DeMeco Ryans to anchor the middle of their defense and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie is the new starting corner opposite Namedi Asomugha. They definitely need Namedi to live up to the billing as the top cornerback in football after signing him to that big free agent contract last year. Have they found the best way to utilize him yet?? Time will tell but the truth of the matter is this isn’t the same Eagles team of promise at the end of 2010. They have come back to the NFC East pack.

The Robert Griffin III experience will start in DC. Much like Cam Newton did last year he will have the chance to start Week 1 and offer a glimpse of the Redskins future. The talent level of the rest of the roster will keep this team in the division cellar as Griffin III develops. It will be a season of growing pains as defenses in the latter part of the year will know his limitations and game-plan better. It happened to Cam Newton last year as it has every young quarterback once defensive co-ordinators have studied a young quarterbacks tendencies. How well will Shanahan and the Redskins adjust?? Long season but hope for the future.

Two time Super Bowl winner and coming into the prime of his career, Eli Manning.

For the 2012 season, the World Champion Giants are the best team in this division for an entire season. Each team will have their moments or 3 to 4 week stretches where they look great…but for 16 weeks?? Eli Manning becoming one of the NFL’s vanguard at quarterback. Jason Pierre-Paul coming into his own as another great New York pass rusher. Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks have the talent to be the best starting WR combination in football. The only weakness this team has is running the football for the tough 3rd and 1 or goal line situations. They will work that out with Ahmad Bradshaw as the season progresses. As for defense of their Super Bowl title?? Starts this Wednesday when they host the Dallas Cowboys and expect to chase Tony Romo out of the building.

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