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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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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Report Card: San Diego Chargers

While the Denver Broncos have retooled their defense in an attempt to make it back to the Super Bowl, one team has begun to turn heads. The San Diego Chargers aren’t just posing as the #1 challenger for the AFC West crown. They’re posing as a legitimate threat to win the entire conference.

Phillip Rivers is the early season MVP of the league.

Phillip Rivers is the early season MVP of the league.

We keep wanting to take the Cincinnati Bengals seriously but when it’s time for them to win that champion’s building block landmark game, they fall flat on their face. Enter the San Diego Chargers…

Do you realize the Chargers are on a 5 game winning streak which began with a win over the defending champion Seahawks?? Did you know Phillip Rivers is the first QB in NFL history with 5 straight games with a passer rating of 120 or higher?? He is tied for 2nd with 15 touchdown passes thrown. Although Andrew Luck leads with 17, he’s thrown 7 interceptions to Rivers 2.

Head Coach Mike McCoy could be up for NFL coach of the year honors this season.

Head Coach Mike McCoy could be up for NFL coach of the year honors this season.

Their only loss was to the 4-1 NFC West leading Arizona Cardinals. So this team has been through an early crucible that should serve them well as they gear up for a huge game against Denver in 2 weeks. Therein lies the problem. How do they not look ahead of this weeks game against the Kansas City Chiefs?? That is the #1 item for Head Coach Mike McCoy to convey to his team.

Has anyone coached better than Mike McCoy this season?? You would be hard pressed to find one. At the beginning of the season you had backfield cogs Ryan Matthews & Danny Woodhead. Since they have been lost to injury, Branden Oliver (249 yds rushing / 124 yds receiving) has emerged as a spark plug. He runs with an explosive fury where Donald Brown is the steady sacrificial runner for this offense.

I know what you’re thinking… sacrificial?? Yes sacrificial.

The Chargers have been a power rushing team averaging 31.6 rushing attempts per game. The Chargers know Brown (59 car. 126 yds)will not break any nifty shifty runs. His runs are the equivalent of a boxing jab to just help wear down the defense. In keeping defenses honest TE Antonio Gates has re-emerged with 6TDs on 24 receptions. He hasn’t scored at this pace since 2004.

San Diego stands to get Ryan Matthews back from injury in 5 weeks. The ground and pound approach that has allowed Rivers to flourish has kept the defense rested as well. Right now they field the 3rd best defense in football.

Right now the Chargers have the NFL’s longest winning streak in football with 5. They have scored 30 or more in 4 games and it was their blueprint Dallas took to Seattle in their watershed victory last week. Two weeks from now they could be 6-1 going into that Sunday Night tilt in Denver. At stake, control of the AFC West and possible control of the conference as a whole.

Don't forget how well Charger coach Mike McCoy knows Peyton Manning.

Don’t forget how well Charger coach Mike McCoy knows Peyton Manning.

Last year the Chargers won in Denver on a Thursday night 27-20 but lost the rubber-match in the playoffs there 24-17. Those were the two lowest point totals for the record setting Bronco team a year ago who this year aren’t as potent. This year the Chargers are a little more battle hardened and must show it by not overlooking the Kansas City Chiefs.

The following week will take care of itself. Thanks for reading and please share the article.

AFC Divisional Playoff: San Diego Chargers @ Denver Broncos

The last game of the National Football League’s divisional round of the playoffs. All week long we have heard two camps: The pundits who always say Peyton Manning can do no wrong. In the other the question is being raised on the legitimacy of his legacy having lost so many times in the playoffs in his first game. Did you know that Joe Montana only lost four times in the playoffs in his first game?? Peyton has double that with 8. How is Manning being called the greatest ever quarterback again?? Yet I digress…

Phillip River's team has beaten Manning led teams twice in the playoffs in the past.

Phillip River’s team has beaten Manning led teams twice in the playoffs in the past.

One amazing aspect is if you go back to the beginning of the 2012 season, it was up in the air how the Manning tenure in Denver was going to go. They were 2-3 when they were down 24-0 to the San Diego Chargers. Phillip Rivers was having his customary good game when the wheels came off. Denver roared back to win 35-24. http://www.pro-football-reference.com/boxscores/201210150sdg.htm The Broncos went on to win the final 11 games of the season while San Diego lost 7 of their last 11. They even lost their coach as Norv Turner was fired.

So the Chargers brought in the Denver Broncos offensive coordinator when they made Mike McCoy their head coach. You don’t think he brought information with him to Southern Cal playbook information?? You don’t think that Chargers defense doesn’t know Bronco tendencies and formations?

The Chargers quite frankly shouldn’t be here. They struggled against a Chiefs team that was playing mostly back-ups. Yet here they are playing with house money. They ran the football 40 times in the upset of Cincinnati and now they get to rematch and close the circle against Manning and the Broncos. Did you know that Phillip Rivers is 6-2 v Denver?? The key to San Diego winning at Invesco Field is to run the football like that with Ryan Matthews again. Without Von Miller and Kevin Vickerson, the Bronco defense is missing a lot of firepower v the pass and the run.

Ryan Matthews is the key to this football game.

Ryan Matthews is the key to this football game.

For the Broncos they have to run the ball 40 times themselves and take the ball out of Manning’s hands a little. Remember Super Bowl XXXVII when Jon Gruden taught the Buccaneers every tendency of his former quarterback and team in Rich Gannon and the Raiders?? Turned out great for the Bucs in that Super Bowl triumph. We think the same thing is going to happen here. Remember the Chargers are riding a 5 game winning streak. In an upset the Chargers win 30-24.

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NFL Week 5: Peyton Manning Sets The Pace

At the end of the NFL 2013 season many experts have the Denver Broncos headed to New York and Super Bowl XLVIII. Why not? We’re talking about the #1 offense in the NFL right now averaging 483 yards per game. Worse part is they just pulverized the #2 offense in the Philadelphia Eagles 52-20 and let’s face it, they could have scored 80. Peyton Manning and the Bronco offense rank first in passing with an average of 383 yards per game with an obscene 179 points scored. Are you serious?? They are on pace to score 719 points for the 2013 season. Now the count will begin elsewhere for the Broncos possibly going undefeated along with shattering numerous passing records in the process.

Peyton Manning has turned each of the last four games into a surgeon's clinic on how to pay quarterback.

Peyton Manning has turned each of the last four games into a surgeon’s clinic on how to pay quarterback.

However posing as the #1 challenger in their own division no less are the 4-0 Kansas City Chiefs. Andy Reid has kept the Chiefs in games playing stout defense and a low risk / high yield offense that doesn’t beat itself with turnovers. Going into last week’s contest with the Giants, Alex Smith was one of three quarterbacks (one was Manning)  who had gone the longest without an interception this season.

They’re forte through this first stanza of the season has been to play conservative football and not put their 7th ranked defense in a demoralized position. Led by the NFL’s sack king Justin Houston (7.5 sacks) this defense has forced 12 turnovers which includes 3 at the expense of the Giants last Sunday. Lets take a look at the standings.

West Division

W

L

T

PCT

PF

PA

HOME

ROAD

DIV

CONF

STRK

LAST5

Denver Broncos Broncos 4 0 0 1.000 179 91 3-0 1-0 1-0 2-0 W4 4-0
Kansas City Chiefs Chiefs 4 0 0 1.000 102 41 2-0 2-0 0-0 1-0 W4 4-0
San Diego Chargers Chargers 2 2 0 .500 108 102 1-1 1-1 0-0 0-2 W1 2-2
Oakland Raiders Raiders 1 3 0 .250 71 91 1-1 0-2 0-1 1-2 L2 1-3

Don’t overlook the San Diego Chargers too quickly. Sure they lost Dwight Freeney for the season with  a torn quad, but this is a 2-2 team that could easily be 4-0. They’re only 6 points away from it. Last Saturday Phillip Rivers tortured the Dallas Cowboys with a 401 yard passing day with 3 touchdowns. Rivers consistently found the mismatch as he threw all 3 of his TDs against Cowboys linebackers. Danny Woodhead was a surprising star with 2 scoring receptions. Yet the Chargers keep playing very close to the vest affairs that could short circuit their season.

Phillip Rivers is off to an unbelievable start in 2013 as well.

Phillip Rivers is off to an unbelievable start in 2013 as well.

Lost in the wake of Manning’s performance is the fact Rivers is off on a torrid pace of his own. Through four games he is 105 of 142 for an astounding 73.9% completion rate for 1,199 yards 11 touchdowns to just 2 interceptions. He is on pace to throw for 4,800 yards and 44 touchdowns himself. Can they fast break with the Broncos when they meet them in their two match-ups.

Last year the Broncos finished the season on an 11 game winning streak that began overcoming a 24-0 deficit to the Chargers. Each team’s season turned on that game. San  Diego finished the season 4-7 which cost Head Coach Norv Turner his job. The Chargers haven’t forgotten and will be looking to pay Denver back in kind. New offensive Coordinator Ken Wisenhunt comes in with a roven background and two Super bowl appearances by his offenses in the last decade. They have to overcome the loss of Dwight Freeney as the season rolls on.

As for the Kansas City Chiefs…it’s hard to not cheer for a team that went through the turmoil they had last year. It wasn’t just the 2-14 season they had to endure….most people forget they had a suicide inside their practice facility by a player last year to compund things. Now with a proven winner with a chip on his shulder in Andy Reid (see Sal Paolantonio video leaving field in Philadelphia wo weeks ago) and a proven commodity in former 49er Alex Smith, this team is quietly on a mission. The Chancellor forwarned you about this team: https://taylorblitztimes.com/2013/05/13/2013-kansas-city-chiefs-preview-tools-for-a-resurgence/ This is about redemption in Kansas City and nothing motivates men like when they feel they have something to prove.

Justin Houston is a wrecking ball of a linebacker, and at 23 years of age, has just scratched the surface.

Justin Houston is a wrecking ball of a linebacker, and at 23 years of age, has just scratched the surface.

Just like San Francisco found out last year: A sure-fire champion wakes up in the middle of a season and finds themselves the hunted in their own divisional back yard. As all of NFL coverage has talked about Manning’s torrid start ad-nauseum, keep a few things in mind. On defense the Broncos are 24th in football and the Chargers should be able to score with them. Second Ryan Clady is still inactive and this week the Broncos have to have a back up Tackle play against DeMarcus Ware. This game against Dallas could be interesting.

Last but not least keep a few things in mind… Peyton Manning is not a good cold weather Super Bowl and to win it all he’ll need to win 3 games out in the elements. Just remember one of hi worst losses was a 41-0 drubbing against the New York Jets in the same spot that this year’s February Super bowl will be held. Last but not least, the greatest scoring offenses in NFL history, the 1983 Washington Redskins (541 points), the 1998 Minnesota Vikings (556 points), and the 2007 New England Patriots(589 points), ALL eventually ran into a defense and DIDN’T win the title. In fact two lost in the Super Bowl and the other in the NFC Championship Game. Further evidence of this we can throw in the 1990 Buffalo Bills , the 2011 New England Patriots, and the 2001 St Louis Rams for good measure. Bronco fans learn from history and be humble as this season grows on. The first question is:  Do the Kansas City chiefs have one of those defenses that can slow Manning and company before they get out of their own division??  Something to think about…. although right now Manning has established a record setting pace

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Is The 2004 NFL QB Draft Class The Best Ever?

Eli Manning has two rings….were they better than the 1983 class?

With 3 members of the great quarterback class of 1983 in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, at first glance you might say no. Until you realize the class of 2004 has 4 Super Bowl rings won between Eli Manning and Ben Roethlisberger. Not only are they in the prime of their careers but you have to include Pro Bowl QB Matt Schaub and Phillip Rivers as well. Many pundits have the Houston Texans as an AFC favorite to make this year’s Super Bowl and Phillip Rivers has made the AFC Championship along with a couple of Pro Bowls. How do they stack against the great classes of the past??

Well for starters this class didn’t have to live up to the expectations of the class of 1999. Remember that group? Donovan McNabb, Duante Culpepper, Tim Couch, Akili Smith, and Cade McNown were the hot quarterbacks anointed to challenge the class of 1983 yet came up woefully short. Couch, Smith, and McNown were out of the league within 5 years. Culpepper had some big seasons culminating with an NFC Championship visit in 2000 and had his best season in 2004 with 4,717 yards and 39 TDs. After that he was a journeyman playing for several teams.

As for Donovan McNabb, he was the face of the Philadelphia Eagles and led them to 4 straight NFC Championship Games and a Super Bowl appearance. He played with distinction for well over a decade and was a Pro Bowl quarterback 6 times including 5 straight years (2000-2004). For his career, he threw for 37,726 yards and 234 touchdowns while crossing the 3,000 yard threshold in 8 different seasons. Yet no Super Bowl victories. The class of ’99 only had 1 Super Bowl appearance.

Which brings us to the hallowed class of 1983. Dan Marino, John Elway, Jim Kelly, Todd Blackledge, Ken O’Brien, and Tony Eason were the signal callers who were going to dominate pro football for the next 15 years. They did….well kind of. With all of them going to the AFC, the next decade worth of drafts were slanted to pass protecters, specialist linebackers who defensed the pass better than the run along with receivers, and cornerbacks to cover them. The AFC took to the air as their earthbound counterparts in the NFC were rooted in the ground with power running schemes and more stout physical defenses. As the decade wore on each of the class of 83 started making their way to the Super Bowl. One after the other they went down in Super Bowls XIX- XXVIII in 10 straight games. Only after the Denver Broncos built John Elway an NFC team did the class of ’83 finally win two Super Bowls. Four of them reached the Super Bowl and three of them made it to multiple Super Bowls. While Elway, Kelly, and Marino rewrote the record books: Were they better than the ’04 class??

Big Ben has had playoff heroics that are either equal or surpass those of John Elway

The biggest issue the newer quarterbacks face is perception. The media fawned over John Elway being the prototypical quarterback (6’3, blonde hair, golden arm) that he rarely faced detractors until his Super Bowl losses. Sportswriters of the time lauded Marino for his cool in the face of a blitz, and Kelly for his toughness. Roethlisberger, because of a few off field incidents, is rarely thought of in high regard when it comes to writers who romanticize the game’s players. His scrambles and daring play are every bit as good as John Elway’s and has won more games for the Steelers than most can keep count. Where Elway had The Drive (Elway’s 98 yard drive to tie the 1986 AFC Championship Game) Roethlisberger led a last second drive culminating with a last second touchdown throw to win Super Bowl XLIII with :42 seconds left. We hardly hear of it talked about in the air of Elway’s drive when Big Ben’s was greater because it won a Super Bowl. Why?? Talk about playoff heroics… What about the 3rd and 19, 58 yard bomb to Antonio Brown with 2:00 left in the 2010 playoff with the Ravens?? It led to the game winning score and another Super Bowl visit. Others in that instance would have played for overtime. Yet where is the coverage of his daring or a nickname for either of these moments??

Did we say last second drives to win Super Bowls?? Well Eli Manning has two. Not only did he take down an undefeated Patriot team in 1 Super Bowl (2007), he proved it wasn’t a fluke with an encore performance in the 46th edition. Where Elway won one conference championship game with a last minute drive on the road, Eli has done that twice now in Green Bay and San Francisco in overtime. He has become the NFL’s all time winningest quarterback in the playoffs with 8 wins away from home, he set the record for road wins in a season with 11. Then what may go down as one of the defining games of his career happened last Sunday. After throwing 3 interceptions early in the game to put his Giants in a hole, Eli comes back with 240 yards passing in the 4th quarter alone in beating Tampa Bay 41-34. The Giants scored 25 points in that final period as Manning threw for 510 yards overall. He came within 45 yards of the all time record of 554 set by Norm Van Brocklin in 1950.

Comparing these two classes is one-sided in the favor of the ’04 group when it comes to Super Bowls. The latter group is 4-1 in the big game where the ’83 group was 2-10. Where John Elway was the winningest quarterback in NFL history at one time, folks are slow to notice Roethlisberger is approaching 100 with a total of 84 right now. To further tilt matters this group is in it’s prime and how many Super Bowl visits are in the near future when we include Matt Schaub and possibly a Phillip Rivers (both are 2-0 to start 2012). As of right now there are 3 busts in Canton from the earlier group but this one is better and hasn’t come close to finishing their run yet. They need to get the respect their elders did concerning their on-field heroics.

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