2016 NFC Predictions

As the nation mourns the 15th anniversary of 9/11, we’re kicking off another NFL season. The memorials have made today more sobering than the open giddiness of last week’s kickoff with college football. Yet we move on and remember those lost.

Winston is growing as a signal caller.

Winston is growing as a signal caller.

Here in Phoenix, all the radio shows have been abuzz with a Super Bowl or bust season for the Arizona Cardinals. Of course their flagship station is all pro Cardinals with only one on air personality, John Gambadoro, remembering his awful finish. This echoes The Chancellor of Football’s view that their season begins and ends with the psyche of a 37 yr old quarterback who has never had NFL postseason success. Our NFC West preview still has Seattle as the class of the division.

In Dallas, the Cowboys feel they have found their quarterback for the future in Dak Prescott. With 1st round pick Ezekiel Elliott the offense will benefit from an offensive line that paved the way for 2014 rushing champion DeMarco Murray. The question is how will Prescott perform when he is faced with real exotic NFL regular season defenses?? Will it be enough for the Dallas Cowboys to win the east??

rs_news_photoNFC West Champs: Seattle Seahawks 12-4**

NFC North Champs: Green Bay Packers 12-4

NFC South Champs: Carolina Panthers 10-6

NFC East Champs: New York Giants 9-7

Wildcards – Arizona Cardinals, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

The team to reach Super Bowl LI in Houston will be the Seattle Seahawks. Once there they will beat the Pittsburgh Steelers 33-26 to win their 2nd title in a 4 year period.

Russell Wilson will have an MVP season as he matured into a total quarterback last year in Marshawn Lynch’s absence. Thomas Rawls and Christine Michael will be able to maintain a solid rushing attack. Wilson can still take off on runs to supplement his growing prowess as a passer. Keep in mind he has already been to 2 Super Bowls and down the stretch he threw for 24 TDs to only 1 interception in the last 7 games.

The Legion of Boom defense is still formidable and finished 2nd only to the World Champion Denver Broncos. They are still the best team in football and if they force teams to make that long trek to the Pacific Northwest, this team is hoisting the trophy.

In the East, the New York Giants with their offensive weapons will lean on their defense for the first part of this season. Yes you heard that correctly. Eli Manning and the offensive woes of the preseason will take until midseason before they gel late. Coach Jason Garrett’s defense is way too porous for the Cowboys to win this division or even make a playoff push.

The roof will cave in on the Washington Redskins and the Philadelphia Eagles for different reasons. Kirk Cousins will have it all on his shoulders as the Redskins let Alfred Morris go. NFL Defensive Coordinators now have a year of film on Cousins and he will have a sophomore slump and no proven runner to lean on.

The Eagles are a mess and are about to start a rookie QB in Carson Wentz who missed most of the preseason with a rib injury. Are you serious?? Philadelphia may win less than 4 games this season.

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

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

However the Seattle Seahawks are the class of the NFC and the NFL and will win Super Bowl LI.

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The 2015 MVP Candidates Not Named Brady

As the NFL season winds down, talk invariably turns to awarding the top players for peak performance. The national pundits have clamored all year how Tom Brady will be NFL MVP as though it’s been decreed on high. Completely overlooking deserving candidates turning in career seasons.

Carson-PalmerCarson Palmer: Do you realize Palmer is 19-3 as the Cardinals starting QB dating back to the beginning of 2014?? Of course the MVP is for this year’s performance, yet show The Chancellor who has outplayed him. The Cardinals have the NFL’s #1 offense and the #4 passing attack. With today’s performance, Palmer leads the NFL with 29 TDs to just 9 interceptions and 3,693 yards of real estate gobbled up this season.

The Chancellor has always said it isn’t just about the numbers.. it’s about leadership, performance vs expectations, and how would his team fare without him? For Palmer we saw last year when Arizona collapsed after a 9-1 start when he went down. Before he did, he spearheaded a win on the road in Seattle. The signature win of this season came in the 39-32 win in Seattle on Sunday night a few weeks back. They knocked down the NFC West bully when the world was watching. Then followed up with a 34-31 win over a Cincinnati team vying for home field advantage in the AFC.

With the Cardinals fighting tooth and nail with Carolina for home field in the NFC, you can start the MVP conversation with Palmer.

One of the NFL's most electrifying players.

One of the NFL’s most electrifying players.

Antonio Brown: Absolutely the best receiver in football. Unlike Julio Jones, he has had to perform with 3 different quarterbacks and has amassed 85 receptions for 1,192 yards and 5TDs. Keep in mind we’re talking about 5 complete games with Landry Jones and Michael Vick under center. Those stats and there are still 5 games for Brown to play!! He’s on pace to catch 123 receptions for 1,723 yards as the Steelers make a late season playoff push. He’s currently 2nd in receiving yards. Keep your eye on him making big plays down the stretch.

Adrian Peterson: Although he is leading the NFL in rushing, today’s 8 carries for 18 yards in a 38-7 home blowout loss to Seattle hurts his MVP cause. This was a big game against a good defense in a game with wild card playoff implications. These are the games an MVP has to show up in. Just two weeks ago in a battle for 1st place in the NFC North, he disappeared with a 13 carry 45 yard day. The defenses cascaded in and killed a young Teddy Bridgewater without a running threat. These two losses are the difference between leading the NFC North and being embroiled in a fight for a wildcard. Peterson is still leading the league with 1,182 yards rushing.

From?? Boise St!

From?? Boise St!

Doug Martin: With Peterson coming back to the pack, light has been shed on the league’s #2 rusher with 1,133 yards and has protected his young QB. Martin exploded back into a nation’s consciousness when he destroyed the Eagles with a 230 yard performance a few weeks ago. It was the best single game rushing performance since…well Doug Martin‘s 264 yard masterpiece in 2012.

Jameis Winston is growing during this rookie season and one of the players he has to thank is Martin. Doug is only one of two running backs averaging over 5 yards per carry at 5.0. The other isn’t Adrian Peterson by the way. As a team the Buccaneers rank 2nd in the NFL in rushing , just 39 yards behind Seattle. He’s on pace to have a career 1,500 yard season as the 6-6 Bucs make a wild card push. Five of their six wins are against NFC teams and their last 4 are all within conference.

Cam Newton: Now you would think the starting quarterback for a 12-0 football team would be an automatic. In Cam Newton’s rise many pundits have been reluctant to admit his candidacy on the level of other elite QBs, just as they don’t believe in the Carolina Panthers ability to keep winning. When the Panthers lost WR Kelvin Benjamin in the preseason, no one thought the Panthers would even equal last 7-8-1 division championship last year. Newton has emerged as a true leader who now has 25 TDs passing to just 9 interceptions for 2,797 yards. By the time you add his 476 yards rushing and 7 more touchdowns this is the MVP of the league.

camThe fact that most of his touchdown passes have come in the 4th quarter can’t be underscored. It was his 4th qtr go ahead TD that slayed Seattle 27-23 on the road. This was a big game and the Seahawks 1st loss with Kam Chancellor back avenging their playoff loss in ’14. Cam killed them from the pocket. Today he out-dueled the NFC South’s preeminent quarterback in Drew Brees in a 41-38 shootout. He was almost knocked out of the game, yet stayed and threw for 5TDs where the lead changed hands 4 times in the 4th quarter alone. It felt like a changing of the guard as Brees couldn’t hold off the young lion.

When Taylor Blitz Times offers our first NFL MVP… we have to include Tom Brady in the mix but our front runner leads the Carolina Panthers.

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2015 NFC South Predictions

When the Carolina Panthers lost wideout Kelvin Benjamin for the season, everything changed for Carolina Panther QB Cam Newton. Instead of coming into a second season with Benjamin and fellow 1,000 yard receiver in Greg Olsen, the offense regresses with Ted Ginn Jr becoming a starter. Ginn doesn’t fight for the football and hears footsteps on in routes. This further stunts Newton’s growth as he will have to run for his life again with a pedestrian receiving corps.

Falcons-590x9002015 NFC South

  1. Atlanta Falcons 10-6 *
  2. Tampa Bay Buccaneers 9-7
  3. Carolina Panthers 7-9
  4. New Orleans Saints 6-10

The heat is on for Jameis Winston especially after that first game performance losing 42-14. He was badly outplayed by Marcus Mariota and his head is definitely out of the clouds now. Yet he can turn and give the ball to the shifty Doug Martin and settle into a balanced offense.

Martin looks set to have a good 2015.

Martin looks set to have a good 2015.

Tampa has weapons in WR Mike Evans and Vincent Jackson also. Two big physical receivers that will collect all of the intermediate passes if Winston is inaccurate. The biggest lesson Tampa should have learned is to not give Winston too much of the playbook yet. Lean on the running game and expand the sophistication of the passing game as the game and season wear on. Doug Martin had a great preseason and needs to be reestablished.

New Falcon Head Coach Dan Quinn will get more out of the defense than former coach Mike Smith. Offensively this team has had the firepower to make a Super Bowl run yet came up short on the other side of the ball. Matt Ryan is in his prime and needs to mature fully as a quarterback. What is keeping him from being great are his 3rd quarter flame outs that necessitate 4th quarter heroics. Great quarterbacks keep the pressure on the opponent to keep scoring with them. The Falcons rarely get up 2 to 3 scores on opponents.  So now its up to Quinn’s defense to make up the difference.

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Bucs Release Josh Freeman: Now Where To??

Now the Buccaneers have cut ties with their one time franchise quarterback where do they go from here?? Is Mike Glennon the man to return the Buccaneers to the playoffs or is he a stop gap until another quarterback is drafted?? All are interesting questions to ponder but when is it time to face the fact that Greg Schiano is NOT an NFL head coach?? Eventually you run out of excuses as the losses pile up and you can only have so many scapegoats. Last week Tampa made the decision to deactivate Freeman vs the Arizona Cardinal.  It looked like the Bucs were going to get their first win of the season when Coach Schiano struck.

This could be the best thing to happen to Josh Freeman. Time for him to rededicate himself to the game.

This could be the best thing to happen to Josh Freeman. Time for him to rededicate himself to the game.

Pinned at his own 15 yard line with 7:00 left with a 10-3 lead, Schiano decided to play slick-em football instead of sic-em footbal. Instead of a safe running play and punt to a Cardinal offense that hadn’t reached the end-zone in 53:00 of playing time He opts to have Mike Glennon, his rookie quarterback, struggling in his first start no less, drop back and throw an interception to Cardinal super corner Patrick Peterson. The Cardinals tie it with a touchdown in the next couple of plays and escape 13-10 winners when Peterson intercepts another pass with :02 left to go in the game.

The puzzling aspect of this game  is Glennon was struggling for most of the day. Why would you pass the football in that situation?? You stood the chance of not only eating at Glennon’s confidence but the trust of your players as well. Who do you blame this time?? Freeman was sitting in a luxury box watching the game.

Yet isn’t this the same guy that tries to play smash mouth defense when the opponent is kneeling in the victory formation?? Strange, strange…strange. How antithetical to opt to try and trick the Cardinals instead of running a power off tackle play with Doug Martin. What is your mantra?? What is your mode of operation? Typical to what is happening in the NFL he’s overcoaching.

However now we have to look at the future of Josh Freeman. Right now he is at the precipice. Where he once wore the captain’ s”C” on his jersey, which he was stripped of going into the 2012 season, he is without a football team. This is still a strong durable quarterback with a lot of gas in the tank at only 25 yrs old. We are only two seasons removed from when he was second to Tom Brady in touchdown to interception ratio (25 to 6). There are a slew of teams that would benefit from picking him up and for several reasons.

  • Denver Broncos: Have him learn from Peyton Manning for the next year or two before taking over for a 38 year old QB.
  • Minnesota Vikings: You just benched Christian Ponder for having not developed. Is Matt Cassel really the answer??
  • Jacksonville Jaguars: The reasons are obvious with an NFL low 32 points scored.
  • Houston Texans: Matt Schaub’s fatal flaw of throwing the inopportune interception isn’t going away.
  • Cleveland Browns: The fire is already lit for every Brown and management is going to get a new QB anyway.
  • Arizona Cardinals: To learn from Carson Palmer and be ready to take over if Palmer continues to struggle.

All these situations seem ideal and for different reasons. In retrospect did Freeman ever recover from the firing of former Buccaneer head coach Raheem Morris?? It was under his direction that he had his best season (2011) and when he was a model citizen and voted captain. Ever since Schiano arrived in Tampa, he’s hinted at replacing the quarterback. Which in this instance undermined their relationship as time as moved on.

So at this point the countdown begins…not Freeman’s resurfacing with another team because we know he will. The countdown is to the firing of Coach Schiano. If Tampa fired Raheem Morris for one 4-12 season after a winning season the year before, how could it not fire this coach for returning the franchise to laughingstock depths at 0-4??

Free Agency Day 2: Dashon Goldson Signs With Tampa Bay

The San Francisco 49ers lost an enforcer with Goldson's departure.

The San Francisco 49ers lost an enforcer with Goldson’s departure.

When a team sends its private jet to fly you cross-country, you knew they were going to throw a contract at Dashon Goldson he couldn’t refuse. The former Pro Bowl and All Pro safety leaves a glaring hole in the back 7 of the 49ers. This is a blow to the defending NFC Champions who are looking at Charles Woodson to replace him. First things first, Goldson is a hitter and terrorized receivers coming into his area.  At 6’2 205 lbs he brings the lumber whether facing a tight end, receiver over the middle, or coming up to support the run.

He’s been a Pro Bowler the last two years and his 67 tackles, 1 forced fumble, and 3 interceptions joins last year’s 1st round selection in SS Mark Barron. Now the Buccaneers have two hitters in the secondary and Barron just gained a mentor.  This move could spell the end for Ronde Barber. Two natural safeties should improve the Buccaneer secondary.

At 28 years of age, Goldson should be able to complete his contract and will be needed to improve the 32nd ranked pass defense last year. They were horrible allowing 4,758 yards and 30 touchdowns. They need all the help they can get. Well he signs a 5 year deal and financial points will be disclosed tonight.

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Warren Sapp Makes The Hall of Fame

Warren Sapp as a Miami [[_]] Hurricane!!

Warren Sapp as a Miami [[_]] Hurricane!!

When you think back to Tampa Bay’s Super Bow XXXVII win over the Oakland Raiders, you knew it was a win that was years in the making. It was born when Buccaneer coach Sam Wyche made two critical moves that solidified the franchise. The first thing he did was turn the organization into a defensive minded outfit, by signing free agent Middle Linebacker Hardy Nickerson as it’s  impenetrable core. This was the first year of NFL free agency in 1993 and this was where the Buccaneers re-invented themselves. Second was anointing Wyche’s assistant coach to Head Coach, Tony Dungy who selected Warren Sapp and Derrick Brooks in the draft of 1995. Brooks was a slightly undersized linebacker from Florida St.  But Warren Sapp??

Twin draft pics in 1995 turned the fortune of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Twin draft pics in 1995 turned the fortune of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

After a sterling career at the University of Miami, Sapp was in line to make an impact on the NFL when before the draft, a report was leaked that Sapp had failed drug tests which affected his status. Even though he was the Big East Defensive Players of the Year, an All American, and winner of both the Nagurski and Lombardi Awards, 11 teams passed on him on draft day. He was projected to go number 1 and fell to the “Yucs” at #12. You could see the disappointment in his face. The picture above was once they were in Tampa for the press conference.

Why the “Yucs”?? This team had been laughingstocks for most of their history up to that point. For 12 years, from 1983-1994 the team had double-digit losses.

What didn’t bode well for Warren Sapp that day was the fuel to what burned as motivation for Sapp the rest of his career. He started slowly but by his 2nd season, he made his presence felt with 51 tackles, 9 sacks and 1 forced fumble. Since he was one with a big mouth and part of the “in your face generation” that hit the NFL in the mid to late 90’s it took time to gain acceptance. He should have made the Pro Bowl in ’96 but the Buccaneers were 6-10 and still a loser.

Sapp was a larger than life defensive tackle that Tony Dungy built his defense around. Pictured here celebrating in Super Bowl XXXVII.

Sapp was a larger than life defensive tackle that Tony Dungy built his defense around. Pictured here celebrating in Super Bowl XXXVII.

All that changed in 1997 as the team rolled out to a 5-0 start. In the opener against San Francisco, they knocked out both Steve Young and Jerry Rice in a 13-6 win. Sapp had relentlessly been involved in both plays. He began the season on everyone’s radar with a 2 1/2 sack performance.  In a frightening display of power and speed, Warren and the Bucs in their new uniforms showed a new day was dawning in Tampa.

They had throttled an offense that had been one of the NFL’s best for two decades and knocked Jerry Rice out for the season. Those two points alone had NFL shows talking about the 49ers, the Bucs, and especially Warren Sapp. No longer was he just one for on-field antics that made a few defensive plays, he was maturing into the best interior lineman in football. In ’97 he finished with 58 tackles, 10 1/2 sacks along with 3 forced fumbles and 1 recovery. They finished with a 10-6 record and a defensive ranking of #3.  Earning Tampa its first playoff berth in 14 years.

After defeating the Lions for their first playoff win since 1979, they made the pilgrimmage to Lambeau Field for a divisional playoff against the defending Super bowl Champion Packers.  Many weren’t taking the Bucs too serious. You have to understand the stigma they were trying to shed. Further evidence was the fact that 5 of their 6 losses had come from within the NFC Central. Sure they beat an inconsistent Detroit in the Wild Card 20-10. Many thought the Bucs would be happy just getting to the divisional round. Where Favre, White, Joyner and company were eyeing back to back championships and should plow through the neophyte Bucs. Besides, it would be 27* and Tampa hadn’t won a game where it was under 40* ever.

Sapp chases down Favre for one of his 3 sacks in the 1998 NFC Divisional Playoff in Lambeau.

Sapp chases down Favre for one of his 3 sacks in the 1998 NFC Divisional Playoff in Lambeau.

What took place on a dreary day in Green Bay was a young Lion standing toe to toe with an old warrior for 60 brutal minutes of football. In the signature game that defined his career, Sapp was all over Brett Favre and the Packer offense. He amassed 3 sacks and a fumble recovery. After each time he stopped a running play or harassed Favre, the two talked trash to each other and a national television audience witnessed the coming of the Bucs.

Inspired by Sapp’s lead by example, the Bucs, who had fallen behind 13-0, refused to be buried and began to believe they could win. Although they fell just 21-7, many saw a future champion in Tampa. On this day, he wrested the defensive leader mantle from Nickerson and placed it on himself. He was the face of the franchise and the entire off-season, his performance in that playoff loss to Green Bay seemed to be all people were talking about.

What we saw that day were two of the NFL’s best playing high stakes football as though it were being played in a backyard somewhere. The little brother Bucs led by Warren passionately jawing and playing with the favored big brother Packers led by Brett. Tony Dungy had tuned his team to the point they needed to catch and beat Green Bay in their growth as a club. So the playoff game was played like it was a Super Bowl.

In 1999, Sapp had the best season of his career. He was named NFL Defensive Player of the Year for his 41 tackle, 12 1/2 sacks, and 4 forced fumble performance. He led the Bucs back to the NFL playoffs, this time making it to the NFC Championship Game. Although an 11-6 loss to the Rams kept them from Super Bowl glory, Sapp led his team there at the conclusion of the 2002 season.

The calm before the storm before Super Bowl XXXVII.

The calm before the Super Bowl XXXVII storm. Tampa won 48-21. The Raiders never knew what hit them.

The victory in Super Bowl XXXVII validated many careers and vindicated one Warren Sapp. Eight years before he was embarrassed at the NFL draft amid rumors of drug use and having his character in question after his years in Miami. To some they still saw him as a big-mouthed player that was more show than substance. That Super Bowl victory made them have to acknowledge him as a champion. Critics had to give him his due as the best “three” technique defensive tackle of his time.

300_110727For his career he amassed 573 tackles, 96 1/2 sacks, 19 forced fumbles, 12 recoveries, and 4 interceptions, returning one for a touchdown.  Since the NFL is about sack totals for most pundits, he’s second only behind former Viking and Hall of Fame member John Randle. Whom he played with many times in Hawai’i where he made 7 trips to the Pro Bowl. Sapp wanted to be remembered like a Joe Greene. A true giant of the game.

Right after Super Bowl XXXVII, Sapp said we had to put his Bucs up there with the greatest defenses to play in the NFL. Can that point be argued??

  • ’85 Chicago Bears – #1 defense / allowed 258.4 yards per game /allowed 198 points for the season / 64 sacks / 34 ints / scored 6 TDs defensively
  • ’00 Baltimore Ravens -#2 defense / allowed 247.9 yards per game /allowed 165 points for the season / 43 sacks /23 ints/  1TD scored defensively
  • ’02 Tampa Buccaneers – #1 defense / allowed 252.8 yards per game / allowed 196 points for the season / 43 sacks/ 31 ints /scored 5TDs defensively
  • ’78 Pittsburgh Steelers – #3 defense / allowed 260.5 yards per game /allowed 198 points for the season/  / 27 ints /1 TD scored defensively

On second thought an argument can be made for the 2002 Tampa By defense as among the best of the Super Bowl era. One point that can’t be is the selection of Warren Sapp as a Hall of Famer.

For induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, from The [[_]], Warren Sapp aka QB Killa

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